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Tinsel-Free Christmas: 1955

Tinsel-Free Christmas: 1955

December 1955. Here's our family's entry in the Shorpy Christmas tree sweepstakes. Devoid of any jolly celebrants, unfortunately, but at least we have my mother's curtains and drapes. Many vintage ornaments are in evidence: Santa heads, houses, a table lamp, a mushroom, an angel, a prizefighter, some birds with spun glass or celluloid tailfeathers, and one of my personal favorites, a big one we always called "the stars and stripes forever" on the left a little more than halfway up. Some were from my Mother's family and dated back to the early 1900s, including one that still had wax drippings on it from when you actually lit your tree with candles. On the right, our Motorola hosts the Nativity scene complete with plastic Wise Men. Sharp-eyed observers may note that on the window seat, the fishbowl, vacant a year later, here appears to be inhabited. My brother recorded the available-light exposure details for this Kodachrome slide on the mount: f2.8 @ 1 second, during which he jiggled the camera slightly. View full size.

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Oh, what great memories

What great Christmas memories. Beautiful tree, and a lovely home for the times. I was living in Marysville for Christmas 1955. We were sent to my grandparents' home in Yuba City on the 23rd, where the eventual flood occurred. From Yuba City we were off to a friend of my grandfather’s west in Colusa. Christmas morning he and my grandfather flew to Sacramento to get supplies.

You social climber, you!

Most trees had C7 bulbs, you appear to have C9's.

Decor in motion

Funny you should mention that, A.T. I always loved it when we rearranged the living room; it was like moving into a new house, almost. Frequently I was a participant, and at times, I think, a motivating force. Here we see the TV in one of three corners it or its descendants occupied over the years. The much-admired curtains and drapes are actually a 1940s style rather than 1950s. When my mother had them and the cornices done, she was tickled with the clever idea the decorator had of offsetting everything to the left so as to disguise how off-center the windows were.


Is this the same California living room in all the other photos? Looks it, but I'm getting the sense your mom liked to move the furniture around a lot. Frankly, I like the curtains and drapes. They're very Ricky and Lucy. Anything beats those dagnabbity ugly "vertical blinds" they sell on us these days.

Russian River Flooding ....

I lived in the Russian River (Front Street, Monte Rio) during Christmas of 1981 and there was a terrible flood then, too, tterrace. My house was right on the riverbank and I vividly remember one terrible night of going outside every hour, on the hour, to check how much the river had risen against the stairsteps going from my cellar door down to the water. Luckily, the river crested just at the top step - but not without bringing about some miserable anxiety and tension. I'm sorry that your house wasn't so lucky.

Bubble lights

I found four-inch tube bubble lights last year at Wal-Mart. We did not have bubble lights on our trees at home but friends of the family did and I yearned for them ever since. The lights I purchased are so far working fine and they really are magical. Wishing all readers memory making time with your families, and don't forget the camera! Merry Christmas to you Dave and thanks for your gift of windows into the precious past.

[And we thank tterrace for this and many other wunnerful photos. - Dave]


Those curtains are a work of art in their own right.

Cold War Nerves

One partially-heard TV news bulletin during those Xmas 1955 floods said something about "Russian." In that era THAT was a major attention grabber! It was somewhat of a relief to hear it repeated in full and was only about a river.

Our presents and lights

This is pre-Christmas day, so the presents under the tree are those from friends and relatives received either by mail or from visits. The "official" presents, including the really good big ones (i.e., the ones for me) didn't get put out until after I'd gone upstairs to bed Christmas Eve.

You can't see our bubble lights, the big old-fashioned kind with tubes about 4" long and about 3/8" in diameter. They'd drive my mother to distraction because there'd always be a couple on the string that wouldn't bubble, but they were magical to me. They eventually all wore out and when they came back into fashion in the 70s they, like the regular lights, were tiny in comparison and just not the same at all. And some of those didn't bubble, either.

A while back I posted another shot of our 1955 tree, this time by flash but also a little jiggly, and with a couple people in it.

Yesterdays once more

I can think of nothing better to say to this photo than the words of Elizabeth Akers Allen:

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again, just for tonight!

I still jiggle

but that being said, I'm happy Paul is sharing those classic photos I and then he took back in the day!

-- Will, Paul's brother, who took the picture

Oh those trees....

