I am three years old, the youngest of five, and I am in heaven.
I get pretty nostalgic around Christmas. It has always been a very important and exciting time of year for our family. This year, my husband, daughter, and I will travel back to my roots in Illinois. Perhaps my daughter will see snow for the first time. Most of my family will be together and that’s what is most important.
My father made this amazing sign in the early 70’s in a little Chicago suburb called Beverly, when I was about 3 years old. It now hangs at my brother’s house in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. All five kids loved the sign when we were little but then were embarrassed by it in our teen years. Things have come full circle and now, as adults with little and big kids, we adore it once again.
I asked my father to remind me of the facts behind the making and display of this sign and true to his character, he sent a dissertation:
The sign was created by me and only me in the basement of our home on the south side of Chicago. I’m not sure of the exact year but it would have been in the very early 70’s. I wanted something to hang on the front of the house that captured my strong positive feelings about the season but also projected some irreverence, a sense of humor, and some respect for the 60’s that put words and phrases like this into popular use.
I probably asked for some advice from Mr. Michaels, owner of the hardware store on 103rd Street. He was never too busy to stop and explain things to the young, clueless
homeowners of the time.
Anyway, supplies were purchased including plain canvas (sail cloth), paint and the rope to hang it or me if it didn’t come to fruition. I remember a decision to buy plastic rope for durability. The sign was to be a big one – about 25′ by 4′.
After that it was just a matter of finding the time to work on it. The canvas was spread onto the basement floor, measurements were taken for the size and placements of the letters and figures, pencil lines were drawn and, over the course of several weeks, the message was painted.
Never before nor since have I been so patient with a project of this type. I followed the old adage, “measure once, cut twice, measure twice, cut once”, which kept running through my head substituting the word “paint” for “cut”. I remember the tension from the worry about a mistake that would have ruined the canvas and probably the project.
The last step was to sew ropes into a hem on the top and bottom of the sign. Mom taught me to use her sewing machine which also was not used by me “before nor since”.
Hanging the sign on the house carried challenges of its own. The idea was to spread the sign across the front of our second floor and tie the ends of the rope to hardware on the side windows. The sign was heavy and neither Mom or me were ladder friendly.
It took several tries and in the end, one of us would lean out one front window holding one end of the sign and throw the end of the rope around the corner so that the other of us could catch it and tie it to the side window. Adjustments where then made by hanging out of one window or another with a broom handle. Our proficiency with this barbaric approach improved over the years.
The family and the neighborhood loved the sign during the several years until we moved in 1974. The sign was then preserved in a simple plastic bag – and more or less forgotten. We never again had a house, grounds or neighborhood that seemed appropriate for the sign ……until:
One day our Son (who, when the sign was created would have been 5) asked about the sign saying he was thinking about displaying it. To the amazement of all, the sign remained in excellent condition notwithstanding its burial for all these years, deep in a mountain of stored items. The sign is now displayed at his home and thereby proves that intelligence increases through the generations. Our Son’s home also has a second floor with windows. But, the sign hangs magnificently, 6 feet from the ground, between two trees in the front yard.
We are putting a pool in and it is bringing back fond memories of the fun times we had in our pool in Great Falls, VA growing up. This is one of my favorite all-time photos. Older brothers Bill and Andy probably trying to dunk me. Good times in the late 70’s.