Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Season of Lights

Here we are, just four days before Christmas 2006. This year went by quickly. The month sped by like a meteor entering earth's atmosphere. It's amazing how time goes by, especially as you get older.

One of those things that have always made the Christmas season special is the lights that illuminate the neighborhoods starting a day after Thanksgiving and going through "Little Christmas" in January. Being we have to deal with the shortest of days in December, it's great that the Christmas lights make those days a little brighter.

While the lights we have today are nice, it's my opinion that things were brighter back in the day. And more colorful. Look out your door today, what do you see? Mostly a sea of white light from small bulbs. What happened to color? It's almost as if we went from celebrating Christmas to wanting to make South Philly look more like Vegas. Especially with those homes that have the lights surrounding the entire front. It's really "production" looking and detracts from the Christmas feel.

Thankfully there still is some color around. The lights strung across our block remain in color. In our own home, we went back to multi-color lights after the long-standing white strand died a timely death. There are still many who make their decorating jobs look special. But the grand-daddy of them all around here was a man named Frank DeAntonio. It was said that Frank was one of the main decorators at the old John Wanamaker store in Center City, and his work was a testimony to that. Every year, we waited for him to put up his lights and decorations and the block really shined because of it. There were others here who tried to outdo him, but they never had the skill. I remember Mr. DeAntonio had a small n-gauge train layout in his basement window, totally crafted it himself. A nice winter snow scene with Disney characters and two sets of tracks with the trains going in opposite directions. All the kids loved it, we would go to his window often to watch.

Mr DeAntonio also had a large snowman between his bedroom windows, just like you'd see at the Christmas Light Show at what was Wanamakers and now is a Macy's store. It's arms would wave up and down in lights, a really nice piece of work. To finish the job, he used large colored bulbs for his lights, nicer than what we were used to around here. This guy knew how to decorate, and his work is missed. Frank DeAntonio passed away a number of years ago, shortly after his wife's death. He was a great guy, and always seemed to get a charge in watching the kids watch his creations. It was said that when he retired the train layout when he got older, he donated it to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. If this is so, I hope they still have it, those kids there would love it.

The folks on Smedley and Colorado Streets (2700) still do a fantastic job with their lighting. Do they compete? I don't know. Only about a block apart, I guess it's easy to believe that one of the blocks could do a better job than the other. Competition or not, who cares? Both do Christmas lighthing right, and it's really great for the neighborhood. I still see car and van loads of folks slowly driving around Smedley to have a look. The traffic pattern of Colorado makes it a quick trip up and out.

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