Christmas at Rich’s

Beginning in the late 1940s, visiting the Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta during Christmas was a beloved tradition in Georgia.

Rich’s placed a Christmas tree on the roof of its downtown location for the first time in 1948. The tree stood seventy five feet tall on the store’s crystal bridge over Forsyth Street. The lighting of Rich’s Great Tree on Thanksgiving night became a tradition in the years that followed (see right, 1949).

In 1953, the store introduced its famous “Pink Pig.” This children’s train ride originally rose above the toy department and featured a Priscilla the Pig train car, but was later moved to the roof, where it circled the Great Tree. After the ride, each child was given a “I Rode The Pink Pig” sticker.

Beginning in 1960, children could visit Santa’s Secret Shop on the fifth floor. The shop allowed them to pick out inexpensive gifts for their parents in secret, because adults were not allowed in. Visitors also frequented the store’s Magnolia Room restaurant, which was famous for its chicken salad and cheese straws.

The downtown Rich’s store closed in the early 1990s and the tree was temporarily relocated. Since 1999, Macy’s has held the Great Tree lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving night each year at their Lenox Square location in Buckhead. In 2003, the store introduced a new Priscilla the Pig, which continues to bring children joy during the holiday season (credit bryan : source). The original Priscilla is still around as part of the Christmas decor. To read more about the Rich’s Christmas experience, take a look at I Rode the Pink Pig: Atlanta’s Favorite Christmas Tradition, published by Hill Street Press with Rich’s-Macy’s in 2004. The Rich’s Great Tree was also featured on the cover of Time Magazine on December 15, 1961.


Jewish history in Georgia

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown. Meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, the observance celebrates the miracle Jews believe occurred in the Holy Temple when their lamp oil, which they thought would last only one day, provided them with eight days of light. The history, struggle and culture of Jews living in Georgia is represented in the DLG. The most notable resource is the Southern Israelite: established in 1925 as a temple bulletin it also covered news about Jewish people from around the nation and the world. In 1934, the paper began weekly publication. One of the most significant stories it would report on was the Atlanta Temple bombing in 1958 (left). The publication continues today as the Atlanta Jewish Times. The Vanishing Georgia collection documents Jewish citizenry, many of whom located in small towns to operate mercantile businesses and made contributions through civic involvement, including Charles Garfunkel, who was the first Jewish police chief in Savannah (right).

Also documented in Vanishing Georgia is the aftermath of the Leo Frank episode, including a 1915 photograph of the tadalafil governor hung in effigy after commuting Frank’s death sentence. Frank’s appeal for clemency is chronicled in archival records from the Secretary of State’s office.

Temple Mickve Israel (Savannah, Ga.), John Linley Collection, box 8

Georgia’ s temples are represented in the John Linley Collection of historic architecture, including the Temple Mickve Israel (left) in Savannah, home to the third oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, and the oldest in the South.