Tag Archives: Christmas

Dad, the 60’s and the Aluminum Christmas Tree

19 Dec
an iconic shot

an iconic shot

There has been much interest in the Aluminum tree of late, strange that an item like this that at one time was the center of controversy and debate has become an object of adulation. The 60’s were a period sweeping tech advances, the space race was on and Pres Kennedy said we were going to the moon, as Jackie donned her modern Pillbox hat, which even Bob Dylan immortalized in song . The auto industry had abandoned the over wrought designs of the 50’s and embraced a new “clean look” Home appliances were now being dubbed “Sheer” no more bulbous refrigerators, rectilinear was the new design dictum. The Princess phone was the last word [no pun] in communications tech [ it lit up] Then along came the Aluminum Christmas tree, the ultimate in “modern” living, perfect for display on the moon. Reynolds Aluminum not wanting to left behind, introduced a game changer that flew in the face of Christmas tradition and all that was sacred.

The Clean Lincoln

The Clean Lincoln

As early as 57 a new look was coming

As early as “57” a new look was coming..note the right angles of her gloves.

Everything Aluminum

Everything Aluminum

Mad Men” was ahead of the curve embracing the revival of 60’s design. All of a sudden appeared the term “Mid-Century” modern, which replaced the “atomic age” label to describe the future look that swept the U.S. Many items that were once laughed at as naive and quaint were now becoming serious design statements. All things Mid-Century were in demand. an ironic twist, as I am a Mid-Century relic as well [and I’m not in demand] When Banana Republic teamed with Mad Men a younger generation was hooked. Skinny brimmed hats and the Rat Pack became synonymous with cool.

He was the last word in 60's hip

He was the last word in 60’s hip

It was my mother that fell hook line and sinker for the new look, Jackie was her style icon and she followed her style with religious fervor [as did many women of the day]  The Pillbox hat was essential and mom had one..a leopard one, [so politically incorrect these days]..Anyway the thought of a Christmas tree that needed no tending was irresistible to her. No dropping needles, no daily watering was “sheer” in every way. My Dad hated the tree he was a C.7 blinking lights and tinsel kind of guy. His protests fell on deaf ears. What wanted Mom she got. So poor Dad went out and bought the whole show, the color wheel and a set matching of gold tear drop ornaments. My sister and I had no say in the matter. I didn’t really love it either as I remember, but she did allow us to impinge upon her design scheme with a few of our favorite traditional ornaments, just to keep us quiet.

When I look at the shot of sis and I staring out the picture window, which Dad carefully composed, it never occurred to me that one day this life-less relic of a long gone decade would become a nostalgic touch stone. Thanks Dad, wish you were still around to see the current triumph your iconic photo and that hated tree.

My Mid Century Christmas

9 Dec

One would think that after a month of doing Christmas for others there would be little energy for doing it for myself…You are wrong, two factors made it easy for me this year, 1. I emptied my car of everything that did not make the cut in some one elses store and 2. We were hit with a snow storm yesterday.

Pre-dawn shot

Pre-dawn shot

A few cups of coffee and I was ready. Ready to deplete the amount of “stuff” I had to put away in my basement. On went Bing Crosby and I set to decorating the house. The snow falling outside the window was the perfect accompaniment to my labors. Yes even an old Scrooge like me does [at times] get struck with the spirit. take a look at my retro decor.


A long shot

A long shot

My favorite Kitsch

My favorite Kitsch

The 40's Window Candles

The 40’s Window Candles

A brass Gazelle becomes a  Reindeer  this time of year

A brass Gazelle becomes a Reindeer this time of year

My heirloom Nativity

My heirloom Nativity

60's brass candle sticks, found 2 sets..lucky me

60’s brass candle sticks, found 2 sets..lucky me

A plastic Santa Boot..like it a lot..

A plastic Santa Boot..like it a lot..

My Christmas tea pots

My Christmas tea pots

Cocktails? of course!

Cocktails? of course!

Just can't get over mirror balls..

Just can’t get over the 70’s mirror balls..

All dressed up and Christmas is near.

All dressed up and Christmas is near.

Fake is OK in a Mid Century display

Fake is OK in a Mid Century display

My skinny tree with bubble lights...OF COURSE! and lots of tinsel

My skinny tree with bubble lights…OF COURSE! and lots of tinsel

The Parting shot a very Merry Mid Century Christmas to All!

The Parting shot a very Merry Mid Century Christmas to All!

My blinking tree…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB8zlAaYAVU

Bubble lights

9 Dec

I must admit that despite my vocation my taste in holiday decor is very old-fashioned. I like over-done trees. The more junk the better. I especially like Noma Bubble Lights, my absolute favorite. Nothing sends me to Christmases long ago like those little bubbling tubes.

I like glass bead chains, tinfoil bells with fake snow, red cellophane wreaths, real metal tinsel, window candles with C7 bulbs and plastic halos, anything St. Nickolas, paper mache nativity sets, printed cardboard mangers, silver glass MM balls on wire, heavy foil snowflakes and Glass Wax stencils.

