Step into San Francisco’s Christmas previous in the gallery of historic images above.

Christmas is at all times great in San Francisco, however if you have a look at images and listen to tales from many years previous, the spectacle appears extra grand and its sparkle extra dazzling.

The vacation was particular in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s: In the event you grew up in town, it’s possible you’ll bear in mind driving alongside the Marina to see the lights on the boats and the homes and listening to the sound of carolers using the cable vehicles down Hyde Avenue. And you’ll undoubtedly always remember the Christmas tree glistening in the stained-glass dome of the Metropolis of Paris, nor Emporium’s over-the-top fanfare.

“The Emporium used to do these rooftop carnivals for the youngsters, which looks like a lot of legal responsibility now however fairly magical for the youngsters,” stated Nicole Meldahl, government director of the Western Neighborhoods Mission.


Meldahl has helped curate and protect historic pictures of San Francisco for her nonprofit and those of Christmas show many long-gone traditions.

“The firehouses used to compete with each other with these fabulous decorations,” stated Meldahl. “That was unhappy to see it go. Eighteenth Avenue was identified was Christmas Tree Lane and at the moment there is no neighborhood that springs to thoughts that does a coordinated effort, however there are nonetheless some over-the-top shows.”

She added: “Christmas remains to be magical in San Francisco, however once we view what occurred in the previous by the lens of Kodachrome pictures from the previous, there’s a great nostalgia that comes alive.”

To carry alive that magic of Christmastime, we reached out to the San Francisco Remembered Fb group and invited its 84,000 members to share their recollections. The thread rapidly grew to greater than 250 feedback and beneath we spotlight many, displaying Christmas was a actually large deal in San Francisco.


The department shops celebrated with nice fanfare and purchasing was performed in shops

I used to be born in San Francisco in 1950. After I was little, we went to the Metropolis Of Paris. The large tree in the center of the shop was magical and stuffed with toys, treats and glowing ornaments. We walked every flooring across the magnificent tree. We pointed to our objects of want, there have been unbelievable issues like a Schwinn bicycle with a basket and a horn, enormous stuffed animals, dolls all decked out in social gathering clothes and so on. For me it was the issues of my desires as we continued the lengthy walks round until we reached the highest. I believe I used to be about 6 years outdated. She took us there yearly. In a kid’s eyes it was really Magical!!!” —Melanie Davis 


” this Metropolis was on the prime of its recreation with that tree slowly turning on the Metropolis of Paris! San Francisco made such a assertion to the world for retail type and stylish design at it’s greatest. What may prime it? It’s engraved in my reminiscence as probably the most enchanting retailer in the world. I used to be at all times so proud to have been born in a metropolis with such expertise and imaginative designers.” —Alberta Rivera

“At Metropolis of Paris if you have been upstairs trying down, we felt like angels flying on the prime of tree. Later Gump’s as a result of they usually did very romantic fairytale home windows.” —Gayle McClure

“Within the late 60’s and early 70’s, we at all times made our trek to see Santa on the roof of the Emporium, journey the little kiddie rides after which stroll up to Geary on Union Sq. to see the I.Magnin window shows. A few years, as we received older, my grandma (a 1906 earthquake survivor) took us to have tea on the Palace Resort.” —Erin-Kate Whitcomb 

“I used to love to go downtown proper after Thanksgiving and see all of the decorations and particularly the Emporium window animated decorations! The most effective half was how up on the rooftop of the Emporium was remodeled into a Winter Wonderland with roof rides all the Christmas break!! A few of the greatest recollections I’ve!” —Marta RivasGlaze



“Strolling between Macy’s and Emporium’s to see the window shows. Then going to the roof prime of Emporium to journey the rides and watch the ice-skating present as we stood in line ready to go to Santa and get our images taken with him.  —Tatiana Bilibin

“Strolling up Powell Avenue with my mom to do some Christmas purchasing. There was a blind man with a canine and a tin cup who was a part of the surroundings. I beloved him for being a part of the expertise. My different at all times gave me change to put in his cup. Then we would stroll on Grant and see the Christmas tree and find yourself having scorching chocolate-if the Metropolis of Paris had a place to sit down and order it up, then that is the place we settled in, cozy and rosy-cheeked from the coolness. It was vacation magic at its greatest.” —Joyce Van Horn 

“Girls have been all dressed up with hats and gloves! Girls all dressed to nines simply to journey a bus and store! Even on the way in which to work it was a adventurous journey by the Christmas world of retail. The sights and sounds of the bustling metropolis through the holidays. The odor of roasted nuts, the fragrance counter, strolling by Blum’s with it’s seasonal baked items, Woolworth’s with its shows, the Cable Automotive ringing its bells, Union Sq. surrounded by shops, and eventually Santa on the roof prime with ice-skating exhibits, corn canine, and cotton sweet! Oh sure, l was a Santa’s Helper at 18. I spent my lunch break day by day on the Ferris Wheel consuming popcorn!” —Alberta Rivera

