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Burlap and Buggies: A Remembrance of Christmas Past

Idaho potato

A potato?

Friedman Bag Co. truck A truck with bales of burlap bags?

Some of my favorite memories of the past were the Christmas parties at the Friedman Bag Company which was started by my uncles in 1927.

I wasn’t going to write about this because I didn’t have pretty pictures to show you, but my son, who is fascinated with our family’s history, insisted and so here it is. Now you must understand when I started my blog, family memories were not what I was going to write about. I was going to discuss movies to see, television to watch, blogs and books to read, lipstick to wear, food to cook, museums to see and places to travel to. Who knew the direction my blog  would take? I certainly didn’t and it’s surprised me. I’ve read about writers never knowing where their characters would take them. I scoffed at the idea. But, want to know something? They’re right. I’m going on a journey and have no idea where it will take me. So, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Friedman Bag Co.

Here’s the Friedman Bag Company in 1927.

Friedman Bag Co. downtown Los Angeles

The company made burlap bags for potatoes and other agricultural products. They made them in a  huge factory in downtown Los Angeles. It became a landmark when they painted the ventilation fans colors of the rainbow. Most everyone driving on Highway 101 saw those bright colors and smiled. At least I did.

Ventilation fans

Every year, my uncles would have a Christmas party for all their workers and for our families ––– there were five brothers and two sisters and lots of cousins. There were the “older” cousins and “the younger” cousins. In those days, we  stuck together in packs of the same age. Today, we all feel that we’re the same age.

The party was not a catered affair. The food was made by my Auntie Eva, her sisters and her daughters. They worked all week in her kitchen peeling, shredding, and chopping. Every year we had the same menu: coleslaw, potato salad and fabulous Kosher hot dogs that burst when you bit into them! What do I especially remember? Would you believe Dr. Pepper? We never had soft drinks in my house, so it was a big deal for me being able to drink a Dr. Pepper and I’ve always associated it with “the Christmas Party.”

Dr. Pepper tray

Hot_Dogs

The party was held on the second floor of the factory which was cleared of the bales of burlap sacks so that they could place picnic chairs and tables and set up an area for dancing. I don’t remember much about the dancing, probably because I was having the time of my life running around and up and down the different floors of the factory. All of us cousins had a free-for-all racing around the bag company.

There were these huge freight elevators that we’d take to the top floor. Then, we’d climb all over the bales, play hide and seek, and slide down the bag chutes from one floor to the next wrapped in a burlap bag so we could slide faster. We’d also grab the huge flat-bed carts that were used for moving bales and have races as we’d leap from one stack of bales to another. The place was huge so we could run and swoop up the stairs, down the chutes, up the elevator, over the bales, around the bales, around the huge printing presses and then back up again. I was part of the younger group, running around for hours exploring the deep, dark, scary recesses of the factory.

 freight elevator

Bales of bulap bags

Bales of bulap bags

Printing press

Huge bag printing press

Friedman Bag Company factory floor with chute

Friedman Bag Company factory floor with chutes for sliding down

When I speak with my cousins today, their favorite family memories are also of those factory Christmas parties. My cousin Annette, reminded me that family members received a bag with Santa printed on it which contained five pounds of walnuts and a pound of See’s candy. I remember later, at home, I would sit at the kitchen table with my mother, helping her crack those five pounds of walnuts so that they could be made into strudel. We ate all the See’s candy, first testing to see if it was creamy, chewy or nutty. You know, I still love See’s candy. Don’t care about Godiva, just give me a See’s dark chocolate, with caramel and marshmallow and I’m a happy camper.

That night after the party, my father would drive home one of the pick-up trucks from the bag company. My sisters and the neighborhood kids would pile into the back (without seat belts) and he would drive us through Beverly Hills so we could see  the fancy Christmas decorations. The big homes and sparkling lights were so different from our neighborhood, we were excited to see everything so twinkling.

pickup_truck

Outdoor Christmas decorations

Another holiday tradition was to join my neighborhood buddy, Marty and her sister, Diane in decorating their Christmas tree. Her mother would serve us hot chocolate and I would very carefully place tinsel on the tree. I’m talking massive amounts of tinsel so that the tree really shimmered. Then, I would sleep overnight at Marty’s house and the next morning, there would be one special gift for me that my parents had placed under the tree. When I was eight, my favorite gift was a doll I named Teresa. I loved that doll and cared for her as though she were a real baby, feeding, diapering, and dressing her. I took her for long walks  around the block in her doll buggy. I kept her for many years. She’s the only doll I remember.

