How a Pennsylvania city's "ugly" Christmas tree lives on

READING, Pa. -- Every January, most Christmas trees are scrapped and quickly forgotten. But one ugly one seems to haunt our memories forever.

CBS News returned to Reading, Pennsylvania to investigate reports that the world's ugliest Christmas tree has been somehow immortalized.

You may remember back 2014, this sorry excuse for a conifer was all the rage -- and I do mean rage.

Fighting for the Christmas spirit

"I think Charlie Brown's got a better tree than we do," one person said of the city's tree.

"Everybody that took part in bringing this tree here should get fired," said another man.

The tree was so ugly, the city decided to take it down before Christmas, just so people wouldn't have to look at it anymore.

Workers removed the lights and the pretzel of Bethlehem, or whatever that was -- and made arrangements to bring in a new, spruced-up spruce.

"A Christmas tree is a matter of celebration," said former city councilman Francis Acosta, who told me this really was just like that tree in the Charlie Brown story -- although the lesson had obviously eluded him.

"What was the moral of that story?" I asked him a year ago.

Ruining holiday spirit? Pennsylvania town to replace ugly Christmas tree

"Well, the importance of Christmas, of being together," Acosta responded.

But what did the Peanuts gang do with their tree?

"Save it. Embrace it," Acosta claimed. "But it's not about Charlie Brown or not Charlie Brown tree, it's about a beautiful Christmas tree for the city."

They really were going to get rid of it -- until the phones started ringing off the hook at City Hall. Public opinion changed and the mayor issued a stay of re-execution, if you will.

"We will keep this thing here," Acosta said.

And that was the end of the story -- or so I thought.

"I said, 'We're saving this tree and we're going to do something with it.' And we kind of kept it under wraps," said Luke Schultz, who was on the crew that was supposed to mulch the tree after the holidays -- but he didn't.

"I thought there's just no way that we could run this tree through a chipper after everything was said and done," Schultz said. "I mean, we can't let that happen."

So, with the help of some local vo-tech students, Luke turned that paltry pine into a piece of art: a bench as quirky as the tree it came from.

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The bench created from Reading's "ugly" Christmas tree. CBS News

Today it sits in City Hall -- a reminder that beauty is in the eye the beholder and ugly, nothing more than attitude.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.