My parents came to Vallejo in 1930 and ran a hotel and restaurant named the Astor House in partnership with the Marenzi family. They were like grandparents to us. The Astor House was at 144 Virginia Street, at the corner of Santa Clara Street, right where we are now at JFK library. We served a meal for $.75 which was soup, salad, pasta, a meat dish of chicken, veal or beef, and dessert. The raviolis were handmade and were the best raviolis anywhere.
We lived at the Astor House and we all had jobs in the restaurant. I was a waitress, later a cashier and sometimes I cleaned the rooms. We weren’t allowed to cook so later when I got married I had to learn how to cook. We weren’t paid for our work; it was part of being a family. It was good training in responsibility and family values. We leaned to save. Redevelopment in the 1960s tore out this whole area so the Astor House is gone.
It was old when we were there in the 1930s.
I went to St. Vincent’s, three blocks up the hill so every day I went up and down the hill to and from school; down the hill for lunch and then back up the hill. During the war the army had men billeted at St. Vincent’s so that we went to school upstairs and the men were below us on the first floor.
For fun we played all sorts of games. We played red rover, jump rope and we played with dolls. We played a lot of imagining games. We used our imaginations, especially when we listened to mysteries and soap operas on the radio. We made our own amusements. My great love was reading. I was always checking books out of the Carnegie library. It was at Sacramento and Virginia streets and it was quite a place. In the basement they had stereopticons that we could pick up and use. We walked to City Park and we walked to Coughlin Hill to have picnic lunches.
Highway 40 was the main highway. It’s where Broadway is now. There was no freeway 80. There was a bridge over Georgia Street at the railroad tracks. It’s not there now. We went to the boardwalk at Santa Cruz and had snow cones and rode the carousel and the roller coaster.
The big highlight of the 1930s was the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. We thought it was really something and we went to it several times. We took the car ferry to San Francisco because there was the Carquinez Bridge but the Bay Bridge had not yet been built. The main highway was Highway 40, now Broadway Street. There were no freeways.
I remember when President Roosevelt came to speak at Mare Island in the 1930s and we were given time off from school to go see him go by in the motorcade.
It was a shock when we were in the war. I graduated from high school in 1943 and several in my class went right into the war. We lost several classmates in the war.
We had blackout curtains and we had rationing with rationing coupons. Soldiers were billeted all over town. Some soldiers were living at the Veterans Hall. I think the 211 from Massachusetts was here. Downtown was always busy. There were three shifts of workers at Mare Island so the stores were sometimes open late.
There were balloon barrages stationed at Bay Terrace near what’s now Wilson Way, near the causeway. These dirigibles were the big thing. I remember when the Hindenburg blew up back East.
We went to the roof of our hotel and watched the launching of ships at Mare Island.
It was a really, really big event; everyone was there.
Downtown had several theatres. They were the Strand, Valmar, Hanlon, Studio, Rio and the Senator which is now the Empress. It was 5 cents to get in. We had a candy store, Partrick’s, and you could get a scrapbag of candy for 5 cents. It was just great. Partrick’s later moved to Napa.
We went to dances in groups and afterwards we went to the Peter Pan, an ice cream parlor. The YMCA was on Sacramento Street and there were dances for the servicemen. We danced with them. A police officer named O’Leary patrolled the downtown.
From those times to now, I miss most the camaraderie of family. You went to people’s houses to play cards and that somewhat went out the window when TV came in.
We lived in the best of times. We were naïve about things, but as I said, we had food and clothes and life was simpler. Those were the good years.