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The Week

Christmas Past and Present

December 08, 1985|ELLEN MELINKOFF

EVENTS El Segundo's Christmas Parade will march down Main Street today; telephone (213) 322-1220 for more information. . . . Las Posadas, the traditional procession commemorating the search for shelter by Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, will make its way through Old Town in San Diego on Wednesday; (619) 297-1183. . . . Friday and Saturday, Bakersfield is the location for a Victorian Christmas candlelight tour of Pioneer Village; (805) 861-2132. . . . The Pacific Beach Christmas Parade will make its way down Garnet Street in San Diego on Saturday; (619) 571-7600. . . . A Christmas boat parade will sail through the main channel of Marina del Rey on Saturday; (213) 821-7614. . . . And the Lancaster Christmas parade will start Saturday at 10th Street West, turn on Lancaster Boulevard and end up on Division Street; (805) 948-4518. CELEBRATIONS On this date in 1822, the Plaza Church--the Church of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, across Main Street from Olvera Street--was dedicated. . . . Mexican muralist Diego Rivera was born on the same date, in 1886. . . . Kirk Douglas celebrates his 69th birthday Monday. . . . On Thursday, the Feast of Guadalupe will be celebrated in Mexico. . . . Frank Sinatra's birthday is the same day. He was born in 1915. YESTERDAYS Ten years ago this week, Douglas firs were selling for $3.99 per six-foot tree, $5.99 for an eight-footer. . . . The Original House of Bean Bags (seven locations all over town) advertised beanbag chairs for $11.88. . . . Cutty Sark was on sale at Vendome for $7.99. . . . Warren Beatty's "Shampoo" opened in local movie theaters. . . . At the Shubert, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were starring in "The Odd Couple." Top price for a Saturday evening performance was $12. . . . One-bedroom apartments in Marina del Rey's Mariners Village were renting for $285 a month. . . . Culver City Datsun was leasing 280Zs for $115 a month, and there were plenty of leftover '75 Hondas at most dealers. Dec. 14, 1907 Headline in The Times: "The Christ's Name Is Barred."

The back-fence and lunchroom gossip mongers throughout Los Angeles were atwitter about city schools Supt. Ernest C. Moore's edict forbidding talk of Christ as part of school Christmas celebrations. He had made the controversial request orally (no fool, he) at a Dec. 5 meeting of school officials, who all seemed to remember the meeting in many different ways. One school principal reported that "he did not say it in so many words, but the interpretation of myself and practically all the principals was that we were to see to it that no reference was made to Christ."

"Los Angeles is a city of unique things," the newspaper article began, "and yesterday another was added to the list--Christmas without a Christ-child." The story went on to describe the edict as tantamount to "Washington's Birthday without Washington, the Fourth of July without the Declaration of Independence." A music teacher asked how he could explain Handel's "Messiah" to his students. When the teachers were informed of the plan, many went home "weeping in distress." They were instructed to speak "only of the mythical Santa Claus, the innocent creation of the German forefathers."

Moore tried to explain to a skeptical press and public that he was "making Christmas an occasion of good cheer." He approved of teachers explaining that Christmas is Christ's birthday, he said, but not that Christ is the Messiah. All over the city, priests and ministers took to their pulpits to blast him. One Los Angeles clergyman stated: "Christianity is the religion of the civilized world. Christ is not sectarian. He is the representative of the human race."

According to the article, "As near as could be learned . . . not one school in the city celebrated the day as the birthday of Christ, but necessarily resorted to all sorts of pretexts to avoid the very event that gives the joyous anniversary its name."

The brouhaha continued through the Christmas holidays. When Moore was offered a position at an out-of-state college, his imminent departure was widely cheered. But several years later, Moore was back in town. Along with Edwin A. Dickson, he helped develop UCLA and was a provost of the university for many years.

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