A Remembrance Of Christmas Lights Past


Valda Taylor, Vera LaForge and Elaine Drorbaugh won a pen and pencil set from Don Manthe's Payson Drug Store in a holiday light contest in the 1960s.

"When I saw the ad in the paper with $500 prize money -- let me tell you, we would have gone ape back then," Elaine Drorbaugh said.


Elaine Drorbaugh is pictured here with her tree of sparkling memories.

The Drorbaugh home caught fire in 1959.

"It was not demolished, but it was black," she said.

Walter had taken their children, nine-year-old Dan and seven-year-old Alice to the woods to chop down a Christmas tree.

They returned to a catastrophe.

"We were staying in an apartment after the fire and the kids felt so bad that I went and hung strings of lights from our blackened home," Drorbaugh said.

Decorating their home for Christmas was a tradition the Drorbaughs would continue for the next three decades.

Each year they added more lights to the outside of their Payson home on Ash Street.

Over the years the Drorbaughs won many lighting contests and a few dollars of prize money. The competition in the 1980s encompassed homes in outlying communities as well.

The Taylors, who lived "on the hill by the high school" were another family who put up lights.

"Valda and her husband would put up a real good show," Drorbaugh said.

Her daughter tells the truth

Elaine tells the story of a friend asking Alice what she was going to get for Christmas.

"I don't know. We never know what we are going to get until my mother buys the lights she wants," Alice said.

Elaine exclaimed, "That's not true!"

"Yes it is," her daughter said.

"Years ago lights were all (Elaine and Walt) they could afford to put on the tree and that is how the Drorbaugh traditions of decorating with lights started," Jayne Peace reported in a Dec. 27, 1985 story in the Payson Roundup.

"It used to take us over a week to get the outside lights ready," she said.

Cutouts of Santa and elves stood around a decorated tree on her porch for many years.

Inside, as the many caroling children discovered between sips of hot apple cider and bites of homemade cookies, was a grand tree with 1,200 ornaments in its heyday.

In addition to the ornaments Elaine would collect each year, heirloom ornaments hung on the inside tree.

After Walt's death, Elaine packaged the ornaments for her three grandsons.

The tree she has hung on her wall since the early 1990s is also full of memories that sparkle, literally.

She shaped jewelry into a Christmas tree on a framed board covered in velvet.

It hangs on her apartment wall.

The jewelry includes one of Walt's tie tacks, several of Alice's earrings saved from when she would lose one, Dan's and Alice's pins from APS baking school, a ring that was Elaine's aunt's, the watch face her mom and dad gave her for my sweet 16, a pin from the one hundredth rodeo in Payson, a pair of earrings her sister wore and her mother-in-law's Navy Mother's pin to name but a few pieces.

"I miss the caroling kids. There were always kids. I loved that. To me, that is what Christmas is about," Drorbaugh said.

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