Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Childhood Home

In 1945 when I was just three months old, my parents moved from Maine to California, driving in an old Ford with me lying on the front seat between them. They brought what they could stuff into the back seat and trunk; when we arrived in San Francisco one of the suitcases containing all their photos and documents was stolen. It must have been hard enough to leave their families behind on the east coast; I can't imagine how they must have felt when they were greeted by theft in their new home state.

We first lived in the Hunter's Point Housing Project which had been been built for workers and their families in World War II. That area, located near the shipyards in the southeastern corner of San Francisco, later became known for its industrial pollution and high crime and gang activity, but in the 1940s it was just a place where hardworking but poor young families lived.

In 1948 my parents were able to purchase a home of their own in San Francisco's Sunset District. 1323 48th Ave. was located between Judah and Irving Streets, with La Playa Street running along the western side of the block. Next to La Playa were the street car lines, and then came the Great Highway, which ran along Ocean Beach from the Cliff House to Fleishhacker Zoo. 

So we were on the last block of buildings before the land ended. When I rode my bike around the block I had an unimpeded view of the vast, cold, gray Pacific Ocean. 

Looking down 48th Ave. we could see the beginning of Golden Gate Park. 

I remember fog more than any other kind of weather. The sounds of fog horns and seagulls were the last thing I heard at night, and the first thing I heard in the morning. 

The house had 14 steps just inside the front door going up to the main floor--I remember the number of steps because I fell down them headfirst once without too much damage to myself. I loved to play "alligator" on those stairs, crawling down on my belly. I used to sit and play and read on the biggest step at the curve, along with my dog Pete. 

There was one bedroom downstairs, next to the door to the garage. My mother's youngest brother, my Uncle David, lived there when he was still single and just home from serving in the Navy. Upstairs there were two more bedrooms (one for my parents and one for my little sister, born in 1949, and me), a living room with fireplace, a kitchen, and the home's single bathroom. According to Zillow, it still has just 1177 square feet. 

A very kind man, Ian McLean, contacted me about my childhood memories in this neighborhood, specifically memories about attending the Annex of Francis Scott Key Elementary School. The building is no longer used as a school and there is much discussion as to whether it will be torn down or converted to some other use. I will post more about that later. 

Ian lives about 10 or 11 blocks away from our old house and kindly sent me these photos, taken on his walks around the neighborhood. 

One more thing about our old house: In 1956 my parents sold it for $11,000 when we moved to Marin County. Ian tells me that houses in the neighborhood now are going for $800,00 to $1,000,000. Zillow's estimate of value for #1323 is $917,750. Hard to believe!

1323 48th Ave. is on the left with the white and brown garage door and the black car in front

A closer look at 1323
48th and Judah, looking west toward Ocean Beach

The Beachside Cafe, at the corner of 48th and Judah.
When I lived in the neighborhood from 1951-1958, this was a bar. I held my breath when riding by on my bike because I didn't like the smell of stale beer.

The Java Beach Coffee Shop, corner of Judah and La Playa.
This is a few doors down from the house of a lady who had a felt board in her house and used it to illustrate
Bible stories to the neighborhood children.
I was riding by alone on my bike one day, maybe 9 or 10 years old at the time, and popped in for a listen. We all loved that felt board! I wonder if any of us mentioned this little adventure to our parents--I can't imagine anything like this happening today...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Mother, Born One Hundred Years Ago Today

One hundred years ago today my mother was born in New Brunswick, Canada. Her parents, David Jewett Crabtree and Edith Rae Giberson Crabtree, had legally changed the family name from Crabb to Crabtree just four years before. She was the seventh of their thirteen children, and they named her Elva Myrtle.

Elva on the left, with some of her siblings

Over the next few months, I hope to tell some more about her life, but here are just a few of the facts that I know for now. She grew up on farms in Beaconsfield, New Brunswick and Easton, Maine. She attended Normal School to become a teacher and began her teaching career in rural schools in Maine and eventually retired from an elementary school in California. Education was very important to Elva and she took classes for as long as I can remember, eventually ending up with many, many credits beyond her Bachelor's degree.

Glamor shot (from the 1930s?)

Elva, looking lovely. I think that this photo might have been taken while she was dating my father.

Our family in Marinwood, California. L to R: Clair Harris Zarges (me), Elva Myrtle Crabtree Harris (my mother), Jean Lee Harris (my sister), and Daniel Lawrence Harris (my father).

She married Daniel Lawrence Harris, my father, in 1940. I was born in Maine in 1944, then we all moved to California in early 1945. My little sister was born in San Francisco in 1949.

Daddy died in 1972 and Mother died in 1998. That's the very barest outline of her life; there's much more to tell, of course.