Alameda in History: Memories of Bay Farm Island

Alameda in History: Memories of Bay Farm Island

Dave LeMoine

Bay Farm Island native Dave LeMoine was inspired by history columnist Mike Lano's August 29 piece on the first families of Bay Farm Island to offer his own story to The Alamedan. Here is LeMoine's personal history, which details his youth on the Island.

Hi, Mike! My name is Dave LeMoine. Thank you for taking up the cause of Bay Farm Island. There are great stories that need to be told. For my part, my history starts on Schiller Street, then moves to the Island in 1947, onto Marina Drive and finally, Thompson Avenue (Christmas Tree Lane).

I am now retired from the Alameda Fire Department and living in Redding, but always return to my home, Bay Farm Island. I delivered many a Times-Star and Tribune to the farmhouse in your picture. I hated the winter nights with that bay headwind blowing, long dirt road bike trips for just a few farmhouses. But now the memories are great. I believe I attended school with Robert Cummings. Say “hi” for me.

The perspective of the farmers is one look at Bay Farm. But the 15 to 20 kids who migrated in and combed every square inch of our Island saw this land with a different set of eyes.

Here’s their story.

I was born in 1941. My family moved to Bay Farm Island in 1946, the second Alameda fire family to arrive; only Frank Lufkin preceded us. The Lufkin family lived on Garden Road. The Beach Road group of firemen came next. My dad and mom bought the lot at 255 Beach Road and, with the help of dad's fire buddies, cleared a plot of land next to Godfrey Park.

Dad built a small, 800-square-foot dwelling, and after he died, in 1949, Russ Smith, Ben Eardahl and some of the other fire guys added two bedrooms, a bath and a garage to make things easier for our family. Our fire family was the first of 12 on Beach Road, followed by Red French, Tex Evans, Jimmy Smith, Brad Nichols, Ben Eardahl, and Russ Smith. Then came Bob DeSell; Bill Simon, across from the park; and further down, Archie Waterbury; Noel Van Derhagen; and Clark Magby.

Most of those small houses were partially built with scrounged lumber removed from military barracks torn down after World War II. As a 7-year-old, I spent my free time at the Godfrey Park sandbox, or watching the firemen help each other in home construction. I later followed my dad into the Alameda Fire Department, and had a great, 25-year career serving our city. The chief who hired me was Ernie Servente. I can still remember him crawling out from under our house, as his part in our construction was the plumbing.

Beach Road was gravel when I was a kid. The only paved road on all of Bay Farm Island was Maitland Drive. In those years, if you had any reason to go to the Main Island, you would cross a two-lane, center-pivot bridge that, in the winter, could be closed a couple of times a year for a super-high tide. Dropping off the bridge onto a two-lane road, you would see to your right a 15-foot-high gravel dike that extended all the way to the Olivera farm. The dike held back the bay water. The other side of this dike was the future location of Harbor Bay Isle (Your home, Mike!).

The dike was located in what is now the center divider of Island Drive. The other side had a concrete wall separating Island Drive from Alameda’s golf course. The year of 1947 also brought our fire department drill tower, the tallest structure on the East End of town. It’s still standing, though condemned, at the entrance to the golf course.

That wall brings back such memories!

At 17, after football practice, with no school bus to ride at that time of the night, I would walk from Thompson Field, down Park Street, and run to High Street over the bridge to the wall, climb and walk, or run, the wall past the tower. Much of the time I could travel from the bridge to Maitland Drive without seeing a car.

During the Korean War, there was a military artillery base and radar emplacement with bunkers at the corner of Maitland Drive and Island Drive, which dead-ended into farm fields. Making a right turn on a dirt road, along the mud flats – at low tide that filled with bay water, at high tide it is now part of Harbor Bay. Further down the dirt road stood a couple of old houses on pilings; the houses would have water under them at high tide.

The owner of one of the houses had accumulated old buoys, floats, and all kinds of water vehicles, from balsa wood rafts to landing barges. Past the houses, through a cable gate onto the Ratto farm and out to the end of the road was a great sandbar, turning left to eucalyptus trees and a duck blind on stilts over the water. Continuing left around the point, following the waterfront, you would pass a wonderful beach house with plate glass windows and a patio with, what looked to me like, Hawaiian outrigger canoes on either side.

Returning to this wonderful beach, you would turn right to a row of Liberty ships that had been sunk as a dike to protect the area between that point and Island Drive. The dike had failed sometime in the 1940s, and the land had gone back to the fish and ducks. Seemingly, only the farmers and Islanders, as we called ourselves, knew about and used this beach.

The farmers treated us well and allowed us to roam freely on their property. What fun! We called the ships “destroyers,” and climbed and explored all over them. The ships had rusted through in many places and were treacherous for the uninitiated. If you looked down through the rusted decks into the ship’s holds, you would see sharks, stingrays, and striped bass swimming in and out: a boy’s paradise.

Leaving that beach was a dirt, and then gravel, road, all the way to Melrose and Maitland Drive. Down Melrose, you would cross Beach Road and go directly into our driveway. Standing in the driveway, there was a clear, unobstructed view all the way to the Olivera farm at Maitland and Fitchburg. Again, down a dirt road toward the end of what is now Oleander and Magnolia stood the Oliveras' private beach. Only we Islanders were granted access.

Summers would find us at the private beach. The beach lay in a natural notch that collected mountains of driftwood from all over the bay. Piles and piles of timbers, logs, piling, planks, balsa wood, and Navy rafts no longer needed, probably from the Second World War, had been discarded or fallen off ships. They made great floats for swimming. We built rooms on the beach large enough to stand in, then covered them with the driftwood. No one passing by had any inkling there were secret rooms inside, just a giant pile of driftwood.

Behind Beach Road lay open fields all the way to the old Oakland Airport, more military bunkers, and a shooting range full of broken clay pigeons. To the west was the 18-hole golf course. Between our house and the course lay open fields of grass, two cattail-encircled ponds (now part of the newer 18-hole course), with a strange anomaly I still can’t explain: giant fissures in the ground. We called them the “cracks,” snaking all over the open areas, these cracks, some as deep as three feet, and three to four feet wide, were perfect to build forts.

Over the years, we dug connector channels, tying crack to crack, so that we could move without being seen from the surface over many acres. At intervals, we would cover a part of a crack with plywood, backfill with dirt and, “Voila!”: an underground room! With .22-caliber rifles slung over our shoulders, we roamed these fields, beaches, and farms stopping our conversations just long enough to watch a DC-3 or a TWA Convair (nicknamed Connies) four-engine airplane coming in for a landing. No kid could have had a better environment to grow up in.

We were seen as the poor kids, a little different, the other side of the dumps, in the farms. It was our secret, and very few of the Mainlanders, as we called the kids on the Main Island, knew of our paradise that lay just over the bridge. A hermit lived behind the dumps near the Oakland border close to the Raiders training facility. We would spend a great deal of time sneaking up on him, telling stories about how much he loved to eat children. If the truth were known, he just wanted to be left alone.

One summer (the year escapes me) arriving at Olivera’s beach, we saw a great dredge anchored maybe 200 yards out in the bay. As summer progressed, an island appeared and, off of this island, the water was deep enough to dive from the edge of the sand; there had never been deep water here before. We would swim out every afternoon after the dredge quit and run the island, which could be a little treacherous due to liquefaction. We could be running along, sink to our chests, and have to breaststroke to get out. Not too smart, but we lived.

After one of these long days of sinking in the mud, covered with that bay residue, I arrived home. Mom said, “You’re not coming in my house looking like that! Hose yourself off, remove your clothes in the garage, then you can enter.”

As I pulled off my wet, almost new, T-shirt, it tore apart in my hands. Thinking back now, we had been dipping in all sorts of chemical-laced sand from the bottom of the San Francisco Bay, accumulated over the centuries, and didn’t have a clue of the danger. There were probably heavy metals, and maybe a nuke or two; that might be why I am bald!

