As the first sign of decay is barely visible on your Jack-O-lanterns, Ardmore neighbors on Watson Avenue in Winston-Salem are making plans for one of the area’s oldest holiday traditions: the Watson Avenue of Trees!
Shining through war, weather and recession!
Watson Avenue branches off Hawthorne Road’s east end and boasts plenty of Ardmore charm, along with a unique parklike median stretching from the 800 block to the very tip past Deborah Lane. Beginning in 1942, some holiday-minded neighbors decided to light one large evergreen on each block, 4 in total, with bright, glowing bulbs. Organized mostly by men who worked for Western Electric, these resourceful neighbors even managed to work out a deal with the power company to install electrical outlets in the medians near the four largest trees so that lights could be plugged in. Continuing to this day, Duke Power turns on the power to those poles in early December and turns them off after the first of the year. Nothing has ever prevented the trees from being lit – not war, weather, or recession! And you can bet 2020 will be no different.
It takes a village!
Duke may supply the power, but Watson neighbors chip in to pay the light bill each year for the trees. One year, a yard sale was held and all funds collected went to the power fund for the trees. Collecting the funds can be a challenging task due to the transient nature of Ardmore. Not all neighbors are there to stay or have a passion for it, like some of the long-time residents do. But the determined handful that drag out their ladders and make trips to the store for more bulbs are a joyful group! “It took several years of watching before I felt too guilty not to go out there and help,” said Ben Stamey. Stamey (on far right in photo) moved to Watson Avenue in 1983 and remembers meeting his neighbor, Harold Wingert. Mr. Wingert was known as “The Mayor of Watson Avenue,” and he was always the first to tell a new neighbor about the tradition and kindly encourage their participation. The Renegars still laugh about how Mr. Wingert approached them on the very day they moved in, while they were still unloading boxes! Now Ben and Bobby, along with Tom Shaver, also pictured, are the unofficial Tree Elves of the 900 block!
The advent of the LED lights has helped to cut down on the cost of the power and every once in a while, a particularly festive neighbor will add an inflatable or additional decorations to their block! The 1100 block has a particularly charming vintage Santa that keeps company with that block’s tree.
Although Watson Avenue lost Mr. Wingert 2 days after Christmas in 2015, neighbors honor his memory by stringing lights and waiting for the power to come on so that the Watson Avenue of Trees can delight neighbors and visitors alike once again!