It’s always Christmas 1974 as Wisconsin man waits for son to return home

Neil Olson put up a Christmas tree when two of his sons went off to war in 1974, vowing not to take it down until all six children returned to his Wisconsin home for Christmas. The same tree, he says, is still standing in his living room still covered in the same ornaments, tinsel and lights as the day Olson decorated it. And the needles, though yellowing, are still there. Olson’s oldest son was injured in the Vietnam War, and his disability has prevented him from returning to Wausau from Washington state for Christmas.

It’s like family now. I hate to take it down.

Neil Olson

Five of Olson’s six sons live in Wausau. His youngest, Rich Olson, said the tree has become part of his father’s furniture. Despite its permanent status in his home, Neil Olson hasn’t flicked on the lights since the year he put up the tree. The large, multi-colored lights are now nearly 100 years old, he said. “It’d just blow up on me,” he joked. “All that dust on there. It’d be like an atomic bomb.” Olson said he still hopes his oldest son, with whom he still talks, will make it home for Christmas one year. “I bet you if my sixth boy comes home, the needles will drop right off,” he said. ___