The Oakland Projects………….#2 (the 40’s)

The High Street Bridge

The High Street Bridge

Young Mike never liked Nursery School,  it wasn’t taking a nap that was so bad but that daily dose of Cod Liver Oil  they made you take before laying down.  Thankful his enrollment in the Nursery School didn’t last very long,  a change  was in progress, the family bidding a farewell to Richmond, moving to Oakland,  an area  called The Hull Street Projects.   The units were low-income housing built and used for the worker during the war effort.  There were six apartments in each building, three two bedroom units on each of the two floors.  The housing units were located northwest of  San Leandro Blvd between 50th and High Street.  The unit his family moved into was between 44th and 45th Ave just off a street called Hull Road.  The dwelling built for the most part with sidewalks across the  front and the units situated so they form three sides of an open square.  Mikes family lived in a building just west of the railroad tracks at far east end and  from his bedroom at night could hear the trains shuffling boxcars.  During the day he would watch the activity, the switch engine locomotives at work,  often wondering what it would be like to sneak aboard and travel to distant places.   There was a  time he got into trouble for placing a board on the railroad tracks, and another time for throwing rocks at the passing train, but this too would pass.

Katy, Mike & Nancy at the Hull St. Projects.

not a good idea to throw rocks at the switch engine

not a good idea to throw rocks at the switch engine

Excitement - The Jewel Tea Mans arrival

Excitement – The Jewel Tea Mans arrival

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the summer the Jewel Tea Man would stop, sometimes in panel type truck, other times an old bus filled with groceries and sundry items.   His Mother on occasion would buy something for him and his two sisters.  His favorite was either a banana Popsicle, or a flavored push-up.   One day he took notice of  the older boys going door to door with newspapers and people actually would give money for them.   It was then that he decided to become an entrepreneur,  it wasn’t a hard decision to make, proceeding to collect several old newspaper and assemble them neatly.   The rest was easy,  he would knock on doors and sometimes the person answering would look at this little fellow and pay him for his delivery and other times they would say “not today”.   He lost interest in this endeavor that second day, as for some reason unknown to him, his previous customers didn’t want to buy his newspapers again.

An unforgettable event

An unforgettable event

Ships from another era

Ships from another era

Crossing the High Street bridge into Alameda

Crossing the High Street bridge into Alameda

The  sky was buzzing with activity,  the youngster having seen shooting stars before, but not like this, it was something to behold, it was reported that their were hundred of sighting that night.   It was the first time that he noticed his parents paying attention to the night sky.   Never had he seen such a display and apparently neither had they as they all gathered  outside and sat on the fenders of the car to watch the sky raining shooting stars.   Sometimes during the day his Mom would take him and his sisters across the High Street Bridge to grocery store in Alameda, the High Street Bridge was a Draw Bridge that forged the bay estuary.   He had one main concern when crossing the bridge and that was getting to the other side before the horn sounded, as he didn’t want to get caught halfway and plunge into the water as the bridge raised up.    He thought himself fortunate because this never happened.    The best part of crossing the bridge was watching it open for the passing boats and noticing all the old wooden sailing and fishing boats moored in the estuary,  most of them looking sad and forlorn,  their wooden hulls beginning to rot away.  To him it was like seeing the past come alive on one hand and then die on the other.  He could only imagine all the places and sites these sailing vessels had seen in days gone by.

Starting Melrose Elementary School was a big change for him.   His mother would take  him, along with his two younger sister the eight blocks every school morning to 53rd and San Leandro Blvd.  Once across the four lane Blvd. he would walk the last three block to school alone,  stopping at a little grocery store  buying  a Hostess Cup Cake for a nickel to go with his sack lunch.  The school wasn’t much fun, it was dark and dingy and cold in the mornings.    The outside playground was dirty looking and the backboards that you could throw a  ball against had several  boards missing,  life at this project school was not a happy one.

Didn't want to reach the end of the tunnel

Didn’t want to reach the end of the tunnel

He enjoyed the playground not far from his home, there were swings, teeter totters and slides and along with others he enjoyed spending his time there,  the big slide was 12 feet high and his favorite.    One fateful day he attempted to go up the down side of the slide, hand over hand pulling himself up, when reaching the top he lost his balance falling to the ground,  striking his head on the cement anchoring  the slide.  One of the Nelson kids told his mom that he had fallen and wouldn’t wake up, his mom rushing to the park taking him home.  He regained some consciousness and when his dad got home they took him to Highland Hospital, Dr. Parson’s   informing his Mom and Dad that he had a nine-inch fracture from his forehead to below his ear.  His recovery was very slow with his bandaged head and during that time there something he never mention to his Mom and Dad, a recurring dream.  He would dream of finding himself in a dark tunnel then falling inwards towards a light at its end, but knowing that if he didn’t wake up before reaching the light he would never awaken and with a start he would open his eyes.

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