Friday, January 9, 2015


Letters to Vance:

Your box came the day after Xmas and so prolonged it for us. I gathered them all around and all enjoyed the beautifully wrapped gifts and the verses on them. The holly decorations were so lovely, too. We reserved some and the bull pine sprays for our Sunday dinner decorations. We made a lovely centerpiece of holly and the sprays and candles and dined in state with the best cloth, dishes, etc., all by candle light. So don’t feel bad that yours didn’t get here for Xmas as we had more opportunity to enjoy it. As I said it just prolonged our festivities, really.
Ina Dobson -- January 3, 1937

Your beautiful box came on Dec. 26th so we still had Christmas, but I almost wept when I saw the lovely tapers, silver table ornament and luscious holly! Those were the most beautiful holly I’ve ever seen, it seems to me – so full of berries, and how beautifully your blue boxes looked in among the silver sprays. It was a veritable treasure chest.
Ethel Dobson Robinson – January 3, 1937

We used the silvered bull pine sprigs of last year again as a centerpiece and the candles. They are so festive; we burned them all evening. We used up one pair of white ones and part of one short pair of red ones and greatly diminished the tall red ones.
Ina Dobson -- January 1, 1938

Farmhouse, 1930s - Jack and Dick
During the 1930s (the only decade of which I have a record of life on the farm at Gilbert), my dad (Vance) sent a box of greenery from the Oregon coast to the Christmas celebration at the family farm. Included in the box were holly, Oregon grape, and bull pine, some of which he “silvered” with paint and wired into sprays. Included were candles – beautiful red and white. It brought a welcome touch of elegance to the old home celebration. My dad loved that touch of elegance.

Having discovered that the silver paint preserved the greens, Ina began to save them from one year to the next. Evidently she also tucked the tapers away rather than enjoying them through the winter. I suppose that would have been extravagance.

Vance lights candles he made - Christmas Eve c. 1956
Then extravagant I am! I so believe in prolonging the season in an understated way, and burning candles is one way I do it – tea candles, votives, pillars, the occasional taper – it’s what I do. I’ve developed a lovely collection of candle plates and holders. Each evening as darkness falls, I put out fresh tea candles, trim wicks, and light my display in the kitchen window.

Well, it’s interesting that Ina didn’t burn candles of a winter evening, especially since she burned kerosene lanterns for her light. I suppose those lanterns were enough.

My mother, though – my mother burned candles but also kept a stash on hand for emergency use. When I was a child in the ‘50s, the electricity occasionally went off. A flashlight and candles were Mother’s readiness plan. KW


Hallie said...

Nothing beats the ambiance of candles. I think it's fun when we lose electricity and have to live for a bit by candle light, but it rarely happens. It's not the same if you just choose to turn out all the lights...I don't know why.

Chris said...

I have trouble burning candles to this day because when the kids were little, we had so little money, if I burned them there was no money to replace them! I did, however, buy some of the "fake" candles at Costco this year and I love them!!

Kathy said...

I suggest that the difference is that your whole house goes quiet when the electricity is off. And you have no light from the neighbors or the street, so yes, it is different than just turning your lights off.

Fake candles, Chris? I have some electric candles I use on the farm, but last year I decided to try battery-operated candles. They have a better base and I don't have to worry with cords.

Chris said...

Yes, the battery operated ones. They flicker quite realistically. Don't have to worry about little hands or kitties.

Chris said...

Further clarification: the pack I bought at Costco included pillars, tea lights and votives. I've been very pleased with all three. :-)

Kathy said...

I have seen those. I suppose it's a seasonal item. I'll consider it in the future.

Meanwhile, I have real candles on the sill behind the sink in the kitchen.