Friday, December 19, 2014

LONGING FOR AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS


My childhood next door neighbors had an aluminum Christmas tree with a rotating light to sparkle it up at night. Oh, how beautiful! It speaks of Christmas to me. I wanted an aluminum tree especially with that rotating light so bad.

But my father would have none of that. It had to be a Frazier Fir from Nova Scotia. Anyway, he had noted in the newspaper where people had placed electric lights on these aluminum trees, against all the warnings on the package, and had either be electrocuted or their tree caught fire and burned down the house and killed the family.

But really, was he exaggerating? Did this really happen? He didn't even want us to get those Christmas lights that had water in them and would bubble when they reached a certain temperature. He knew for sure we'd all be electrocuted on those too!
My father prevented us from having an old fashioned Christmas in the 1960's. Now I can't even find an aluminum tree and color wheel not to mention bubbling lights! O, the Agony during this season of O antiphons!

But he didn't prevent Santa Claus, a baptized Catholic Chinese Pug (now in heaven), Christmas trees on a box and toy police cars. I should be grateful! And yes, that's our first television set bought from Sears around 1958! I remember the day it arrived like it was yesterday!

34 comments:

Gene said...

You can still get bubble lights. I found some a couple of years ago at Lowe's. I have them wrapped around a vintage flamingo I put up in the yard with a Santa hat on its head. Go ahead, screw up the neighborhood...

Anonymous said...

You obviously don't shop Amazon or eBay!

Anonymous said...

You can also purchase "vintage" lead icicles that are heavy and not the cheap plastic one's. I purchased mine on eBay in the original boxes. I know I know lead is bad for you but I use them year after year. Bubble lights can be purchased at Home Depot as well. And German and European vintage glass ornaments on eBay my tree looks like it is from the 1940's each year!! Merry Christmas to all here and pray for the return of the Traditional Latin Mass to all of our altars.

Bee said...

Father, my mom's fancy, dancy rich girlfriend and her husband (and three kids to my mom and dad's six) had one of these aluminum trees with the rotating colored lights. They were all the rage back in the day. My mom thought it was tacky. I wasn't sure if that was really how she felt or just sour grapes. I was neutral, but I'm glad now we never had one, because I like the smell and look of a real tree so much.

As for the bubble lights, one of my aunt's (dad's sister) had those, and well, those I loved! But my mom didn't like those either (more sour grapes from someone just making ends meet?). We never had them. My mom's elderly now, and we put up her tree for her, and I saw these recently advertised, and said to my brother, hey, should I get some of those bubble lights like Aunt Mae had! He goes, in the most Scrooge voice you ever heard, "Mom doesn't like those." So, okay. I guess that's a no. :-)

And just to be a stickler, it's not "Christmastide" yet, Father. It's still Advent. Heck, we don't even put the tree up until Christmas Eve. (Although I admit I was playing Christmas CD's the other day. Mea culpa!)

John Nolan said...

Christmases of childhood are always poignant. We never went to Midnight Mass because my mother hated the fact that it was frequented by drunken Irishmen straight out of the pub. But we all walked up to the morning Low Mass and didn't open the presents until we got back.

I can never understand why I, a small child, loved the Latin Mass particularly when it was sung, whereas supposed intelligent adults nowadays find it a problem. No doubt Pater Ignotus has a glib answer to it. Could it perhaps be not coincidental that the number of those who embraced the new dispensation in the 1960s as opposed to those who didn't roughly represents the proportion of those who now attend Mass and those who don't?

I'm only asking.

newguy40 said...

Yep. Our neighbors had that same silver tree and rotating light. I think alot of folks got issued those somewhere around 1968 or so. Coincidence? I think not...

Where is the Tiki bar?

Gene said...

I have five boxes of 50's vintage glass ornaments that I do a tree with some years. I remember helping Dad put them on the tree..no telling how many got broken over the years. My Dad always insisted on a live tree. He would take me to the woods with him to cut one until I was around 8 or 9, then he started buying a spruce every year. He always said the aluminum trees looked like an explosion in a tin foil factory.

