By RAY ROBBINS
Special to the Tribune
When I was growing up in Martinez in the late 1940s, there wasn’t much air conditioning around, so in the dog days of summer we were always looking around for places to stay cool.
We would make excuses to visit the Union Ice Plant on Escobar Street across from the jail. They would let us stay awhile as long as we didn’t get in the way.
There was Claey’s Feed Store that took up the whole block between Foster and Buckley Streets. This is the block where Berrellesa Palms Apartments now resides. Claey’s building was huge and had a tin roof that reflected the sun. They had a railroad spur that entered the back of the building that used to deliver supplies. You can still see evidence of the tracks if you know where to look. There was plenty of ventilation and it was always cool inside.
He also sold rifles, guns, ammo, and other hunting equipment; it sort of became a hangout for the old timers.
Another tin roof building that was always cool was the Diamond Match Lumber Co. that occupied the block where the County Clerk-Recorders Office now resides.
There was an asphalt-paved customer’s pick-up drive-thru lane, which connected Escobar Street to Howard Street, and it always had a breeze.
Howard Street itself has a history of sorts. At that time, it ended at Pine Street and, years later when they extended it to merge with Escobar Street, they renamed it the more pleasant sounding Marina Vista Avenue.
If you didn’t like swimming in the bay at “Sandy Beach” northwest of town, you could always hike down the tracks to Crystal Pool in Walnut Creek, Mitchell Canyon in Concord, or Marsh Creek Lodge a few miles past Clayton.
You can imagine how elated we were when we heard they were going to build a swimming pool in our own back yard at Rankin Park. The only sad thing about it was the open field they were going to build on had a big quince tree, which we used to play jokes on the uniformed who didn’t know what a quince was. It was sort of like the forbidden fruit that was very tempting. It looked and smelled like a yellow apple, but when you bit into it and started chewing, it soon puckered up and dried out your mouth. Lots of laughs.
After the pool was completed they had a grand opening and the whole town seemed to be there. They had the regular politicians, and I heard the swimming movie star Esther Williams was also in attendance. I don’t remember her, but I do remember the radio personality “The Great Gildersleeve” being there. Seems my priorities weren’t right.
There are still a lot of us around that can say they watched the original pool being built and that thing of beauty they have now completed.