Fifty-three years ago, Frank “Whitey” and Darlene Little decided they wanted to do Christmas decorations in a new way. Their location gave them a unique place to create a Christmas scene. They decided to use their hill to display a nativity.
That first Christmas back in 1959, introduced the manger. They really enjoyed it and found out quickly that others enjoyed it as well, so they kept adding to the display year after year.
As the Little family brought shepherds and wise men to adore the newborn King, more and more people came to admire their nativity on the hill. “People come from all over,” Darlene explains. She has received notes and cards of appreciation from near and far.
After they had the basic nativity scene complete with a bright, guiding star they added a sign at the top. This year’s message shining at the top of the hill illuminated in big white lights reads, “Wishing you blessings of hope and happiness.” A dozen smaller painted signs run up the hill as well with various religious declarations.
When the nativity on the north side of the Little’s house was complete, they expanded their display both in theme and in location. They began decorating the south side of their lawn in a commercial Christmas motif. Santa can be seen in his sled pulled by nine reindeer, led by Rudolph with his nose so bright. Ice-skating penguins, elves and general Christmas cheer fill the merry yard.
Darlene’s property is covered in so many decorations she chuckled at the thought of numbering them. With so many decorations to adore, Darlene couldn’t choose which was her favorite but exclaims, “I still enjoy the manger with Joseph and Mary.” She particularly likes the manger scene because of its significance.
“It wouldn’t get put up without my family,” Darlene says of the family’s tradition. “They all help, my kids, my grandkids even my great grandkids!” The Little family isn’t small, the entire group of over 50 works together to create the light display. The patriarch of the family has passed away; however he passed on a wonderful tradition to his four children; Janet Randall, Cindi London, Frankie Little, and Sherrie Shroen and their posterity. Darlene’s great grandchildren get a taste of being shepherds, as they are usually in charge of carrying the sheep up the hill to rest near the manger.
They set everything up the week before Thanksgiving; however they wait for the calendar to change to December before they light the hill for everyone to see. The lights are on a timer set to be turned on from 5:30 p.m.- 10:30 p.m. They leave the display up until shortly after the New Year. “I enjoy doing it,” Darlene says.
Six big white trumpets blare Christmas music that can be heard throughout the city. This charming sound has been part of the presentation since nearly the beginning.
“We always liked the music,” Dave Rich II said of growing up across the street from the growing Christmas display. “I remember standing out there watching them carry it up there,” Rich said.
Inspired by the vast scene, when Rich was about 8 or 9 years old, he told his dad he wanted to get lights for their house. Dave Sr. took his young son to the Morgan Drug store where they purchased four strands of one hundred lights.
“I’ve never forgotten that,” Rich said. The father and son worked to create a light display to compliment the work across the street. They added inflatable Christmas decorations and this year adorned the fire engine with several of them during the Ol’ Time Christmas on Commercial Street light parade.
Now Rich decorates his house with his son, David III. They added music to their presentation three years ago. One of the Rich family traditions is the same as many Morganites, loading the family in the car to drive around and see the lights culminating at Little family light display. “We pick up my grandma and drive around,” Dave says. “You have to!” The family usually finds one trip is not enough and they make several passes of the big light display each December.
The Littles have spread Christmas cheer for over a half century and continue to inspire others throughout the season. Thank you for giving Morgan a merry tradition we have enjoyed for over 50 years.