Category Archives: Golden Afternoons

Fourth of July Parade and Rodeo, Long Ago in Redwood City

Fourth of July Parade float, Redwood City, around 1960.

Fourth of July Parade float, Redwood City, around 1960.

Around 1950, when I was very young, the Redwood City Fourth of July Parade and Rodeo was a very big deal. For one thing, the rodeo and carnival, where we went on rides, won bowls full of guppies or live baby ducks, ate corn dogs and cotton candy, and occasionally escaped the ever-watchful eyes of our parents, were the highlight of every summer.

For another, the parade floats were not designed by professional float designers and covered with exotic flowers and seeds that we had never heard of. The floats were thought up and built by their sponsors, often fraternal organizations or small businesses.

Float celebrating the Pulgas Water Temple, around 1960.

Float celebrating the Pulgas Water Temple, around 1958 – 62.

Redwood City had plenty of benevolent and fraternal organizations:  the Lions, the Elks, the Moose, the Foresters, the Masonic Groups, and the Odd Fellows are just the ones I remember.

Float built by  Redwood City Foresters of America branch, around 1948 or 1949.

Float built by Redwood City Foresters of America branch, around 1948 or 1949.

I can date this float, loosely, because I am the little girl in the center, wearing cowboy boots. The young woman behind me was a local beauty queen. This float used rolls and rolls of aluminum foil — which was very “modern” and was no longer needed for the war effort.

"Cowgirls" riding on the Foresters' float. Redwood City, around 1949.

“Cowgirls” riding on the Foresters’ float. Redwood City, around 1949.

There were marching bands (the sound of bass drums thrillingly vibrating in my stomach as they passed.) There were baton twirlers and platoons of horses. The Sheriff’s posse rode, and so did many private citizens who dressed in Old California finery and decked their palomino horses in silver-encrusted saddles. Veterans marched, including some survivors of World War I, and the two or three day rodeo meant that the entire Independence Day weekend had a western flavor. My parents always dressed up in cowboy clothes. My father wore a black ten gallon hat, like the ones seen in 1930’s western movies. Here’s one worn by Tom Mix.

My father was a Forester, and enjoyed helping to build floats like this one:

A rocket -- or a firecracker -- blasting off on a float made by the Foresters. Early 1950s.

A rocket — or a firecracker — blasting off on a float made by the Foresters. Early 1950s.

That’s my father, in his black ten gallon hat; he was very proud of this float, because every once in a while the rocket emitted a mighty roar and a cloud of icy smoke. There was a fire extinguisher inside the rocket. I got to ride on this float, too.

The rocket sounded very loud when you were riding next to it.

The rocket, fueled by a fire extinguisher, sounded very loud when you were riding next to it.

There was no problem finding little girls and boys who had cowboy outfits. These were the years of tiny black and white TV sets where we watched The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Roy Rogers (and his horse, Trigger,) Hopalong Cassidy (and his horse,  Topper,) Red Ryder and Little Beaver, and The Cisco Kid and his sidekick, Pancho. Those of us who didn’t have TV sets could read about their adventures in the Sunday Comics (The Lone Ranger ) or listen to them on the radio.

"Buckaroos" costumes made from McCall sewing patterns, McCall catalog, May 1950.

“Buckaroos” costumes made from McCall sewing patterns, McCall catalog, May 1950.

McCall pattern 1504 for a boy's western costume. May, 1950 catalog.

McCall pattern 1504 for a boy’s western costume. May, 1950 catalog.

"Rodeo Queen" costumes ; McCall pattern 1505, May 1950 catalog.

“Rodeo Queen” costumes ; McCall pattern 1505, May 1950 catalog.

Here’s another look at the Foresters’ float with the big silver star and a group of “Rodeo Queens:”

A flag at one end, a star at the other. Foresters' float, Redwood City, late 1940's.

A flag at one end, a star at the other. Foresters’ float, Redwood City, late 1940’s.

Here, it is passing the Hull Brothers Hardware store and the Luxor Taxi Cab offices.

Hull Hardware store and Luxor Taxi Cab office. Redwood City, late 1940s.

Hull Bros. Hardware store and Luxor Taxi Cab office. 4th of July Parade, Redwood City, late 1940s.

