To me the old hard copies of newspapers are lovely, those fragile pages, yellowed and brittle, filled with stories about literally thousands of people. At The Star-News office, I spent a few hours reading through the last couple issues of 1927 and first of 1928 of the National City News in search of what Christmas was like then in National City.
To set the literally national stage, Calvin Coolidge was president. Prohibition was a fact of life; it lasted from 1920 to 1933. Some of the major events in 1927 included the founding of the academy from which came the Academy Awards. The first “talkie,” “The Jazz Singer,” was made, causing a revolution in filmmaking. Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. Ford began production of its second automobile, the Model A. A pandemic influenza epidemic was thinning out the world’s population, which had reached two billion.
One non-Christmas event generating community excitement was the screening of the movie “Wings” at the National Theatre, because it was accompanied by sound.
“The music is good, the sounds clear” and “there is a promise of putting on … the ‘talkie’ movies here.” They already had the machine to produce the sound and “will install it as soon as business justifies the expense.” “Wings,” by the way, received the very first Academy Award.
At another venue, a movie advertised coming to the Seville Theatre was “Ladies of Hell” starring Lillian Gish. Odd choice for the season, don’t you think?
And now some not good news: the flu epidemic was raging here.
One family, Mr. and Mrs. W.N. McDonald, received the horrible news their son Ralph had been killed on Christmas in an automobile accident.
Another distressing story was about Chinese laundryman Charley Wong. His daughter had died, and an unnamed local woman was trying to get charity for the bereaved man.
To some, perhaps the saddest news may have been when “Local Police Seize Car of Xmas Hooch.” Officer Joe Piper, on a hunch, stopped Raul Diaz. Inside his car was 96 pints and 32 quarts of what was “said to be good Mexican whiskey” with an estimated value of $1,000. An investigation was going to be “launched” into this as Diaz turned out to be a Mexican immigration officer. Because of Officer Piper’s astuteness, “At least a portion of the parched throats in San Diego … will …stay parched.”
In the main, the news was much more upbeat:
Local notices listed dozens of traditions “our” people were enjoying at their homes as well as those visiting.
One unique family entry was the gift of a Christmas tree to Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Smith who lived “at the corner of Third and B,” shipped all the way from Nevada by their son who lived there.
Local boy Laurence Weisser won a bike from Moore’s Bicycle Shop of San Diego. He guessed Santa Claus would travel 1,224 miles on Christmas Eve. According to the article, Santa’s “actual number of miles was 1,224 4/10 miles.” Hmmm.
Churches were out in force with “everyone invited.” Most featured traditional church programs. But there was one unusual event; the sermon, carols and “tableux” by the church school of “Pastor Keyser and his people” was held entirely outdoors and necessitated the closure of the street “for the block.”
Fraternal organizations were also in evidence. The Brotherhood of American Yeomen, the Royal Neighbors and the Modern Woodmen were some listed; the last two held a joint shindig with Santa at the Knights of Pythias Hall.
A brand new Girl Scout troop put on a benefit play; with the proceeds they purchased a Christmas basket for a poor family. Boy Scout Troop 32 gave toys to National City kids.
So here they are, some bits from the past, mostly focused on goodwill to all. My best wishes of peace and joy to you all.