Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

My great-grandfather, streetcar man and photographer Harry Stilson, didn’t take as many Christmas pictures as you would expect. Or, if he did, they didn’t survive. I’ve shared most of these before but maybe you didn’t see them  or don’t mind seeing them again. If that’s the case, about Christmas trees…

Xmas tree blog

Christmas trees were usually cedar, it seems. I have no idea who the folks below are but the piano is a player piano and the tree is circled by a white fence.

Christmas family

Those fences must have been popular because there’s also one around the base of the family tree on Grayland Avenue, between Cary Street & the Downtown Expressway. The children are Harry’s grandkids, Howard and Norma Lynch and neighbor, Ralph Carr. Many of the ornaments adorning those long-ago Christmas trees hang on my tree every year.

nkl hdl rc  house ornament  Stilson Christmas ornaments



In those days, gifts weren’t lavish. An orange, one toy (often recycled) and that was about it. My father and his friend Ralph Carr displayed all their vehicles in this Christmas Day photo but there is no way to tell which was the new prized possession that year. I think the building may be in the ‘village’ beneath the tree above.


Bike parade! I doubt any of these were new gifts but an audience of neighbors  inspired the kids to mount up and hit the sidewalk on December 26, 1927.


We are currently trying to separate damaged negatives that are stuck together. If the attempt is successful, there may be more holiday images to share in the future. Whatever we salvage will be added to the 5,000 or so Stilson photographs we have now and I’d consider that a wonderful Christmas present.





Some Christmas gifts are always in style, always exciting. Riding toys of any sort but especially bicycles or tricycles inspire joy in 1926 or 2016. Richmond In Sight’s collection of my great-grandfather’s photographs prove that. The Harris Stilson Collection includes a few Christmas pictures that could just as easily be now. This tricycle parade was the day after Christmas, 1927 on Carytown’s Grayland Avenue with a neighbor’s mother & grandmother admiring the procession.


That photograph of my father, Howard Lynch, his sister, Norma Kathleen, neighbor Minnie Arnold and an unknown child is as relevant as the picture that follows below. That’s my triplet grandchildren on a popular “trike” variation: no pedals so kids balance themselves and learn to ride a bicycle easier. At least that’s the theory. First, they need to learn to sit on the seat. There’s a reason parents are young…they need stamina!15731824_10154893722050909_7168745008375094271_o

Some folks are never too old for bikes. Harry Stilson tests his grandson’s new bike in this picture and I can almost hear my father pleading for his bike back.


Chia pets, pet rocks, and Cindy Lauper attire pass from favor but some toys are timeless. Dolls, trucks, and little structures endure as favorites. I bought my kids Fisher-Price garages, airports, and houses but these are really, really cool, too. Howard and his friend, Ralph Carr, proudly display their gifts and I wish at least one of those had survived for me to treasure decades later.


Harry looks delighted to be with his grandchildren as they show off their belongings. My aunt Margaret was born with only one full arm but she rode this tricycle and later bicycles and looks thrilled to be doing it.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Margaret loved dolls. I have a few of her dolls, still but sadly, her Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll and her Madame Alexander Dionne quintuplet dolls disappeared over the years.  I do, however, have the china tea set that Margaret is using here. Somehow it survived decades in her basement in an open box. The question is: will it survive the grandchildren?


This child below is NOT happy. Don’t know who she is but she’s the sister of a little boy  in other pictures and I’m guessing they are along Harry’s West Clay Line streetcar route in Jackson Ward. I am always hopeful that someone will see one of Harry’s images and recognize a relative. It’s happened before and is always my Christmas wish.


This last image was captured from a Stilson film and is too timely to leave out. The Byrd Theatre opened December 24, 1928 and we believe this may be the first movie matinee. The kids are all wearing Lindy hats, leather aviator caps imitating Charles Lindbergh because he had recently visited Richmond. Howard and Norma certainly wore theirs with pride. There seems to be a history of movie events at Christmas, huh? Perhaps none as significant as the opening of the historic Byrd Theatre but I know lots of families whose holiday traditions include movies, at home like us with The Muppets Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (both the “real people” and the “tartoon” version, as my granddaughter calls it) or at the theater. Traditions are priceless and whatever form they take, they are to be cherished.   022-byrd-kids

As you pick up wrapping paper and try to figure out where to store the presents your children received, remember this: some of those toys will be forgotten tomorrow but a few  will be treasured for generations. I know…the triplets love toys from the past.


