Noe Valley Voice November 1999

Red Holiday Banners to Go Up on 24th Street

By Sally Smith

Finally, Noe Valley residents can stop complaining about those tattered, tinsel Christmas trees that have dangled from 24th Street light poles since the 1950s. Well, maybe.

The Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association has bought new holiday banners to put up this year. "Those old trees were frayed and many had been destroyed, so we wanted to replace them," said Harry Aleo, chair of the Merchants' decorations committee and owner of Twin Peaks Properties on 24th Street.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Merchants will hang 34 banners -- which are 8 feet by 3 feet and hang straight down -- on utility poles along 24th Street from Chattanooga to Douglass. The new banners, ordered from a decorations company called K.C. Enterprises, are mostly red but have a green wreath and "Seasons Greetings" imprinted in white script.

"We picked these out because they were the best-looking and would not offend 99 percent of the people," Aleo said. The group stayed away from obvious Christmas symbols and settled on what they thought was a generic holiday design. "Nobody wanted Christmas trees, and one person [who was outvoted] even objected to the wreath," Aleo said.

"But if you want Christmas, come over and look at my window," he laughed. "I'm going to have a Christmas tree, a Santie Claus, and a nativity scene!"

You also could see some sparkling white lights on storefronts this year. Said Small Frys owner Carol Yenne, "Many members of the association wanted to have white lights [strung from the poles instead of banners], but we couldn't do that because we don't have undergrounding of utilities on 24th Street." Instead, the shops are being encouraged to string the lights on their individual storefronts.

And if for some reason you're still attached to the old tree decorations, never fear. "We've got 24 of the old trees left in storage. So we've decided to use them too," said Aleo.

The green tinsel trees will be interspersed with the new red banners, bringing the total of decorated poles to 58.

Aleo said the Merchants -- with contributions from neighborhood groups and residents -- had spent the past three years raising the $7,000 to pay for the new decorations. But they could still use donations, especially since it costs $3,000 a year to store and install them. (The group contracts with a firm in Grass Valley.)

Those who'd like to contribute are invited to join the organization (dues $75 a year). Or you can mail a check, made out to the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association and earmarked "24th Street Decorations," to Aleo at Twin Peaks Properties, 4072 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94114. For membership information, call group president Robert Roddick at 641-8687.

By the way, if the trees and banners are still too "Christmasy" for your taste, you might want to count your blessings. Aleo, who has run his business on 24th Street for more than 52 years, recalls that "in the late '40s, we had music coming from amplifiers on the poles on 24th Street, and we played Christmas carols all day. They even had a loudspeaker on Twin Peaks.

"A lot of the residents complained about that, too."