Christmas wonderland

Winning Port Richmond home captures the spirit of the season with elaborate nativity scene, decades-old decorations and unique holiday novelties.

Jackie and Ron Olinger stand next to their nativity scene window display on Thompson Street in Port Richmond.

By Melissa Komar

Jackie and Ron Olinger were married in 1960 and have decorated for Christmas every year since.
Originally residents on E Street in Kensington, the couple moved to the 3300 block of Thompson Street in 1981, and not a Dec. 25 has passed without their wintry window display complete, their tree trimmed or the animatronics playing classic Christmas tunes.
Their living room and dining room area is a mini Christmas museum, with vintage melted plastic popcorn candy canes adorning the walls and plastic candy cane garland from the 1960s strung around the ceiling.
“It gets better every year. Things keep getting added,” Jackie said. “But they don’t make the ornaments like this anymore.”
In 1987, the display consisted of mainly hand-painted ceramic pieces, one of Olinger’s hobbies turned holiday tradition.
With all the decorations that have been added over the years, the ceramics stayed stored in the basement, but there’s a small photo album with photos of each creation.

Beaded and bright: A beaded airplane made by Jackie Olinger is hung on the family Christmas tree.

In their place is an electronic Christmas village, a life-size dancing Santa, a cut-out fiberglass Jukebox that plays a variety of tunes, a Santa hotline phone and countless other Christmas treasures including an electronic Santa who walks up and down a ladder hanging lights.
There’s no need to turn on the radio to listen to sounds of the season; nearly every object and ornament plays one or multiple Christmas classics.
The older decorations show some wear and tear, but it’s nothing some TLC can’t fix.
“Some of them are torn and ragged, even the reindeer that Melvin puts up, he has them taped and fixes them every year,” Jackie said, motioning to the sleighing scene ascending the stairs, “because you can’t get them anywhere else.”
Jackie and Ron pick up each object, telling the story behind it and when it was purchased.
The display is too large for one person to complete alone, and the Olingers’ sons Michael, 52, Mark, 55, and Melvin, 56, and grandson, Mark, 29, have helped “ever since they were born,” Ron joked.
The ornaments on the tree span from the Hallmark Toy Story series to beaded stockings handmade by Jackie.
Every year, the Olingers, their sons and grandson spend a day decorating, and while the mood is always lighthearted, Jackie has some basic rules in place.
“They did it early, but I wouldn’t let them light the window,” she said. “My mother always said that you don’t do that until after Thanksgiving. It was just a tradition.”
The decorations would be a mainstay all year round, but remain “til’ they make me take them down,” Ron joked, which is Little Christmas, Jan. 6.
The window display is the crown jewel of the entire display.

The winning window display features a nativity creche that spans several platforms. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

A nativity creche spans multiple wooden platforms, with lights spread among ceramic figurines highlighting their expressions.
Donkeys and sheep graze in the tiny-scale town of Bethlehem, some hand-painted by Jackie.
A single star is hung in the middle, illuminating the scene below.
The Olingers created other window displays over the years, but the nativity scene has been a standard for at least 10 years and it’s been the most moving.
“I did have a couple people put notes in my door, thanking me [for the display], but they never said who they were,” Olinger said. “It was so touching for me. And, I look forward to the window every year.”