Pat Macdonald of Vallejo
I graduated from Vallejo High School in June of 1944 and remember those times very well. The world was at war and the allies were massing for D Day. For the first time in history Vallejo High offered summer classes for those who wanted to graduate before being drafted or going into defense plants. There were barrage balloons and army units stationed behind the campus. Due to black-outs, all night football games were cancelled. Six hundred students went on strike when an athletic ban was planned that would abolish all league athletic contests for the duration. The reasons were twofold, a lack of funds to transport athletes and also no tires were available for school buses.
We still ditched school and went swimming at Oak Park, a swimming pool in Napa, or at Basalt Rock quarry in the American Canyon area. We sometimes had to siphon gas from the family car to make the trip. Gas was rationed at three gallons a week. Shoes, meat and sugar were also rationed.
We jitterbugged at the Dream Bowl dance pavilion in the American Canyon area and had noontime sock hops in the Vallejo High gym. Girls wore curlers to school and wrapped their heads in their mother’s dish towels to hide their curlers. Guys wore Levis or cords and would never think of having them washed. We carried bags of white powder to whiten our buck shoes at noontime out on the senior steps at school. Girls penciled on their school books SIGMA GAMMA DELTA or KAPPA PHI DELTA and the boys had RDD or KYPU on theirs. After school, the fellows played pool at the Rat Hole, a downstairs area below ‘The Men’s Toggery’, an upscale clothing store for men on Georgia Street.
Across from City Hall on Marin Street, now home of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, was the Peter Pan soda fountain. That’s where we drank rainbow cokes after first sneaking into the loges at the Hanlon theater. Back then there were uniformed ushers with flashlights who would show you to your seat. It was hard to see the movie screen through the clouds of cigarette smoke. ‘Lucky Strike Green had gone to war’ went the cigarette slogan.
At the corner of Georgia Street and Sonoma Boulevard was Munter’s Music Store, a large record shop that had several soundproof listening booths. You could choose three or four records and listen to them in these five foot square booths. Several of us would go and spend over an hour listening to records and sometimes we actually purchased one. It was a great meeting place, especially if the guys happened to be there.
Also, one could go into nearby Crowley’s department store to the Millinery department where lovely hats were displayed on several large tables. There were hat racks and you’d sit at a dresser with attached mirrors and the clerk would help you see the hat from all different angles. Across from Millinery was the Glove department where you would rest your hand on a pillow, the clerk would measure your hand and then carefully fit gloves to your hands. Everyone wore hats and gloves, especially if you were going to ‘the City’, as San Francisco was known.
I remember having two mail deliveries a day. Postcards were a penny and a first class letter was five cents. There were two newspapers, the Morning Times-Herald and the Vallejo Evening Chronicle. Milk was delivered to our door; actually there was a small pass thru with an outside door that would hold several large glass milk bottles. My mother would leave a note in the pass thru if there was a change in her weekly order. Cottage cheese came in colorful aluminum tumblers. Every two weeks a Jewel Tea man came selling teas, coffees, pudding mix and various extracts. Eventually they sold dishes that are very collectable today.
Regarding food, two memories stand out. Every Thursday a produce truck would drive slowly down Wallace Avenue ringing a bell that was attached to the passenger’s door. The housewives would gather on the curb until he stopped. He would hang a basket on the scales mounted on the back of the truck and the women would walk around the truck picking out the fresh garden produce. Also, there was the Pie Lady who lived on Benicia Road that baked pies every Friday. She only baked about two dozen and sold them from her home and they were delicious! We would go over early, about 2:00pm, and pick up a warm, fragrant peach or apple pie for the weekend. It was usually first come, first serve but sometimes she would take your order for the following week.
Last but not least, there were no gas stations; they were service stations. Usually two attendants were on duty and would ask which gas you wanted and how much. One pumped the gas while the other attendant would check under the hood, show you the oil dipstick, wash the windshield and check the tire pressure. Gas was only about eighteen cents a gallon. Now you know why they call it ‘the good old days’!
Two things come to mind when thinking about advice to teenagers; friends and attitude.
On friendship, the first thing I think of is the importance of friends. The friends I made in high school have been a big part of my life. We were members of each others weddings, some were God parents to the others children. We vacationed together, camping with the families, in later years enjoying travel abroad and supporting each other in times of crisis. These friendships are so very special, and after 65 years I treasure each memory of my high school friends.
On attitude, I see that today it has a negative connotation. I hope that can change. Your attitude is the one thing that you can control. I hope you will try to see the positive side of every situation.