Early Morning in Homestead


March, 2012

Eells Playhouse on 400 block of Montford c. 1911.

Eells Playhouse on 400 block of Montford c. 1911.
Click on the image to enlarge.

The Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” is about a screenwriter who is wandering around Paris at night and somehow is transported back to the Paris of the 1920s. He goes to a party and meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. Cole Porter is playing the piano. The screenwriter had slipped through a wrinkle in time.

Carl Nolte’s July 17, 2011 article in the SF Chronicle “Midnight in Paris of the West” described his being transported back to North Beach in the 1960s where he met beatnik era poets and writers.

I was recently transported back to the Homestead Valley of 1911. Starting my daily early morning walk at the end of Montford and heading down La Verne, I suddenly became aware that I was on a dirt road. Beyond the redwoods there were hardly any trees and very few houses. Then I saw gentleman farmer Alex Eels crossing the road. He told me that he had just received a shipment of pecan trees from Georgia and was going to plant them, but first he had to clean out the screen on the water tank up the hill. Down the road a bit, Agnes Phillips was sweeping the front porch of her new house. Her husband George had just left to catch the train. At Scott Street, I saw Florence Ezekiel on her way to her position as post mistress. At Hawthorne, I caught a glimpse of William Veale emerging from the outhouse. At the Bettencourt farm on Reed, the oldest son, was tethering a goat in the yard. In answer to my question he said that his baby sister Mary was doing just fine.

I went down Reed and stopped at the corner of Ethel to check out activity at the pound. There were three lost horses and a goat there. When a surrey passed by I recognized the Eells’ handy man who was driving Margaret and two of her friends to Summit School. I turned left on Miller just as an outbound train went by. Frogs were croaking in the marsh. In Doherty’s Lumber Yard at Evergreen, workers were loading a wagon with lumber. I went into The Brown Jug on the next corner and was surprised to see George Phillips and William Veale having a drink. George said, “Don’t tell Agnes.” They had missed their train, and had a half hour wait for the next one.

I turned up Richardson. At the Heckman house on the corner of Ethel, Herman was about to depart for his cabinet shop uptown. He told me that his oldest son was in the barn milking cows. Herman said that two cows were cheaper than buying milk for his eight kids. Down the street at the La Verne post office in Cooper’s store, I bumped into Florence Ezekiel, who was headed for Locust Station with a bag of mail for the train. She would also pick up the morning mail bag from Sausalito.

I turned up Evergreen. At Hawthorne, John Bone and Henry Morton were making plans to replace rotten planks in the wooden sidewalk. Henry told me that Doherty would deliver the lumber and John would come home from work on an early train. At Montford I saw kids entering the La Verne School. Then I saw Tony Perry returning from the 4 am milking at the Dias ranch. Almost at the end of Montford I entered the Three Groves estate. Lillian Ferguson was in the garden admiring her newly laid brick paths. Up on the road, Fred Stolte was headed down Montford on his bicycle to catch the train. When I crossed the road, I heard “Come quick, I can’t turn the garbage disposer off.” Back to reality.

If you have comments or questions about this article or other topics
pertaining to the history of Homestead Valley,
please feel free to e-mail Chuck Oldenburg.