In 2010, The Golden Glow of Christmas Past celebrated its 30th birthday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Let’s take a look back at this convention hosted by Michael Rhoads and Jim Feine! As much as things change, so too do they stay the same.
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of The GLOW and was written by Stella Papadakis. The photos are courtesy of Val Berryman, Don Black, Tom Carlisle, Larry Erdman, Debbie & Bob Knight, and Dick Swingle. We couldn’t incorporate all of the images from the original article, but do check out the issue for so many other memories!
The theme this year was “A Patriotic Christmas,” so draped garlands and white trees trimmed with red, white and blue decorations filled the halls and meeting rooms of the Wyndham Hotel. Table centerpieces at dinner each evening followed this theme also. Many members sported these colors in their clothing, jewelry and yes, even fingernail polish!
Prior to the official start of the convention, a few activities were offered. This year there were three hands-on workshops: making feather trees, Scandinavian paper cones, and card baskets. The Christkindlmarkt, where new and quality Christmas related crafts are offered, was also a pre-convention event. Shopping at this market is always active as members flock to their favorite craftspeople for some very outstanding items.
Convention officially began on Wednesday evening when Bob and Sandy Fellows welcomed first-timers with a program that describes and explains events. In their unique style, veteran members Bob and Sandy offered suggestions on how to best enjoy all that a Glow convention has to offer. This program was followed by a general social hour, with tasty small desserts awaiting us at round tables.
Convention typically follows a set schedule of events from year-to-year; that is, there are lectures; educational talks; a museum room; a hospitality room for relaxation and conversation; room shopping; pre-dinner caroling; a sales room; raffles; luncheons; a general membership meeting and an auction. Although each of these events occurs every year, each convention has a different “feel” – topics in the lectures, exhibits in the museum room, items for sale in rooms and sales room, and so forth, are all different. Even the composition of the attendees often can be different as some longtime members may not come and as new first-time members attend. The moral here is that you should never believe that, because you’ve been to a convention or two or three, they are all the same and missing one is not such a big deal.
There is so much to see and do and listen to during Convention, but a big favorite is finding time to socialize with friends we haven’t seen since the last convention. As a help in this, the Glow sponsors a hospitality room for the three convention days, with coffee, tea and lots of cookies made by the members. It’s a great opportunity to relax and rest and to catch up with friends. It’s also a perfect opportunity to welcome first-timers who often are wandering around in a daze, overcome with a Glow convention.
This year several lectures related to the patriotic theme of the convention. Jim Neagbour presented “Christmas on the Home Front”, an outstanding overview of this subject. “Christmas in the Frontlines”, presented by Mary Kathryn and Bill McIntosh, had a different viewpoint and covering many aspects, elaborating on little-known events and facts. Did you know there were Christmas cards made specifically available only to the troops to send home? John Hykes had the audience wearing 3-D glasses so that we could correctly see the Christmas stereo views that he showed in his talk “Through the Stereoscope.” Jim Slattery titled his talk “Witches of Christmas” and Nate Gramse’s presentation was “Finding the North Pole.” The last of the formal lectures was “Hurry, Hurry, Right this Way” in which Ron Shuler showed Christmas-related circus items, another one of his unique Christmas topics.
Rounding out the formal presentations were 14 educational talks. These are informative show-and-tell talks, shorter in length than formal lectures. Once all talks were completed, the audience was invited to speak to the presenters one-on-one and to view the items close-up. Among the presenters were Melicent Sammis on End-of-Day ornaments; Malcolm Rogers on the likely origins of Dresden ornaments; Val Berryman on Holiday crackers; Dave Eppelheimer with bottles with Christmas labels; and Patrick Hubert on Goodyear rubber Christmas items. Some of the other topics in the educational talks included the Algona POW Nativity that was built by German prisoners of war held in a camp in Algona, Michigan, Christmas poster stamps, and the history of Springerle molds.
It’s hard to know which is more tantalizing: room hopping or the sales room. Room-hopping is always a challenge. Which rooms are open? How do I find my way in this hotel? Who’s selling in that room? Have I been in this room already? Is this the room where I might find my long-sought after __________ ( you fill in the blank!).
Hotel corridors were busy all week, beginning with those who arrived early in the week to help with the convention set-up. It’s certainly very convenient for room-shoppers when sellers are congregated in one wing of the hotel, and this was the case in Milwaukee.
The buzzing sales room on Friday morning was open for three hours and sales, judging from the number of bags clutched in the arms of shoppers, were brisk and many.
No convention report would be complete without mentioning the Museum Room.
There are always stunning exhibits; truly museum quality. Wander among the many cases and exclaim over what you’ve found and spend time educating yourself on items that you rarely see. Often, the owners are around so you can talk to them about their collections.
Saturday afternoon is the time devoted to the Auction. This year the auction was limited to 300 lots so as to have it run for about 3 hours. In past years, some of the auctions have lasted much longer. All items consigned had to have a value of $35 or more and date to pre-1966. This year the auction brought in approximately $32,900.
A sit-down dinner was held each evening. Two of these were followed with a program. On the first night of the convention, the speaker was Jerry Ehernberger, founder of the Glow 30 years ago. Jerry’s program was spell-binding. Highlighted with lots of slides, he took us through the history of Glow, beginning with the first convention in Ohio. He also talked a little bit about himself, his love of Christmas and how his interest and love for Christmas developed when he was just a young boy in Nebraska. It was truly a memorable evening. A severe thunderstorm raged outdoors during Jerry’s talk and indeed, the lights went out and the screen went dark just as Jerry was at the climax of his talk. But after some time, electricity was fully restored and Jerry continued.
Raffles are popular with members and a great way for Glow to build up its bank account. Raffles were held each evening with a variety of items on two of the nights. On Saturday night, the raffle consisted of a single item –a 50/50 split between Glow and a lucky winner –of the money received. The raffle brought in over $7,600 including a cash drawing from those proceeds. The cash drawing was divided among three winners. (I wasn’t one of them!)
The other dinner program followed the Saturday night banquet when we were entertained by a Milwaukee choral group singing Christmas music. Following tradition, members joined in singing the final song, “Silent Night.” On this evening, the beautiful table centerpieces that we had all been admiring –white feather trees surrounded by a tree fence –went home with one lucky guest from each table.