For a horse-crazy little girl like me, the morning of July 4th had a special aroma. The parade used to form up in the streets north of Broadway and follow a parade route up Arguello Street, turning East onto Broadway. Our house was on Hopkins near Arguello, and the horse and rider groups often parked their horse trailers along our street. My father always filled two big galvanized tubs with fresh water for the horses and put them on the curb in front of our house. After the horses had been there for a glorious hour or so, my Grandma B. and my Great Aunt Alice (two dignified ladies in their seventies) would appear with cardboard boxes and brooms. They swore there was nothing like horse manure for growing roses.

May your Fourth of July memories be as happy as mine.

Ye Olde Town Band, Redwood City, circa 1958-62.

Ye Olde Town Band, Redwood City, probably late 1950’s or early 1960’s.

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Golden Afternoons, Vintage Photographs

Remembering My Father

Giggling in my father's arms, late 1940s.

Giggling in my father’s arms, late 1940s.

Like most children, I took my father for granted. It was only when I became a woman, in the 1960’s, that I realized how different he was from most men born in the early 1900’s.  And how lucky I was to have a father who never even considered treating his daughter differently than he would have treated a son.

My father leveling a construction site, with me in his lap. He built the two houses in the background with his own hands.

My father leveling a construction site, with me (very briefly) in his lap. He built the two houses in the background with his own hands, in 1933.  As far as I know they’re still standing.

He did manual labor all his life, and, being a housemover, he had to know everything about building a house: laying the foundations, doing the wiring and plumbing, carpentry, framing and finishing, putting on a roof, installing floors and kitchens and baths, stuccoing and painting, even laying bricks and paving the driveway. He assumed his daughter would also need to know these things. Once, he let me “help” him drive a steamroller!

My father showing me how to lay a course of bricks on the front of a building.

My father showing me how to lay a course of bricks on the front of a building. (The bricks are level; the camera was tilted.)

Unlike most modern children, I could see my father working. He didn’t disappear in a suit at 7:30 each morning and return just before I went to bed. His clothes smelled of paint or cement or new-sawn wood or creosote. Sometimes they had a whiff of car oil or gasoline, because he could also take an engine apart and put it together again. (A teenager in 1920, he started with model T cars and early tractors, so he mastered their principles while they were relatively simple machines.)

My father on an early tractor. He learned to plow with a horse, so he loved "modern improvements." He had shoveled a lot of horse manure before getting the tractor.

My father on an early tractor. He had learned to plow with a horse, so he loved “modern improvements.” At the end of a long day, he didn’t have to shovel out the barn anymore.

He taught me to use and care for tools correctly, to drive a nail with two strokes (“One to set it, one to drive it,”) to paint walls and patch holes, to clean my brushes properly, to take pride in my work and in not taking shortcuts; to plan a job and do it safely. He expected me — a girl — to be responsible, fearless, confident that I could learn to do whatever had to be done. [When I attended a woman’s college, I found these skills much appreciated in the drama department. I knew how to use tools, and I was willing to get dirty. And, because I was afraid of heights, I specialized in stage lighting, spending hours climbing ladders. My father taught me to overcome my fears, not be limited by them.]

I think my father took this picture. I always felt this delight when he came home from work.

I think my father took this picture, because I always felt this delight when he came home from work.

I think the only time I really disappointed him — although he didn’t say anything — was when he discovered that I didn’t share his appreciation of the internal combustion engine. He must have been looking forward to teaching me how to clean a carburetor, but I only lasted a couple of nights. When I asked him to teach me to change my own oil, he said, “By the time you clean up and wash your clothes after crawling under the car, you’d be better off taking it to a gas station.”

Nevertheless, he taught me to fish — and clean the fish and cook it — and to shoot. I was about nine years old, able to handle the .22 rifle, but he said the recoil from his deer rifle would be too much for me. Nevertheless, he taught me to load it and unload it — if you’re not going to be afraid of guns, you need to know when they are and aren’t safe to handle.

My father, after a fishing trip. 1970s.

My father, after a fishing trip. 1970s.

When we visited him on a work site, sometimes we’d have a picnic lunch with him. Once, he caught a gopher snake and brought it to me, so I could watch it curving back and forth, over one stick and under another. He showed me how beautiful it was, and how to tell a “safe” snake from a rattler. He made sure I knew that not all snakes are bad — that some are very useful and deserve our respect. He showed me a nest of baby mice on another occasion (uncovered while clearing a field) — but I found their hairless, translucent skin repulsive. I could tell, however, that he thought they were tiny miracles; he was sad that they had been stripped of their safe little home. He was very careful with them. He also taught me not to pick wildflowers. When I insisted on taking a bouquet home with us, he remembered to show me they were wilted and no longer beautiful that night. I never picked wildflowers again.

My father and mother in front of the house he built for them before their marriage.

My father and mother in front of the house he built for them before their marriage.

Since all my uncles — and most of their friends — were in the building trades, my father built the house I grew up in, with some help from pals and brothers who were plumbers, tile setters, carpenters, etc. Down in the cellar of this little vine-covered cottage, I found a heart inscribed in the concrete, with my parents’ initials and the date of their marriage: 1933 — the depths of the Depression.

Wedding day, flanked by my mother's siblings.

Wedding day, flanked by my mother’s siblings.

My father came from a family of six-footers, and he was not only extremely tall, but freakishly thin all his life. When Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was described as very thin but exceptionally strong, with “sinewy forearms,” I had no trouble believing it. Once, we found an old tuxedo my father had worn when he and my mother went out dancing, decades before I was born. “On the day I married your mother,” he told me, “I was six feet four inches tall, weighed one hundred and forty pounds, and thought I was a helluva good-lookin’ fella.”

In spite of his long, thin body, my father was very strong, and was still doing manual labor in his late fifties.

In spite of his long, thin body, my father was very strong, and was still doing manual labor in his sixties. The most he ever weighed was 172 lbs.

His friends sometimes used him as a unit of measurement, as in this photo, where his arm span shows the size of a giant tree in Yosemite.

My 6' 4" father showing how big a tree is on a visit to Yosemite; 1930s.

My 6′ 4″ father showing how big a tree is on a visit to Yosemite; 1930s.

This photo of my parents and me in front of their small house in Redwood City implies more prosperity than we usually experienced. My mother, decked in a fur stole, had continued to work as a secretary during the first years of their marriage — a two-income couple.

Happy times. My father liked to sing, "just Molly and me, and baby makes three; we're happy in my blue heaven."

Happy times. My father liked to sing, “Just Molly and me, and baby makes three; we’re happy in My Blue Heaven.”

My arrival, 12 years after they wed, came as a pleasant surprise for two people over forty who had given up hope of having a family. But it undoubtedly put a strain on their budget, as did my mother’s cancer surgery a few years later.

My father owned a small house-moving business; in the post-war years when highways were being built and downtown areas were being improved, there were plenty of houses that needed moving. When someone’s home was in the way of a new freeway, their wooden frame house could be jacked up off its foundation, put on “Blocks” and wheels, and towed to a new location. This was skilled work, since no one wanted big cracks to form!

Two two-story houses being moved to a new location. About 1950.

Two two-story houses being moved to a new location. About 1950. Redwood City, CA.

My father is the tall figure on top of the house. Telephone and electric lines sometimes had to be cut temporarily or moved out of the way so the roof would have clearance. A man on the roof also watched for problems — a position that was doubly dangerous. My father did it himself.

In many construction trades, no work can be done when the weather is too wet. As a child, I remember visiting my Uncle Monte (who drove a bulldozer) on a weekday in the winter. I expected him and my father to be happy, as if a rainy day was like a day when you didn’t have to go to school, but supporting a family through a wet winter was no “holiday” for working men. Every morning, my father’s foreman and best friend, Walter, would drink a cup of coffee at our kitchen table while they planned the day’s work.

Walter, my father, My mother, and me, with a housemoving crew, late 1940's.

Walter, my father, my mother, and me, with a housemoving crew, late 1940’s.

