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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Ten years ago today, Mom and I flew into San Francisco from a week of vacation in Iowa. We stayed with my aunt and uncle and spent a lot of time with my cousins. We'd never met the youngest ones and enjoyed getting to know them. We didn't know at the time that it would be eight years before we'd see some of them again.

On the night before we left, I wrote this about the small town we stayed in during that week:

June 11, 1992. It'll be hard to leave Greenfield behind tomorrow morning. This is a town where there are no strangers, and everyone waves and says hello to everyone else. It's a place where people can walk anywhere in town at any time, where a kid not much older than Ashley (6) can go out on the streets alone at night. It's a place where people watch out for each other and care (too much sometimes, maybe) about the lives of their neighbors. I hope I can take a little bit of Greenfield home to California with me.

I always thought I could live in a town like that. And now that I think about it, maybe I did. Santa Rosa was never that peaceful and friendly, even when I was growing up here forty-odd years ago. But I don't remember ever being afraid of riding my bike all over town or being out on the streets late at night.

Apparently Walt Disney felt the same way about my town. He chose Santa Rosa for location shooting of Pollyanna. The commentary on the DVD of the movie, by Hayley Mills and the director, David Swift, is full of warm memories of the town and its people. The company was here for a couple of weeks in the summer of 1959, when I was ten.

The Pollyanna bonus disc also includes several affectionate references to Santa Rosa, although the fictional town of Harrington is smaller and more close-knit. Of course, it's set in 1912, and most cities have grown up since then. As far as I know, nobody was rolling hoops down dirt roads or skinny-dipping at the old mill in 1959. Somewhere maybe, but not here.

My home town is a big city now, which is why I live in the country. I still consider myself a Santa Rosan, though, and I'd move back in a heartbeat, if only we could turn back the clock forty years or so. That's the trouble with nostalgia. It's a warm, fuzzy feeling, until you realize what you've lost. I know the advances have been worth it, but I can't help longing for one more trip to the simpler world I grew up in.


In 1959, Santa Rosa still had a courthouse on the town square. This is Greenfield, Iowa, in 1992.

In 1959, I went to my first Giants game, at Seals Stadium in San Francisco with my parents. That golden summer I listened to every game on my big transistor radio, my best friend and I sitting out on the stone fence in front of his house and hearing Russ and Lon describe the exploits of Willie Mays and the rookie sensation, Willie McCovey. Mays, McCovey and Russ Hodges are all in baseball's Hall of Fame now. Lon Simmons will be there some day, but he's still broadcasting Giants games.

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