by: COURTESY OF MATT HAINLEY - Joe McKernan, this years coordinator for the placing of the light-strings from the trees top, shows us his view from high atop the tree, on the bluff overlooking Oaks Bottom - with Oaks Amusement Park in the background.Each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day, four generations of Sellwood’s Hainley family have been joined by another venerable family, the Heibergs – plus a dozen of their friends – to string lights on a huge fir tree that towers over Oaks Bottom on the Bybee Boulevard-to-13th curve, just south of Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial Funeral Home.

It’s a longtime project of the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association, SMILE, supported by several local businesses. This year, although it was cold and windy on the morning of November 23rd, most of the volunteers were undeterred, as they again dressed the tall Living Christmas Tree for the season.

While Matt Hainley was strapped in the bucket of the Smith Crane truck, hoisting strings of lights up to Joe McKernan atop the tree, Bruce Heiberg talked with us about the event.

“It’s great to see the whole Hainley family here, from grandma down to the fourth generation little girl,” Heiberg remarked to THE BEE. “It’s been a tradition for some 20+ years to decorate this tree with lights.”

On the ground, volunteers squirted a shot of WD-40 (the letters stand for “water displacement”) into each socket, and screwed in a new bulb. They then tested the string, using a temporary power extension cord run from Wilhelm’s next door.

“There are a total of 20 stands of lights, and there’s 50 bulbs on each strand,” Heiberg said. “It doesn't look like much in the daylight, but comes dark, it looks beautiful. I’m amazed when I’m over on the west side of the river, and look back east and see it. The tree is just gorgeous isn’t it?”

Partway through the tree decorating, the lift operator lowered the bucket in which Matt Hainley was riding low enough for a four-generation family photo.

“We’re hoping this is the last year we have use the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs,” commented Hainley before he hoisted another string of lights. “Right now, we’re working to set up a ‘crowd-funding’ website, or some method of raising money to replace the old Christmas Tree lights with modern bright LED lights.”

At deadline, organizers were still working on the fundraising campaign. Look for information on the SMILE website:

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