When guests walk into our lodge, they often wonder why we have a Christmas tree displayed all year long in our Great Room. Well, we'd wonder the same thing. The following is an article published in 1972 about this iconic Orchard Hill tree. - Pat and Darrell
Home Designed Yule Tree Stands Tall in La Habra Heights Home
By Estelle Burton
(Reprint from Star-Progress Women’s Section, December 21, 1972)
The heritage of a beautiful home designed family Christmas tree stands proudly in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Straube in La Habra Heights. The love, devotion and time that was spent on constructing this 75-year old tree cannot be described in a few words or just a glance. The Straubes, as they related some of the history behind it, seemed to bring the tree alive.
The artificial tree was made in 1911 by Great Grandfather Straube, and it was created as a result of Great Grandmother Straube setting her clothes afire (Santa Claus costume) at Christmas the year before. To prevent this from reoccurring Great Grandfather started Thanksgiving night to construct his tree and at Christmas time it was completed.
The tree needles were from string and twisted on wire by a lathe and all the wiring was done internally. The branches, limbs and candle lamps were made from wood and brass. The bird bath, fountain, street lamps, wagon and cart are all solid brass. The tree is wired and turns when switched on. It is ten feet tall.
The scene at the base depicts the turn of the century everyday living at home and on the farm. The little house built on the tree table is an exact scale replica of the home the Straube family lived in when they moved to California in 1901. The family had lived in St. Louis until a tornado demolished their home, and they decided to move West and settle down in Boyle Heights and the old place is still standing. The banana and palm trees were made by hand and each little palm was individually soldered. The white fence around the tree table was made from wire, bent to shape and painted white.
When the tree lights were turned on, the tree will turn, and the house lights up, street lamps go on, the fountain spouts water, and the boat rows on the pond. No wires can be seen anywhere and all the parts were made for easy repairs. Great Grandfather Straube purchased the toy animals and bisque dolls in shops around Los Angeles. During that period the little animals, such as a pig, had pig skin glued on its body. The different skins were used for the various animals.
Great Grandfather Straube was a very creative gentleman. He made all the toys for his children, including a piano three feet tall and four feet long. He made cameras, radios, airplanes, a glider and photographs. He was born in 1871 and passed away in 1957. He had many talents and was very devoted to his family.
A few of the original ornaments are on the tree now and are over 100 years old and they were brought over from France by Great-Great-Great Grandparents. These ornaments are covered with wax from the early candle lit trees.
The tree has been stored for the past 12 years and this year Pat and Darrell decided to restore and decorate it. It took three weeks to assemble, repair and to get everything in the right place. Perhaps each year it will be assembled in the Straube home for their children, relatives and friends to view and enjoy.
Darrell’s Master’s thesis was titled “Resistance to Change.” Fitting his “half-empty” personality type, “embracing change” was not a subject I would have expected him to want to elaborate on. Around twenty or so years ago in a surprising shift, he declared that if one does not change, one might as well die. I ran with that thought.
There have been numerous changes at Orchard Hill recently. Lodge rooms seven and eight have been totally redecorated, and, if I must say, they are quite nice. Most of our cottage bathrooms now sport granite tops, allowing for greater counter space...and they look quite luxurious. While some might say that these rooms look much the same, Darrell can point to the innumerable changes over the years to each and every room.
Of much greater significance, we have a fabulous new Chef, Calvin. Those of you who have paid us a visit since Chef Doris left last July know firsthand that several frogs were kissed before discovering this prince! In a very short time Chef Calvin has made significant and very tasty changes to our menu. Utterly delicious braised short ribs, a new salad dressing, poached cod with dill and bay shrimp….oh my! All I can say is that it's so easy to embrace change when it tastes this good.