Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Travelers' Christmas Tree

One tradition for kicking off the Christmas Season in Cecil County is the annual lighting of the “Holly Tree by-the-tracks.” The Baltimore & Ohio held the first public ceremony in 1948 when thousands of people gathered to ring in the season as lights from thousands of bulbs on the evergreen softly illuminated the Jackson, MD hillside. For many years the company dispatched a special train from Mount Royal Station to Jackson for the occassion. After 1971, the tree was dark for a time until a group of volunteers started making sure the tree festively blazed for the holiday season.

The Society has an old 33 1/3 long playing record that captures the magic of the 1954 lighting ceremony, including carols by the B & O Glee Club and the B & O Women’s Music Choir. That old vinyl, a long unheard broadcast, has sat silently on a shelf, but we recently digitized the audio. We then enjoyed the snap, crackle and pop of the vinyl recording, as another lost Cecil County sound poured from the speakers. Musical selections directed by Dr. James Allan Dash, a narration by the master of ceremonies Walter Linthicum, gasps of delight and loud applause, and much more poured from our speakers. We’re going to post a special vidcast containing portions of that broadcast this week so you too may enjoy the special festive occassion that took place over a half-century-ago.

To illustrate the audio, we have a selection of photos from Jim Cheeseman, old postcards and B & O railroad materials of past evenings along the tracks. But we needed some current shots for the vidcast so on an unseasonably cold Saturday, about the time dusk was settling on the head of the bay, we drove down Holly Tree Lane. On this early winter evening, we found three members of the Holly Tree Committee getting things in order for the festive evening on Dec 1st. Mike Morgan, President of the group, along with Ed Slicer, former Cecil County Director of Parks and Recreation, and John Gallaher were there working through the cold approaching darkness to make sure everything worked. So we talked with the volunteers, took a few photos, and then drove down to Port Deposit to enjoy a fine evening meal at CM Tuggs, in the heart of another old county town, Port Deposit that is ready for the Christmas season.

Be sure to check back later this week for the vidcast and come to the opening ceremony on Dec. 1 from 4 to 6 p.m.

9 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful remembrance of times from my youth. It was great to hear the recording and see the pictures. What a grand tradition!

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  2. Thank you. We're glad you enjoyed it and over the holidays, we'll put more of the streaming audio online

    Mike

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  3. My family has been going to the "Travelers" Holly Tree for 4 generations now. It still brings back memories of times spent with my mother when she was still with us. Just not Christmas until we visit the Holly Tree. Do you know when Santa will be there for the 2008 holiday season? My kids are so looking forward to it & have been asking when we will be going.

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  4. My dad used to take my sisters and I to see the Traveler's Christmas Tree every year when I was a little girl. My Dad passed way 14 years ago. I have been searching, from memory, for this tree. This year I found it! I brought one of my sisters with me and showed her the tree (she was very little when we used to come every year to see the tree). My sister said "I thought it was bigger". I reminded her that she was a lot smaller in those days. We have decided, in honor of our father, to continue the tradition and bring our children and grandchildren to see the tree. Thank you for keeping these memories alive. See you at the Tree!!

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  5. Thanks for sharing your memories here.

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