Written by Ted Anderson. Insurance agent Ted W. Anderson worked in sales for half a century, has lived in Albany since 1993. He is president of Dover Lane Neighborhood Watch. Send email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My birthday is December 12, just like Frank Sinatra’s except that I am now the big 75 and planning to have many more before it is over for me on this earth. As I have said many times to my readers, I have been so lucky during my life. I grew up in farm country in Northern Illinois and had never been more that about 100 miles from home until after I graduated from college (Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois). But once I got out of college and got married, I had the great opportunity to live in a number of areas of this great country and to travel all over the U.S.A. on business and to attend business conferences several places outside of our country…one place being New Jersey about 20 minutes from New York City.
In New Jersey, our children were quite young, like about four and six. I had gotten promoted to the main office of Atlas Supply Co. a quality control company owned by the five Standard Oil Companies at that time. I had traveled the U.S.A. training Standard Oil Salesmen and Marketing personnel on Tires, Batteries and Automobile Accessories. That surely was fun especially since I had never been anywhere. Not too much fun for my great wife who had to stay home and raise our two kids, I mean children! I guess kids are goats, right? What a great wife that I have for all she had to put up with during this period of time, by herself, and quite young herself at about 26.
Anyway, it was 1965 when I got this promotion and didn’t realize how much it was going to cost us to live in this area. It was pretty darn expensive in the New York City area and I should have never takes this promotion on the raise that they had given me to do it. But I was young, like we all were once, and didn’t know any better. The company had taken advantage of me and even though we tried very hard to make ends meet, we just couldn’t. I painted interiors of houses in the evening and we didn’t spend money on things we didn’t need…..except one thing! Since we didn’t have the money to do hardly anything while we were there, I bought our FIRST RCA Color TV which was quite expensive at that time. It was a beautiful wooden set and produced a very good picture for that time in the evolution of colored TV sets. We loved it and I kept it shined up every day like I do with all my cars. Anyone who knows me knows how shiny that would be!
So it was nearly Christmas and I go to town and buy a beautiful TV costing us about $550.00, as I remember, which was a great deal of money back then. We were 500 plus miles from both of our parents homes at Christmastime and couldn’t afford to make the trip back there to Northern Illinois, especially since we had bought that new TV. We went to the stores and bought our young children some gifts but nothing for us. The TV was our gift. The gifts were wrapped and put under the real Christmas tree that we had cut from a nearby tree farm. We loaded the tree with a bunch of Japanese-made colored lights plus the many different hangings that we put on the tree every year that reminded us of our friends back in Milan, Michigan area where we used to live (near Ann Arbor, Mich.). We were all surely sad that we couldn’t make this traditional trip home to see all our relatives
So, we watched TV and made plans to make the trip back to Illinois at some other future date. The tree we had looked great and we were very happy with it. Then, something unusual…AND DANGEROUS…happened! Our children were lying close to the tree watching something like Sesame Street. I was on my way home from work and pulled up to my driveway with fire trucks out front with their lights brightly blinking! My wife had been in the back bedroom and she said that she heard a loud bang. She ran into the TV room to find the tree on fire. Our Christmas tree had caught on fire and had literally exploded which a very dry one will do when it catches on fire.
I had forgotten to make a fresh cut across the bottom of the tree so that the water we had been placed in the tree holder could get through the bottom of the tree and up into the body of the tree. When that didn’t happen, the tree naturally dried out completely and was like a bomb ready to explode if a spark should show up in the tree, which it did. The sap at the bottom of the tree had gotten very hard, almost like cement. The tree could not get the drink it so badly needed. This caused the tree to get very dry.
The cheap Japanese lights shorted out and caused the dry tree to actually explode! The ceiling of our front room, directly above the tree, had a big black area and smoke went throughout our duplex wrecking all of our clothes even those in our closets. The pine needles from the tree had dropped on top of our new TV onto the beautiful, shiny wood of the set and also the fire had burned out the speakers in the front. We sent the TV off to be refinished and to replace the area covering the speakers…right at Christmastime when a couple of young kids wanted to watch the TV! The smell of smoke was strong throughout our duplex but we didn’t move to a motel like we should have done.
It was not a smart thing to stay in that duplex and breathe in those bad smells but we did. Again, remember that we were a couple of very young parents with young children and didn’t know any better.
The reason that I am writing this is to try to protect you and your family and to not make the mistakes we did. Always cut the bottom of every new “real” tree that you ever use so the water can be sucked up into the tree and not get dried out and become a fire hazard. This can be a very dangerous situation. And DON’T stay in your home or apartment and breathe in that smoke should you have a fire. It is definitely not good for you or your family.
Have a safe and Merry Christmas and a great 2012!