Friday, February 5, 2016

Remembering Granada Park

Last week, I wrote about growing up in the Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California. At the edge of the tract was Granada Park, the hub of activity for the entire area.

The kids in the tract attended two public schools and the nearby Catholic school, but on weekends and during the summer, we all met at the park.

In those days, we walked, skated, or rode our bikes everywhere. Parents didn’t worry about us. We had no need for block parents because most mothers stayed home. If we ever needed help, we knew we could knock on any door and find it.
For the neighborhood boys, summer began with Little League tryouts. Although several teams, sponsored by local businesses, played at Granada Park, not every boy who wanted to play made a team. Larry’s dad (second from the right in the back row) was a coach for his brother’s team. I also recognize quite a few of the other neighborhood dads in the photo above.

The park featured a large baseball diamond where the games were played. We sat on bleachers to cheer on our friends. Parents manned the snack stand in case we were hungry. A second diamond, adjacent to the main one, could be used for practice.

Next to the baseball diamonds, were the tennis courts. When others weren’t playing, we roller-skated on the cement courts. Sometimes we rode our bikes there as well. Some years later, lights were installed so the courts could be used at night. Larry remembers skateboarding there in the evenings.

The biggest draw at the park was the pool. Although I learned to swim at the YMCA, most of the neighborhood kids, like my brother, learned at the park.

I always associate the strong smell of chlorine with the pool. We paid our quarter and were entitled to a full day in the pool. We accessed the deck through the locker rooms, segregated by gender. Before we emerged, we were required to shower. Of course, most kids turned on a shower and flicked water on themselves. If the lifeguards caught anyone with a dry suit, they blew their whistles and made the dry swimmer return to the showers.

Between the locker room and the deck, we had to traverse the footbath. The strong chlorine smell burned my eyes and stayed on my skin for days. I often wondered if straight bleach was poured into the basin.

The pool seemed huge to me as a kid. It might have been Olympic size or larger, but I can’t be sure. The shallow end was two feet deep and the depth increased to about ten feet. (I’m sure others will correct me if I’m wrong.)

Two diving boards graced the deep end. One was a standard springboard. When I took diving at the Y, I practiced on the low board.

Next to it was the high dive. A platform rose probably fifteen to twenty feet high from the deck, accessed by a steep ladder. (Again, it seemed high and scary to me as a kid. I’m sure others may remember exactly how tall it was.)

When I was in my teens, I finally decided to try it. I climbed the ladder, but when I looked down, I froze. I had intended to dive, but the idea of going headfirst into the water so far away terrified me. Only one of us was allowed to be on the platform at a time, and the kids on the ground started yelling at me. Retreating down the ladder would have labeled me as a chicken for life. I finally screwed up my courage, walked to the end of the board, and stepped off the end. I held my arms close to my sides and dropped straight in. I sank to the bottom, kicked off, and rose to the surface. I never tried the high dive again.

A big hill rose in the center of the park. I remember rolling down it with my friends. We often had grass stains on our clothes. Our mothers complained but we loved playing there.

Some kids brought large pieces of cardboard they used as sleds to get from the top to the bottom. Others brought large blocks of ice. In the heat of summer, riding those down must have felt good. I never did it, but some of my friends remember it fondly.

My idea of a great summer day was riding my bike to the park with a book and sitting under a tree on the hill reading the afternoon away.

When I was in junior high, a gymnasium was built at the top of the hill. Kids played basketball on the court, and dances were held there. I attended one, but I never went back.

Next week, I’ll tell you about my favorite place in the park: the playground.

Did you go to a park as a child? What do you remember?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Childhood Memories of the Midwick Tract

I grew up in the Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California.
The land started out as the Midwick Country Club and Polo Grounds, a prestigious location in Los Angeles County where movie stars, politicians, and royalty, including  King Edward of England, played golf and polo.
Films, like the original Robin Hood, were filmed on the polo grounds.

The Great Depression affected the club because fewer people could afford to frequent it. When the owners defaulted on a loan, Dominic Jebbia bought the property. In 1944, the clubhouse burned down, so Mr. Jebbia subdivided the acreage and sold it to a real estate developer. He donated part of the land to Los Angeles County for Granada Park and created a housing tract on the rest.

Returning WWII veterans bought most of the houses for their families. All the streets were named after famous golfers.

My family bought one of the houses in the first phase and moved in during the fall of 1948 when I was two years old. Our house was on Hathaway Avenue. Larry’s family bought on Hitchcock Drive in the second phase and arrived when he was five.

Our house was situated where the golf course had previously stood. We occasionally found golf balls in the neighborhood.

Midwick was the perfect place to grow up. Nearly all the mothers were housewives and stayed at home all day. The downside was we couldn’t get away with anything. The minute we did something wrong, our mothers knew before we arrived home.

The upside was the number of kids our age in the neighborhood. We never lacked for friends.
Just on our end of the street lived another girl my age, one a year older, one a year younger, and another two years older. Kathleen and I became blood sisters. We both had younger brothers and wanted a sister. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and nine months later, she asked me to be the matron of honor at hers. When we celebrated our fiftieth anniversary in September, my ‘sis’ was there to deliver a speech.

Boys around our age joined us to play games during the summer. We roller skated on the sidewalks, rode our bikes to the park (more about that next week), and played all summer at one another’s houses.

I’ve stayed in touch with many of the neighborhood ‘kids’ over the years. Quite a few are my friends on Facebook.

We had no need for block parents because we always had adults around in case of problems. During the summer, we played outside until dark when a parent finally summoned one of us home and our play ceased. This was a time and place that seemed safe. We hung out in groups and never got into serious trouble.

I am very grateful to have been raised in this special neighborhood with wonderful people.

Next week, I’ll talk about Granada Park, the major hangout for all the kids who lived in the tract.

Friday, January 22, 2016

January - Repair Month?

When did January become repair month? This year started with lots of issues.

My convertible had a dead battery last month. We called AAA to jump-start it when our charger didn’t work. They managed to get the car running, and we drove it around all day. It started again each of the next few days, but then we tried to start it one day, and it was dead again. It still sits in the garage not running until we can afford to get it to the dealer to discover why the battery is draining.

The reason we can’t fix the convertible for a while is because we’ve had several other repair bills.
The brakes started squealing on our van. Unfortunately, they had to be replaced. Since Larry uses the van for surfing nearly every day, we didn’t feel we had an option not to fix it. Especially since the convertible was already out of commission.

Also in December, the icemaker on the refrigerator stopped working. We didn't bother with it at the time because we had lots of company. Early this month we called out the repairman. He said we had three options: unfreeze the water line, replace the bin and auger mechanism, or replace the entire door. The last option really wasn’t valid because the refrigerator is nearly thirteen years old. The repair guy turned up the temperature on the freezer and manually left the light on, hoping the line would defrost. Fortunately, it did. The water began to dispense normally. The ice also dispensed—sort of. But the crushed ice didn’t work. Fortunately, the bin and auger mechanism (which had broken) could be replaced cheaply enough, so we’ve ordered a new one.

Then on Wednesday when we started a load of towels, the washer just stopped working. We called out the repairman, who arrived about 7:00 at night. The control board (the most expensive part of the washer, of course) failed. The new one will cost nearly as much as we paid for the washer itself just over two years ago. Larry decided we had to fix this one since it matches the dryer, which still works. So we wait for the repairman to return with the new control board.

When did January become the month for repairs? What really has me concerned is the month isn’t over yet…