By Kepper Petzig | Contributing Writer
It started with a string of lights. Jack and Georgene Wallis had no idea of the Christmas obsession that would descend upon them. They were high school sweethearts from Puyallup, Washington. After they got married, Jack joined the army and Georgene followed him to Germany. As Jack was finishing his 15-year military service in 1990, Georgene and their new baby Jordann moved into their Concordia house off of Ainsworth. There were no decorations that first Christmas.
Jack joined Georgene and Jordann the next year. That Christmas they did a simple outline of their house in lights. Over the years they added second daughter Justene–and a whole lot of Christmas decorations. They hunt through Goodwill and look for sales. A new piece or two each year for 32 years really adds up.
Today their Christmas decorations draw onlookers from across the city. They get lots of outdoor visitors, including at times a tour bus and a limousine. Sometimes they get thank you cards and once, a little girl brought them cookies. One family hosts their annual family Christmas picture in front of the display.
“I think you can see it from the air when the planes come to land at PDX,” jokes Jack. Neighbors call it Peacock Lane (Portland’s festive “Christmas street” between SE Stark and Belmont) in one house.
The Wallis’ have a strict rule – Christmas decorations are turned on December 1st and have their last night December 31st. Jack admits that the motivation to begin set-up gets harder each year. His bones are aging. But, once he starts, the joy kicks in. Jack is the master artist, rearranging things each year to keep it fresh. Jordann and Justene critique the final display. Last year his kids banned Jack from the highly sloped roof. It hurts his heart because “that is where Santa and Rudolph truly belong.”
The inside is not neglected. They always have a big Christmas tree, visible through the window, and every room is decorated. Over the years they added an audiovisual display. To be respectful of the surrounding houses, Jack keeps the sound low and turns everything off at 10 pm.
It’s not just an artistic puzzle to fit everything in, but a practical one as well. To keep the breakers from tripping, each display is on a timer because the system can’t handle all of them at once. Georgene handles the invisible parts, such as changing the light bulbs. It takes about 24 hours, spread over several days, to set it up and 8 hours or less to take it down and store it away for next year. How big is the electric bill? “We don’t look.”
Like proud parents, Jack and Georgene decline picking a favorite decoration. All are loved. Jack says they just want to spread the joy and help to create memories. Stop by and see Concordia’s Christmas house at 5840 NE 32nd Avenue (not Place) this holiday season.
Kepper Petzing has lived in Concordia for 40 years, where, with their partner Lowen, they raised two children. They are nonbinary. They love community and are grateful for Concordia News.