Starkwood neighbors shine in Holiday tradition

INCLUDES COLORFUL VIDEO | If you haven’t seen the ‘Peacock Lane of outer East Portland’, go take a look – and be amazed at how they’ve brightly and imaginatively liy up their unique area inside Hazelwood …

In the Hazelwood neighborhood, along SE 111th Avenue, homes in the Starkwood Homeowners’ Association shine forth for the Holidays!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Over more than two decades, East Portland News has covered breaking news and feature stories – but, somehow, the 60-year tradition of brilliant Holiday decorating done by residents of the Starkwood Homeowners’ Association (SHA) escaped our attention.

That is, until this year – when long-time resident, and current SHA Treasurer, Michael Hamel brought it to our attention.

“We are a small homeowner’s association within the Hazelwood neighborhood; just 38 homes along SE 111th Avenue, running north of Stark Street,” Hamel explained. “It’s a dead-end street that includes three cul-de-sacs – Ash Street, Ankeny Street, and Pine Court.

“We consider ourselves like ‘Peacock Lane’ in how we decorate!”

It’s better seen in person; but, here – if it’s new to you too, take our tour, produced in 4K High Definition video of these wonderful Holiday decorations and be inspired to visit, in person:

This grouping of homes was built during the late 1950s by “Evan Homes”, in “Swedish Modern” style — in mid-Multnomah County, two blocks west of what became Venture Park, before it was annexed into the City of Portland.

“Since that first year we have annually lit our homes, and many people drive through it during the Holidays,” Hamel said.

Shares Holiday decorating memories

Honoring their former neighbors, the Hamel family continues to keep a decades-old tradition alive by landing Santa and his Reindeer in their side yard.

Hamel mentioned that he, and his wife Melissa, have been Starkwood residents for 46 years. When they first moved in, neighbors introduced themselves, and told them about the Holiday decorating tradition.

Over time the neighbors, Louise and Rudy, developed difficulties storing their Christmas decorations. “We stepped in and stored them for her,” Hamel recalled. “Since then we put Santa and the Reindeer out between our houses. To this day, we continue to honor them by putting Santa and the Reindeer in our side yard between our homes.”

The Schulz’s Winter Wonderland

This panoramic photo doesn’t do justice to the stunning splendor of the Schultz residence’s decorations.

During our opening night visit on December 19, Hamel suggested we meet Starkwood neighbors Deb and Jeff Schulz, who live near the northern end of SE 111th Avenue.

“It’s true, we go ‘hog-wild’ with our decorating,” Deb admitted. “But, we’re not quite as extreme as the Griswold’s, as in the movie [National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation].”

Before they moved to Starkwood a dozen years ago, Deb said they lived on SE 44th Avenue on the edge of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. “There, we always decorated like crazy. When we moved out of that house, our realtor told me that she had a house coming on the market in outer East Portland where everyone decorates for Christmas! We were really happy that we were able to get this house.”

Standing by the nativity scene, constructed by Jeff and painted by Deb Schultz, the couple show off their handiwork.

Yes, two nativity scenes
Uniquely, the Schulz family has two nativity scenes on display.

“Let’s start with the one in the next-door neighbor’s yard,” said Deb. “That Nativity scene was originally at the base of Mount Tabor on SE 60th Avenue and Harrison Court. After fifty years, the owners decided they weren’t going to put it up anymore. I asked for it because it’s Christmas decoration that I remember, from driving around looking at decorations. Although they weren’t going to put it up anymore, its owners told us they weren’t going to sell it or give it away – and that all the pieces would be stored in neighbors’ basements.

“So Jeff said let’s make our own!” exclaimed Deb. Jeff cut out the plywood forms, and she painted them.

Year after year, the couple kept adding to their own Nativity scene, adding new pieces each annually to their Nativity scene.

Deb continues the story: “When I was caring for my mother in her last three years, I remember sitting at the table painting our Nativity scene, with her there with me. It brings back those memories for me.

After the Schultz’s “rescued” and refinished this Nativity scene, originally displayed on SE Harrison Court for decades, it is now on display in Starkwood.

“After adding to the pieces each year to our Nativity scene, the people from Harrison Court called and said, ‘Okay you can have ours’. So, we went from house to house, where they were all stored, gathering up the pieces. We put them up in our current neighbor’s yard, because we just don’t have enough space in our yard for two Nativity scenes.”

The Schulz family yard features lots of colorful lighting – with a Gingerbread Village, and the Santa and his Reindeer tableau, and a caravan of Volkswagen vehicle decorations, to welcome the Volkswagen club that tours the neighborhood every year.

Other Starkwood neighbors comment
Preparing for our visit, Deb Schulz asked several neighbors to tell about their connection with the Starkwood Holiday decorating tradition. Their replies:

I love how the light illuminates the darkness, especially when it snows – then it looks like it’s almost daylight.

Keeping this Starkwood tradition going is just another special thing about our neighborhood.

It reminds me of riding in the back of our two-ton green Rambler station wagon in my pajamas, when I was little, as we drove around looking at the best Christmas lights with my family.

I love coming home in the dark to this beautiful neighborhood in December, and also looking out windows at night and seeing all the lights.

Some walk, others ride
Unlike hustle and bustle around Peacock Lane, the Starkwood Holiday Display is peaceful and tranquil. Some families park and walk through the neighborhood. Others dim their headlights and drive on through.

On opening night, during our visit, vehicles from a “low-rider” car club lined up to come through to enjoy the lights.

Providing variety, some Starkwood residents prefer more subtle and low-key Holiday decorating.

See the Starkwood subdivision homes lit for Christmas through January 1, 2024

From 5 until 11 p.m., all along SE 111th Avenue, north of SE Stark Street, homes will be lit up, including those in the three cul-de-sacs. It’s FREE to visit, but please respect the neighbors by being courteous.

For more information about the Starkwood Homeowner’s Association, see their Facebook page: CLICK HERE.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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