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Sunday, December 19, 1982

Past Christmas Memories

Ernest D. Wichels

One of the most certain things in life is change. We’re reminded today of the tremendous changes in December holiday observances and the way of life over the past years.

Let us go, for a moment today, to Christmas of 1882 and also in 1932 in our area.  One hundred years ago, according to the Vallejo Chronicle, it was wet. The rains finally came, the Solano and Napa farmers were jubilant and by Christmas Eve the seasonal total reached 5.06 inches.  Vallejo was still a wheat-export city, and during the holiday week, the British ships Dumfrieshire and the Cape Verde loaded at the South Vallejo elevators.

The Napa Water Co. had selected a site for a reservoir and the building of a waterworks for that city was expected to begin in 1883.  At Vallejo’s Farragut Theater on Georgia Street, the Christmas stage program was “Lights 0’ London’’ by the Palmer Theatrical Co.  The Chronicle also reported that coyotes were being shot at the Lone Tree Farm south of Napa, where they had been molesting lambs. The Lone Tree Farm will be remembered by oldtimers it is now the site of Basalt Rock Co. and the Kaiser Pipe Plant.

The Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) were still independent but our State Department was worried over the report that the Hawaiian king was being pressured by Great Britain for permission to establish a naval station on the islands.  There were two Christmas weddings in Vallejo in 1882 and the names may be familiar, D.G. Thompson og the legal firm of Getchell and Thompson married Minnie Kimball. John Aden (Aden Brothers Co.) married Othallie Meyers.  Just 60 years ego this season, 1922, we had another popular wedding, George Thornton, of the pioneer Vallejo family, married Hazel Downer of the Pinole banking family.

International troubles were still brewing (did our readers think the present turmoil was anything new?) During the 1922 holidays, seven Irish “rebels” were executed in Dublin. United States Marines were in occupation in Nicaragua.  There were bargains 60 years ago too. Fresh turkeys were 14 and a half cents a pound; coffee, 28 cents a pound; 10 pounds of sugar for 39 cents and a leg of pork at 9 cents.  Lettuce was 4 cents a head and eggs, 29 cents a dozen; bacon was available at 15 cents.

Now we come to 10 years ago, in 1932.  First, there were few if any eggnog parties or tom and jerrys we had national Prohibition. Besides, we were in a terrible depression. But interest was still 6 percent.  The week before Christmas in 1932, the Vallejo Rotary gave a party for 30 kids. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Kelly were co-chairmen, assisted by Medsames Charles Bessac, Stanley Chishilm, Jack Thornton Ray Doran and Orvin Gaston.  Vallejo then had three motion picture theaters although 10 years earlier it boasted four or five.

For New Year’s Eve, week 1932, the Fox Virginia was showing “No Man of Her Own,” starring Gable and Lombard.  The Fox Senator advertised Frank Buck’s “Bring ‘em Back Alive.”  Across the Napa River, the mechanics in this area were rejoicing in the successful sea trials of the Mare Island-build heavy cruiser “Chicago,” and were busy constructing the heavy cruiser “San Francisco,” which was launched some three months later, on March 9, 1933.  An interesting sidelight to the busy shipyard workload is the fact that Mare Island had just launched the YG-16, a self-powered garbage lighter.

As it slid into the waters of the drydock its youthful sponsor, Miss Lauman. officially christened it “YG-16.” But at the aft and of the barge, screened by some canvas tarpaulins, the shipwrights had a sponsor of their own, properly provided with a champagne bottle, who christened it “violet’’ a garbage fragrance?  In 1933, Vallejo had four newspapers, Chronicle. Evening News, Morning Times-Herald and the weekly Labor Journal.  But not a single saloon or cocktail lounge.  While this city and Napa; Suisun and others, had substitutes in those Prohibition days. they were not called bootleg joints.”  Somehow or other, these places were called “blind pigs.”

May your holidays be happy ones.