Stepping Back in Time…to the Glow’s Beginning
by Jerry Ehernberger, Founder
Hello and welcome to the Golden Glow of Christmas Past!
What you see now is a far cry from our humble beginnings! It all goes back to my earliest memories and being fascinated by Christmas lights. In kindergarten I knew how to find the burned-out series lamp on our little tree and by fourth grade I had an unorganized collection of unusual light bulbs.
Then in December, 1967 General Electric released an article on Christmas light history, and I was hooked. There were no antique stores in my tiny hometown of Bushnell, Nebraska (population 224) so I went door-to-door asking friends if they had old Christmas lights; I especially preyed upon the elderly.
Two years later The Nebraska Electric Farmer carried an article on my collection; I was only 14. Shortly afterward my contact at Westinghouse put me in touch with another Christmas light collector, Gil Kaufman in Pittsburgh. Then in December, 1973 a brief mention of my interests in The Spinning Wheel magazine resulted in additional contacts with other collectors across the country (plus one in Australia!)
I moved to Chicago in 1977, continued snail mail with this handful of collectors and somehow got my collection displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry.
One day my supervisor suggested that I start a club. A what? Me? Why?
But by 1980, it became more apparent that we needed to be formally organized to get everyone on the same page. My little “core group” was very supportive, so in July, 1980 I sent out our first crude newsletter. For several years it was created on an IBM Selectric typewriter with hand-sketched figural lights. “Cut-and-paste” meant just that. The photocopied newsletters were folded, stuffed into hand-addressed envelopes and mailed with real stamps.
There was no internet, e-mail or Facebook. But there were fervent, word-of-mouth and frequent mentions in the media. I couldn’t imagine 25 people on the mailing list, but then we reached 100 and then beyond.
After the first five years we decided to open up the forum to cover all vintage Christmas and after another six years I began stepping down as editor-in-chief, turning over the responsibilities to others more qualified.
In our first year members Diane and Bob Kubicki organized our first annual “convention” on their property near Dayton, Ohio in June, 1981. Two dozen members from all over the country gathered in their hot and dusty bee-infested barn for one memorable weekend of socializing, exchanging information and buying and selling. Over the years the conventions have grown and traveled around the country. They are enjoyed by hundreds of collectors and last for several days in elaborate bee-free hotels with air conditioning and running water!
I’m grateful to be Founder of this group that has brought together so many Christmas collectors!
Jerry Ehernberger, Founder
The Golden Glow of Christmas Past