Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Old Flocked Tree

Remember from yesterdays posting?  I talked a bit about having a silver tip tree while living in California?  Well, here is an old pic of that silver tip that I had flocked.  I think this pic is from the by-gone year of 1998... can't believe it's been almost 13 years since this pic was taken.  So, you can clearly see how much weight the flocking and the lights added to those poor tree branches.  This tree was so difficult to decorate.  Hanging the ornaments was a real challenge as the hanging hooks had to be gouged into the flocking material to secure them to the tree.  It was beautiful to be sure, but certainly a big hassle.  This was the one and only tree I ever had flocked and probably never will again, as flocked trees just aren't seen in my part of the world.  The next pic is of the same tree but with more of the decorations added.  My good old friend Bret was there to help, along with about 20 other folks helping us celebrate the season and decorate the tree.
Flocked tree tid-bit for the day...  the tree skirt is a special one.  My mother made that tree skirt by hand and sent it to me in SF, CA that year, especially for this tree in it's blue and white theme.  It's made of taffeta, with a tiny snowflake pattern.  I have used it since on the years that I had a white, although artificial tree.  It is still lovely, and special since it's hand made by my mother... I am saving it for the day when the house is big enough for two trees... a white and blue tree in the living room, and a fresh green tree in the den.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas At The Movies

Picture it, 1947, a cold and always dark city somewhere in New York, and Loretta Young is out in search of a Christmas tree.  There are many great old movies who's plots revolve around the celebration of Christmas, one is "The Bishop's Wife" with Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven.  And, in that movie is my favorite and I think the best of all movie Christmas trees.  Loretta buys the tree in the first scene at her local florist, ordering it to be delivered late on Christmas Eve... yeah, who waits to put up a tree on Christmas Eve these days?  At any rate, the tree eventually gets decorated in a "heavenly" fashion by Cary Grant.

Often in old movies and old t.v. shows as well, the trees seem to be of the same type/variety/species.  I think I can offer some insight to why Hollywood move and t.v. trees always see to be perfectly shaped with open spaces and completely horizontal branches.  The trees used are "Silver Tips" or "California Red Fir" trees.  In the past, it was the Christmas tree that everyone seemed to use in California.  With most old movies and t.v. show being filmed or taped in California... I am assuming that the prop departments simply chose the trees that were most readily available. 

One of the few pleasant memories I have of living in California was that these "perfect" trees were still available in the 1990's, sold mostly on corner lots and lumber yards and garden centers.  These trees were perfect for ornament hanging, open spaces for icicles to hang just right, and very fresh with long lasting qualities.  However, even in the late 1990's these trees were being phased out for the more desirable, fuller, bushier and more fragrant Douglas, Noble, and Frasier firs.  Well, times and tastes change.  But, of the seven. Christmases I spend in CA, three of those were "Silver Tip" trees.  Also, I will mention that the silver tips were very much more expensive than the more popular shorn and shaped trees from the tree farms.  Their growing cycle is much  longer than typical trees, and require the higher elevations of the mountains to grow, therefore harvesting and shipping were more expensive. 

Just about every year since then I have researched the Internet for a grower in No. California, Oregon or Nevada that has these Hollywood Trees, however, I have never had any success in finding a grower willing to cut and ship just one tree.

Posted below are some pictures I have found of silver tip trees on Google Image search, some are of other silver tip tree appearances in the movies, others are from growers.  Enjoy.
"Christmas In Connecticut"
1945 starring Barbara Stanwick and Dennis Morgan

An artificial Silver Tip... see how the ornaments hang just right...
from "A Summer Place" 1959 Warner Bros. Starring Sandra Dee and Richard Egan
"I paid $20 for it... it should last 10 years."

Here are some other examples of these great but scarce "silver tip" Christmas Trees...

Silver Tip tid bit of the day... like I said, I had three of these wonderful trees over the years... and, being in California, one year I decided to go as tacky as possible and have the tree flocked... and flock it they did.  By the time the flocking, lights, and ornaments were one, the poor thing was weighed down so much that most of the limbs pointed down to the floor.  I recommend that if you are going to flock, then flock a stronger tree!
Photo Credits:

The Bishop's Wife: from
A Summer's Place:
Holiday Inn:
Christmas In Connecticut:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daddy of the House

We all have some very memorable story about Christmas Time.  Some of us have inherited these stories from our parents or grandparents.  Some of the stories just don't fade away because they are so touching or just plain funny.  Today, I am going to share with all of you my personal favorite Christmas time story, as related by my mother and aunt.  This story revolves around a most devoted father, and a store bought Christmas tree.

