There will be no Christmas lights at the Brock home on Mercedes Avenue this year, ending an 11-year tradition for the family.
There were tears in Renee Brock’s voice when she called the Manteca Bulletin to make the announcement. It was a decision she and her husband, Dale, made with a heavy heart this past week, she said.
Two months ago, when Dale would have started on the decorations’ skeleton framework, he was in an accident which resulted in five broken ribs and a tear in one of his lungs.
“The doctors have not released him,” and his pain level “comes and goes,” said Renee who was the reason her husband finally started the Christmas lights tradition 11 years ago after his wife begged him year after year to please put up a Christmas tree.
“So now, the decision has been made for us. We’re kind of forced into this. I know people have been coming by the house to see if the structures are coming up. I’ve heard them walking by and saying, ‘this is the house with all the lights, this is the house with all the lights!”
But, said Renee, “There’s no way he can do the heavy lifting and the climbing. Normally, he starts in September. He asked me, ‘Renee, do you think if I can get healed enough we can put one Christmas tree and the trains? I told him, ‘you actually think you can go outside and go up and down those masts? You can’t go up there. You’ll get yourself in a predicament.’ There’s no way he can do it and be safe.”
The accident happened while Dale was at the Manteca home of his twin brother, Eugene, working on a house project.
“He was building a wall, and he just happened to lose his balance and fell 12 feet. He was actually going head first but he had the presence of mind to shift his body so the left side of his body took the brunt of the fall,” Renee explained.
Her husband was rushed to Doctors Hospital in Manteca. From there, he was transferred to a trauma hospital in Modesto.
“He’s in a lot of pain. He has good days and he has bad days. This week has been a bad week in managing his discomfort,” she said.
Tradition would have been 12 years this Christmas
“This year would have been 12 years. There’ll be no lights at all, I think,” Renee sadly noted.
“I don’t know how the grandkids are going to feel yet” about not having the Christmas lights this year, she said. “But I’m sad because the youngest babies, who are 10 months and 12 months old, will never know the lights like all the older grandsons do.”
Through the years, the Brocks’ Christmas attraction grew bigger and brighter. Growing in direct proportion to it was the number of people from near and far who came by to enhance their holiday experience and celebration, gushing with plenty of oohs and aahs while capturing many Kodak moments for posterity. A number of these snapshots have been posted on the Brock Christmas Lights facebook page.
On many occasions, especially on the weekends, Renee and her family mingled with the crowds, greeting and chatting with many of the visitors. On certain days, they offered hot chocolate to keep the people warm in the cold winter evening, as well as cookies with the help of Santa and several elves. One night, according to their facebook page, they distributed nearly 1,000 cookies. Television weather man Dave Bender even held a live broadcast from the Brocks’ Christmas lights last year.
“We got people that came from Sacramento, Roseville and from the Bay Area. I don’t know how I’m going to reach them” and let them know that there will be no Christmas lights this year, Renee said.
“I hate to see it end. It never ceased to amaze me seeing all the people from all walks of life that we saw come by the house – all barriers are down. People congregated or they met here and they talked,” she recalled.
Sometimes, when people could not physically make it to the Christmas lights, the Brocks brought those visual delights to them. Such was the case last year when they were invited to do a presentation about the Christmas lights at Merrill Gardens.
“My husband and myself and a couple of my nieces went. We did a little presentation and ran a video that my nieces had done. It was quite nice,” Renee said.
“And that’s another thing. The elderly from assisted living homes would have their buses come by” to see the lights, she said.
She plans to post the announcement that they are “retiring the lights” on their facebook to notify their thousands of followers and save them a trip this Christmas.
With tens of thousands of lights going into the decoration every year, it was very easy to find the Brock Christmas lights. It stood out like a beacon in the night in the neighborhood whose streets are named after classy cars.
“We were running between 130,000 and 140,000 lights. We had the helicopter, the angels; we had our flag, the tribute to our soldiers out there (in war-torn countries) and a tribute to our military,” Renee said, mentioning just a few of the awe-inspiring decorative accents, some of which soared several feet into the sky above their Mercedes Avenue home located a block west of South Union Road just across the street from Union West Park.
An employee of PG&E who used to build transmission towers for the power company, Dale climbed up and down the decorative Christmas poles with ease. He often took his vacations from the company to work on his Christmas project which he started as early as September. The day after Thanksgiving was always a red-letter day. It was the day the lights were turned on for the Christmas run.
Among the many unforgettable snapshots and photographs on the Brocks’ Christmas Lights facebook is a dramatic video of the trains running through the tracks around the house with a video camera mounted on top of the toy train, giving one the feeling that they are actually driving the train. It can be viewed as “Brock’s Christmas Train” on www.youtube.com or simply go to www.facebook.com and search for Christmas lights.
What will happen then to all the decorations?
The snowmen will probably go to some of the nieces. “They were all named for my nieces,” Renee said of the snowmen.
As for the trains, she said her husband “is so into the trains; he loves the trains. He may do something with the trains.”
In addition to being a Christmas attraction to countless number of people, the Brocks’ festive island of lights during the holidays also helped raise money for charitable organizations. For about three years, donations from thankful visitors were collected and given to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca. One year, the money was donated to St. Jude’s Hospital.
While the “retirement of the Christmas lights” is a sad event, there’s good news in the Brock household. Dale is healing, albeit slowly, his wife said.