ST. LOUIS HILLS – In all of his Decembers, Peter Dunphy has known endless lines of crawling automobiles in front of his house, along with mounds of Christmas lights on trees and houses.
Peter, 16, a junior at Christian Brothers College High School, was born not long after his family moved to the 6500 block of Murdoch Avenue. In December, that street transforms into Candy Cane Lane. It blazes with lights, and inflated Santas and reindeer, and candy canes, placed by neighbors who want the world to know that nobody in St. Louis Hills or any place else around knows how to keep Christmas like they do.
The world responds with cars and tour buses, which often back up for blocks.
“It’s crazy. Sometimes it’s backed up more than a mile,” Peter said.
It wasn’t quite that busy on Sunday night, the season’s opening for Candy Cane Lane. But cars and a few tour buses kept a regular pace past the candy canes and the lighted archway. More cars are sure to come, and the smart ones might want to park a block or two away and see the lights on foot.
Peter’s mother, Darcy Dunphy, has seen many cars crawling through Candy Cane Lane since her family moved to the block 17 years ago. She’s also seen many times how so many people pitch in to decorate.
“We have about four or five men that go and wrap trees and hang the ‘Merry Christmas’ sign and do all the extra work,” Dunphy said.
On some nights, neighbors take collections for charities. On Friday night, the Dunphys will collect for the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the nearby St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church.
Those who come out on Friday or any night may have the same impressions as Tim Burgess of Arnold and Marie Asher of Crestwood. They walked through the block early Sunday night before heading off to eat. Later, they planned to take in the lights at the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
“It’s really neat, especially the archway and the candy cane trees, and it’s just neat how every house does it,” Burgess said.
“I’ve never been here, so it’s really pretty. The whole little mini neighborhood does it,” Asher said.
The block attracts its share of annual visitors such as Joanie Ratican. Sunday night, she brought along Bill Swartout and Jane Albrecht, two former St. Louisans who moved to the Los Angeles area, met, and got married.
“What’s great is the way that just everybody in the neighborhood has really gone all out and done some great decorations and really gets you in the Christmas mood,” Swartout said.
Elaine and Jack Bowie don’t have to travel to get a look at Candy Cane Lane. They just walk out their door. They moved to the block three years ago, about 12 years after their daughter moved in.
“It brings the community together,” Jack Bowie said. “It shows that community spirit. The street just works together on this.”
Elaine Bowie doesn’t mind the traffic.
“We just have to take our time. It’s really not too much trouble,” she said.
“You’ve got to make arrangements, or else you are stuck in traffic,” said Charlie Billings, a resident of the block. “You can generally park on some main streets and walk,” he added. Using an alley also helps, as does planning ahead, he said.
It’s a thrill to Billings’ two children, Alex, 4, and Jackson, 6.
“They love the lights,” Billings said. “Since Halloween was over, they’ve been asking about getting the Christmas decorations out. Christmas comes early on this street.”
Halloween is when people start preparing, by wrapping the trees with lights.
“We just work at it when we can,” Billings explained. “People work on it based on their schedule, and then we have it ready to go on the [night of the] Francis Park tree lighting.”
On that night, actually, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you went in St. Louis Hills.
Numerous houses and blocks in the neighborhood gleamed with the signs of Christmas cheer. Dwellings that stood out included the home of Lyn Marie Ing, a professional dancer and vocalist from Los Angeles who recently moved to Murdoch Avenue, east of Candy Cane Lane.
On Sunday, Ing’s house was festooned with an American flag, numerous decorations and a speaker that blared out Christmas music.
“I love Christmas, and I love lights, and I’m from a show business background,” Ing said, explaining her exuberance for the season.
It’s fortunate for Santa. With all those lights, he won’t have any problem finding St. Louis Hills when he’s in the area on the night of Christmas Eve.