Sara Robertson of Vallejo
I was born at 809 Sonoma Boulevard and am a second generation Vallejoan. During the time period 1930 to 1949 I lived at two homes which are still there, 1020 Kentucky St. and 1224 El Dorado St.
I remember the town as full of life and business. Prior to World War II the population was about 10,000. The landmarks I remember include the Georgia St. Bridge which was over the railroad tracks on Georgia Street. The ‘activities’ of lower Georgia St. were known everywhere.
I enjoyed riding bikes, roller skating, going to day camp at Blue Rock Springs. I especially remember Washington Playground which is now known as Washington Park.
Vallejoan Lyston Johnson started the Playground after the high school on the site was torn down. I lived on El Dorado St. and enjoyed the swings, slides, basketball courts and baseball fields. The Playground is on Ohio St. between El Dorado St. and Napa St. with Louisiana St. on the backside of the baseball fields. Army barracks were built there during the war and barrage balloons were at the Playground too. The barrage balloons were all over town; put up in the morning and taken down at night. The idea was that enemy airplanes would get tangled up in the lines that tethered the balloons.
We went to San Francisco by Greyhound bus to shop. We dressed up to go shopping in the city, especially for special shopping such as Christmas, Easter and back to school. We also went there to enjoy live theater and to go to the zoo.
My mother was born in Vallejo in 19903. She attended Vallejo schools and recalled marching in a suffragette parade in Vallejo while she was in high school.
My paternal grandfather came to Mare Island for a job as a machinist on Mare Island in 1906. He worked on the yard until May of 1941 and retired for only a few months. He returned to work on Mare Island in December of 1941 because of Pearl Harbor. All workers were needed to make ships as quickly as possible. My Dad worked at Mare Island in the ammunition depot. I remember the Port Chicago ammunition explosion in 1944 and how we knew my Dad worked a dangerous job. You weren’t allowed on Mare Island unless you were a worker and had a badge.
During the war when the population rose to about 90,000, housing was built including dormitories for single men. Housing built during WWII included Carquinez Heights, Chabot Terrace, Floyd Terrace and Federal Terrace among others.
Vallejo especially felt the war because we were military. This was where the submarines were being built. All kinds of things were done for the war effort. You were asked to take in boarders if you had extra room. We saved tinfoil, even from gum wrappers. We had Victory Gardens to grow produce in yards. We saved cooking fat in cans and took it to the butcher for money. This was one way children earned a little money. The glycerin in fat was used in munitions manufacturing. At school we bought savings stamps for $.10 which we put into books. When your book was filled with stamps you would have bought a war bond to help the war effort. There were war bond drives and famous people came to them. I remember Burl Ives and also the actor Raymond Burr who grew up in Vallejo.
Today Vallejo is more of a bedroom community than a vital city with lots of cultural activities. I hope the downtown develops some vitality. I miss a sense of community with an active social life; some local social groups have died out as the times change.
My advice for young people of today is for them to know that a city that you want to live in needs your economic and social support to make it viable and desirable as a place to live.