The Great Christmas Outdoor Decoration Tragedy of 1981

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Here's one way to avoid this situation. (photographer unknown)


It started out in Omaha in 1964


Melvin Johnson hung a metal wreath on his front  door

In ’65 his neighbor put some reindeer on his lawn

Melvin spit upon the ground and said, “The game is on”


Next year came a string of lights, flashing red and green

The neighbor answered right away with a life-sized manger scene

He thought that was the end of it but much to his dismay

Up on Melvin’s roof he saw a Santa and his sleigh


Every year they added more, the competition grew

People came from far and wide to see what they would do

Melvin put up miles of blinking lights around his place

His neighbor had a laser show that you could see from space


They filled their yards with palace guards

And great big model trains

Dancing elves and silver bells

And ten-foot candy canes


Then one foggy Christmas Eve it all came crashing down

When Melvin caused a blackout in Nebraska’s biggest town

He tapped into a power line to get some extra juice

With an evil laugh he threw the switch and then all hell broke loose


The thousand-watt transformer exploded on the pole

The Christmas decoration war had blown out of control

From ho ho ho to Silent Night, the whole damn thing was gone

Just then Melvin’s neighbor turned his generator on


It choked and spit and sputtered but it lit up his displays

Till a random spark floating through the dark set Melvin’s house ablaze

The fire spread from room to room, the conflagration grew

The neighbor laughed until he saw his house was burning too


Local TV camera crews reported from the scene

The air was filled with toxic smoke from the burning polypropylene

The fire trucks responded but they didn’t have a chance

Reindeer fried and Santa died while the fire did its dance


Melvin and his neighbor got their pictures on TV

The Christmas Fire of ’81 would go down in history


Their houses burned down to the ground, with all of their displays

Except for a metal Christmas wreath that read “Happy Holidays”