TOLUCA LAKE, Calif. — They’re the most famous children’s choir in Toluca Lake, caroling each night in perfect formation on the corner of Moorpark and Mariota. But don’t be fooled by their youthful appearance. Homeowner Glenn Geller says most of these kids are in their 50s.

“So it’s a blow mold form and these are from the 60s and 70s,” he explains, standing next to the carefully placed figures. “You can see their faces are really old. They are very brittle and fragile.”

Geller and his husband Jim Maresca have been collecting retro holiday décor for years. They have 52 of the life-sized singers which have since taken on a life of their own.  

“People stop by all the time – whether it’s Christmas time or not – and tell us how much they love the choir, how much joy it brings them when they see the choir, don’t every stop doing the choir,” Geller recites. “Everybody loves the choir blow molds.”

But his collection doesn’t stop there and neither does his lawn display. The centerpiece of the yard is an 18-foot tall tower of toy soldiers, more than 100 in all.

“Every year we have to do something bigger,” Geller laughed, “and so I thought I want to do a tower of blow molds and the only thing I could collect in a large quantity was the soldiers.”

He custom built a base for the soldiers to stand on and tied them with fishing wire to protect them from toppling in the wind.

Looking up at the massive Christmas tree shaped tower, he admired the impact of his handiwork. “I think it makes quite a statement from the street,” he said.

Another collection consists of large blow mold ornaments that cities used to hang from the flank to the front of the house. To Geller, they resemble “earrings on a grand old lady.”

But Geller truly lights up when he talks about what may in fact be the piece that started him down this holiday path. He remembers his parents driving him around his Indiana town to see the lawn displays, “and somebody had on his yard Santa and his nine reindeer and they were just taking off,” he describes, “I remember thinking I want to have flying reindeer.”

One year, he says, he turned to his husband and said he wanted to add them to their display. “And why not?” Geller said, “I can do anything I want. I’m an adult. I can have some flying reindeer. And we put that up and the kids were so excited.  

These scenes from his childhood fill his memory and his attic. That’s where he stores the choir plus more than 5,000 ornaments that he uses to decorate 11 Christmas trees each year. Underneath those tree, he displays his collection of holiday boxes from Marshall Fields’s, the now closed Midwest department store his family would shop in. You’d be amazed, he says, how much people charge on eBay for “an old box that used to be free with purchase.”

Geller spends a lot of time on eBay actually,  scouring the site for authentic artifacts. Once he got in an all out bidding war with one other person to buy a blow mold banner that now hangs on the front of the house.

“And I got home and I told Jim that I spent a lot of time and really overpaid for this really unique little banner of lights that said 'Merry Christmas,'” Geller said, “and he said, ‘oh my god, I was the person bidding against you.’”

With his deep sense of nostalgia for Christmas past, it’s almost too perfect that Geller and Maresca should live here, a house that’s part of American holiday lore.  It’s called "Lilley Hall," after previous owner Joseph Lilley.  

“He was the arranger and composer for Bing Crosby and Bob Hope,” Geller says.  “He even did the musical arrangements for White Christmas in this house. Mary, his daughter, tells me that the cast party of White Christmas happened in our living room.”

When he heard all this, he knew this was the house he was meant to live in. He even framed a screenshot of Lilley’s credit from White Christmas which he displays during the holiday season.

Which brings us to Christmas present and this year’s official lighting with neighbor, Morgan Fairchild.

Geller says skipping the decorations this year because of the pandemic never even crossed his mind. “This year has been pretty rough for everybody,” he said, “and I think it’s nice to have something that feels normal.”

It’s hard work, for sure, especially in January, but it’s worth it, he says, if the children who peer into his yard feel that same magic that captured him when he was a boy.

“I hope that when they are adults they look back and say, ‘Remember that house you used to take us by all the time that had everything in the yard?” he imagined. “That actually makes me really happy.”

And while he can’t deliver a white Christmas, he’s determined to make these last days of 2020 a lot more merry and bright.