Wheel Vector

Christmas Memories

By Roxanne Lindsay

Picture a Valley with a few small towns and many farms spread throughout. The days are getting shorter, and a smoky haze fills the air. The fall colors have faded and there is the promise of Christmas coming.  Some residents of this wonderful Valley have warm, cherished memories of those days.

 Ardith (Osborn) Steger tells how the Osborn Family would sit around the Christmas tree playing a game of “guess which ornament I’m thinking of” version of twenty questions. Their tree had many different precious ornaments purchased over the years, each special in its memory. An excursion to Oakland for Christmas shopping was eagerly anticipated.

 Millie Freitas remembers the huge Christmas tree in the center of the stage at what is now known as the Village Theatre, but at that time was the Grange Hall. Santa Claus would come and all the local kids would get hard candy, an apple and an orange.

 I notice many people recalled the luxury of oranges at Christmas. It was a rare and special treat. At the Wood Ranch, Don Wood remembers his family getting a case of oranges at Christmas time.

 Another glowing memory was tinsel and the way it sparkled on the tree. In the Tassajara Valley, Rose (Bettencourt) Ferreira’s family always had a pine tree with tinsel. The kids would get oranges and toys. And, yes, occasionally snow around Christmas.

A tree with tinsel at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley with volunteer Jan Habiger

Jane Ashworth and many of us from San Ramon remember how the San Ramon Hall was decorated with a tree, and a school Christmas play would be put on by the kids well into the 1950’s. Santa would come to hand out Christmas stockings made by the Mother’s Club, then everyone sang carols. This festivity was attended by most of the people in San Ramon.

Early Christmas trees on the Wiedemann Ranch were bay trees as they were so plentiful. Howard and Doris Wiedemann had a twelfth night tree burning for many years to close the season. As you can imagine, this was pretty spectacular with a lot of pine trees.

Betty (Humburg) Dunlap and Norma (Humburg) Anderson have a particularly moving gift given to them in 1935 by Phil Harris in the form of a motion picture. The family was gathered in their Alamo home on Christmas morning when Phil came by to take moving pictures of their mother, father and other relatives who are gone now, but that wonderful film lives on as a video. Betty remembers her Mother’s carrot pudding with rum sauce, little shades on the Christmas tree lights and two turkeys, one at each end of the table, to be carved. In January 1937, there was a lot of snow.

Claudia (Mauzy) Nemir’s family gathered at her Grandmother Mauzy’s on Christmas Eve. She remembers making ornaments, paper doll chains, paper chains, popcorn and cranberry chains for decorations. The Grandmothers Mauzy and Oswill would play the piano and Uncle Tuny sang. The men played poker all night and the women played piedro.  So music and cards were an integral part of the celebration.

 Los (Kamp) Gompertz remembers how important the Sunday School Christmas play was at the first Presbyterian Church in Danville. It was the highlight of the season and Mr. Sttuchell was the minister. The Kamps’ big dinner and gift opening was on Christmas Eve. The children prepared a performance of some kind, music, skit, reading, etc., to do before the gifts.  Each one received one special gift. Lois remembers getting a bridle she had wanted so much.

San Ramon Hall, the site of many Christmas celebrations for 50 years, beginning in 1911

I hope these memories stir your own special recollections of celebrations past.

 Merry Christmas!

 This column was written in 1990 and first appeared in the newsletter of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.