Veronika N said...

There are aluminum trees and color wheels available for sale on ebay. Of course, one will pay the highest price for them right before Christmas. It's best to buy them on ebay during the off season. Vintage Christmas items can also be found in thrift stores before Christmas and at garage sales during the warmer months. How do I know? I sell vintage Christmas items on ebay, but didn't find any aluminum trees recently.

Pater Ignotus said...

I have two WWII plastic ornaments (faded red and faded green) from the family collection. Glass was too precious in those days. They hang all year on the mantle in the den.

Anonymous said...

This may be a bit like the Christmas in 1914 when the German and British soldiers came out of the trenches and met in "no man's land" and celebrated Christmas.

To me, the very best Christmas hymn is "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming". When all of our children were still at home, we (7 of them, my wife and I) used to sing it in 4 part harmony, which, I must say, was pretty darned good. If you search on YouTube, there are MANY choices of it. I just listened to "The Atlanta Chorus" and somebody called "Nico Hoogenboom". The latter sounds like a fake name, but the music is good. There are enough offerings there that a person could spend hours. Probably not a bad idea, actually.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anonymous:

Thank you for that reminder about the Christmas Truce in 1914. Here is the Wikipedia article about that truce and many other truces during “the War to end all wars”:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce

To me it makes for inspiring reading and underscores the stupidity of most war. Of course the high ups didn’t like it, as is typical of those not on the front lines. I mean the last thing you want as a general or politician is for your soldiers to discover their shared humanity with the “enemy.” They might start disbelieving all the propaganda. Worse, it might get in the way of your ambition or even put you out of a job. =)

As you suggest, it is gratifying to see something similar develop on the Blog. Perhaps Gene and Pater Ignotus will cut one another's hair. =)

Anonymous said...

If you Google Christmas truce 1914, you can read about it...see photos...

Merry Christmas.

Juden said...

There were also stands for silver trees that revolved and turned the whole tree around while the color wheel turned and changed the colors.

dominic1955 said...

I got an original alumninum Christmas tree for nothing at an estate sale, in its original box too. Unfortunately, no color wheel light but I found a new made one that works.

They are definitely very 1960s but its one of those kitschy Americana things like a '59 Caddy that even though its almost too much, its still pretty neat.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I forgot about the rotating tree stand!!!! I placed a picture of it on the post!😊

Gene said...

Anon 2, you should not allow Ignotus and me around one another with cutting instruments…LOL!

Robert Kumpel said...

Maybe it's because I'm "hyper-auditory", but one of the hardest modern conventions to deal with is what passes as Christmas music today. Every genre of music seems to have their Christmas records and the stuff I hear playing in stores is somewhere between embarrassing and unbearable. Why does every single pop singer think they have a solemn duty to record a Christmas record?

I can remember my disgust as a teenager with the "easy listening" stations my parents would turn on for Christmas Muzak. Now I wish there still WERE such stations. Give me Mantovani! Bert Kaempfert! The Jackie Gleason Orchestra! AND PLEASE TURN OFF MARIAH CAREY!!!!

Gene said...

Robert, I could not agree more. I like traditional country music, but I cannot stand to hear country artists sing Christmas carols. Also, with so many of these talentless pop morons like Mariah Carey, it is all about them…they have to scream and moan and throw their voice around like somebody slammed their foot in a door. As far as the country singers go, nobody wants to hear Silent Night sung as loud as possible through someone's nose. I'll take Perry Como or Andy Williams.

Anonymous said...

About early televisions...My wife and I were married while I was a sophomore in college. (I had done 4 yrs. in the AF) I had the GI Bill and a job...she had a job, but we were on a budget. It was 1956. We bought a "repo" 17" "table model" television set (It was HUGE) from the Goodyear store, which also sold TVs. The price was $75.00. We FINANCED IT for $8.00 a month for 12 months. Ahhh the good old days....

Carol H. said...

Have you checked vermontcountrystore dot com?

