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From the Archives: Lighting up December nights in Balboa Park has a long tradition

The December Nights community celebration returns to Balboa Park on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3. Over the decades, the park has been home to holiday fairs under many names.

Beginning in the 1930s, the park was home to the annual Electrical and Home Appliance Show in December. The first annual Electrical trade show kicked off at the municipal pier auditorium in 1933. It was held in Balboa Park from 1937 to the the mid-1960s when it moved to the newly built community concourse.

A page from the Electrical Exposition special advertising section of The Tribune-Sun, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 1941.

(The Tribune-Sun)

For many years, Electrical show was a gigantic free display of the latest electrical home appliances such as toasters and waffle irons. It was sponsored by the Bureau of Radio and Electrical Appliances of San Diego county. Visitors to the expo, saw various new products demonstrated, including a “robot coffeemaker” in 1940 and a “walking-talking refrigerator” in 1951.

The commercial expo was embellished by electrical lights illuminating a row of trees along Laurel Street and along El Prado in a holiday display that drew thousands of visitors through the center of Balboa Park. The lighting display was known as Christmas Tree Lane.

From the Evening Tribune, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1938:

A preview of the Electrical Show in Balboa Park from the Evening Triibune, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1938.

A preview of the Electrical Show in Balboa Park from the Evening Triibune, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1938.

(Evening Tribune)

Christmas Tree Lane Opens for Start of Show

1938 Biggest, Forecast for Electric Show

Each successive electric show for the past five season has given promise of attractive exhibits, novel demonstrations, and a wide variety of entertainment to be enjoyed freely by all those who attend, but this year members of the Bureau of Radio & Electric Appliances, of San Diego county, sponsors of the show, predict it will reach a point of interest never before attained.
This prediction is based on the number of extraordinary exhibits and demonstrations obtained for the show which will be open each night this week and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

In addition to extra efforts in the entertainment line, which will include acts of magic and astrology, some sensational electrical innovations such as “Polarized Light, with no glare or shadow; “Sterilamp,” the germ killer; the 1000-watt “peanut tube,” the strongest little lamp in the world; “zeon,” the last word in tube lighting, and “fluorescent,” absolute daylight, will be shown for the first time.

Lighting Colorful Lane

This year, more than ever before, manufacturers of electric equipment have chosen San Diego’s annual Christmas Electric show as the testing laboratory of public opinion. Some of the items to be shown are not even ready for commercial application in its entirety but have been loaned to sponsors of the show because for fie years, it has ranked tops in attendance and appreciation of electrical innovations.

Christmas Tree lane, with its thousands of colorful electric lights decorating the trees along Laurel st. through Balboa park, again will be a feature of the show ushering in the Christmas shopping season as it has done for the past several years and providing a show-place worth a special trip to Balboa park any night from now on during the show.

San Dieg’s electric show has become the Mecca for Christmas shoppers who have taken this opportunity for previewing the newest innovations in electrical appliances, a habit credited with making electrical gifts more popular than ever during recent years. The show affords a splendid opportunity for comparing at close range all makes and models of various electric appliances.

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