Thursday, September 24, 2009


     It's Sunday, a day we often go on a drive somewhere.  I am in the middle of the backseat of our Ford station wagon, my Nan to my left and brother to my right.  Mom and Bill sit in the front seat.  I'm drowzy and slip sideways into my Nan's lap, laying with my head up.   The lap of contentment for me.   A soft warm lap to lay my head on.   I look up at her.   My eyes notice her soft face that has  powdered makeup on it.  Her cheeks with a dusting of pink  blush, her hazel eyes behind her glasses as she looks ahead out the front window.   She has a light grey cap of hair that frames her face with fluffy small gentle curls near her ears.  She pin curls them each night with clip pins that I often find beside her bed.  I lean my head back just enough to gaze out the car window.  The trees I see fly by while the sky stays steady.  Blue sky with little puff clouds.   I turn back on my side facing my Nan.   Her body warm and comforting as she lays an arm across my child body.   Gentle caresses on my back.   I close my eyes and feel as one with her breathing.   Her belly rises and falls and a quiet sigh she gives.  My thoughts say I love you so much Nan.  I curl closer feeling her ample breasts under her dress.  All so soft and safe.   I fall into a dreamy sleep.   How long are we driving I don't know as I slumber in her arms.   She never shifts me but holds me as on we go.   I am awaken by her voice, almost home Ellen.    I open my eyes and she is looking down at me.  Almost home...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mom on the Zipline

Ellen at the end of the Zipline

Happy Valley Park

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...Happy Valley Park

My mother told me
If I were goodie
That she would buy me
A rubber dolly.....

     My mom was the "Queen of Parties".    She seemed to come up with a party at the drop of a hat.    Growing up she planned out birthday theme parties for my brother and I.  A Cowboy theme with baled hay for decorations , Pin the Tail on the Donkey, with all of us looking like little buckaroos.   Dress-up parties where my girlfriends and I looked like miniature little ladies.   A few times I had Christmas parties where she would have a mini dinner party for my friends and myself.   This would include appetizers as well as her decorating the dining table in some way.   On my 10th birthday she said we would have it at   the Happy Valley Park which was just outside of Salinas on Highway 68 that goes to Monterey.   A venue party place that was designed just for kids.   I think all the girls from my class and other classes were invited.   My mom seemed to be preoccupied with my group of friends and concerned that I didn't have enough or that they be the right kinds of  friends.   Which was a challenge since I was a shy girl when it came to school and church but I was quite content with the friends I did have.   Needless to say it was going to be a big party with her planning it.

    Unlike today where there are places like "Pump It Up", "Rocktopia", or even the bowling alley (where my mother told me I was not allowed to go!), there was Happy Valley Park.   It had an indoor Party Room that they would set up for however many would be coming, but it was the outdoors that made this a kids heaven.    Circuitous of the property behind the main building was an oval dirt track where there were multiple bikes of all kinds you could climb aboard and go round and round, racing each other or just riding with the wind blowing in your face, laughing in pure delight.   It wasn't a flat track as it had slight  rises, gentle drops as well as turns .    In the center of the large bike track were swings, playground type equipment, a cargo type climbing rung area, teeter-totters and just about anything to keep a child happy and not wanting to leave.   After you played for an ample amount of time, you went inside the main building into one of the party rooms and had your birthday cake and drinks. After that you would be led outside to go through the Goldmine.    You would wait in line  patiently as they explained the rules of the Goldmine area and then you would  go down a narrow dirt path into a large underground room.   Just like what one imagine a goldmine might be like.   Inside there  were rough wood walls with bare lights up near the edge of the ceiling heights, spaced far apart to give light but not enough to see to well.   It smelled damp and musty inside and once inside  the floor became a fine gravel that crunched under your feet as you walked on it.   This was your time to hunt for gold in the gravel under your feet.   Everyone would find some, of course.   You were given a small little cloth bag to put your gold into and that was your token party favor.  Somehow it sounds so silly compared to parties of today where you feel you need to provide so much to your guests before they leave.  Once done with the Goldmine the best was saved for last. On the far side of the property that you could see when you were riding around the track was what I would call their version of a zipline.    Set up on one side was a platform that stood about 12 to 14 feet off the ground.    There was a cable that spanned a long distance to the end point and attached to the cable was a a swing seat with another long cable hanging down from it that dangled to the side.   One at a time we would climb up on the platform to await our turn on the ride.   An instant smile would come across your face when you were released from the platform to zip to the opposite end which felt like a great distance to me as a child.  Towards the end you would glide to a stop where you would jump off into the sand.   Ride over.   You would grab the cable that was dangling and run back to the platform with the swing seat and hand it off for the next person to ride on, run to the end of the line and wait for your next turn.   Sadly to say Happy Valley Park closed up in the early 70's and now is a gardening nursery center.  I use to wish that I could go there whenever I wanted instead of having to wait for a friend who might have a party there.  I think I remember riding my bike out to it with some friends once after it had closed and looked in the windows to see what we could see inside.  It was too dark inside so we couldn't see anything.   Outside in the back it was a ghost town playground.  The bikes were gone and all was shut up tight.   Some places in childhood can not be visited again and Happy Valley was just one of many.

