Fremont County, Iowa

Christmas Trees
by Lona Lewis

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of December 23, 2013

Christmas can begin at my house because the tree is finally up. The LED lights twinkle, and the soft needles of the Fraser Fir, add a wonderful aroma to the house. Favorite ornaments remind me of places I have traveled. One says to Mom and Dad. It reminds me of the years, we trooped to a tree farm when our son was young.

I started thinking about all of the trees before this, one and the Christmas trees past of my family. My Mom was the thirteenth of fourteen in a Midwest family. She would tell about her Dad going out and picking out a cedar growing wild. She talked about popcorn being strung on a string and wrapped around the tree.

Even when I was a little girl the mid-1900s, my dad would occasionally cut down a cedar. They were always beautiful trees but my sister and I had to be so careful not to touch them. If we did, not only did it hurt, but we were picking out of our skin the little barbs that stuck and hurt.

We still used the popcorn strings, but cranberries had been added for color. We also had this tinsel, that looked like a rope, that we wrapped around the tree. The ornaments were all solid colors with the only variety being different colors. The lights were the bubble lights. They looked like candles and the alcohol in them would bubble as it they were boiling. We had to be careful not to let the lights touch anything that might burn. To add the sparkle, we covered the tree with the icicle made of tin foil.

Real trees, were the only game in town when I was young. No one thought a thing about going to the store, and buying a tree that was dried out with needles that were brittle. I would occasionally hear someone talk about how the trees were cut down in the summer and put in ponds to store until they were sold at Christmas.

Artificial trees changed everything about thirty years ago. Remember the metal tree that had a color disk below? You would turn on a light, the disk would rotate and the tree would change colors.

We stayed true to the real Christmas tree by buying fresh trees at a tree farm where our choice was a scotch pine.

Artificial trees wreaked havoc on the real tree market. The result being tree farms closing all over the country. I remember once driving through Montana, in the mid-1980s, and seeing thousands of trees being burned because the growers had lost their market.

Eventually, a balance was created between the real and fake trees. Today, we own Horse Creek Christmas tree Farm and like our fellow growers have plenty of business. Each year, we have customers who say they dumped their artificial tree. One reason is the trees being grown are changing to fir trees that stay soft with very few needles in the carpet. A far cry from the prickly cedar of my youth.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau