The Legend of the OB Christmas Tree

by on December 3, 2011 · 15 comments

in Culture, History, Ocean Beach, Popular

By Mike James / Special to the OB Rag

Gather round young and old as I tell the tale of long ago.

Photo by ricoslounge via

It all started in a quaint inn1 on the shores of a mighty ocean in the Land of OB. Two brothers of a great clan of craftsman2 gathered around a table of libations, sheltered from the winter cold.

They spoke of warm summer winds on the beaches of OB and recent triumphs therein. It had been a gathering of villagers from far and wide to view a spectacular spectacle of light and sound3. This had given great joy to the local trade and citizens of OB alike. It was the beginning of renewed spirit that had nearly been lost in this enchanted land.

Having proudly championed a role in this milestone, the brothers spoke of new campaigns to once again bring happiness to their fellow Obceans.

With a chill in the air and the sounds of pounding surf close by, a harbinger of the coming festive season, they spoke of the celebrated great tree in a land far far away, in the Plaza of Rockefeller. This giant pine marked the start of this season of giving and rejoicing, a rare happenstance among the barbarians in this York of New.

Alas, the brother who was both Rich in spirit as well in name, inspired by the Tree of Rockefeller, proposed of a 20 feet tree that would grace the sands of OB with much fanfare and celebration. As the mead flowed from the casks, this illusionary tree grew to 30, 40, then 50 feet.

Yes, there were the naysayers, I the teller of this tale being one, who doubted the dreams of this man, who was Rich in spirit as well in name.

Undaunted, Rich proclaimed he would find a tree that would rival that of Rockefeller. They heard of an elder in the great white north who was the procurer of such trees of legend. Rich knew he must travel many days into uncharted territory to seek this man.

Rich sought the assistance of a fellow adventurer Kenny, the keeper of a trusty cart with many horses. They knew days of treacherous travel lay ahead, even through the dangerous highlands of the Vine of Grape, where many carts who ventured there, now lay ruined along its perilous icy roads. Yet they knew they must venture far north of even the Vine of Grape.

After many days of travel (to told be in other tales), Rich and Kenny had finally reached their destination, the snowy slopes of an ancient volcano4. Where it is said mystical fairies and pixies live within. It was here they found the elder, the procurer of legendary evergreens.

True to his word, he lay upon the cart a tree of such grandeur, of such magnificent proportions, a tree worthy of tales to be told through the ages, a tree worthy of being the first.

With the tree safely aboard, the return journey seemed to almost magically transport them back to the Land of OB in the blink of an eye.

There at the end of the main street of OB, upon the shores of the great ocean, the 60 foot tree was placed securely in the sand.

The villagers and the tradesmen, with much gladness in their hearts, gathered around silently to admire this tree, this symbol of community, of hope, of redemption, of love. A tree that had once been just the imagination of a dreamer.

Then with much joy, they marched down the main street, they laughed, they sang, they celebrated. Leading them all was a man who was both Rich in spirit as well as in name.

Even though Rich has passed, his tradition and his spirit shall continue.

For the 30th year, the author, Mike James will be Parade announcer in front of the Judging Area. This year the Judging Area will be located in front of Nick’s at the Beach. 

This story is dedicated to his late brother Rich.


  1. Sunshine Company Saloon
  2. Rich and Ron James of the James Gang
  3. The First Annual Ocean Beach Fireworks Festival
  4. Mt. Shasta

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Patty Jones December 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Thanks Mike … and Rich (who I did not know), brought a chuckle to me smile and a tear to me eye.


avatar Old Hermit Dave December 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Great story Mike, so proud to have marched in the big Rich memory parade, the James gang will always be part of my OB.


avatar Joy Farrelly December 3, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the great story and memories Mike…Remembering Rich’s smile, heart and talents….


avatar John T. Schultz December 3, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Well, as exciting as the first tree was, none can compare to the trek into the woods of the mystic mountains to our east as we slew a great pine under the influence of mirth the following year, or so I remember…. the original OB Santa has spoken.


avatar Mike James December 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Yeah John, the second year was a lot of fun. A DIY project. What the crew of regulars from the Sunshine Saloon lacked in lumberjack skills was made up with enthusiasm and liquor (mirth). We got that tree from the Mt. Palomar property of a long time Obciean Roy Bonham. I recorded the cutting of the tree on my 50 lbs. Panasonic Video camera. Noah Tafolla later used some of the footage for his Wonderland series.


avatar OB Mercy December 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm

That video was SO cool, thanks Mike!! I’m so completely fascinated with OB history…that obsession fueled me to become an archaeologist I guess. I’m kinda hung up on finding anything to do with the amusement park, Wonderland. Mainly, finding any objects, flyers or something tangible from it. I’ve asked your brother Pat, I’m in the OB Historical Society too and am always asking. Can’t hurt to ask again I guess!


avatar OB Mercy December 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm

I’ve only lived here 3 yrs, yet I’ve heard Rick’s name mentioned so many times. The parade was so much fun tonight, it’s nice to know the background of the tree, which is inextricably linked to the parade. I’m glad I was in the parade last year, fun to be able to say that.


avatar Eric Wittman December 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

OB is one of my favorite places in this world, and enjoyed calling it home for a few months. I’m very honored you used my picture of the tree to go along with this wonderful story.


avatar Patty Jones December 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hi Eric, It’s a beautiful picture and I’m glad I happened to find it! I hope you will come back from time to time and check in with us.


avatar claudia j December 4, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Love the Tree story, the Memories are endless>> Many Thanks to the James Gang Brothers for keeping the spirt up!!!!! I have been on the OB Tree committee forever and have chaired it for years!!!!! The OB Christmas Tree Festive has True Spirit>>>> I hope all of you enjoyed the full day of events, December 3>> We now head into the Food & Toy Drive<<> We deliver the items on December 17 at 9am. All families and seniors are Local>>

We also have the OB Tree Craft Fair on the lawn on December 10, 17, 24 from 9am to 3pm>> Santa will be at the Tree from 11 to 1pm on saturdays>> Thanks for all you OB Community Support!!!!! claudia


avatar OB Mercy December 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm

It was a great parade Claudia! Many of us commented that is seemed about an hour shorter than it usually is. I was in it last year, and could have sworn it was a lot longer. No matter though, a fun time was had by all!


avatar Cindy December 6, 2011 at 10:44 am

Awesome wordsmithing skills! I love this!
Great to put a face to and nice to finally meet you night of the parade Mike! Met with Joe at Sunshine after the big event.


avatar Mike James December 6, 2011 at 11:12 am

Thanks Cindy. It was great meeting you as well.


avatar Kellie Gorman December 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for another great year celebrating the parade and our classic OB tree. I
miss your Brother Rich everyday at sunset on pescadero. It’s just not the same without him and his art and love for our dogs. Many blessings and love to the James Family!! :)


avatar ken keegan December 8, 2011 at 4:09 am

Long live the legend of OB and the great James Gang! Hope this season finds all my friends and acquaintances in the Land of OB in great health and joyful spirits. Thank you, OB Rag for your continued excellence in journalism and keeping OB’s special spirit shining bright. I toast you all with a HOT TODDY and a special blend of herbal peace pipe filler. yeah!


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