We were interviewed for this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which appeared in December, 2002.
By DAWNE MASSEY Post-Dispatch
12/23/2002 12:00 AM
Silvertrees, silvertrees – it’s retro time for this Edwardsville family
Nancy Holtzscher of Edwardsville finds her Christmas nostalgia in an aluminum tree like the one her mother used to have.
EDWARDSVILLE – Nancy Holtzscher made her brother Mark something special for Christmas this year – jealous.
That’s because she’s the proud owner of a shiny “new” silver aluminum Christmastree, just like the one they grew up with in the 1960s.
“I teased him, saying, ‘I’ve got the silvertree, and you don’t. I was going to send it to you, but I’m so excited now that I’m going to keep it myself. But you’ll get to see it when you come home for Christmas ,'” said Holtzscher, 44, of Edwardsville.
Seems that Mark Milton, 38, who lives in Atlanta, shares the obsession with his sister when it comes to holiday decor. And the two are not alone. The demand for aluminum “retro” trees has blossomed with more people buzzing the malls and browsing the Internet to find them.
Holtzscher says that she and her brother – along with many cousins – couldn’t wait to assemble the faux firs each year.
“We had one, my aunts each had one, and the kids would get to put the trees together. So we got to pull the silver branches out of these long brown paper tubes, and it would make kind of a ‘whooooosh!’ sound when you’d do it. There was this feeling of power when you’d pull that branch out – like it was a sword or something,” she said with a laugh.
“The color wheel was the best part because you pointed it at the tree, of course, and it would make this ratchety sound. It would turn the tree different colors, and it would smell hot all of the time,” she continued. “To me, that was the smell of Christmas.”
Holtzscher started surfing the Internet for a silvertree last year while shopping online for her brother’s gift. Browsing on E-bay, she typed in the words “silverChristmastree,” and before she knew it, there were pages and pages of entries to investigate. The tree arrived too late to be a part of last year’s Christmas festivities, so the newest Holtzscher family heirloom was tucked away in a closet until now.
Charlie Essmeier is one of the people who can make Baby Boomers’ metal-Noel dreams come true. He’s the owner and proprietor of the nostalgic Internet site SixtiesStuff.com and its sister site, AluminumChristmasTrees.net.
Essmeier, of Salt Lake City, started SixtiesStuff.com two years ago and began including holiday items in 2001. He said he stumbled across an aluminum Christmastree at a garage sale, and the rest is kitsch history.
“I stumbled across one about four years ago and said, ‘Oh wow! I haven’t seen one of those in years. Gotta have it,'” Essmeier said.
Last year, Essmeier says, he sold about 15 trees, offering his first tree online in mid-October. This year, he expects to more than triple his sales.
Earlier this year, he decided to spin off the Christmastree-trappings as a separate Web site. It has been up and running since March 2002.
Essmeier finds his aluminum treasures at a variety of places, including antique malls and garage sales. Now known as a tree guy, he is contacted frequently by people who have trees to sell.
He says that the most popular brands of trees are Evergleam and Revlis. Revlis had about three times as many branches as many of the other brands, and that’s what people seem to be interested in nowadays. An aluminum tree can have 40 to 250 branches, with some of the more expensive trees even having different size branches for the top, middle and bottom of the tree. Essemeier even has two pink aluminum trees, as well as a couple of gold ones, for sale.
Essmeier’s 6-foot-tall pink trees list for just under $1,000 each, while a 6-footer in silver, gold, or green goes for $175-$595. More are listed on Internet auctions like E-bay.
Joe Holtzscher, Nancy’s husband, grew up with traditional tree-trappings, but he has come to grips with the fact that soon a 6-foot silver shrub will occupy a big portion of his home.
“He said, ‘You know, I guess I’ve convinced myself that it’s OK to let that part of the family room go retro,'” said Nancy, “Which is good, because it’s going (retro).”