Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Tinsel Through Time" is like a Cheyenne holiday time machine

My wife Chris and I joined other state employees this evening for a sneak peek of the "Tinsel Through Time" show at the Historic Governor's Mansion in Cheyenne. Christina and her Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites employees did a great job decorating this 107-year-old building for Christmas. Each room is dedicated to an era of the house's existence, with time-appropriate Christmas decorations. One of the upstairs bedrooms was done up in decor of the pre-war era (known as Edwardian in the U.K.). Did you know that the Christmas fad for that time called for all-white decorations on the tree? White candles, white ornaments, white star on top? The war put an end to that, what with rivers of blood being shed and all.

Post-war decor was much more colorful. Prior to WWII, Americans got most of their Christmas tree baubles from Germany and Japan. When war erupted, Americans were a little ticked so they discarded their not-made-in-the-USA ornaments for those made by Corning in New York. These glass balls were painted on the outside and hung with bobby pins due to most metals going to the war effort. Many homes had electric candles burning in the windows for sons and fathers serving overseas. This room had twin beds, and we could almost imagine that it was home to a couple of teen girls whose older brother was in the Army. Chris thought it might be the parents' room, as there was a snap-brim hat hanging on the bedpost. Maybe it's her boyfriend's hat, I ventured. This is a room for adults, she said. We then realized that we were caught up in the moment, actually believing that this was the room of living, breathing people and hot a museum display.

That's what history, well-presented, can do for you.

My favorite spot in the house is the basement fallout shelter. According to interpretation displays, First Lady Win Hickey made sure that the mansion was fortified for a commie attack with supplies for at least two weeks. It was stocked with survival kits, toilet paper, board games, coffee, battery-powered radio and a mirror. Asked about the last item, Mrs. Hickey replied that you couldn't expect a woman to go without a mirror for two weeks. It's funny to think about the governor's family taking shelter in the basement of a house that was but a few miles away from a nest of ICBM missile silos. If the shit had hit the fan, a mirror would have been the last of her worries. She may have had no worries at all, once the big one dropped.

Let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Thanks, Randy Newman.

My father built those missile silos. I never heard him talk about building a fallout shelter. It's possible that he knew the truth about what was in store for us if WWIII broke out.

Strange thoughts for Christmas. Blame it on "Tinsel Through Time." Here are some details about it:
Reminiscence about the traditions of Christmas past with “Tinsel Through Time: Christmas at the Mansion,” a special exhibit at the Historic Governors’ Mansion, December 1-22, Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A free opening reception for the exhibit will be held on Friday, Nov. 30, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will feature the St. Mary’s Catholic School Children's Choir, refreshments, entertainment and a free commemorative ornament to our first 75 guests in celebration of State Parks 75th Anniversary.

This year, the exhibit features numerous trees with historic trimmings and our newest collection of more than 400 antique Christmas Ornaments courtesy of Frank and Louise Cole.

The 1905 Mansion, the first official residence of Wyoming’s First Families, has hosted everyone from U.S. presidents to neighborhood children for 71 years. The public is invited to view this enchanting free Christmas exhibit.

The Historic Governors’ Mansion is located at 300 E. 21st Street in Cheyenne. Please call 307-777-7878 for more information. Go here.

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