Over the years, that small island continued to grow and soon became a dike that extended from the end of Maitland around to San Leandro Marina. As the dike was completed, a set of pipes were installed through it near Maitland, to allow the water level inside the dike to maintain bay level. That meant that, on an outgoing tide, you had to keep your distance for fear of being sucked through the pipe to the bay side. On the incoming tide, great four-foot torrents of water would explode from the pipes.

We could stand above the superstructure of these pipes, dive into the waterfall, and be projected along the sandy bottom as far as we could hold our breath, sometimes feeling the sharks and bass rubbing up against us. At this time, we hadn’t a clue that we were swimming in what would become the new Oakland Airport. When the dike was finished, it was time to fill in the airport. The pipes were sealed at low tide and evaporation took over.

As the water dried up, the fish inside were trapped. Soon water was reduced to small ponds teeming with fish. People would congregate around these ponds to take home their limits. Eventually, we could reach down and grab the fish by the tail; the hardest part was transporting them home for dinner.

In the sand that had once been covered by bay water appeared the wreckage of aircraft that had fallen over the life of the old Oakland Airport. The skeletons of a couple of rusted World War II fighters, with guns still attached, were found … just another benefit for the Bay Farm Island boys.

Soon another dredge and fill project – Harbor Bay Isle – changed the face of Bay Farm Island forever. No more farms, no more destroyers, no more duck blinds, a new bridge, no more cracks, no more dumps or sloughs, no more private beaches. Open acres became tightly packed two-story houses, and progress came to my wonderful little Island.

In earlier days, we could walk from Maitland along the water’s edge, all the way around our Island to the bridge, in about three hours, while beachcombing, shooting our .22’s at bottles and debris as we walked, talked, and dreamed of our futures. This is just a snippet of my memories as a boy in paradise. The Island – the Ratto and Olivera farms, the close-knit families, and no locks or keys for our homes – was truly a sanctuary for a boy who had lost his dad at age 7, but was safe and secure in this simple spit of land called Bay Farm Island.

Comments

Submitted by marilyn pomeroy (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

What a wonderful story, thanks for sharing. I wish there was a map of bay farm in those days as some of it's features are hard to visualize and orient for us new-comers. We have only been in Alameda since 84 and I often wonder what it was like before all of the land fill.

Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thanks for the great story. The kids who live there today have it pretty dull in comparison. Safer and cleaner maybe but so boring.

Submitted by James A. Hudkins (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thanks, very interesting reading. I heard that the dike broke during he Depression of the 1930's and they couldn't fix it because of the economic conditions and then World War Two labor shortages. The ships being used as breakwater were from World War One or before. Liberty ships were from World War Two. I heard them described as destroyers and as sub chasers. One of them had a bow that extended out and a patch of white paint. It could have been part of the Great White Fleet of the Spanish American War era of the 1890's. Thanks.

Submitted by aaron (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

I loved this story from him. I am a Bayfarm kid as well and would love to get in contact with him to hear more history about the neighborhood. Let me know if there is a way to do that ... Ak47bfc@yahoo.com

Submitted by amy ratto (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing your story Dave, I had remembered some of what you recalled from my grandpa's stories of his experiences there as a child on the Ratto farm, but your story jogged my memory and it allowed me to remember so many more! Made my day!

