Pip the Mouse home for the holidays at Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum
“Pip: The Mouse Before Christmas” has found a new home at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, 432 W. Walnut St., Allentown. The regional favorite holiday show premiered Nov. 24 and continues through Dec. 30.
Lehigh Valley’s favorite holiday mouse had resided at the Liberty Bell Museum in the former Zion UCC Church, 620 W. Hamilton St., Allentown for 60 years.
The Liberty Bell Museum closed in April 2023 after the nonprofit and the building’s new owners, Resurrected Life Community Church United Church of Christ, 144 N. Ninth St., Allentown were unable to reach an agreement.
The Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum opened its doors to the displaced holiday critter, as well as Pip’s stage and props. Former Liberty Bell Museum Manager Stephanie Burke continues as stage manager and performing in the popular puppet show. After offering her services as a volunteer, the Heritage Museum offered Burke a position as an employee.
“Pip is just thrilled to be moving into a bigger place,” says Burke. “It can accommodate a bigger audience. They have an excellent sound system.”
Museum artifacts relating to the Liberty Bell were transferred to the Heritage Museum at the request of the former museum’s board and others concerned with their preservation. However, the commonwealth-owned replica Liberty Bell remains in the church basement where the original had been hidden in 1777.
“In a way, you could say we inherited Pip the Mouse,” says Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum Assistant Director Jill Youngken. “We are very happy to have him, as well as the other items from the Liberty Bell Museum.”
Pip and his holiday show, created by Dr. George Creegan, debuted in 1962 at Hess’s department store, Ninth and Hamilton streets, Allentown.
For the first several years, holiday shoppers and their children would stand outside to see the local spectacle in a window display.
Later, performances were moved inside the store where the audience could stay warm while being entertained.
After the iconic Allentown department store closed, puppets, props and stage found a home at the Liberty Bell Museum where the holiday show was revived in 2003.
Of the 15 department stores in the United States and Canada that had Pip’s holiday puppet show, Allentown has the only surviving plywood and pressboard stage, and possibly the largest collection of puppets and store-window display items.
Many of Hess’s 1962 displays and animatronics created by Dr. George Creegan, including a cat at her ironing, are integral parts of the Christmas display. Other animatronics, including Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, as well as George and Martha Washington, were purchased in 2010 by former Liberty Bell Museum curator Josh Fink when Creegan’s factory closed.
“As many of the accompanying animatronics will be out as well,” says Burke about this season’s show.
“The tradition will be here at a different place, but our venue is wonderful,” Youngken says.
In addition to Pip’s Christmas show at the museum, there’s a Thomas the Tank Engine train room and activities for children and adults.
“Pip: The Mouse Before Christmas,” 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. Dec. 16, 23, 26 - 30, Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, 432 W. Walnut St., Allentown. 610-435-1074; www.lehighcountyhistoricalsociety.org