Dolly buggy

Happy New Year!

Old potato sack race

All images appearing on Burlap and Buggies: A Remembrance of Christmas Past are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!



  • Janine Smith - I have that Dr. Pepper tray! I haven’t had a soda in years, but I still have the tray.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Really? What a small world. Did you love Dr. Pepper also? I must say I can’t remember the last time I had a Dr. Pepper. Of course, now that I’m writing about it, I have to find one and see if it’s just as good as I remember.ReplyCancel

      • Janine Smith - In 1969, when we moved from San Jose to Trenton (not our best family move) Dr. Pepper wasn’t available back East. I had to rely on travelers to bring me the occasional bottle (they would bring Coors beer, too. We’d send back bagels).ReplyCancel

        • sandra - That is funny. There’s really not a great delicatessen on the Peninsula. We long for one when we’re up there.ReplyCancel

  • jUDITH AUGUST - tHE WORSE DAYS OF MY LIFE IS WHEN MY FATHER DROVE ME TO jOHN BURROUGHTS IN HIS PRODUCE TRUCK…AND YOU????
    FUN STORY
    JAReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh, I was much younger when I used to ride in the back of he pick-up truck. Loved it. Later on,I either took a bus or walked to Junior High.
      Glad you liked the story. As I said I almost didn’t write it.ReplyCancel

  • wilma entel - dear sandy,
    amazing….I think you have a book here….am serious…keep writing, love it, and you make everything feel real, and alive! feels like I am right there with you!
    you write so well!
    knew you were a fabulous friend, cook, and artist.. now, you can add writer to all your accomplishments…happy new year!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Hey Wilma, what a compliment. I know you’re a voracious reader of high intelligence so thank you! Happy New Year to you and Nathan. I spoke with friends who are trying to be vegas. We must talk! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • amidprivilege - I love these old photos and find your memories fascinating.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you Skye. Just think, I wasn’t going to post these because I didn’t think they were pretty or attractive enough for readers. Thought people would want glitz and glam.ReplyCancel

  • Gail Corcoran - Sandy,

    What a heart warming blog, brings back memories of a different time. We could use some of that innocence in this crazy,hectic time.

    Keep up the good work!

    GailReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Gail, I’m glad you enjoyed the posting. Yes, it truly was an innocent time. I’ll be writing more about those days.ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Happy New Year! Sandy, these photos are a treasure…thanks for sharing! I agree with Wilma who says that you write so well. You do. As I was reading this post, I felt like I was one of your cousins playing in the factory with you. I look forward to reading your next post. Keep up the good work!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Sandra, best organizer in the world. I do enjoy the creativity of writing and putting photos together. Also, this blog has sparked a whole new interest in photography. I really appreciate people taking the time to read and comment.ReplyCancel

  • Carla Fischer - i can picture your christmas party at the bag company and you crazy happy kids shrieking with joy and running up down and around…i yearn to see pictures of your father and family…are you one of the kids in the potatoe sack race? i’m so happy you’ve followed your writing heart…lovely sentiments…thanks so much….ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Speaking with my cousins they all agreed “this was the Best of times.” I’ll have to figure out which family photos to include in the future.
      Thanks for the encouragement in writing.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Stern - Brilliant! I love your history…
    Your blog is now required reading. Keep the good stuff coming!
    xoxoReplyCancel

    • sandra - I love that “required reading.” Glad you’re enjoying.ReplyCancel

  • mindy - Isn’t it amazing how vivid our memories of childhood events are? Sounds like it was loads of fun, and yes, it was definitely a more innocent time. Cannot say that this generation’s kids would be allowed to play around all those bales and machinery. CalOSHA would be after those adults in a flash!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - You’re absolutely right. What about riding street cars to for miles all by myself?ReplyCancel

  • Kim Phillips - Love your stories. This one makes me think about the Werthan Bag Company here in Nashville, where the inspiration for Driving Miss Daisy came from. It’s still there…ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks. Werthan Bag Company? I had no idea that it was the company behind the story. Fascinating. I loved the movie, but they never mentioned where the money came from. Must watch it again.ReplyCancel

  • Dick Whitney - Thanks for the pictures. A wheat rancher friend and myself was interested how the burlap bags were bundled when shiped to the farms. They harvested over a million bushel of wheat to be shipped out by rail next to their ranchReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh my goodness I have no idea how they were bundled. Never thought of that. I do know they did a lot of shipping with Simplot in Idaho. I wonder if there is anyone there who would know. Thanks for reading.ReplyCancel

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