Apartment Opening……………#24 (the 50’s)

Polly Spears

Mike and his sisters enjoyed the covenant downstairs portion of the Willson residence when the family first moved in serving as a play room.  Besides the one large room with its outside entrance,  it had a walk-thru kitchenette, with a small gas stove, sink, cupboard and a fold down wall table leading to bathroom consisting of a stool and shower.  The other bathroom door opened into the basement washroom which housed mike’s mother’s wringer washer, concrete double sink and the very steep stairway upstairs opening into the dining room.   It was when his mother introduced him and his sisters to a couple and their two children and that they would be staying downstairs,  he realized the loss of the playroom.  The Spears,  Roy, Polly,  Bobby and the youngest, Judy, were a military family.  Roy     having served in the Army Air Corp during world war II, now a First Lieutenant would be leaving on assignment to Okinawa with the family to join him.  The outbreak of the Korean war dictating a change plans,  the family no longer able to join Roy in Okinawa,  Polly and the two children to remain in the  downstairs room, now designated as “the apartment”,  until other arrangements could be made.  Mike was surprised at the longevity of their stay, Polly and the kids becoming  like part of the family.  It was when Polly’s friend Dorothy came to visit that everything soon changed, Polly giving notice that they were looking for a larger rental  in San Francisco.  With Polly’s Plymouth Station Wagon and Dorothy’s car, the moving experience was swiftly completed and the downstairs apartment was once again vacant.

The only way to travel – san Francisco Muni Streetcar

The two families having become close found the Willson’s visiting, Mike and his sister accompanying their Mom and Dad,  Polly noting that Bobby whom was just a year younger than his sister Nancy, really enjoyed the older kids visit,  Polly extending an invitation,  asking if  Mike would spend some time with Bobby.  Traveling by bus alone across the Bay Bridge to the Muni Terminal was nothing new to Mike, the youth familiar with the Transbay Terminal having made the trip visiting his Aunt Alice.  Once disembarking the A Train, Mike Boarded the L Taravel Muni Streetcar at the Terminal for the extended ride to the ocean side of San Francisco,  disembarking at 42nd street,  walking the two blocks to Polly’s house.  Polly’s ocean-side  two-story house was similar in structure to his Aunt Alice’s when she lived on Garfield St.    What Mike discovered, unlike his Aunt’s neighborhood house,  this one came with a majestic view of the ocean, the vista from Bobby’s room was nonpareil.   The view west,  the sunsets,  the ship sailing  to and fro, passing  thru the Golden Gate and foremost,  the windows opened wide, enabling an onshore breeze bringing  the sounds of the ocean waves breaking on the beach through wind-blown curtains, the atmosphere  providing a heightened sense of adventure.   Another plus was the 6 block proximity to the ocean with its washed ashore spoils dotting the beach waiting for discovery making seaside the excursions an inevitable treasurer.  Mike spending a week, but longing to remain longer  in this new environment, but his return to Oakland was shortened when his parents appeared.

Mike’s aunt, Alice O’Toole

Mike’s Aunt Alice taking him to see the first full length 3-D movie

Aunt Alice and Uncle Charlie O’Toole having sold their 538 Garfield St. residence of many years, Mike’s cousins now  both grown having enlisted in the Military, Pat in the Navy and Bud in the Army.   Mike always enjoyed spending time with his Aunt Alice  at the Garfield St. residence provided many lasting memories. From the Garfield house he could hear the roar of the lions at Fleishhacker Zoo at feeding time and his Aunt a non driver as was his Uncle Charlie would  venture on the Muni to Golden Gate Park,  downtown to the theater, acquaint the blue pacific, wading in the surf across from Playland at the beach Mike and his aunt having the opportunity to see the first 3-d movie,  Bwana Devil.   These moments would always be retained as lasting picture of a caring fostering  Aunt.  The change in lifestyle having taking a toll on his Aunt and Uncle, their current residence an apartment in an unsightly neighborhood on Castro two blocks south of Market St. and the entrance to the Twin Peaks Tunnel.   The Castro street abide was a rear apartment on the second floor of a very old building, Mike still visiting his Aunt traveling on his own, enjoying a San Francisco adventures.   The only indoor attraction was the variety of  characters in the neighborhood,  including  a elderly man on the first floor,  a resident who had an extrinsic notion of the exploits of Christopher Columbus especial when abiding with an excess amount of “vino”.   Aunt Alice always  characterized the neighbor as   “1492”,   because he frequently mentioned that year in his long loud dissertations in his Italian accented broken English.

Best Pinochle hand - a double run

Best Pinochle hand – a double run

Something was going on, an  afternoon Mike and his Dad in the car journeying across the bay to San Francisco,  stopping at the Castro Street address of his Aunt and Uncle.  Mike having overheard a discussion that their phone had been disconnected, his Dad mentioning that Uncle Charlie had been unemployed for several months and that their life was in disarray.  Mike was surprised, the elder Willson not making an offer, but stating they were coming home with him until they could get their situation organized.  Alice and  Charlie recognizing the opportunity accepting the offer of moving into the downstairs apartment, Mike realizing he would have to set aside his apartment vision.  With their arrival  he discovered a side of his Uncle Charlie that he never knew existed, his uncle actually having a conversation with him, Mike finding he enjoyed his company, discovering that he was an amazing card player,  demonstrating many slide of hand tricks and introducing the youth to the game of Pinochle, the boy spending many hours playing the challenging three-handed fascinating diversion with his aunt and uncle.  As months progressed Mike could sense a conflict between his parents and his aunt and uncle,  Alice and Charlie making no effort to find work or change their ongoing  status.  Words were exchanged, suitcases packed, the couple announcing their son Pat had made arrangement for them to move Anaheim.  Mike having mixed feelings,  he would missed them,  but now the apartment would once again be vacant, opening the opportunity to convince his parents about moving downstairs.




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