A Historic Holiday Snapshot

By: John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources

Gross family Christmas tree

On December 22, 1955, readers of The Columbia Record newspaper met a full-page chronicle of Columbia’s Gross family preparing to ring in the holidays.

With husband Albert M. Gross ill and states away in Florida, wife Miriam wrangled her six children, ages 18 months through ten years, as the annual visit from jolly ole’ St. Nick loomed.

Gross family decorating tree
Gross family children decorate their Christmas tree, December 22, 1955. Image courtesy of Richland Library

Photographer Richard Taylor captured the family’s trek from 1506 Barnwell Street, where they lived with Mrs. Gross’s uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd L. Wescott, past Shandon, where the hunt for just the right Christmas tree to brighten their home would begin. From downtown, they made their way to Rosewood Open Air Market, where Wylie Koon, the store’s operator, welcomed them. The embodiment of the holiday spirit of giving, Koon was so moved by the Gross children’s enthusiasm for the outing that he donated the tree and an accompanying enameled metal stand as a gift.

With their small spruce tree firmly secured in the trunk of their 1952 Styleline Chevy sedan, Mrs. Gross and children – George (18 months), Wesley (three years), Karla (five years), Paula (seven years). Charles (nine years), and Albert (ten years) ventured back to their two-story, brick veneer home (which still stands today) for an evening of decorating and merriment. Lights strung, and ornaments hung, the tinseled tree became the centerpiece of the home’s living room in the wake of the Gross children’s glee.

With the joyful affair concluded and her children sound asleep, Miriam found herself drifting in one of the living room’s chairs. What dreams danced in the Columbia Police Department telephone operator’s head we cannot know. Perhaps they were of Albert recuperating in Pensacola, or maybe, just maybe, of what Santa Claus might have in store three days later.

To see more about the Gross family’s holiday outing, follow this link to Richland Library’s digitized State newspaper photograph collection and use the keyword “Gross.”

From everyone at Historic Columbia, we hope you have a very Merry and historic Christmas!

Header image: Gross family leaves Rosewood Open Air Market with their tree. Image courtesy of Richland Library