MERRY CHRISTMAS to all,
and to all a good night.
I’m not sure where my obsessive collecting habits span from.
I’ve never been satisfied with just a few of anything. If I collect something…hold on to your butts, because I am going for the gold. Why stop at ten or twelve, when I can have several dozen? As a child, I couldn’t have just the main characters in action figure form, I wanted every single one…. plus extras for “back-ups”.
Tin globes, large letter postcards, Polish glass ornaments, western belt buckles, conversational ties, Zuni fetish…..the list goes on and on.
A few short years ago, about the same time I joined the Golden Glow of Christmas Past, I was introduced to these little gems,
Milk glass figural bulbs.
I was immediately smitten and because they are priced pretty inexpensively, (I can usually buy a lot of 5 to 10 for about $20), it really didn’t take long to amass about a hundred.
I can’t believe that I’d never even heard of them before.
In case you hadn’t either, here’s a quick history lesson;
At the turn of the last century glass figural bulbs were first produced in Germany, Austria and Hungary by many of the same artisans that made glass Christmas ornaments, often from the same molds. They were beautifully mouth-blown and hand painted. But the heat of the electric bulb gave these decorations a short life span, and the painted details flaked off pretty quickly.
When World War I interrupted imports from Europe, it was the Japanese that stepped in to meet the demand for figural lights, this time using milk-glass.
Milk glass is thicker and more heat-resistant. Plus, it’s already white. Which meant that decorating them was faster. Like their European counterparts, they were also hand-painted, although slightly cruder and usually by children. A lower price kept Japanese figural lights very popular with American buyers for several decades. Until sadly, tastes shifted and plastic and aluminum decorations dominated the market.
Thought I’d share a few from my collection;
There are Santas….so many Santas. I’ve shifted my focus to more of the unusual designs.
and houses with snow-covered roofs,
Fruits and vegetables were popular. I don’t see many corn cobs though.
As were flowers, like these budding roses.
Animals were designed in all sorts of whimsical designs. Here are dogs, cats, teddy bears and an elephant.
This big ol’ lion in a vest was one of my first finds.
Religious themes still prevailed in the middle of the last century during Christmas time.
Themed sets of lights were pretty popular too; Disney, the Sunday funnies, and nursery rhymes were sold in sets of eight characters. I’m pretty close to finding complete sets of all of these familiar faces. (In fact, Jiminy Cricket arrived just after I took these pictures)
I can never have enough Humpty Dumptys.
Or cupie dolls
I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m hoping there are seven more band members to go along with this drummer.
Do they still light? You may ask.
I’ve noticed that about a quarter of them still do.
I think this is because C-6 bulbs require all the bulbs to be working for the entire strand to light. Once one bulb went out, the strand was either tossed, stored in the attic or the bulbs hung with hooks like ornaments.
Because most of them only fit C-6 light sockets, something that hasn’t been made in over 50 years, you can actually test them with a 9-volt battery. Like so…
So what do I do with all these beauties?
Glad you asked.
There are a few bowls-full scattered around the house.
And I added a small feather tree with several of my favorites wired to the branches.
I think they look amazing on that white tree. It really showcases the still vibrant colors.
Next year I planing on adding strings of them to the vintage themed tree.
So watch out,
At the rate that these things multiply.
Lord only knows how many I’ll have by then.
When I was just a tot, one of my favorite TV shows was I Love Lucy.
Still is, by the way.
Just to be clear, I had no idea how old the show was at the time. I just assumed that every woman who lived in New York City wore petticoats, the Tropicana was the hottest night club, and married couples slept in twin beds pushed together.
Did y’all know there was an I Love Lucy Christmas Special?
The I Love Lucy Christmas Show originally aired on Christmas Eve 1956 and was somehow lost soon after that. It was rumored that Dezi was embarrassed by the episode, thinking it was just terrible because it was mostly a re-hash of older episodes. (Something that was unheard of in the early age of TV, but became all too commonplace in sitcoms of the 70’s and 80’s.) Also just a rumor was that the film reel for this episode, I Love Lucy was filmed on film stock btw, was discovered stashed under Dezi’s bed after his death. Anyhoo, CBS somehow got a hold of it and aired the *restored (read that as colorized, which was a dreadful trend at the time) episode just once in December of 1989 as the “Lost Lucy Episode”.
Regardless of what Dezi might have though, there is more charm in this episode…than any of the Connecticut episodes. Especially the one with the watered down Carolyn Appleby.
