Our San Francisco Vacation: Strolling Down Memory Lane

My family lived in the East Bay area of San Francisco until we moved to Houston, Texas, in 1972 when I was 13. Talk about culture shock. But that’s another story.

For a period of time from around 1982 to 1985, I lived in the south bay, just north of San Jose. On a couple of occasions, I spent some time in the City, but not a lot.

So for all practical purposes, I’ve been gone for 45 years.

For our anniversary trip this year, my husband and I spent a few days in San Francisco. It was a lot of fun.

We purchased a CityPass  which gave us free fares on Muni buses and trains and the cable cars, as well as admission to several museums. We had upgraded to include the Alcatraz tour, which was interesting. Beside the old prison, the island is a nesting spot for a variety of birds to rear their chicks. We saw *a lot* of really cute seagull chicks.


We also visited the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

I have distinct memories of the CAS, particularly the alligator pool, the dioramas of taxidermied animals, the planetarium, and the pendulum.

What didn’t register at first — lo these many decades later — was that the museum we visited two weeks ago, was not the same museum of my childhood.

After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, both the CAS and the de Young were razed and rebuilt.

Here’s a picture of the CAS I grew up with.


Here’s what it looks like now.


The alligator pool, as I said, is still there. Though its only occupant currently is one albino alligator named Claude. (When I was a kid, there were at least three or four toothy critters languidly lounging down there.)

However, the renovation had saved the unique seahorse iron railing.


As part of our visit, we took in two of the three planetarium shows that day. (I love love LOVE planetarium shows. When I lived in Eugene, I took in a few at the WISTEC there.) (Apparently, it’s called “The Science Factory” now. Not sure what to make of that. Can you manufacture science? Sounds akin to an alternative fact.)

Anyway, it didn’t register on me until the host/emcee/scientist mentioned at the beginning of the second show that this was not the planetarium of old. It was bigger — larger dome, more seating — and was digitalthe old projector had been retired, as well as the silhouette of the San Francisco skyline.


I always thought that projector was the COOLEST thing. The way it would slowly rotate during the show and make it appear as though the stars were moving like they seem to do throughout the night.

Ah, memories…

And the de Young had been rebuilt, as well.

Here’s what it looked like in the 1960s ( I suppose).


The only memory I have of visiting the de Young when I was a kid was one time when there was an exhibit of Van Gogh paintings. I guess this was before museum administrators figured out the advantages of timed entry, because all I remember is waiting in what seemed like an interminably long line of people waiting to get in.

Here’s what it looks like now.


We also took BART over the the East Bay, to El Cerrito, the city of my childhood.

We disembarked at the El Cerrito Plaza and walked up Fairmount Avenue, toward my old grade school. At first, the street names were unfamiliar, but about halfway there, I saw some I recognized.

I suppose the main entrance to the school looks the same, though I don’t recall the curvilinear features. It seems, however, that the color is different. I don’t remember it being off-white, but rather some shade of forest green. But I might be wrong.


When I was a student there, we didn’t have a “mascot.” Somewhere along the way, they became the Harding “Tigers.” A wing has also been added to the west (to the right in the photo). Back in the day, when I was in 5th or 6th grade, some portables were placed there. I think one of them housed a small, embryonic library. Until then, there had been no school library.

We continued on up towards my old home at 411 Bonnie Drive.


In the past, I’ve seen interior photos on Zillow, though they’re not currently there. I think the kitchen has been remodeled, and the downstairs has probably been finished.

The color is different. I think it was sort of a light pink when we lived there. And there were two or three trees out front, on a little grassy strip that is now paved over. Birch or beech, I’m not sure. My dad planted them, I think, after he and my mom purchased the home in 1953. At some point after we moved, I think the city prohibited them for some reason.

And when we lived there, the mail was delivered through a slot in the front door. Now, there is a mailbox on the front porch.

After we left El Cerrito, we met up with my nephew and his girlfriend for brunch. Afterwards, they kindly drove us by my grandparents’ old house in Berkeley.


It looked much as I remembered.









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