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My Nativity Story: James Johnston

My first recollection of seeing a nativity scene, was as a very young child in the Corpus Christi Cathedral. My Mother took me to see it. I was mesmerized by the large plaster figures and stable. Behind the stable were Christmas trees with blue lights. This crib made a lasting impression on me.



Also, as a young child, I remember going into “Five and Dime” stores (Kress, Woolworths & McCrory) to purchase small nativity figures which were piled on shelves. My first nativity came from these small figures.


Each Christmas, I carefully placed the nativity under the tree on a bed of cotton.


While working for my Father, I was able to purchase a much larger nativity scene from Woolworth’s which I used for many years until I gave it to my youngest brother.


In 1973, while visiting Oberammergau, I purchased a complete set of ANRI wood carved figures with stable. The standing figures were about 6” tall. This set became my prized possession, and I still have it today.




Many years later I purchased an identical set with 12” standing figures. After my Mother and Father passed away, I donated the large set to St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Corpus Christi in memory of my parents. During a visit to Tlaquepaque, Mexico, I purchased a “Tree of Life” nativity Which remains in my collection.




Collecting small nativities continued through college. In the working world I purchased more elaborate nativities from the Franklin Mint and several other manufacturers. All of the sets were traditional . I didn’t care for the modern or contemporary nativities.


A few years ago, I began collecting miniature nativities. The very small scenes fit perfectly into an etagere, that I keep on display all year long. Several of these miniature sets I purchased in Spain and Germany


After I retired, I began to disperse the collection. First I gave nativity scenes to members of my family. A little later I gave a large plaster set to a convent. The nuns were so grateful to receive this set.. I plan to keep the remaining sets that are most precious to me.



James Johnston

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