For half a century, the downtown Fort Worth skyline shimmered in gold and white Christmas lights like a sky-high stack of jewel boxes.
Now it looks more like a heap of giant glow sticks.
"What have they done?" Hubert Foster wanted to know.
Now 86, he's asking because it was his idea in 1959 to outline the skyline.
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The insurance executive said the new multicolored lighting is "too dim."
"You can't see it from airplanes anymore," he said.
He even used the D-word.
"That green," he said, laughing.
"That looks like Dallas."
For every young shopper delighted by Sundance Square's red-and-green or Chesapeake Plaza's Technicolor trees, there might be a parent or grandparent who remembers when downtown was solid gold.
For most of 50 years, the skyline has been our calling card, pictured on greeting cards and in travel books as the "Famous Holiday Festival of Lights" in the "Christmas City."
The Fosters started in 1959 by outlining the Petroleum Building, 611 Throckmorton St., and another now-gone tower. They chose the candlelight-gold look they knew from luminaria walks and downtown buildings in San Antonio.
The next year, the Downtown Fort Worth Association led the holiday lighting of 24 buildings, each with 25-watt amber light bulbs spaced 4 feet apart.
In 1963, when Air Force One flew over Fort Worth, President John F. Kennedy saw 61 outlined buildings.
"Spectacular," he said.
The lighting shifted shapes with the skyline until 1995, when one of the worst hailstorms in American history destroyed most of the light bulbs.
Foster remembered walking downtown amid amber glass and dust.
"It was sort of a gap-toothed look after that," he said.
Sundance Square replaced those lights but eventually began switching to a modern LED system with 14,000 color combinations.
For the Super Bowl, the lights glowed AFC red. For TCU, they're purple.
This year, 20 Sundance buildings shine in ever-changing colors. They'll switch back to white after Christmas, marketing director Tracy Gilmour said.
Sundance is "trying to maintain the history and traditions while adding fun elements," she said.
Chesapeake Energy expanded the downtown palette with the addition of its 15-acre downtown plaza, where 110 trees are outlined with 1.1 million dazzling lights in red, blue, green and purple.
All that glitters is no longer gold.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538