Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Coolidge Street

by

Shannon O'Donnell

Sometimes during a weathercast, I’ll add in a little mention of some of my favorite Bay Area spots. On a foggy San Francisco morning, you may have heard me tell you it was a “good day to warm up with a latte-in-a-bowl at the Boulange de Polk.” Or when the fog breaks, that you might want to head out to Tiburon and take in the view of the City from the deck at Sam’s. On a perfect spring day, the temperature may be just right for a stroll down Santa Cruz Avenue in my favorite charming little town of Los Gatos. And you’ve probably heard me refer to our mini-moon (we didn’t have time for a honeymoon after the wedding!) in Napa and my husband proposing over a bottle of red from Duckhorn Vineyards.

But once in awhile I’ll throw in a reference to something that may seem even more obscure… a little neighborhood in the East Bay called ‘Bishop Estates.’ As in, “with temps in the 90s, it will be a good day for a swim in the Bishop Estates pool.” (Huh? At that point you probably wonder, “what in the world is she talking about?”) That was the pool where I learned how to swim, and Bishop Estates is where I spent the first 6 or 7 years of my life.

We moved to the East Bay from the Midwest about a year after I was born. My Mom, wanting to escape her small-town-Wisconsin life for most of HER childhood, was THRILLED to move out to the big city of San Francisco. She soon found out that Concord was closer to Sacramento than San Francisco, but oh well, close enough! The subdivision we moved into was called ‘Bishop Estates,’ and all of the streets were named after U.S. Presidents. Our home was on ‘Coolidge Street.’ The homes had been built ten years earlier in the 1960s, but our home had some seriously hip 70s-era updates, such as thick shag carpeting in different colors in every room.

I have such great memories from that home. Catching tadpoles in the backyard pond and trying to sell them at our garage sale. My Mom teaching me to roller skate and twirl the baton on the backyard sport court. Having our birthday parties on the sprawling backyard deck. Teaching myself to blow gum bubbles by practicing endlessly in front of the mirror in the half-bath. My Dad bringing home our eventually-beloved English cocker spaniel, but my Mom, brother and I initially cowering in the corner in fear of the poor new, scared pup.

Here is a picture of my Mom, Dad, brother Shane and me in front of the fireplace in the living room. The year is probably 1979:


Even though I’ve been back in the Bay Area, and with NBC11, for almost seven years now, I’ve only ventured back to Coolidge Street to check out the old pad once or twice. But given the circumstances of the last year (as detailed a bit in previous blogs), I’ve been feeling nostalgic and have been yearning for a trip down memory lane. So a few Saturdays ago, I packed my two little boys in the car and headed out of the foggy City-by-the-Bay toward the sizzling suburb of Concord.

After an hour in the car and a few wrong turns, we arrived. The neighborhood hadn’t changed much in the last 30 years. The layout of the streets is exactly as I have it saved in my mind’s eye–a big rectangle around the outskirts, broken in the middle by several cul de sacs. We drove past the pool, where I somehow used to swim the butterfly for the B.E.S.T (the Bishop Estates Swim Team, then known as the BEST!). It looked a little shadier than I’d remembered it–I guess the trees have had time to grow.

Slowing some and approaching my old home on Coolidge, my heart beat a little faster when I saw a woman just pulling in to the driveway. Rolling down the window, I asked if she lived there, and when she said “yes,” I kind of nervously stammered that this “used to be my house as a little girl,” and something about my Dad “putting in that brick along the walkway back in the 70s.” To my delight, she said that she knew that and that she and her husband had bought the house from my parents 27 years ago!

We chatted for a bit and she invited me to come in and see it–what an absolute treat. Everything, save for the shag carpet, was exactly the way I remembered it. “That’s where we used to put our Christmas tree!” “Really? That’s where we always put it, too!” The pond was now filled up with landscaping (“too hard to maintain”, she said, and I don’t blame them), and the sport court was a bit cracked and faded, but I was happy to hear that her two children had spent their wonder years learning how to play badminton and rollerskating there, too. The many eucalyptus trees I’d remembered, more for their scent than anything, had been cut down. “I don’t know how your Mom did that with all the yard work, she must have been so busy”, she said. I suppose she was.

We spent almost an hour going through the house, and going through memories. I think someone was looking out for me by affording me that opportunity–had I not gotten a little lost on the way there, I would have definitely missed out on the wonderful personal tour of the structure that is the hallmark of my childhood.

Before leaving, we snapped a few photos. Here, almost 30 years later, I’m the Mommy in the picture, this time with my own two little ones. And the second photo–we’re in front of the portal to all of these memories. With my Dad’s brick walkway leading the way home.

Shannon O’Donnell
NBC11 WeatherPlus Meteorologist

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One Response to “Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Coolidge Street”

  1. Malia Says:

    Hi Shannon!!
    I read your blog about “Going home” to the house where you spent childhood..What a tear jerker..not in a bad way..
    That picture of you and your two boys is very sweet..
    We miss you up here in NWCN/KING 5 country..
    By the way,I read a couple days ago that REBECCA STEVENSON has left NWCN/KING5 and is heading to KIRO..FOR THE CHIEF MET Job!!!TOO COOL…
    Anyways..That picture of you and the boys is going to be a VERY special moment in time for you and the boys..

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