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FairfaxOpinion'Old School': Sparkle plenty

‘Old School’: Sparkle plenty

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by CAROL McEWEN, for the Sun Gazette

We’ve all heard that good things come in small packages, and I found living proof recently.

While my husband and I were planning a trip to Biltmore, in Asheville, N.C., to see the Christmas decorations, I found mention of an aluminum-Christmas-tree exhibit in the nearby town of Brevard, population 7,000 or so.

Never one to miss a laugh, I put that destination on our to-do list. After all the charm of Asheville, we were ready for a touch of tacky.


So we hopped in the car for the 60-mile round trip from Asheville. First stop: the Transylvania (yes, that’s the county’s real name, but no vampires in sight) Heritage Museum housing the shiny trees.

The collection has quite a history. It seems that one Stephen Jackson, while living in Charlotte, N.C., was given an aluminum Christmas tree by a friend, scavenged from someone’s trash.

Mr. Jackson then threw a party, inviting guests to bring their most “Aesthetically Challenged Seasonal Ornament” for his new tree. The party was a hit and a tradition was born.

Just before Christmas of 1993, Jackson moved to Brevard and threw another ornament party to meet people.

By 1998, he owned seven trees, and over the years, friends continued to add to his collection with trees found in dusty attics and flea markets.

“It was just too many trees to fit in my house,” recalled Mr. Jackson. So he hosted a one-day exhibit at the local American Legion Hall, and over 100 people showed up.

Ever popular, the trees are now displayed annually, November through December, at the museum, with help from 25 volunteers.

So called “Evergleams” first appeared in the late 1950s and were in their heyday during the ’60s with models like “Silver Glow,” “The Sparkler” and “Holi-gay.” Certain creative owners aimed revolving lights at their shiny trees to make them change colors.

After viewing the trees, we chuckled at the clever posters about aluminum-Christmas-tree farms. “In a good year, the trees grew even bigger than hoped.” According to another poster, “Success in the growing process is 5 percent following instructions and 95 dumb luck.”

What a treat to find a small town with a big sense of humor! Apparently we Old Schoolers aren’t the only ones who like a good laugh.

For more on these kitschy collectibles, go to www.AntiqueTrader.com and search “aluminum Christmas trees.” For more on the region, see www.transylvaniaheritage.org and https://explorebrevard.com.

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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