Mountain Blvd…..A New Home……..#3 the (40’s)

7964 Greenly Drive

The family car 29 Chevy

The 1929 Chevrolet pulled up to 7964 Greenly Drive, the five members of the Willson family seated on the Coupe’s only seat,  Mike straddling the floor mounted gearshift and hand brake, making for a tight fit even though three of the five occupants were children.   The six-year-old boy gazed with amazement at the surroundings, their new hillside home on the corner of Greenly Drive and Shone Ave was almost  located in the mountains, oops, not quite,  but compared to The Hull Street Projects, the rising hills of east Oakland was a wilderness.   Shone Ave initiated off Mountain Blvd, intersecting Greenly Drive four blocks up the hill, culminating  when merging with Sterling Drive.  Sterling continuing its upward journey terminating at an elevation of  486 feet with Crest Ave above the city.   From Crest one could look across the bounds of Oakland,  San Francisco Bay,  the Bay Bridge and even see the lights from Golden Gate.  A narrow switchback allow thru traffic to traverse down to Sunkist Dr and the six block descent on 82nd Ave to MacArthur Blvd.

View of 82nd Ave from Crest and Sterling Drive.

The view from Mike’s yard down Shone Ave to Mountain Blvd and the East Oakland Hills rising 1200 ft.

 Four blocks down from Greenly Drive on Shone Ave was Mountain Blvd,  the two lane Blacktop which snaked along the valley formed by the sentinel east Oakland hills, rising to an elevation of 1200 feet.  The concierge east Oakland hills watching over the city,  a two lane drive appropriately named Skyline Blvd  atop the summit remained a haven of peace and solitude, the landscape still virgin to residential construction. The mountainous distance between Mountain Blvd and Skyline beheld a series of rising hill and valleys, the terrain once home to horses and cattle with an abundance of spring fed creeks with an undergrowth of  flora and the oak trees native to Oakland. Further north a visual marker, the active Gallagher and Burk Quarry, its prevalence  devouring a large chunk out of the  hillside.  To the south the pinnacle remains of the old San Leandro Mental Hospital and disseminating  towards Mountain Blvd was the expansive Oak Knoll Naval Hospital,  the largest Naval medical facility on the west coast caring for 2500 patients.

Oak Knoll Naval Hospital

Greenly Drive and the other two neighboring north/south parallel streets, Winthrop and Earl abruptly ending a block and a half  after crossing Shone Ave and Holmes Street bordering the vast fenced acreage of a hay and alfalfa farm.  The farm was apparently operated by immigrant farmers,  unlike the farmers who baled their harvest, they gathered and stacked it,  Mike having seen this means being done in a National Geographic magazine.    The opposite direction to the north on Greenly was what the locals called the Water Works, formally known as East Bay Municipal Utilities District Water Filtration Plant.  It stretched from Keller to Field St and From Greenly Drive  to Mountain Blvd, an area of about twelve city blocks.  It was fenced and wooded with mostly pines and maintained like a park.  For a bristling youngster, this little known part of Oakland was an exciting place to live.

Willson home as seen from Shone Ave.

His Mom always thought the house was small, but to a six-year-old it was huge in comparison to the apartment in The Projects, at least it seemed that way, most likely because of the corner lot,  large yard with an old leaning wooden garage.  The house having a small living room, dining room with side porch and French Door exit from the dining room.  The kitchen having a small 6 x 10 adjourning space and two bedrooms, the total upstairs area amounting to only 700 sq, feet.   Because of steepness of the hill, although not deemed two-story, it had a downstairs with an outside entrance which was also accessible from the upstairs dining room thru an unfinished basement laundry room with a cast iron double sink.  Mike was told the downstairs was destined to be a rented as a downstairs apartment having a 9 X 14 bedroom/living room,  a 9 x 5 kitchen with sink, gas stove, folding wall table and the household water heated.  A door from the kitchen opened to bathroom with a stool and shower which also exited to the laundry room.

Katy & Mike

6-year-old Mike

The family settling in, the three children occupying the back bedroom, Mike successfully  lobbying for a bunk-bed to at least give himself some dissimilarity from bunking in the same room with his sisters.  The only complaint jointly shared was that the only heat in the house was from a floor furnace in the living room.  On those cold damp morning it wasn’t unusual to find his sisters in the living room getting dressed by the floor furnace.  After living in the projects, six apartment units to a two-story building,  having a spacious yard was unbelievable. It was overgrown with many varieties of plants, not necessarily all weeds, his littler sister Nancy who had yet to turn three years of age could totally disappear in the flora and there was even a relic of an old neglected fish pond.  These new surroundings gave new life to an impressionable young Mike and cast the foundation for an unlimited realm of future boyhood adventures.

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One Response to “Mountain Blvd…..A New Home……..#3 the (40’s)”

  1. Nancy Gokey Says:

    I did not think that a six year old found life so interesting. Is it Ok to sent this site out to family.

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