Long before a fictional guy named Clark Griswold entered our Christmas decorating consciousness …
Long before those cool looking icicle lights were invented …
Back when gasoline was 36 cents a gallon and a new house cost around $25,000, and that guy who was “not a crook” was hanging out in the oval office, a spry Grand Junction man and his wife decided to decorate their house and yard for the Christmas season.
Now, 50 years later, John Davis chuckles about his elaborate display at 2139 N. 15th St.
John and his wife Mary Ann were married on Feb. 10, 1968, and started putting lights out a couple years later when they bought the house.
“After we bought the house, it was kinda rough for a while. We had two boys and times were tough,” Davis said. “We didn’t have a lot of lights and we just put some on the house and fence.”
But, wow and whoa, you should see it now.
“We just kept adding to it and now, it’s pretty big,” Davis said with that chuckle.
Big is right.
The electric bill sees a little jolt during the holidays, but that’s OK.
The Christmas display is a source of pride for Davis, who is almost 80.
Santa is there, a nativity scene, a carousel and even a small Ferris wheel all in the jam-packed front yard. The display winds its way around the house, too.
John says the yard is 55 feet by 25 feet and there isn’t a lot of empty space.
“I still enjoy the heck out of it,” John said. “I tell people I enjoy it because other people enjoy it.”
The giant display is a carnival for the eyes with every Christmas color imaginable shining brightly the night sky.
Mary Ann passed away nine years ago, but John never thought about stopping their Christmas tradition.
“It’s just been a tradition since we were together and I just wanted to keep it going,” he said.
The porch display rarely changes because that was Mary Ann’s design.
“I keep it the same because that’s what she wanted, that is her design,” John said.
The display has so many things, small figurines, large items, lights everywhere, items collected over decades of searching.
“Every Christmas, we’d go around looking at things, and if something struck our fancy, we’d get it,” he said.
Their fancy was obviously struck frequently.
Many of the things like the small figurines and the carousel were bought at the now-closed Kmart store.
Paying tribute to Mary Ann every Christmas is another reason why John keeps putting up the display.
And his favorite part?
“I’d have to say the Nativity scene. It’s been out there for probably 30 years,” he said.
The old but still cool looking Mr. and Mrs. Claus with a North Pole sign between them is about 40 years old, John said.
Looking over the massive display, it’s exhausting to even think about how long it takes to set up.
“It’s harder than ever to get this done. I really enjoy it, but it’s a lot of work,” he said.
About two weeks worth of work to set it up.
There’s a 10- by 14-foot shed in the back that holds nothing but the Christmas display items.
Even after 50 years, John is still on the lookout for possible additions to the display, but his main mission is on upgrading the lights.
“I’m changing over from the old style lights to LED. Every year I buy some more LED lights. Those old ones take up so much juice,” he said chucking.
But he’s proud of the string of lights that dangle from the eaves of his house.
“Those icicle lights are from when they first came out,” he said about the classic-looking pointy lights that look like the real thing.
There has always been an abundance of Christmas spirit wafting around the Davis home.
At one time, years ago, John even bought a Santa suit and hung out on the sidewalk handing out candy canes and waving to passing motorists.
There’s no doubt that the display has a work of pride for John and Mary Ann that has spanned 50 years.
Even with his wife gone, John takes pride in making sure the display continues to be a sight to behold during the Christmas season.
“People stop and thank me for doing this,” he said. “This summer someone even stopped and told me, ‘I just wanted to stop and say you always have a pretty house during Christmas.’ ”
It’s those people, the people who slow to a crawl or stop to soak in the giant display, the people who snap photos, those who want to make sure they don’t miss a thing, the limousines that come by, the buses from senior homes, every person who enjoys Christmas and seeing special displays.
That’s why John still empties the shed every December. His display is indeed one of the special ones in Grand Junction.
John just offers a smile packed with pride.
“Am I foolish for doing it? Maybe, but I love it,” he said.
He then again sums up why he keeps doing it after all these years.
“What I really enjoy is the other people who enjoy it.”
Clark Griswold would be so jealous.