Aluminum tree collection promises a merry vintage Christmas

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Kelly McClure stands in her living room amidst a small portion of her vintage Christmas tree collection, along with vintage Santas and store displays. Photos by LYNNE COPE HUMMELL

Anyone seeking to recapture a little Christmas spirit from their 1960s childhood (or adulthood, for that matter) might want to visit the Aluminum Forest at the Port Royal home of Kelly McClure from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5.

McClure is just a little bit wild about vintage aluminum Christmas trees. Actually, she's crazy about Christmas in general, especially vintage accoutrements.

"I inherited my grandmother's ornaments," she said. "And about nine or 10 years ago, I started collecting the trees. When I saw my first silver 2-foot tree in an antique mall in Atlanta, I had to have it."

Over the years of collecting trees, she said, she also found other vintage Christmas memorabilia, such as additional ornaments, Santas, elves and signs.

On display currently in her mid-century modern home are some 50 aluminum, bottlebrush and spun glass trees, along with ceramic and visca (a type of vinyl) trees. Another 20 to 25 trees are still in storage, McClure said. "There's just not enough room for all of them," she said. "Where would we walk?"

Also on display are shelves and cabinets chock full of vintage ornaments, Santas, choirs, snowmen, reindeer and tiny Christmas trees. A number of manger scenes are included as well.

For McClure, though, it's mostly about the trees. Visitors get a quick education about each tree and aluminum trees in general.

"Aluminum trees were made only from 1959 to 1971," McClure said. "It was the era of aluminum. People were all about modernism, futurism and the space race. You'll often see Santa on a rocketship from this era."

As she walked through her home, McClure described each tree: "This is an 8-foot Evergleam; I fought for it on eBay. ... This tall green tree has 365 branches; it's a C. Sincere brand. ... This blue-green tree, I don't know who made it. ... This is a Revlis, which is "silver" spelled backwards; it's the Cadillac of aluminum trees. ... Here's another Evergleam. It's a slim line for small spaces. ... This one is a PomPom from the U.S. Tree Corporation. It is made with Reynolds aluminum, which is ironic because my dad worked for Reynolds forever. ... This is a Carnation tree. I don't know who made it."

The aluminum trees range in height from 2 feet to 8 feet, and in colors from silver to pink to blue to rainbow. A tiny 2-foot turquoise tree on a table in the living room is her favorite, McClure said. "No particular reason; I just love it," she said.

McClure acquired her vast knowledge as she collected, much of it from an unexpected and very reliable source in a Facebook group. "Nine years ago, I tried to find a reference book," she said. "But there was nothing. I had a tree that I knew was Evergleam and posted a photo of it on a Facebook page. Theron Georges was the only one who responded."

Georges had been interested in the trees for years, researching, photographing and gathering information from folks like McClure. The two struck up a friendship as they corresponded about their shared love of the shiny trees. "He has taught me so much," McClure said. "And he has given me great leads."

Georges has since written a book, "The Wonderful World of Evergleam," with dozens of photos of trees, their boxes and branches, as well as their measurements and the history of each.

A photo of one of McClure's trees is included in the book.

The book is important because there are no records to be found from the companies who produced the trees decades ago. "Most of the companies just shut down," McClure said. Thus, authenticity can be confirmed only if a tree comes in its original box.

McClure said she recognizes her hobby "has gotten out of hand!" But her husband, Marty, likes them too. "He's a good enabler," McClure said. "He's always looking and he brings me stuff occasionally."

This year, rather than just enjoy the collection themselves, McClure said she wanted to do something for Hilton Head Humane Association, which holds a special place in her heart. "We have two rescue dogs from there," she said.

She decided to open her home to the public for one evening, with donations accepted for the organization. "This is the first time I've tried to use the trees for good," McClure said.

The Aluminum Forest drop-in will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 5. Guests should email TheAluminumForest@gmail.com to get the address and have a pass called in. There is no charge, but donations are encouraged.

Additionally, signed copies of "The Wonderful World of Evergleam" will be available for purchase at $29.95, with 25% going to the Humane Association.

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