DOWNTOWN — While the holiday season is about more than just gift giving and receiving, those times spent by the Christmas tree or the menorah opening presents painstakingly selected by loved ones make for some of our fondest memories.

Who can forget those anxious days before the start of Chanukah and Christmas when visions of a bicycle, Cabbage Patch Kid or Easy Bake Oven danced in our heads?

Filled with the holiday spirit, the Santa Monica Daily Press wanted to reach out to locals to find out what was their most memorable gift during childhood.

Here are their responses:

• Jean McNeil Wyner, Community liaison for Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center & Orthopaedic Hospital.

“My very best Christmas gift was a purple Schwinn bicycle. With that bike, my friend, Margie Casey, and I ruled our block. We were into everything and knew all that was occurring at any time. We both had long pigtails and could be seen flying around the neighborhood gathering gossip.”

• Kate Bransfield, Realtor.

“What else, a puppy! When I was about 7, and after much pestering of my parents, I received an oddly moving box under the tree. I opened it and found what looked like a little bear cub. I immediately named him Yogi.”

• Gary Gordon, executive director of Main Street Merchants Association.

“Using the definition of child broadly, the best gift I can remember was when I was 15. My aunt Barbara gave me a portable Olympia typewriter. For those of you too young to know what a typewriter is, it’s a pre-computer keyboard made of wood, buffalo sinew and bronze invented by Abraham Lincoln as he journeyed from Europe to the New World on the Mayflower with Columbus. Happy holidays!”

• Ron Davis, president, Santa Monica Ford and chairman of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce board.

“I received a 10-speed Schwinn when I was about 12. My dad had it outside and after we opened gifts under the tree, he told me he had one more for me that was inside his truck and to go outside and get it. So, when I walked out the door, I saw the bike but did not put two-and-two together and went to his truck and opened the cab door. Then everyone started laughing and I turned around and realized the bike was for me. I have two brothers and three sisters. I thought it was one of their friend’s bikes that they had borrowed. Needless to say, I was embarrassed but also really happy.”

• Lynne Thomas, director of sales, The Lobster.

“All I ever wanted was a trampoline my entire life! (What would I do with a pony?) When I turned 12, Santa finally granted my wish. I must have been on the naughty list up until then. So that night I was so excited that I slept on the trampoline. It was very cold and very uncomfortable, but I was just so happy. It was lovely until my brother decided to wake me up by jumping on the trampoline causing me to fly off. Ah, childhood memories.”

• Paul Weinberg, Emergency services coordinator, Santa Monica Fire Department.

“The most memorable holiday gift I received was a catcher’s glove when I was 10. I played little league for a traveling team in Philadelphia and was excited about playing catcher the next year. I would always find the gifts my parents got for us and this time I could not help myself. Every day for about a month I would climb to the top of the closet and [put on] the glove which was hidden in an old shoe box. I would play with it in the house to not mess it up. By the time the first night of Chanukah came, I had applied oil to the glove, wrapped it in string and placed two balls inside to break it in. I can’t remember what my parents said, but I do remember the look on their face when we opened the box.”

• Pam O’Connor, City Council member.

My earliest holiday memory is from the time I was around 5 years old. There were just a few holiday decorations around the house — including stockings hung on a mantle. Would Santa really find our house? What would he bring? To my delight, on Christmas morning the living room was ablaze (figuratively) with a fully-decorated Christmas tree — Santa somehow got down the chimney — with gifts underneath. I don’t remember a single “present” from under the tree, but I do remember the magical moment of that beautiful Christmas tree in our home and the love from my parents.”


• Jennifer Taylor, Chair, Buy Local Santa Monica.

“My first camera! There was a local, family-owned camera store within walking distance of our house.  For weeks, I had been gazing longingly in the shop window, in hopes that Santa would bring me a camera. I must have been about 10 years old. It was a cool little Kodak camera. It opened up a whole new world in making our family road trips much more exciting.”


• Bob Holbrook, City Council member.

“When I was a child, toys were really scarce and not available as WWII turned all factories to manufacturing war materials. The gift I most remember was my bike. It was a thing of beauty. A Monarch. It had front and rear electric lights and an electric horn. It was a Cadillac and it had white sidewall tires! I loved my bike. A few years ago I was in an antique store in Nebraska. I turned a corner in the shop and there was my Monarch bike! It was totally restored. My wife said I should buy it and bring it home. She said it was only $299, then I showed her she had missed a 9. It was $2,999. I left my bike in Nebraska.”

• Carla Barrett, Vice president of Barrett’s Appliances.

“My oldest daughter was born at eight minutes after midnight on Dec. 24. We brought here home two hours later. When she was 12 hours old, my husband took her in his arms and walked out our back gate to her first Christmas party at Barrett’s Appliances. I carefully and slowly followed. We shared the joy of our child with people who were very much a part of our lives.” 

• Susan Gabriel Potter, President, Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance.

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire brings to mind the warm feelings of the holiday season. I fondly remember that song being played as the family gathered around our perfectly decorated Christmas tree. Weeks before Christmas, I recall preparing my list for jolly old St. Nick. At the top of my list was a bright red accordion. My mom and dad had taken me to a carnival were I first saw this delight. I thought that I would have fun playing this kind of instrument. Santa had been very good to me each year as I was on his good children’s list and would bring me at least one present from my list.  Christmas morning came and we ran to the living room to see what Santa brought us. We took turns opening each gift. When it came to my turn, I was so excited that I could hardly wait to rip the paper off. To my surprise, under the wrappings, was my shiny red accordion.”

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