The Tag Along Gang…………..#6 (the 50’s)

Greenly Drive, the Water Works on the right – (East Bay Municipal Utilities District Water Filtration Plant)

Mike had no  close friends at Burckhalter those first years,  almost all the boys in his class lived past the Water Works some distance from his home, his closest friend was Mark Tweeten,  a year older than Mike having an older sister Carol, the Tweeten’s living  just across the street.   The two boys spending hours together emulating their favorite matinée movie, or radio program hero’s in activities.  The Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, Gene Autry and Gunsmoke,  episodes enacted with many a roll of caps being spent in shoot-outs after school and on a weekend.   Mark’s most envious and greatest personal possession was his bike,  Mike learning to ride on Marks and with this accomplishment he began his effort to secure a similar mode of transportation.  To his dismay, the Tweeten family announced they were moving to Concord  and he could no longer use “well Mark has a bike” as his number one reason for his parents to buy him one, the quest for a bike had just become  more unattainable.   After Marks move  he received an invitation to spend the night at Marks house in Concord,  his Dad providing transportation for this last visit.    It was a double blow to the youth, losing his best friend and being a victim of the family imposed bicycle rule.  NO BIKE UNTIL YOUR TEN YEARS OLD.

Richard & Gordon

The building of a new house catty-corner across Shone Ave was finally completed and a family named Telford moved in.  The Telford’s had a son a year older than Mike and soon discovering Larry wasn’t very sociable, maybe because he was an only child and   besides the boys dad was an undertaker and for some reason it bothered everyone.  Mike was somewhat envious of the Telford boy because their house was new and Larry had his own big bedroom located downstairs next to the garage.   It wasn’t the fact of having his own room as much as what Larry had in it. Lining the walls on two sides was a continuous expansion of a shelves and displayed on it was dozens upon dozens store-bought miniature metal cars.  Having just a couple of his own, having in the past made roads in the dirt, constructing parking area’s, entertaining projects, but wondering what it would be like having that many cars.  Deciding the difference between him and Larry, Larry never took them off the shelf,  they were always on display.  The only boys in Mike’s class that lived on his side of the school was Gordon Meyers and Richard Brehmer.  Gordon’s house was a block from the school and Richard lived somewhere on the other side of Mountain Blvd,  a pretty good distance from his house.  The youth didn’t share any interest with Gordon but if he had a bike he could visit Richard, as well as Roger Monroe, Karl Kreplin and others that lived on the other side of the school. He briefly thought about using “No Bike,  No Friends” as a valid approach to his parents to get a bike, but decided against it because right next door lived a house full of kids, younger, but still company.


diamond Pepitone

The children of Bob and Diamond Pepitone next door to the Willson’s ended up numbering five.   Mike could never figure out the association of the kids nicknames with their real names.  The nicknames, Babe,  Sis,  Turnbay,  Turtle and Bugs translated into Milton,  Esther,  Faye, Christine and Diane.  The eldest  was  Babe, the only boy in the brood,  2 1/2 years younger than Mike and it wasn’t Mike but his sisters Kay and Nancy that spent  much more of their time playing with them.    He would join them in a game of hide-go-seek or kick the can and it was becoming more often now that his best friend or lack of one, had changed.
Four blocks down Shone Ave. and across mountain Blvd. rose the East Oakland Hills ,  its forestation,  fresh water springs, valleys, and relics from an earlier era were beckoning.  The hills cresting at the 1100 ft. elevation on Skyline Blvd. high above Oakland,  providing a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay,  Mike having ventured into this vast uninhibited expansion.  The youth knowing it was hiding untold secrets just waiting to be discovered by an inquisitive person  aspiring for excitement and adventure.  His Mom wasn’t to keen on Mike trooping off alone into the hills and the young man knew this, but a plan prevailed,  a hillside picnic outing with his sister Nancy, the two eldest Peptone’s, Babe and Sis joining them.  This first organized outing for the group was a start and the beginning of many,  Mike was now able to explore but finding himself being accompanied by what he referred to as the Tag Along Gang.

The East Oakland Hill

The hidden valleys

Cresting the first hill and walking down to what is best described as a small valley  wandered a deserted unkempt dirt road which in years past had probably been subject to the ferrying of horses and cattle.   Standing before the youthful explorers  was an old stable, dilapidated by the  years neglect and rain-soaked wear.    The old timbers attempting to maintain the crumbling stalls,  the air still retaining the smell that only old barns and stables have,  even through time this remnant odor, its pungency still permeating the air of primordial history.  Mike realizing in all probability, the young people making up this  group probably didn’t realize or understand the significant of what they were experiencing, but there was one inquisitive among them that recognized and felt the indelible imprint of the past and the quest that remained.

Cardboard sliding on 82nd Ave.

Cardboard sliding on 82nd Ave.

During the summer, the grass and sedges grew tall,  sedges resembling what most people thought was wild wheat,  turning golden in the late spring and abundant thru out the state for three seasons , thus giving California its name,  The Golden State.  This was a great fun time  for the itinerant group of youngsters, gathering cardboard to use as sleds, the tall grass and sedges on the hills providing a natural slope to sail down.    The prime area was the unpaved top section of  82nd Ave. the city deciding not attempt to connect 82nd with Crest Ave,  the hill being too steep,  a switch-back being built around it for motorized traffic to reach the top.   Another area  was across Mountain Blvd. above the dirt fire break road that led to the Oak Know Naval Hospital,  mother nature providing these recreational downhill slides.  To everyone’s disappointment,  by the second or third day the grass lost its slickness, and the sliding season was over for another year.

26 inch mobile transport

The Day of reckoning finally arriving, Mike’s transportation problem  reconciled,  a new Monarch, 26 inch bike with center tank and luggage rack over the rear fender, he was ready, the world would know no bounds anymore.   Like all new owners he had designs for changes, the fenders could stay for now because he was a rain or shine riding person and fenders were definitely a necessity.  A color change for the existing red and white stock paint bu this could wait for another day.  His answer for deliverance having finally been conceived with the arrival of  this new acquired conveyance, it would be the young mans  best friend for the next five years, not his only friend,  but truly his best friend.

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One Response to “The Tag Along Gang…………..#6 (the 50’s)”

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