I remember a long, rainy December when the morning meeting was grim. Christmas was coming, we had medical bills to pay, and the ground was too saturated for housemoving. Walter suggested that, as there was no work, they should call all the men and tell them not to come in till next Monday, if the rain broke by Saturday. My father said, “We need to find something for “X” to do; they just had a baby. Tell him to come in tomorrow and service the tractor and the truck.” These were jobs my father, himself, normally did on rain days, to save money. “And “Y” needs some work; his wife is in the hospital for an operation. Give him a day and a half; tell him to come in and clean up the yard (sorting lumber, etc.)” My mother, listening, was furious — we were looking at a pretty lean Christmas, ourselves. She called this “playing the Big Shot.” It was true that my father was generous to a fault. But he also felt a responsibility to his men.

My father and me, dressed up for Easter. early 1950's.

My father and me, dressed up for Easter. early 1950’s.

After my mother died, in spite of her bitter misgivings about him, my father took good care of me. He trusted me to use my common sense, and he believed in me. (I was never a “latch-key kid,” because we never locked our house.) He showed me  — by example, working with me — how to do laundry, and clean the floors and wash dishes; he taught me to cook, and he loved to cook, himself. When I was little, he made me pancakes in the shape of airplanes and cats; now, he cooked fabulous spaghetti bolognese, taught me to love vegetables and fresh fruit (as he did), and, on the occasions when we could afford a porterhouse steak, he practically danced around the kitchen, singing:

[A] turn to the right, a little white light, [I hurry] to my Blue Heaven. Just Molly and me, and baby makes three, We’re happy in My Blue Heaven. . . .” He sang very well. And he always gave me the tenderest part of the steak. because he wanted me to love it as much as he did.

My father, in his eighties.

My father, in his eighties.

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Filed under 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, Golden Afternoons, Vintage Photographs

Dot, Dot, and Dot: A Holiday in the 1920s

Dot, Helen, Dot, Dot, and Adelaide, early 1920s

Dot, Helen, Dot, Dot, and Adelaide, early 1920s

What I love about this photo is the names. Every year, the list of the most popular baby names is published. Names go in and out of fashion; that’s nothing new. This photo of five friends on vacation together — dated 1921 — shows that the name Dorothy (Dot was the common nickname for Dorothy) was very popular around 1902 and the following years. (These women are Dot Barton, Helen Barton, Dot Richardson, Dot Roberson, and Adelaide Owens.)

A Fourth of July Holiday, Early 1920s

My Aunt Dot (on the far left) had many pictures which were taken during this 4th of July vacation in Monte Rio, California, with a group of friends and co-workers in the early 1920s. [She wrote “July 4, 1921” on  most of these photos, but she also wrote “July 4, 1921” on a different set of pictures, taken on a trip to Santa Cruz, California, with a different group of her friends, so the best we can say is that these date from the early 1920s.]  You can see several American flags decorating the porch in this picture:

Friends on the Porch, 4th of July

Friends on the Porch, Monte Rio, 4th of July, early 1920s.

Monte Rio on the Russian River

Monte Rio still exists as a small resort town on the Russian River, in Northern California’s Sonoma County. It was connected to San Francisco by a railroad that ran from Sausalito; before the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, people from the San Francisco Peninsula reached Sausalito by ferry boat. In other words, this large group of friends was able to get to Monte Rio by public transportation. You can see the railroad tracks in this group photo:

Monte Rio could be visited by train.

Monte Rio could be visited by train.

Sandy Beach on the Russian River

There was a bridge across the Russian River, and a sandy beach for swimming.

Swimmers at Russian River, early 1920s.

Swimmers at Russian River, early 1920s.

One of the women, wearing a checked dress, can be seen at right, taking a picture of two of her friends:

Swimmers being photographed, Russian River, 1920s.

Swimmers being photographed, Russian River, 1920s.

 

On the beach -- note the large sun hats for the women.

On the beach — note the large sun hats for the women.

Some of the photos were taken at the Glen Rita Hotel.

Group at the Glen Rita Hotel, early 1920s.

Group at the Glen Rita Hotel, early 1920s.

The Hotel looks rather expensive; it was also possible to stay in a tent, judging from photos.

It looks like the Dots and their friends had a good time!

Friends walking across the rail bridge, Monte Rio, 1920s.

Friends walking across the rail bridge, Monte Rio, 1920s.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Golden Afternoons, Vintage Photographs