Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Wilber Ball won first Christmas home-decoration competition

December 21, 2018 | Then and Now

By Mark French

The Surveyor

The Berthoud Lions Club sponsored its first annual Christmas home-decoration competition in December 1950. That year 867 residents lived within the town limits of Berthoud and the junior-senior high school (with a senior class of 18 students) was located at the northwest corner of Ninth Street and Massachusetts Avenue. The Lions wisely decided not to judge the contest themselves but to select a team of judges from nearby communities.

Following the competition the Berthoud Bulletin reported, “Judges from Johnstown, Longmont, and Loveland picked the best displays among Christmas home decorations in Berthoud Tuesday evening and the Wilbur Ball home at 807 8th Street won first place.

Photo courtesy of the 1951 Berthoud High School yearbook – 1950 Christmas home decoration winner Wilbur Ball taught at Berthoud High School and eventually went on to earn advanced degrees in agricultural education and engineering. Ball also authored books about life on the prairies of northeastern Colorado.

“The W.G. Albrecht decorations at 711 7th Street were given second place, and the display of Darrell Bartee home at 616 7th Street placed third.

“The judges were Lavone Schelling of Loveland Lions; O.L. Albater of the Milliken Lions, and James K. Schaffer of the Longmont Kiwanis.

“Honorable mentions were given to the following homes: Rueben Krieger, Dick Skinner, John Berglin, Emma Carlson, Mel Kyger, Solon Yates and Bob Davis.”

Those individuals and their street addresses included Rueben Krieger (540 Sixth Street), Dick Skinner (935 Fifth Street), John Berglin (748 Fourth Street]) Emma Carlson (618 Fifth Street), Mel Kyger (777 Eighth Street), Solon Yates (527 Eighth Street) and Bob Davis (725 Franklin Avenue).

In recapping the event the newspaper added, “The judging was done from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday. The Lions, headed by Norm Schreiner, sponsored the contest for the first time. Displays were judged on Christmas spirit, originality, and general effectiveness.”

Wilbur Ball, the winner of the home-decoration competition, was the vocational agriculture teacher at Berthoud High School in 1951, 1952 and 1953. The following year he left Berthoud to further his education and eventually become a regional historian.

Upon his death in 1998 it was reported, “Wilbur Ball, a teacher and historian who wrote 18 books about prairie life, died Sunday at his home. He was 75…Ball, who was born in the Briggsdale area, retired to Eaton with his wife, Martha, 15 years ago after teaching and traveling around the world.

“He earned a master’s degree in agricultural education from Colorado State University and a doctorate in agricultural education and engineering from Iowa State University in 1956.

“Some of his books include Stories of the West, Buggy Trails, and Life on the Homestead. He also became known as a historian and tour guide for the Pawnee National Grassland near Greeley and taught numerous classes about pioneer life on the prairie and the Dust Bowl years.

“Upon his retirement, Ball hiked more than 5,000 miles across the prairies, making friends with farmers and ranchers in the area…I never took a class on history,” he said once. “Instead, I lived it.”

The Berthoud Lions Club continued to sponsor a Christmas home-decoration competition for many years after 1950. Those competitions will be tales for other days.


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