ZaRex USA Fruit Syrups
at Dec 12, 2013 3:13:08 PM
East Cambridge Christmas
Thinking back over the years listening to Christmas music reminds me of memories still real. School recitals, we were all stars on the stage so we thought as we sang Christmas music to family and friends. Our music teacher played the piano as we belted out the tunes. We were gathered in a small school gymnasium at Thorndike Elementary. It took three weeks to prepare the proper beat and words memorized for the event. Everyone was in their best attire, beautiful holiday dress for the girl’s, while the boys wore red ties with starched white shirts. In between rehearsing we shared what Santa would be delivering us. Over the years many things have changed from my early childhood days. I can tell you back in our day Christmas was celebrated without politics or hate.
I can see myself seating at attention kindergarten as Santa enters the room. He is ringing the bell our teacher used as we gathered in her room to direct our attention to her. As he walks around the ring of chairs he is passing out small boxes of hard candy which now would be a choking item for this classroom. He knows each of us as he gives large deep Ho! Ho! Ho!
The candy in small boxes shaped like fireplaces filled with rock hard candy. School was the place Christmas became the most important celebration of the year. Over the next eight years my life these were the days of true happiness. I was blessed with parents that worked hard and gave six children what we requested. Families were six or more kids in the fifties and sixties. People became so different during these times. There was happiness and smiles no matter where you went.
It was the time when every home was decorated with huge bright lights in windows. Wreaths on most every door showing Christmas was alive inside. Some families began placing strings of lights outside their homes and played music through various speakers covered in plastic.
These were the days every kid was on best behavior seldom were mistakes made. Oh yes there were those who stepped over the line with acts of earth shattering results. Like Santa getting hit with a broom handle on Cambridge Street. Occasionally Santa was found sleeping in his car behind the wheel sound asleep from a long night’s celebration.
Every department store regardless of size had Santa live and ready to listen. He even visited schools and celebrated in barrooms enjoying his down time.
Growing up in this section of Cambridge was special considering the world was in between past and future. It was the time when people honored each other with respect. Christmas was for all including the Humbuggers who complained it was too religious. Despite what you might have heard Christmas is celebrated for the birth of one child. The Holy Star, Three Wise Men, Bethlehem and they say it was on that night the world was given a gift from God. Baby Jesus entered this world that night our Savior was born.
I now watch my five Grandchildren celebrate what I considered the best night in the world. I can see the spirit of me inside them all. Sharing, laughing celebrating with family friends. I think of the years past when Santa visited my home. What made Christmas Eve the celebration it has always been visiting friends and family.
Regardless what part of this world you were from Christmas included everyone it did not matter your religion, it was Christmas. I recommend you sit with a warm cup of tea or your favorite drink. Relax, lower the lights and turn on the Christmas tunes. Close your eyes, when you’re ready to drift off begin thinking of your youth when Christmas was celebrated. Try to think as far back as possible when you first met Santa. Remember your reaction?
My first time I remember Santa was Dines Cambridge Street department store. As you entered the front door decorations greeted shoppers. Walking to back of the store as floor creaked, it was decorated red, gold, white paper on the wall. In the middle was large throne style red velour with gold trimmed chair fit for a King.
A red rug leading to the large man sitting in that chair as he held his hand out with a smile. With his white beard I remember total panic replacing my excitement. I can hear my sisters laughing trying to pull me towards Santa. No one would convince me he was nice. I knew they could care less cause I was holding up their chance to tell him what they wanted. All he was going to do was place me on his lap and take our picture. If that happen I guess it showed me passed out with fear.
The next year was different I was ready for him and when I entered the door raced to his area. Suddenly there he was HOHOHO with a deep laugh sound. It was then I realized just how nice he was, proceeded to jump on his lap.
As I sat there a flash from those old fashion camera light blinded me. All I saw was red spots drifting before my eyes regardless what I looked at. He then reached into his box filled with gifts all wrapped and anyone visiting him got one. Little did I know my parents flipped that bill as well, he did give a free candy cane as well.
In the fifties Cambridge Street was packed with shoppers, workers rushing to establishments yelling Merry Christmas. Local drug stores carried more than just cards they also had Christmas stockings, perfume, model airplanes and more. Christmas day was the only day drug stores might be open for medications pickups.
The bakeries sent the smell of breads, pizza, cakes throughout the air making you hungry as you walked. Music poured out of the barrooms where the locals enjoyed sharing the cheer. Bing Crosby, Perry, Dino, and Frank they all sang our favorites from Wurlitzers the big fat juke boxes speakers. On every floor in these bars would be saw dust to help catch the spilled beer and prevent the water from snow on boots from pooling. They even threw saw dust outside on the snow and ice to give people traction from falling. Keep in mind there was a local drinking holes on every block back then. The real action naturally was the barrooms going full tilt from Thanksgiving till Christmas Eve. It was a time when most were too drunk to drive they rolled home.
There were those who toasted every reindeer by name and the Clyde’s dale horses as well. Each time the door opened smoke bellowed out into the cold crisp air of December. You could see the saw dust holding down the spilled beer and noise of various languages being yelled out.
Santa once in a while would stumble out the door of J&H on Hurley Street/Fourth. It was the place to be for free cokes, food and great big gifts from Santa swaying in the seat. I think back to my days growing up and thank my family for being part of my memories.
