Dec. 24, 1941:
The contractor building the new St. Michael’s Lithuanian Church at Jackson Street and South Garfield Avenue, Scranton, made a promise in June 1941: It will be done by Christmas.
The contractor kept his word, and come late November, the church’s pastor, the Rev. John F. Boll, announced that the first Mass to be celebrated in the church would happen at midnight on Christmas Eve with two more Masses following on Christmas.
But getting to the day of having their own church was a long time coming for the parishioners. Members of St. Michael’s Lithuanian Church started out by holding Mass in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church, also on Jackson Street. In August 1916, the parish, having outgrown the basement, broke ground for its own church at Jackson Street and Garfield Avenue. The church was dedicated the following April.
The parish continued to grow, which led to the construction of the new church in 1941. The original St. Michael’s was converted into a recreation hall for the parish. The new church was officially dedicated Sunday, April 12, 1942.
Six years later, the parish marked another milestone. On Dec. 24, 1947, workmen from the Liberty Carillon Co. of New York finished installing the church’s new carillons.
Moments before midnight Mass that night, the tones of the newly installed bells surprised the neighborhood. According to reports, residents raced outdoors and onto their porches to hear the bells play Christmas carols. Those inside the church were just as shocked, not knowing that the work had been completed in time for Christmas.
Liberty Carillon has another connection to the area, having supplied bell sounds used in the 1948 film “The Miracle of the Bells” starring Fred MacMurray, Frank Sinatra and Alida Valli. The film is based on the 1946 book of the same name written by Russell Janney and centers around the death of an actress and a church, also named St. Michael’s, in Glen Lyon in Luzerne County.
A video review of the film “The Miracle of the Bells” –
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast