• The Old Days

    by Jane Roland

    Last week we saw a performance of the Kingston Trio at the Performing Arts Theater in Pacific Grove.  The site was restored and renovated some years ago by the Pacific Grove Rotary Club and now offers wonderful performances thanks to the Foundation, the President of which, Lindsay Munoz  is PG Rotary’s President elect. It brought back memories of my years in San Francisco. It was 1957 in Baghdad by the Bay.  In NorthBeach, The Condor had opened and was a great little coffee place, The Kingston Trio were appearing at the hungry i, the city, itself, seemed uncomfortable in its peaceful skin.  We no longer left our apartments and cars unlocked, masking the scent of R.J. Reynolds’s product was a more pungent acrid smell…

    We women occasionally, went to town sans hats and gloves.  Hats were seen rarely on men; women could date a male in her office without fear of termination.  The fog still cuddled around the buildings and over the water, the fog horns blew mournfully in the night, the night person heard the streetcars stop, clank open doors and wind tirelessly on their way.  Lenny Bruce had replaced Mort Saul’s gentle newspaper musings and Carol Doda was just a few years from baring her bosoms and subsequently everything at the Condor.  Birth control pills had been approved by the FDA and changed mores forever.

    My flat-mate was my dearest friend, Mary Ann Odell, from Carmel.  Our apartment was the former attic of an old Victorian mansion on Buchanan.  It was a middle class neighborhood, dotted with “painted ladies” whose makeup was chipping and flaking.  The next door neighbors were a Chinese grocery store and dry cleaners.  One trudged up three flights of a grand stairway to reach our abode.  What a great space it was!  At the top was a charming foyer,  two bedrooms, and an interesting little living room under the eves, the dormer window hung over rooftops and I would lean out over the sill atop sure death to scrub the panes.

    The kitchen was the piece de resistance, gigantic, with a huge table in the middle and a drop down stairway to the roof.  We would sit on the shingles atop San Francisco and, depending on the time of day, drink beer, sun and socialize, overwhelmed by the panorama spread from bridge to bridge, MarinCounty and points south.  At night when there was no fog the sky was filled with stars and we marveled at our good fortune.  I was working at Foster and Kleiser in the Research Department as assistant to the director.  When I interviewed for the position I said “oh, of course, Mr. Appenzeler, I am totally comfortable with math and love digging for information”.  That was a huge lie.  I hadn’t a clue about projections, in fact was not adept at advanced math.  However, as an English/Journalism major, I thrived on gleaning information. I called a friend from Stanford Research Institute who walked me through the process of determining mileage and population trends.  I got the job, there were machines that, when functioning, did the job. When they were not, I had to do the math by hand.  The San Francisco Library became my work place when not at the office.  Soon the librarian and I became friends. I would telephone her with questions. Today I would Google or ask Siri.

    Most weekends (which started for the young folk on Thursdays) we would go to North Beach, visit Vesuvio, across the lane from the infamous City Lights Bookstore and visit the hungry i, for which there was no overhead, we needed only purchase beer.  We saw the opening performance of the young men, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Guard and went back many times . . .

    North Beach in those days was friendly.  Young women could be there unescorted.  Mary Ann and I enjoyed entertaining. We had a core group of friends, men who had been stationed on the MontereyPeninsula and relocated to San Francisco, others from home who had jobs in the City and new acquaintances.  It was a perfect time to be young and living in one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities in the world.  We met Eric Nord, “Big Daddy”, whose early career in “The City” was working at the Co Existence Bagel Shop (the self-described “Gateway to BeatnikLand”) which was one of our favorite hangouts.  He founded the hungry I. Later, when Enrico Banducci took over, the club became the cradle of stand-up comedy.  Eric had a Party Pad, which many of my friends adored.  I went to one after hours gatherings; it was not for me, too much noise, too many people for my taste so I left.

    Today there is the group we saw perform the other night.  They played some of their own tunes, some old folk favorites and, of course, Tom Dooley. We thank George Grove, Bob Haworth, and Rick Dougherty, the new Kingston Trio, for turning back the clock if only for a couple of hours.

    When you are making out your Christmas donation checks, don’t forget the furry folk at Animal Friends Rescue Project.  The organization operates on a shoe string budget and, since opening a veterinary clinic in Ryan Ranch for needy rescued animals, is finding the coffers increasingly drained. I will write about some of those animals next week.  You can drop donations by the shop or the AdoptionCenter.

    Jane Roland may be reached at gcr770@aol.com. She manages the AFRP Treasure Shop and is a member of Pacific Grove Rotary.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 5, 2013

    Topics: Animal Tales and Other Random Thoughts

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