Giving Back

Dear Liza,

While we were living in Salinas, I got to be friends with a wonderful lady named Ruth Andresen. Ruth is the mother of Pete, one of the most involved parents University Park ever had, and grandmother of four of our students. Ruth was born in 1921, so she is exactly the age your great grandma Billie would be.

I met Ruth because we were both active at The First Mayor’s House, also called The Harvey Baker House, the oldest building in Salinas. Ruth has lived in Salinas since the 1940’s and actually knew some of the people who lived in this historic house, Florence Baker and her sister Helen. They were little old ladies when she was a young wife and mother in the 1950s, and she used to go visit them. They would tell her stories of their childhood in 1890s Salinas. She heard history, as they say, from the horse’s mouth!

The First Mayor’s House

When I was learning about Salinas history to write stories and curriculum for the House, I started visiting Ruth. We talked about history, but she also told me about her life. She was a geology student at Stanford University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, which started the western end of World War II. As a graduate, she worked in Washington to help create maps that helped with the Normandy Invasion! “It was such an exciting time to be a young woman in the world”, she said. “There was important work to be done and we got to do it.”

Ruth is still helping people learn about history. She does spinning demonstrations to show people how pioneers turned wool into yarn, and gives lectures about the “Old Days”.

She also helped organize the very first Founder’s Day Celebration in Salinas. The first one was so small, even the newspaper didn’t say much about it, but by the second in 2017, there were hundreds of people! In 2018, thousands of people came to visit the Harvey House, attend lectures, play carnival games, listen to music, and have pony rides. It took dozens of people to make it happen, including my dear friend and former Principal, Mary Randall, but at the center of it was Ruth. In my carelessness, I do not have a photo this wonderful woman! (I was probably enjoying our conversations so much I hated to interrupt for a photo.) Silly Grandma Judy.

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Display at Founder’s Day

Anyway, for the second Founder’s Day, there was going to be a quilting booth, showing folks how to quilt and displaying old and new quilts. I was going to make a small one during the day as a demonstration. But so many other groups wanted booths, the quilting booth didn’t happen.

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Almost done quilt, and Mouse the cat

And now, with the extra time that comes from not preparing lessons and teaching every day, I have gotten it out and am almost done. It will be wrapped up and returning to Salinas very soon. Thanks for all the stories, Ruth!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Founder’s Day in Salinas

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Saturday, Salinas celebrated its one hundred and fiftieth birthday! It is called a sesquicentennial, which is fun to say once you get the hang of it. The city really did it right.

My day started at 7 a.m., when I walked to the Train Station. I wore my jeans and school tee shirt but carried my old fashioned lady docent clothes in my bag. At 7:45, there was already a lot of activity in the big parking lot between the Train Station and the First Mayor’s House….fellows barbecuing, people setting up booths, and kids playing around.

I found the area for school booths, and my Principal, Anna Padilla, Vice Principal, Erin Laird, and 6th grade teacher Amanda Nichols, were already at work. We were running two booths, a ping pong ball toss into small glass bowls to win a plastic fish, and a bowling ball roll game that I know is as old as your Mommy. I jumped in and started taping with everyone else.

By the time the festival opened at 9, we were ready! Kids came by and played, tossing and squealing and winning. I got good at catching bounced balls or waiting until they rolled to me, but there was still a fair bit of bending and stooping. Oooof!

We were lucky to be right in the center of things. The stage for all the music performances, including Mr. Jimmy Rossi and his partner Mr. Griffin and kids from all over the district, was just about 30 feet from us. We were facing the First Mayor’s House, so we got to see people coming and going. Some people were in old fashioned costumes, but most were in summer clothes because it was so warm.

After a few hours of chatting with kids, picking up balls and handing out fish, I headed to the First Mayor’s House. I found Maryjane Choate, who was helping organize the docents. She wanted me to be in the dining room, so I changed from Mrs. Drueding into Miss Saphronia Harvey and spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon telling people about the Harvey family. I told about their travels, how they built this house, how it was moved around to different parts of town , and what sort of lovely things are in it.

I enjoy sharing what I know about the history of the family and their things. People who have lived in Salinas their whole lives are always amazed at what a treasure we have here.

I saw old friends, too. Elaine Marbach, who was our school librarian for years, came though with her daughter Amy, and friends from french class and school…. it was like a party!

At about 2:00, Auntie Olga and Cousin Liza came by. Since Liza had been in the house before, she showed her mommy some of the nice things. Then we three went and Olga bought us a nice chicken barbecue lunch from the Sons of the Golden West booth. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was!! I ate half a chicken, a roll and beans, and still had room for salad. Then of course, there was time to play on the lawn…

We toured the festival and Liza played all the games….rolling balls into a tic tac toe board, tossing toilet paper rolls into a potty, and even making a corn husk doll. The hardest game was launching a rubber chicken into a basket… she never got the hang of that one. Down the rows we found jewelry, art, cotton candy, and at the far end, PONY RIDES!!

So Liza had a pony ride. Her legs are long enough that she can use the stirrups and she rode well. Her pony’s name was Macaroni and she was a very pretty pony. All the kids had such a good time. But finally, it was time to go home. We walked backed to the car, finding a lovely tree to climb on the way, and got home for naps. Liza and I were asleep before Auntie Olga, but not by much.

The evening was quiet, with Legos and our new favorite show, Man About Cake. Joshua John Russell is funny and shows us how to make fancier cakes than I ever hope to try…but it’s fun! I highly recommend it.

Love,

Grandma Judy