Submitted by Jim Mackey (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing Dave. It brought back many memories for me too. As a young boy I rode my bike out there many times. I remember picking up the bullets, shell casings at the "machine guns". I got to climb on the destroyers several times too. I remember riding down Park St. about 1958, with a 20 ga. shotgun strapped to my handlebars, and Officer McDermott stopping and telling me out the window, "You be careful Jimmy!" hahaha. I'm 6 years behind you Dave, but I remember some great times at Bay Farm Island. You really jogged my memory too Dave. Thanks. AND it was wonderful working with you at the AFD.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thanks Dave. You brought so much to life. I moved to the island in the middle 50's and lived on Begonia Drive. Went to Lincoln and then AHS and was in Jim and Diane's class of '63. I remember exploring the farms and walking all over the island with Dick Lufkin and the Gannons. Wonderful place to live. Also remember the floods and staying home from school and the power outages. Wonderful memories. Paula Foster Rollins

Submitted by Michael McGregor (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Dave loved your story it is pretty much as I remembered it back then. You brought back a lot great memories of when we kids. Thank You

Submitted by Jean Cross Powers (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

I grew up on Maitland Drive and lived there from 1949 until I got married in 1970. The driving range was right behind our house. I remember the old wooden bridge until the existing bridge was built. They fish from it now. We took the school bus to school. Times sure have changed.

Submitted by Les Cabral (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Great story Dave, being born and raised here I to spent many a day out there, It will always be bay farm Island in my mind.

Submitted by Bree LeMoine (not verified) on Mon, Dec 8, 2014

Thank you Dad, for sharing some of your history of Bay Farm Island. You paint such an appealing picture of the place and the time that I find myself wishing I had experienced it. I love how much you appreciate your roots. And thank you for raising me in such a great place.

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Thanks for all the great comments. I hope I got it close to correct. It truly was paradise. I hope this stimulates more stories from all of you!
Thanks, Dan, for the correct spelling of names. I will correct.

Submitted by Fredi Hofmann Kapp (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Grew up in Alameda and bought a Casitas Townhouse in 1969, where my husband and I raised our 2 sons. My boys used to play with their friends out on the old Ratto farm and built forts in the Eucalyptus trees in the back of the farm.

Submitted by Dan Crandall (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Wow! Dave, I never lived in that area, I was raised in various parts of eastern Los Angeles. But your story was so full of details (names of people, streets, etc.) that I couldn't help almost seeing the place in my mind. Great story-telling here! I'm very glad you lived through all that muck you swam and waded in - thanks for sharing this!

Submitted by Jenna (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Dave,
I'm wondering if people ever saw sharks in the Bay? Just a weird random question.

Submitted by Harvey Coates (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Hi Dave! Thanks for sharing your story about BFI.Seems like only yesterday that we were doing the things that you mentioned. I grew up on Beach Rd also, across the Rd in the middele of the block. Moved there when I was two yrs old and lived there off and on (parents divorced) until I was 8 or 9.Graduated from Lincoln school in 1953 and AHS in June of "57". I married one of your classmates (sue lugenbeel) in 1959 and we bought the old house from my Mom & stepdad when they moved to Oakland in 1964. Believe it or not, but we are still here.
Well Dave, thanks for the memories and stop by if you ever get back in town. Harvey

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Hay Harvey, You should have been in my story, wow it's great to hear from you. Your still living in paradise. I will look you up in the future. We had fun!

Hay Jenna, yes there were sharks. Mostly sand sharks, sting rays, bass and perch.
On still days in the summer, if we entered the water quietly we could sometimes grab them. The small one only!

Fredi, I remember your town houses being built.

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Thank you
My Daughter your the best, you have raised the best Granddaughter

Submitted by Steve Puckett (not verified) on Tue, Dec 9, 2014

Great story Dave! Really enjoyed the glimpse into your past and life on Bay Farm Island. God bless.

Submitted by Lloyd Wendland (not verified) on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Wow! It was a long time ago when we played in the Oakland Park Dept. flag football league.How can I get in touch with you.Harvey has my email address.

Submitted by Kathi Balan (Cuoco) (not verified) on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Great story Dave.. Many many memories on BFI. Godfrey, Melrose Ave, Maitland Drive, visiting your parents on Beach Rd.. Very good stuff :)

Submitted by Mike Sanderson (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Dave, enjoyed your story. Your sharing paints word pictures that are amazing. I never saw that area until the late 1970s when I was tug boating on the bay and staying in a friend's spare room on Thompson Drive during my work week.

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

I guess it's time to give out my email. lemoine@charter.net, regarding my article in the subject line.

Hi Kathi those were great days. Hi Lloyd, I don't play football any more just dream.

Submitted by George Simmons (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

I too lived on BFI, at 163 Maitland Dr. with Jerry Johnson, Harvey Coates, Archie Waterberry. We spent many day's at Godfrey Park, and the "beach"
Thanks for the memories.

Submitted by Bob Gannon (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Wow been along time since I too told that story to my family and friends. Moved to BFI in 1956, 1007 Begonia Dr. the same year I met Jim LeMoine, Johnny Olivera and his cousin's Ray and Greg Silva, Craig Hoyer, Dan McDonald, Dennis Sandersere, Paul Oliver, Mickey Clark, our next door neighbors Nancey, Paul, and Jimmy Cox aka Rattos just to mention a few. Thanks Dave miss all of it.

Submitted by Jenna (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Dave, thank you so much for answering my question! My husband and I were discussing whether great whites are in the San Francisco Bay. I read about a shark attack in 1926, reported as off Bay Farm Island, in the area of the current Oakland airport. The report said there were fisheries in the area. A boy and his dog were attacked. My husband didn't believe it when I told him there was a shark attack. How large were the larger sharks that you saw? For the record I don't think the shark attack was a great white, since there are also seven gill sharks living in the Bay which can get to a hefty size and can be feisty.

Submitted by June Raimondi Ogden (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

Loved your article Dave. We move to 216 Maitland Dr. in 1960. Raised my two sons and a daughter on BFI. We are still on BFI (not HBI) but in a different area. Enjoy reading of all your adventures, the detailed description of the landscape at the time, and all the familiar names. It was a great time and place to be raised. Also enjoyed reading all of the comments. You are a good writer Dave keep it up.

Submitted by Frank George ak... (not verified) on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

I to moved on Camellia Dr in 1956, one street over from Bob Gannon.One thing about all sports at AHS and why they were so successful is beacuse of the "Bay Farm Island Boys" and some even played pro. My memories were hunting ducks and doves with Bob Gannon, Sandersere and the guys. The Blue Angels would perform so close you felt as though you could touch them. All your stories and more were greatly touching my heart. Thanks for the memories of what a wonderful "Tom Sawyer" childhood we all had.

Submitted by Dick Lufkin (not verified) on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

I was part of the early "Islanders" growing up with Dave and Jim "Jimmy", doing many of the things that Dave mention including flying kits at Godfrey Park interfering with the planes. It was a wonderful life. Thanks for the memories.

Submitted by Nick Annas (not verified) on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

Thanks for a great article Dave. Those times are long gone but, fortunately, are not forgotten. Can you imagine a 12 year old kid today riding his bike down Park St. while carrying a .22 cal rifle?

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

Jenna
The sharks we swam with were small, but I did see some six foot, spotted sharks caught. Not sure what they were but they had teeth! One day at a minus tide, crossing the bridge, we saw a cop with a rifle. A Coast Guard helicopter was overhead and we could see what looked like a shark, maybe 14' long. It left on the high tide and made me not want to fall when water skiing. There was a front page story about that time with a pic, of two men pulling a ten footer out onto the South Shore beach. Paul Barnich, a fisherman friend, has spotted Great Whites by the Golden Gate.

Submitted by Suzanne Cant Murray (not verified) on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

I too grew up in Alameda as did my Dad, Owen Cant, I went to Edison, Lincoln & AHS and was in Jim & Diane's class 1963. I loved reading your story and remember BFI well. I loved reading all the comments from people I grew up with and just saw at our 50th Class Reunion. Many a night, Rusty Malone would pick up me and Diane, in his Orange 49 Coup and we would spend many hours at your house. Those were great time and I remember them well. Thank you so much Dave for writing this article on Bay Farm Island. Loved it.

