Pip the Mouse, once a symbol of a vibrant Downtown Allentown, is back in a new way, much like the city.
"Pip the Mouse and his Magical Christmas" is a book written by Bob Croesus and Laura Klotz and illustrated by Brian Hoffner. It's a Christmas adventure tale written as a bedtime story for young children.
According to Croesus, the book is about "a very curious mouse named Pip who treks around his community, Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley region, to return a lost bag of toys to Santa Claus. Pip has more than enough heart to get the job done, and he helps deliver toys to all the little boys and girls."
Pip the Mouse should stir memories for many Greater Lehigh Valley residents.
Before suburban shopping malls – and certainly before the recent renaissance of Downtown Allentown with hundreds of millions of dollars in new construction – Pip was a favorite of people of all ages during the Christmas season.
Pip was the star of a holiday puppet show, "The Mouse Before Christmas," which was performed annually at the iconic Hess's Department Store in Downtown Allentown beginning in 1962.
"Many people from the surrounding … area remember traveling to Allentown and seeing a favorite Christmas puppet show about Pip The Mouse," Croesus wrote in an email.
He called his book "straightforward, to tell children about the reason behind the holidays, but in a fun way that is unpretentious. Its lesson is one of sharing, kindness and the Christmas spirit."
(For more on the book, click here.)
In the 1970s, according to the Downtown Allentown's Liberty Bell Museum, "Pip was moved to Hess's fifth floor Community Room and a winter wonderland was added, complete with mechanical animals, people, trees and a Swiss chalet.
"After Bon-Ton purchased Hess's, it continued the Pip the Mouse tradition, now beloved by two generations of shoppers and residents of the city. However, the store was closed in 1996, so the last production of The Mouse Before Christmas at Ninth and Hamilton streets was in December 1995."
(PPL Plaza, by the way, is built on the site of the former Hess's store.)
Bon-Ton donated the Winter Wonderland, The Mouse Before Christmas stage and Pip and all of his pals to the Allentown Economic and Development Corporation in 1996, according to the museum. The show was presented by the former Allentown Downtown Improvement District Authority from 1996-2001 at several venues, including the Allentown Public Library, according to the museum.
When ADIDA was deactivated in 2003, Pip, the stage and props were given to the Liberty Bell Museum, the museum said. The museum then "restored and digitized the original audio soundtrack and has presented the traditional Mouse Before Christmas puppet show to thousands of visitors during the holiday season each year since 2003," it said.
For more on the Liberty Bell Museum's Pip the Mouse presentation, click here.