LIVIN’ THE GOOD LIFE Kate’s Journal


Episode 29 Fremont 1966-1969

The years after my Southwest odyssey were ripe with possibility. I had come away with a deep feeling of humility and admiration for these people who had so little and yet were so generous and had the gift of laughter and ingenuousness.

The window dressing business, was still going well, spreading our good will and fancy frippery from San Jose to Oakland, our daughters became young ladies and began their University lives, we continued our outdoor life camping, hiking, fishing in the Northwest and Canada, went often to the family cabin at the Russian River,and generally enjoyed life.

Russian River

As fascinated as I had become with seemingly endless native subject matter for my painting, the opportunity to paint closer to home arose.

Child

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Other People’s Children

The City Recreation Department, using a charming old building across the street from Mission San Jose, had a sculpture class, and I decided to take a class. The instructor left and I was asked to teach the class as well as begin a pottery class, and they would even pay me! I couldn’t believe it. I was so rusty at throwing pots, I went to a neighboring town’s recreation department to brush up. We had no pottery wheel, so we bought a hand-made wooden kick-wheel through the newspaper, which turned out to be so uncomfortable, prospective students were dropping out. After a few money-raising events, we bought the real McCoy and things picked up. City coffers are notoriously empty when you need them.

We had a few memorable parties in our Japanese garden, even digging a pit to roast a pig for one party. The pig was still squealing at midnight, so we ate chicken and shrimp. The infamous zucchini parties came in the summer.

Just before high school graduation, our youngest daughter and a large number of her girlfriends had a photo-op on our red arched Japanese bridge, which suffered loudly from the added weight. Unfortunately, no photo remains.

J Garden 4 (1)

We all seem to have a favorite car in our past, and mine was a yellow Karmann Ghia dubbed “Herman”. It was truly mine, but with two daughters, one at San Jose State U., one still in high school, I waited for my turn. Herman lived with us for 15 years or so, and when he had reached his doddering years, a young grandson sobbed that he had hoped to drive it when he went to college.

420px-MarignyMay07KarmannGhiaFrontSide

We found ourselves traveling to the Northwest, often as guests of Georgia and Emmett Oliver at their lovely home on the Hood Canal. Dr. Advice was an ardent fisherman, and Georgia and I had formed a strong bond during our summer in the Southwest. Emmett was introducing me more and more to Northcoast art and the country itself was beautiful. Our youngest daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington, and we began thinking seriously of moving to the Seattle area. Karma was right and it seemed to be the right thing to do.

A CAR NAMED HERMAN


Ghia 3The first Karmann Ghia I ever saw was a classy little red job my aunt and uncle bought in Germany and had shipped to the States. I was smitten, and when a shiny yellow Karmann Ghia took up residence in my garage several years later, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I promptly named him Herman, and happily drove him for twenty years.

The Italians had given the car its cool sports car look; sort of a Porsche, but without the speed. It was made between 1955 and 1974, and a mechanical dimwit could maintain it. I delighted in putting him in the driveway while I polished him, changed the oil and cleaned the engine. That was the extent of my automotive knowledge, except I knew where the gas tank was. The company made only a few colors, and Herman was Manila Yellow. I remember the red, which first captured my heart, and a dark green, but I don’t recall the other colors.

It had only two seats in front, but a very small platform opened down in the back for groceries, dogs or whatever. The gears were four-on-the-floor and let’s admit that Herman wasn’t comfortable going over 80 MPH.

My husband was transferred to Seattle in June of 1969, and I drove Herman to Kirkland, where we would be living, with a cat and his litter box on the back seat, while Dr. Advice took two rather well-behaved dogs with him in his car; a Chihuahua and a pregnant Dachshund. Surely a sign of male superiority, as he probably had the easier job controlling the dogs.

Together Herman and I explored every part of Seattle and its environs during the five years we lived there, while our daughter attended the University of Washington and Dr. Advice explored Alaska and its environs.

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Both dogs who had made the journey with us died during the time we were there, and then we were acquired by Liza, a wonderful eight week old German Shepherd Dog. She seriously did choose us. As we were scrambling around in the breeder’s barn trying to get the attention of another puppy, the very large gruff German lady who owned the kennel growled “Vat are you doing?” I pointed out the pup that we wanted, and she practically yelled “But THAT’S the one that wants you”

We took her home to live with us, and named her Heidi. She whined pitifully all night long so we changed her name to Eliza Doolittle. She never left my side the rest of her life, riding proudly in the front seat of the yellow Karmann Ghia wherever I went.

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A few months after we arrived in Kirkland, it snowed. I had never driven in snow or ice, but I had a tennis lesson in an indoor court in Everett, a town about twenty miles north, so Herman and I braved the weather and set off. It’s amazing how nothing looks the same under a thick blanket of snow, but we finally made it to Everett and the tennis lesson.

Seattle does not get identifiable snow every year, but it does freeze regularly in winter. One such morning I was ready to leave the garage, only to find that the macadam driveway had frozen and risen an inch or two, preventing one of the garage doors to open.

It was a double garage with two separate doors both opening outward, and Herman was a very small car, so I jockeyed him back and forth a number of times thinking I would then simply drive out the operational door.

To my horror, Herman got stuck sideways and refused to move again. Dr. Advice was on a business trip and I knew no one. We lived in the country, with no neighbors, so I was literally “stuck”.

When our daughter came home that afternoon and saw our predicament, she called several football players she knew, who simply lifted Herman off the ground and set him right! And yes, I would have to say that was male superiority!

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We returned to the Bay Area in 1974, and Herman and I traveled our old routes once more, this time with a large German Shepherd Dog riding shotgun.

Two small grandson had joined our family, and a few years later, I was invited by one of them to come do a demo for his school class in Scotts Valley. We did small clay dragons which I took home to dry before firing them, but before that I stopped and had lunch with my daughter at Pasatiempo where they lived.

That afternoon, while driving on the freeway, I was stopped for speeding. Worried that the little sculptures would dry too fast, I told the officer, “If you’re going to give me a ticket, please hurry up and do it, because there are 29 dragons drying in the back seat as we speak.” After looking into the back seat, he gave me the ticket.

That evening my daughter called and asked how my afternoon had been. When I assured her that it was fine, she said “Mom! I saw you pulled over at the side of the road. How fast were you going anyway?” When she heard it was only 75 MPH, she laughed and repeated it to her husband, whom I heard in the background saying “Geesh, I didn’t know that thing would go that fast!”

Herman suffered the same fate as most of us—he just plain wore out. When he left our garage for good, our 10 year old grandson said “I always though I’d drive him to college.”