CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They're dreaming of a retro Christmas.
Shoppers of a certain age who wander through holiday displays at vintage and antique shops nearly always say the same thing. "Awww. I remember those. My mom/grandmother had one."
The shelves and displays are full of decorations of Christmases past. Holiday décor from the 1950s and '60s particularly appeals to Baby Boomers who grew up during the era of tinsel icicles and futuristic aluminum Christmas trees and color wheels.
Shiny aluminum trees sparkle in the windows of Purple Moon on Quarrier Street, a store that features mid-century modern furniture and accessories. Owner Chuck Hamsher sells only trees made in the 1950s and '60s, not reproductions.
The signature trees were made from materials developed during World War II. "They were looking for new uses in postwar prosperity," Hamsher said. Production started in the mid-1950s. As they gained popularity, Aluminum Specialty Co. in Wisconsin churned out thousands of the Space Age trees, retailing for about $25 each.
Hamsher sells the vintage shiny trees for between $125 to $400. A 7-foot pink aluminum tree produced in the mid-century recently sold on eBay for $3,600.
"They've gained popularity in the past 10 years or so," Hamsher said. "They remind Baby Boomers of their childhoods."
Safety concerns prohibited traditional strings of electric lights on the trees' metal structures, but a well-aimed light and rotating color wheel illuminated the shiny branches.
A Christmas special that aired in 1965 is credited with the downfall of the aluminum trees. After Charlie Brown lamented the commercialization of Christmas in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," sales of the aluminum trees plummeted. Fresh or artificial green trees resurged in popularity and the "Tin Tannenbaums" were considered tacky.
Whether fresh or aluminum, many trees sported a mixture of traditional ornaments made before World War II, newer, more durable plastic ornaments and brightly colored bulbs mass-produced by companies like Shiny Bright. Strings of bubble lights and lights set in foil flowers replaced strings of large colored bulbs.
NASA's first manned flight in 1961 and the development of the atomic bomb inspired Space Age themes and designs in everything from ornaments to serving pieces.
Pre-electronic toy lists