It was probably the late '40's in Port Wentworth, GA, a small community just to west of Savannah.  As with most children at Christmas my mother and her sister were very keen to what was popular and the "in thing".  Typically at Christmas my grandfather, saw in hand, would head out to the woods behind the house.  Those woods led to the banks of the Savannah River, and were once the grounds of The Hermitage Plantation, famous for the location where the Cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney in the lat 18th century.  Those woods were scattered with pines, holly trees, and cedar trees.  This family always had a real live cut pine tree from the woods.  But one particular Christmas my mother and her sister wanted a store bought tree, just like other people, their friends in the neighborhood.  It was starting to be "the in thing" to buy your tree from a Christmas tree lot set up for season, the trees, most likely cut weeks before and shipped in from the north, as coastal Georgia was not the location to find a live, growing traditional Christmas tree.

So, after much asking and begging, my grandfather caved in to his daughters want to have a store bought tree.  As my mother remembers, it was a standard balsam fir tree.  I would imagine that in those days, and it being the first time a purchased tree was being used that a tree stand full of water may not have been in the picture, and that freshness wasn't necessarily a concern of tree vendors in the late '40's.  But, the much begged for tree finally made it into the living room.  Grandaddy got it put in, stood it up in whatever stand he must have fashioned and began the lighting process.  But, as the lights started going on the tree, the needles started coming off the tree at a rapid pace.  In a short amount of time, that poor, ill-fated balsam tree was absolutely needle less.  When the tree stood there with lights and no needles, my mother and her sister, as any child would do, started pitching royal fits at the state of their tree, no needles... just brown brittle branches and a couple strands of lights.  As my mother tells it, there was much crying and anguish over the situation.  But, my grandfather, completely exasperated at this point, began to have a little breakdown.  After giving in to his daughters many passioned requests for the tree, and for spending money that was scarce anyway, had finally had it.  He was a quiet reserved man of few words, but was pushed to the limit of frustration and exclaimed..."why was I ever the daddy of this house?!". 

I imagine that at this point, Grandaddy must have tossed the bare naked tree out the door and stomped off to the woods to cut down a tree for his daughters.  Over the years, whenever one of the family has found themselves in a situation where the rest of the family if frustrated and disappointed with a project gone wrong, usually the person responsible blurts out "Why was I ever the Daddy of this house?!"

Since I was of the height and age to stand on a ladder putting lights on the tree has usually been my job.  I normally decorate at least two trees a year, one for me and one for my mother.  These days I have the assistance of my two nieces, ages 11 and 8.  Believe me, at some point during that process I usually think of Granddaddy and end up saying... "why was I ever the uncle of this house?!"

Tree decorating tidbit for the day... Would you believe that electric lights were first strung on a Christmas tree in 1882.  The visionary was Edward H. Johnson, Vice President of Edison Electric at his New York City home.  The first lighting consisted of eighty egg-shaped lights in the color of red, white, and blue.  Below is a picture of that first lighted Christmas tree.

Story and Photo Credit to: , thanks Jim for the fascinating information!
and Google Image photo stock; 1930's Christmas tree, source site unavailable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Engagement Excitement... and some other excitement!

The Today show is counting it down, only 139 days until the Royal Wedding of the century... unless, William and Kate's first child is more wildly popular than they are... then, that wedding will be the wedding of the century...what? probably some 30-35 years from now?  Prince William chose a photographer that so famous captured his mother so movingly in pictures just prior to her death.  I think it would be hard for anyone to argue that the couple pictured above is truly in love, and that their future will be happy and peaceful as a married couple.  I have heard so many people talking about them as King and Queen.  It's hard for me to look quite that far ahead, especially with William's grandmother still on the throne of England, not to mention that his father will be king before him.  With Prince Charles's attitudes towards healthy living, who can tell how long it will be before William is eventually crowned?

On a quite different note, an image of the royals that we are not used to seeing in the media.  Protesters attacking the Prince and Duchess's car?  Really, the look on the Duchess's face really tells it all as far as how surprising the incident was.  I wonder who was in charge of choosing that route to the theater?

