From the Press Box: The changing world of Christmas light displays

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The City of Perry Christmas Tree and two of the new city lighted wreath displays make for a festive sight along Railroad Street, with the Perry Public Library serving as the background.

One of the joys of driving around town at night this time of year is seeing the many homes that are brightly decorated for the Christmas holiday.

I remember growing up, in the years before my parents divorced, when our home was one of the most well-decorated displays in my hometown. At that time, when people drove by a home whose display they liked, a quick honk of the car horn was used to say ‘thanks, we liked it!’ and I recall hearing horns going off all the time between 6-10 p.m. The neighbors — most of who did little, if any, outdoor decorating — must have hated it.

In those years the figurines that were placed outside were of hard plastic and usually illuminated with a single, high-powered bulb. Our Frosty and Santa were certainly that way. I remember dad would put a brick or two inside of them to prevent the wind from taking them away.

Energy inefficient and hot to the touch, these were the outdoor Christmas lights my generation grew up with with. And if you went out ...
Energy inefficient and hot to the touch, these were the outdoor Christmas lights my generation grew up with with. And if one should burn out …

The bushes and trim around the porch and front door were what had to be several hundred feet of lights. By “lights” I mean those big-bulbed red/green/blue/orange — and maybe some white and yellow — highly inefficient flame-shaped glass bulbs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. If you are of the age to remember those, I am betting the image is rising in your mind right now. Were there ever any better lights?

Some 15 years or so ago everyone seemed to go for the white-only strands. Suddenly two-thirds of home went colorless, and white lights and white dropping-icicle lines cropped up everywhere. In my opinion they were bland, and still are, but to each his own.

A few years ago the blue and bluish-purple trend took hold, and, presto! those colors showed up everywhere.

Somewhere along the way synchronized lights and computer-powered displays joined the party. A quick search of youtube will reveal impressive displays that are so bright you could land a plane near them. These over-the-top displays are, nonetheless, often fun to watch. Many are set to music and require several minutes of observation to catch the whole show. The neighbors are, I suspect, likely to close their drapes to prevent having the interior walls of their own homes reflect the big show across the way and are unlikely to approve of the traffic such attractions would attract.

I suppose if you can afford the display, you can afford the associated electric bill the utility company cannot wait to send your way.

Molded plastic figures -- illuminated by a single bulb in the base, and often held in place against the wind by a brick or two -- were the outdoor characters of choice "back in the day."
Molded plastic figures — illuminated by a single bulb in the base, and often held in place against the wind by a brick or two — were the outdoor characters of choice “back in the day.”

Nostalgia is a powerful tonic, and while I enjoy the ingenuity and effort put into many of the displays I see as the years go by, I still find myself trying to find decorations using the “old” bulbs (which can still be purchased if you search hard enough). There are some displays proudly flying the old colors — I know right where they are — but they are becoming more and more rare as the years pass.

Now the LED light has taken over, which is, of course, a good thing. They will apparently last forever, use less juice, and produce more light.

I am looking forward to seeing, and photographing for ThePerryNews.com, as many different outdoor displays around Perry, Woodward, Dawson and nearby towns as possible. If you know of a particularly worthy panorama, let us know with a note attached to this story and we will try to get to it.

It certainly appears the city hit a home run with the new lighted wreaths that top the light poles downtown. The response to a story and photographs we posted https://theperrynews.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=19877&action=edit as well as comments overheard since that time have been nothing but very positive. Congratulations to the committee who chose the design.

And have you seen City Hall? The City Christmas Tree? The large tree near Caboose Park? All help make downtown Perry a pleasure to visit.

In summation: That flash going off outside your house? That white car driving slowly around the neighborhood? Not to worry … it is just an old lover of Christmas lights filling up his photo card.

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