Monday, December 12, 2016

Santa Claus Lane ca. 1928

In 1928, store merchants on Hollywood Boulevard decorated a mile stretch of their street between Vine and La Brea and renamed it Santa Claus Lane. In an effort to lure shoppers downtown, businessman Harry Blaine and the Hollywood Boulevard Association called the thoroughfare the "world's largest department store," and installed 100 live pine trees in planters covered with twinkling lights. If that weren't enough, they devised a nightly parade where Santa, pulled in a carriage by six reindeer and accompanied by a Hollywood film star, waved to the crowd as they passed. Eventually tin trees took the place of the live trees (which were planted on the grounds of the Hollywood Bowl), and then more elaborate trees came after those. There was also a period where tinsel wreaths framing portraits of movie stars lined the street as well (in the third picture below, Claudette Colbert puts the finishing touch on a wreath featuring herself).

Over the years, the parade grew in size and attendance with more floats and more movie stars. In 1946, cowboy film star Gene Autry rode his horse in front of Santa and heard the excited cries of children in the crowd exclaiming, "Here comes Santa Claus!" From that experience, Autry wrote one of the most enduring holiday songs, "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)." While the extravagant decorations are no more, the parade still exists! What started life as the Santa Claus Lane Parade, and renamed as the Hollywood Santa Parade, is now known as the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

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