It was the 1950s: Cars were made with winglike fins and fake rocket taillights, "Googie" architecture made cut-rate hotels look like apartments from
and Sputnik was still hurtling its little four-pronged self through orbit.
It was the Space Age, and even the tried-and-true had to be cast aside for something far more futuristic. During the late '50s, production of $25 Christmas trees with foil branches and aluminum needles soared as homeowners loved the efficiency of a tree with no needles to sweep and baby boomers with visions of a far-out rocket-powered future in their heads could stare at the gleaming metallic wonder in their living rooms.
Trees were pink, blue, silver or whatever color the color-wheel projector below shone on them. The best part was that the tree, the ornaments, the stand and all the other accessories could be placed in one box and packed away tidily until the next holiday season.
Unfortunately, pop art's holiday answer to the pink flamingo was imperiled by a tiny bald cartoon character and his blanket-toting, Bible-quoting friend. When Charles Schultz's
A Charlie Brown Christmas
mocked gaudy pink aluminum trees as hollow, soulless totems to commercialism and made a tattered natural tree branch into a national folk hero and the embodiment of Christmas Spirit, it signaled disaster for aluminum tree sales. The war and civil strife that ended the decade would do little to help the aluminum tree's ostentatious, artificial image.
The final silvery straw came in the 1974, when price controls on aluminum were lifted and its cost per ounce nearly doubled, according to U.S. Geological Survey numbers. Aluminum adherents will argue that the trees are undergoing a renaissance and that aluminum models are fetching thousands of dollars on
. We'll remember that when we're stuck in traffic this weekend behind 30 cars with blue spruce strapped to their roofs.