James H. Irvine celebrated Christmas on the Irvine Ranch with annual traditions and personalized greetings.
The Irvine family home, now replicated at the Katie Wheeler Library, would be decorated with holiday trimmings. Of course, Mr. Irvine would find no celebration complete without his Irish Setter hunting dogs nearby.
Every year, during the Christmas holiday season, James H. Irvine hosted a special dinner for the members of the Five Year Club; those male employees who had worked for the Irvine Company for at least five years. This annual event was held at the mess hall of the agricultural headquarters which still stands today near the Katie Wheeler Library.
James Irvine, seated center in the background, personally hosted the holiday dinner. Irvine would welcome new members, share films of his travels to Australia, Africa and Alaska, and offer his opinions about hard times and taxes. He would also give each member a Christmas turkey and a month's wages as a bonus.
The men of the Five Year Club would wear suits to Mr. Irvine's party, even if they had to borrow one. Former Irvine Ranch farmer and warehouse manager Bill Cook recalled the Christmas party.
"There would be a delicious dinner and kind words from Mr. Irvine," he said. "Then after dinner, the men politely watched the motion pictures of Mr. Irvine's most recent travels. Sometimes it was kind of boring."
The members of the Irvine family shared a creative streak, and James Irvine was no different. Each year, he would design his own personalized Christmas card, including a poem that he composed himself.
The cards would highlight a different location on the Irvine Ranch, like this one from 1932. It shows the newly completed Irvine Lake reservoir.Usually the verse inside revealed that Irvine's best talents were as a businessman, not a poet.
Some years, Irvine would use his annual Christmas greeting to express some of his strong opinions...
At the beginning of World War II, the government bought two of Irvine's most prized fields to build the El Toro Marine Base and the Santa Ana Lighter Than Air Base, now in Tustin.
Irvine expressed his displeasure with the transaction that changed life on his ranch forever.
This year, as in years past,
Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season from The Irvine Ranch!