History Blog

Hinder Holiday Humbug! Helpful Hints From The History Ambassador’s Survival Guide to the Holidays

Playing host to the family this holiday? Likely for some of you, it will be your first time, with anxious relatives flying in over the next couple of days in anticipation of the holiday magic that will unfold to make their San Diego experience truly memorable.  But let’s face it, once the luggage is unpacked, they’ve slept off a little jet lag and have gobbled up, in one sitting, all the food you thought would take at least a couple of days to ingest, what’s left to keep your company entertained until Santa arrives?

Well, all of us at the History Center have gone through what you are fearing most, and have come to the rescue with some “Trips & Trivia” that should keep you from dunking your head in the bowl of spiced eggnog.   Good luck and be sure to follow up with comments to let us know how it goes.  Each of the following Holiday Hints features Trivia, Poses a question, and suggests a short local trip for you and your family to experience San Diego during the holiday break.  Don’t have time to do all of them?  We suggest to pick a few, pack a snack, and make a daytrip out of it!

Let’s get going:

No. 1

Trivia:  Today it is customary to have a tree inside your home at the holidays.  That tree is likely covered with hundreds of lights which add to its charm.  However electric lights on trees were unusual in the past, until December 24,  1904, when this exceptional Coronado hotel displayed the first electrified Holiday Tree in the world!  Name the hotel?

Trip:  Visit the Hotel this weekend and look for that first tree on the grounds at its entrance.  A plaque marks this first tree.  It is still alive and towers nearly 100ft above the hotel today.

No. 2

Trivia: Did you know that CA is home to the official national Holiday Tree?  It is located in Sequoia National Park and was named the official national tree in 1907.  The tree is named after the 18th President of the United States, whose son, of the same name, built a hotel in Downtown San Diego in his honor.

Trip:  Name the President whom both hotel and national holiday tree are named after.  The hotel still operates today and invites you to visit to have a look around.

No. 3

Trivia: Do you have a live tree at home?  Many people use artificial trees to decorate their homes these days,  but some local farms still grow acres of trees each season that are harvested for the holidays.  El Cajon is home to one of the longer running area Christmas Tree Farms.  Can you find it using GPS on your cellphone? What is the name of the Farm?

Trip:   Now that you have located it, take a short drive there to enjoy a walk amongst the trees or pick up a sapling to replant at home.

No. 4

Trivia:  Replenishing the supply of trees that have been cut down each year is important to the survival of the species.  It also effects people too, by providing the amount of fresh oxygen available for us to breath.  Did you know that it takes one acre of trees to supply 18 people with fresh oxygen to breath?

Trip:   If it is cold or damp on your walk today you likely can see your breath as a light fog in front of you.  Take a few minutes to inhale and exhale the air using just your nose first, then your mouth Use a small mirror to help out if you are trying this on your own.

No. 5

Trivia: Planting trees in San Diego was very important because when the City was growing up there wasn’t much wood to find.  Most wood was brought to San Diego, floated here on as log rafts and barges.  The wood then was made into buildings, boardwalks and bridges.  Some of the bridges built between 1905 and 1912 were for pedestrians only.

Trip:  Two suspension bridges still are accessible in Bankers Hill.  Can you name them?  Both bridges and canyons are within blocks of each other and make a fun afternoon walk.

No. 6

Trivia:  A third wooden bridge was constructed in Hillcrest in 1907 to carry foot traffic and autos over the new streetcar line that cut through the ridge allowing access to what would become North Park.

Trip:   The wooden structure at University Avenue and Park Blvd in Hillcrest was replaced with the current concrete structure in 1912, however retrofitting of the bridge in 2016 will include refacing the structure to make it look wooden again even though it will remain concrete.  Name the bridge?

No. 7

Trivia: Can you name North Park’s annual holiday parade? It started in 1936 as a simple way to draw customers to North Park’s business district.  The parade has continued to grow since then, with the exception of the war years, 1941 to 1945.

The History Center recently installed a Tin Man Statue that was to be on a float during the 1941 parade.  The parade was scheduled for Dec 12, 1941.  What happened a few days before on Dec 7 which cancelled the  parade for the next four years?

Trip:   Come to the History Center in Balboa Park to see the Tin Man statue and to learn more of his story after the North Park parade in 1941 and how he ended up with the Center.

No. 8

Trivia: While visiting the History Center this holiday week you will notice a number of decorated holiday trees with some unusual ornaments.  The trees are designed and decorated by various floral associations, master gardeners and garden clubs all over San Diego County and arranged by the San Diego Floral Association.  The trees are all tied to a common theme about animals.  What animal related event has been happening in Balboa Park in 2016?

Trip:  Be sure to take a look around at the trees located throughout the museum.  Can you identify what animal each tree is talking too?

No. 9

Trivia: The San Diego Floral Association is located across the Prado walkway from the History Center in the Park.  It began in 1907 by Alfred Robinson and Kate Olivia Sessions.  She would later be given a medal of honor for her efforts and given this distinguishing title?

Trip:  The Floral Association Research Library and Archive is open Monday – Friday from 10am to 3pm.  Stop by and chat with the volunteer gardeners, look at some historic pictures of the Park and pick up a seed packet of CA wildflowers you can grow at home.

No. 10

Trivia: Few people know that Kate was responsible for introducing San Diego to this unique red and green holiday flower that she found was a native plant of Mexico.  What holiday flower did she find there?

Kate brought it to San Diego and started growing it at her nursery in Mission Hills.  She also had it planted in Balboa Park during the 1915 Exposition along a mesa that runs behind today’s Old Globe Theater.

Trip:  Although those stands of poinsettias are gone you can still find a beautiful display of them this holiday season in the Botanical Building in the heart of Balboa Park.  The display is a collaborative project between the Floral Association and The Friends of Balboa Park.  Reminder:  The Botanical Building is closed on Thursdays.

So there you have it some helpful hints of what to do with your family that are sure to score a ‘high five’.   Don’t forget to post your comments to our social media platforms letting us know how it went.  Good luck and Happy Holidays from all of us at The San Diego History Center.

Want to learn more about any of the people, places, organizations or events suggested as Helpful Hints?  Be sure to stop the History Center Library and Archives to look at historic photos and documents associated with them.  The Archive is open Monday – Friday, 930am -1pm each day.

Trivia Answers:  1.  Hotel del Coronado, 2.  Ulysses Grant, 3. Family Christmas Tree Farm, 4.  Yes.  One acre of trees produces oxygen for 18 ppl., 5.  Spruce and Quince Street Bridges, 6.  Georgia Street Bridge, 7.  Pearl Harbor, 8.  Zoo Centennial, 9.  Mother of Balboa Park, 10.  Poinsettia

By Gabe Selak

By Gabe Selak

San Diego History Center History Ambassador

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