Tuesday, March 27, 2007

30th Street Memories - Part 1

I tried to go to the San Diego Family History Center today, but it was closed for plumbing repairs. Instead of driving straight home, I went over to "Nostalgia Lane" and drove down my street - 30th Street - all the way from Adams Avenue in the north to A Street in the south - about 4 miles. The street has changed, the neighborhoods have changed, but my memories are stronger than ever.

I grew up on 30th Street in San Diego's Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. As I've noted in my Della's Journal series, and the Carringer family stories, my great-grandparents, Henry Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer, built "my house" in about 1895, and the family resided in it until about 1980. I lived at 2119 30th Street (the upper apartment) from 1947 until late 1968.

The block is bounded by 30th Street on the west, Ivy Street on the north, Fern Street on the east, and Hawthorn Street on the south. The Carringers owned the south 3/4 of the block in 1900, and Della's mother, Abigail (Vaux) Smith owned the north 1/4 of the block then. I don't think that she built a house on it, and she sold the lot at some time.

I have described the original house built by Austin and Della here and here. In 1920, my grandparents, Lyle and Emily (Auble) Carringer, built a house at 2130 Fern Street on the Carringer land. By 1927, the original house was moved to the middle of the block on 30th, and another two-story house was built on Fern Street, and was used for rental income. Two small cottages were built in the 1930's on 30th Street just north of the original house.

A greenhouse was built on the Fern Street property and was filled with plants, ferns, bushes, trees, and a fish pond. The south end of the block had trees and bushes along the edges, and berry vines, vegetable plots and fruit trees in the middle, with a flower garden and a bird bath outside the south-facing entrance of the Carringer's home. Part of the south end was cleared off by about 1950, and we dug holes, rode our trikes and played baseball on the vacant lot. In 1953, the entire south parcel was sold off and two-story apartments were put up, with a concrete block wall separating the properties.

When the wall was put up, that created a small patio between the Fern Street apartments and the wall, with a great jacaranda tree. My dad bricked over the patio, and it served as our basketball court, ping-pong arena, and wiffle-ball baseball court for years. We had to dodge the planter box, the garden and the patio furniture, but we had a great time playing games on the patio.

When I was a child, the trolley (between downtown San Diego and North Park) came right up the middle of 30th Street, right outside our front door. There were overhead trolley lines. By 1950, the trolley tracks had been paved over and the overheads pulled down. As I grew up, 30th Street became a wide playground for me and my friends - we played baseball and football, dodging the cars and buses as they came by.

There were no houses on the block just to the north of my block - there was a fire station, several warehouses, a gas station, two bars, and, later, a house of ill repute. There are still no houses on this block. Snippy's bar is still there!

One block to the north was the corner of Juniper Street and 30th/Fern (30th Street jogs at Juniper, and Fern Street ends). On the northeast corner was an ice cream parlor. Next to this was a Piggly Wiggly market where my mother and grandmother shopped almost every day. On the northwest corner were a number of small shops - sewing, barber, hairdresser, etc. On the southeast corner was a hardware store, and on the southwest corner there was a gas station and a bar.

I attended Brooklyn School at 30th and Ash Streets (7 blocks south), and either walked to school or rode my bicycle. I don't remember all of my teachers names, but I do remember Mrs. Williams (4th grade, my first black teacher), Mr. de la Torre (5th grade) and Mr. Wragg (6th grade, killed by a school sniper many years ago), or the names of many schoolmates. I was on the Safety Patrol, played on the boys softball team, and learned my lessons well.

Three blocks down from the house was the Presbyterian Church, which had a youth playground on part of their property. We would often stop and play games at the playground on the way home from school. When I was about 10, my brother and I started going to Sunday School, and went on youth group trips to the beach, local lakes, and deep sea fishing in the Pacific.

Balboa Park is 4 blocks to the west of my block. There is a small park, called Grape Street Park, at the west end of Grape Street at 28th, which had a cleared grassy area between two wooded areas, and a fence overlooking the public golf course driving range. We played a lot of baseball and football on the flat grassy area. When we were bored with games, we would explore the tree and brush-covered ridges and canyons leading down to the golf course fairways and greens. Of course, we found a lot of golf balls and would occasionally play tricks on the golfers - either steal their ball, or replace it with one of ours in an impossible lie. We also built forts on the hillside, hacked out trails, and formed our own little world. During the summer, we took sleeping bags and camped out in our forts. We rarely saw any wildlife even though there must have been snakes, rabbits, rats, spiders, lizards, and probably a coyote or two (we could hear them sometimes at night).

I do remember the day in the early 1950's when my grandmother, gardening in the planter box on the west side of the house, found a 6 foot long gopher snake in the flower bed, and screamed for my grandfather. He got a shovel and chopped off the head of the snake, and pulled the snake out of the bed. We marvelled at the texture of the skin and the length of the snake. How in the world did it get there - 4 blocks away from the park? I remember wishing that he hadn't killed it, so we could watch it slither and hide again in the bushes.

There will be at least two more parts to this story. While I'm not following Miriam's outline, I am taking her advice to write down my memories. Maybe my kids will find this blog sometime and wonder at all the funny and strange things their father did as a kid.

No comments: