Ask Me: Love of 'Rudolph' inspires Christmas Tree Lane display

Special for The BeeDecember 21, 2013 

This handmade Christmas Tree Lane display reflects the family's love of the classic holiday movie, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed-Reindeer." lPhotographed on Dec. 19, 2013 in Fresno.


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    Send questions to Paula Lloyd, The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA 93786; fax to (559) 441-6436. Please include a phone number.

Question: What is the history of the Christmas Tree Lane display based on the "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" movie? They look so real, are the elves movie props?

— Cheri Torrez Michiel, Fresno


Dan Gallagher, wife Patricia Taylor and their children love the classic 1964 animated movie "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" so much that they wanted to recreate the character in front of their home on Christmas Tree Lane near Gettysburg Avenue.

The figures aren't movie props but were handmade by Gallagher, a former cabinet maker who teaches sixth grade at Manchester GATE Elementary School.

Gallagher made the first elves about seven years ago by welding together rebar and covering the structure with steel mesh, papier-mâché, fabric and paint to create the 32-inch-high figures.

Gallagher refined the technique over the years, using fiberglass instead of papier-mâché to build the last elf, Hermey, "the one who wants to be a dentist," he said.

Four elves stand around a low wooden work bench full of toys — old castoffs from their four children, Gallagher said. Most of the toys are glued down, but he intentionally left a few loose so visiting children could pick them up.

"Kids love seeing the toys," he said. "It's fun to watch the kids take pictures" with the display, Taylor said.

Gallagher has expanded the display in stages, adding Sam the Snowman, voiced by the late Burl Ives in the movie, about four years ago.

The display also includes plywood cutouts of Santa and the Abominable Snowman hugging a Christmas tree, boxes wrapped in paper and ribbon and, of course, Rudolph with his red nose standing beside Hermey.

Question: My late grandmother, Ida Carmen, told me she traveled two days by wagon from North Fork to Fresno to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in the early 1900s. When did Buffalo Bill come to Fresno?

— Rick Carmen, North Fork


William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody appeared in Fresno four times, according to the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo. Cody brought Buffalo Bill's Wild West spectacle to town in September 1902 and October 1910. At the 1910 Fresno show, Cody announced it was his farewell performance. The show went bankrupt in 1913, but Cody appeared in Fresno with the Sells-Floto Circus in May 1914 and April 1915.

In 1910, Cody's show performed in Stockton before traveling to Fresno in two trains, one carrying about 600 cast and crew members and the other packed with wagons, equipment and livestock, said John Rumm of the museum.

Typically, the trains pulled into a town before dawn. The wagons were off-loaded first so riggers could set up the grandstands and tents, Rumm said. After eating breakfast in the commissary tent, the cast would rehearse in an open-air arena in front of the covered grandstands.

An Oct. 13, 1910, story in the Fresno Morning Republican doesn't give the location of the show, but says the arena covered about five acres. Cody gave shows at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. attended by almost sold-out crowds.

"Buffalo Bill received an ovation when he appeared at the head of his congress of trained horses and riders from every section of the globe," the story said.

The show traveled to Visalia after its Fresno stop. The show went on to Los Angeles, judging from an Oct. 18, 1910, story in the Los Angeles Herald newspaper, published six days after the Fresno appearance.

The article describes an act typical to Cody's shows, a horseback "football" game played with an 8-foot-wide round ball between cowboys and Sioux Indians, including Iron Tail, the grandson of Sitting Bull.

A Fresno Morning Republican story written in advance of the show said it would also include "a troupe of trained elephants that play musical instruments and perform with a company of ballet girls."

Cody's shows were a "cross between a circus and rodeo," Rumm said, and also included shooting demonstrations, races, re-enactments of historical events and battles and trick riding.

Cody, born in 1846, got his nickname from his expertise in hunting buffalo and started the traveling shows in 1883. He died in 1917.

Question: What happens to the geese when ponding basins are drained and cleaned?

— Suzanne Bishop, Clovis


According to Paul Allen of the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District, which maintains 154 ponding basins in the Fresno and Clovis area, adult Canada geese "just fly to another basin" when their habitats are drained for cleaning.

If there are young geese at a basin that can't fly out, workers will bring in small wading pools and put up sun shades as temporary habitat, he said. Sometimes instead of the wading pools, workers will push up a berm in a corner of the basin and fill it with water for young fowl. The water sources are monitored daily.

Local ponding basins are maintained for flood control and water recharge, Allen said. Each basin is cleaned out about every five years.

Canada geese and coots, or mud hens, inhabit many of the ponding basins, which provide natural food sources and water. But if people feed them, the normally migratory geese will become residents.

If adult geese don't migrate, their young can lose that ability because they don't learn the route, Allen said. The flood control district discourages people from feeding the geese so they will continue to migrate. Besides, he said, people often give them the wrong type of food.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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