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O, Christmas Trees! : Family Has 18 Artificial Ones in Holiday Collection

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When you consider everything else the Watsons have stuffed into their three-bedroom house in Santa Clarita, their response to daughter Julie’s tree allergy is not all that remarkable.

But, then again, 18 artificial Christmas trees do raise a few eyebrows.

So do walls covered from floor to ceiling with hundreds of 45-r.p.m. records, comic books and mounted Elvis plates, corners filled with jukeboxes and soda machines, and shelves lined with gaily painted lunch boxes, Freddy Krueger dolls and “Star Wars” toys.

“I wanted our children to grow up with a sense of fun and outrageousness,” said Debbie Watson, a 37-year-old homemaker, of 12-year-old Tom and 9-year-old Julie. “Besides, my husband, Brian, collects everything, so I really didn’t have a choice.

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“When he comes home from a garage sale, and I hear the double doors to the house open, I know I’m in trouble.”

That’s an understatement.

Brian’s “habit,” as the 38-year-old supermarket clerk calls it, branched into artificial trees when the couple discovered three years ago that Julie was allergic to pine trees. Julie’s sniffling and sneezing axed the family ritual of cutting down a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, he said.

“We had to find a happy medium where no one felt gypped,” Brian said.

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To the Watsons, 18 artificial trees, 60 boxes of decorations and enough figurines to stock a china shop represent a happy medium.

Most people would call it a Christmas orgy.

There’s the silver tree that Brian found at a garage sale for $3. It rotates and plays “Silent Night.” Nine stuffed Ninja Turtle dolls decorate a graceful green number in the corner of the living room. Lava lamps made in the 1960s bubble like an aquarium on a tree in another corner, while a toy train races around the base of yet another plastic pine. But the piece de resistance for the Watson children is the King Kong doll mounted atop the tallest tree in the dining room. It roars when you clap your hands.

Brian was bitten by the collecting bug 15 years ago when he saw the first jukebox he just had to have at garage sale. He is now apt to collect just about anything, although he is particularly partial to toys and records. His collection, including the Christmas paraphernalia, is worth thousands of dollars, and he he cannot bear to part with a single item, his wife said.

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“I told him, ‘You’re going to have to get me a bigger house,’ ” Debbie said.

The Christmas assortment has grown so large that the Watsons and their “elves,” children who live nearby, begin decorating in November to get everything up in time. They paper the doors with Christmas wrapping, cover coffee tables with cotton for snow and assemble the trees. Two plastic snowmen grace on the front lawn.

Despite the unusual effect the rest of the collection lends to the house, the “worst thing is after Christmas when we take it all down,” Tom said. “Everything looks so dull.”


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