Episode 20 Oakland, CA

053“Watercolor” by kayti sweetland rasmussen Iris from my first real garden.

Living in a semi-rural and hilly part of Oakland in the 50’s was quite different from our flat island of Alameda. With Sam traveling from Monday to Friday and me without a car, there were adjustments to be made. One of them was Al Cook’s small corner grocery store which not only delivered, but also let you run a tab. The girls walked to school, I walked to the bus for school, and we all walked 2 miles to Jan’s piano lessons.

We acquired Hilda, a small black and tan dachshund with strange long legs, who stayed with our family for many years. She actually became part of the neighborhood pack which included a large furry collie who was repeatedly attacked by a small chihuahua who buried himself in her thick neck fur to hide from his parents.

I joined a women’s singing group and we sang at women’s clubs, churches, etc. One of our members was a woman from Centerville, before it became Fremont, whose husband owned a nice steak restaurant there. She became ill with tuberculosis and had to be in an institution for a year and a half. When she returned in good health, she found that her husband had found other means of entertainment while she was gone, so she divorced him. The restaurant has changed hands several times since then.

We had a very active Campfire Girls group, and though it I met a very inspirational woman in her 80’s from Fremont who had been a real mover and shaker in the organization for many years. I will write later about her when we move to Fremont. In trying to find an interesting theme for our girls group, I had chosen Japanese children’s holidays which morphed into much more a few years later when they moved into high school.

I found returning to school to be harder than I had realized. Math and chemistry were not my strong points, but glaze calculation required a certain knowledge of.. them. I met a lovely old Japanese potter who was horrified that I could not retain the right information. When I begged for a simple calculation, he exclaimed “But that’s fourth grade math!” I told him I knew that and that’s what I wanted to know. I also began to be interested in a class about window dressing and display to see if it was different from what i had done for J.C. Penney in Alameda.

Sam’s parents had moved to Centerville which was just emerging from rural farmland, with a couple of very nice neighborhoods being built. Sam’s sister’s family followed a year or so later into a new home. At that time there was perhaps 6,000 population. There was bus transportation to Oakland, and there was a train to Sacramento. Our weekends were often spent together at the cabin at the Russian River, where the whole family gathered.

Our little neighborhood was safe and we had good neighbors. A creek ran behind our house at the bottom of a hill. Bishop O’Doud high School was on the other side of the hill. Neighborhood children played in the shallow creek, and the mothers all felt quite safe.

One morning I received a terrible ill-written note in the mail, accusing me of trying to steal someone’s husband. No name or return address. It was disturbing and I threw it in the fireplace. A few days later I received a package in the mail containing another note a pair of dirty men’s socks. I called the police, and in today’s world, I’m sure they would not bother to come. I was frightened to think that someone even knew that we were there and alone. Later we heard that a man had exposed himself to the kids walking the long distance to school. We were mentally gearing up to move when I looked out my upstairs window to see someone obviously proud of his manly equipment looking directly at me.

We had been happy in our first little home, but it was time to move on, and we chose to join the rest of the family in the little town of Centerville.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.

15 thoughts on “THE OAKLAND YEARS Kate’s Journal”

  1. The water colour of the Irishes is so beautiful, Kayti. In stark contrast to my mind’s eye images of dirty men’s socks, and at that time, the harrowing view from your upstairs window. Did the man ever get caught?


    1. Thanks Gerard. I have no idea if they ever caught him, but there was a long line of parents walking with their children after he was seen. The road passed by the zoo in a secluded area. Today, that part of the city is considered :”dangerous”. Awful how demographics can change a once lovely city. There are still many other beautiful parts of Oakland however, so I hate to hear people bad mouth the whole town.


  2. Can you imagine having to go away for a year and a half due to an illness? What a time for people with tuberculosis in the past. Unfortunately the disease is still prevalent, but at least we no longer ship people off to institutions.

    Icky about the flasher outside your window!


    1. I wondered what ever happened to her. The restaurant closed some time later. It became a Mexican restaurant, then something else. For the past year it has been undergoing a big gentrification, but they seem to have run out of money, they’re stuck in second gear.

      I wasn’t able to get my Pollyanna attitude back after the flasher. He came too close to my nest.


  3. I can’t stop laughing about the “large furry collie who was repeatedly attacked by a small chihuahua who buried himself in her thick neck fur to hide from his parents.” That may be the funniest animal story I’ve ever heard.

    And I love that your watercolor of the iris uses the same palette as your black and tan dachshund.

    I so understand your math difficulties. I’ve set myself the task of improving somewhat — to the extent that I enrolled in the Kahn Academy, took their placement test, and found myself in their third-grade class. I’m working on it, fitfully. At least at this point I can multiply fractions with different denominators, and calculate one side of a right triangle. Sigh.

    I had a window peeper in the Berkeley flats, just weeks after I began life as a single woman again. It was more terrifying that coping with the dude who was trying to let himself in with a crowbar at my sliding glass doors. That was the night I learned I could scream bloody murder. He went over a 5′ concrete block wall in a flash!


  4. I remember your peeper. These people ARE scary. What
    you needed was that little chihuahua. They bark a lot.

    The Kahn Academy is just now offering 3 courses in coding. I’m going to check it out. I saw the test for math, but figured I still have that mental block. It was difficult when I started teaching glaze calculation! I was ashamed to teach my easy way. I’m proud of you doing fractions.


  5. There are flashers in Fremont! I’ve been flashed twice here–one at the Hub and once at Central Park. Wish I’d had a stun gun… that would have turned that trout into fried fish.

    I admire you and Shoreacres for wanting to improve your math.

    As for me, I’ve always thought that 2+2= 5 anyway.


  6. Years ago a pervert stuck his lower member through the chain link fence at the tennis court here in Glenmoor. One of our quick thinking friends ran over and whacked “it” with her tennis racket. He didn’t come back. We grown ups can handle it, but to do it to kids? No way.


  7. I do so enjoy your life story and did so again with this segment. Sad that what seemed like such a perfect spot for you and your family at turned into an uncomfortable situation. I certainly understand your decision to move. I am aware of those who expose themselves and think they are horrible creatures, but I have never heard of anyone receiving dirty socks and accusations in the mail. Unbelievable.


    1. It takes a sick mind to do anything like that. It’s a means of frightening, and it did. Why, was always the question, but those kind of people operate on a different level from “normal” people.
      We all have so many stories in our lives don’t we? I always enjoy yours Janet.


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