A New Adventure

Christmas decorations, then and now


My parents used to buckle my sister, Denise and I into the family sedan every Christmas season for our annual trip to St. Louis. 

This was not a shopping trip. It was to see the holiday displays in department store windows.

 At that time there was an annual battle between Stix, Baer and Fuller and Famous-Barr to see who had the best Christmas window display.

These windows included electric trains, elves hammering toys, reindeer in scenes of sparkling snow and more on the level of Walt Disney World’s “It’s a Small World” ride, just on a smaller scale. 

Of course, my sister and I were in awe of the magical displays. 

That was the late ‘60s. It was a time before drive-through holiday light displays like “Santa’s Magical Kingdom” in Eureka.

Stix, Baer and Fuller, also known as SBF, was the high-end fashion store in St. Louis at that time encompassing a full city block. Before being sold to Dillard’s in 1984, they had 13 stores.

An interesting note about Famous-Barr, in 1914 it was the first air-conditioned department store in the United States. The Famous-Barr name was retired in 2006 when Federated converted most of Macy’s regional department stores to the Macy’s nameplate.

All of this came back to me after seeing the decorated windows of some of our local retail stores.

It’s truly amazing how much Christmas decorations have evolved. This has happened not in the last fifty years but just the last ten to 15.

It wasn’t that long ago when Christmas lights on a house were limited to the large C7 / C9 bulbs.

I remember climbing the ladder up to the rooftop of our humble abode to staple strings of C9 lights that my grandmother unloaded on us.

You can still buy those lights — in plastic, not glass — but there is so much more.

Today we can choose from mini lights, rope lights and LED lights. There are icicle lights, light show trees, net lights for shrubs and trees and lit outdoor yard decorations. Don’t forget laser light displays. The list is endless.

Next on the outdoor decorations list are yard ornaments. More than just a simple nativity set, these come in wood, steel or plastic. 

I’m sure that the popularity of Christmas yard decorations correlates directly with the rise in the storage rental units found in our communities. You have to have somewhere to store all those Christmas decorations the other 11 months of the year.

Anyone remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?

For those without a lot of storage space, you can always purchase Christmas inflatables.

Now available for Christmas decorating enthusiasts are light shows for the home synchronized to music.

When I was growing up I don’t recall my father going any further than placing a string of lights around the front door.

It was the inside where the main decorations were. That was my mother’s territory.

Our house had two Christmas trees. An artificial tree was the main focus in our living room. Children were only allowed in the living room once a year. That was Christmas eve when we opened presents. 

The rest of the year that room sat empty. Adults would visit that room on special occasions. As children, we could only look inside, not touch and never sit on the furniture.

The main action in our house was in the family room. That is where the big 25 inch RCA color TV sat and where our second tree was located. 

This was a cedar tree. It was procured on a trip to Stony Hill where grandpa Warden still owned some acreage full of cedar trees.

This gave our house a wonderful cedar aroma and kept the mess out of the living room.

In our current home, we have plenty of decorations. I climbed the ladder the Sunday after Thanksgiving to put up our humble display. It’s not the same now that our children have moved out of the house.

Fortunately, our decorations only take up about one half of a 12-foot wall in our basement. My goal is to keep it that way.


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