A story of one of the volunteers who kept the little church going (in spite of a stubborn minister)

The Giese Church in its original Christmastime location, in front of the Giese funeral home on Harrison Street. (Photo provided)

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian

During the 2019 holiday season, some were, for the first time, introduced to the Giese Chapel, which has been a holiday favorite since 1947. Often, those who volunteer their time caring for these special items get little or no thanks or recognition for their contribution. One such individual in La Porte County was Peter “Scotty” Taylor, who spent many hours taking care of the Giese Chapel after it was donated to the La Porte County Historical Society Inc. in 1978. 

Scotty cared deeply for the little chapel and worked very hard to keep it running for the pleasure of many during the Christmas Season. It was on display and in working order on the lower level of the La Porte County Historical Society Museum during the holiday time each year (except one). Year after year it became more difficult to find replacement parts for those that no longer worked. It was so unique that when parts no longer functioned, replacement parts were not readily found. I assisted Scotty several years in trying to locate parts. It was a real challenge.  

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

The Society was (and I am sure Scotty was, also) very appreciative of the offer to computerize the church. Although, in December 1988, the church had been painted inside and out, the clothing of the processional dolls was laundered and each doll refurbished, the cable that operates the processional broke, rendering this portion of the church inoperable. Even then, it was on display and many people enjoyed it. This cable was replaced and the processional was again in working order for the 1989 opening. Quite frequently, the minister had not been cooperative and only worked intermittently, a number of the lights were no longer operating, and other things were not functioning as they were meant to do. 

In early 1994, member Don Bowman contacted S&W Electric in La Porte to see what repairs might be possible. After two trips to the museum, it was clear that major rewiring of the unit was required. Such wiring would replace the obsolete relay-timer system with an electronic system that used computer-based logic.  

As of December 1994, through the efforts of a group of individuals and under the direction of Tim Barnhart of S&W Electric, David L. Kliss of Kliss Enterprises Inc. and John S. Blind of Quality Industrial Supplies, the church took on a new look and sound.  The church entered the world of computerization and many parts became activated, some of which had been inactive for a number of years. By this time, over its 47 years, it had suffered from various “ailments”—some were cured, others were temporary. Quite likely, without this updating, the church would not have continued to be in operable condition and on display for us and future generations to enjoy—and prior to the updating, without Scotty’s care and vigilance.

Scotty was born in Colburn, Scotland, on March 2, 1915. He came to the United States at the age of 8. On December 25, 1936, he married Edith Eileen “Peggy’ Murray at the First Christian Church in La Porte. He was a member of a number of organizations including Excelsior Lodge 41 F&AM. He retired from Allis-Chalmers after 40 years of service.  

It may seem a bit strange and perhaps humorous to visit the well-known website of Findagrave.com and find his birthplace entered as Colbuccaro, Provincia di Macerata, Marche, Italy.  Of course this is an error as we in La Porte County, who knew Scotty for so many years, know that his nickname of Scotty was because he was born in Scotland and not Italy. He died at the age of 89 on October 28, 2004. He came from a large family—he had eleven brothers and sisters. His burial place is Swan Lake Memorial Gardens, Michigan City, in the Chapel of Chimes.  

When the opportunity again becomes available to visit the Giese Chapel on display at the museum, make a point to establish a visit to it as an annual event for you and your family. Scotty, along with all who have volunteered time to continue making this a tradition, would appreciate your attention and enjoyment.

3 Responses to “A story of one of the volunteers who kept the little church going (in spite of a stubborn minister)”

  1. Rob

    Jan 06. 2020

    Thanks “Scotty” and Fern for keeping an awesome memory of my childhood alive all these years
    This is one of the great things in LaPorte history that is still going because of your efforts. I can take my Grandson to see the same chapel that I looked through so many years ago.

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  2. gobnaitx

    Jan 06. 2020

    I believe Fern may mean “Coalburn.” The Find A Grave memorial for his father lists his birthplace as “Muirkirk,” which is near a village called “Coalburn” in Lankashire.

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  3. Laportean

    Jan 06. 2020

    The church is one of my favorite childhood memories. I remember going as a child to view it outside the funeral home. Now I make a point of seeing it each time I visit the museum. I still stick my face up to the windows to watch the procession several times. To bad it is kept in the basement because I think it deserves a more prominent location on the main level.

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