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

Adventure to History (Part 2)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

After Cousin Liza and I left the Steinbeck Center, we went to the Historic Harvey House, the oldest house in Salinas, which is 150 years old. Since it was the first Saturday of the month, it was open, and we could go inside!

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The Historic Harvey House

The Harvey House was built in 1868 for Isaac J. Harvey, the first mayor of the city of Salinas. He was a businessman and traveler, always on the lookout for new places and opportunities. He saw the wealth of Salinas’s rich soil and good location and decided to settle here for a while. He helped build the town and bring the railroad here, and had his own business, a mercantile store where folks could buy anything they needed.

I. J.  had this house built for his wife Sarah and his three daughters, Saphronia, Josephine and Mabel. After a few years of working and being the mayor, Isaac’s business went bankrupt. He moved away to find other work for a while, but Sarah and the girls were tired of moving, and stayed here. The girls got married and had their own kids. The house stayed in the family until Isaac’s grand daughters got too old to stay by themselves and it is now open as a museum once a month, and for school field trips.

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Larry Showing Liza all of Sarah Harvey’s things

My friend Larry Smith was at the House, and he showed us around. He showed Liza things that had belonged to Mabel and Sarah. Some things, like the hairbrushes, were pretty familiar, but a shoe button hook was pretty strange to see.

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Running the carpet sweeper

Larry took us out to the cottage, which is used as a classroom when students come to visit. It is a great place to learn more about the history of Salinas and to see old tools people used. Larry showed Liza how to bang on a triangle to call folks in for supper, clean carpets with a carpet sweeper (no electricity!) and even use a boot jack. Outside, she got to pump some water with a real hand pump and run around the garden.

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The pump!

Finished with our tour of the House, (Thanks, Larry!) we wandered to the Model Railroad Museum and saw the whole Salinas Valley in miniature. Trees, farms, stores, with trains hooking it all together. We got to climb up into a big old caboose and see how a telegraph works.

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Model trains, model valley!

Almost ready to crash, we said goodbye to all the history and walked to see Adrian at Blue Aces Bakery. We chatted and got some cookie dough to nibble on, then asked Uncle David to come fetch us.

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In the caboose

What a long, wonderful day!

Love,

Grandma Judy