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Mack Williams: A new downtown Christmas tradition

Mack Williams

Just a few days ago,I drove down to Yanceyville to visit my son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Rose.
On the way, I rode through downtown Yanceyville to see the annual Christmas tree on the second-floor balcony of the Caswell County Courthouse. Of course, the Christmas tree is “traditional” thing in every (or those who celebrate) home; and like the “people’s house” in Washington, D.C., each county courthouse is the “people’s house” too (of which Salisbury had several through the years).
I passed decorated houses of people I knew while residing there (1974-2008). The house of a now-deceased teacher friend of my late teacher-wife was dark and undecorated, and so was the adjacent house, the Christmas decorations of which my late wife’s late friend had described as “tacky!”
This teacher’s house was always trimmed in perfect Christmas style, and as I remember her neighbor’s decorations, the teacher told the truth (just like in the classroom): they were decidedly tacky. But as far as these two houses were concerned, their long-ago, diametrically opposed styles of Christmas decoration were gone, replaced by “Seasonal shadows.” I wondered if the teacher’s neighbor had only moved, a less “permanent” relocation than that of my late wife Diane’s friend.
Passing familiar decorations, I saw them as a sign of “those still with us.”
I then arrived just up from the former post office building where the town’s official, long-time decorations of single “snowflake lights” began, leading to the Square. To be honest, these were somewhat humdrum; but when I reached the Yanceyville Town Square, everything changed! Instead of being the sole decoration, as in Seasons past, these lined-up snowflakes had become the beginning flurries, leading up to a veritable, beautiful, and tasteful “storm” of illumination at the Square and all of its surrounding buildings!
Even the deserted store spaces were strung with lights! No-longer occupied “business space” was still suitable for the “business” of Christmas decoration!
The Yanceyville Volunteer Fire Department’s geometric lines of architecture had become accentuated with strings of red bulbs. I was glad those “firey” lights weren’t the moving, “running” kind, for that would have been much too realistic!
Still-extant businesses were decorated within and without, the merchandise illuminated year-round to deter “taking” instead of “giving.” W.H. Hooper’s Store’s illuminated hardware gives it some of that same “old-time” look and feel as that of Salisbury’s former O.O. Rufty’s General Store.
In a county known for deer hunting, several “deer-form” Christmas-bulb mannequins were placed on the Square’s Green. These deer were in no danger from “spot-lighting,” for they were made up of light, itself.
The walking trail behind the Old Caswell County Courthouse was strung with lights, business-sponsored displays along the way. Each bulb lighting the pathway was, in effect, a “Polaris” giving proper direction to the seasonal stroller.
An approximately “White House-size” artificial Christmas tree had “sprung up” just off the square; but the real Christmas tree on the Old Courthouse’s second-floor balcony still reigned supreme over all (literally), surrounded and supported by the architecture of its post-bellum “stand.”
In the clear space adjacent the local bank, a 3-4x giant, red, decorative sleigh had been placed. Since it was empty, and since it was “parked” adjacent the bank, I couldn’t help but thinking that it resembled a “getaway” vehicle (deer-less, though) into which several large safes could fit.
I went away from there that night thinking that the old Yanceyville Town Square should have always looked this way at Christmastime, even during “The big snow of 1940,” of which there is a plethora of photographs in the scrapbooks of many local families. I hope this seasonal work of electric art becomes a tradition for years to come. It wasn’t there when I lived in Caswell, but it’s never too late to create a memory.

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