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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Director's Christmas Tree

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 7, 2014


In mid-November, several library staff members asked where my Christmas tree was this year.  I didn’t realize that it had become such a fixture in my office at the library.


I guess that at some point in the 1980s I started placing a small artificial Christmas tree on the filing cabinet in my office as a place to show off my “bubble lights.”


One of my earliest recollections of a Christmas tree was the family tree with one string of electric “bubble lights.”  Some people like them, others don’t; they were supposed to imitate the early candles placed on Victorian Christmas trees that proved dangerous and started many fires in homes of the period.


Those early electric bubble lights disappeared from the marketplace for some time, and reappeared in stores in the 1980s and my wife’s reaction to my desire to cover a whole tree in bubble lights suggested perhaps a smaller tree in my office would be appropriate.


The little tree fits nicely on my filing cabinet, and has a corner to support the usually-overloaded tree with the eclectic assortment of decorations with a variety of histories.


It is usually in place before Thanksgiving, but events of this year delayed its appearance.


My little Christmas tree is an assortment of “someone gave me” things, from a yard sale ceramic train to little buildings showing a library and a bookmobile.


The bubble lights go on first to make sure that there is sufficient room for them, followed by the assortment of “someone gave me” things crammed into any little space left on the tree.


Gold beads circle the tree, with a little bell with a strange color accenting absolutely nothing else on the tree as its neighbor.


The weight of all the stuff requires that I have to hide a support device under the fake cotton.  I can usually get the tree to lean into the corner of wall if I prop it up just right.


Staff members who enjoy my Christmas tree sometimes comment that “I have something that would be perfect on your tree!” and I try to be nice about it, but usually blame the filing cabinet as being unable to handle anything else.


Staff are always trying to adjust the bubble lights, as they tend to lean one way or another and if you straighten one, its neighboring bubble light usually begins a slow droop the opposite direction.


All this said there are three ornaments on my Christmas tree that are without question my favorites, due to the story behind them.


In 2005, I had the task of sorting through my father’s Estate following his death.  The big house that I grew up in had served three generations of the Hall family and needed to be cleared to allow sale.


A librarian was the perfect one for the task, and toward the end of the two week process I had worked my way into a small storage room behind one of the bedrooms.


In the bottom of a cabinet, in the back, was a small box with the telltale masking tape on the outside and in my mother’s handwriting, “Alan.”


My mother died in 1981, so I knew the box had been there a long time.  I carefully opened the box to find three plastic Christmas tree ornaments; yes the same three I had been allowed to acquire in the 1950s for 25 cents at the local S.S. Kresge Store during a shopping trip with my mother!


They were always on our family Christmas tree, but I had lost track of them by college days, and assumed that these tacky plastic ornaments from a 5 and 10 cent variety store were lost and gone.


The little box disintegrated but the ornaments made their way back to Steubenville and I showed my wife and quickly added, “They will go onto the bubble light tree at work!”


One is a silver star, one is a gold star; both looking very 1950s.  The third ornament is beyond description, but is slightly faded gold explosion of sorts, with rays of light extending 360 degrees from the center.


I remember the day that my mom and I were exploring the Christmas display at the Kresge’s Store and I was amazed by the selection of bright and shiny bobbles.  To my surprise, my mother handed me a quarter and asked which ones I would buy with the 25 cents she handed me.


I went up and down the aisles of the store checking out each and every possibility and adding up the prices to see what my newfound funds would purchase, and ended up with these three glorious selections fit for any Christmas tree.


Who would have guessed that 50 years later these gems would grace a Christmas tree in my office?