The Scheckel family out of Oak Grove Ridge, 2 miles northwest of Seneca, in the middle of Crawford County, Wisconsin, prepared for Christmas by searching for a Christmas tree. In the 1940s and 1950s, we were not about to pay good money for a fir or balsam, or pine tree from a dealer or store in town.
We had to find a tree on our farmland. That should not be too difficult, seeing that we had 238 acres. Now, if it just happened to be over the fence on the neighbor’s property, well that was in gray area. The seeds that started that tree, the one on the neighbor’s land, just might have come from our side of the fence line. So wouldn’t that make it our tree?
Most of the time we found a fir tree down in the Kettle Hollow grazing acres. One year we really could not find a good tree. But we did finally find a short-needle scrawny one clinging to the hillside, a poor rendition of a “Charlie Brown”. This was a bad looking tree.
But we trimmed it up, put it in the stand and gave it water and it perked up really good, we thought. Took on a nice green color. Turned out to be a pretty decent tree.
But one year we simply could not find a single 5 or 6 foot pine tree on our property. So back to the fence line. I do believe we owe the Watson farm a nice 6 foot long needle pine tree!
All of us kids helped decorate the tree. Putting the star on top was the most difficult, so that was assigned to one of the older kids. We have a long red rope, made of a plastic like material, that went around and around the tree. We put on the usual round red and silver balls attached to the tree with hooks. We tossed on way too much tinsel.
The tree lights were standard, but we had a string of those lights that had a stem filled with a liquid. After heating up, the liquid would start to bubble. We took bets, without money, (we had no money) on which light would be the first to start bubbling.
After a few days, we three boys pretty much knew which would bubble first, because the same one always did. Those bubbling bulbs were screwed into a base so that they could, if needed, be replaced. Which meant, of course, that they could be unscrewed.
Which is what we did when no one was looking. I believe Bob was the first to devise this trickery, but Phillip and I soon caught on. So it wasn’t long before the kid that predicted the “first bubbler” was the one that did the switching. It was a game we played year after year.