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A Double-Bubble, ‘Drownproofed’ Childhood

Photo courtesy of Shasta Historical Society

I am not embarassed to say it. I have lived in Redding for almost all of my life. That would be 53 out of my 54 years. OK, so technically I am not a native, but close enough!

I would be lying if I said that I never thought about moving away, especially in my “just-out-of-high-school-gotta-bust-out-of-this-town” mode. But circumstances did not allow that, and I became content to stay and build my life here amidst family and friends. And at times, I find myself thinking about all those years and how things in this little town have changed.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, thoughts run through my head like a reel on a giant movie projector. Lately it has been a feature about what Redding was like when I was growing up. So I decided to capture some of those images and share them with you. How do you feel about a little stroll down memory lane, with maybe just a few detours here and there? OK, here goes…

One of the first things I recall is living on the west side of town. Well of course I lived there, it was pretty much the ONLY side of town at the time. Enterprise virtually did not exist and there was a lonely stretch of undeveloped road over there called Hilltop Drive. The only building I remember being on that street was the Trinity Lutheran Church. We used take my grandmother there every Sunday morning for services. It was a great adventure, getting to go all that way and even getting to cross the Sacramento River! But therein lies a whole other story.

So let’s meander back to the west side. We originally lived in a little house on Court Street. I attended Pine Street School (now housing restaurants and offices), and Magnolia Elementary (that now features Schreder Planetarium and school district offices). It was a short walk to Miller’s Market on the corner of Eureka Way and Court Street. Across from there was Wentz’s Market.

If you wanted a “little boy” haircut, you visited Jim’s Barber Shop where Rite Aid now sits. Yep, best haircut in town, finished off with a piece of Double Bubble gum, complete with comic. My oldest brother went to Shasta High School, now Redding School of the Arts, and then attended Shasta College, which is now Shasta High School. Are you confused yet, or should I keep trying? I know, let’s go downtown!

At the pinnacle of North Market Street, or Miracle Mile as it was known, was the Timberlanes Bowling Alley.

In the parking lot atop a concrete pedestal sat a hugh iron ball and chain, rumored to be used for knocking down trees during logging or some such thing (remember, I was only 6 or 7 years old and memory does fade). I just recall being fascinated by this and always wanting to go look at it. In fact, that ball and chain, still on the pedestal, now sits at a business down on Eastside Road. Funny, it doesn’t look nearly as big as it used to…

From the hill, we would go south down past the Casa Blanca Motel with its palm trees and sign offering to “drownproof your child” at their swimming pool. Proceeding, we would pass the Roaring 20’s Pizza Parlor, the Starlight Drive-In Theatre, The Shack Restaurant, Hinkle’s Market (penny-candy central!), the police station/city hall, Sambo’s Restaurant and right into downtown Redding.

Downtown offered the high class Dicker’s Department Store as well as J.C. Penneys. There were local stores like The Hub, Girimonte’s, Thompsons, Eaton’s Pharmacy, Vivian’s, The Music Box, and Glover’s Toy Store (a true paradise!), to name a few. The unforgettable City Bakery perfumed the block with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked goodies, including plate-sized sugar cookies. On the corner was Woolworth’s, where any item you needed could probably be found. I especially loved the soda fountain where fresh pies and cakes, covered by glass domes, enticed shoppers to sit and have a bite to eat. And don’t forget the old Payless Drug Store, where a walk down steep stairs brought you to the gold at the end of the rainbow – THE BARGAIN BASEMENT!

Farther along down Market Street was the Cascade Theatre in all its glory (and slight disrepair). For fifty cents, you got the chance to watch two movies and a cartoon, plus the opportunity to throw jujubees and popcorn at the other kids that were there. The floor was perpetually sticky and the seats squeaked, but no one minded. Near the theatre, up some stairs, the best DJs in the world kept everyone rockin’ with KRDG radio, especially Jerry’s Jumpin’ Jukebox!. And if you had your KRDG club card, you might win a t-shirt, movie passes or a Top 40 record. (For those of you not older than dirt, a record looks like a CD on steroids and was played on a device called a phonograph, or for the more literal-minded, a record player.)

Whew! I’ve exhausted myself with this little adventure into my past. Maybe later, when I recover a bit, we could talk about other memories of Redding-past. Like the Christmas tree in the middle of Market Street that slightly-inebriated revelers hit several times (Honest, officer, I really DIDN’T see that giant tree with all the lights in the road!!).

And we could talk about Lake Redding Park, now Caldwell Park, where Saturday mornings were spent at Kiddieland, riding the tiny roller coaster, airplanes and boat ride. We would look at the animals through bent wire cages and try to startle the peacocks so they would fan their magnificent tails for us. I could relate tales of years spent at the rodeo grounds (a very important part of my life) and watching the Civic Auditorium and the Mt. Shasta Mall being built. Shopping at Wonderworld, Ardan, and Grant’s Department Store. The old skating rink on Hwy 273, the giant statue of Paul Bunyon near the Rite Spot Restaurant, the plush Doc’s Hilltop Skyroom, the Carnagie Library where the smell of aged books triggered thoughts of adventure and faraway places, and … well, I could just go on and on ( and usually do!)

But it can wait … it’s getting late and that movie reel in my head is about to start. I wonder, is it possible to eat popcorn in your sleep?

Bobbi Berg was raised in Redding. She has worked as a Property/Evidence Technician with the Redding Police Department for more than 16 years. She is married, has three children and two granddaughters. She designs and makes jewelry with her best friend and is a member of Country Gold Dancers, a line dance team.