A fir tree decorated with colored lights and
shiny balls was the only Christmas decoration at most Tustin homes during
Except for our anxiety over the number of
days until Santa Claus arrived, bringing the toys we wanted, the days before
Christmas were low key in Tustin when I was a child.
There were no festive decorations in the
shopping area, no Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, no Santa traveling
from neighborhood to neighborhood with his reindeer and sled, no Christmas
tree lots, no colorful lights decorating houses and yards.
The first indicator that Christmas would soon
arrive in Tustin was the First National Bank distributing its calendar for
the coming year.
Then Christmas trees appeared in front of
Cox’s Food Center as well as the smaller grocery stores. Household
appliances popped up in the front window at the Tustin Hardware. Along with
fancy sets of cologne and dusting powder on display at the Tustin Drug Store
and boxes of chocolates with cherry centers, these confirmed Dec. 25 would
Because Tustin had no department or toy
stores, kids would nag their parents to take them to Santa Ana where the
shopping area along Fourth Street between Bush and Broadway would be festive
with sparkling decorations hanging from the street lights and lavishly
decorated store windows.
Saturday night was a special time to visit
because all the stores were open and the Salvation Army Band played
Christmas music on the corner of Fourth and Main.
Finding a parking place was part of the
evening’s anticipation and excitement. Driving round and round, circling the
blocks where the stores were concentrated, was a game demanding sharp eyes
to watch for indications of a car preparing to leave a parking stall.
Finally, a space would materialize. Dad would park the car and we’d jump out
onto the sidewalk, then walk slowly, stopping to contemplate every detail of
each store window.
Toy villages, often with animated figures or
a live Santa Claus seated on a throne-like chair, transformed the windows of
ordinary stores like Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penny and Famous into magical
sights. Toy trains tooting as they raced along tracks bordering a tall,
twinkling Christmas tree, dainty dolls with long blond curls, bright red
pedal-driven fire trucks, bicycles, trikes, scooters, roller skates, teddy
bears, china tea sets, wicker doll buggies, toy kitchens with stoves and
miniature pots and pans – we wanted it all.
Most families during those years limited
their decorations to a lighted Christmas tree in the living room window with
the exception of homeowners on North Flower Street in Santa Ana. Their
outdoor decorations were a novelty in Orange County and drew hundreds of
onlookers each night during the holiday season.
Santa Claus in his sleigh perched on a
rooftop, reindeers prancing over snowy grass, elves busily turning out toys
in their North Pole workshop, Mrs. Santa Claus baking cookies in her kitchen
– every Christmas tradition dear to the heart of a child was displayed.
As the years passed, the original painted
plywood cutouts became more elaborate with music and animation added.
Despite fathers becoming exasperated with the sluggish, bumper-to-bumper
traffic as kids hung out the car windows trying to see everything at once,
the tradition expanded and attracted more and more families until it was
deemed too frivolous during World War II.
Have a wonderful Christmas!