Wednesday, May 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Oregon woman's house is forest of Christmas trees

If you are wondering how you will ever find time to decorate one Christmas tree, you may want to talk to Bess Packo in Oregon.

The Packo home on Pickle Road is once again a place of holiday beauty with, at last count, seven themed trees in their traditional places. Furthermore, they were up long before Thanksgiving.

Ms. Packo just loves Christmas and the joyous, lighted trees that go with it. She has always had several trees in the large 1840 farmhouse long before Christmas, but this year there was added incentive to get the job done early: Her home is on the Oregon Jerusalem Historical Society tour, held yesterday and today.

The house is known as the Packo-Munday home in recognition of the William Munday family who operated a farm on the property. Several buildings, including a large dairy barn, remain on the property as reminders of what was a thriving agriculture region before it was taken over by housing, and even before it became the city of Oregon.

Other houses on the tour are the Fredrick-Lamb, Nightingale-Hastings, Metzger-Lindeman, and Messer-Lucas homes. The 200 ticket holders also toured First St. Mark's Lutheran Church and Branville School.

The Packo display proves that Christmas trees are more than green branches with lights and ornaments hanging from them. They can be a display of keepsakes, patriotism, special interests, and artwork, and at the same time showcase a person's success as a dedicated collector. That, Ms. Packo is. As she points out and explains the decorations from tree to tree, the visitor quickly learns that she began collecting her prized decorations when she was a child and young homemaker with two sons. She is the widow of Robert Packo, whose parents established Tony Packo's restaurant in East Toledo.

Does she throw a protective plastic bag or a sheet over the assembled trees and store them in the attic for the next season, ready to go? No. The trees stay up through January, when the hundreds of decorations are removed and carefully boxed and labeled. The exception is one with hand-blown glass ornaments that is left up year-round.

Christmas trees have been an ongoing hobby in the Packo home since sons Mark Packo of Toledo and Kirk Packo of Chicago were small boys. When it was time to take down the trees in their rooms, Ms. Packo recalls, they locked their doors and begged for reprieve.

A large tree standing tall on the back enclosed porch is the toy tree. It takes a long time to absorb the fascinating objects, many of which date from Mark and Kirk's boyhood. None of them have sharp edges, Ms. Packo explained, because she didn't want the boys to get hurt. To keep that theme going, the boys' kindergarten Christmas artwork is on a billboard. A plate, made in 1986 in grade school by Robert Packo of Los Angeles, Ms. Packo's only grandchild, is a holiday wall-hanging.

Let's just say the patriotic tree in the library should be saluted. A six-foot white tree is the stunning background for a lifetime collection of red, white, and blue memorabilia. Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty command attention. Collectors take note of all of the 25 Christmas issues from the White House Historical Society. The patriotic tree took root as a small tree to hold the first of the White House collection and has grown to hundreds of objects, some of which are gifts. But it is not the largest. That honor goes to a nine-footer in the living room that Ms. Packo describes as "just traditional."

To make sure their mother has enough trees each year, Mark and Kirk often add one. Mark, an avid stamp collector and designer of stamp lapel pins, made the stamp tree, using mounted international Christmas postage stamps. His Toledo business is Filmwerks Studios. A Japanese origami tree, with the traditional paper ornaments made by Virginia Clarke and Ms. Packo, was new last year. It replaced the dining room fruit-and-vegetable tree that got moved to the side porch.

The Packo collection proves you can go in any, or in all, directions when decorating a tree. I packed two white feather trees to take to Florida.

At last week's tree festival in Bryan, Beth Schweitzer won first place with a Santa Claus Goes West theme, featuring multi colored bandana handkerchiefs. The annual event benefits Sarah's House for victims of domestic abuse.

Hanging the tree upside down is one of the most far-out ideas. Toledo florist Keith Brooks says the decorations on an inverted tree show off better, and anyone can figure out there would be more room for gifts under the tree.

It's not a new idea. Shirley Goldsmith of Bryan included an upside down tree at the Christmas Manor in Bryan, a business she operated from 1986 to 1998. She remembers seeing such an unusual tree hanging in a window on Secor Road in Toledo in the 1950s and wanted to duplicate it in her store.

Mr. Brooks says it is best to use the hardware from a hanging swag lamp, if you have one; that eliminates the need to drill a hole in the ceiling for a new hook from which to suspend the tree.

Mr. Brooks designed a tree for the Toledo Day Nursery festival of trees last weekend that included copper and brown. Brown and earth tones are a trend in holiday decorations. "But to me, red and green are Christmas," Mr. Brooks said.

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