Christmas 1961

At the top, Dad poses in the world's whitest bathrobe.

We used to tape our received Christmas cards to the wall, along a door. I revived this practice in my own home for many years until abandoning it out of laziness. Truth be told, my wife wasn't a big fan of the practice.

And check it out: crown molding in the house on Robinson Street. I had no idea we rented such a palace.

I remember that tree topper fondly. It was electric and was plugged in with the tree lights. It glowed. It also looks like it was hit with some artificial snow spray.

In the early years, my parents always spray painted the real trees they obtained with artifical snow, a nasty stuff that came in an aerosol can. After a dousing with this stuff the living room smelled like a chemical plant. But there was another aerosol can product to take care of that - what I called "tree stink," a pine spray especially marketed for the Christmas season. The Sixties were great. It seems that problems were often solved by something in a spray can.

Once the fake snow got on the ornaments it was impossible to get off. Consequently, year after year the ornaments got a thicker and thicker coating of the stuff. I recall some ornaments that were not only almost solid white, but wouldn't break if dropped - such was the cushioning effect of the layered-on aerosol snow.

In the middle photo I pose and grin. I am wearing what appears to be red Christmas designed pajamas. Being a five year old, I can cheerfully get on the floor for my shot with the tree. The amount of presents hasn't grown to what it would be in the bottom photo, which I suspect was taken Christmas morning. I always like it when the spread of presents under the tree is at least twice the diameter of the tree...

What stands out to me in the bottom photo is the Big Christmas Gift of 1961: that green Sears phonograph at left. It may have even been a stereo phonograph! (The placement of the speakers at front suggests it was.) It was my very own and went in my room. I'm sure Mom picked that model out for me because she knew green was my favorite color. Ever the craftswoman and seeking to personalize it, Mom spelled out "Wesley" with Elmer's glue on the inside of the cover and then spilled heaping amounts of green glitter on it. I thought this was really cool.

My very first 45 rpm record - which fit into the handy record holder at the bottom of the stand - was the 1959 Percy Faith rendition of "Theme from A Summer Place," which I played over and over. Mom used to approximate the lyrics by singing along when I played it: "There's a Summer place/Where we can go/And be safe and warm/From the snow and the cold..." I never really understood the logic of stanzas like this coming from Mom. I assumed it was just another manifestation of her whole New Hampshirewoman-in-California mindset. Not surprisingly, in 1966 she was a fan of "California Dreaming" by the Mamas and Papas, which had lyrics more or less along the same themes.

Two years later I would wear out the stylus on that photograph playing Beatles 45s, most notably "I Want To Hold Your Hand," which I am sure my parents got very tired of.

There is brick wall wrapping paper on one gift - a design that ought to be revived, I think. Not necessarily Christmasey, but clever. It's funny how evocative old gift wrapping is. I well recall the designs on most of the gifts under this tree. I remember enjoying the color combination of forest green, red and white on a gold background in that package under the bell ornament. I also liked the pine cones on the silver background on the one at bottom right.

I have blown this image up but, sadly, I cannot read what is taped to the wall above the phonograph. That had to have been Dad's doing; Mom would never cellotape anything to a painted wall. I wonder what it was...

Theme From "A Summer Place"
by Percy Faith and His Orchestra

There's a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I'm safe and warm
For within that summer place
Your arms reach out to me
And my heart is free from all care
For it knows

There are no gloomy skies
When seen through the eyes
Of those who are blessed with love

And the sweet secret of
A summer place
Is that it's anywhere
When two people share
All their hopes
All their dreams
All their love

There's a summer place
Where it may rain or storm
Yet I'm safe and warm
In your arms, in your arms
In your arms, in your arms
In your arms, in your arms

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