On the way back, I passed by the fairgrounds, which acquired more land in the 1970's. Many old neighborhoods were torn down and removed to make way for the expanded fairgrounds. One parcel of land covers a few acres. It's basically an empty field, but it's been used for rodeos, flea markets, and other activities since the 70's. On that very field a vibrant old neighborhood once existed, and as I looked through the chain-link fence, I spotted a certain area in that field. A house once stood there, it was my grandparents house.
As I stood there, a thousand wistful memories washed over me, all of the Thanksgivings, Easters, and a few Christmases, and countless summer visits to their house. There was a huge avocado tree in the back yard that my grandpa nurtured from a seedling. And the house itself, it was an old California Bungalow design, which seemed to have room for everybody. It was like a magical place, full of fun memories, when all of our relatives would gather for fantastic turkey dinners during holidays. We would always drive down from San Jose the night before Thanksgiving and arrive there around 9 or 10 PM, but they would be waiting for us, and my grandma always had something in her 'magic refrigerator' as cousin Mike called it, which had plenty of everything, no matter how many people showed up. Usually my cousins would already be there, or would soon arrive. Us kids would sleep on the living room floor in our sleeping bags, and the next morning we'd watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I still have a memory of my cousin Joanne saying "look you guys!" and seeing a huge parade float on the TV. I was astonished, since I was only about 3 at the time! To this day, the Thanksgiving parade resonates through me as that memory is etched in my mind from all those years ago.
My mom grew up in that house, along with her sister and two brothers. Luckily, they weren't affected by the Great Depression too much, since my grandpa had a good job as the head mechanic at the Ford garage. They were even able to take in relatives for long periods of time. It seems that everyone lived or stayed there at one time or another. My mom's brothers were both older, so they enlisted during the war and moved out, so just she and her sister remained and grew up there in the 40's and into the 50's. And they always returned 'home' for visits after moving to San Jose. In the 60's after my grandpa retired, he still worked on cars for friends and neighbors, I still remember one or two vehicles always parked in the back completely taken apart. When he was done for the day, he'd sit on the back porch and have a beer, with a wink he'd say, "go get grandpa a sodee!"
It was Thanksgiving of 1969 that we all gathered there once again, but my grandpa was feeling ill, with a constant cough. By Christmas he'd been diagnosed with cancer, and sadly he died soon after that. My grandma stayed there in the house by herself for awhile, but came up to live with us in San Jose, and the house stood vacant. It was sad to go there and see it so empty. Soon after, the County Redevelopment Agency began buying up the properties to make way for the expanding fairgrounds, and after some haggling, they settled on a price and the house went to the county, which proceeded to raize the entire neighborhood.
So I stood there and thought back to those days, to that house full of life, and memories...the happy destination for so many family members, for so many years...now just an empty field...but a house once stood here, and the memories remain.