Submitted by Phoebe Moraes (not verified) on Sat, Dec 13, 2014

All I remember about Bay Farm Island is that ut was a place my father in 1950's forbade me to go....Olivera's Ranch was heard to have hosted some parties that I only wish I could have experienced! Not that I wasn't invited - many times -0 but oh boy that was when we did what our father's told us to do!
Phoebe

Submitted by David W LeMoine (not verified) on Sun, Dec 14, 2014

Thank you Suzanne
I remember you group well. I hope this article moves you all to write your stories.

Submitted by Raye thieman-pereira (not verified) on Sun, Dec 14, 2014

I so remember the "mud" of Bay Farm island. 'Punkin' and I rode our bikes over the old bridge to the horse barns that were under water (mostly mud) travel along the fence and climb on the roof. What a view of the bay and S F. One time we went with our waders and sloshed around the area. This was Island Dr then right in Mecartney. Lots,of good ole' memories. Thanks for a delightful read.

Submitted by Aaron DeCelle (not verified) on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

Wow! Great story. I remember the "dunes" before Harbor Bay was developed into all those condos! My friend Scott and I would play army out their!

I grew up at 276 Beach Road and yes...our house was built by the fire fighters! We were patching or insulating a wall and even found an old beer bottle tucked away in the wall!

I too delivered the Alameda Times Star, the fire station on island drive was on my route and the guys their were really good to me. They always told me to, "say hi to your grandfather for us."

I grew us and went to school with Jason. Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

Submitted by Nancy Ely (not verified) on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

I'm a 7th grade teacher at Bay Farm Middle School. A select group of my students and I are doing a research project on Bay Farm Island history. We are looking to do oral histories of long-time residents. We are also working with UC Berkeley Anthropologists to gather information from excavation reports about the shellmound digs of the early 20th c. We would especially welcome contacts from long-time Mound St residents! We will be presenting the results of our study at the Society of American Archaeology at their national conference in SF in April, 2015. Please contact me at nely@alameda.k12.ca.us if you are willing to help us with our research!

Submitted by Curt Brown (not verified) on Wed, Dec 17, 2014

Great story, I heard most of that from my dad and grandfather growing up. My grandfather lived at 10 Garden Rd. (Dean Brown) Also knew Carl McGregor Harvey Coates Rusty Dubbs Johnny Laramy. Lots of hunting stories Rabbits pheasant and of course ducks in the "pond" I just finished digitizing some film of Bay Farm that my grandfather took. Seems like a good place to share it. I wish it was better quality and more of it but it is what it is..... http://youtu.be/rFrDmjPc49w

Submitted by Paula Jacopetti Herr (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Hi Dave, you have stirred up so many beautiful memories of my childhood. I sure loved your dog Barkie, she was so much a part of Beach Road memories. We moved
to 274 Beach Road in 1955. Godfrey Park was also full of memories. I couldnt wait to help Marian put up the flag. Then there was Johnny the gardner. He was so nice and used to turn the park sprinklers on so we could run tbrough them. So many wonderful friends and families. You are an amazing writer and I want to thank you for taking the time to share
so many wonderful memories.

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Hi Nancy Ely
Love to help, I could come to your class, or help. I have and Indian bowl I dug up on Beach rd. Not sure how to get in touch with you please email me at. lemoine@charter.net.
Curt your film is just what I needed thank you so much.
Paula, I remember you, so good to hear from the real BFI kids.

Submitted by Ellen soares be... (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

The private beach on bay farm island that had all the great party.s was on the silva/soares property.

Submitted by Kathy Giusto Gh... (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Giovanni Ratto (my grandfather) was one of the eleven owners of the Ratto Farm. On Sunday afternoon, my Aunt Teresa would take Grandpa and me to the farm to feed the plow horses. My grandfather would talk to the horses in Italian and the horses always responded. As a little girl, I was surprised that the horses understood more of the Italian language than I.
My grandmothers were Mary Perata Giusto married to Giovanni Giusto and Marie (Lily) Perata Ratto married to Giovanni Ratto. Mary Perata grew up and lived in a house on BFI.