The flashbacks are some of the best moments from the series. Including; the time Lucy told Ricky that she was “expecting” (“Pregnant” was not a word network censors would allow on TV at the time), the time Lucy snuck her way into Ricky’s barbershop quartet, and the time Lucy announces that Little Ricky is “on his way” – only to send the gang into a tizzy and leave for the hospital without her.
In fact, the flashbacks are so mesmerizing that Fred gets lost listening to the stories and accidentally trims all the branches off the Ricardo’s Christmas tree. No worries though, Fred is delighted to learn that a replacement tree is half a buck on Christmas Eve. The quartet proceeds to decorate the new tree in 1950s fashion with white C9 ceramic lights and aluminum reflectors, a few American glass ornaments and clumps of long tinsel icicles.
Christmas morning finds the gang, unbeknownst to each other, each dressed as Santa to surprise Little Ricky. But instead of four Santas, there are five. The fifth, of course, being the real Santa Claus, who disappears in a poof after Ricky tries to yank his real beard off.
It’s during the tree trimming that Lucy shows Ethel her very favorite ornament; a huge teardrop shape with a hand-painted figure carrying a pine tree. The best that I can tell; it’s Polish, and most likely made by the Fantasia Glass company.
Seems that I’m not the only fan of this episode. In the early stages of his blooming ornament making career, Christopher Radko produced a reproduction of the very ornament that Lucy shows Ethel.
He named it, so appropriately, “Lucy’s Favorite”.
I’ve been on a hunt for a Lucy’s Favorite of my own for decades now – one that I could afford, anyway.
Until this week.
I finally scored one.
It’s even signed by Mr. Radko himself..
Which makes it even that much more special.
Is it MY very favorite? That’s a tough call.
It is in my top 10.
If you ‘re so inclined, the I Love Lucy Christmas Special is available on DVD from Amazon. And CBS still shows it occasionally.
Be sure to catch it if you can,
If y’all are anything like us, and I’m willing to bet that you are, you’ll spend the days between Christmas and the New Year cruising local neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights.
We get lots of inspiration this way.
In fact, Jamie’s been on a vintage blow mold collecting kick the past couple years, I think he has about 9.
Now Wayne Smith, on Southwestern Blvd in University Park, has a few more than that.(142 Santas, 22 toy soldiers, and 67 snowmen……plus a couple hundred more figures. At his last count) In fact his electric bill skyrockets every December when Wayne brings them all into his front yard, and along his roof line, for the neighborhood to enjoy along with him. He scours flea markets all year-long to add to the assortment. The crowning jewel? Well that would have to be the severed head of Big Tex, our State Fair of Texas mascot, that he scored at an auction in 1992. It rests directly over his front door in a custom Santa hat.
We stopped by the other night, like we do every year, to gawk at Wayne’s massive collection….
How great is this shot through Jamie’s crystal ball?
And that electric bill? Wayne says that it’s worth it to see everyone, especially the kids, sharing in his joy.
Ya gotta admit, the joy is kinda infectious.
I’d like to say that we make our own Christmas cards every year.
I’d like to say that….but who are we kidding?
Most years Jamie grabs a few boxes of something clever from the Target around December 22nd and we spend a frantic night addressing envelopes and signing our names.
This year we were on the ball.
I’ve been meaning to document some of my
crap…er… stuff….er….precious collections, inspired by the uber-talented Jesse Lauzon, and his photographs of his possessions graciously shared on his Instagram feed.
Check these out:
Beautiful, aren’t they? (And seriously, this dude makes me look like a minimalist)
The compositions, the extensive collections, and his amazing photographs.
Why not give it a try?
I built a scrap-wood frame in the garage (because natural light is best) and piled a hundred vintage glass ornaments on top of our work table….like so;
We took turns leaning over the pile taking pictures like this one…
Not too difficult,
Love the results so much that I uploaded a pic to the Vistaprint website, and 5 days later, we had these in our hot little hands…..
Customized Christmas cards!
Pretty cool right? And extremely simple.
I what know you’re thinking, “Sure, it’s easy for you. You’re a big-time blogger and published author.” Thank you. That’s so kind of you to say.
But really…..it is EASY.
Give it a try, make your own Holiday greeting cards. Or anytime cards actually.
And remember to follow Jesse Lauzon on Instagram.
(I know, we can’t get enough of that sweet face either)