When my mother, Carol, was a young girl, she would
take the bus down the Alameda. On that ride she would pass by this old
Victorian mansion at 1855 and would dream of someday living there. The
move in 1948 was into that lovely old-fashioned home. I came to love the
old Victorian. It was built around 1888 of redwood from the Santa Cruz
Mountains. The elaborate house was made for James H. Henry, owner of the
electric streetcar line in San Jose. The sand stone griffins were on each
side of the fireplace chimney outside of my bedroom. I thought they would
always protect me. The house inspired author Elizabeth Finnegan to write
a book called The Secret of the Stone Griffins.
In the ‘50s, it was still an affluent neighborhood,
full of wealthy families. Next door lived Dr. Pace (Later, Mayor of San
Jose), two doors down was the Normandin’s (Chrysler-Plymouth), around the
corner was the Kerley’s (Lincoln-Mercury), and many other well to do families.
My family went shopping at the Goodwill for clothes and toys. We rented
out rooms in the huge house. One suite of rooms, living/bedroom, kitchen
and bath, was rented out to an older, one legged, woman named Sally. Usually
there were three to five other bedrooms rented out. There were two telephones
in the house. Both were large pay phones, like in a booth, were we would
pay a dime each time to call someone. Each week, I would strip the beds,
help launder sheets and then remake the beds. All the kids would help clean
house because our mother worked as a cook outside the home. My brothers
had to vacuum, dust, and take turns washing dishes and setting the table.
Throughout our mother’s life, she never cared to do much housework. The
whole house was filled with antiques. I grew up to love and collect antiques.
I have always hated dusting and now I hardly ever do it.
Growing up in the 1950s, with my two brothers
and half sister, was a free spirited wonderful time. In the summers, I
would run out first thing in the morning to wherever to play and not return
until dinnertime. I would usually always go to someone else’s house for
lunch. I had two special girl friends, Eileen Gallagher and Mario Pace,
both daughters of doctors. Since I was quite a tomboy, I played with my
brothers and their friends a lot. As a young girl, I didn’t mind if I was
alone to play. I would use my imagination to keep myself occupied. I would
love to follow my dad around and learn how to be a handyman. I enjoyed
helping in his work shop and garden even more than my brothers did. I also
delighted in helping with building a two room addition on the house and
climbing the scaffold that my dad built to paint the three and a half story
home. It wasn’t really in fashion yet, but he painted the Victorian in
maroon, pink, and white. At that time, I was horrified.