Nativity Scenes

One morning in 1947 when Chamber of Commerce workers, Clotille Thompson and Iris Ragsdale went to a staff meeting, they saw Chamber manager E.0. “Red” Wedgeworth sitting with his feet propped up on his desk and a thoughtful look in his eyes as he gazed out the window. Clotille and Iris knew that some big project was in the making.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Now, fifty years later, Wedgeworth’s “brain storm” has become a set of seven panels depicting the birth and early life of Jesus. The panels are on display as a part of the Celebration of Lights in Recreation Park .

Wedgeworth had the knack of selecting exactly the right persons to accomplish any of his projects, and his choice of Mrs. Lynn (Edwina) Boyd was no exception. Projects like this require money and volunteers, and Mrs. Boyd was able to find people to supply the need.

The original artists included Claudine Vail, Olive Hills , Rachel Pursley, Mrs. John Andrews, Charles Thomas, Mrs. Bill Davis, Florence Jackson, Doris Rinegart, Jim Garrett and Henry Garrett.

Robin Vail, son of Bob and Claudine Vail, who was a small child in 1947, remembers going with his mother to a large building and playing on the floor while she painted faces of the people in the scenes.

The panels were done in phases. Frances Hall believes the first panels created were of the angel Gabriel, Mary riding a donkey and Joseph. She believes the camels were cut out by city of Pampa employees in the 1960s and painted by Pampa Art Club members: Rachel Pursley, Frances Appleby and Mona Cox.

The panels were first erected on the Gray County courthouse lawn. Later they were moved to Central Park, then to Coronado Park where they were last displayed in 1979. They were stored in Clyde Carruth Pavilion and discovered in 1996.

The panels were refurnished in 1966 according to a scrapbook kept by the Pampa Art Club. Ruth Nenstiel and Frances Hall worked on the 1966 restoration.

A month long restoration took place this year at the request of Celebration of Lights volunteer Kathleen Chaney. Evelyne Epps, Mark Bailey and Frances Hall worked each Monday, Thursday and Saturday mixing paint to match the muddy colors typical of the Renaissance. Through the years the Old Master style of painting has been maintained.

John Chaney repaired broken pieces of the sets and the artists painted scratches and filled holes to match the original look. Other volunteers cleaned the sets which were in terrible shape.

The sets now in Recreation Park depict Gabriel announcing Jesus’s birth to Mary; no room at the inn; shepherds following the star of Bethlehem; Jesus with his parents and angels; Herod ordering the Magi to look for Jesus; wise men visiting Jesus; and flight to Egypt.

The Celebration of Lights will be on display through December 31.

To one who took school choirs to sing near the nativity scenes during the Christmas season, it is nostalgic to see the scenes again.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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