A Long Ago California Christmas Eve

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 23, 2015
Warmth and comfort on Christmas Eve.

Pictured are my mother and me on a Los Angeles Christmas Eve during the mid-1940s, a great time in America and especially in California.

The Second World War had just ended; middle-class jobs in the state were plentiful, and optimism reigned. The California boom was underway. And although the growth that began during the post-World War II era eventually overwhelmed the state, back in the early 1950s, Californians interpreted more roads, more schools and more people as a sign of progress.

When I write my immigration columns and blog posts, I often think of my Sicilian immigrant father and my fiercely patriotic mother. I’m happy they didn’t live to see the huge changes in California and in the nation. My father died long before the transformation began, and in her advanced years my bedridden mother saw only the first hints of it on her television.

My parents lived in an era when they said “Merry Christmas” to their friends and neighbors, regardless of their religions or cultures. People understood that “Merry Christmas” represented a good wish for health and happiness during the forthcoming year. Even though the politically correct crowd has been waging the War on Christmas for more than a decade, new lows were reached just recently when a school principal canceled Christmas and college elites insisted “Happy Federal Holiday” replace “Merry Christmas.”

While it’s impossible to return forever to those happier, more harmonious times that I grew up in, Californians can go back if only briefly. Let Bing Crosby guide your way. My favorite Crosby is the obscure CD, “The Christmas Songs,” which features the world’s most famous crooner and various wartime radio transcription from 1942-1946. This includes his three biggest smash gold record hits: “White Christmas,” “Silent Night” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

Crosby and Christmas have gone hand in hand since 1936 when Bing began his annual December radio show that lasted until 1962. A year before his radio broadcasts ended, Crosby’s Christmas television shows began. Those aired from 1961 until he died in 1977. Then there are the Crosby Christmas movies, including his two most famous, “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and “White Christmas,” which hit No. 1 in 1942, 1947 and 1949.

As Fortune Magazine wrote in its 1947 profile about the megastar, “Crosby is head man in every branch of American entertainment but sidewalk magic. First in films, first on the air and first on the phonographs of his countrymen.” And that was before Crosby’s television career!

A few hours spent with Crosby reliving California and America’s Golden Era is a comfort and a welcome distraction from the omnipresent business at hard – stabilizing the state’s population and fighting Congress for sensible immigration reform. CAPS and its members will return to that task soon enough.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

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