I just bought a Christmas tree for this year’s holiday season and was blown away at the price of a Douglas Fir. It did bring back memories of me going out shopping for trees with my dad in the 60′s.
We would jump into his ’56 Ford F-150 pickup with the oxidized red paint. (It later morphed into the robin’s egg blue ’69 Ranchero). And headed off to BayShore Boulevard near Goodman’s Lumber.
As I recall there was a whole stretch of tree lots from Army Street (Now Cesar Chavez) to Silver Avenue, and we would shop both quality and price. As I recall a good target price was $15-$18 for a 5′ Douglas Fir.
Despite the number of lots, each one was bustling on the weekend days, and there was always a bit of a way to pay for the tree. In part because many people were ordering the upgraded “flocked” tree.
(My uncle who lived upstairs from us would inevitably get a flocked tree. I recall white, green, and maybe even blue flocking, but that was never to our taste…we went au naturale.)
At any rate, it was an annual ritual and we often went to multiple lots checking out their expansive inventories, compared to what I see now, with postage-stamp lots by comparison. On one or two occasions I recall going to the big lot on the corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat, and even one out near Gets towards the Zoo. But that was a one-time adventure as I recall.
The other memory it evokes were the street decorations set up by the various merchant associations: San Bruno Avenue, West Portal, and Mission Street.
The Mission Street display was always grand. From about 14th street to 26th there were garlands that bridged the roadway from lam post to lam post with big golden bells, red ribbons, lights, banners saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” (The two were not mutually exclusive). My Mom would always take me out on a drive to to see what each of the streets had done that year.
Another big ritual that started on Thanksgiving, and almost all SF residence recall, were the
Christmas Villages set up on the roofs of the downtown and Stonestown Emporium Buildings. There were rids especially for the little kids (I liked the boats that went in circles) Ferris wheels, various merry-go-rounds of various sizes and styles (rocket ships, cars, etc.)
And of course this was centered around getting the photo taken with Santa Claus. Lots of kids eager to give their lists, and parents listening in so they could go downstairs to the toy departments and make the purchases. I was an anomaly here…for some reason I was not a Santa fan. There is only one photo in captivity of me, quite young, in a white sweater sitting on Santa’s knee. But I remember multiple pictures of cousin’s sitting with santa lining family mantle pieces.
The villages are long gone, along with The Emporium. The decorations are scaled back or non-existent, but the tree lots remain in the same places even in scaled-back size and just being there, and smelling the pine evokes a flood of old San Francisco holiday experiences.