Remember Piedmont When

As a grammar school-aged child, you did not have to worry about distracted drivers – and the school principal actually sent students into the street to manage traffic. How quaint! This was 1954 and I was Captain of the Traffic Patrol for Havens School. I would go out in the street and raise my traffic sign and bring cars to a halt. My name is Fran Bishopric Wolfe and I have lived in Piedmont for three quarters of a century.

Front, center and pleased as Punch: Fran Bishopric Wolfe, Captain of the Havens Traffic Patrol (1954, F.B. Wolfe archive)

In that time, I have witnessed many things that have changed — and some that haven’t. I attended Havens School (the old, OLD Havens school designed by Albert Farr) as did our children (in the newer, old Havens school that was torn down in 2010). We walked to school every day — even though we lived in the Wildwood School District. This inconvenience was because my older sister had been naughty over at Wildwood, necessitating a transfer to Havens.  (Yes, children misbehaved back then too – though this incident wasn’t flagged on her college application). Some of my memories of Havens were being on the ‘boys’ softball team (way ahead of the times!) and being able to play many sports with my twin brother and his friends.  They always seemed to need a 9th for baseball and a 5th player for basketball.

Havens was followed by Piedmont Junior High and Piedmont High School where I penned respective columns called “The Jr. High Low Down” and “The High Low Down” for the original and only – back then! – Piedmont paper, “The Piedmonter.”  It was an attempt to keep everyone clued in as to what was going on in the lives of my classmates – a little like what this column hopes to do for those of us who grew up with typewriters but have finally given over to computers and cell phones.  My lady-reporter hero was Robin Orr, the social columnist for the Oakland Tribune (who later had a brief foray as Nancy Reagan’s press secretary). I was naïve enough to believe I was just as good a writer and had just as much information!

Piedmont High School (Piedmont Historical Society)

Back then: You could go to Piedmont High School even if you lived in Oakland which my mother did (Ashmount Avenue).  She graduated from Piedmont High School, as did I and our children.  Mom lived in Wildwood Gardens, where she raised us, until she passed at 101 years old.

Back then: In High School P.E. we had to play “Girl’s Basketball.” That meant you could only take three dribbles before you had to pass off the ball.  Any more than three and you would be whistled down! Those were pre-Title IX days.

Memorable teachers included Mrs. Reynolds, a very young teacher who taught Algebra, and for whom all the boys were gaga. Then there was Miss Drury in Jr. High, who scared the tar out of me and made us memorize “The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner.”  That trauma did not affect my memory, however — I can still repeat a few verses!  I had some of the same teachers as my mother.  Our kids had some of the same teachers I had.  Low turnover in the teaching staff happened back then too! (Happy to report, however, that none of my Mom’s teachers taught my children.)

The inviting stairs outside Hamby’s Market and The Sweet Shop, (Piedmont Historical Society)

Safeway Grand Opening (Piedmont Historical Society)

Many Piedmont landmarks have changed over the years. Where the BofA now lives, was Buzz Turman’s “Associated Gas” Station, the only place you went to filler’ up.  Mulberry’s was a Safeway Store back then, and across the street, in place of Wells Fargo, was Hamby’s Market and The Sweet Shop.

Both of those establishments were set high up off the street, with wide stairs that made for the perfect place to sit, meet friends and consume our goodies from the Sweet Shop. It was the place to hang out. Very few kids drove to school, but for special occasions, we would borrow our parents’ cars. (No texting – both hands on the wheel!) If you needed a pick up from your parents to get to a doctor’s appointment, the plan was always to meet at the “Blue Vase,” as we used to call the Exedra back then.

What a nice change to see The Exedra now also stands for this NEW news venture – STILL a place where we can meet. Now we can all channel our inner Robin Orr to share our Piedmont memories in! Ain’t progress grand?

4 thoughts on “Remember Piedmont When

  1. We lived in Piedmont from 1950-1956 at 44 Crocker. With five children spread over 11 years I had siblings in both Havens and Piedmont High. I have a photographic memory and could write a book on our time there. I used to frequent the sweet shop and had a crush on the girl who worked there. The booths were at the back where there was a Wurlitzer rainbow face jute box regularly used by the teenagers who hung out there. Safeway was next to the service station and Maude was one of the well known employees. Iwas a regular at the fire station and permitted to slide down the poll when Sandy the captain allowed. Sadly he was killed around that time whilst attending a local fire and was run over by a fire truck. Havens when I first went in kindergarten had the large building in the middle of the playground which contained offices, classrooms and cafeteria downstairs. I remember when it was knocked down and a modern building was completed to replace it which I believe has been replaced. My teachers were Miss Schell in Kindergarten, MrsAlexander first grade, Miss Wyatt second grade, Mrs Dunlop 3rd grade. School principal was Mr Brown. One incident that really stood out and has stayed with me was one day on the playground a boy was swinging a baseball bat near me and he struck Mike Muller in the head cracking his skull. We were all in shock as it was an awful scene. It was very serious for him but he did recover. I can still name most of my friends and families at that time and recall many more stories. I now live in Australia but part of me still lingers in Piedmont. Kind regards Butch (Loch) Ledford

Leave a Reply

The Exedra comments section is an essential part of the site. The goal of our comments policy is to help ensure it is a vibrant yet civil space. To participate, we ask that Exedra commenters please provide a first and last name. Please note that comments expressing congratulations or condolences may be published without full names. (View our full Comments Policy.)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *