Their vintage home at 296 Ferncliff Ave., less than a half mile from the Ferry Terminal, is known by long-time locals as the “Holiday House”. Not only does the pair celebrate Christmas, but they also deck out their house – and the fence that surrounds the front yard – for every holiday you can imagine.
Right now, the place is festooned with Shamrocks, Leprechauns, and strings of green lights in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, fast approaching on March 17. Once that holiday passes, Jackie and her son will be readying the house for Easter Sunday, which falls on April 17.
And that’s just the beginning. The West’s will continue decorating the house for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the Christmas season, of course, and in February of each year, Valentine’s Day.
“Some people ask me why I do it?” says the 83-year-old Jackie West. But most “people are so nice and say how wonderful it is… It makes me happy and makes them happy.”
Mrs. West, who declined to be photographed for this story, began the decorating tradition with her late husband some 53 years ago after they moved into the Ferncliff Avenue residence. “I did it for my kids,” she says of sons Brad, a former pro golfer, and his older brother, Jim West, who is now a principal of a school in Colorado Springs, CO.
During her sons’ school years growing up on Bainbridge, she not only decorated for holidays but also celebrated the high school football season – a family favorite – and other events, such as the end of the school year or graduation.
Mrs. West came upon her hobby quite naturally. She grew up on Wood Avenue in downtown Winslow before there were townhouses and condos on the block and when it was still a semi-rural enclave. Her parents decorated the outside of their home for many holidays, as well, and she’s now basically paying it forward.
Her father was a pillar of the community back in the day. “My Dad was an old timer (who) took care of people,” Mrs. West recalls with a sweet smile on her face. “He took care of Japanese people’s property (during the internment period of World War II)… and helped start (the Bainbridge Island) Fire Department.”
Mrs. West’s maiden name was Callaham, and that name is well known in older island circles. The Callaham’s were related to the Ericksen’s and Selvar’s. Those surnames are prominently displayed in the Seabold Cemetery, says Mrs. West, whose cousin Chuck Callaham puts up a pretty authentic Christmas Nativity light show every year on his property across the street from the cemetery along Highway 305.
Mrs. West is a breast cancer survivor of 22 years, after watching her husband die of the disease four years prior. “They just cut them off,” she says matter-of-factly of a very sensitive part of her anatomy. “You just say, ‘I’m great,’ and carry on.”
Decorating her home has been a positive distraction from her affliction, with the vast majority of ornaments, lights and baubles coming from yard sales, and many trips to the Goodwill. “It’s getting more expensive there,” she points out.
Her favorite holiday is Easter, because, as she says of herself, “I’m so blessed.”
For St. Patrick’s Day, there are Shamrocks hanging from a tree in the yard, and on the fence facing the street, along with an assortment of Leprechauns draping the trellis entryway to the property.
Even though tourists come by to snap photos (“They’re there all the time,” says Mrs. West), perhaps the best time of the day to view the Holiday House is at night when the lights illuminate the yard and house. The St. Patrick’s displays look particularly festive after sunset.
If you think the outside of the West’s house is charming, you should take a peek inside, which looks like something of a period museum from the 1940s and ’50s. There are cool-looking old couches that could easily pass as furniture on the set of The Great Gatsby, along with old pictures and paintings. In another room, buffets and sideboards are filled with vintage china – dishes and cups and the like. And everywhere you look, there are collectables of little gnomes, statues, or memorabilia stashed away on tucked away pieces of furniture or holed up in their own display.
“It’s constant work around here,” says Mrs. West, after surveying her living room and wondering aloud why she keeps all these treasurers. “My house is loaded with stuff. I need to get rid of it!”
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