Visitors Get Charge Out Of Yard Decoration The Holiday Sound And Light Show Is A Tradition For A Drexel Hill Family.

Posted: December 03, 1993

DREXEL HILL — Being that Wednesday was the first night in December, it just seemed appropriate for Lorraine Henry-Furr to gather up her three children and her fiance in Philadelphia and head out to Drexel Hill to visit the Pflaumers.

Henry-Furr doesn't know the Pflaumers - in fact she's never even met them. But much like children depend on receiving Christmas presents from a stranger named Santa Claus, Henry-Furr has relied on the Pflaumers' Fairfax Road house to bring her holiday cheer ever since a friend took her there five years ago.

"Oh, it's beautiful. It's gorgeous. It's Christmas!" Henry-Furr said as she stood looking upon the miniature theme park the Pflaumers have created on their lawn and on top of their house for 27 years.

Henry-Furr's three daughters - 8, 5 and 5 - went berserk in the glow of thousands of flashing colored lights.

"Great, great!" they yelled, jumping up and down next to the fence that surrounds the lawn. "Why can't we go in there?"

Nearby, Drexel Hill resident Lisa Sadler jokingly complained that she couldn't get her 3-year-old daughter, Jessica, to leave.

"She keeps saying, "One more time, let's go around one more time,' " Sadler said, with a broad smile.

The Sadlers, Henry-Furrs and other families that showed up at the Pflaumers on Wednesday night were lucky in their timing. Wednesday turned out to be the first night of the annual extravaganza of lights, music, moving figurines and sound effects. And that meant the crowds, which often create traffic problems in the normally placid neighborhood, had not become too thick yet.

About a week ago, a family came all the way from Altoona just to see the display, said Jeannette "Pickle" Pflaumer.

Pickle Pflaumer, who lives at the 511 Fairfax Rd. house with her beer-mogul father, William H. "Billy" Pflaumer, said that she turned on the partially complete display for a half-hour for the Altoona family and that their 11- year-old daughter couldn't believe her eyes.

"She said, 'Mommy, I can write what I saw for Christmas now,' " Pflaumer said. "She'd never seen anything like this, and she'll never forget it."

Children, beginning with Billy Pflaumer's own, have always been the reason that the Pflaumers have put on what is undoubtedly the biggest private-home Christmas display in the region.

It all began when Billy Pflaumer and his wife, Jeannette, who is now deceased, moved with their six children into the Fairfax Road house 26 years ago from the Stonehurst section of Upper Darby, said Pickle Pflaumer.

Billy Pflaumer, a self-made millionaire who owns a beer distributorship and who owned Christian Schmidt's, the nation's ninth-largest brewery, until he was sent to federal prison for tax evasion and mail fraud in 1986, had employees from Schmidt's help rig the family's Christmas display.

"When I was asked to go out there and wire the first Christmas, it was really just a little bit of lights," remembered Jack Lyons, president of Neshaminy Electrical Contractors and the first electrician to work on the Pflaumer house. "When they found out we could add relays and controls and multiple circuits - over a five-year period it just became a monster."

"Of course, Billy Pflaumer wanted everything that you said you could do and everything that was new he wanted," Lyons said. "The first year when they really got out of hand . . . the lights would go on (and) the whole street would dim."

Lyons, who said he and his workers wired the Pflaumer display for no profit until it became too expensive several years ago, estimated that it costs $8,000 in labor and $3,000 in electrical bills. Not to mention the life-sized, electrically powered Santa Clauses, reindeer, snowmen, etc.

"He has spent in the past couple of years probably $150,000 just on figures," Lyons said. "One year (vandals) stole Santa, and the next day they bought a replacement $2,000 figure."

Pickle Pflaumer, 31, who is responsible for buying new figures and making changes in the display, said this year she found some irresistible penguins, added a red light onto Rudolph's nose and spruced up the cornerstone of the production: a tribute to the late Jeannette Pflaumer, who died in 1988. The shrinelike display, encased in a clear plastic box, includes a large photograph of Jeannette Pflaumer and, this year, flowers that symbolize her children, husband and 12 grandchildren.

"We continue our tradition, but it is not the same without you," reads the final line of a tribute in calligraphy beneath the photograph.

Despite the death of their mother and their father's prison term, the Pflaumers have continued their display because, as Pickle Pflaumer said, "We had a hardship; why should everyone else pay the price?"

On Wednesday night, strangers from all over appreciated both the display and the spirit behind it.

"I have to hand it to them to think of others," said Joanna Leutner of Drexel Hill, who stopped by with her husband, Harry, and their 3-year-old, Henry Thomas.

Harry Leutner called the display a "free nostalgia rush" and said it reminded him of the famous Christmas show at New York's Radio City Music Hall: ''It's basically the same, but it changes a little every year."

Joanna Leutner turned to a beaming Henry Thomas, whom she was holding in her arms, and asked: "Who lives here?"

"Ho ho!" Henry Thomas responded.

" 'Ho ho' is what he calls Santa Claus," his mother explained.

IF YOU GO

* The display at 511 Fairfax Rd., Drexel Hill, one block south of School Lane and six blocks west of Lansdowne Avenue, is turned on every night at 5 p.m. and turned off at 10 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. It will remain on until Jan. 7.

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