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Candy Cane Lane sings brightly each holiday season

Dec. 23, 2011

West Allis - When it comes to decking the halls, nobody lives the Christmas carol like the Candy Cane Lane folks in West Allis.

Heedless of the wind and weather, they festoon block after block with dazzling decorations that hundreds of people drive and walk through in merry measure.

Ringing in the new

Although Christmas is a season of beloved traditions, Candy Cane Lane resident Ken Perkl favors something new each year for all the passing lads and lasses. This year it was a "train" of coaster wagons with a deer in front and "cars" of dolls and gifts and a Christmas tree.

"I want it so it looks like it's flying into my yard," said the ambitious Perkl as he began to deck the halls this Christmas. "That's my project this year."

His project every year, though, is clambering up and down from roof to ground, almost like Santa bobbing from fireplace to rooftop to affix Santa's sleigh and his reindeer to the roof. Ascending with two plastic reindeer at a time isn't bad but, oh, that sleigh!

With what must be a dash of Christmas magic, Perkl uses plain old twine to tie the fanciful figures to the corners of the gutters in such a way that they look like they're taking off from his one-story home near 95th and Manitoba.

After many years of putting a bright Yule before us, Perkl has one tip for novice decorators - don't struggle with knotted strings of lights. Buy new ones.

"It's not worth the frustration," the Christmas decorating veteran said.

Decorating lessons

There is quite the learning curve to decking those halls, as neighbor Don Schwichtenberg agrees. He knows all the tricks now, but it wasn't always that way.

One year, he thought it would be a good idea to string the lights on some bushes with the string plugged in to better see how good they looked. That worked fine until he touched a bit of bare wire that was exposed from a cut in the insulation that Schwichtenberg hadn't noticed when he started.

"I got knocked on my keister," he said of the electrical jolt. He didn't hear angels on high, but he sure saw a lot of stars.

And then there was the time he had to chase down one of those blow-up Christmas yard decorations that had busted free from their moorings.

More learning, which is what you get when you don't get what you want, came his way more than two decades ago when Schwichtenberg put Santa and his sleigh on the roof.

"I used the wrong kind of nails," he said, and pretty soon what to their wondering eyes did appear but wet spots in the attic.

His hard-won advice, and that of his wife Peggy, is to check everything early and grab any nice November weekend to put things up.

Christmas messages

Another Candy Cane Lane family ended up forever in the memories of two young people one year as they innocently decked the halls for Christmas.

It came about when Ben Carpenter got a call from a young man asking if he could put a huge board with the words "Marry Me" spelled out in lights in the Carpenters' big picture window. The family home is right at the hub of all the Candy Cane Lane activity and the young man and his sweetheart loved Candy Cane Lane. Ben said "yes" right away.

"I'm a sucker for stuff like that," he admitted.

"Candy Cane Lane means a lot to people," he said.

Soon all was ready and the couple approached the house.

"She saw it and she started crying," Carpenter remembered.

Then her romantic beau knelt on one knee and proposed.

"She said 'yes' right away," Carpenter said, the romantic in him being very pleased.

"I think it's awesome being involved in something like that," he said.

And it was all because he and his fellow Christmas-lovers live a Christmas carol and every year deck the halls.

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