James Laird - Christmas Celebrations in the 1930s - Page 1

As I am writing this chapter at Christmas time in 1999 it might be a good time to write about what Christmas was like at the Lark Ellen Home for Boys while my brothers and I lived there. A large Christmas tree was put up in the living room which was on the first floor under one of the dormitories and about the same size as the dorm. I never saw it being decorated as the room was only used for special occasions. A week or so before Christmas we were all dressed up in our best clothes and driven to the Biltmore Hotel dining room in downtown Los Angeles to be the guest of the Los Angeles Lions Club for lunch. It was a good thing had we had a formal dining room at the boys home or it would have been very intimidating with all the fancy table settings. We did not use that many spoons, knives, and forks but the setting looked pretty much the same with the linen table clothes, napkins and such.

Each boy had a Lion Club member sitting next to him who made him feel relaxed, and talked to us during the meal. The dining room was decorated in the Christmas spirit with a large tree with piles of large Christmas boxes underneath it. When we had finished dessert and the tables had been cleared Santa appeared next to the tree. His assistant handed him brightly ribbon boxes and he would call out the name on it and each boy would go up to receive his gift from Santa. The gifts were usually in Bullocks or the May Company Dept. store boxes and contained clothing that was just our size thanks to the efforts of the dorm matrons and Mom Cassidy, the superintendent. There were a bunch of happy contented boys hugging their boxes tight to their full tummies on the ride home.

Early Christmas morning found all the boys sitting on the floor around the Christmas tree in the living room singing Christmas carols. The few kids going home for Christmas day would stay until later in the morning. Under the tree were gifts for each of us. This time they were more likely to be toys or games or something they knew you were very interested in. Sometimes we had a special guest who gave out the gifts. Usually it was someone who had visited us before and had entertained us in some way.