Brunelles established long tradition of business – and Christmas – in Concord
CONCORD, CA (Nov. 29, 2022) — The Paul Brunelle family originally lived in Red Lake Falls, Minn. Searching for an opportunity to earn a good living and a pleasant place to raise his family, Brunelle came to Concord by way of Alaska.
His wife Zelia was expecting again, and with the Alaskan winter closing in, she returned to her parents in Minnesota to await the birth of their child. After she left, Paul was so lonesome that he boarded the next ship for California to get settled as soon as possible.
Six other families took the following ship, on which he had originally booked passage. In route to California, that ship encountered a storm and sank – drowning all aboard. Only the Brunelles were left to carry out their plans.
After daughter Pauline was born, Brunelle sent for his family to join him. By the time they arrived in December 1918, anticipating Christmas in their new town, they had contracted influenza. They were strangers in the new town, with no place to stay except Grandma Hammit’s boarding house.
The Brunelles were overwhelmed when the people of Concord took them into their houses and into their hearts, befriending and caring for them until they were able to settle in a home of their own.
Two more children, Louise and John (Jack), were born in Concord. So elated was father Paul on the birth of his son in December 1923 that he went to the downtown plaza to fulfill another dream. Climbing up a large fir tree at the Salvio-Mt. Diablo corner of the plaza, he hung a long string of Christmas lights and lit Concord’s first outdoor Christmas tree. This became a tradition with him for years, as long as the tree stood there.
Brunelle also played Concord’s first Santa Claus for about 30 years for clubs, schools and civic gatherings.
In 1922, Brunelle begin an electrical contracting business, working out of the Bermingham hardware store. He had gained experience with the Great Western Power Co., the predecessor to Pacific Gas & Electric. He had worked for Great Western in Bay Point since 1919.
Taking on distribution of Westinghouse appliances, Burnelle opened his own location in 1931 at 2063 Salvio St. in the George Majors building, with the family living upstairs.
Sons Chet and Dick join their father in the business after World War II. Completing the family circle, the husbands of the Brunelle daughters, Tim Mason and Art Carlson, became part of the staff.
Chet later worked for the Concord electric construction company, which was sold to Dick Weir in 1979. The Concord electric retail appliance and television business remained in the family for many years. Several of the children around town would gather in front of their windows and watch the TVs.
Many consider the Brunelles one of the Pioneer families of Concord. Through the years, they have sprinkled themselves throughout Concord and other parts of the world – working on the fifth generation.
Carol Longshore has been a Concord resident since 1950. She is a community leader and past president of the Concord Historical Society. Send comments and suggestions for future topics.