Sun swept beaches, glorious sunsets, fog horns sounding on cloudy mornings, and the calls of seagulls along the shores created the perfect hometown, and my childhood days passed on a perfect little island, nestled in the San Francisco Bay. Alameda had that hometown charm and the feel of a small town although Oakland and San Francisco were just miles away.
Although Alameda began as a peninsula, the powers that be decided they needed a canal to help expand the growing shipping industry. Work on this channel launched in 1874, and it was completed in 1902.
The island has maintained two main streets with quaint shops and businesses that lined the streets. Each had a great place to grab the perfect ice cream cone. Foster Freeze was on the west side, but sadly it closed a few years. It had great cones and great burgers and was a favorite with the locals. On Park Street, we had Tucker’s Ice Cream, and in the 70s, patrons could buy a Tommy Tucker Drumstick for ten cents. The store has been in business since 1941.
My favorite place to hang out was at Crab Cove and the Robert Crown Memorial State Beach, named after the state congressman that fought to preserve the area as public land. Before his campaign, the beach was known as Alameda Beach. It was the perfect place to ride bikes, for trails dotted the area. It was a fun place to relax and play in the water or make sand castles, or just watch the sunset.
When I was in Scouts, every summer, the Girl Scouts would hold a week-long day camp under the soaring pines that surrounded the park. We would make crafts, build fires, make lunch, and work on our Girl Scout badges. It was such a fun place to visit.
Just off the west end of Alameda, along Central Avenue, another small island, Ballena Bay Isle nestled in the quiet bay. This small island was another fun place to ride bikes and watch the boats and enjoy the scenic views. As the sun started to set, the lighting was a photographer’s dream. Many spectacular shots can be taken from this little island.
Bay Farm Island, which used to be an island, is also part of Alameda proper, and it was once home to the Oakland Raiders. Growing up on the island, it wasn’t unusual to see the players around town. Many also did volunteer work around town too.
Some of the players from the Oakland A’s also lived on the island. When I was younger, I would often see Vida Blue, a former pitcher for the A’s, riding around town in his Corvette. His ride had his name painted along the hood of his car. Rumor control had it that he lived in the townhouses on Ballena Bay, near Encinal High School.
Alameda has preserved some great architecture too. Alameda has shared a well-kept secret, for it has its own version of a spite house. According to the local lore, the city of Alameda took a large plot of land from the owner, Charles Froling because the town needed the area to build a street. The tale suggested that his neighbor was entirely unsympathetic to his neighbor’s plight. So the angered Mr. Froling found his revenge. The man decided to build his dream home in spite of his reduced lot. Next to his ruthless neighbor, he created a home that measured 20 feet high, 54 feet long, and just ten feet wide! With its close proximity, his home blocked the views of his neighbor’s home. Even a transom window expressed the late Mr. Froling’s sentiments, for it reads, “Spite House.”
Part of Alameda’s charm can be found in her painted ladies. Many elaborate Victorian mansions to quaint Victorian cottages lined the streets. The homes were so beautiful. The elegant architecture always delighted the Islanders.
My aunt and uncle lived in a charming part of Alameda on the street, Tregloan Court. The avenue was very narrow, and the houses were small and quaint. People whispered that the home were built for little people. It was a great tale, but the rumors were just that — rumors.
Near my grandmother’s home, several storybook homes were built by Walter A. Dixon. As a child, these adorable homes always made me smile, and I always wanted to explore the quaint gardens and peek inside the windows. These whimsical homes whispered of childhood dreams; I always felt something magical had transpired in these homes.
My hometown was quite the place to live, especially as a child. Often as I have reflected on those years, I have longed to revisit my favorite haunts and reminisce about my childhood home.
Alameda, California.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alameda,_California.
Rego, Nilda. “Days Gone By In 1902, ‘Island City’ Alameda Celebrates Its New Tidal Canal.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 18 Dec. 2013, http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/12/18/days-gone-by-in-1902-island-city-alameda-celebrates-its-new-tidal-canal/.
Weinstein, Dave. “SIGNATURE STYLE / Modest Mansions / Walter W. Dixon’s Storybook Homes Offered Escape during Stressful Times.” SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Jan. 2012, http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/SIGNATURE-STYLE-Modest-mansions-Walter-W-2615680.php.