Happy Advent!

John Nolan said...

There is a danger of mythologizing the Christmas truce of 1914, a process that ironically began with British press coverage at the time. Soldiers in static defensive positions in close proximity to the enemy tend to adopt a 'live and let live' approach (if you don't fire on the enemy's ration parties he won't fire on yours, to the benefit of both sides) and unofficial truces so that the dead could be recovered were not uncommon throughout the war.

The German soldiers were conscripts and many had lived and worked in England before the war, so it is hardly surprising that they initiated the fraternization. The British Army in December 1914 consisted mostly of regular soldiers for whom hatred of the enemy (or love of country) is never the prime motivation for fighting.

For both countries Christmas had been commercialized, secularized and sentimentalized by 1914. Pope Benedict XV had called for a cessation of hostilities over the Christmas season as a possible prelude to peace talks, but this largely fell on deaf ears - for one of the combatants, Russia, it would have made little sense since their Christmas was on 7 January in the Gregorian Calendar.

The attitude of the High Command on both sides is not for the reasons advanced by Anon 2; they were aware that long periods of trench warfare were deleterious to the 'offensive spirit' and so forbade any fraternization with the enemy for sound operational reasons. All the same, no action was taken against the officers who took part, in 1914 if not in subsequent years when Christmas truces were less widespread.

Anonymous 2 said...

John:

Thanks for weighing in on the Christmas Truce. The following seems like a balanced account that points out the differing interpretations of the Truce by the “pragmatists” and the “romantics.” It also suggests that the most important legacy of the Truce may be precisely the “mythologizing” in the public’s mind:

http://firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm

As for the reasons of the High Commands for opposing the fraternization, I wonder what multitude of sins may be hidden within the phrase “for sound operational reasons.” The linked article contains the following passage:

“By now, the British high command - comfortably 'entrenched' in a luxurious châteaux [sic] 27 miles behind the front - was beginning to hear of the fraternization.

Stern orders were issued by the commander of the BEF, Sir John French against such behaviour. Other 'brass-hats' (as the Tommies nick-named their high-ranking officers and generals), also made grave pronouncements on the dangers and consequences of parleying with the Germans.

However, there were many high-ranking officers who took a surprisingly relaxed view of the situation. If anything, they believed it would at least offer their men an opportunity to strengthen their trenches. This mixed stance meant that very few officers and men involved in the Christmas Truce were disciplined.

Interestingly, the German High Command's ambivalent attitude towards the Truce mirrored that of the British.”

Perhaps the characterization of the British high command as “comfortably ‘entrenched’ [ironic pun presumably intended] in a luxurious chateaux [sic] 27 miles behind the front” is unfair but, assuming it describes a reality, it does not exactly conduce to dispelling a degree of cynicism.

In any event, the Christmas Truce of 1914 and other truces during the Great War do seem to merit further investigation.




Gene said...

Truces like this have occurred spontaneously in many wars. There were several such during the War Between the States (which is more understandable), and a couple during WW II. In one that occurred during the War Between the States, this conversation was recorded:
"Yank, how many of you boys are left over there?"
"Oh, about enough for another killing."

John Nolan said...

Anon 2

Herein lies the seeds of another myth. Wellington could position himself on the battlefield and (powder smoke permitting) see what was happening and intervene accordingly. He actually galloped up to the Guards and gave them the order to advance: 'Now, Maitland, now's your time!' WW1 generals had to command at the end of myriad telephone lines. At the Battle of Loos (Sept/Oct 1915) six generals were killed or died of wounds (three divisional commanders and three brigade commanders), losses that the BEF could ill afford, and orders had to go out to forbid senior officers going too far forward. Nonetheless, another 60 British general officers were to be killed on the Western Front. In contrast the Germans had few casualties above the rank of major.

GHQ was situated at Montreuil which was ideally placed for communications but as the British area of operations extended as the war progressed, Haig had to make use of a mobile HQ in a special train.

