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News 8 Throwback: Christmas in San Diego from 1960 and early '90s

With the holiday season upon us, many people will celebrate Christmas in a very different way this year. News 8 wants to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — We’re throwing it way back to 1960 -- Christmas in San Diego 60 years ago. The unearthed film is in beautiful condition. It provides a window into the past and it is truly remarkable to see San Diegans and Santa enjoying the holiday season. Our archives reveal that there were many festivities and TV 8 cameras were there to capture all the excitement in 1960 and early 1990’s -- enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Christmas in San Diego 1960

November 1960 and signs of the season were beginning to surface around town. On November 10th Parks and Recreation Department strung lights along Laurel Avenue. They would be turned on the day after Thanksgiving during a special program. Christmas Tree Lane in Balboa Park was a month-long holiday event that attracted most of the population of San Diego. Kinder Forrest shared her memories about it on Facebook: 

Christmas Tree Lane actually went along Laurel Street, crossed the Bridge, went into Balboa Park, turned right and went past the Japanese Tea Garden entrance and passed through Pavilion and the Hospitality Houses.. then turned left and exited the Park onto Pershing.. my parents drove us from Encanto in the early 60's and I Remember being antsy in the car as vehicles queued up all along Park Avenue, 6th and 5th and waited turns to funnel into the Park. There was a Giant Santa and Sleigh figures with extra large reindeer at the turn past the Tea garden... so cool but you couldn't get out and park to take it in. Drive thru only!

On November 26 Christmas trees arrived from the north. San Diego’s Christmas tree king Henry Pozner selected them. He was a produce merchant and supplied businesses and the general public thousands of trees. They cost a bit more as they were kept refrigerated at his downtown warehouse.

John S. Alessio, executive director of the Caliente Racetrack was host at the annual Caliente Christmas Posada at the Hotel del Coronado. It was held in the newly decorated ballroom. Admiral Yaeger won a sombrero in the men’s pinata contest and Mrs. Hamilton Marston won a silver coffee service for her efforts in making the ball a success.

San Diego Christmas Shopping 1960

It was the first day of winter, December 20. It was 81 degrees according to the Federal Savings temperature sign. Downtown was filled with Christmas shoppers. Men sat on benches in Horton Plaza most likely letting their wives do the shopping. Two young women wearing shorts (so San Diego) walk by the fountain and John Wayne’s Rio Grande is playing at Plaza Theater. On the 24 it was a last-minute rush for mostly men in a dress shop in the El Cortez Fashion Quarter.

Children’s Christmas Parties San Diego 1960

Santa Claus and Rudolph visited children at The Neighborhood House, an event sponsored by The Volunteer Bureau of San Diego.

Bozo the Clown was at the annual Children’s Hospital Christmas party making balloons and performing tricks.

About 2000 children attended the party at The Naval Training Center. There was a stage show and cartoons held in Luce Auditorium.

Encinitas and Vista Christmas Parades 1960

Several thousand people lined the streets for the fourth annual Saint Nicholas Parade in Encinitas. There were 135 entries, and each was presented with a large blue and gold mug, inscribed with Santa Claus, as a trophy. No judging in this parade -- everyone was a winner.

About 10,000 people attended Vista’s 5th annual parade. A.E. Howell of Lemon Grove was grand marshal. There were 75 entries. The Vista First Lutheran Church float “Why the Chimes Rang” won the sweepstakes honors.

Christmas Fun in San Diego 1960

Santa Claus and his reindeer arrived in Clairemont much to the delight of children and parents alike.

A big night at Singing Hills Country Club. The Junior Chamber of Commerce chose Roseanne Booker of Lemon Grove as the 1960 Poinsettia Queen. Guests were treated to dinner, a fashion show, and dancing.

What a sight -- the Union Brick Company, off the 101, put Santa on top of their tall chimney. So, a helicopter flew him up (not sure why his reindeer couldn’t do the job) and folks were treated to a most unusual Santa sighting.

Channel 8 was involved in a CBS Television Network production. “Crib and Carol Service” aired on CBS on Christmas Eve. In this scene they were recreating the tradition of the religious Spanish custom, The Posada. The program relived the culmination of Father Serra’s journey to the “mother of all missions” Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.

San Diego Sky Divers played Santa Claus and jumped out of a helicopter to deliver presents to 15 children waiting on the ground.

Christmas Shopping at Fashion Valley 1991

Two days before Christmas in 1991 it might have looked busy but News 8's Carol Hasson reported it wasn't as busy as previous years. At Cousin's Warehouse, people were buying washing machines, not camcorders. At Crate and Barrel, they were buying useful things. At Ben Bridge, jewelry sales were up. Fashion Valley has changed so much through the years. This video is a good reminder of what the mall looked like almost 30 years ago.

Ecke Ranch Poinsettias 1992 and 1993

The local family business was going strong in 1992. It was one of the largest suppliers of the beautiful red plant. Paul Ecke III told News 8 photojournalist Bruce Patch they started operations in Encinitas in 1923. His grandfather German immigrant Albert Ecke started the business in Los Angeles in 1909. His son Paul Ecke Jr. took over the family business in 1963 and expanded it heavily. Paul Ecke III took over Ecke Ranch in 1992, the same year of this interview. He showed off the wide varieties of poinsettias -- they weren't just red anymore. Candy cane, curlies, jingle bells, to name a few. Ecke said he felt a lot of responsibility to the world because if something were to happen to the mother plants there would be no Christmas. A year later reporter Doug McAllister explored the myth of the poison poinsettia. Ecke explained that the plant was introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico. The Ecke Ranch is still in operation but the Ecke family sold it in 2012.

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