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Thompson Avenue aglow for the holidays

By Ariel Moyal

Another view of Thompson Lane Photo by Marcus Stollger
A holiday view of Thompson Avenue
Photo by Marcus Stollger

Every year, come the holiday season, the residents of the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue put up elaborate lighting displays and festive yard decorations and magically the street transforms into the famous Christmas Tree Lane.

According to the Alameda Patch, this tradition dates back all the way to 1938 when two families decided to string up lights from the median strip to their houses to lift spirits during the Great Depression. Every year since then, families living on the street have carried on the tradition, and made Christmas Tree Lane a mainstay for families around the holiday season.

Marina Bradley, a junior, has lived on Thompson her whole life—in fact, she was  literally born on the street. Bradley and her family participate in the festivities every year, and look forward to participating greatly. She appreciates that living on the street “really gets you into the Christmas spirit.”

The only thing Bradley doesn’t like about living on the street is the traffic that seems to swarm for weeks on the street both by cars and pedestrians. Junior Julian Pelzner agrees; the lights attract thousands of people which can sometimes be overwhelming for the residents, he says.

Pelzner, a Thompson Avenue inhabitant since the age of one, says his family moved to the street, “and then found out what a crazy place it was.”

The clever yard decorations and intricate lighting displays draw thousands of people from Alameda and beyond.  Viewing the decorations both by foot and from cars makes traffic sometimes problematic for residents, but most families are not complaining. The tradition, and camaraderie behind it, make up for all the inconveniences living on the street may bring.

Above all Thompson does seem like a close-knit, albeit busy, place to live. “We all pretty much know everyone on the street,” Bradley said.  Community is plentiful. That neighborliness is a definite necessity when organizing something as monumental as Christmas Tree Lane festivities every year.

A sense of community among the block is instrumental in keeping the street lit through the holidays and in organizing the activities that go along with the tradition, such as Santa and elves, and the decorated trees on the median strip that require a lift truck to be strung with ornaments and lights.

Another myth that persists is that residents get a cut on their electricity bills. Bradley laughs, “the residents pay for everything.  We don’t get a cut.” That bill can start to get expensive very quickly since the houses are lit every day from the beginning to the end of December.

Residents have started to think of using LED lights to save money, and also have a donation bin on the street itself. Living on Thompson can be an expensive endeavor but residents still love the spirit it brings and wouldn’t think of stopping the cherished tradition.

In fact the only time the tradition was not celebrated since its inception was during World War II because of the mandatory blackouts.



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