My brother told her
I kissed a soldier
Now she won't buy me
A rubber dolly.....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homes and Schools

                          Places I have lived while growing up

Roswell, New Mexico           where I was born

Atwater, California               2306 Linden Street
                                           2302 Linden Street

Salinas, California                709 Fairmont Drive
                                           812 Fairfax Drive
                                           606 La Mesa Drive
                                           6 Pajaro Way

Antioch, California              Camino Peral
                                         Crestview Drive (apartment)

Moraga, California              Bismarck Lane
                                         Magnolia Drive

                            Schools that I went to

                                              Atwater, California

Kindergarten                      Elmer Wood Elementary School

                                             Salinas, California

1st Grade                         Lincoln Elementary School
2nd ~ 5th Grade               Mission Park Elementary School
6th Grade                        Monterey Park Elementary School
                                            (1/2 year)
                                       University Park
                                            (remaining 1/2 year)
7th ~ 8th Grade               Washington Junior High

                                              Antioch, California

9th Grade                          Park Middle School
10th Grade                        Antioch High School (1/4 year)

                                             Moraga, California

10th Grade (remainder of year)    Campolindo High School (3/4 year)

                                              Alameda, California

11th ~ 12th Grade             Alameda High School

                                             Fairmont Drive

     When  I look at all the places I have lived I feel like a gypsy.  We never seemed to let the grass grow under our feet!  I never had a favorite home or a special attachment to a home.  I am certain that until we moved to Alameda my family never owned any of those homes but rented them as it seemed we lived in some for almost exactly a year and then moved.

     I did have some memories from each though.  Some good and some not so good.  Our first home in Salinas we lived on a court.  In the garage the owner of the home had a huge train track set up with buildings, trees, overpasses, tunnels and houses.  My brother was fortunate to be allowed to play with it. It's only too bad that we could not take it with us when we moved as he must have been unhappy having to leave it behind.  I wasn't allowed to play with the train set but could watch.  My brother and I shared a room and it was decorated more for a boy.  We had a trundle bunk bed with a slightly western theme to it.  I didn't really mind as I was more a tomboy at that time.  I was already into horses and made sure to watch any cowboy movie or show that was on TV.  My brother Gene was a good sport with having to share a room with a sister five years younger than he.

     Next door to me was a girl my age.  Denise had a playhouse in her side yard which had a little kitchen set up and the house had dutch doors to it.   What really caught my eye though was her Surrey.  It was yellow and had a striped red top with fringe on it.  The Surrey had a bench seat in the middle for two with a set of peddles, then there was a bench seat up in front for two.  The steering wheel was on the left side of the Surrey just like a car.  We had so much fun peddling on the sidewalk of our court.  I didn't know what envy was at that age but that was when I first really wanted what someone else had.  I have only been on one other Surrey that reminded me of Denise's and that was at a cherished home my parents rented in Carmel when our own children were young.  It wasn't in the same condition either as the fringe top was not on it and it was rickety as well.  Still it brought back those fond times I remembered.  I only wish we could have brought it home and fixed it up so our girls could play with it at home.

     Behind the homes on the court was what we called the gully.  My brother was allowed to play in the gully with the other boys but I was not.  I was too young.  The boys would ride their bikes up and down the sides of the gully as it had high sides on either bank and then a flat area at the bottom.  It was a bit like an empty canal area but made of dirt only.  I am not sure what it was used for as I never saw it with water in it.

     I can't believe that I use to walk home from my school Lincoln Elementary as a first grader.  It was  quite a walk and I think it was just a couple of us kids at the time doing this.  The best part was at one point we walked through Maple Park.   I called it the sunken park as you walked down into the park from a path which at the time seemed more deep than it really is.  The park looks different now with the new play equipment.  Still I have a sweet little memory of kissing a boy in that park who walked home with us sometimes. My first kiss to a boy!   One of those quick little pecks on the cheek.
  Lincoln Elementary was also where I had my favorite teacher Mrs. Shifley.  She came to my birthday party, at my request, and gave me the book "A Fly Went By" which I read to my children.  Written inside by her was best wishes for my birthday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Jungle Book

I have a box of home movies that were taken by my parents when my brother and I were growing up.  Amongst all the film I found, one in particular that makes me smile and give a giggle.    The Jungle Book.   My friends and I had seen the then new Disney film and loved it!
I thought it would be a fun to do a play of the Jungle Book and invite the neighborhood kids to come see it.     We each decided which character we wished to be.  Pam was Baloo, Dora was Mowgli, Lori was the little girl, Susan was Shere Khan, and I was Bagheera.  We dressed ourselves up as well as we could though Susan looked more like a lion than a tiger as that was the closest costume we could come up with.  We made signs for inviting the neighborhood kids, invited any little brothers or sisters and we even charged admission to come and see our play.  We did slightly change the story as you can see but we didn't leave out the dancing!  If my memory serves me that there was laughter and no one walked out on us.
Last note....don't bother with was before sound movies!   It is almost odd to watch a film without sound but the quiet is enough for me and my imagination.....


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