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Archive for December, 2011

Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 6, in which we examine Ev’rett (the Friendly Evergreen).

In the 1950s, a new front opened in the War on Christmas. The first front had opened with a presidential ban on Christmas trees in the White House in 1902 out of concern for natural resources. A half-century later, Christmas trees made of aluminum or plastic had become so commonplace that that the plot of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which first aired on television in 1965, revolves around this idea of artificial trees having replaced natural trees. Artificial trees were so commonplace that when Charlie Brown and Linus see a single wooden tree alone on the tree lot full of artificial ones, Linus asks Charlie Brown, “Gee, do they even still make wooden Christmas trees?” To CB, the dominance and pervasiveness of artificial trees represented how disconnected Americans had become from the spiritual and religious roots of Christmas. Having a natural tree helps him and his friends reconnect to the true meaning of Christmas, as expressed in a heart-tugging soliloquy by Linus.

NCTGA logoAs the 1960s drew to a close, the artificial tree industry was cutting deeply into the sale of natural trees and growers were in a panic. The National Christmas Tree Growers’ Association (NCTGA) decided to do something about it. Like a plot from an old Hollywood musical, they respond to this attack on tradition with—a song! One can picture Mickey Rooney as the son of a Christmas tree farmer who’s on the brink of bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Having overheard the mean banker (maybe Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life”?) tell Mickey’s father that unless he can pay the mortgage, he’ll lose the farm. Desperate and inconsolable, Mickey turns for comfort to his gal played by Judy Garland, who then sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to cheer him. Afterward, they talk and hit on the idea of writing a song and then Mickey says, “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!” The show (and the movie) end with the unveiling of a new song Mickey wrote celebrating natural Christmas trees, “Ev’rett the Friendly Evergreen.” It’s a smash sensation, and the show saves the farm! Roll credits!

Evrett

Take a listen and tell me that this doesn’t save the farm.

Ev’rett the Friendly Evergreen
1969 (2min 09sec): 

Well, that’s how it would have played out in the 1930s film version. The contemporary version would be closer to the truth—a little darker and with an ambiguous ending. (more…)

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Tonight, December 1st, President Barack Obama and his family will officially light the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The tree lighting ceremony dates back to 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge personally lit what was then called the National Community Christmas Tree. This first national tree was presented to Coolidge by Middlebury College President Dr. Paul D. Moody. The tree was cut from the Middlebury College forest preserve in the President’s home state of Vermont and sent via a special train car to Washington, D.C. The tree was erected on the Ellipse south of the White House grounds, where a crowd of 3,000 watched President Coolidge preside over the lighting on Christmas Eve, 1923. Since that time a variety of trees, both living and cut, originating from different states have served as the National Christmas Tree. The location of the tree has also changed over the years, moving from the Ellipse to Sherman Plaza, then Lafayette Park, the White House lawn, and back to its current spot on the Ellipse.

1923 National Christmas Tree

The original 1923 National Community Christmas Tree.

The FHS Archives features a collection documenting the first three decades of the lighting ceremony. The National Community Christmas Tree Records includes programs, photographs, correspondence, guest lists, invitations, news clippings, and more related to the planning of the event between 1923 and 1954. In honor of tonight’s tree lighting ceremony, below are a sampling of the historical items found in this great collection.
(more…)

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