GALETON — A recurring topic of discussion at GLOW Nov. 30, was the noticeable absence of the light on the hill. Every year, the star is turned on Thanksgiving weekend and stays lit over the valley throughout the holidays before being turned off after the new year. This past holiday season, there was a little delay in the annual lighting of the star. It was noticed.
“I’ll bet just walking down to the store I had four or five people everyday ask, ‘What happened to the star?’” said Henry Lush, Rotarian and Galeton native. Lush was around in the 1960s when the star became a permanent fixture on the hilltop. But the story of the light on the hill starts before then.
The first star was built in 1953. It was 15 feet across and made of 2x4s. Local shop teacher Cliff Means built the original star in sections and then bolted them together at the top of the hill. The star was attached to trees so it wouldn’t slide back down the slope. Then, to light the incandescent bulbs, which were attached to the wooden frame, an electrical line was run from the bottom of the hill up to the star. Eventually a permanent line was run up the side of the hill using telephone poles.
The climb up to the star was steep on the best days and even more treacherous with snow and ice in January.
Things remained that way for a number of years, the wooden framed star was hauled up the hillside by the Rotarians and then brought back down in January.
Then, in the 1960s, Lloyd Frith, a manager at North Penn Gas Company in Galeton, gathered some old pipe that the gas company didn’t need anymore and welded the pipes into sections to make a larger, 30-foot star. That star was taken up the hill the same as the wooden one was and for another five or six years it remained that way.
But it was decided that the ever-evolving star should be made even bigger. So, another metal star was welded together. This larger star presented difficulties transporting and setting up so it was decided that a permanent fixture would be built on the hillside.
“Up on the hill beyond the star there was an old abandoned stone quarry and you could drive up there, but you still had to walk down the hill,” said Lush. Using the quarry, the Rotarians welded the pipes in town and then transported the sections of the star up to the quarry where they were then slid down the side of the hill and put back together.
“We decided then that we would put it in the ground with concrete and put it all up there. It was a major project,” Lush recalled. “The Rotarian who was mixing all the concrete put it in five-gallon pails. We hauled it up there then had to carry the pails down. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”
Since the permanent structure was put in place the only changes have been been the lights. While still using incandescent bulbs, Rotarians Mike Callahan, Joe Pagano, Tony Adami and Roger Long would make constant trips up to the star to replace broken bulbs. When they became available, LED lights replaced the incandescents.
Through the evolution of the star, one thing has remained the same: the impact on the community.
“It is really a symbol of Galeton. In a little town like Galeton we don’t have a whole lot of things. We have the lake and park, but the star is important,” Lush said.