Observing that many of my articles were about the “good old days” or the depression era, Jerry Seigel suggested I write a column about the Christmas tree of days gone by. Everyone has their own memories, but this is the tree I recall as a child.
First, the tree would be cut from a field nearby. The choice was cedar. Those Arkansas pine trees didn’t fill the bill. Scotch pine, blue spruce, and Douglas fir didn’t grow there. A flat board was nailed to the bottom of the tree to hold it upright. It never occurred to anyone to stand the tree in water, so by New Year’s it was a genuine fire hazard.
A star was placed atop the tree. This five-point star was cut from the back of a Big Chief nickel tablet and covered with foil from gum wrappers. Decorative balls were made from hickory nuts wrapped in red and green paper and tied with colorful narrow ribbon. Strings of popcorn served as decorative rope. Some families strung cranberries, but when available, we chose to eat them. In some homes, you would see red and green paper ropes which went around the tree. Most families used those inexpensive silver icicles which added luster to the tree. Before the Chinese took over the Christmas market, the more affluent decorated their tree with a string of real light bulbs, but if one burned out, they all went out. Years later, we had the shiny glass balls but they would shatter if you sneezed very loud. Someone came up with artificial snow that could be sprayed on the tree.
The first year Ann and I were married, she paid $2 for a Christmas tree at Moss’s Market in Monett. This was the first time I wondered what kind of woman I had married. It had never occurred to me that you would buy a Christmas tree. I have since caved in to the modern ways. Last year, I paid $60 for a huge Frazier fir. With children and grandchildren home for the holidays and club parties to host, I haven’t given in to the artificial tree. When the kids were young, selecting the tree was a family affair but achieving a consensus was not easy. Size was the primary consideration for one, while color and shape were the deciding factors for others. I wanted a tree with a base that would fit in our tree holder. One year, we cut a tree covered with ice. It was in the garage for a week before it could be brought into the house.
While living on Melody Lane, I learned a lesson in tree disposal. I cut the branches from the tree and taped them together into small bundles to use as kindling in the fireplace. Returning from the grocery store, Ann was following the fire truck wondering where it was going. It was going to her house, to deal with a chimney fire which her husband, in all his brilliance, had ignited.
Page 2 of 2 - Roy Shaver writes a weekly column for the Daily News.