I wish I could still find trees like the one pictured and from my childhood of the early sixties. They were open and airy and had enough room between the branches so that the ornaments could actually "hang," and not just lean.

Today's trees are so dense you can hardly get the lights in and around the branches, and you have to use so darn many just to light it up.

Silent Night

Enchanting. Who lives here now?

There's no place like home.

There's no place like home. There's no place like home. (Accompanied by the clicking of ruby red slippers.)

Window dressing

Well that is a perfect Christmas tree and the slight blur adds a little dreamy magic that is nice. But man, that curtan/drape combo is stunning! Your mom must have been proud!

Us and the flood

That 1955 Christmas flood Anonymous Tipster mentioned was the one that got our summer place at the Russian River, as seen here, and down in the comments here.

Xmas 1955 Floods

Though we weren't affected much in Hayward (some street flooding) Xmas 1955 will always remind me of the disaster not far off in Yuba City/Marysville.
We went to an area FD station to donate some used clothing.

Photo Log Pre-EXIF

My father started shooting Kodachrome slides in 1950 and kept a little log book with the exposure and aperture for a while. He would compare those with the slides after he got them back from the Kodak lab. He also wrote titles on the cardboard slide frames.

Interesting how "photo anticipation" went from weeks (Kodachrome sent off in those nifty mailers that were eventually ruled monopolistic), to 60 seconds (Polaroids on a warm day, a lttle more if you had to warm the Polacolor inside the aluminumu Cold Clip inside your pocket) to instant feedback as you view your JPGs on your digicam screen.

Big lights!

I'm so glad the big bulb lights like the ones in the picture are making a comeback. Of course, they're a lot safer and more efficient than their ancestors, but they still have the same retro look.

I remember the days of having to wait until the tree was completely dry before hanging the lights, or you'd get sizzles and sparks.

Thanks, Dave

I feel dumb for not clicking on the title; I've been spoiled by the obvious button and saved my brain power for looking at details in the photos.

Turns out the bird looks very like the one my mother has, and I recognize that Santa face, too. And the large bulb lights!

Interesting to note that the presents fit under the tree. These days that pile would only amount to stocking stuffers in some house I know.

I'd Live There!

tterrace, you continue to outdo yourself posting these wonderful slice-of-life images ... I hope you are a happy "grown up," as your posts and images lead me to believe you may have turned out. Happy Holidays to you and yours (you too, Dave!)

TV set in the corner?

Back in those days the TV wasn't on 24/7, a beautiful wooden cabinet with doors was a good idea. I put a 90's TV into a 50's cabinet in my 50's themed home - but now, when it's starting to letting the smoke out, I can't find any new TV's that fits into our ol' cabinet.

View larger

It would be nice to view hi-def or just a larger size.

[Any and every image on this site can be "viewed full size," even if there is no "view full size" link in the caption. Step 1: Open the post by clicking on the title. Step 2: Click the "View full size" link under the caption. - Dave]

Life Before EXIF

I have often wondered how film photographers kept track of exposure setting for individual photos. Did they keep a log book with frame numbers and settings? This seems like it would have a pain in the neck.

PS - Where is the "View Full Size" link on this photo?

[See above. - Dave]

And a Happy New Year as well...

Tterrace you are twanging the heart-strings again, dammit.Ten years before and a few thousand miles away across the Pond, we had the same glass birds - the tails were made of spun glass - and little glass houses as well. And our tree was lit by little wax candles in clip-on tin holders (there was no electricity in my Granny's cottage) But, sadly, no photos (not much film around in GB in 1945). So, thank you for reminding me.

When the time comes I'll raise a glass to you, and Dave, and all the splendid folk who view Shorpy, and wish you all a very merry Christmas from Cornwall.

Love it!!!

Can we see it full size? Would love to see details on the tree!

[Any and every image on this site can be "viewed full size," even if there is no "view full size" link in the caption. Step 1: Open the post by clicking on the title. Step 2: Click the "View full size" link under the caption. - Dave]

Full size button, please?

I'd like to see the ornaments. My mother still has ornaments from her mother, German made I believe.

No "view full size"?


[Any and every image on this site can be "viewed full size," even if there is no "view full size" link in the caption. Step 1: Open the post by clicking on the title. Step 2: Click the "View full size" link under the caption. - Dave]

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