Christmas Memories of Growing Up in Highland Park

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

“The helicopter is coming!”  This would be one of the greatest highlights of my young life.  Yes, I had sat on Santa’s lap at Hudson’s and Sears and Roebuck’s, but this would be special.  Santa was arriving at Ford Park in a helicopter.   The helicopter soon landed and there he was!  Santa  climbed out of the helicopter as gracefully as possible for a man of his girth.  He then gave a hearty “Ho Ho” and passed out candy to all of us children.  I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come.

Reflecting back upon my Christmas memories, takes me to a time where life was quite simple for me.  My parents helped make Christmas the special and joyous time of year that it was.  Here are several random memories of my Christmases as a child growing up in Highland Park.

Our Christmas season would begin on Thanksgiving.  Dad would make all of us sit in front of our black and white television and watch the Hudson’s parade through the streets of downtown Detroit.  The floats were a sight to see for a young child as well as the marching bands.  However, one of my greatest memories is Dad’s complaining about Sonny Eliot talking too much during the parade as he did the commentary.  He would also say: “Why do they have so many commercials? They are wrecking the parade.”  Yet, every year, he would have us in front of the television for more of Sonny Eliot’s jokes and more commercials.

The other highlight of the parade was Santa Claus coming at the end of the parade.  As a child, I thought he was the real thing.  He sure looked the part.  To this day, I never have seen a better Santa than the one that would stand in front of Hudson’s and receive the keys of Detroit from the mayor.

The "real" Santa Claus-Photo by permission from: www.retrokimmer.com

The “real” Santa Claus-Photo by permission from: http://www.retrokimmer.com

The next step of the Booth Christmas was to check out the Christmas lights in downtown Detroit as well as a brightly lit neighborhood somewhere off of West Outer Drive.  The lights in Downtown Detroit gave me great joy as I would say: “Look at those lights!”  There was nothing like the lights in Downtown Detroit during the Christmas season.

Hudson’s Christmas lights-1960: With permission from: www.retrokimmer.com

I also enjoyed the lights on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park.  Early in my childhood, the lights would be surrounded by real evergreen and wrapped around the light poles.  The real evergreen around each light pole made Woodward look classy during that time of year.  I never did like the artificial lights that the city eventually used on each pole.  I am sure it was cheaper, but it also looked cheaper.

After the parades and lights, the next step in the Booth Christmas was the Christmas tree.  I have shared this adventure in my previous post, but looking back I appreciate all that my parents did to make our Christmas tree a sight to behold, at least from the perspective of a young child.

During our preparations for Christmas, Mom loved to decorate the house with all sorts of Christmas decorations.  She always loved to make the house as joyful as possible during this special time of year.  She would also lay out several Christmas books.  My favorite was “The Night Before Christmas”.  I would love for Mom to read it to me. It made my anticipation for Santa’s coming even greater.

Christmas Eve created a great amount of excitement in our home.  The lights on the tree were lit.  The cookies and milk were placed by the tree for Santa Claus.  Once, when I was a bit older (maybe six years old), I asked my parents, “How can Santa Claus come into our house?  We don’t have a chimney.”  Dad had the perfect solution.  He told me: “We will leave the front door unlocked for him.”  At the time, it made perfect sense to me.

Before going to bed, the last thing I remember doing was turning on the television and checking out Santa’s present location.  At that time, a local commentator would come on throughout the evening giving us the location of Santa and his sleigh via “radar”.   Dad and Mom would then say: “He is getting closer, you need to get to bed.”  I didn’t argue.  Six o’ clock in the morning couldn’t come soon enough.

Christmas Day began early for us.  Looking back, I realize that it was because of me everybody would wake up at 6: 00 A.M.. We would head downstairs to check out what Santa Claus had brought.  Every year, Santa would bring exactly what I had placed on my list.  I always was excited about the toys and games that I received from Santa.  However, the one gift from my parents was always the same, clothes.  This didn’t bring me much excitement.

My parents went out of their way to make my Christmas a special time of year.  They sacrificed a lot to keep the wonder of Christmas for us.  I never thought about thanking them for everything they did.  As I reflect back upon my early years, Christmas revealed how self-centered I was.  Christmas seemed to be all about me and what I wanted for Christmas.

It wasn’t until later did I really understand the true meaning of Christmas.  I remember songs like “Hark, the Herald” and “Joy to the World”.  I knew that there was a baby born in a manger named Jesus, but I didn’t know Him.  I didn’t know that He (God in the flesh) came to earth to die for my sins.  When I was nineteen years old, I finally received the greatest gift.  The gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, my Lord.

There are many other memories of my childhood Christmases, such as the Ford Rotunda, and Hudson’s 12th floor, but I will save those for a later post.

P.S.  Please check out my other blog in which I write upon spiritual topics.  Here is a link to my Christmas post called: “The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger” Here is the link: http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/12/20/the-wonder-of-the-babe-in-the-manger/

P.P.S.  Here is a link for more photos of the old Hudson’s store: http://www.retrokimmer.com/2010/12/j-l-hudsons-12th-floor-christmas-in.html

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7 thoughts on “Christmas Memories of Growing Up in Highland Park

  1. Do you remember when Santa arrived in a helicopter (and later a fire engine) at Ford Park the day after Thanksgiving? That was my dad.

  2. Used to love to go downtown to see Hudson’s window displays at xmas. Really loved going to the Rotunda. Heard it burned down years ago…shame.

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