|Party kids, 1959|
I am the short girl in the middle of the back row
In 1956, our [Harris] family moved from San Franciso's Sunset District to Marinwood
, one of many suburban northern California "developments" that sprung up in the decades following the end of World War II. Built on land that had originally been a Spanish land grant, then a ranch, and then a dairy farm, Marinwood had quiet streets winding around oak-studded hills that were full of places for kids to explore.
At the same time the houses were built, the Mary E. Silveira School
was built on a site that was formerly a vineyard. When I knew the school as a seventh grader, it served Kindergarten through 8th grade, one classroom for each grade.
A nearby church hosted a teen group one evening a week, and I'm afraid we joined for the social aspects more than anything else. The school hosted the occasional after school dance and enthusiastically practiced all the latest moves we had seen on television's American Bandstand.
The nearest town, San Rafael, had movie theaters and restaurants, but it was four miles away. Parents didn't really spend much time driving their kids around in those days, but we were occasionally allowed to walk down to the highway and catch the bus for a Saturday afternoon in town.
What else did we do to entertain ourselves? There were after school baseball and basketball games in the schoolyard, played by the boys and attended by the girls. That sounds so old-fashioned now, doesn't it? These were games entirely organized by the kids themselves - no formal teams, no uniforms, no coaches or referees, and the occasional fight - all good fun.
We rode bikes all over the place, from house to house, and up Lucas Valley Road into the hills. We had picnics, we waded barefoot in the creek, found a raft and took a short trip and sunk it (spoiling our school shoes in the process). We skated, we walked, we ran, we rode horses, and we just played outside a lot.
We managed to stay inside long enough to watch The Mickey Mouse Club
, especially when it was airing the Spin and Marty
series. Afterwards, we had long discussions about which was the dreamiest, Spin or Marty?
And we had boy/girl parties--garage parties with the parents supervising from the nearby kitchen. As you can see from my friend Bill's photo of his 1959 birthday party, we got pretty dressed up. This was very serious stuff for us!