Classic Christmas in Port

Lights now twinkle on Franklin Street, but on the outskirts of downtown vintage decorations, including the favorite Frosty, are still hung from light poles with care

PORT WASHINGTON STREET DEPARTMENT workers Kahlin Taylor (left) and Gary Fischer posed with Frosty, one of the city’s vintage holiday decorations, before placing it atop a light pole at the foot of St. Mary’s Hill last month. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

It wouldn’t be Christmas in Port Washington without Frosty and his friends.

The colorful decorations, which include not just the famous snowman but candles, trees and lanterns, have been a fixture on city light poles for the last 55 years.

“I think Frosty is definitely the favorite,” Port Street Supt. J.D. Hoile said. “He stands out in comparison to the rest of them. A lot of people compliment us on him.

“Frosty, he’s just kind of cool.”

Hoile, a Port native who grew up seeing Frosty’s smiling face shining over the city’s streets, said the decorations have a special appeal.

“They’ve hung over the streets for years and probably seemed outdated at one point, but they’ve hit the cool phase again,” he said.

“They’re kitschy but cool.”

The whimsical Christmas decorations, which line the streets leading to downtown, have been a much anticipated sign of the season since they were purchased by the City of Port on Sept. 11, 1967.

The 35 decorations, made by Valley Decorating Co. of Pinedale, Calif., cost $1,734.64 and were purchased from Wayne Distribution Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, Hoile said.

He knows, because the city still has the invoice for the decorations, which consist of a metal frame wrapped in garland and lights.

“Just imagine, for $1,700 we lit up the City of Port Washington for 55 years,” Hoile said.

“I think today that would probably buy you one (piece).”

The decorations have been put up every year, Hoile said, but in about 2000 the city considered replacing them.

“I don’t know if it was a money issue  or what, but it fell through,” he said.

When Franklin Street was reconstructed in 2008, the city changed the holiday decorations in downtown, opting to place twinkle lights on the trees lining the streets and garland and wreaths on the light poles.

But the city continued to make use of the vintage decorations, placing them on Wisconsin Street and Grand Avenue leading into downtown.

About 13 years ago, the decorations started to look “really ratty,” Hoile said. “The garland was worn out. The wiring was getting ratty. Bulbs were going out.”

And, he said, “Frosty needed a facelift.”

That’s where Gary Fischer, the street department worker who Hoile said is the “keeper of decorations,” came in.

Fischer, he noted, works on the decorations each year, hauling them out of storage in late October and making sure they are in good shape and still light up.

But this was a little more extensive a project. Fischer ordered new garland and lights, then wrapped them around the frames, taking care to preserve the character of each piece.

He also gave Frosty a much needed fiberglass patch to ensure his smiling face would grace the streets for years to come.

“They’re back in their vintage state,” Hoile said. “They’re all in relatively good shape.”

And, he said, they should last for years to come, noting they are hung up every year not long after Veterans Day and stay up until after the Epiphany in January before being placed in storage for the bulk of the year.

  “Everyone looks forward to seeing them come out in November,” Hoile said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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