Memories of Christmas in Bridgeport

More Childhood Memories of Bridgeport, Connecticut

Provided by John Babina
(Edison 1955, Hall 1956, Notre Dame 1961; and Success Park)

Mayor Jasper McLevy throwing the switch on Golden Hill (near the present Downtown Cabaret entrance) to light the street decorations. The city would bring in a famous opera singer who usually sang Silent Night at the tree lighting ceremonies. (I wonder if the Supreme Court would allow that today?)

The huge white illuminated GE sign on the roof of the General Electric Boston Ave. plant had the bulbs changed to red and green at Christmas time.

The various department store (motley) Santas with ill fitting fake beards. Getting you picture taken with Santa and it would come in the mail with a garish cardboard frame.

A Sikorsky helicopter landing in the Seaside Park circus lot with Santa on board. He would get out and hand out popcorn balls in red and green cellophane.

In the early 50’s, the Bus Depot and Parking garage opened with the first public escalators in Bridgeport during the Christmas shopping season.  Huge lines of shoppers formed to ride the escalators to the roof and then down the other side. It was like Disney Land in Bridgeport! (S. S. Kresgee soon followed with department store escalators)

Buying Christmas trees on the vacant lots. Walking with you father from lot to lot as he sought out and negotiated the best deal, usually shaving a dollar off a $5 tree!

After New Year’s Day, the giant bonfires of old Christmas trees in the Success Park Ball field.

Not being able to eat meat on Christmas Eve.

Bubbling candle lights on Christmas trees. And the series string tree lights . . . when one bulb failed, the entire string went out and you had to test each bulb until you found the bad one. (Those clear glass ornaments . . .  they now cost $60 each in antique shops.)

Standing for hours looking at the model train layouts in the department stores. The ultimate “high tech” toy for boys! Bringing home that full color American Flyer train catalog View with the really big engine sets you knew you would never get! (The A.C. Gilbert Erector Set was the 2nd best toy.)

I’ll bet all the girls now wish they kept that first Barbee Doll (’59)!

The most popular toy for boys? Cap pistols!

Going to church on Christmas (it seemed to take for ever) and visiting relatives all day before you could get back to your new toys.

The ubiquitous Salvation Army Santas on each corner ringing the bell. In those days they did not need a screen to cover the donated money in the red pots! (When we asked how there could be so many Santas we were told they were "Santa’s helpers".)

 Making cut-out winter window decorations for the Edison School windows . . . and the teacher applying ‘spray-on’ snow! We also made decorative garland chains of red and green paper links cut into strips that were strung around the walls and blackboards. Having a little Christmas party in school and we would get a little cupcake.

Getting a slinky and an Etch-a-Sketch - the toy crazes that never die!

And of course . . . . trying to "be good".

From the memory of John Babina, Edison (55), Hall (56), Notre Dame (61); Success Park

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