Childhood memories of Mitchell Park
Original post made by Greg Betts on Feb 12, 2007
- Greg Betts
Open Space & Parks Division Manager
City of Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:32 am
Andrew L. Freedman is a registered user.
Okay Greg (fellow Wilbur Warrior),
Here's one of my memories, or maybe I should say it was my dad's and mother's memory (you'll see):
It was 1959 or shortly after the park opened, I was about 3 1/2 years old and my dad took my older brother, Dean (one year older) and I to Mitchell Park, which was just about a mile from our home on Wellsbury Way.
According to my parents, everyone had a great time, first playing near the big bears, crawling through the tunnels in the sand area and then finally wading in the children's wading pool.
Everyone was ready to leave - except for me. My dad asked me to come out of the wading pool and I refused. The more he demanded, the further out I walked in the pool. I refused to come out. Finally, my dad had to roll up his pant legs and come in after me. They told me I was screaming and being evasive, but they finally got me out. I don't remember any of it.
on Feb 12, 2007 at 4:09 pm
I went to Wilbur Jr. High from 1959 to 1962. Mitchell Park was where the greasers hung out before school smoking cigarettes, defacing the restrooms and bending the bench backs to the ground. About once a month the Park & Rec guys would call the police.
The police would storm the park in their cars and drive down the gravel paths. It was always fun to watch the greasers running and wheezing to school. It was probably the most exercise they ever got.
on Feb 13, 2007 at 1:49 pm
Andrew L. Freedman is a registered user.
Okay, I wrote the tame memory ealier. Here are some other memories of Mitchell Park which, hopefully some of you folks will recall, too:
I began 7th grade at Wilbur in 1969. There were still some empty lots and new streets in Palo Alto. On weekends, I collect scrap pieces of wood, the ends of 2 x 4s, usually 4 7 inches long. These were perfect for burning in the barbeques at Mitchell Park. The cigarette smokers would arrive at about 7:15am and we'd light a small fire in the barbeques to keep warm during the colder winter mornings.
This was the time for the smokers to socialize. What was neat was that everyone, 7th 9th graders, all got along. With our long hair, bell bottoms, Levi Jackets, cigarettes, we thought we were pretty much all grown up. At least that's how we saw ourselves.
As a rule, if you were on the east side of the path which was Mitchell Park across from Wilbur's boundary, it was okay to smoke. If you were on the Wilbur side, you'd get suspended no questions about it What a difference 4 feet makes, huh?
Like clockwork, at 7:30am, Wilbur's Vice Principal, Mr. Leon (or "Skinhead" as we affectionately called him), would ride by on his bicycle. Looking back, it seems a little weird. I mean, he was the authority but as long as we stayed on the Mitchell Park side, it was okay to smoke. In fact, as he road by us all, we were all very cordial and would exchange good morning greetings
That same year, there was The Big Bust on the Hill at Mitchell Park, as it was later called. Palo Alto Police, using Narc's on Bikes (and it happened to my friends and I at Hoover Park), made a huge bust of "pot smokers" at Mitchell Park after school. If I recall, almost 20 students were rounded up and taken to Juvenile Hall. I'm not sure of all the details about it, though.
Okay, so remember the boundary? Wilbur, the path, and Mitchell Park. One lunch period, instead of walking to the other side of the path, two 8th graders climbed up a tree to have their lunch smoke. Coach Cavanaugh saw them, ran out to the field, went over to the tree, and then, by their feet, yanked them down. Both of the students came tumbling hard to the ground.
All of us on the Mitchell Park side witnessed this and began shouting, "Hey man! That's brutality, man." The coach said, "Oh yeah! Well, these guys are going to the office, anyone else want to come?" He took them by the arms and all of us began to follow. We built up momentum on the way, telling everyone what had happened and by the time we got to the administration offices, there were at least 50 of us. We all began milling around shouting "Brutality" and had an unplanned "sit-in" right in front of the offices.
Mr. Leon came out but we weren't satisfied with him so we were shouting, "Get Koolan (sp?) out here!" Mr. Koolan was the principal, but Mr. Leon had much more visibility.
By the time Mr. Koolan came out, the bell had rung but we hadn't moved. Our demands were that the two students come out from the office and suffer no suspension. Seeing that we were not going to return to class, they relented.
Finally, Mr. Leon came out, said he wanted to talk to us so we went to the bleachers area. He acknowledged that the manner in which the kids were yanked out of the tree was inappropriate and they would not be in trouble. He said if we returned to class, no one else would be in trouble, either.
I think we all felt a sense of accomplishment. We knew the students shouldn't have been smoking in the field at Wilbur but we also knew that the coach didn't have a right to manhandle the students, ether.
Just one other thing at brunched, they'd sell sliced Sourdough French bread dripping with REAL BUTTER for a dime a slice.