Driving or walking by the Village Green after dark starting tomorrow, you might see twinkly lights – and if you look up at the towering pine tree, it will be festooned with multi-colored lights. Here’s the story . . .
Once upon a time . . . . when the town of Pacific Palisades was first planned, the founders created a small park in the heart of the village, and commissioned the Olmstead Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts to design the village and business center. This triangular shaped parcel of land is located at the intersection of Sunset, Swarthmore and Antioch.
Money, building schools and churches, and even World War II changed the town. In 1945 a Standard Oil gas station went up on the site—and although exceptionally convenient for filling cars, the park the founders had envisioned as the heart of town was now a site of oil changes.
When the gas company’s lease ran out in 1972, a five-member group, the Village Green Committee, was established through the Pacific Palisades Community Council and a lease was signed—but there was no money to buy the land.
Starting on October 1, 1972, donations were sought and in less than three months, nearly $70,000 was raised to purchase the property and create the park.
About $46,000 was used for the purchase of the land and the remainder was used for the architect and design. The basic idea of the Green was that it should be a place to be enjoyed from within and admired from a distance. This meant walkways, benches, a drinking fountain, trees and flowers, as well as grass.
A small five-foot pine tree was planted on the edge nearest Sunset and Antioch and annually, Christmas tree lights were placed on the “Charlie Brown” tree.
Every year, the lights went up, but as the tree grew and grew, volunteers could no longer stand on a ladder to decorate the tree. Station 69 firefighters were asked to bring their ladder truck to help string the lights. And they did, year after year.
Two years ago, a grinch, or more likely a vandal who should be prosecuted, destroyed the Village Green electrical boxes. So, in 2019 and 2020, there were no holiday lights on the little park. That has changed this year with community support.
Tom Doran, a local electrician and a member of the Sons of the American Legion, offered to repair the fixtures pro bono. This has made it possible for all the pear trees to have “twinkly lights.”
Initially, the Charlie Brown tree was not going to have lights, but new board member Cindy Kirven and longtime member Carl Mellinger, an arborist, argued that it should be lit.
They won over the nonprofit board, who gave them the go ahead. Kirven bought lights at Costco as a donation and Doran fixed the pine tree outlet.
With the help of seven girls from Scout Troop 223 (There are about 60 in the troop), they organized the lights, so that when Station 69 firefighters arrived, the tree was ready to be hung.
With eastbound Sunset closed, the operator of the hook-and-ladder truck lifted Station 69 firefighters high in the sky and lights were put in place.
Spectators, who did not know about the Christmas tree saga, wondered who the firefighters were rescuing: Was it a cat? Was it a person?
But the truth was, it was a tradition that was rescued. Even though the tree has grown too big for Santa and Christmas, it hasn’t grown too big for Pacific Palisades, and now stands tall on the corner, all lit up.