Episode 20 Oakland, CA
“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.