Charles Shere

Charles Shere

The house was big, a two-story cube (though actually broader and deeper than high), white, shiplap siding, with a good-sized front porch.  The entry walk led up one or two steps from the corner of the block -- the northwest corner of the intersection of Bancroft and McKinley.  There was lots of white alyssum growing beside the concrete path, and bushes -- snowdrops, I think; I don’t recall what else.

Once inside you were in an entry hall; dining room and kitchen to the left, staircase directly ahead, living room and parlor, I think, to the right.  That room, on the east side of the house (and looking out onto McKinley), was halved by twin pocket doors that always stood open.  There was a fireplace at the end of that room.

Upstairs were at least four bedrooms, maybe five, and the bathroom.  One bedroom was usually inhabited by my uncle Bob, who lay in bed with his leg in a sling, having broken it again riding his motorcycle through another (or the same) patch of gravel up in the Berkeley hills.  Another was my aunt Dorothy’s: she was only ten or twelve years older than me, and used to sunbathe on the flat roof of the porch.  She was quite a dish.

There was a back porch of some kind at the kitchen door, on the west back side of the house.  This is where the iceman brought the ice.  There was a detached garage on this same side, no doubt built after the house.  There was a very large bay tree with a hollow trunk at the northwest corner of that garage; I seem to recall its roots had lifted the corner of the garage a bit.  And I remember the old stables and barns at the backs of houses, where I used to snoop and hide, perhaps with other boys.

When my mother was living there, from 1923 until 1930 or so -- that is, during her teens -- the side yard extended all the way to Grant Street.  She remembered having a goat and goat-cart, and I think I remember there still being chickens.

Down Grant Street, or maybe it was Roosevelt, between Bancroft and Allston, on the east side of the street, there was a scientific apparatus factory; I used to cadge chipped Petri dishes and the like from their garbage.  Down Bancroft, at the corner of Sacramento where there’s now a retirement home, there was a huge vacant lot where we used to have grass-clod wars.  That was as far as I ever strayed in that direction.

I went to Washington School, diagonally across from the house, for kindergarten, starting in September 1940.  I took piano lessons in the basement of the church of the Nazarene, directly across Bancroft from my grandparents’ house; and got my haircuts in a little barber shop near it, and bought six-packs of Coca-Cola for my aunt Barbara, 25 cents for the six.  The grocer had a long stick with grabbers at the end to get things down from the top shelves, and you never helped yourself to anything, you told him what you wanted and he got it. 

                        -- Charles Shere provided this account to MSHHIG in 2004

Click here to go back to "Oral Histories" page.

Make a Free Website with Yola.