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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Looking forward to reading more about Pleasanton in the 1950s

Uploaded: Mar 28, 2023
If you wondered what growing up in Pleasanton in the 1950s was like, Donna McMillion has an answer for you—her new book.
The all-volunteer effort includes interviews with 38 people, most now in their 70s who grew up in those halcyon years. She conducted all of the interviews and then Lauren de Vore and Dan Sapone wrote them in the first person to maintain the same format throughout the book, “Cruising Down Memory Lane, Stories of Pleasanton in the 1950s.”
Donna, who lived on Mohr Avenue when it was surrounded by tomato and cucumber fields (I know, I picked them there as a teen-ager), loves to describe riding her horse down Santa Rita Road to Amador Valley High to go swimming. It was later when banker and City Councilman Bob Philcox (also in he book) led the effort to ban horses on Main Street and remove the railings to tie them up. The people she interviewed grew up in those years, while my bride and I arrived here in 1959 and 1958 with our families. We went to school with many of these people, but have no recollections of the 1950s. It was similar when we saw a musical celebrating the Summer of Love in 1967—we had no clue about what was going on in San Francisco living in the peaceful Pleasanton burbs—same for the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s that we learned about visiting the museum in Memphis where the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Jim Georgis (right) and hunting buddies

For folks who know a bit of Pleasanton history, the book is full of familiar names: Jorgensen, Takens, Gerton, Trimmingham, Krause, Lund, Georgis Shanks, and diary families Orloff and Hansen. This is a sampling.
Pleasanton Police Chief, Walt McCloud, related, “… one time we were down on the south end of town, and there was a guy ran by (off) the road (now Sunol Boulevard) there, and I and the Sheriff’s car stopped, and the guy had landed halfway in the ditch. And we were talking to him and he gets up and runs up the bank and jumps into the sewer pond. So, we’re standing there and everybody’s getting excited and shouting “he’s gonna drown!” So, we tell our Sheriff’s Deputy, “that’s going to be your job, you know that pond’s in the county.” So, he throws off is duty belt and runs up the bank and jumps into the sewer pond clear up almost to his waist and saves the guy. What a hero! “
“And then he puts that nasty-smelling person in his car and takes him to Santa Rita. And he’s all proud that he saved this guy, telling the Santa Rita guys that he saved this fellow from drowning in the sewer pond. And then one of the Santa Rita watch commanders tells him he’s a dumb so-and-so ‘cause that pond is inside the city limits!” “
The Pleasanton Senior Center now stands on that site.

The Takens kids (Bob, Bruce and Winnie), whose father founded and owned Meadowlark Diary, wrote, “… there were also a lot of life lessons. Dad would say something like, “There’s two guys standing over there against a wall and there’s a broom between them. Which one are you gonna to hire? You’re gonna hire the guy who sees the broom and picks it up and starts sweeping. The other guy you don’t want ‘cause you have to tell him what to do.” And he’d say, “Get the lazy sweat out, get the lazy sweat outta you,” or “If you’re cold, you’d better get to work and work the cold outta you.”

The city preserved the diary adobe on Foothill Road where the original diary was run as a drive-thru facility. The cows grazed on the field that is now the Laguna Oaks subdivision. The family moved the cattle to the Tracy area and opened the ever-popular drive-in on Neal Street with its famous soft-serve ice cream.

Chief Walt McCloud's patrol car
As I read through the names, I think of the Edgren auto dealership where the strip center that houses Vic’s now stands or long-time high school principal Neal Sweeney or the Georgis family and my classmate Jacki Fiorio Del Duco whose father operated the market and butcher shop (he handled much of the livestock sold at the county fair) that’s now Valley Plumbing Supply on Neal St.

There’s Ray and Angie Calija as well as the Jorgensens (Andy, retired Pleasanton arts supervisor and Tom) as well as Hal Shanks, son of Dr. Harold Shanks who was our family doctor with an office that is now an art studio.

For those who want to know more about the families that helped create the Pleasanton we see today, check it out.

The book can be pre-ordered at Towne Center and a launch reception is scheduled for the Veteran’s Hall from 3-5 p.m. May 7. Proceeds from the book, once the printing costs are covered, will go to the Amador Valley High journalism program.

What is it worth to you?


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