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From the Archives: 1922 Christmas party on the battleship California

From the Archives: 1922 Christmas party on the battleship California
Dec. 25, 1922: Santa Claus distributes presents on board the battleship California as 100 children – guests from local charities – attend a party. (Los Angeles Times)

From 1919 until 1940, San Pedro served as the home port for the United States Navy’s battle fleet. On Christmas day, 1922, many ships invited local children to attend parties.

An article in the Dec. 26, 1922, Los Angeles Times reported on a Christmas part aboard the battleship California:

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“Captain Kidd” and his hungry crew – 2,000 strong – yesterday made a Christmas raid on the United States battle fleet in the harbor, and before nightfall every ship of the mightiest fighting force afloat had capitulated to demands of buccaneer youngsters.

They made a thorough job of it, too, boarding and overcoming everything from the smallest submarine to the great California herself, the flagship of Admiral Edward W. Eberle.

The admiral was not excepted in the piratical raid. When he came up from his cabin to see what all the noise on deck was about, 100 fierce-looking buccaneers, with sticks of candy between their teeth, oranges for hand grenades and their pockets bursting with loot, attacked him on the quarterdeck of the California and demanded that he haul down his flag.

Admiral Eberle said that he was glad to turn over his fleet to such a good-looking bunch of pirates and ordered Santa Claus, who happened to be on hand, to distribute the presents that the California’s crew had prepared in anticipation of just such a raid.

The California’s Santa Claus was Irish. His name the rest of the year is “Watertender” Jack O’Connor. And the 100 kids who were the ship’s guests think he’s the best Santa Claus they have seen. Mrs. Eberle and Capt. Lucius Bostwick also took part. …

The California’s guests were taken through the outdoor relief section of the Associated Charities and when they boarded a special Pacific Electric train for home at 5 p.m. every little face fairly glistened with pleasure over their new clothes, a real turkey dinner and all the presents they could carry.

The ship’s band added a lot to the jollity of the occasion on the California, while twelve entertainers, donated by Sid Grumman, put on a good show to top off the day.

The parties on the other dreadnoughts were equally jolly. The Mississippi, for example, had as her guests 175 children from local orphanages, while the Tennessee, Idaho, Procyon, Vestal and the submarine base were scenes of similar happy affairs.

The California’s officers and crew raised a fund of $5,000, which they donated to Santa to pay expenses, which included dinner, gifts and decorations for the ship. Other ships of the fleet followed the same procedure, the Oklahoma and Texas making cash donations to the Associated Charities.

The entire fleet was in gala attire and last night the illuminated ships, with their myriads of sparkling lights, seemed to glow with the very spirit of Christmas tide.

This post was originally published on Dec. 8, 2016.

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