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Cup and Saucer

If only the earth could talk. Many parcels of land in Napa County have an interesting history. It might surprise some to learn that their home is built on or near property that was once a favorite necking site. A few of my readers might look at their little piece of heaven in a new light and imagine its deep secrets.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, high school teenagers knew the darkest and most remote places in Napa County for parking. Now many graduates are Napa leaders and hold public office or are well-known citizens. Here are their stories of their adventures and favorite parking places. (Their identities have been loosely disguised.)

One female friend said I was “sending her down memory lane but that it was not a bad thing.” She remembered a school parking lot but it was not Mt. George School. She thought for a moment and decided perhaps it was a school on the north side of town. All she was definite about was that it was very dark. Wide turnouts on Redwood Road and Mt. Veeder were good too. There wasn’t much traffic day or night at either place. She added that anticipation was probably part of the fun.

“Pretty much all the country roads were good,” a male, elected official casually told me. Soda Canyon, Wild Horse Valley Road, Redwood Road, Dry Creek, Atlas Peak were his choices. His favorite spot was the Mormon Church parking lot on Montecito Boulevard. With a wide grin and sparkling eyes, he exclaimed, “No one was ever there!”

Another popular male thought Cuttings Wharf Road was the best place to park even if it was a bit of a drive. “There were not many homes, mainly little empty cottages and no street lights. It was a dark area but the moon reflected off the Napa River. The view was the selling point.”

Some Napa girls preferred to play it smart with no surprises. A popular couple we know usually went to the drive-in movie on Foster Road. You paid your money, you parked your car, it was safe, and no one bothered you. I guess that is why drive-ins were called passion pits.

On slow nights, Napa police officers would check out the usual spots. The end of Stanly Lane and Riverside Drive were well known places before new homes were built. Kennedy Park as well as Napa Valley College grounds were full of dark nooks and crannies. The police occasionally found young lovers by accident but there were specific places they routinely checked. Back then, police officers usually told the young kids to go home and never told their parents. Everyone knew everyone else in those days.

A current elected official met his girlfriend while he was at Napa College and she was a senior at Napa High. He confessed it was the first time he parked with a girl. It must have been love at first sight as they later married.

The “Top of the World” high up on Oakville Grade was a favorite, he told me. It was a large flat dirt pull-out with a beautiful view of the evening lights of Napa Valley. It was quiet and dark with no traffic.

“Stone Dam” off of Redwood Road near Mont La Salle was another frequent spot. The dam is located in Redwood Creek, which runs alongside the road. It no longer holds water but has a wide pull-off area. Families are known to visit for picnics. But years ago, picnics were not on this man’s mind.

This popular elected official was a wonderful source on parking spots as he also mentioned sites on the east side of Napa. Alta Heights is right in town so many parked there. The area had not been fully developed so Maxwell and Sproul streets were dead ends, which were perfect places for parking. Montecito Boulevard’s “Cup and Saucer”, a large rock formation, was another top hot spot for romance. “My girlfriend loved that view of the city lights.”

Another well-known elected male, who sometimes calls himself “Reginald,” gave me a great story and a sneaky good idea. In his youth, there was a wrecking yard on McKinstry Street behind Gott’s. Junky cars were piled up behind a wire fence and many were parked out on the street. Reggie had an older car that easily blended in among them. It was fool-proof and the cops never got wise.

This is a cute story about a local couple. They had been married for eight years, and both are practicing attorneys with a baby at home. Never having had any privacy since her birth, they decided to go park at their old favorite spot. Guess who came on the scene? A police officer who told them to go home. It was the first time they got caught. Still they were happy the officer did not call their parents to tattle on them. Even at their age and still parking? Good for them.

Sometimes parking late at night can lead to troubles. The following stories are examples of “what can go wrong” when parking.

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A long time ago, Philip and I had a startling experience with a young couple that we suspected had been parking at the end of Montecito Boulevard. For 30 years we lived on Montecito at a tight curve on the back side of the hill. One morning about 2 a.m., we were wakened by heavy pounding on our front door. We turned on our flood lights and found a young man on our front patio. He must have been speeding around the corner, went through the white city guardrail, knocked down a tree and almost landed on our flagstone patio. He asked my husband to call a tow truck. My husband said, “No, I will call the police.” His parents’ insurance paid for the repairs to our yard and tree and the city’s guardrail.

Another local male is the founder of a popular family restaurant that has been here for years. In those early days, young people parked on their own family properties too. Parking was easy and safe in your own vineyards, cattle ranches, prune orchards or just large parcels, which have now been developed into subdivisions.

One late evening, he parked some distance from his date’s home on property that belonged to her family. It had been raining all day and a huge storm had rolled into Napa that evening. He finally put the car into gear to drive the half mile back up to her house. The car would not move. The wheels kept spinning and it was getting deeper into the mud.

Finally he knew he was in real trouble. He had no choice at this late hour, so he walked in the rain to her parents’ home. He knocked on the door and her mother answered. He asked for help. She said, “No problem, I will come out and help you push the car.” She was a strong woman and didn’t mind the storm. I guess it worked out, as he married the daughter years later.

Two other well know locals had a wild evening, which started in a Vallejo dirt parking lot. Yes, it was another dark and stormy night with lots of rain and his car got stuck in the mud. The young lady had her foot on the gas pedal as her date tried to push the car out of the mud. The wheels spun and mud flew everywhere. It mainly splattered all over her date’s new clothes. He was a “dandy” and was not happy at all.

They finally got the car out and silently drove back to Napa. It continued to rain as they were crossing the Maxwell Bridge. Suddenly a tire blew out and the hubcap flew over the bridge railing. With rain pouring down, he had to walk to the end of the bridge and go down to the river bank to retrieve it. Then he came back up, soaking wet and still muddy, to change the tire. His date arrived home well past her curfew and her dad grounded her at the door. She still teases her date with good humor at their Napa High reunions. But they both married others.

Partrick Road is a well known parking spot. And many Napa high school students know the history of the Partrick Cemetery and the Rebobs that are said to live in the woods. The Rebobs are scary flying monkeys. It is a long, curvy road west from Browns Valley, which is dark and spooky. Some women told me they refused to go up there with their boyfriends and no amount of sweet talk could change their minds.

Have you thought of taking your Valentine out to search for your old parking places to recapture your youth? If you do, be sure to keep your eyes open and be aware of the neighbors, the flying Rebobs, the police, the rain, the mud puddles, dead batteries and don’t have a flat tire. But have a happy Valentine’s evening anyway.

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