Package stores were also part of the neighborhood at this time. These stores were bustling with business men carrying boxes filled with bows attached to large bottles as gifts. Cases of Narragansett, Bud, and Schlitz were stacked as you entered the stores. Cigar smoke filled the entire room and they would hand out shot filled samples. The owner was a Jewish gentleman that celebrated Christmas with all his customers.
We had fish mongers which stayed busy as the holiday approached. With so many various nationalities you know that was part of the celebration. No matter where you went people sat you down made huge plates of great food.
My Grandmother was my favorite cook she made dishes I have never tasted since she passed, all Portuguese. I knew when she took out the blue white splattered oven pan it was going to the best meal. Portuguese soups, stuffing, squid she mastered them all.
The First National was a large supermarket that had boys walking your shopping to the waiting cars lined up on Cambridge Street. They tempted all of us to behave with huge displays of great toys. They had tanks that fired shells and aircraft carriers with real sounds of jets taking off the deck. Once Christmas was over the toys were taken out and we waited till the following years unveiling.
For some reason back then snow appeared more frequently around Christmas guess God was happy with the celebration back then. Every house every store had displays of lights, tree's, religious scenes, music and so much more. Once in a while you would hear fireworks being thrown into the street by someone in a bar. The poles supporting the overhead wires for the buses had decorations wreaths and bells all lit up adding to the festivities.
The haberdasher’s where most people bought clothing there was no Bradlees’s or Zayers just yet.
Local commerce ruled people loved to share with each other. If you went to Lechmere Square you passed Deran's chocolate store and smelled the candy blocks away. People lined up on Cambridge Street to purchase chocolates. Lechmere Sales where Santa always was smiling. Visiting him meant a gift yoyo, slinky, gyroscopes and other small gifts for two dollars.
Banks opened at ten, closed at three Monday through Friday if you missed getting banking done there was no ATM or credit cards to fall back on.
Everyone's life revolved around planning before the holiday arrived. Dry cleaners ran full tilt getting suits cleaned and pressed as the Wong family performed miracles with starched shirts.
The schools decorated windows with Christmas cuts outs or painted displays. They invited families to attend their parties. Kid’s parties began from second week of December. Churches were filled with students as part of requirements dictated by the schools. Santa was everywhere schools, church, East End Union, Am Vets or some other club.
I lived at 125 Spring Street I would lie listening to Christmas music on my Uncles HIFI lying on the ground in front of the speakers. I remember Bing Crosby singing DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR and the Chipmunks seemed so different back then with just music you understood.
Christmas was always special when my Grandfather
Shared his happiness with us. One evening we were dancing, singing together having a great time. He spoke little English but we exchanged smiles, laughs, singing with Gene Autry Frosty the Snowman or Here Comes Santa Claus. One time we were having so much fun, Grandpa danced right into the tree. Then the ornaments, lights, tinsel and Papa landed on the ground. We loved him more than Santa.
Christmas music seems to always make me relax even in mid-July I sometimes will play a few tunes to make me remember who I am. There is no reason to ruin the only holiday all Americans seem to enjoy together unless your name is Scrooge. Even he in the end changed his heart from stone to happiness traveling down the roads of past, present, future. Throughout his dreams he learned what we were taught growing up Love is the strongest gift.
I think back visiting Cambridge Hospital children’s ward with the Cub Scouts, to sing Christmas songs to the kids. One year we went to Sonesta Hotel when it was first open and performed outside the main doors singing Carols hoping we would get donations. We were kindly asked to our move the concert to the Jordan Marsh warehouse across the street.
Christmas was celebrated at church with people attending mid night Mass. Nowadays for safety reasons you will never find an altar boy falling asleep on the alter during Mass.
You might not even see the manger where Christ was born displayed as they did back then having real people and animals playing their parts live.
Time has moved the hands on the clock. There are so many people who taught me Christmas which have left this earth. I thank each for sharing their celebration of this magic night. We always had the greatest times sharing memories and telling stories.
I helped Santa one Christmas Eve myself. My best friend Rocky and I dressed in his suites. We had snow that year we were preparing to enter the Army January 1966. As we went house to house people gave us spirits. That night we landed in front of Bradlees, Somerville dressed as two Santa’s not feeling so well. I can remember how hot I was, yet it was snowing hard with wind blowing snow around us.
We were laughing and singing Christmas carols under the traffic light. That night we both learned happiness as we headed home together as Santa’s. That was the last night we shared happiness together, the following year Rocky was in Korea, Germany for me.
East Cambridge is where Christmas memories began for me. I have cherished my childhood memories of Christmas. No one has ever told me there is no Santa. I Love CHRISTMAS more than any day of the year.
I still believe Santa is living at the North Pole. Yes I do. My Christmas Angel shares the excitement of Christmas as I, my granddaughter Chloe told me.
I now understand there is nothing more important than kids enjoying Christmas morning. The excitement I once had seems to have grown five times with excitement for my Grandchildren’s smiles. To hear them tell me Papa Merry Christmas I love you is the best present of all.
The Christmas Wish began one cold winter’s night a Child born under a bright Star. To all who read this I wish the greatest of holidays. May you always believe in Santa and always remember the real meaning of Christmas.
I wish to all who read this a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
11-20-2012 Revised 2013