After Complaint Over Lights, Alabama Town Celebrates Christmas In March
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
It's almost St. Patrick's Day, but people in Homewood, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, are getting a second round of Christmas. That's because someone complained about an elderly resident keeping his Christmas lights up too long, as Melanie Peeples reports.
MELANIE PEEPLES, BYLINE: It all started with a note - and not a very nice note - slipped into 73-year-old Mr. Frank's mailbox. Everybody calls him Mr. Frank. It claimed to be written by a group of his neighbors concerned about property values. Standing outside her own house across from Mr. Frank's, Kris Griffin reads the rest of the note.
KRIS GRIFFIN: It might be in your best interest to consider selling your home so the yard can be properly landscaped and the house torn down so a new one can be built that is more fitting with the other homes on the street. Thank you. All right, there is so much wrong with this letter.
PEEPLES: For starters, there's nothing wrong with Mr. Frank's yard or house. It is an older, smaller home in a neighborhood where many of the 80-something-year-old houses have been added onto or torn down to make way for new homes that sell for more than $700,000. But at any rate, the note wasn't signed. And when Kris found out about it, she got mad. She asked her neighbors if anyone knew who was behind it. None of them did. And after seeing the note themselves, they all got fired up.
GRIFFIN: Well, if Christmas lights bother them, we just going to show them some Christmas lights. I'm going to go get my Christmas lights right now right.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Yeah.
GRIFFIN: Everybody started saying that.
LINDSAY RHODES: And she did. And so did another neighbor and then another. Next thing you know, people who normally take down Christmas decorations by New Year's were climbing into attics or down into basements, pulling out and putting up lights. People from across town heard about it and started driving their kids around at night to see them. Two streets over, Lindsay Rhodes went even further and put up a 16-foot inflatable movie character in her front yard.
RHODES: We decided what better way to honor Mr. Frank than to pull out Darth Vader (laughter). Take that letter writers.
PEEPLES: For many like Lindsay, this simple act felt like something they could finally do to send a bigger message to the world.
RHODES: The country as a whole kind of has some bullying issues that are continual. And by showing our support kind of even just in this small way, kind of the - start with a local perspective - I think we can try to move past that feeling like we are helpless.
PEEPLES: Lindsay is expecting her first child in May, but Kris has five.
GRIFFIN: We spend all of our time teaching our kids not to bully each other and to treat other people with respect and that sort of thing. And then here an adult is doing it. It's just unbelievable.
PEEPLES: As she stands on her corner, talking about how people who don't even know Mr. Frank have joined in, a driver calls out Merry Christmas as he passes. Another pulls up and stops.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That is wonderful what y'all are doing, sticking together.
GRIFFIN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes. God bless y'all (laughter), all right.
PEEPLES: Mr. Frank, who's a bit shy and did not want to be interviewed or even give his last name, is a little overwhelmed with all the attention. In fact, he's taken down his lights. But his neighbors are holding out, sending a message to the world for just a little bit longer. For NPR News, I'm Melanie Peeples in Homewood, Ala.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS IN JULY")
JONATHAN COULTON: (Singing) I wish we were having Christmas in July - no winter anymore, warm breezes by the shore, long days beneath the summery sky. Santa doesn't have to hurry to leave town. There's nothing here but time, gin tonic and some lime. He'll probably stick around. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.