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old picture of park blvd.

Before it was known as Park Boulevard, the Glenview's main drag was known as Walker Street and an extension of 4th Avenue.

How well do you know your neighborhood? Before Mandela Parkway grew flowers, the Cypress Freeway threw shadows over West Oakland. Pre-dating the Uptown swing in fine downtown dining, dives like the Hof Brau hung signs with blinking lights on Broadway. And who would’ve known that the Fruitvale, a mecca for Hispanic foods and festivals, was lined with cherry orchards?

City history rests just below the concrete surface in our lovely, multi-layered Oakland. This summer, the Oakland Heritage Alliance continues its walking tour series. Inspired by the architecture, landscapes and people that have characterized the Town, a few armchair historians continue to lead the curious on several strolls through time.

image of park blvd. apartment building

Today, Park Boulevard has a mix of single-family and multi-unit homes.

Tomorrow, I invite you to join me on a stroll through the Glenview. Oakland History Room historian Kathleen DiGiovanni and I will traverse a hillside neighborhood and share the stories of a growing Oakland. Before the gourmet restaurants opened, ranchers raised cows and crops along Park Boulevard. A train carried passengers up Trestle Glen and loggers hauled redwood trunks down Park from the hills.

When the “Glenview Heights” subdivision, as it was called in 1925, took shape, settling space ran for $150 a foot. Some scrambled for homogeneity while others welcomed diversity with the Key Route streetcars that rambled up Park to Leimert. As one property owner put it, “Just picture another Oakland built almost entirely around the outside of the present city. That will give you some idea of the coming importance of Park Boulevard. It is going to be Oakland’s great north and south artery, and it cannot be paralleled.”

1925 map of "Glenview Heights"

The Oakland Tribune ran this map of "Glenview Heights" in 1925.

Saturday’s route will start at Glenview Elementary School, wind through Dimond Canyon and head up E. 38th toward Hampel, ending on Park’s business district. The tour lasts from 10 a.m. to noon.

For histories and poems from all corners of our city, check out Erika Mailman’s compilation “Oakland’s Neighborhoods.” You’ll find a complete listing of the Oakland Heritage Alliance tours here.

Last week the Glenview proved it knows how to garden party. Just in time for May 1, neighbors planted day lilies and carpet roses on the Park Boulevard median.

Glenview neighbors came out for the Median Strip Clean-Up on April 24. A few dozen GlenFriends, the Glenview Neighborhood Association board members and students from Edna Brewer Middle School came out in honor of Earth Day:

Marie, Viola, Christian and Delana gather with other green-thumbers at 8:30 a.m. and weeded, swept and planted until noon.



A City of Oakland truck packing mulch rolled up to the Park Boulevard Presbyterian Church at 8:30 a.m. last Saturday.

The city also lent a few employees to help clean and haul out the cuttings.

Meet Theresa, City of Oakland employee and median queen.

The City of Oakland also lent gloves, jackets and rakes. Some of the city's tools were lovingly labeled by Michael Hunt, aid to City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente and District 5 superhero.

Dandelions and deeply rooted weeds had raided the garden beds.

Carol gardens with some students from Edna Brewer Middle School. The building stands on the busy stretch of 13th Ave. and Park Blvd. and becomes a tough spot for pick-up after school.

In an effort to make 13th Ave. a one-way road part of the time, Edna Brewer's principal Sam Pasarow is "requesting the city’s help in changing the traffic pattern on 13th Avenue." Here he looks on as music students perform at the potluck.

Music program director Zack Pitt-Smith conducts the band from Edna Brewer Middle School, who later enjoyed a few donated slices from Pastino's Pasta & Pizza.

The Glenview's new Captain Paul Figueroa of the Oakland Police Department drops by to meet the neighbors.

The GNA president Bob initially asked the city to turn on the drip water system a few days ahead of Earth Day but due to rains, this precaution was unnecessary. Shut down for the winter, the drip system will turn back on for the warmer months. He used the GNA's media strip fund and donations from the Friends of Park & Recreation to purchase the carpet roses and day lilies.

Today the colors on the median sparkled from their trimmed, earthern beds.

More photos coming soon to GlenviewNeighbors.com…

It is autumn in the Glenview. Dried sycamore leaves collect at the foot of red cement stairwells and crack underfoot. Spiders have spun webs all over yards up and down Park Boulevard, almost as thick as the store-bought cobwebs I see clinging to hedges next to dummy witches. The summer warmth makes its exit in fits and starts as the crisp air settles in. The holiday season, a marathon of sugar binges and punched-up cider, begins with Halloween this weekend. Here’s what Oakland has in store:

dia-muertos

The Oakland Museum Honors Dia de los Muertos in 2008

In the Glenview: Tomorrow on All Hallows Eve, Glenview Elementary will host its annual block party from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., on Tiffin Road. Bring a dish to share and meet the neighbors. Take part in the food, games and in making a financial pledge to the school; costumes, like donations, are encouraged but not required. Later on that evening on Greenwood Avenue, a spooky puppet show and yard haunt is rumored to start at nightfall. Glenfriend John has created a Flickr group so Oaklanders can share their photos of the festivities.

