Re: It's coming on Christmas They're cutting down trees

12/25/16 - posted by Paul Judge

I don’t recall which Christmas tree lots in the Richmond District our trees came from but with mom or dad in tow carrying the purse or wallet my older sisters often made the selection. If any residents of the Richmond District from the 1940s through the 1970s can recall where those tree lots were located and who they were operated by it would be worthy history to learn and remember.

I do recall the time we ventured yonder the city limits to select and cut our own tree. Piling into the old Plymouth sedan five of the seven of us headed some distance down Skyline Boulevard on a gray stormy day to find a tree farm. Station wagons dominated the parking lot from whence we set out in our street shoes and rain slickers across a muddy hill slope in pursuit of ‘the perfect tree’. Everyone got the chance to make their case for which tree was the best. The search continued until we selected a tree most of us had doubts about but we were cold, damp, and hungry. Anyone who wanted got a turn tugging on the saw blade to fall the tree. Then we lugged it downhill, paid the operator, tied the tree to the roof of the old Plymouth and wove our way back home. In subsequent Christmases mention was never made to select our tree in such fashion. It was to neighborhood tree lot vendors that we returned.

Regardless of the stature of the tree brought into the house placing lights and ornaments ON the tree and setting up the nativity scene below generated the greatest attention and excitement. Our light strands were the midsized basic colored ones. Our collection of ornaments were a mixed variety from early years of our parents marriage in the mid 1930s, homemade ones by my older sisters when they were young children, plus a few surviving delicate simple glass ones made during WW II. As needed newer ornaments were added to improve variety and supplement the inevitable loss due to wear and tear.

The Nativity Scene was populated by small statuary that looked like they’d survived since… well the birth of Christ. Tradition in setting up the scene was that a lamp from the light string had to poke through the back of the manger glowing onto a silver star made my eldest sister Claire when she was in Kindergarten. There was an archangel made during art at St. Monica’s by my sister Joanne and a tall shepherd also made at St. Monica’s by Barbara. Each of those additions evoked a child’s way with plaster and paint in contrast to the core contingent of worn, chipped and re-glued heads of Mary, Joseph, and at least two of the Wisemen and their camel. Our parents were tolerant of their children’s anticipation of Christmas, which included playing with the cast and figures of the Nativity Scene. It was par for the course each of us kids went through a period being “Stage Manager of the Manger”. Meaning that we grew accustomed to coming into the living room to find the Nativity Scene having been rearranged daily if not multiple times a day. I recall a few years where from Christmas Day through the week following my younger sister and I imposed our own alterations. The baby Jesus was provided a tray of baked ham and roasted turkey and milk bottles direct from my younger sister Mary’s very detailed and well equipped miniature kitchen play set. Table settings were placed at the feet of Joseph, Mary, the Wiseguys and the shepherd. Tiny corn on the cobs and carrots were given to the cow, camel and the sheep. Whereas my sister provided nurturing sustenance for the new blessed family and Son of God I on the other hand provided perimeter protection. Soldiers, jeeps, tanks, jets and fencing from my army play set were positioned surrounding the Nativity Scene. I thought it prudent to keep King Herod’s dangerous Roman centurions from capturing the young baby Jesus. It sure seemed to make sense to our innocent understanding of things.

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