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Christmas Goes Metallic in North Carolina

The town of Brevard lies deep in the North Carolina mountains, surrounded by great, green pine forests and Christmas tree farms.

That makes Stephen Jackson's hobby especially ironic. Mr. Jackson, who designs homes in Brevard, has been collecting aluminum Christmas trees since their glory days of the 1950s and '60s. To some folks, the shiny trees were the epitome of seasonal loveliness. To others . . . the height of tasteless gaudiness.

After all, Brenda Lee never sang, "Rockin' around the aluminum Christmas tree!"

You couldn't string lights on them, because the aluminum needles melted and caused electrical shorts. Instead, rotating color wheels on the floor projected red, blue, pink and green beams up onto the branches. Stephen Jackson collected these wheels, too -- and a couple thousand ornaments that he admits are almost as tacky as the trees. Each Yuletide, he displays his 62 aluminum trees at the college in Brevard and in Nashville, Tennessee. The decorations always have a theme. This year it's music. One tree has nothing but Elvis Presley ornaments.

Aluminum trees are hard to find these days. You can get real conifers or fake ones made out of plastic. Like pink flamingo lawn ornaments and big cars with tailfins, aluminum Christmas trees are a reminder of a time when people weren't afraid to show bad taste.