Mary Pulley is not surprised that her life-size nativity and Santa panorama has withstood 47 Christmases.
The set, after all, was built to last 50, which means that Pulley, who's 88, still has three Christmases to go; that has her worried."It's bothering me like the devil," Pulley said. "I've got three years to go, and I've got to make it."
Pulley's Christmas greeting to her community began with a simple request in a letter from one of the young men in her LDS ward serving in the armed services during World War II.
"The boys kept telling me what hell the war was, and one letter said, `Oh Mary, we sure wish we could have something to represent the spirit of peace,' " Pulley recalled. "They said they'd leave it up to me, anything to represent the spirit of peace."
Pulley said the boys probably had something more like a big turkey dinner at their homecoming in mind; with 212 boys from her ward serving in the war, that was more than Pulley could handle.
She was drawn to the idea that in the days preceding the birth of Christ people were looking forward to a day of peace. That was the thought Pulley wanted to evoke.
Two brothers carved and painted the wooden panorama figures. Then they helped Pulley erect the figures on her spacious front lawn the first Christmas; today they are placed similarly.
On one side of her yard, shepherds and their sheep gather around a nativity scene; from the west, three kings mounted on camels can be seen heading toward the star blazing overhead.
All around, 30 huge pine trees tower, bedecked in sparkling lights.
Closer to the house, a replica of Santa and his sleigh, pulled by nine reindeer - with Rudolph in the lead, of course - appear ready to sail into flight.
"I didn't tell anyone in the community when I first erected Santa and his reindeer," Pulley said. "When I turned on the lights, you should have seen the men come running - they thought they (the reindeer) were the real thing!"
Since that Christmas in 1941, Pulley, with the help of Santa (played by numerous neighbors over the years), has stood by the fence next to the road to greet those who come to view her panorama the night she turns the lights on. There is a candy cane and a short talk with Santa for all.
The following Monday night, children from the American Fork Training School and from area group homes, and senior citizens from nursing homes, come to see her display.
"Santa gets on their buses, and oh, boy, I tell you, he is a popular man," Pulley said. "It's tough (for him) to get down the aisles."
In all, Pulley had 7,000 visitors this year.
"That's quite a thing, you know, to go through 7,000 kids," Pulley said.
"It is something to think you could do something and then have the Lord bless you so you really can. It's not a 10-cent deal," Pulley said. Her eyes twinkle; it is obvious that any cost has been well worth it.
Most of the servicemen for whom Pulley first staged her panorama have passed away; their desire for a little bit of peace on Earth has survived them, however, thanks to Mary Pulley.
Pulley's panorama, 550 N. Ninth East, American Fork, will be displayed each evening from 5:30 to 10 p.m. until New Year's Eve.