In these frozen and silent nights
Sometimes in a dream you appear…
Our hearts were singing
It felt like Christmastime
Two thousand miles
Is very far through the snow
I’ll think of you
Wherever you go
–2,000 Miles, The Pretenders
Ten years ago, I purchased some vintage Bucilla Christmas decorations at a local estate sale. The felt ornaments (Wizard of Oz characters) and a Christmas tree wall hanging were bedazzled with an array of colorful sequins and beads. I immediately fell in love with them because they reminded me of the Christmas stockings my family had when I was a kid. They were cut from red and white felt and were decorated with bells, reindeer, birds and candy canes. From these stockings came my earliest childhood memories of life in Southern California.
Every year when I put up my Bucilla decorations my mind sorts through a virtual album of fading Ecktacolor photos of vintage Los Angeles. I remember the city and its endless sea of suburbs and how they mounted glittery garland trees and wreaths to utility poles. They created canopies of Christmas lights with stars and bells that swayed over city streets.
It was a magical time for me. Those years before my siblings left home and I entered the soul-crushing doom of adolescence. Now, I am older and these precious memories are like a street-vendor watercolor that’s hung in the living room for too long. The sun and the days broke through the curtain of my mind and faded the colors, though I can still see my father’s smile. And the Christmas stockings that belonged to my parents, my sisters, my brother, me — without the vintage decorations created from Bucilla kits to spark my memory, I’m not sure I would remember them as well as I do.
About Bucilla and Bernhard Ulmann
According to Plaid Online, Bucilla was founded in 1867, 100 years before I was born, by Bernhard Ulmann. The European emigrant sold doilies and handkerchiefs from a pushcart on the streets of New York. He opened his first and only retail store in 1875. The company was first known as Bernhard Ulmann Company, Incorporated (Lace, Linen, and Accessories), but was shortened to the acronym BUCILLA. It grew steadily and was well-known for quality products and designs, including knitting, embroidery and needlepoint supplies. It soon became the premier leader of the “fragmented industry.”
Through the years, Ulmann’s company changed hands and names numerous times. Today, it is part of the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, but vintage Christmaas kits live on. They were first marketed in the 1960s, nearly 100 years after Ulmann managed that pushcart. Today, they remain highly sought after items on eBay and Etsy.
I’m so glad I found the completed Bucilla kits at that estate sale back in 2005. Every Christmas I think about the lady who made them. She’d passed away and her heirs were selling off all her things. I couldn’t believe how easily they let go of the bejeweled felt applique art, but they did. Their loss was my gain. I’m now the keeper of her decorations and hold in my hand the fruits of her time. It was not wasted. Nor was it wasted during the difficult pushcart years when Bernhard Ulmann started the Bucilla brand. His entrepreneurial adventure would lead to generations of Christmas memories all across America.