Healdsburg General

I feel like I'm one of the few who both lives in Healdsburg and was born here. Of course, that's not really the case, this town has a long history of local families and generations of familial branches. It's just that this town is so different from the one that I grew up in, that it sometimes seems like even the inhabitants are new. The little green buildings in the middle of old residences are now in disrepair. The small loading dock where the ambulances unloaded their hurting cargo seems impossibly small. I remember visiting my mother here. We were building a deck around our above-group swimming pool when she tried to walk on deck that wasn't there yet. She fell a few across one of the deck supports which cause internal injuries. At the time, I don't think I knew this. I was just a frightened 9 year old.

In those days, Doctors still did house calls. My mother didn't go to the hospital immediately. the doctor came to see her. She was pale and in bed. After a night at home, she was admitted to the hospital. My brother's didn't get to see her, just me. My dad called me the worrier and knew that I was scared and worried about my mom. So, I got to visit. With no MRI or CAT scans, it was a wait and see approach to medicine and her body did fine with that. She recovered nicely, but that was the last time I set foot in the hospital. The next time I visited, it was my school.

But that wasn't my first visit either. The first visit was my birth. My parents wanted us to all be born in the same place and our family doctor, Dr. Thorton, was here in Healdsburg. For my two older brothers this mean a long car ride from Albany when the signs of labor came. But, when I was born, we were finally living in Healdsburg. In 1960, we lived on Twin Oaks way a few houses down from my paternal grandparents. Presumably, this made for a bit more leisurely trip from home to hospital.

When I was 5, my parents lied to me. From early on, I was known as the kid who always had his mouth open and drooled like crazy. Turns out tonsils and adenoids were a bit of a problem for me and by the time I was 5, it was clear that they needed to come out. So my parents told me that it wouldn't hurt and that I could have as much ice cream as i wanted. Seemed like a great adventure for me, so into the green hospital I went.

I remember fragments of this visit. I remember leaving our home on Coghlan and standing in the entry way in my pajamas. I remember the ether filled mask that they put over my mouth and nose. They told me to breathe deeply, but I tried to hold my breath because it smelled funny. That didn't work for long.

My parents tell me that when I woke up, I had a rough time. Almost immediately, the stitches came lose and a scary amount of blood issued forth. After another visit to the operating room, things progressed better. But ice cream? Well, ok, technically I could have as much as I wanted, but I didn't want any. And, well, it hurt a lot.

So, two visits as a patient and one as a visitor was all I had before they closed the hospital and opened a new one to the north. Then came the year that I was to enter Junior High. The old, beautiful Healdsburg Junior High classroom building was scheduled to be demolished the summer before my 7th grade year. The classic, two story concrete building was deemed an earthquake hazard and, in typical short-sighted view of the era, was to be replaced by a modern structure.

Two things about this event are worth noting. First, the old building wouldn't come down. It resisted the wrecking ball and even a large D-9's exterior attacks. Finally, they had to drive the bulldozers inside the gutted building and push the walls out from the inside. For an earthquake hazard, it did a remarkable job standing up to man's assaults.

Second, the new building was not classic, beautiful or modern. In a striking parallel to the demolition of the original Healdsburg City Hall, our leaders destroyed part of our history to create something that nobody treasures.

In those days, school didn't start until the prune picking was done. Unlike today when school schedules are negotiated with Teacher's unions and set in stone the previous year, we just started when we were ready. So, when the prunes were picked and the farmer kids ready to move on, we showed up at our new school. Only it was gone.

Without the main classroom building, our Junior High consisted of two rows of portable classrooms on the fields. But even that wasn't enough, so the school rented the recently vacated little green former "Healdsburg General" that was a couple of blocks to the west. They increased the time between periods just enough to allow kids to walk back and forth. First period in the gym, second in portable 3, and third period in room 1 at the hospital.

This is how I ended up taking 7th Grady history in the same room that I was born in. People say that I'm well grounded. I don't argue.