Native Writes: Hometown holidays


This will be a column of memories. Old-timers such as myself will remember and “youngsters” will learn.

Downtown Alamosa when I was small was generally confined to a four-block section of Main Street and three blocks of State Avenue.

As soon as Halloween was tucked away, Thanksgiving made its debut. No big deal, the businesses were planning elaborate Christmas displays for their huge plate glass windows.

Santa rode in on the fire engine the day after Thanksgiving, reflected in the shiny glass windows of downtown stores.

The windows were immense to those of us who were born at the end of and after World War II and even adults seemed to be in awe of them.

Today, the “Greatest Generation” is departing for the hereafter, leaving their offspring to take over as grandparents and great-grandparents.

Delicate glass tree ornaments were all the rage, but they also broke easily. I have one ornament left and that is a plastic one my aunt bought when the elementary school teachers asked each of us to bring something for the tree.

We made long garlands of red and green construction paper and some people strung cranberries and popcorn together to deck the halls.

It was a time when music got stuck in the head, repeating itself until another catchy tune took over.

There was a chill in the air, a threat of snow and yet hearts were warm.

The roots of memory are warm, filled with sugar cookies, bizcochitos, popcorn balls, tamales, empanadas, fudge and so much more. It tastes good to be home.

Speaking with a young man, just 17, I learned that many families have moved from place to place and no memory roots really exist.

That’s sad. I can name many families who stayed in the San Luis Valley for generations and relish their holiday traditions.

For some, it’s Christmas, for others, it’s Hannukah and for most it’s a time of joy.

Walking past what once was the Rialto Theatre, I look at the cornerstone and remember when it was the American Legion home, at least the top story was. The auditorium was leased to vaudeville and later motion pictures.

At Christmas, it belonged to the children. A free movie was shown so parents could complete their shopping and Santa was available.

There was a long succession of Santas.

I continued to believe even after my uncle who is three years older than myself tried to burst my bubble by saying Santa was a myth. I still believe Santa is the spirit of joyous giving.

The “jolly old elf” was everywhere back then, many stores that didn’t usually cater to kids had “toylands” and music was in the air, along with strands of tinsel caught by the breeze.

Memories don’t often bring answers along with them.

I suppose tinsel is still sold, but I’m not looking.

I can’t tell you when the light displays changed or what happened to the woven strands of pine branches and lights that once crossed the streets.

The only thing constant is change. We can simply accept what is and go on, or we can work for change.

At my age, it depends.

Merry Christmas!

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