Call him the anti-Scrooge. Every year for the past 25 years, Johnnie Gonzales Jr., along with wife Mary, has turned the couple’s yard on the corner of 43rd and Alba in Garden Oaks into a Christmas showplace for young and old alike.
The house and the front yard tree are draped with lights – but it’s the other additions that get the most attention. The Abominable Snowman and Rudolph? Check. The Peanuts gang? Yep. Along the white fence that borders Alba, there’s Santa and his sleigh along with a Christmas train featuring the Looney tunes gang. Who knew the Tasmanian Devil had so much Christmas spirit?
According to Gonzales, it’s “all for the kids.” That means the neighborhood children as much as it does his nine grandchildren. He wants it to be accessible to all and that’s why he puts up a sign in the yard inviting people to get out and up close and personal with the characters.
“We get all kinds of people coming by to take pictures and video,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales has lived in the neighborhood since he was a boy. He used to live in the house directly behind the one he lives in now. The beginnings of his Christmas yard started with neighbor Larry Bowman who used to make and display the characters. When Bowman moved to Indiana, Gonzales got the figures to use in his own yard.
As some of them have needed repair over the years, Gonzales learned how to do that – and what’s more, he started making new ones. “I’m working on Frozen for next year,” he said, “And those little yellow guys from the movie.” Minion fans, you’re in luck.
Because the decorations have been an investment of time and money, Gonzales isn’t leaving anything to chance, or thieves. He brings the characters inside when he’s not around to keep an eye on them and puts them out again every evening. When he does reposition the characters each day, Gonzales puts the yard spotlights out too, shifting them for maximum effect.
His favorite character? The Abominable Snowman. It’s hard not to love that fanged fellow.
It’s not just the outside that gets the holiday treatment. The inside of the house is festooned as well. Those stopping to take photos in the yard will get a good look at a collection of Nutcrackers that dominate one of the windows.
Each year people anticipate when the display will go up. Forget waiting until the day after Thanksgiving. Gonzales started putting his up the day after Halloween.
He says people ask him about his electricity bill but claims he doesn’t even pay attention to it.
“This is something we enjoy doing,” he said. “I don’t even worry about it.”