“I designed shops for Emporium (late 70s/early 80s).The child’s division had a lengthy, lengthy aisle stuffed with toys, and an unimaginable LEGO show throughout Christmas. Our workplace was on the roof above the dome, and there have been so many guests with recollections of that roof on the Holidays. I bear in mind a large social gathering with Santa in the auditorium.” —Barbara Corff 

“I bear in mind the Metropolis of Paris had a life-size stuffed horse on the market and I wished it so dangerous!” —Debra Dunwoody

“The unique Value Plus retailer in a outdated warehouse Fisherman’s Wharf was magical at Christmas in the early 1960s. So many stunning and weird decorations tucked into its nooks and crannies! My dad, a butcher who had his personal store close to the Portola District, would take us there and  purchase a bunch of decorations whereas Mother distracted my sister and I (we have been fairly younger). Then, each night time for the week earlier than Christmas whereas we slept he would put up new decorations round the home. We’d rise up every morning keen to see what was added. By Christmas Day the home was bursting with coloration, overflowing with stunning decorations of all types. He did this for a variety of years and we simply beloved it.” —Janet Popesco Archibald

“Within the 1970s there was a traditional Christmas decoration retailer [Podesta Baldochi on Grant] that my Dad would take us for an decoration annually.” —Kiri Schultz

“Oh my goodness and purchasing at The Akron and Value Plus was the very best ever ever ever.” —Dede Soulchild Martinez 

“Happening to Market Avenue with Mother. We have been at all times dressed up and Mother would purchase our image from the person who roamed Market. He would take our image after which promote it to us.” —Maureen Francis 

“Gump’s, Podesta & Baldocchi, the wonderful home windows of I. Magnin, Joseph Magnin, and Saks. This metropolis has sadly misplaced what made Union Sq. so distinctive. However I nonetheless love my San Francisco.” —Gail Harootenian Kezerian 

“For me, the San Francisco equal of a White Christmas was a Moist Christmas. I particularly beloved going to Union Sq. to see the window shows after it had rained, as a result of again in the 1950s, a lot of the sidewalks there had darkish gray, sparkly pavement, and the lights from the home windows reflecting on the moist, sparkly sidewalks created a magical impact.” —Deborah Brooks 

The decorations have been citywide

“Firehouses have been adorned all through town and driving round from place to place was a delight. The welcome from firemen was at all times huge.” —Sue Canavan 

“The streets use to have decorations in the Mission, Market, West Portal and Irving Avenue that I bear in mind in the 50s and early 60s. These declarations, would stretch throughout the streets.” —Robert Kerson

“Each Xmas my father would drive us up/down Bay Avenue (throughout Marina Greens) to see all of the properties and their timber, lights and decorations. It should have been obligatory for owners to enhance the skin of their homes and nearly all put their timber center-front in the image home windows. Boats and yachts docked throughout the road there would be lit up, too!” —Sandy Morimoto Dineen 

“I used to be born and raised in the Metropolis. Moved from Jules to 40th Avenue in 1956 once I was 3. We might pile into the automotive and drive across the Avenues Christmas lights. ‘Sweet Cane Lane’ was on 36th Avenue close to Sloat. It appeared each home on that block was all lit up with Christmas lights. My dad was in the SFFD and all the hearth homes would put up elaborate Christmas shows. They’d have competitions for the very best one.” —Marilynn Lause 

“We might drive to a cul-de-sac road off of Silver and benefit from the Christmas lights as we drove slowly whereas the radio performed our favourite Christmas songs.” —Edith Espinosa Bray

“The fishermen on the Wharf used to enhance their boats with lights at Christmas. It was particular and magical to this little lady in the 60’s.” —A’Delle Duggan-Legal guidelines

“Geary was adorned proper after Thanksgiving. Cannot bear in mind how far out, however from at the least Arguello to 20th Avenue. Nonetheless had streetcar wires to cling decorations from ’til ’57 or so.” —Chuck Chinn 

“Within the 40s and 50s all of the neighbored firehouses would have a Christmas-decorating contest. It was actually particular to drive round and see them.” —Larry Bain 

“We drove from San Rafael and did the scenic tour of the Marina, trying on the stunning timber in the bay home windows. Then went to kinfolk properties both on Blake road or 33rd and Geary. Uncle was a chef and cooked up a phenomenal Italian Christmas dinner. A number of enjoyable with cousins!” —Vikki Jackson-Rinaldi 

“I grew up in town in the 50s and 60s we lived in the Richmond District and we might drive throughout the park, have a look at the massive tree that was at all times adorned, drive by the Sundown District seeing the homes with decorations. Then we might arrive at my grandparents in the Noe Valley. My grandfather was a firefighter so we might go see fireplace homes that have been adorned.” Sharon Fishel

