A look back at Lemon Grove, 48 years ago this week.
Parade Float No Lemon: Gone were the days when the Big Lemon sat on a flatbed truck as a parade float. Perched on its plinth at midtown, the Lemon had long since reigned as the civic icon, symbol of a noble agrarian past. The modern float, assembled by Chamber of Commerce volunteers, featured a cozy domestic scene replete with fireplace, stockings hung by the chimney with care, and cookies and milk for Santa.
Barbara Fletcher, Miss Lemon Grove 1964, rode on the float with little princesses Vicki Fletcher, Denise Dugas and Cindy Hutton. This winsome foursome rode in the Old Town Christmas Parade, the North Park Toyland Parade and a local parade along Broadway east to west. The girls tossed candy canes to the crowds while Christmas carols trilled on a loudspeaker behind the fireplace.
Moppets' Messages to Santa: A literate group of Grovians, some under three feet tall, begged The Claus to stop by the Big Lemon and bestow their loot of choice, to wit:
The brothers O'Dell were all techie all the time: "Dear Santa, here's our list. A Johnay 7-OMA Varoom motor, play sword, crane watch, Etch-O-Sketch, junior tool belt, Karrum board, give-a-show projector, sock 'em track 'em robot, 2 hammers, 1 teepee small enough for our room, 1 TV any size. Love, Pat and Danny."
Sharon Hines threw caution to the winds: "I love you. Bring anything you think would be nice for me."
Earl the Gunslinger, Orville Street, cut to the chase: "I'm 4. I need a holster with a gun and a knife."
Not to be outdone, Earl's brother, Tommy, hit the target: "I'm 3. I need a light rifle."
Whoa! What was going on with the preschool crowd?
Susan Traxler, Roy Street, a future CEO, issued her instructions to the peasants: "I need a letter from you and Mrs. Claus now about the Avon Calling Set I want for Christmas. I will write again, but now I have to go. I hope I will not have to count sheep on Christmas Eve as I am expecting a result."
Keith Jaske, Washington Street, joined pugnacious pals in asking for a rifle, bow and arrow, boxing gloves and punching bag and, "if you have time I need my bike fixed."
Kellie Parker, Alene Street, had big plans for Dad: "Please bring a school swing set, a playhouse, and a gallon of paint and some brushes for my Dad."
Sandi Schell, Dentsone Place, inexplicably blended Vegas with domesticity: "Please bring a deck of cards, dice, a broom, mixer, pitcher, a weaving loom and a doll that can bend its knees."
Victor Basford, Jamacha Road, showed frontier spirit: "Mom said ask for some school clothes but I need a Daniel Boone hat, rabbit food, hay and a gun."
The Cornwell kids, Granada Avenue, delivered a hard sell: "We are both good," asserted Laurina. "I would like to have a Bubble Bath Baby, a new tricycle, an iron and an ironing board. I will try to be a better girl, even better than I was before when I was better. Love to dear Santa Claus!"
Wrote Laurina's brother, Gregory, "I am as good as Laurina. We really try hard. I would like an Animal Talk game and a boxing robot. I will try to be a better boy than I have been. I would also like a Crazy Clock game, a bow and arrow with rubber tips, a Varoom motor, a pitch back, a football and football pump. I will try to be a better boy. Love from your friend FOREVER!"
But Alan, older brother to Laurina and Gregory, cut through the birdseed with Hemingway flair: "I'm nine years old. There are six in my family. They all have lists. Here's mine and it's important. I would like you to drop off a bow and arrow, walkie talkie, Shootin' Shell Rifle and Pistol and an Eldon Figure Eight set. Oh, I just remembered. I need a football and if you have enough time I would like you to sew my shoulder pads before you leave. Al."
Jimmie Ogden, Citrus Street, hung tough: "Santa, it's like this. I need a Big Job and Mousetrap, a Big Bruiser and Auto Racer and a large GUI record player."
But the heart-tugger came from Keith, Kevin and Kenny Radi, Central Avenue: "Our baby sitter is helping us write this because we are not too good of a writer. All we want for Christmas is for our mother to get over her pneumonia and she also has asthma. Our mother has been sick for a long time. Please bring medicine. If there is room, please bring 2 Jimmy Jets, a dump truck, an air plain (sic) and a typewriter and we will type out our letter next time so you can read it better in case it is dark at the North Pole."
When the P.O. Was King: In 1964 nobody had heard of e-mail greeting cards. The first PC wasn't issued until 1968 (a Hewlett Packard), though the digital revolution had begun its remarkable roll-out in the mid 1930s.
But in Lemon Grove in the mid-'60s the Christmastime post office was jammed with parcels and mail. Postmaster Frenchy Faucher said he expected the 1964 holiday mail to break all records "with a torrent of incoming and outgoing gifts and cards." He kept the post office open until 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday through December 24 and urged customers to "pay the extra penny" for first class mail (then 5 cents). Faucher also urged the use of air mail (8 cents per ounce) to ensure timely delivery.
Mrs. Claus Then and Now: The Lemon Grove Emergency Welfare Association chaired by Lillian Collette prepared baskets of food and toys for 14 needy, local families (about 56 people). Just $85 covered the cost and the Lemon Grove Fire Department repaired used toys as needed.
As Lemon Grove grew and diversified, and the economy cycled through booms and busts, the number of needy families grew exponentially. This Christmas,Soroptimist International of Lemon Grove, which has run the annual food and toy drive since the late 1980s, is aiding nearly 100 families—close to 400 people— among them, 230 children under 12 and three dozen teenagers. All toys must be new and unwrapped and all food canned or dry-packaged. The cost? Nearly $10,000.
Grinch Foiled Again: Kevin Thomas Long, 13, Roosevelt Street, had just collected his paper route money, $23.05, and was heading home when a tall, heavy-set, dark-haired man in a blue tanker jacket stole his funds. Kevin reported the thug's patter to the Sheriff:
"Turn around and give me your money. Keep walking. Don't turn around or I'll throw this boulder at you and hit you in the head."
Not only did Sheriff's deputies chip in $23.05 for Kevin, they nabbed the thug, sans boulder, as he was spending the paper route money in a local bar. Cuffed, fingerprinted and booked, he had to return the post prandial cash—$19.98. The deputies told Kevin to keep the donation, so our hero netted $43.03, enough to pay the San Diego Union and shop for Christmas.