Southland Puts Its Brand on Yule Festivities

Times Staff Writer

Southern Californians celebrated Christmas in many ways Friday.

Thousands chose traditional methods--brightly wrapped presents around a lighted tree, yuletide services at neighborhood churches, elaborate dinners featuring turkey with all the trimmings, family gatherings around a fireplace to ward off an Arctic blast.

But for others, it was something a little different, sometimes with a unique Southern California quality.

At Zuma Beach, despite cool weather, cooler water and small waves, the Christmas surfers showed up as usual.


“It’s a beautiful day--you can see for 40 miles--but it’s cold,” said Don Olson, a Los Angeles County lifeguard at Zuma.

“The water temperature’s only 54, the air’s 55 and there’s a little wind that makes it feel even colder than that,” he said. “But, you know, it’s a holiday, so they come out anyway. Maybe some of them got new surfboards for Christmas.”

In Mission Hills, the newborn babies at Holy Cross Hospital arrived at their mothers’ beds Friday morning in special holiday attire--brightly decorated Christmas stockings.

Andrew Morales, born Christmas Eve, yowled lustily as he was stuffed into his red-and-white sock, but his mother and father, Sandra Morales and Rafael Rengel, both of Sepulveda, said they were delighted with their “present in a stocking.”


At the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles--where the anonymous “Cadillac Santa” had paid his fifth annual visit the night before, handing out $10 bills to about 450 of those less fortunate--about 3,000 meals were served to the homeless and needy.

“The Christmas spirit is nice here,” said Karen Newton, 29, who was enjoying the turkey dinner with her husband, Robert, 29, and son Robert Jr., 5.

“And the food’s good too,” her husband said.

Up the street and around the corner at the Union Rescue Mission, about 1,200 were served lunch after a noontime religious service that featured some rock Christmas music.


“I just want to eat!” one member of the audience shouted as the band began a second set.

“We’re here for your soul too, brother,” one of the musicians replied softly, without missing a beat.

In Hollywood, another 250 were served Christmas dinner by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, which directed its efforts primarily at victims of AIDS, homeless street children and members of the gay and lesbian community.

Among the gifts being given to guests were Christmas-wrapped condoms “to promote safe sex,” according to Eric Rofus, executive director of the center.


In the Sun Valley area, a group of neighbors relaxing after a Christmas dinner chased a would-be Grinch to the driveway of a local police station after he allegedly tried to steal a pickup truck, according to investigators.

“I think he was heading this way to save his life, because he had a heck of a group chasing him,” Los Angeles Police Officer Jim Brown said.

Brown said Angelo Soto, in his mid-20s, was in the process of “hot-wiring” the truck parked in the 9900 block of San Fernando Road when about a dozen Christmas celebrants heard the engine start up.

The celebrants headed for Soto, and Soto took off on foot for the Foothill Division station, a couple of blocks away.


Police found the suspect outside the station, surrounded by the men and women who had chased him. Brown said Soto was treated for “a few scratches” suffered in the confrontation and then booked on suspicion of attempted grand theft.

But in Glendora, like most other suburban communities contacted by The Times, Christmas was a very quiet day for the police.

“I’m just sitting here reading, hoping nothing happens,” said Glendora police dispatcher Karen Smith. “Believe me, I didn’t volunteer to work today. It’s just part of my shift.”

Smith said that for the two prisoners in the Glendora jail, Christmas was no holiday.


“There’s no special meal for them, nothing like that,” she said. “It’s just like every other day. They just lie there.”

At the Los Angeles County Jail, on the other hand, special Christmas religious services were conducted, and inmates were served traditional Christmas fare--turkey with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with giblet gravy and for dessert, sweet potato pie.

At Kratka Ridge, in the Angeles National Forest above La Canada, skiers took advantage of a light dusting of new snow and wintry temperatures and got in a few runs to begin what promises to be a busy late December at the Southland’s mountain resorts.

Even in the traditionally balmy San Diego area, the cold weather brought a little snow, with residents enjoying a few flakes that fell at the 1,000-foot level and above in the suburban comm1970170228and El Cajon.


The high temperature at the Los Angeles Civic Center Friday was 53 degrees, after an overnight low of 34, just two degrees above the 32-degree record for the date set in 1879.

The mean temperature for the day--44 degrees--was 13 degrees below the normal mean of 57 for a Christmas Day in downtown Los Angeles.

The humidity during the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday remained relatively low, ranging from 18% to 49%.

Dan Bowman, a meteorologist with WeatherData Inc., the Wichita-based firm that provides forecasts for The Times, said the cold nights are expected to continue through the remainder of the Christmas weekend.