Household traditions have been began and saved alive

“The stay nativity on the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park was a spotlight of my childhood Christmas recollections. Every night time the clever males and animals received nearer to the manger. We stood on the drive trying down onto the Polo Fields. Christmas Eve was great to see the clever males on the manger!” —Patty Sullivan Reynolds 

“Grandma G took the cousins to both the SF Nutcracker or Vacation on Ice. First we stopped at one of many flower stalls to pin on our gardena corsage onto our coats.” —Roxie Kellam 

“At the start, my dad and mom drove us out the G.E.T., a authorities workers’ retailer the place I believe is now Lakeshore plaza now. We children and cousins would play with the toys. Then magically, Santa received us these toys for Chrstmas.” —Charlene Fung Loen 

“My Grandmother and I had a great custom. We might go to The White Home to get my yearly coat, then to Metropolis of Paris to see the tree and stroll every flooring to see all of the tree. Then to Macy’s to see Santa, then to Blum’s to have a actual milkshake and hamburger (and he or she didn’t get mad if I didn’t end). Typically we might hit Cable Automotive Clothiers simply to get the tea and cookies after Three p.m. So much enjoyable, oh sure and Podesta’s on Maiden Lane. Each retailer was adorned and there have been carol period on the finish of Powell by the cable automotive. So miss it.” —Mardi Lasell Taubert 

“Lived in Marin. Made a journey to the Metropolis each Christmas season. Noticed the tree at Metropolis of Paris, explored Union Sq., Maiden Lane. At all times shopped at Value Plus. On the way in which residence drove by the Marina admiring the Christmas lights and timber in the massive image home windows of the properties.” —Lisa Duerr Wild

“Within the 70s, we might costume up in our tights and matching clothes and go downtown to the Emporium to see the tree and have a look at the lights round union Sq.. It was so festive and enjoyable!” —Cindy Viola 

“My aunt had this silver tree she would arrange in the image window, with this gentle that had revolving coloured cellophane to change the colour. This was excessive tech 1960’s.” —Gina Peru-Friccero

“I grew up in the Metropolis in the 70s. I did the traditional issues like going to the Emporium and FAO Schwarz downtown. I bear in mind vaguely the Metropolis of Paris after which Neiman Marcus with the gorgeous tree and Atrium. Podesto Baldachii’s was at all times a deal with.I bear in mind all of the home windows performed up. They have been simply magical. I lived over by Saint Francis Wooden’s and Lakeside. My buddies and I went for a few years caroling in the neighborhoods. That was a lot of enjoyable. We might get our tree from the tree lot on Sloat and 19th.”  —Ok Sans Souci 

Lunches and dinners out and treats have been a part of the festivities

“We might go see the massive Christmas tree in the Metropolis of Paris, have a look at all of the decorations in town shops and eventually have ice cream sundaes at Blums. I’d have scorching fudge and my cousin carmel. —Sharon Fishel

“Scorching chocolate in shiny gold mugs at Kaiser Espresso Store.” —Christie Keith

“At all times went to the Emporium to see Santa and appeared on the elaborate festive home windows downtown. Completed off going to dinner on the Golden Spike in North seashore with my sister and oldsters.” —Josie Romeo Walsh 

“Since my father labored on the Home of Prime Rib, we have been handled to a scrumptious dinner greater than as soon as a 12 months. And being visited by the proprietor with presents in tow. I bear in mind the miniature cooking range he gave me one 12 months that was excellent for my Ginny doll. When my father labored on the Jack Tar Resort, the annual worker Christmas social gathering was full of fine meals and video games loved by all and on the finish we may go residence with one of many stunning ornaments. With my boys we’d go to the Mark Hopkins for tea. And I recall as a younger grownup, after a day of purchasing downtown I’d take pleasure in a scrumptious dinner at Jax’s.” —Edith Espinosa Bray

“Within the 1950s it was going to Macy’s and Blums for ice cream sundaes. Then Chinatown, too! Our favourite restaurant was the Imperial Palace! We at all times wore gloves.” —Liz Hardy-Gross

“I bear in mind very vividly taking the Greyhound into the Metropolis with my Gramma and all of the great
window shows! I used to be given cash to purchase my Mother items from Woolworths. We ate on the lunch counter and had the time of our lives!” —Dede Soulchild Martinez 

“Oh, and the crab on Christmas eve! I nonetheless do this now despite the fact that I stay hundreds of miles away. We’ve to have crab on Christmas Eve. I used to be at a market in Atlanta a few years in the past shopping for my crab and standing subsequent to me was a girl who additionally grew up in the Metropolis doing the identical! We had each pushed a number of hours simply to get crab for the vacation. In Georgia.” —Ok Sans Souci 

Amy Graff is a digital editor with SFGATE. Electronic mail her at agraff@sfgate.com.