Christmas Edition: O! Christmas Tree, O! Christmas Tree

O! Christmas Tree, O! Christmas Tree

from the pen of Marsha L. Burris

When the best years of your childhood fall during the Sputnik phenomenon, you will be affected. A guy named Sergei, employed by the Soviet space program, developed a spectacular satellite that could orbit the earth in OUTER SPACE so you know a good old fashioned red-blooded American engineer named Bob, employed by ALCOA had to offset that technological advance with something just as awesome: A shiny silver-colored aluminum Christmas tree.

Back in those days, when I was a kid, we hung our freshly washed clothes on a clothes line (outdoors), we washed dishes after each meal (with our own two hands), and we walked across the pasture to the woods and cut a cedar sapling for our Christmas tree every December (using a hand saw). But then Space Age culture dawned and with it spawned a new world outlook. We put aside such organic pursuits as gathering holiday greenery for decorative purposes. Instead, inspired by The Jetsons, we coveted digital diaries, moving sidewalks, holidays to Venus and metallic holiday decor.

I’m certain that many families in Newell owned and displayed one of those store-bought erector-set metallic Christmas trees as proudly as those of us who resided at Route #10, Orr Road did. As I ponder that last statement, however, I realize that I cannot recall a single other family who admitted to having one. Nevertheless, my family was not willing to pass up an opportunity to mark a profound moment in history. We were on the cutting edge of the new trend in Christmas tree innovation.

Aluminum Christmas Trees! Upon close analysis, I appreciate that there are good points and bad points associated with trees of this style.

Good points: A tree of this fine quality and magnificence is strikingly beautiful with or without decorations. May I just use the word ethereal here? And for any vacuum-wielding housewife looking for time-saving shortcuts during the busy Yuletide Season, she will appreciate that there is no dropping of needles that requires attention. And to my finely honed esthetic requirement for visual symmetry, this tree (being Man-Made at all) was, well, symmetrical. Precisely-drilled holes in the three-piece trunk held varying lengths of frilly long-lasting non-tarnishing aluminum foil branches provided with every kit. The short branches went in the top one-third, the medium length brances fit into the middle one-third, and the longest branches filled in the bottom, completing its tree-like shape. Eye-catching, as every inch of its five-foot tall gloriousness towered over us children.

Bad points: There were no bad points. Oh, except that, what good is a Christmas tree without beautiful twinkling colored lights hugging it like a hairnet on a short-order cook? Yet if you strap a string of electric lights on this man-made lightening rod, you’re courting disaster. Metal is a pretty good conductor of electrical current and the shock sustained by the meeting of that metal with 125 volts of electricity will not be covered by your homeowners insurance any more than bathing with your Philco radio will.

Solution: Add a color wheel to the mix. A rotating wheel, complete with a four-color spotlight which projects an alternating array of yellows and greens and reds and blues every few seconds illuminates the otherwise monochromatic tree precluding the necessity of a dangerous string of electrical lights. And that’s what my Momma did. No California-styled flocking of trees was allowed in our house. We had standards and would never stoop to such commercial pressures.

Any onlooker or passerby would be attracted to the magic of Christmas science as seen through the picture window on the front of our house. And being a classy lady who was ahead of her time, Rusty would not hang just any old random colored ball on our spiritual symbol of Christmas. She chose a selection of blue and green glass balls that highlighted the same blues and greens in the long threads of our shag carpet. Just click on the color wheel and let the Christmas spirit abound.

I spent hours lying cozily on the deep pile carpeting of our living room floor, chin propped upon my clasped hands, gazing, mesmerized, at that tree in awe and wonder of its beauty.

O! The divine and marvelous memories of Christmases past.

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5 Responses to Christmas Edition: O! Christmas Tree, O! Christmas Tree

  1. Beth says:

    Niiiiiiiiiiiiice! I really dig your aluminum Christmas tree story! I bet you were the first in Newell. We always had those cigar-shaped cedar trees. I thought they were so ugly and I was so happy when Mike went to work for one of the nurseries – Baucom’s or Patterson’s – and he brought home a live Norfolk pine. After that I believe we started buying Frazer firs. When my mom bought a very expensive artificial tree I was scandalized – I mean that it was artificial, not that it was very expensive. She got it at a yard sale. We just put that tree by the curb in the last decade or so. It was very fine and you could not tell it was fake unless you touched it. It was plastic with individual little sprigs which stuck into brown plastic branches. It really looked real. Thanks for this post! It really stirred some memories, obviously…
    Yours, Beth (McLaughlin) Feeback

    • Beth,

      Sounds like a mighty fine and high quality artificial Christmas tree ya’ll had. I can’t believe you just let it go to the curb. My sister hated that aluminum tree. I thought it was the most glorious thing I had ever seen.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family.


    • joy mclaughlin says:

      Beth, Marsha, I cannot believe Jewel let Peggy or Rusty by with a fake Christmas tree. That is too funny. That would have been big news in Newell. Great story!

  2. Beth says:

    PS – Merry Christmas! and Happy Birthday! I remember your mom and brother from Newell Gulf/Texaco!

  3. Beth says:

    Not to blather on too long, but I can’t have you thinking we’d just put that tree by the road if it still had a little bit of life in it – no, we got every last bit of the goody out of that sucker before we let go of it. I think we may have had that second-hand tree well into two decades. It must have been some fancy New York department store display tree or something. I’ve never seen anything like it since. It was kinda cool being able to speculate on its back-story, too.

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