Jerry Ehernberger was always fascinated by Christmas lights. In kindergarten, he knew how to find the burned-out series lamp on his family’s little tree and by fourth grade he had an unorganized collection of unusual light bulbs. In December 1967, General Electric released an article on Christmas light history, and he was hooked. There were no antique stores in his tiny hometown of Bushnell, Nebraska (population 224), so he went door-to-door asking friends if they had old Christmas lights.
Two years later, the Nebraska Electric Farmer magazine carried an article on Jerry’s collection; he was only 14. Shortly afterward, a contact he made at Westinghouse put Jerry in touch with another Christmas light collector, Gil Kaufman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In December 1973, a brief mention of Jerry’s interests in the Spinning Wheel magazine resulted in additional contacts with other collectors across the country (plus one in Australia!). Jerry moved to Chicago in 1977, continuing snail-mail correspondence with this handful of collectors and got his collection displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry.
By 1980, it became apparent that this group of Christmas light bulb pen pals should formally organize to get everyone on the same page. Tom Carlisle coined the organization name “The Golden Glow of Christmas Past®.”
In July that year, Jerry sent out the very first rudimentary newsletter. For several years it was created on an IBM Selectric typewriter with hand-sketched drawings of figural light bulbs. “Cut-and-paste” meant just exactly that. The photocopied newsletters were folded, stuffed into hand-addressed envelopes, and mailed with real postage stamps. There was no internet, email, or Facebook. But the word got out by word-of-mouth and frequent mentions in the media.
Just Like Christmas Itself, Golden Glow Annual Conventions Began in a Barn
Just one year following the launch of the newsletter, members Diane and Bob Kubicki organized the first “Bulb Meet,” our first annual “convention” on their farm in Brookville, Ohio, near Dayton, on a weekend in early June 1981. Two dozen members from all over the country gathered in their hot and dusty bee-infested barn for one incredibly memorable weekend of socializing, exchanging information, and buying and selling.
After three years, the organization’s focus was broadened in scope to include all vintage and antique Christmas. Over the years, that simple typewritten, hand-sketched, and photocopied newsletter has evolved into The GLOW, a world-class full-color 36-page bi-monthly magazine, still free of any outside advertisements.
The Annual Conventions have grown from a weekend with those two-dozen collectors in a barn to major productions showcasing world-class collections in various cities across the Continental United States. They are enjoyed by hundreds of collectors each year and last for several days in elaborate bee-free hotels with air conditioning and running water! A constant through all these years, Golden Glow conventions are gatherings of people with a deep love for vintage and antique Christmas. They are an opportunity to share knowledge, to learn new things, to see an unparalleled concentration of the most remarkable vintage and antique Christmas items in the world, and to share that experience with fun-loving, like-minded fellow members of The Golden Glow of Christmas Past®.