Royal Tidbit for the day ...  Prince William will be marrying a commoner, it's sounds kinda mean, but in England, Kate Middleton is neither a member of the Nobility/Aristocracy, nor the royal family.  Royal marriages to commoners are rare but a previous king, King James II married Anne Hyde in September of 1660.  Princess Diana, daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer, was of noble birth, yet, not royalty.  After Dian's father died in 1992, her brother Charles became the 9th Earl Spencer.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas: Vintage is the way we go...

So, all is not royal weddings at my house... especially during December.  The weekend finally came and we got to bring the tree inside to decorate.  Vintage, vintage, vintage.  That's the way we have been going decoration-wise for the past few years.  All it takes is a steady collecting of old decorations, anything that reminds you of your childhood Christmas celebrations.  I don't keep a lot of stuff, with the exception of photos and Christmas decorations.  I am very proud of a few things on the tree in particular... one, the angel.  The tree topper, pictured below belonged to my grandmother bought, I think sometime in the late '50's... there is still a K-Mart price sticker reading 68 cents on the original box that it came in from the store.  Another ornament is a glass ball, belonging again to my grandmother, this one is depression era we think, faded color on the glass and a rusty fixture on the top for hanging.  They are most treasured, along with some ornaments that were on the tree when I was young.

Along the way, I went back to using the big C7 colored lights, bubble lights, light reflectors, tinsel garland and the true, heavy, shimmering lead icicles.  It really gives the tree a vintage look.  EBay is the best way to go vintage when it comes to Christmas.  Just search "vintage Christmas decorations" ... there are literally hundreds of pages of old things to buy or bid on.  Good luck with creating your vintage-look Christmas tree.

Royal Tidbit of the day ... Kate Middleton is about to spend her last Christmas as a commoner, after she is married, she will be a Princess as well as rumored will become the Duchess of Cambridge.  For years to come she will probably be spending the holidays with The Royal Family at Sandringham, in Surrey, or at Balmoral Castle.  Good luck Kate!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Holiday Diversion

What with all the royal engagement news in the past weeks, some might be finding it hard to concentrate on the holidays coming up.  Not so at our house, we are giving equal attention to Christmas and to Wills' and Kate's big news.

This year we decided to give ourselves a little rest break between Thanksgiving and the decorating for Christmas.  Normally our tree and outside lights would go up on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, but, this year we have waited a week.  However, I couldn't resist buying the tree the day after Thanksgiving.  While buying a tree for my mother's house in Savannah, I spotted a great tree that would be just perfect for our living room.  Typically we travel not far to a local tree farm to cut our own Virginia Pine.  But, when I saw the tree, pictured above, I just had to have it.  This tree will be perfect, with its sparser branches to really show of the many vintage ornaments we have, as well as the fantastic lead tinsel/icicles we have collected.

Buying this tree was an adventure.  After choosing my mother's tree, hauling it to her house, decorating there... I return to the tree lot in Daffin Park, in Savannah.  My little tree that I spotted earlier in the day was still there.  I will admit that many people wouldn't have given it a second look, but I knew right away it was the type of tree that really reminded me of the old-timey Balsam firs that we used to get in the '60's and '70's.  These days all that are available on tree lots in our area are the super trimmed and super perfect Fraser Firs from.  However, this tree lot gets it's whole supply from a North Carolina farm that doesn't believe in shaping the trees to such an extent.  The weather had turned ugly by the time I went back for my tree, but I was determined to have this one.  So, after getting it securely tied to the top of my rather small car, I drove back to Hilton Head in a dark driving rain.  Our tree is good and watered, and has been waiting patiently on the back patio for a week now.

We can't wait to start decorating tomorrow.  I will be sharing pictures of the finished product, as well as posting some other interesting pics that I have come across.  Also, some of my own pics of Christmas trees from past years.

Hopefully this will keep us occupied while we wait on further details of the upcoming royal wedding.

Royal Tidbit for the day... The Christmas trees that grace royal residences such as Sandringham, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Frogmore were typically cut from the woodlands of Windsor Great Park adjacent to the castle.  These trees were mainly Nordman Firs, the most popular choice in England for Christmas trees.