Kristen Peil: What Nelson’s Gave Me for Christmas

By Kristen Peil

Christmas, “bah humbug!” Too much tradition and not enough innovation. I just could not get into the Christmas groove this season. Maybe, because of the warm weather. Maybe, because I’ve hit midlife. Decorating for the holidays just did not call to me the way it usually does. Until, that is, I stumbled across something I have been searching for since childhood.

While bargain hunting at Nelson Hardware in Baileys Harbor on their closing days, I spotted two boxes that held vintage 1960s aluminum Christmas trees. Not just one, but two trees! Both brand-new and each still in the original box. Each tree branch still in its original paper sleeve. Each with its original direction sheet for how to put the tree together.

Nelson metal treeIn the past, I have been able to cobble together a Charlie Brown-esque silver tree with branches accumulated while haunting resale shops, but the best you could describe it was as pathetic. However, this set, this was an extraordinary find. I swooped them up and stumbled to the counter in a stupor of Christmas joy.

Once home I took a minute to look over my treasures. The boxes were printed with midcentury modern images of trees and labeled “Sapphire by Regal…the world’s finest METAL TREE! Model 526.”

The original shipping stickers “Morley-Murphy Company, Green Bay WI” were still on the outside of the boxes. The original price of $13.25 and the subsequent sale price of $2 were handwritten in Gordy Nelson’s (the founder of Nelson Hardware) signature grease pencil style.

I have spent my whole life shopping at Nelson Hardware in downtown Baileys Harbor. These two boxes were probably delivered to Baileys Harbor just about the same time I was. To think these two trees have been stored away somewhere in Nelsons for the last 50 years less than 2 blocks away from where I now live. How ironic, that after all these years, I would finally find what I was searching for right here in my own backyard.

Thank you, Gordy and Gary, for never throwing anything away! Thank you, Nelson Hardware for always providing just what your customers and the community needed.

Merry Christmas!

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