Back Tracks: Deck the halls


We weren’t decking the halls with boughs of holly back in the 1950s, but we were putting up lots of Christmas decorations.

Most of these types of decorations have now been replaced with newer versions. And some have been done away with completely, like that white spun-glass material that was strangely named “Angel Hair.” No respectable angel would have ever worn that itchy, itchy stuff. For those of you who are lucky enough to never have dealt with angel hair, it was kind of like a giant sheet of white candy cotton spun glass. You pulled it apart and placed it on the Christmas tree, or under the tree as “snow” for the Christmas village.

Then you immediately went to the sink and washed your hands diligently to try to remove the itch and minute shards of glass. Maybe you even changed your clothes.

I preferred the soft sheets of cotton batting to use for the “snow” in our Christmas village. The cotton was covered with silver glitter and sparkled when the Christmas lights shone on it. The village under the tree consisted of cardboard houses and churches. You stuck lights in a hole in the back of the houses, and the light would shine through their cellophane windows, which were usually cracked and broken from age.

Thinking about it, cardboard houses plus hot lights was a certain recipe for a fire. For sure, there were always brown scorch marks on the sheets of cotton batting, when we pulled them out of the big cardboard Christmas decoration box each year.

Multi-colored Christmas bulbs back then were hot and big, with the colored coating eventually chipping off. And if one light went out in the string – they all went out.

Silver stands of icicles were the crowning touch for the Christmas tree. If you were lucky, you got a new box of 1,000-strand icicles each year, and you could pull them out of their box easily. Not us — we used the same ones — laboriously taking them on and off the tree each year.

You would pick apart the thin icicles and drape them carefully, one by one, on the tree branches. That is, until you reached the top.

When I was a little girl of 10 years old, I could never reach high enough to decorate the top of the tree. So I would grab a handful of icicles, give them a toss towards a bare spot on the tree, and hope that the cluster of silver strands would somehow come apart and hang straight on the branches. That never happened, so there were usually a bunch of messy silver icicles at the top of our tree.

And Christmas trees back then weren’t the perfectly-shaped ones of today. No, they were whatever you could find out in the woods. Big, little, fat, skinny, and pine or spruce — but every one of them looked beautiful when covered with lights, icicles, and Shiny-Brite ornaments.

Long garlands of blue-and-silver tinsel covered the tops of the window curtains. And in the bottom pane of each window, a lighted red cellophane wreath hung.

I went on an eBay buying spree last year, and purchased some of my fondest memories of old Christmas decorations. Like a hard plastic angel tree topper, who holds a plastic wand and, yes, she has white “angel hair” hair.

I remember our angel from long ago was melted and black from that big light you put in her back. Geez!

I also purchased a red cellophane wreath with a cardboard candle holder; and a cardboard wreath with three cardboard bells hanging from it, which look like they are covered with aluminum foil.

Maybe you remember some of these decorations that we had in the old wooden frame house that sat next to the back tracks. I guess children of every age have wonderful memories of their childhood Christmases. But in my mind, Christmases of the 1950s and 1960s MUST have been the most special; because that was the only time of year that we received new toys.

You can buy old Christmas decorations, but you can never buy back the old magical feelings of Christmas as a child. I hope you find some joy in the memories that I have shared with you, and wish all of you a Blessed and Merry Christmas.


Rose Hoover is a

freelance writer for

The Express.

She can be reached at rosehovr@yahoo.com or 814-387-4016.


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