Memories of Park Cities Christmas Past: Rhodes Family Edition

Reminiscing about holidays past typically brings out a feeling of nostalgia and often a nice dose laughter. Our group recently caught ourselves doing the same. Growing up in the Park Cities was a magical time around the holidays. We thought we would share a few family remembrances in hopes these Christmas moments of ours spark memories of your own and bring a little joy to your day.

Gammi & Papa Rhodes’ house on Beverly and the one string of lights…
As you may know, the 3700 block of Beverly is no amateur hour when it comes to Christmas light display. One year as the block was showing off its full holiday glory, our 80 year old grandfather, filled with Christmas spirit, decided to join the fray. Always frugal and a do-it-yourselfer to a fault, he decided to put up his own lights on their front live oak tree. Since he didn’t have a ladder to help light the canopy, he decided to tie a brick to the end of a strand of lights and heave it up into the tree. Needless to say, the brick came crashing down and nearly killed the man. Luckily (or unluckily) the single strand of lights remained. Fearful of an untimely accidental death, Papa Rhodes called it a day. So for the next three Christmases, as the holiday light seekers stared in wonder up and down Beverly, their live oak tree stood adorned with a single strand. I’m sure the Andrews’ across the street were thrilled with the view.

The biggest blazing tree on Beverly…
Speaking of Beverly, most will remember the first time they saw Mrs. Cullum’s tree at 3517 Beverly. She had to have been the first person in Dallas to completely light up a tree: trunk, branches, and all. At the time, it was honestly the most impressive display anyone had ever seen. People would come from miles around to take a look. Her son, Brooks, said when he grew up there, the only decoration they had was a single plastic tree with one string of lights! We aren’t sure when Mrs. Cullum really caught the Christmas spirit, but we are sure thankful she did!

Lined-up-for-presents_finalThe required Christmas morning tradition
A house of 5 kids always made for an energetic Christmas morning (an understatement to be sure). Tom and Suzy remember many years where the wakeup-call came hours before any civilized human should be awake. The Rhodes household had an unbreakable rule though: everyone walks down the stairs together in order from youngest to oldest. That presented one major problem, we (the younger kids) had to wake our oldest sister. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to wake a teenage girl before 5:30 am, but it is something I don’t suggest you attempt. Inevitably, the line-up wouldn’t occur until around 7:30 (at the earliest). Traditions are hard to break. What do our kids do now? Line up by age of course – all together – before heading down for the magic. What’s your Christmas morning tradition?

Making Christmas a little brighter…
Twenty-five years ago Tom had a family moving here from Hong Kong, literally the day before Christmas. It was obvious that the house would be a wreck on Christmas morning and that most likely, presents would be an afterthought at best. So as a surprise, he bought a Christmas tree, some presents for their kids, and took all of us over to decorate the tree before they arrived. I think my dad has a special knack of knowing how to make people feel appreciated and cared for. We certainly learned a great lesson that day of what the Christmas spirit is all about. Needless to say, they are still great friends today.

Grand Dottie’s super-sized Christmas Eve party…
Originally, just the family came over for tamales for a quaint Christmas Eve dinner. But if you ever had the good fortune of knowing Dottie Groth, you knew she had heart the size of Texas. So when she heard of friends not having a place to go on Christmas Eve, she would add them to the list. It quickly grew to over 100 people. So for 25 years, the 3500 block of Colgate held a party full of fun, family and love. Tom & Suzy still carry on the party tradition with the same aspiration – 100 plus strong – and we still serve tamales.

The gifts tossed in the fire?
Christmas afternoon at our grandparent’s house was always crazy. With aunts, uncles, and cousins all staying at the house (24 at its peak), you can image how much wrapping paper was thrown around the living room as presents were opened in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation. Papa Rhodes’ (Tom’s dad) was always eager to dispose of the trash as quickly as possible. Our fearless go-getter would begin tossing the wrapping paper, ribbons, etc. in the fire during the madness. One year, as the fire was ablaze, we caught a smell of something not quite right. Looking into the fire, you could just make out a gift of something large and plastic melted to a crisp. We never figured out who’s gift we lost, but this wasn’t the last time it happened! Oops.

Our kids carry on with added traditions…walking down Armstrong Blvd. for the annual lighting of the tree…carriage rides from Highland Park Village…driving around the neighborhood to tour the wonderful displays of lights (including a visit to the Santa Clause shrine on Southwestern Blvd.)…and of course, the last minute gift shopping scramble at Northpark. We know wonderful holiday happenings occur all over of the world. But we love recreating these family-filled Christmas memories year-after-year, in our little corner of the world.

We wish you the happiest holiday memories-in-the-making of your own.

Merry Christmas,
From our family to yours