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The Richest Man In Town

Christmas is upon us, and while we struggle and search for the right gift, or figure out what we will eat, we do occasionally find time to reminisce about what the holiday was like as we were younger. It brings joy to us to remember when we were all younger. We look back on the holiday traditions that we liked, while happily forgetting the things that we did that we might regret if someone had actually taken a picture. I'm sure there are a few of us who are glad we didn't have smart phones and video back in the 80s, huh?

One of the traditions of recent times past on my beach was simply known as the Poulos House. It is located out near Nags Head Woods, and was always well decorated for the holidays. Two lots, with a house, drew people by the thousands to see the night lit up with color, even if we had seen it all the year before. I talked with Mr. Poulos about all the work he did, the time it took, and he had great answers for me. I asked how in the world before LED lights did he power all of that. He told me he had a "temporary" meter placed on the other property, which he had to pay rent on. He said the power company told him that he could keep it as long as he paid for it, but if he ever removed it, he wouldn't get it back. So he kept the "temporary" meter permanently.

Why did he do it? Well, this picture here sums most of it up pretty well. He had kids and grandkids so he took the old toys they had and made decorations for the kids to enjoy. Here you can see my kid doing the same thing. Actually, I think the first time she met Santa when she was old enough to recognize him was here. She wasn't shy, but she was pretty amazed.

Photos don't do the place justice, of course, but I'm glad I got pictures of it. The commitment it took to get all that out, year after year, and the love involved, well, I'm just glad I got it preserved in some way.

But it made me think of my own Christmas decorations and traditions. My father built a house for his family back in 1971. He saw a house he liked so much he stopped and asked the owner for plans, and then he built it. My mom was very appreciative of it, especially the central heat, as she wasn't about to live in a beach house with only a fireplace. But she added her own touches, including at Christmastime. We have this silly little bit of greenery that went up on the mantle, with three elves on it. This was way before the elf on the shelf craze. The three elves, I later I found out, were my three brothers from our time before they moved here. I never got an elf, but I didn't mind. The decoration was reward enough. I loved it as much as any other thing we put out, the long melting red candle that burned only one month a year, around a plastic wreath of holly, or the many old glass balls that decorated the tree. One thing that she did was go buy a set of the old plug in plastic candle lights for the windows, along with a wreath and bow. Can you believe we actually put a nail in the door to hang a wreath?! The house is this beautiful black and white Cape Cod, with a tall roof, black shutters. We got to go around, screwing in and unscrewing hot light bulbs to turn them on and off. It looked amazing . And I wasn't the only one who thought so. At the time, this would have been long before the beach box house on stilts was the house of choice on the beach, and there were few homes at all around. People came back there from all around to see the house lit up for Christmas. Just four lights in the front, seven on the sides, and a wreath on the door, but the spirit was bright as can be. It was incredible to the locals who just hadn't seen anything like it before. It was like living in a mansion at Christmastime.

I added my own touches as I got old enough, putting bright white lights in the bushes out front, as well as finding some ribbon candy in Norfolk once for my mom, who loved the look of it probably more than the consumption. I even shoved Christmas trees in the back of my little sport hatchback to bring home, once I was old enough to drive. Thoughts of times past like this often come up at this time, remembrances of our history and traditions. I recently mentioned the giant Christmas tree in Wilmington that stood for decades before finally succumbing to old age. So many people liked to remember it, and it made me think of my own traditions as well. We didn't have as much at the beach. We did at one time have some folks go cut a tree and light it up at Jockey's Ridge. That tradition has grown into a regular event with a wire frame of lights that is lit by a generator every night. The little light, this bright spot that glowed bright like a Christmas star low in the sky, is still a reminder to me of the holiday season, even if it's just a little light in the darkness.

Admittedly, it doesn't take as much to make an impact on a house now for Christmas decorations. If you have enough money, you can get all the blow up decorations you want. If you are daring enough, you can get all the lights you want on your roof. If you can operate a computer, you can create a light show. I love the commitment people have to get all those lights out, all those decorations. It doesn't matter if they are just seeking attention or if they truly love Christmas so much that they go overboard every winter, or fall. But honestly, I still like the clarity of a bright white light.

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Joe Sledge
Joe Sledge
24 dic 2023

It's funny, yet appropriate, that the moment I was writing this, my neighbor back home sent me a picture of our front door with a wreath on it. She had gone over and put up the decoration since I wasn't there. As much as we move forward with more and more decorations, there still are good neighbors and neighborhoods that still look out for you.

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