In West Oakland: Also for Halloween, check out “FrankenSk8,” an event held in Town Park. It’s Oakland’s premiere skating venue brought to you by Hood Games, a community grown out of East Oakland. They successfully convinced the city to carve out a space in deFremery Park for skaters to work on their skills and officially opened in July. Bring your board or simply scope the local talent from 12 p.m.–3 p.m.

On Piedmont Avenue: This neighborhood will be all things Samhain from dawn ’til dusk. The merchants association will throw its 23rd Annual Piedmont Avenue Halloween Celebration from 9:45 a.m., when patrons can see free cartoons at the Landmark Theatre. After the parade and a trick-or-treat at Issues, visit Mountain View Cemetery. It rests at the top of Piedmont Avenue and hosts a pumpkin festival, where kids can count on a free pumpkin, treat bag and plenty of time in the jump house.

Closing out the evening is a free screening of “Nightmare Before Christmas” at the Video Room. The film runs in the yet-to-rented storefront beside the store’s current location. Prizes go to the best kids costume:

halloween-videoroom

Downtown: For the cocktail crowd, The Den serves up a “Thrillerthon” costume ball this Halloween. Give-away treats at the Halloween bash range from dinner certificates at local restaurants to free drinks at future Den parties. DJ Epic and DJ Mpenzi will spin in honor of Haitian Gede and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” explaining one of the costume contest categories: Best MJ Look-alike. Also performing is the Kendra Kimbrough Ensemble and the El Wah Movement Caribbean Dancers. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. with tickets at $5 before 10 p.m. and $10 thereafter.

Dia de los Muertos in The Fruitvale: Oakland’s best festival is arguably Dia de los Muertos. In past years its attendance has surpassed many Dia de los Muertos celebrations across the country. This year, it was almost in danger of dying out but was resurrected in time for Sunday, November 1, thanks in part to Oakland’s Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente. Every year on International Boulevard, the entire Fruitvale skyline transforms with rainbow-colored paper prayer flags. Sugar skulls and sweet pan de muertos pile high. But front-and-center for food concessions are from La Borinqueña Restaurant & Specialty Shop in Old Oakland; Tina “Tamale” Ramos represents with family recipes going back for generations—hopefully with some of their tasty green chile and cheese tamales.

This year more than 25 altars spill out onto the street from the ‘Vale Transit Village. A portion of them are provided by the Oakland Museum, which is currently closed for renovations. Still, they make an appearance at the festival with an interactive display and make a virtual ofrendas online. The dead fest begins at 10 a.m. with music from local Latino bands, cultural crafts and games, and shutters at 5 p.m. To get there, you could take the bus or BART to the Fruitvale station. From the escalator, follow the scent of marigolds and you’ve arrived.

aztec-muertos-goddess

Mictecacihuatl, or the Aztec's Lady of the Dead

Mas Muertos: Many peoples observe the dead with rituals. The Haitians, Celts and Native Americans each had their method of reaching for loved ones in the Otherworld. There’s also curious overlap across cultures. The Greeks spoke of Persephone presiding over the dead, and ushering departed souls to their new residences. The Aztecs, for their part, personified this “Lady of the Dead” as the goddess Mictecacihuatl. According to the story, she dies in childbirth the Underworld, where she and her husband Mictlan watch over the bones of those passed. This ensures that the lifeless bones could, if needed, build a people for some future world.

The Oakland Museum has online resources on the Day of the Dead that’s worth a peek. Under the Bay Area events is a healthy book list, featuring the indispensable “Digging the Days of the Dead,” by Juanita Garciagodoy. She writes somewhat academically but lucidly about the origins of the rites and looks at death as viewed today. It’s a great read for information and the index contains poems like the one by an ancient American poet, Cuahcuauhtzin:

My heart longs for flowers anxiously.
I only suffer with songs,
I only essay my songs,
on the earth, I am Cuahcuauhtzin.
With anxiety I want flowers,
may they rest in my hand,
I am wretched!
Where will we go
that we may never die?
Although I were jade,
although I were gold,
I will be melted, I will be perforated
in the crucible.
My heart, I Cuahcuauhtzin,
am a wretched man!

In her chapter “The Lively Skeletons,” Garciagodoy examines the oxymoronic nature of the Mexican holiday. She writes, “The calaveras are working, self-reflexively making offerings to the dead, socializing, or displaying themselves. Whatever they are doing, what may be most obvious about these skeletons is that they are not dead.” Skulls shrouded in vibrant colors walk a line between life and death. They do not dwell on last rites but on timeless rituals. In this realm, life seems the most brilliant.

One could make a similar argument for Oakland: it may be haunted by wayward ghosts, but it’s on the cusp of renewal. The city lets out its closeted skeletons every fall and takes stock of the living and the dead. A dark subject and bright colors show the beauty of life in stark contrast. And fittingly, Oakland shines.