Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Traditions Live On

When I think of holiday traditions, I'm taken back to the early '60s, when Mom and Dad took me to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to see the Christmas lights downtown every year. And if those weren't fabulous enough, Wolf & Dessauer department store had window after window of animated displays of Christmas scenes. Ask anyone that's middle-aged that grew up around here (northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio, and southern Michigan) and it's likely that a bigger percentage of them remember traveling to Ft. Wayne to see it all, than don't.

In time, the store was sold, the lights were stored and I have no idea what happened to the animated scenes, but some years ago, the lighting was brought out of storage and on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, those lights are now ceremoniously lit to mark the official beginning of the Christmas season.

First, there's the Santa and his reindeer, which are mounted on the side of the National City Bank Building. The display was first lit in 1937, when it hung on the side of the W & D's department store building. The current display was recently converted from incandescent to LED lights, which means a savings of 90% in energy costs to keep its 24,717 lights lit.

Then there's the large Christmas tree that is mounted over Calhoun Street. In the 'olden days,' it was put directly over a downtown intersection on large crossbeams. That intersection was pretty special on regular days, too. At different times during the hour, you could cross the street diagonally instead of at right angles as you normally would. As a kid, I thought that was pretty cool. Now the tree is mounted over a crosswalk between buildings.

The other light display was a large wreath that also used to hang on the side of the Wolf & Dessauer store. Weighing 3½ tons, the wreath is 25 feet high and has more than 40,000 lights. It now hangs on the side of One Summit Square, the tallest building in Ft. Wayne.

I'm so thankful that someone saw the value of reviving these light displays and keeping traditions alive. Romie and I drove through downtown during the lighting Wednesday night, on our way to daughter Jenna's, where we spent Thanksgiving day. I jumped out of the car while Romie was stuck in all the traffic and I snapped some pictures of the festivities.

Christmas music was playing and the trees along the sidewalks were lit up with tiny lights and big shiny pieces of 'candy.' Hundreds of parents and their children were taking it all in and creating memories, just as my parents helped create my own memories - the ones I'm sharing with you now.

The only thing missing was some snowflakes drifting down gently out of the night sky...


Meems said...

Hi Kylee, Do you suppose you will see those snowflakes drifting before Christmas gets here? Ahhhh... the olden days when life was a little simpler and folks just seemed to appreciate what mattered. The lights are beautiful. Thanks for sharing them. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your family.

James (Digtoplant) said...

Reading your blog is getting me in the Christmas spirit looks realy neat in Ft Wayne.
Merry Christmas from England

Earth Girl said...

I remember, Kylee, I remember Christmas at W&Ds. Did you visit Santa on the whole floor devoted to him? And do you remember that big fluffy flakes were always falling when standing outside the windows? For years, we took our boys to see the sleigh on Thanksgiving Eve (less crowded but still kicking off the Christmas season.) This year, one 19-year old son asked if we could go see the lights. We couldn't go, but he took his girlfriend. And so the tradition continues.

Kylee Baumle said...

Meems ~ I sure hope we see snow by Christmas! Christmas Eve would be nice. :-) I'm pretty sure we will.
Yes, it just did seem like a much simpler time, didn't it? I'm sure our parents said the same thing about when they were growing up.

James ~ Yes, seeing those lights in the crisp, cold air of night, with Christmas music playing in the background put me in the mood. Glad my blog helped get you in it, too! Merry Christmas!

Earth Girl ~ I figured you would remember! Oh yes, I absolutely remember going to see Santa on the fourth floor (I think it was the fourth). I've got the pictures taken of me on his lap around here somewhere. And there was Uncle Winn and the toys he'd show on TV (from Koehlinger's) and the gift shop where kids could shop for their parents without parents helping. And elf helped! Those were great days!
Do you remember the M & N shoe store downtown that had the sparkles in the cement in front of their store? I always thought that was so cool. And there was Hutner's Paris, Fishman's, and G.C. Murphy's. Fun times!!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What wonderful memories, new and old, for you Kylee. These are magnificent light displays.

Unknown said...

Kylee- What a wonderful light display. When we lived in the Twin Cities we used to travel around and see all of the lights. There aren't any around here to see, so I'll just have to come here to enjoy your lights. I think it's a great tradition.

Louise Hartwig said...

This is a warm fuzzy. I launched my career at the grand Wolf and Dessauer. I still have candy cane glass ornaments that goes on my tree every year. They are 56 Christmases old. Still love them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kylee!

Really, really enjoyed this - thank you so much!


Anonymous said...

That sure brought back memories.


Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ It was magical that night! I had a smile on my face the entire time.

Cinj ~ There are some really beautiful places during Christmas time. Fort Wayne is really outstanding. The Botanical Conservatory is all decorated from Christmas, too, and I want to get over there to see it. I hope you can find a local light display!

Louise ~ I had forgotten that's where you first got a job when you got out of beauty school. And I didn't know you had ornaments from back then! Did you get the candy canes from W&D'S?

Bob ~ I knew you would remember all this! Glad you enjoyed it! :-)

Kay ~ I'll bet it did! :-)

Louise Hartwig said...

Yes I did. They were much to expensive for the times, but I really wanted them. I bought all they had and fortunately they are all intact.

Kylee Baumle said...

Mom ~ And aren't you glad you got them now? I have a Wolf & Dessauer box here. I think those ornaments should be kept in it if they'll fit. Or maybe you have your own that they're in. Let me know if you want mine.

Louise Hartwig said...

That would be nice. They will be yours someday if you so choose.

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