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By Jon Hammond
Land of Four Seasons 

First Christmas in Tehachapi, 1937

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

 

December 21, 2019

Jon Hammond

Pat Davis Gracey.

Actually, a first remembered Christmas for me, a member of the Davis Family, was in the desert town of Mojave with the famous strong winds hitting the house. That one action of the harsh, howling wind always made me, as a small child, feel quite secure in my warm bed with my parents nearby. There was a problem though because we had no fireplace for the jolly old elf, Santa, to make an entrance into our living room. The brick chimney atop our house connected to a wood stove, and that worried me. My sister, Evelyn, assured me that he'd come in through the front door. I would ask "What if the door is locked?" Once again, big sister would say that we never locked our door but if it were locked Santa was magic and could enter anyway. After that I could sleep.

My father, Chauncey Davis, used to go to the mountains and cut a beautiful white fir tree each year. The aroma of the freshly cut branches was delightful. One small problem was this: what looked about right in height on the mountain was usually about four feet too much tree for our living room.

In 1937 we moved to a farm in Old Town, Tehachapi. We were delighted to live in the wonderful mountain community of about 1,000 souls. There was no Golden Hills, no Stallion Springs and the only people living in Bear Valley were the Fickert sisters and the cowboys who worked for them. Tehachapi co-operated with making us feel welcome as the winter of 1937 was one of those wet years and many mornings my brother, Buster, would wake me up to see the snow piled high outside. We were ecstatic.

Mom gave me $2 that first year to do my Christmas shopping. My sister and I went to Billy Down's Dime Store on the main street in town and I was able to purchase gifts for my parents, my two brothers, my sister and my grandmother. The Dime Store was located just across the street from the railroad water tank. Lots of things actually cost a dime then. They were treasures to me though, for I had never Christmas shopped before.

Buster made it a yearly tradition to take a lunch and spend the day in the Tehachapi Mountains looking for the perfect fir tree. He took a measuring tape to cut it just the right size. No doubt he remembered our Dad having to saw off a sizable length of tree in earlier years. He came home with the beautiful, perfectly shaped tree. He'd probably get arrested today for his efforts but no one cared then. We would, after Christmas, plant it in the front yard and the moist earth would keep it good so it would stand straight and lovely until about April before it began to drop its needles.

Jon Hammond

A baby girl and a baby White Fir tree in the snow at Tehachapi Mountain Park.

In school we drew names in class and we had a fifty-cent limit for our gift purchase. I don't recall anyone who did not get a gift but it could be that the teacher watched carefully to see that no one was left out in case someone did not buy a gift or could not afford to buy one. I do recall there was a lot of name trading so you could get your best friend's name. The teacher also saw to it that we made Christmas gifts for our parents and I was happy my mother was so pleased with her gift from me. I, too, had many years of exclaiming with great enthusiasm over my own children's presents to me. One always has to be careful not to say, "What is it?" but just to announce it being a wonderful gift. They usually tell you what it's for if you choose your words wisely. My mother, Maude Davis, had her part down to a science and we were always happy to see how appreciative she was.

The yearly Christmas program for the parents was held in the Grammar School Auditorium (later Wells Elementary) and many carols were sung by all. They were wonderful times and my eyes mist up just thinking of those days and my childhood hopes of something as simple as hoping it would snow or getting a part in the Christmas play.

– Pat Davis Gracey

 
 

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