Saturday, November 24, 2018

Why Don't Towns Decorate For Christmas Anymore? - New Pictures Added!

When I was a kid I lived in Keokuk, Iowa.  

As far as I know it's the only Keokuk in the world.  It's named after the Sauk (Sac) Chief Keokuk.  There is a large statue of Chief Keokuk overlooking the Mississippi River and Lock and Damn 19 from Rand Park.

I liked growing up in Keokuk, it was a quiet town with one main street actually named Main Street.  Main Street goes the entire length of the city and as far as the numbered highway system it's where US-218 begins in Iowa.

If you look at Iowa, Keokuk is the southernmost point of the state in the little toe in the southeast corner.

I could go on and on about loving living in Keokuk but I'm writing tonight to talk about the beautiful Christmas decorations that Keokuk and towns like Keokuk used to put up for the season.

Here are two old pictures of downtown Keokuk from the 1980s.

The pictures show that at the entrance to town in three locations they would put up "Season's Greetings" signs with red garland and red lights at night.  In addition to that, each intersection on main street, for about 12-18 blocks, would have suspended Christmas trees above the intersections with gold stars on the top with green garland and red bells at the peak of each swag of the garland.  In the Season's Greetings picture you can see two of the trees at two intersections in the distance.  And in the other photo you can see four intersections with the trees and garland.  At night the trees would twinkle with multi-colored clear large bulbs.  It was simply beautiful, I still have the most fond memories of driving down Main Street at Christmas to see the trees suspended above the road.  And, if you got lucky you would catch a glimpse right up the middle of the tree (as they were hollow) and see all the lights together.  It was the most magical thing.

It also got very cold in Iowa in the winter, you can see the temperature on one of the local bank signs, 12° (yikes!).

As far as other towns a good friend of mine found a series of old pictures from downtown Houston during Christmas.  See the pictures just below from Houston in the 60s and 70s.  It's easy to see the beauty it must have created.  Dozens of lighted swags emanating from a star over the center of the street, for blocks and blocks.  It's very similar to Keokuk, just that they had stars instead of trees.  While the next decade they added chandeliers over the street with curled lighted garland along the wires.  So beautiful!

But, today it's different.  It seems most towns went to vinyl greeting banners back in the 2000s with a Merry Christmas or pictures of snowflakes on them.  I'm sure they are more sturdy and they look nice during the day but they just aren't the same as the lighted garland decorations of long ago that towns used to put up.

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I'm sure it comes down to money, the cost of the upkeep and purchasing the decorations wasn't cheap.  But, one has to balance the joy it brings to their citizens and visitors that leave memories in their mind for almost a life long time.  And, if you have those memories like I do of Keokuk, it makes you want to come back each Christmas season.  When you do you spend money for food and drink and possibly on dinner fixin's for family in the town.  So although it costs a lot up front to put the decorations up, maintain them and then buy new ones once the current ones can no longer hold up.  In the end, I suspect more money goes back into the economy with those visiting the community.

A few towns still do decorations in parks, which is very nice and pretty and I suppose does the same effect but I still miss the decorations up and down Main Streets.

Some towns still manage to decorate their streets.  One such town is Vernon, Texas.  They put up dozens of beautiful wreaths, I saw them just the other day.  It looked so nice.  And, of course they do their courthouse display.  It really is a joy to see.

Another nearby town that does it is Mineral Wells.  Here's an attached picture of this years (2018) decorations.  Very nice, garland across the main street with three wreaths.

I guess this turned into more of a complaint blog but I really just wanted to share my childhood memories of what most towns used to do.

If you have pictures of your towns decorations please send them too me and I'll make a collection and add to this blog as time goes by.  Just send them to my facebook, post to the blog itself or email me pictures to  And, if you do please remember to tell me what town it's from and your name.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays friends.

Bryan W. Rupp