Note: This is an archive of "Papa" Ted Althof's online tribute to cardboard Christmas "putz" houses and their history. At Ted's request, this archive was established in early 2012. Except for critical updates and announcements, it will remain as Ted left it in October, 2012.
For more information, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

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Always need more Christmas pictures from this era, so if you have old photos from this time, they'd certainly be appreciated!

Again - large-scale blowups will not be available for many of these, but are included
if they were to be had.
World War II Macy's store window
I have an uncle just 7 years older. more like an older brother, born in 1934. He remembers the Christmases of World War II as the pits for kids on Christmas morning. No trains. No bikes or BB-guns. Nothing electric or made of metal. Only wood or cardboard or things made out of glue and sawdust pressed together. Hard times getting food or gas, - tires and radio tubes near impossible, meat and sugar - almost everything was tightly rationed.
Bleak as times look now, we just have no idea ....
old battered Christmas light strings

I used to be appalled at finding old light strings like these, all gummed up with tapes, bare wires showing, sockets missing. Most of these are Depression era, worn and patched beyond the danger point and it's obvious that people were actually using stuff like this! "How cheap can some people be?" I thought! But now I think that they were simply trying to keep this junk alive, because you just couldn't get anything to replace it with for The Duration. No Christmas lights were being made by anyone. Noma and the rest were all converted into war production.

So now I wonder - just how many Christmas-tree-fire casualties did the "Japs" and Nazis inadvertently inflict upon our civilian population via this Wartime shortage situation?

1941 Christmas store window

A store window, Dec. 1941.
Tell your folks to buy every Christmas light in that window, kid, because you won't be able to get any in '42, - '43, - '44, - '45 ....


 A.C. Gilbert factory 1941
December 1941: The A.C. Gilbert factory in New Haven, CT. Yes, the "Erector" Set Gilbert. who bought out the old Chicago American Flyer train company around 1938 and added electric trains to his other lines. But he did not use their train designs - just the old and venerated name. Up until the month seen here, he made a rather odd line of 3-rail trains in 0-gauge, but in 3/16 scale that are not especially sought by collectors. It's thought by some that this was done to use up stocks of track and accessories that came with the Chicago Flyer purchase. In 1946 he came out with his S-gauge, two-rail line of trains, still best known and favored as "American Flyer." Here a girl assembles a number of the last of the Gilbert Flyer 3-rail, 0-gauge engines. Looks like the model #565.

A.C.Gilbert factory 1942
February 1942: The A.C. Gilbert Factory - just weeks later. The same girl and another now assemble parachute flare cannisters for the War, using the same electric screwdrivers that had been used in making trains.

World war II Christmas toys
War toys at Christmas
1941. Typical of the sort of things kids got in Wartime - mostly wood or paper.

Woolworth store Christmas 1941
A Woolworth's in 1941. Washington DC. Oh, do I remember those foil covered paper bells! Looks like an awful jangle, a rush to find anything at all for Christmas.

Woolworth's store Christmas 1941
1941 - Same store.
1941 Woolworth's at Christmas
We see no Christmas village houses in these pictures already in 1941.
See also -
* WW II *

Woolworth's at Christmas 1941
"I found a million-dollar baby - in a five and ten cent store..."

 Macy's New York 1942 Santa Claus
Macy's Santa in 1942:
This must have been a bitter-sweet job to have in '42, gently lowering those bright-eyed expectations..

Macy New York 1942 Christmas store 
This is one of Macy's windows that same December of 1942.

Macy's New York Christmas 1942 hobby 
1942 also. Macy's, also. The picture was captioned "The $100 Hobby Horse." Perhaps the last of some things that still had some metal in them. People were desperate to find toys for their kids. One year my Dad tried to make a little extra cash by making wooden machine guns with a clothespin ratchet clapper and marble pin-ball games in the basement. They nearly tore our doors down. War production had employment at 100% and jobs were going begging. Everyone had money; there was nothing to buy with it. Just War Bonds....

World War II sailors wrapping 
Christmas gifts
Caption: Washington, D.C. A sailor getting some help in wrapping his Christmas gifts at the United Nations service center. (Dec. 1943)

vintage Christmas village photo
Rob Schoeberlein sent me these photos taken by an Annapolis photographer name of Rudolph Torovsky of his own modest Christmas garden ca. 1942-44. Rob is with the Maryland State Archives. This is not a huge display, but is very interesting in that it shows that people kept their prewar putz items despite the intense anti-Japanese feeling of the times. Of course many people did. Otherwise we'd not have had the survivals that we now collect from the prewar era.

vintage Christmas village photo
I see the small gray castle in my own collection. Actually I have all three houses, and lots of those ubitquitous celluloid reindeer that I still adore.

1943 Christmas photo
"Hello Ted,
Thanks for your interest in my photos. The first , as I mentioned, was the first Christmas for me, Carole Ann Sanders and for my cousin , Jimmy Campbell in 1943. Our mothers and we lived with our grandparents in Todd County, Kentucky, while our fathers were "overseas". I assume the dolls were mine and the horse belonged to Jimmy. We each had wooden grasshoppers. It must have lasted a long time , as I still remember that grasshopper.
Carole Bailey"
(By golly, I think I remember those grasshoppers, too!)
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Copyright 2000-2012 Theodore H. Althof,Jr.Except where noted, the contents of this website and all it's pages and submissions therein contained are the intellectual property of Theodore H.Althof,Jr. All rights are reserved. (Background musical selections are,of course, excepted.)

This archive was set up at Ted's request in early 2012, and, except for critical updates and
announcements, will remain as Ted left it in October, 2012.
The archive is kept online with the help of volunteers from the following affiliated sites and resources:
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit our collection of resources for collecting, restoring, and making your own cardboard Christmas houses. Return to the OldChristmasTreeLights Welcome page Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Visit Papa Ted Althof's extensive history and collection of putz houses, the largest and most complete such resource on the Internet. Craft and collectibles blog with local news of Croton NY.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Visit the Internet's largest resource on choosing and displaying Christmas trains. Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages.
Learn about backyard railroading with Family Garden Trains
Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
Resources for O gauge and On30 model railroading
- Music -
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips. Own a guitar, banjo, or mandolin?  Want to play an instrument?  Tips to save you money and time, and keep your instrument playable.
The struggles and influences of early Jesus Musicians and others who laid the groundwork for the Christian music and worship that is part of our lives today.