Ah, S.B.’s Age of Innocence
A Reader Remembers Sweet Yesteryear
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
GOOD OLD DAYS? Even though I’m a ham-fisted non-techie, I find myself firmly wired into the 21st century. I replaced my typewriter with generations of PCs, I stream Netflix movies through the wireless air to a flat-screen TV, and I just got a phone that’s smarter than I am. Use it to take and send photos far and wide. We’ve obviously gone about as far as we can go, right?
Joan “J.P.” Wilson Kirkpatrick, however, who blazed quite a trail of fun-filled days in her youth here, recalls a more genteel time in America. “We now live in Grants Pass, Oregon. Most folks here are very friendly, and businesses go out of their way with customer appreciation and service. Most men open doors for women, and people actually apologize if they bump into you. Grants Pass reminds me of years past in Santa Barbara, when neighbors got to know and watch out for each other, gave friendly greetings, had courteous driving manners, and had a greater sense of consideration and civility toward others.”
J.P., I know life has lost much of its civility, but there are still large pockets of friendship in Santa Barbara. Sue and I have wonderful neighbors on either side here in family-friendly San Roque, and we treasure our pals at the coffee shop. We started as strangers slurping brew but now gather to celebrate fellow java junkies’ babies and attend their funerals.
J.P. goes on to say of her early life in not-so-long-ago, age-of-innocence Santa Barbara: “My dad would leave the keys in the car, our home was unlocked, and we were able to walk safely up to McConnell’s Ice Cream store at State and Mission Streets.” After school, “A few of us would stop by Peterson’s [drive-in] on our way home. Mr. Peterson would give us each a free ice cream cone or French fries. My mom wondered for a while why I had no dinner appetite. When she found out, she asked Mr. Peterson not to feed me. Much to my delight, he did not heed her words.
“Another memory I have of those days at La Cumbre Junior High was when we three gal cheerleaders and the three guy yell leaders (1959) performed pep rallies in the auditorium. On one occasion, they asked that I use the rather large wooden megaphone to lead the cheers.
“I weighed about 85 pounds. As we jumped, yelled, and shook our pom-poms onstage to instill school spirit to the students, I was handed the megaphone. I struggled to lift it, tilted back my head, and immediately fell on my back from the weight. I think that thing weighed about half my weight.
“The auditorium erupted in laughter. The most heartwarming part is that I am still friends with a lot of my childhood buddies. We still get together and share laughs. And secret memories we can never tell to others.” My column, she said, “brought back many fond memories of cruising State Street via De la Guerra Plaza up to the Blue Onion [now IHOP]. We girls would back my dad’s ’52 Buick Dynaflow into a strategic spot so we could catch the eye of a carful of cute guys. We had car hops in those oh-so-innocent days. That was in the early ’60s, when we could walk safely from Santa Barbara High up to the Woolworth store to get our picture taken in the booth in front and flirt shamelessly at the soda fountain counter.”
Back then, downtown had not just one but three all-purpose dime stores: Woolworth’s, Kresge, and Newberry’s, with creaking wood floors and a jumble of goods. You could park free at the beach and the airport. In that unenlightened era, men dominated the City Council, before the era of mayors Sheila Lodge, Harriet Miller, Marty Blum, and the present Helene (happy 40th!) Schneider.
“Back then the Eastside and Westside gangs were relatively mild compared to today. Heck, I remember as a cheerleader at La Cumbre Junior High School when a gang member who was trying to ‘get her wings’ attacked me from behind while I was walking home. She leaped on my back, wrapped her legs around my waist, and with one arm around my neck proceeded to punch my face. Well, we ‘rumbled’ and I held my own. We became friends after that up until the sad day she passed away a few years back.
“Yes, there are still some pockets of my beloved Santa Barbara that do remind me of the good old days. San Roque remains a special part of my heart, and is one of the few places left in S.B. that is still the same — except for the exorbitant home prices.” (But lower than they were three years ago.)
CANDY COMPANY: Nostalgia may not be what it used to be, as the joke goes, but it ain’t dead. Sarah and Donald Jaimes have opened Kingston’s Candy Co., 3415 State Street, featuring an array of candy bars, soft drinks, and other goodies and novelties from sweet yesteryear.