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Vintage Yule decor delights Ligonier Valley Library visitors

By Cami Dibattista
Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 8:37 p.m.

One man's collection of vintage holiday decorations is enchanting visitors to the Ligonier Valley Library this season.

To kick off the exhibit of his carefully collected items, Don Lachie of Youngwood gave a talk on the history of Yuletide lighting — from candles first in use on trees about 1890 to bubble lights made popular in the 1950s.

“These unique vintage items are completely different than the lights and tree trimmings available today,” Lachie said. “New bulbs are more energy efficient, but they don't have the same charm as the older ones.”

Lachie's collection includes strands of Christmas bulbs more than 100 years old, electric window candles and wreaths, tree tops and stands and “fairy lights” – small decorative glass vessels filled with lamp oil and illuminated with a floating wick.

Lachie shared his knowledge about how the first Christmas lights worked and discussed the various decorative light covers that were popular over the years and the attention to detail used when creating them.

“Don is so knowledgeable,” said Shirley Iscrupe, the library's Pennsylvania Room archivist. “We're thrilled to have him and his collection here with us at the library.”

Lachie said he has been collecting vintage Yuletide lights, decorations and memorabilia for nearly 30 years.

“Everyone has happy Christmas memories,” Lachie said. “I began collecting because of the appeal of past traditions and their connection to happy times and memories of the holidays.”

Lachie said he has spoken with many individuals about their fond memories pertaining to Christmas lighting — such as a woman who shared the story of how she and each of her siblings would choose a different colored bubble light each year and then wait with anticipation to see which one would bubble first.

“It was all about family tradition,” Lachie said.

Lachie said his favorite pieces in the collection are the wooden box sets that were used to package the first strands of wired lights in 1903.

“They have fantastic graphics,” said Lachie, who noted that light sets began to be packed in cardboard boxes about 1910.

Lachie said he enjoys displaying his collection.

“Trees and their lighting hold a special fascination for me,” he said. “I've always been interested in antiques and electronics, and I find these rare and cherished heirlooms to be a brilliant and fleeting part of our history.”

The exhibit will be on display in the Pennsylvania Room of the library, 120 W. Main St., through Jan 4. Lachie will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays to answer questions and discuss his collection. Call 724-238-6451 for more information.

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.



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