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Children decorating a Christmas Tree around 1950

O Bee Blog

A Schmidt House Christmas

Olympia Brewing Company founder Leopold Schmidt and his wife Johanna built the now historic Schmidt House in 1904. Peter Schmidt Jr., their grandson, grew up there after his father inherited the house. He shared these Christmas memories at a talk on December 5, 2009. (Photo: The Schmidt children enjoy a Schmidt House Christmas.)

"As Christmas approached, it was a very festive time for us. Our Christmas activities were based on German Christmas traditions that were somewhat different than the typical American celebrations of the times.

In the first place, a major part of Christmas was celebrated on Christmas Eve and most of the gift giving and unwrapping was done then. And we didn't have Christmas stockings. From the week or two before Christmas, the living room was locked off and we kids, my four sisters and I, were barred from entering. All we knew was that our parents, some of our aunts and our grandparents would disappear into the room and we would hear noises of various kinds as they were preparing the room for the big event on Christmas Eve. Without our seeing it, the Christmas tree would arrive and be put up and decorated. At one end of the room, at the fireplace, was erected a large playhouse. It was full of doll beds, a little table, chairs, and other girl things for the sisters to play with.

The night before Christmas, at some point when our parents had seen to it the kids were all downstairs someplace, there would be a big commotion on the second floor, some bells would start ringing and some man would be saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho," and cookies and candies would come rolling down the stairs with a big clatter. We knew what this was all about, so we would quickly run to grab up as much stuff as we could. Of course, it was Santa Claus making a visit. Very conveniently, however, at the half level back of the stairs there was a door that led into the kitchen area. Thus, the alleged Santa Claus could immediately escape down and come rushing out with everybody else wondering what happened. All of us kids would go rushing around looking for Santa Claus, but, of course, he was gone.

On Christmas Eve, the entire Schmidt family, the children and grandchildren of Leopold and Johanna Schmidt, would gather at the Schmidt House at about 7:30 p.m. and socialize until about 9:00 p.m. When that time came, all the children would be lined up with the youngest one first next to the door to the living room on up to and including the older ones who were by now part of the production.
All of a sudden there would be a ringing of bells in the living room and we could hear the electric train running around the tracks at full speed. The doors would open, we would rush in. All the kids would run to the tree looking for gifts. We would hand the gifts to the older folks and find our own as well.
The train and other decorations were certainly festive and wonderful things that all in the family clearly remembered their whole lives.

I can tell you that today, many years later, one of my fondest memories and I am sure that of my sisters and cousins, was the Christmas Season at the Schmidt House in Tumwater, Washington."

Reprinted with permission from the Olympia Tumwater Foundation  


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