Christmas Past in San Francisco usually started with the task of locating a parking place in the Union Square underground garage. Once successful, the family would climb hand-in-hand up and out of the gray asphalt hole to a magical fairyland. You took in the outfits of the other children and realized why your mother insisted on everyone wearing their “Sunday” best. Dad wore his ugly Santa tie, mom her feathered hat with matching colored gloves, while you donned that Fauntleroy-like velvet suit with lace collar hand-knitted by grandma. White lights illuminated the giant X’mas tree, which stood proudly near a 25-foot menorah (first sponsored by Bill Graham in 1975).
You skipped down a Union Square path lined with boxwood hedges and potted red poinsettias to the nearby storefronts of FAO Schwarz and Macy’s, agape at the wonder of the window displays. Mechanical mannequins, gingerbread houses and the lit nose of Rudolph came alive as the story of a “Christmas Carol” unfolded in commercial splendor before your very eyes…and for your eyes alone. Snowflakes trickled down upon a Christmas village as stuffed stockings adorned a fireplace mantel while tiny tots hid behind a door-frame spying St. Nick taking a nibble out of their gift of cookies. Next, you rushed past the ringing bell of a Salvation Army Santa to see the parade along Market Street as a sleigh or perhaps a stagecoach delivered the Man-of-the-Hour to the Emporium. Cheers!