I ran across this video of Mr. Christmas delivering a somewhat unrehearsed history of the bubble light, the undisputed king of all novelty Christmas decor

A Parisienne Christmas

8 Dec


Shop Local

30 Nov
It’s not that I dislike the big box retailers, I readily admit that I adore stores like Ikea and Target, it’s just that I am very committed to small owner operated shops. My entire career is due to local retailers. In this Christmas display I let it rip, for two reasons, Number 1, I have been doing Ernesto Custom Tailors for 20 years and have a part in their success, Number 2, they are located in my old hood. South Street Philadelphia.
I have a soft spot for South Street, it played a large part in my life. In the 70’s it was in decline, an all but completely abandoned neighborhood facing destruction to make way for a cross town expressway. That is until the “art” crowd in due to cheap rents. South Street was the first example of what happens when the creative set takes over. Those years saw a wonderful mix of residents and a sense of community, that made the hood prosper again. It’s been 30 years and the street has seen many changes, both good and bad, but it’s still there and I had something to do with the fact.
Ernesto pre-dates the decline, they are the original residents. This year I decided to take a stand with a statement window, for them and South Street and me.



Bergdorf Goodman’s Window Reveal

27 Nov
The always spectacular B. G. Windows were revealed this year by a team of flying acrobats. The “Holiday on Ice” theme maintains the stores tradition of highly produced, “dense with detail” display, that is B.G.s trade mark. This year acrobats flying above the crowd drew back the curtains on another Christmas installation.  No store in the U.S. does it better than the incomparable Bergdorf Goodman.

Harrods Spectacular Christmas Windows

25 Nov

Stunning especially for those of us who adore trains…..so chic and slightly Steampunk

Fullscreen capture 11252013 81709 AM

All aboard the Harrods express! First look at luxury store's iconic Christmas 2013 window display  Mail Online - Google Chrome 11252013 81415 AM

All aboard the Harrods express! First look at luxury store's iconic Christmas 2013 window display  Mail Online - Google Chrome 11252013 83349 AM

All aboard the Harrods express! First look at luxury store's iconic Christmas 2013 window display  Mail Online - Google Chrome 11252013 83317 AM

All aboard the Harrods express! First look at luxury store's iconic Christmas 2013 window display  Mail Online - Google Chrome 11252013 83247 AM

All aboard the Harrods express! First look at luxury store's iconic Christmas 2013 window display  Mail Online - Google Chrome 11252013 83219 AM


Be sure to watch the video…http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2488250/All-aboard-Harrods-express-First-look-luxury-stores-iconic-Christmas-2013-window-display.html

Christmas Display

25 Nov
Everyone has memories lingering of the small details of Christmas past. My obsession with miniature architecture is rooted in the traditions of my paternal grandmother. She was a master of display. Every Christmas Eve after we were sent to bed [the tree never went up until Christmas eve] she would set up her Christmas village under her tree. A veritable extravaganza of her wonderful lit cardboard houses ( putz as they are refered to) and a beautiful 20’s vintage German dollhouse that belonged to my father. She also owned a model of a Russian Orthodox church, crafted by a cousin, complete with its “onion dome” a tribute to her Slovak  roots in the rural Pennsylvania coal mining regions.
My Granny had great Christmas decor, in her window she would display a home-made wooden electrified cross, a rarity these days, but for her Christ was the reason for the season, and of course us, her grand children. Christmas morning was always a thrill at my Granny’s due to she celebrated Russian Christmas [the Epiphany] on January 6th. We were excused from school to celebrate a second Christmas, an event much envied by my schoolmates.
Christmas the way it used to feel
All the wonderful little houses
All her Christmas suburban sprawl surrounded “the big show” the nativity, a stable brightly lit by a bulb surrounded with a tin star, she would place the figures, pre war hand-painted paper mache effigies all staring lovingly at the baby Jesus, including the livestock, a cow, a donkey a few sheep. The stable is lost, but I still have the figures which I rescued years ago, after her passing [a good move on my part] I have set up the nativity every year since, to continue her tradition and remember my Granny, the woman who passed her talents for display on to me.
Go to Papa’s site for a look at Christmas past. good stuff http://cardboardchristmas.com/papateds/Main.html


Not a Merry Christmas

17 Dec

Fullscreen capture 12172012 122107 PMI feel the need to write. For weeks I’ve been busy making Christmas for others, finally after 5 weeks of garland, lights and 12 hour days I arrived at the end of making Christmas for others. What a relief, now I  can try to make a little Christmas of my own. It has been three years since I put up a tree, the lingering recession and the lackluster retail activity made me want to forget Christmas all together.

