'Elf' decorates landscape with palette of colored lights

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Frank DeLoache

Salisbury Post

Robert Peeler is a painter by nature, and that’s how he approaches decorating his home at 2335 Upper Palmer Road with Christmas lights.

He paints with their colors.

People must appreciate his touch. After he turns on his lights each year on Thanksgiving night, hundreds of people drive by every night to admire his canvas.

Such attention certainly qualifies Robert and Judy Peeler as one of the Salisbury Post’s 2006 Electric Elves.

The Peelers have been decorating their home for Christmas for about 45 years.

“We started out simple like everybody else does, and we began to notice others decorating more,” Robert Peeler said. “And we thought it was a nice gesture to the community. It’s mostly for the children.

“Now, everywhere we go, people say, ‘You’re the ones with the lights.’ ”

And though the decorating takes many hours of work, “we love to do it for them,” Peeler said.

Actually, he got started a little late this year. He had a brief stay in the hospital, and he needed a little time to get his strength back.

Normally, he starts putting the lights up after Halloween. Sometimes, he even has “spooks and Christmas lights in the yard at the same time,” he said.

Then, for the next 30 days, he usually spends four to five hours a day adding to the decorations gradually.

Judy Peeler makes most of the large ornaments that adorn the large tree in the front and another large tree in the back. They’re big candy canes, wreaths with bows and globe ornaments that are all lighted.

Judy also repairs all the lights and decorations each year before her husband puts them up.

Robert Peeler paints with the lights, grouping them by color. “I use the basic clear white lights for the house and then reach out from the house with other colors,” he said.

“I like to create a scene. It’s a distance thing. … It looks like a painting.”

He’ll be 65 in May, and two years ago, he took up oil painting as a hobby.

But he said he’s always thought of his Christmas lights as “a composition,” and he fills in blank spots in the canvas from year to year.

That’s why he advises people that the best view of the decorations comes as you approach the house on Gold Knob Road. That’s a couple thousand feet away.

“When you get too close, you lose the effect,” he explains.

Right now, he has about 60,000 lights painting his house each night.

“One of these little crape myrtles doesn’t look like many lights, but they grow each year and I have to add a few more lights,” he said.

The Peelers have 40 crape myrtles in their yard, with 300 to 500 lights on each one.

Two trees on each side of the driveway have a 1,000 lights each and 500 underneath — part of the visual effect.

He has lights all the way around the house. And, even so, he has about 10,000 lights he hasn’t been able to put up.

The Peelers also have speakers in the yard tuned to a radio station playing Christmas music.

“It’s just a gift to the community,” he said. “We enjoy it, not for ourselves, but it makes us feel good when people talk to us about them.”

He can always count on the children approaching him each year around Halloween and asking, “Mr. Peeler, when are you going to put up your lights?”

Want to go?

If you’re coming from Salisbury, take U.S. 52 east through Granite Quarry. About half a mile past East Rowan High School, take Sides Road to the left. About half a mile down Sides Road, turn left on Gold Knob Road. Then go about two miles, and you’ll see Upper Palmer Road on the right and the Peeler’s house will be in sight. It’s the second house on Upper Palmer Road.


Contact Frank DeLoache at 704-797-4245 or fdeloache @salisburypost.com.