WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FILLMORE CHRISTMAS MEMORY?
Christmas is always an exciting time for children and their families. The children eagerly await the arrival of Santa and presents. Their parents spend an outrageous amount of time and money buying presents and attempting to hide them until late Christmas Eve when they can be placed under the tree for the children to find in the morning.
Fillmore’s local merchants tried to outdo each other with festive store windows. The only newspaper in Fillmore added to the festivities with special, colorful, Christmas front pages. The photo of the front page from 1911 shows Santa, having swapped his sleigh for the newest invention, an airplane, dropping toys and candy to the children below.
Christmas in the early years of the twentieth century were less complicated. There might be a small tree such as the one in the photo from 1913, decorated with popcorn strings, some tinsel, ribbons and a few presents. The piano was close by to allow for singing carols as the children impatiently waited for Santa to arrive. Sometimes there were parties where the children received an orange from California or piece of hard candy.
In 1930 Fillmore celebrated with lighted Christmas trees placed in concrete pots down both sides of Central Avenue as well as trees in the center of the street placed at each crosswalk. These were all live trees as were all the trees for sale in every grocery store in town. There were at least 5 grocery stores on Central Ave with trees for sale out front on the sidewalk.
Briggs Hardware, 1941
Merchants in 1941 decorated their front windows with all those appliances they hoped a husband would purchase to make his wife’s life easier. To be festive Briggs Hardware added a garland with wreaths and bells to their window display. Note the date on the photo, Dec 5, 1941, two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Christmas for the next few years would be very changed with consumer items restricted and young men off to war.
The photo of the Christmas tree sitting on fake bricks is from 1942, “somewhere in the Pacific.” Christmas was celebrated even in a tent far from home during the war.
By the 1960s outdoor decorations were popular at people’s homes. The photo of museum founder Edith Jarrett’s home on Foothill in 1963 is typical of the time. Also typical are the water thrifty plants and the rocky area in front of the house.
In 1960, if you wanted to see Santa Claus you probably went to Stocker’s Department Store, It had almost anything a child could wish for. It was just south of Orin Eberly’s drugstore where you could get a great gift for mom and north of Champ Cochran’s men’s emporium where you could find a gift for dad. The Fillmore Theater was just up the street. It was the place to go for special Christmas movies and cartoons, a tradition begun for the children of Fillmore in the 1920s and originally hosted and paid for by Richard Stephens of Stephens Market.
Christmas pageants were also part of the Christmas festivities. Not only were they performed in churches, they also were performed by the Fillmore High School students in the “state of the art” high school auditorium. The productions consisted of talented students dancing, singing, playing their musical instruments and performing skits. The final act was always a production of the journey of Joseph and Mary and birth of Jesus. After the high school building and its auditorium were demolished in the mid-1950s the pageant moved to the high school gym. The nativity scene took place on the south side bleachers with Joseph, Mary, Jesus and the angels, wise men and shepherds as seen in the accompanying photo from 1960. Many of you may remember teacher, Beatrice Albright, the guiding light for these productions.
All of us have special memories of Christmases here in Fillmore when we were children. There were family gatherings, church programs, lights and music. We here at the Fillmore Museum wish you all a safe, healthy, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!