Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Extra! ‘Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay’ embracing

Critic At Large

Neville Public Museum of Green Bay

Display in “Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay” at Neville Public Museum. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The difference between nostalgia and history is the width of an eyelash.

You like nostalgia.

History you might like – or not.

Nostalgia is an embrace.

History can be the embrace of the Kennedy Camelot or “One step for mankind” or “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”

History also can be the jolt of the motorcade in Dallas or 9/11 or “Positive.”

That last mention is of our history-in-the-making coronavirus. Some relief from its drag may be found at the Neville Public Museum of Brown County, which is prepared for the safety of visitors for its new show.

Being in a museum, the exhibition “Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay” has history. But the display is mostly sweet and colorful and kind and prim and warm nostalgia.

Info and reservations:

For decades, families would gather outside the large plate-glass windows to view the holiday season’s fanciful displays.

They were wonderlands of imagination.

They were trips to other worlds where everything was nice.

At the museum to January 10, you can go back to niceness in a variety of scenes from yesteryears.

During select times, kiddies can talk with Bruce the Spruce, the talking Christmas tree.

I talked to Bruce and asked him to pose for a picture, which he kindly did.

Bruce the Spruce display. (Warren Gerds)

Wait a second, if kids are seeing things that are nostalgia for many, at what microsecond does the nostalgia start for them? Sorry for that brainbuster.

“Holiday Memories of Downtown Green Bay” is the same but not the same as past displays at the Neville. It is dressed up differently and attractively, with new historical elements here and there.

In one, photographs recall winter scenes in the area, including what downtown Green Bay looked like in 1921 and 1937. Notably, one photo is the whole of what H.C. Prange’s department store looked like one holiday season with 16 huge garlands and wreaths draped over the façade of the upper levels of the four-story building.

In another display are images – photographs and newspaper articles – of Prange’s history from its rise in Green Bay in 1928 to its fall in 2007. One photo from 1946 is of a holiday display window.

Nostalgia is of something gone… or is it?

“Christmas Jubilee” at former Prange’s corner. (Warren Gerds)

Prange’s is gone in Green Bay, but the museum re-creates the store’s holiday displays of time gone by. Also, on the same corner today at 301 N. Washington Street can be seen a holiday display with a purpose, “Christmas Jubilee,” of ornately decorated wreaths that viewers likely will remember.

Funny thing, nostalgia.

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