Saturday, May 23, 2009

History of the San Francisco Bay Area - how it was 2

(I don't know if Alice Reid is still with us either. Again, I want to thank her for this piece of history.)
Native Intelligence

—Alice Reid, 24th Street, Oakland, 1984

Old Flatland Natives are Hidden Berkeley Treasures. Old Natives have iron skillets, families, old quilting racks, wooden furniture, snowy

linens, thin old bone china; they can fire up coal stoves, kerosene lamps, sad-irons. They remember the winter of '32, the summer of '34, Co-ops, Key System, and the old California Street Red Devil train that sighed almost silently down to the Mole, often crunching up the unwary

on the way.

Old Natives can tell you about Piggly Wiggly, Federated Women's Clubs, Whitthorne & Swan, Housewives Market, celery phosphate, and really footlong hot dogs. Old Natives know all about being poor; they now realize that they were always poor in all the right things. Old

Natives remember when San Francisco's piers jumped and stomped with activity, they recall the days of WPA, NRA, WW's, ILWU, AFL, and CIO. They had gardens and chickens and rabbits, and there was always one dear chicken they could not eat.

As children, Old Natives played in the streets: "one-foot-off-the-gutterboard," "kick-the-can," "prisoner's base," "hide-and-go-seek." They went to Longfellow, Lincoln, Burbank. Willard, and got funneled into Berkeley High where the red and gold-capped Rally Boys

showed how easy it was to "ring the smokestack."

They skated in the street, wind in their teeth, and hopscotched there too. Cars got out of their way. In those days. They got to go to the magnificent Fox-Oakland. They got to go to uncrowded Alum Rock. They rode the ferries and watched the bridges being built, and

they went to The City all dressed up; they got to go to the Crystal Palace Market They went to the Lorin theater matinees for ten cents, and they got library cards from Miss Dunbar at the Grove Street BPL.

They remember when the Japanese went suddenly away, and to this day they wonder how their friends are.

Old Natives have seen the hills covered in blue lupin, yellow mustard, golden poppies, and Indian paint brush; they collected shells on the bayshore. They know what happened to the XYZ, Edison High, and Uni. They read the Call-Bulletin and the Post-Enquirer. They know how a steam-engine whistle sounds on a rainy night in February. They got to watch the music change, and Old Natives know the blues, jazz, fusion, and rock. They own 78s—rare ones.

They aren't terribly political anymore—they know that all groups have the same bottom line—blind obedience from the esnes.

The '60s? An Old Native grinned: "Just pagan worship, that's all that was, honey. All those little bastids came here to pay homage to the Big One." The Old Native chuckled, "Didn't they have a time!"

Old Natives are scarce.

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