Tree Holds a Lifetime of Holiday Memories

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Alla Priest with her Evergreen tree in what will be the 50-year-old Christmas tree's final year in her home.

Many households struggle with the selection of their Christmas tree, spending days and even weeks searching for the right tree to meet their needs and provide a centerpiece for holiday decorations. For Alla Priest of Marmaduke, this hasn't been a concern, as she's had an ideal tree for the past 50 Christmases.

Originally purchased in 1964 from the long-since-gone Otasco store in Paragould, Priest's Evergreen plastic Christmas tree appears today much as it did when it was first taken out of the box those many years ago. The six foot tree, carefully maintained and stored in its original box while awaiting display each year, was one of the earliest artificial trees created for mass distribution. The design worked well, as Priest's tree remains a beautiful delight to this day.

"Each branch is still perfectly in place," Priest proudly notes. "It's almost like it was when it was brand new. It doesn't look like its 50-years-old, but it is. Some of the ornaments on there are ones I had when we first got the tree."

Alla Priest's tree is still stored in its original box when not on display for the Christmas holiday. The box, much like the tree it houses, remains in remarkable shape 50 years after its purchase.

Priest, 83, served as president of the local Home Demonstration Club when she first purchased the tree. At the time, some thought the artificial tree was an interesting novelty. All these years later, though, Priest's Evergreen tree has proven to be much, much more.

The tree was a part of the Priest family's Christmas celebrations. Alla and her late husband Donald, whom she lost this past October, and the couple's son Gary spent many hours together around the tree, enjoying the holidays as a family. The tree remained beautiful as Gary, who was 13 when it was first purchased, had two children of his own. The age-defying Evergreen stayed with the family through the arrival of two great-grandchildren. Each branch has been carefully positioned, creating a full appearance with which to carefully hold eye-catching ribbons, pearl-styled garland and beautiful family ornaments.

"We've all enjoyed it," Priest said of the tree's presence. "It's held up all these years, so there was no point in getting a different one. I don't think anyone would have wanted a different tree, either. We were all attached to this one."

The tree has certainly been a good investment for the family.

"It cost $15," Priest recalls. "That was a big price back then. It was certainly worth it, looking back now."

Priest says this will mark the final year she uses the tree, though.

"It's to the point where it's almost too much for me to handle on my own," she said. "It took me all day to get it in the house and decorate it this year. It usually doesn't take that, but it did this year because I'm older now."

Priest says she has no immediate plans for the tree following the holiday, but wouldn't be surprised if it continued to be a family tradition, being passed on for future use.

"It's been with us for so long and that just seems like the thing to do," she said.

While the tree has come to serve as a symbol for the holiday, Priest points out the true magic of the season comes from the family's faith and love, which they are able to share year-round. She would like to remind everyone to "enjoy the things that truly matter and make a difference" this holiday, noting the people gathered around a Christmas tree are much more special than the gifts found under it.

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