Submitted by David W. LeMoine (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Thanks Ellen
My memory is a little fuzzy at 73, I appreciate the help. I'm writing a book and will correct.

Submitted by Jerry Ghiselli (not verified) on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Dave: You did a wonderful job painting a picture of old BFI. Having grown up on Sterling Ave. my connection to the BFI boys was first through Roy Edwards and the Lincoln school stories and then through the park leagues.
In high school we spent many a summer day swimming at " The Cove" . Your description of how it was make was interesting.
I married Kathy Giusto who's grandfather was one of the 11 owners of the Ratto Farm.
Thank you for taking the time to document this experience..

Submitted by Bob Blanchard (not verified) on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

As a kids from the mainland I use to spend time out on the island crossing the wooden/steel bridge walking on the Ratto Farm eating radishes with Ron Perata, shooting birds around the sunken destroyers, walking on rock wall along Island drive throwing rocks at the birds with Bob Blomberg and Bill Anderson either on our way to or from the golf course. Visiting Island friends Larry Potter, Tommy Harchous and the Erdahl boys. It was another world out on BFI. Thanks for reminding me of those wonderful memories. Bob

Submitted by Andy Weber (not verified) on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

Awesome story Dave, thanks for sharing. As one who is also born and raised here near Franklin Park I have very similar memories. Mine however were on the main Island. I remember swinging from trees at the foot of Union St. next to the Hatch house and landing in the bay, walking along the old seawall from Grand St. to Hawthorn and the old Encinal Yacht Club at the pre southshore foot of Grand St. My siblings and I spent our summers at the navy base officers club swimming pool and what glorious years they were. Do you remember the old landing craft near Encinal High and the old WW2 wooden derelict simulated ships in San Leandro Bay ? I could go on for hours.So many great memories and what a change our city has undergone!

Submitted by Debbie Chelucci... (not verified) on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

Great Story Dave.

Submitted by Sue Soares Frankel (not verified) on Sat, Dec 20, 2014

My dad is a member of one of the original farming families (he was pictured in the last article) and really enjoyed reading your article. One thing he did mention concerned the ships. The ships, he said, were destroyers not liberty ships :) Its a small world because I work in Special Education and know and have worked with your daughter who is a wonderful teacher!

Submitted by David W LeMoine (not verified) on Sat, Dec 20, 2014

Andy Weber
I remember the WW2 wooden derelict ships sitting in the mud across the channel from Doolittle Dr. Over the years we watched them rot away. In my teen years we had small Hydro boats and would run up to them at high tide. Behind the ships I’m sure you remember, there were sloughs, or channels in the marshy areas, again at high tide, the main channel we called Sweet Pea, could be navigated at top speed We sometimes missed a turn and found the boats on the beach. Great fun.
Thank you Debbi! God bless you.

Submitted by Jo Del Reed Daves (not verified) on Sat, Dec 20, 2014

Hi Dave, I too lived on BFI, my dad built our house on property that was a big tomatoe patch at 1416 Seminary Ave. Always thought it was pretty silly to name a street as short as ours Avenue. There were only two houses on the actual street for years. Next door was the Wendling family. You may remember Dale and his sister Donna. Dale worked for the Encinal Market in high school and went on own it.
I remember the cracks well, Karen DeCelle and used to play with a homemade boat, term used loosely, and my dog, Rocky would always try to get in it too. Almost swamped us every time.

Memories of riding bikes, playing dodge ball at the park. Mrs. Lanes fenced in property with the tall eycalyptus trees across the street from us. The planes practicing taking off w/three engines instead go four and clipping the trees.

My dad had the green truck cranes in Alameda and would use them to help build our house and later to move our sailboat into the yard so we could do the finish work on it.

I had 3 siblings, Bob, Don and Helen. We all road the bus all through school. Oh my, I could go on for hours.

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