Take Two

A weekly look at Southern California life, news, arts and culture, and more. Hosted by Alex Cohen & A Martínez

Vintage LA: How Los Angeles celebrated Christmas in the past

by Take Two

Vintage L.A.'s Alison Martino with Santa at Bullock's in Century City, 1973. Alison Martino

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to Alison Martino, founder of a very popular facebook page Vintage LA. It's a repository of films, photos and memories of a Southern California that once was.

Alison is back for a special look at how Christmas has been celebrated in the City of Angels.  

On December 1st, Martino’s Facebook page accumulated 50,000 members, so to commemorate the event, she decided to dedicate the entire month of December to her members’ memories along with her own personal memories of bygone L.A. Christmases.  

She was particularly reminded of a now-closed department store Bullocks, where Martino found herself at a young age sitting on Santa’s lap in the store.

“Back when I remember it in the early ‘70s, it was definitely more than just to buy clothes,” said Martino. “They had a lot of events, kids could have a lot of parties there, they had tea rooms and they had diners and home accessories. It was a fancy place. I think, it was a big deal to go to Bullocks.”

When Christmas time would approach, Bullocks was the place to be. Kids would get dressed up and wait in line to see Santa.

The symbols of Los Angeles Christmas tradition that are left, like the Christmas tree atop the Capitol Records building, will likely continue to disappear as time goes on. The Capitol Records building has been sold, so if its new owners don’t continue the tradition, it will join the ranks of many other bygone traditions like fica trees that were put up in the ‘80s along Hollywood Boulevard or the window displays reigning in the season.

However, one unflappable tradition is the ever-present Hollywood Christmas Parade.

“We do still have that parade and I know that that’s a great tradition,” Martino said. “Starting at 5:30 p.m. November the 25th, the parade  walked for its 81st time down the streets of Los Angeles. It may slightly differ from parades of the ‘60s, where some of the acts or participants would now be seen as politically incorrect, but the tradition is fervent in its pursuit of bringing holiday cheer.

Another icon of Southern California’s holiday scene was a place called Santa’s Village

“It was a winter-themed amusement park located near Lake Arrowhead, and it opened on Memorial Day weekend 1955 and it actually opened, I believe, one month before Disneyland,” Martino said. “At the time it drew large crowds throughout the year for its petting zoos, ferris wheels, bobsleds, bakery, candy shops, reindeer, and more. Unfortunately, the park has largely deteriorated over the years and is now closed.”

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