The Aluminum Tree


I believe it was a December Saturday morning in 1960 when our mom came home from a shopping trip to the Family Circle discount department store on Poole Avenue in Hazlet, New Jersey (later Bradlees, later moved to a larger building across the street, later closed) with a brand new five-foot aluminum Christmas tree. She hadn’t discussed this with anyone, including my dad – apparently the tree just called to her from the store shelf.

The tree consisted of a wooden pole painted silver with small holes drilled into it, and a number of “branches,” which were steel rods wrapped in aluminum tinsel.

Mom also purchased a motorized color wheel and about four dozen blue glass ornaments.

The color wheel was a floodlight with a brushless slow-speed motor (that was the year I learned about brushless slow-speed motors.) There were also four wedges of different-colored plastic that clipped together to form a wheel, and mounted to the shaft of the motor with a wing nut. The wing nut needed to be tightened twice a day or the wheel would fall off (that was my responsibility.)

We wanted to have the tree decorated before our dad got home from his cabinet shop, so that afternoon my sister Carole and I carefully assembled and decorated the tree. This took about 10 minutes (two blue balls on each of the lower branches and one on each of the upper.)

We plugged in the color wheel and beheld our tree in wonder and rapture.

I don’t precisely recall our dad’s reaction when he saw the tree in the corner of our living room. I don’t think that he really cared for it, however it was only five-feet tall, and there were no tall Morizios, so at least we finally had a tree we could reach without a stepladder.

After supper Mom announced that she wanted to see how the tree looked in another corner of the living room, and asked our dad to move it. He was very strong and the tree was very light, so he easily grabbed the trunk near the top and picked the tree up with one hand.

He didn’t know that the trunk, and therefore the tree, was in two parts.

The tree stayed suspended in mid-air for a second, and then the bottom half came crashing down. There were blue balls and metal branches everywhere. some of the ornaments were in shards, but most were still rolling across the floor. My sister and I scrambled around on our knees to retrieve what was left of the tree bottom and stand it upright.

The problem was that Dad couldn’t put the top of the tree down without causing further damage, so there he stood (with an expression that was a mix of surprise and mortal terror,) looking not unlike the Statue of Liberty, while Mom called him a large number of names, including a few which I had not heard until that day.

We got the tree back together, and there was no permanent damage except for about a half-dozen or so broken ornaments, so on Monday Mom returned to the Family Circle for replacements.

The following year our tree was a Douglas fir.

The aluminum tree was retired to our attic, until one Christmas, years later, when Dad decided that it would make a good outdoor decoration.

That’s another story.

My wife Sharon and I have owned my parent’s house for the past thirty years, and we still live in it. Here is a photo of how the crime scene looks today (it is now our dining room.)