The myth of generals in comfortable chateaux was given a boost when Lloyd George published his mendacious and self-serving memoirs in the 1930s, but it is a myth nonetheless, and like many Great War myths is stubbornly persistent.

In 1940 the BEF C-in-C, Lord Gort, who had won the VC as a battalion commander in the Great War, made the mistake of establishing a small forward HQ and even with the advantage of voice radio was out of touch at crucial moments. The instinct of generals is to go forward to ascertain what is going on, but in modern warfare this instinct has to be resisted.

Anonymous 2 said...

Thank you for that additional information, John. Actually, it does not surprise me that many senior officers would act in this way for most of them at least surely must share the ethos of the military and feel solidarity with their comrades-in-arms, whatever their individual personal ambitions may be.

But now, what about the political leaders who start the wars in the first place? They are the ones I tend to be most cynical about, especially (nowadays at least) those who have never served in the military themselves.

Gene said...

Was it Pericles who said that, "Young men are sent to fight old men's wars?"

Anonymous 2 said...

Whoever said it, Gene, there seems to be much wisdom in it. And the practice is aided and exacerbated by the fact that the prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until the mid-20s:

http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/youngadult/brain.html


John Nolan said...

Gene and Anon 2

The idea of the sons being sacrificed because of the sins of the fathers is a recurrent theme of the Great War but does not seem to be present in previous conflicts.

'But the old man would not so, and slew his son
And half the seed of Europe, one by one'.

This passage from Wilfred Owen is all the more shocking in that Owen was a practising Anglican.

Kipling, who lost his only son in the War, wrote as follows, the
epitaph of a statesman:

'I would not beg, I dared not rob;
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue,
And I must face the men I slew.
What words can serve me now among
Mine angry and drfrauded young?'

Gene said...

John, while I do understand the notion that young men fight old men's wars, I don't get to worked up about it. We are a part of the nation, with all its heritage, sins, and conflicts. True, young men do most of the fighting (although old men will fight, too, if the cause is strong enough). Now, from the height of my years and experience, I believe that Viet Nam, while perhaps necessary in the overall fight against Communism, was poorly managed and stupidly fought by our gov't, no one that I knew had any high-flown political feelings about it. We fought because we were told it was necessary and it was our duty. We chose it by enlisting. In an actual combat zone, your horizons narrow tremendously and your perception of reality becomes very immediate. You fight to survive and you fight for your buddies and your unit. You depend tremendously on each other. I remember no conversations about the political aspects of the war or any philosophical discussions. You just try to get through the day and night and kill as many of the enemy as possible. I don't remember feeling any remorse or conflict over fighting the enemy and I do not remember anybody losing any sleep over it. The notion of "collateral damage" was not an issue except with the brass and the idiots back home. The line between combatant and non-combatant was totally blurred.

Gene said...

I always like the line from that Randall Jarrel poem,
"In bombers named for girls,
We burned the cities we had learned about in school."

John Nolan said...

Gene, we in England might live with a mythological construct of the Great War, but the myths of Vietnam were being propagated even at the time; the Tet offensive was a massive defeat for the Vietcong and should have been a turning point in that war, but that was not the way it was reported.

Gene said...

John, You are exactly right. I just missed Tet, but it was a complete defeat of the NVA. But, except for a couple of early instances very early in the war, everywhere the NVA chose to meet us in a protracted
battle, we defeated them, inflicting huge losses. In '69, when we began the stupid policy of "Viet Namization"…turning the war over to the ARVN, things began to go south. We were constantly called upon to bail them out, etc. It was an ill-conceived effort to get us out of the war.

Templar said...

A strategy we are now attempting in Afghanistan and have implemented and failed in Iraq. 50 years later and still the Politicians have not learned a damn thing. Any patch of dirt worth fighting and bleeding for is worth colonizing and running for the betterment of the US and the indigenous population. If we're not willing to do that we should either stay home of glass them straight away.

Gene said...

Templar is correct. Once we leave the Middle East, it will revert to exactly what it was before we were there. Look at Viet Nam.