Sunday, August 15, 1982
Ernest D. Wichels
Reminiscences of olden days come to us in many ways, sometimes when we tape oral histories of senior citizens, sometimes in reading the files of early newspapers or the diaries of someone’s grandparents.
This time it was the razing of an old building at 422 Tennessee St. on Salvation Army property. This residence was built about 1900, not so old when compared to other homes on Georgia, York or Santa Clara streets: But it is old for Tennessee Street which, just 70 or 75 years ago, was a dirt street, dusty in summertime and almost impassably muddy in winter.
There were several unusual things about this old home. One was that it is almost entirely built of redwood lumber; second, when installing the window frames, the builders used many thicknesses of newspapers to help insulate against dust and moisture. Eighty-two-year-old newspapers are brittle and almost unreadable. Only the advertisements could be interpreted. So let us go back to 1900 through the claims of the advertisers.
The White Sulphur Springs Hotel, urging readers to come where “Health and Happiness” prevailed, invited every-one to taste its excellent dinners. Fifteen years later the name was changed to Blue Rock Springs and Vallejo ‘s Sulphur Springs Road became just plain Springs Road. Dr. James J. Hogan was one of the leading surgeons in town, and his home and office at 523 Sacramento St. later became the hostel and headquarters for the Salvation Army.
One of the leading clothiers in town was Dannenbaums’ at 313 Georgia St. in the Levee’s building. Miss Mary H. Smith had a stationery and school supplies store at 622 Marin St. Isaac Harris was the leading men’s tailor at 138 Georgia. The Bernard Hotel the building which housed Levee’s for half a century was advertising rooms by the month for $25. One of the department stores was advertising Chinese silk yard goods for $2.98 a yard, carriage parasols at $1.19 and white washable pique four-in-hand ties reduced-from 25 cents to 15 cents. That wouldn’t even pay the sales tax on a necktie today.
There were advertisements for grand vacations at Adams Springs or Bartlett Springs in Lake County, and Highland Springs in Sonoma County. Oldtimers well remember these luxurious resorts Bartlett with its three large hotels.
The popular after-hours spot on Georgia Street was MacLean’s Candy and Ice Cream Store. If the preceding items seem too old or too far fetched for our younger readers, we wonder how many re-member (or have forgotten) the balloon-filled skies over Vallejo in the years of World War II.
Within three days after Pearl Harbor, a balloon company arrived from Massachusetts, and for four years the sky over Mare Island was dotted with huge balloons secured by tethers.
The balloons were spaced between the Suisun Marsh (one was on the Golden Gate Duck Club, south of Cordelia), north to Highway 37, on San Pablo Bay (on platforms) and south to the Maritime Academy. Their heights, their risings and re-tractions and the alternating spaces between them were planned to confuse any enemy air raiders and prevent them from determining a pattern for these anti-aircraft devices. At least two balloons broke away, exploded and caused some damage.
One from the Washington Playground (Ohio and Napa Streets) finally landed on the PG&E power pole at 110 El Camino Real and exploded; the other literally blew apart several housing units in. Federal Terrace on upper Wilson Avenue. During this summer, with rising gasoline prices and the need to reduce vacation driving, why not visit some of the fascinating state historical or national landmarks?
In a casual inquiry among a dozen or so seasoned Napa and Solana residents we were surprised to learn that only a few (in some cases, none) had ever taken a delightful ride to Fort Ross State Historic Park and its museum or the long-established Muir Woods in Marin County or Point Reyes, or the historic circle through Monterey beginning at the Custom tom House, .or even Mariano Vallejo’s home in Sonoma and his huge adobe near Petaluma, or the home of Lotta Crabtree in Nevada City, or Sutter’s Fort and Old Town in Sacramento with its railroad museum.
None had ever motored to the top of the state park on Mount Diablo a view without comparison in the Bay Area. On a clear (north wind) day Mount Shasta, the snow-crowned Sierra and the Farallons are easily seen.