Different holiday, but winning Port Richmond couple uses same ornate decorating style to capture spirit of the season.
By Melissa Komar
If you thought the Olingers’ elaborate Nativity scene display was something special, you should check out spooky spectacular in their bay window on Thompson Street.
Ron and Jackie Olinger have decorated their homes since getting married in 1960, first in Kensington, and then Port Richmond since they moved to the 3300 block of E. Thompson Street in 1981.
Every year, the Olingers’ three sons, Melvin, Mark and Michael, and grandson, Mark, spend a day in November decorating the interior of the couple’s home for Christmas.
The intricate Nativity scene, complete with hand-painted ceramics, is the finishing touch and isn’t decorated until a month before Dec. 25.
And, just because the season changes, doesn’t mean the Olingers pack up their affinity for displaying unique ornaments and animatronics collected over the years.
When September rolls around, their sons and grandson roll out the same routine, but for Halloween.
“They say we don’t need anything else and then, before you know it, we’re buying something else, like the alien,” said Jackie Olinger, 76, laughing. “They say, ‘You don’t have any more room,’ and I say, ‘I’ll make room. I’ll find room.’ ”
Jackie’s pride and joy of this year’s display, the “alien,” is enclosed in a 6-foot capsule and lights up in an eerie green light and stands next to the Olingers’ couch in the living room.
“The alien really caught my eye last year. I had to have it,” she said. “That’s the display. We couldn’t even get one in a box. But, Ron put it all together and we didn’t have any instructions.”
The Olingers purchased the display model from Spirit of Halloween at the end of last year’s holiday.
But, there’s so much more than the intergalactic world at work in the Olingers’ home.
There’s a dancing Frankenstein that could pass as the couple’s dancing Santa in disguise that shakes his hips to various Halloween-themed songs, including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
There are three crypt keeper-looking butlers serving skulls by the stairs, whom Ron, 84, jokingly refers to as “the three sons,” referencing his own children.
Next to the alien is an animated “Zultan” fortune teller that Jackie likens to the movie “Big.”
And, there’s a werewolf that croons out the lyrics, “Boogie Man.” In his lap sits a mini werewolf the couple won from a crane game in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. He holds a handwritten note by Ron that reads, “I love my Daddy, Signed, Wolf Boy.”
There are electronic figures of all the classic Halloween movies, including Jason, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
A Medusa head that speaks as snakes slither from her head sits next to them.
The oldest decorations are Jackie’s hand-painted ceramics, from witches and ghosts to an entire haunted house.
“I made those in the ’60s and ’70s. I was really into ceramics. I had a kiln and everything,” Olinger said. “I have so many pieces downstairs. I gave them away as gifts. I would paint them, and people would always have me put the eyes on whatever they were doing.”
Her decorating traditions date as far as the ceramics and stay the same every year.
Except this year.
The Olingers’ sons, along with their families, leave for a cruise in a couple of weeks and will take the Halloween decorations down and put the interior Christmas decorations up on Nov. 3.
The timeline for the window displays, the crown jewels, is set in stone.
The bay window has a plastic haunted house backdrop, its windows illuminated. An illuminated ghost stands in the center, surrounded by various ceramics and figurines from E.T. to Chewbaca to the Tales from the Crypt crypt keeper to Casper holding candles.
“They do it when they have time. So, I let them do the inside when they want, but I don’t do the window until 30 days before Halloween. I like to get a month out of my window,” Jackie said. “As far as the decorations inside, I let them do it when they can because we could never do it.”
“We only eat Thanksgiving dinner, we don’t decorate for it,” said Sue Olinger, Jackie’s daughter-in-law, laughing.
Laughter is as plentiful as the decorations in the Olinger household.
“Ron would leave this stuff all-year round,” said Jackie, laughing. “I love it. We’re just like little kids at heart.”