Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eastern Hills Christmas Lights

The Eastern Hills subdivision that occupies the hill just north of EHHS was built out from about 1953 to 1963. This is the area bound by Weiler Blvd. on the west starting at Weiler’s intersection with Danciger; by Brentwood Stair (I-30) on the north: Oak Hill on the east; and Monterrey on the south.

Homes in that area were generally built by custom builders and had about 2500 sq.ft. of living space. From our youthful perspective, it was the local neighborhood of the well-off. Landscaping was lush, grass grew in luxuriant carpets of St. Augustine, even without sprinkler systems, gracefully curved streets, plentiful trees (a Texas rarity), and more than a few of the homes there had pools in the back yard—a real luxury in those days.

Original heads of household were nominally in their forties, most were WWII veterans, and were doing well in their careers. Houses cost about $35,000 - $50,000 when they were new—an average professional’s salary was $12-15,000 per year. About 15-years earlier, in the early 1950s, they had bought their starter homes elsewhere and discovered that when they bought their second car, they needed a second garage to house it; Eastern Hills homes were generally their first “move-up” houses. This demographic group of energetic WWII generation people gave rise to the old term, “keeping up with the Joneses” as they added second cars, parked boats in the driveways (RVs came later), and finally sought to make personal statements with the decoration of their homes.

Decorating for Christmas was one of the more socially acceptable excuses for not only celebrating the season, but also for showing off and competing with one another. What started innocently enough as a simple outlining of the house with Christmas lights quickly became a full-blown light show extravaganza to include lighting bushes, trees, and erecting mechanized outdoor figures—think, Griswald Christmas and virtually every house in that neighborhood decorated. By the late 1950s the Eastern Hills neighborhood had become a popular destination for light peepers at Christmas time; the streets were jammed for hours each night of the Christmas season.

Of course, once the kids left home, the impetus for extravagant decorating lessened until the fun of it went away altogether when younger crops of kids started stealing the bulbs. I think all the new crop wanted to do was hear the bulbs go “pop” on the pavement. Now that I think of it, the little bastards stealing those bulbs and making things miserable for our aging parents to do any further decorating were those same FBG's before they started scamming in the local fast food joints.

Anyway, for a few glorious years, that Eastern Hills neighborhood really sparkled for a few weeks each Christmas.


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