By Sheila Ring
In a season that already makes people feel nostalgic, two local women, Julene Yackley and Susan Lamb, decorate with themes from days gone by.
Collection of ceramic Christmas trees started
with gift from mom
On display every Christmas in Julene Yackley’s home are the nearly one dozen ceramic Christmas trees she and her husband Greg have acquired over time. “Greg got one from his mom,” said Julene of the collection’s founding piece.
Since the ceramics were popular in their grandmothers’ era, Julene and Greg have added to their collection by visiting antique stores.
“We like to look in antique stores,” said Julene. “We’ve collected them over time. We’ve just always liked them – it’s something Greg really likes.”
In addition to the eleven ceramic trees in their own collection, Julene and Greg have purchased a ceramic tree for each of their kids. “So six of them,” said Julene. “Some of the kids leave them up all year,” in part because they’re difficult to store.
They’ve had good luck finding the ceramic trees at an antiques store in Tea. “That’s where we find the most,” said Julene. “The store owner says that the ceramic trees come in and go out right away, because people have memories of them.”
Julene relates that on a trip through Miller, she and Greg took a chance on the antique store there being open. “We went into the antique store in Miller about the time they were closing for the day. We asked if they had any ceramic trees, and the owner said he’d just got in two white ones. He told us ‘I’m not going to part with both of them,’ but he sold us one of them. I’d never seen a white ceramic tree before.”
Another unusual tree in the collection has birds instead of lightbulbs.
Perhaps the most unique piece isn’t a tree at all, but rather a ceramic wreath. “I’ve never seen another one,” said Julene. The ceramic trees “just seem like old times.”
Remarking on how the ceramics have increased in price from $30 when they began collecting them to $130 now, Julene says that she’s had people tell her, ‘you can make them,’ or ‘get them at Menards.’ Julene says newer ceramic trees are battery operated, so “they’re not as bright.”
The ceramics make up just a fraction of the beautiful decorations throughout the home.
“I get a Father Christmas from my daughter Kristen every year,” said Julene. “I’m a Santa person.”
Pointing out a snow globe from among a small collection, “We got this when we went to see the Rockettes,” said Julene. “They were in the Cities.”
There are also a number of Christmas trees set up throughout her home. “This is my new buffalo plaid tree,” said Julene of the tree decorated with red and black plaid.
“All of my decorations are in a closet in the garage,” said Julene. She says that once she starts decorating, she has to keep at it until she’s done; otherwise the decorations are in the way.
“I started decorating early this year,” said Julene. “We couldn’t really leave the house because of COVID. I decided, ‘this makes me happy, so I’m going to do it.’”
“My first job out of high school was for the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce,” said Susan Lamb, explaining that her boss, Joan Likness, was a fan of the movie ‘A Christmas Story.’ “It was her favorite movie, and she had the Christmas Story ornaments. She got me hooked on the annual ornaments and an occasional splurge on a Christmas village building.”
‘A Christmas Story’ is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film which is presented in a series of vignettes, with narration provided by the adult Ralphie Parker reminiscing on one particular Christmas when he was nine years old.
Susan’s Christmas village emulates scenes from the movie with Ralphie’s house taking center stage. She also decks out her home with other ‘A Christmas Story’ theme items.
The leg lamp from the movie is probably one of its most iconic props. “I got this leg lamp for my birthday,” said Susan. “The blow up leg lamp on my deck I got for Christmas one year.”
When Susan sets her Christmas table, she uses not dishes with gold trim or poinsettias, but rather the ‘A Christmas Story’ set she acquired when Walgreens was selling them. “The plastic bowls, cups and plates are my Christmas dishes.”
The movie reveals Ralphie’s most fervent Christmas wish: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Ralphie's desire is rejected by his mother, his teacher Miss Shields, and even a Santa Claus at Higbee’s department store, all giving him the same warning: "You'll shoot your eye out."
“Last year, my dad gave me a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock just like the one Ralphie received in the movie.” Susan also has on display the pink bunny rabbit slippers from the movie.
“I have the ‘A Christmas Story’ game, and I saw on Amazon they have 1000 piece ‘A Christmas Story’ puzzles,” said Susan.
Her collection isn’t limited to décor. “I got this shirt for my birthday.”
Susan’s collection has evolved over time. “My kids think I’m crazy.”
The ‘available for a limited time’ nature of ‘A Christmas Story’ adds to its appeal. “Usually the only time you can watch is Christmas Eve” when a marathon of the film consisting of 12 consecutive airings from the evening of Christmas Eve to the evening of Christmas Day is shown. “But a couple of weeks ago on both Friday and Saturday, it was on,” said Susan. “That’s when I put up my village and tree, while I was watching it.” Susan also has in her collection three DVDs of the movie, “just in case.”
Her fandom isn’t limited to Christmas décor. “I want to go to Cleveland” where a museum has been made of Ralphie’s movie home. “You can stay in his twin bed,” said Susan.
Susan calls her collection “fun,” and says she finds many of the vignettes in the movie relatable. “I can remember getting dressed up like Randy in the snow suit where you have so many layers on, you can’t put your arms down.”
“I’ve thought about decorating one of my spare bedrooms ‘A Christmas Story,’ but I think that would take away the specialness,” said Susan. “When I unpack my Christmas decorations, I remember when I got it and who got it for me.”