Remember when the Grinch stole Christmas, but then decided to give it back?
For many people who live and work in the Sherman Oaks area, the Grinch is the sickly economy, which nearly deprived them of the 74-foot-high illuminated Christmas tree that has graced the top of Glendale Federal Bank at Woodman Avenue and Riverside Drive for more than 20 years.
Glendale Federal's parent, Glenfed Inc., has suffered from a sliding real estate market and the recession and is trying to avoid government seizure. This year, because of the sour economy, the savings and loan decided to trim the Sherman Oaks tree from its budget and instead donate to charity some of the several thousand dollars it costs to install the tree, which is formed by 1,560 bulbs.
Last year, the company eliminated the trees it previously raised at its Woodland Hills and Beverly Hills branches, leaving only the two atop its Glendale headquarters and the Sherman Oaks branch building.
But after discovering that Sherman Oaks would also be treeless this year, local residents Cally Caiozzo and Kathy Bronstein took up the cause. The pair distributed flyers in front of the Sherman Oaks building, urging customers to call Glenfed and complain.
Caiozzo also wrote a letter to The Times, in which she lamented the tree's absence. "Every year my children have closed their eyes when we entered the intersection on Thanksgiving night to be awed by this beautiful colorful sight," she wrote. "This year the sky was dark and the disappointment was overwhelming."
But the Grinch has a heart after all. Bowing to public demand, Glenfed relented and the Sherman Oaks tree was lit last Thursday.
Glenfed spokeswoman Judy Cunningham said company officials simply weren't aware of the tree's popularity until they received numerous calls and letters from customers, freeway drivers and Sherman Oaks residents who missed the tree.
Despite the turnabout, however, she said that Glenfed would still make its planned contribution to charity and no other trees would be installed this season.
Caiozzo said she was so happy at the reappearance of the Sherman Oaks tree that she once again made up flyers, this time thanking the savings and loan.
"I've got the Christmas spirit back," she said.