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I can’t believe it!

Including this offering, over the past eight years, the Register has published 200 of my biweekly columns about the old, old days in my hometown of Napa.

In celebration of the 200 milestone, I decided to do some “Do You Remember When …” questions about people, places and things in and about our town.

If you can remember some of these, you have lived in Napa for a while. If you remember most of them, you have been in Napa a long time. If you remember all of them, you are, to quote an old maxim, older than dirt.

Do you remember when:

  • Charlie Moffitt, Joe Greco and Owen Seavey were mayors of Napa? While the names of these dedicated individuals and former mayors from the 1940s and 1950s are not household names today, I remember them well because I went to Napa High with their offspring. Marilyn Moffitt, daughter of Charlie, was in the Class of 1946, Margaret Greco, daughter of Joe, was in the class of 1947, and Craig Seavey, son of Owen, was in my class of 1948.
  • The Napa River went over its banks once again to begin the disastrous flood of 1986? This event caused many millions of dollars in damage and a loss of several lives. It was the catalyst for the rebirth of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project from the past that became the Napa River Flood Control Project of today.
  • The streets in downtown Napa had two-way traffic, before they were changed to one-way traffic, before they were again changed to two-way traffic? During the urban renewal process in the 1960s, portions of First, Second, Third and Fourth Streets were changed from two-way to one-way traffic. The streets remained that way until a few months ago when, except for a few blocks, they were changed once again to two-way.
  • There was only one public high school in Napa? Until 1972, when Vintage High opened, Napa High was the only public high school in town. Can you believe that was 43 years ago?
  • The only bridges across the Napa River were on Trancas, First and Third Streets? The original Maxwell drawbridge on Imola Avenue was completed in 1949, the Lincoln Avenue Bridge was completed (probably) in the 1950s, the Highway 29 Southern Crossing bridge in the 1970s and the Soscol Avenue bridge in the 1990s. The First Street, Third Street, Maxwell and Soscol bridges have all been replaced as part of t
  • he ongoing Flood Control Project.
  • The Westwood subdivision was built and occupied? My uncle bought one of the first new homes in the new Westwood subdivision in 1942, right after the U.S. entered World War II. The project was completely built-out and occupied by 1944.
  • Highway 29 ran through downtown Napa? Until the Highway 29 bypass (the freeway) was completed in the early 1950s, Highway 29 from the south went north along Soscol to Third Street, west along Third to Jefferson, north along Jefferson to Trancas and west along Trancas to St. Helena Highway and then north up the valley.
  • North Jefferson Street ended at Trancas? Jefferson Street dead-ended at Trancas until construction on the Bel Air subdivision began in the 1950s. It was then extended to Trower Avenue and, later, extended to Salvador Avenue.
  • The area that is now the Bel Air Shopping Center was a huge field of tomato vines? Back in the 1940s, the northeast corner of Trancas Street and St. Helena Highway, clear to today’s Sierra Avenue, was a huge field of tomato vines. I spent part of one school summer vacation picking tomatoes there.
  • The Freeway Shopping Center opened at First Street and the freeway? The Center closed? When the Factory Outlets opened? The Freeway Shopping Center, now the site of the Factory Outlets, was established in the 1950s and the last tenant left in the 1980s. The Outlets opened in the early 1990s.
  • Rabbit-ear TV antennas gave way to rooftop antennas, the only TV channels available were Channels 2 through 13, and you had to get up off your seat to change the TV channel or adjust the volume? The time span from rabbit-ear antennas of the early 1950s, through the age of rooftop antennas and the invention of the remote control, to the advent of cable TV consumed all or most of the second half of the 20th century.

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Jim Ford can be contacted at jwford571@gmail.com.

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