A Yule Glow All His Own

A Yule Glow All His Own - 1965-12-24

Camden Courier-Post – December 24, 1965

By Mary Archibald, Courier-Post Staff

A Christmas tree with 1,000 lights has been among the local seasonal highlights for 50 years. But many who knock at Emmanuel Schaeffer’s door at 449 Benson Street are unaware that he cleans and re-dyes each bulb by hand.

“I’ve been told I’m the only person in the United States who does this,” the 88-year-old retired Reading Railroad engineer said as he showed “before” and “after” strings of bulbs. The standard opaque bulb paled when next to a rich-toned re-dyed one.

“The bulbs today are frosted. I don’t like them so well,” he said. “So first I take off all that with paint cleaner.

“You have to use the cleaner outside,” he continued. “The fumes are strong. I used to use alcohol to take off the dye but that doesn’t work too well anymore.”

Proud of Hue

The final step? “I put my stuff on them,” he said.

Schaeffer is proud of the red hue he has developed by dipping bulbs first in canary yellow dye and then in purple. He uses a specially prepared lacquer which preserves the bulb’s transparent appearance.

To demonstrate his technique, Schaeffer held a little glass filled with purple lacquer to a string of yellow-dyed bulbs on metal racks in the basement. Presto, a scarlet beauty!

“I give them two dips of the yellow and two of the purple. They dry in about two hours,” he explained.

Tree Trimmed

Schaeffer’s 10-foot tree is trimmed with 25 strings of scarlet bulbs, 25 purple, 25 green and 25 blue.

“The yellow is too flashy for the tree. We just use some of those for the chandeliers.”

The tale of the tree first was spread by church and Eastern Star groups. He then attracted Mayor Alfred R. Pierce and city councilmen.

A letter from the mayor several years ago read in part: “I am sure that had there been a contest for Christmas trees, you certainly would have fared very well. Your… willingness to have many people participate in sharing the joy of the Christmas season is really significant.

Only one bulb burned out last year during the six weeks the Schaeffer tree stood in the parlor. In previous years 25 to 30 had gone out. “I used two extra sockets to cut down the voltage used,” Schaeffer commented.

Star of Lights

A Schaffer-designed star of lights in the window delights many passers-by nearly as much as the tree. About 20 years ago, he be-

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