Christmas decorating has changed dramatically in the last few years. Think of how much more there is…more kinds of lights, decorations, computer-generated house lighting displays, lasers, all of that. If you’re a Christmas junkie like I am, it’s great but it’s also neat to see how people celebrated Christmas in the early 1900s and, thanks to my great-grandfather’s photographs, we can do that. One indication of how the season was observed is the number of pictures of the Stilson/Lynch family at Christmas that survived: a handful. It wasn’t as long or involved a holiday as is celebrated today. Some photos of unknown families are included in the collection and could have been friends, family, or customers. We’ll probably never know although I’ve learned not to say “never” in the Great Harry Stilson Adventure. When I do, the next day someone contacts me to identify the place or person I was sure would remain a mystery. Like these folks:


I’ve shown these pictures before but they’re still worth a look. When I shared them before, I asked if you recognized anyone. Your aunt Maude, perhaps? That’s how we identify stuff…Richmond In Sight’s detectives include all of Richmond and beyond. You’re part of the Great Adventure, whether you expect to be or not.

What I love about Harry Stilson’s photographs are the connections: to not only the Richmond of today but to our family. It’s cool to see buildings and places from a century ago and know we pass them (or visit them) today. It’s also really cool to examine a Christmas tree my family decorated and know that some of those same ornaments hang from the branches of my tree. I’ve been questioned about the wisdom of exposing these fragile antiques to harm but they survived thus far and I like the continuity. So here’s the present-day version. If you look at Harry’s photographs, you might spot some of the same ornaments on his family Christmas tree.

The plan is to share a few more holiday images in the next few days. As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, sometimes my best plans go awry. Real estate business, triplet grandbabies, presentations, book writing, and more can interfere with my intentions but stay tuned. I’ll try to do better. I really do need to get on Santa’s “nice” list. Time’s running out…

Christmas traditions have changed over the decades. In the 30s, kids got an orange for Christmas or maybe one toy. Lights were confined to Christmas trees when my parents were little and a Tacky Lights Tour was unimaginable. These days, my great-neices and I  eat cookies and drink sparkling grape juice from plastic champagne glasses while admiring the Phifers’ million and a half lights on Asbury Court but that’s just one of my family’s “gotta do” events and/or activities.  There’s also  gingerbread houses with oh, 50 kids or so, the church caroling party, Christmas brunch with my ex-husband’s family and mine, the Richmond Pops concert and the Richmond Nativity Pageant at Dogwood Dell. Unfortunately, this year the Pops is the same night as the Carillon program and my aunt, who has Alzheimer’s, can’t stand long enough to participate in the outdoor event so we’ll be at the Landmark (still “the Mosque” in my family) delighting in the Richmond Pops’ songs of the season.  Make sure you’re get to at least one of  these great Richmond traditions.

The Richmond Nativity Pageant at Dogwood Dell is celebrating its 82nd year. It’s Richmond at its best: a little corny, all-volunteer, and absolutely wonderful. Some families have been in it for generations.  Go to this link for details. The lead picture from last year’s program includes three generations of Robbens as the Holy Family.

Dress warmly as you’ll be outside. The pageant,performed at the Carillon, truly is an event you should experience at least once. That’s all it will take to create a  tradition.

Meanwhile, at the Landmark, the Richmond Pops holiday concert is free but you need to get tickets and it’s probably too late now since the concert is Monday night. Put it on your calendar for next year when (hopefully) it won’t conflict with the Carillon program.  The Pops is an incredible amount of musical talent, all volunteer, under the skillful direction of  Joe Simpkins. It’s a great way to get in the holiday spirit.

Don’t forget the Tacky Lights Tour. You can go big (limo) or small (car crammed with kids) but don’t miss the gaudy and the glorious.

For contrast, here’s a little glimpse into the Christmas traditions of Harry Stilson’s time. Then, for laughs, I’ve included a few pictures of our holiday events like my back yard after my annual open house last Saturday where several folks got stuck in the mud and gingerbread house time the next afternoon. The gingerbread house pictures are courtesy of Bruce Boyajian.

0136 christmas toys                                                       Howard Lynch & Ralph Carr

around Christmas tree girl by tree

I have no idea who the people in the pictures above are. Any suggestions? See your great-aunt Maude? Your cousin’s wife’s sister? Anyone?

yard reszed                    Just a glimpse of my back yard, post-open house

RJ                                                     Gingerbread house making, 2013

Nora                               That Skittle is awfully little to be “glued” with that spatula!

Haley                                                            Construction completed

Rountrey gang                                    My kin, some working, some supervising

Asha                                                 First year of making gingerbread houses

I know this isn’t much of a history lesson and it’s certainly not a well-written, thoughtful blog entry but hey, it’s Christmas. I am impressed with myself for simply getting a photo to Channel 12 for their Throwback Thursday Facebook page and for getting this hodgepodge blog entry done! So grab your kids, your friends, whoever, and go savor the season. It’s Christmas in Richmond, Virginia and that says it all. Merry Christmas from Kitty Snow and Richmond In Sight.