Crossing the railroad tracks in Oak Island, one journeys up a few streets, makes a few tight turns and then – in all its glory – is a striking display of Christmas lights that is the pride of the Hudson family and the Oak Island neighborhood.
“He has been doing this for years and I just love it,” said long-time neighbor Marianne O’Reynolds. “Every year, Tom adds a piece here or a light string there and every year it gets better. The kids love it and I love to see his display every year too. It encourages me at Christmas.”
Tom Hudson – a retired Northeast Vocational School teacher who now works part-time at the Cronin Ice Rink – may not have the flashiest light display in the area, such as up in Saugus or in West Revere, but it is a display that’s every bit as unique and every bit as loved as any other.
“I have been doing this for about 30 years,” said Hudson recently, just after having his annual family and neighborhood house lighting on Thanksgiving weekend. “It just got bigger and bigger every year as I added things here and there. It started out when someone gave me a bunch of Christmas stuff. First I did it for my kids and their friends, and now I do it for the grandkids and the neighbors. I have no idea how many lights there are, though. I couldn’t even manage a guess for you. I know it’s improved this year, but nobody comes by to see it like they do in Saugus. It’s a nice thing for those of us around here.”
Hudson’s wife, Annette, said Tom started putting up the lights when they lived next door to their current residence.
“He started small because our house was small,” she said. “Then we moved to our current house next door and he kept adding and adding and adding. We have eight grandkids and a lot of neighborhood kids. Their faces just light up so much when they see his lights and displays. Our newest granddaughter came over when we lit everything up, and her eyes were so huge when she saw those lights. The kids love it. That’s why he does it. As much work as it is, Tom enjoys it. That’s why he keeps going on and on.”
His grandson, Derek Hudson of the Point of Pines, said it’s something he’s grown up with and expects to see every Christmas.
“It is a fun part of Christmas,” he said.
Hudson’s display incorporates some unique innovations, including using pool noodles to hold the lights in place firmly and to help them go up on the roofline smoothly.
He also has an addition every year.
Last year, it was a large white angel; this year it’s a golden elephant with a feather on its nose.
He calls it ‘Andrea,’ after a former boss.
Most of his work is done quickly, he said, but there are portions that he starts in the early fall. “I do a lot of it right before we light it all up,” he said. “There are a lot of things, though, I have to get ready very early. I start on those things in October. That’s the beginning of it all for me.”
And though it’s not on the main drag, Hudson’s display is a benchmark of the season in this tight-knit Revere neighborhood. However, Hudson, 66, said it might not be forever.
“This might be one of the last times I put them up because I’m getting older and it’s not getting any easier,” he said.
His wife, Annette, frowned.
“He says that every year,” she said, dismissing his remark with a wave of the hand.