Back to the summer of 1959 |

Back to the summer of 1959

On May 11 and May 30, 1959, my brother Bobby and I celebrated our birthdays with help from some classmates at Chicago Park School. It was wonderful.

In June we had the annual hot dog roast, where everyone puts a hot dog on a stick and roasts it over a big bonfire. Afterward we put it in a hotdog bun with mustard and relish and ate it.

After that there was the program where we would sing, recite patriotic poems and the closing song. These songs and poems would be heard again at the commencement exercises held at 2 p.m.

I remember every day two weeks before summer vacation my Dad would drive and pick me up from school because Mom did not have her driver’s license. Dad would say, “Just think, two more weeks you will be going in the second grade and school will be out.”

It was beginning to sound like a broken record.

On the last day of school after commencement exercises, everyone, including me, got our report cards. Straight A’s, plus I got promoted to the second grade. Mom and Dad picked up a German shepherd puppy from the dog pound. We named him Pepper.

The first day of summer vacation was here. My dad was getting money from house wiring jobs from the Bay Area, plus monthly payments from the Orinda Electric Store and the old Orinda house on Ardilla Road. Not everyone was making payments and Mom started worrying.

Summer vacation was not at all what I expected. Instead of watching Captain Kangaroo in the mornings, Warner Brothers cartoons on the weekends and Skipper Stews Popeye cartoon and Captain Sacto in the afternoons, we were up in the orchard picking pears, loading them into crates onto the tractor, onto the Ford flatbed truck and over to Colfax Fruit Growers.

When we were not doing that, we were selling sheep and cows at the auction in Roseville, only keeping a few butchered for ourselves. We were herding sheep and cattle into other pastures ” even our dog Pepper lent a helping hand.

When we were not working, my Dad would barbecue steaks and potatoes out on the patio. Mom would boil corn and make veggie salad, and for dessert it was apple pie a la mode.

The first day of summer vacation Dad had barbecued hamburgers in the patio and Mom made potato salad. In the evenings we would watch Timmy and Lassie, the Ed Sullivan Show, Wizard of Oz and more.

I also remember the Fourth of July, when Mom and Dad took us in town to see the parade. That night we celebrated at home.

It was a busy summer, and so busy we had to skip the family reunion and going to see Uncle Charley and Aunt Mildred in Fresno.

We did manage to see Grandma Sherman and all the other relatives in the Bay Area, as well as Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Jim. We didn’t ride any trains. Dad drove us down in the 1953 Mercury Monterey.

At the Fourth of July Parade, 1959, I saw marching bands and floats for the first time. When we went to Grandma Sherman’s house, I got to tell Grandma all about Chicago Park School, the kids who I made friends with and what we had been doing all summer.

I listened to the radio and those rock n’ roll groups and songs. When I was not listening to the radio, Mom and Grandma would take us over to see some of her neighbors who lived on the block.

In August it was fair time. Mom entered two paintings in the Nevada County Fair, and she won two first prizes. Dad entered some squash that also won him first place.

My brother and I rode the ponies and the merry-go-round and enjoyed hamburgers and coke.

I got to see a 1959 RCA color television broadcast for the first time and heard a stereophonic high fidelity console record player. I saw swamp coolers built into oscillating fans mounted on the wall to keep the exhibit rooms cooler.

The summer of 1959 was adventurous and wonderful.


Paul Pease lives in Grass Valley.

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