This year felt better there was a feeling of recovery in the air. I decided to  put up my tree and I loved doing it (a drink helped my cheer) as I listened to carols..I even started my shopping and actually paid retail for a few gifts. My good spirit was to come to an abrupt end when I heard the news, an unspeakable tragedy in Sandy Hook. Last Friday I was engaged in a last-minute display “touch-up” so I had no idea what was happening in the real world until I arrived home and began the Email and FB ritual. A shock that upon reflection that was similar to the shock of 9/11  How could this be happening? a tragedy so sad it is impossible to comprehend. 28  souls cut down as they prepared for a school Holiday party. As I continued to seek information and details it grew worse in horror, 6 year olds and teachers. I was growing numb with disbelief  as I started to discover photos and videos describing the circumstances. Then I cried.

I had to stop watching it was just more than I could endure, I fixed dinner and went to bed.The next morning I woke up had my coffee and pulled up more news on the pad, it was getting worse, a 20-year-old with an assault weapon had committed this heinous act and killed his own mother. Unlike the night before when I was saddened I started to get mad, mad at the killer,mad at the guns and mad at what my country has become. The U.S.A. stats on death by gunfire are astronomical when compared to other countries that have passed legislation to limit or eliminate military firearms.

If I may at the risk of sounding selfish, the cause  of my anger is  another mass killing of innocents this time in an elementary  school. Death had cast a pall over my Christmas and that of many others as well, The  pre-recession Christmas I thought  was unfolding was not to be.  This senseless act of violence has made it difficult to embrace the season of “peace on earth and goodwill  toward man” How can one feel merry when those who were so wronged have had their holiday become forever an event for remorse and bitter memories. A national disgrace due to inability of our governing bodies to see the pattern of violence growing in our society.

When will we put an end to all this madness? For the last decade the state of our union has been in decline, wars, lies, self-interest, greed, violence, discrimination, extreme partisan politics in a useless Congress  the list is endless. The 60s of my teen years were hardly tranquil, I had my share of sit-ins and protests, but never anything like this. I always believed the U.S. was the most fair and civilized country in the world. I used to love my country. Is it just me? Am I looking back through eyes blinded by nostalgia at a time that never existed, due to my youth and naivety? or has America really become a  dangerous place to live.

The  future United States seems to be heading toward gated communities for the privileged walled up to protect themselves against the poverty-stricken crime ridden masses.

The disparity between the ruling class and the rest of us feels a bit  like “Let them Eat Cake” [ we all know where that led ]. When did we become so corrupt and when did it become possible to stack the Supreme court. Seems like every seat the both houses has a “For Sale” sign on it. Why has God been replaced with the worship of profit? Why do we all seem to be angry? This nation has become unrecognizable to me, it’s not the place I grew up in. I am concerned for our future. As a nation we must restore the compassion, sincerity and unselfish public service that made us the beacon of freedom and opportunity that we once were. Sandy Hook is the last straw,  it took their brutal sacrifice for us to hold the mirror to our selves and see the naked truth in the reflection. We must make their horrific deaths an agent for real change, to guarantee that there will never be another Christmas like this.

Christmas Past…some things never fade away

4 Dec


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He was more important than Santa

Christmas will be upon us in a week or so. Before the Grinch takes hold of me I would like to share a memory or two of Christmas past. Whether we want to admit it or not many of our fondest holiday stories are retail related. Christmas, children and retail have gone hand in hand since some enterprising retailer first donned a Santa suit.

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 I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and although Cleveland has been a national joke since our river burned, it was a very different place when I was a child. Downtown Cleveland was dense with varied retail and a Christmas shopping trip was a much-anticipated event Cleveland’s three major holiday decor musts were; Halle Brothers, Higbee’s and Sterling Linder Davis. My maternal grandfather spent his entire working life at Halle’s and both my mother and her sister did sales stints there as well. Even though Halle’s was the highest end in Cleveland [and my family was not] we were loyal customers, due to the employee discount which my mother took full advantage of. Halle’s was always a part of our family.” A treasure in Store” they used to say.

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Halle’s always had the edge on its competitors at the holidays, due largely to their Santa’s right hand man. A month before Christmas Cleveland’s most famous holiday ambassador would start appearing on television after the local news, MR. JING A LING, a brilliant advertising concept. Upon reflection he was sort of an info-mercial, living advent calendar, talk show host. As I remember he would interview children with a jovial Dickensesque abandon that works so well at Christmas and promise his transfixed audience, [me and my sister] a key to Halle’s seventh floor toy dept. Hence his name, the sound of keys he always carried on his arm..The song is still ringing my mind some 50 years later…….

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Mr Jing a Ling how you ring a ling..keeper of the keys
On Halle’s seventh floor….We’ll be waiting for you to turn the key.

Higbees had the famous Twigbee shop,[for children only] and served childrens meals in little cardboard toy stoves, Sterlings had the city’s tallest tree and Francis the talking mule, Halle’s trumped them all. The great department stores are gone now, but the success of their Christmas efforts have become legend in the minds of many.

Sterlings Live Tree was a must.

Sterlings Live Tree was a must.

The Silver Grille at Higbees..mini stoves for all..

The Silver Grille at Higbees..mini stoves for all..

On a sad note Our condolences to the family and friends of Pamela Keyes, a friend and member of the Rocky River high schools class of 1970.

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