On a rainy, cool morning December 18, a dedicated set of 14 members of the Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group and one K-9 best friend had a with a special guest. The Recreation Department's new director, Chelle, came to introduce herself, answer questions, and walk with the group.
Chelle described her interest in programs for the "Active 50+" population, or "Boomers and Beyond" as she called it and talked about some programs that she had been involved with in her previous position at Albany Recration Department.
Priscilla suggested that the group go to the new Zachary's Pizza on Grand Avenue for a holiday lunch party. The group welcomed first time walker Jim, who had learned about the group in the Piedmont Post.
The walk was relatively short, down Magnolia Avenue to Grand. Nor wanting to arrive too early they decided to use two of Gail Lombardi's previous "History of Piedmont" articles to learn more about the city. The articles described the history of Piedmont's commercial center from 1912 to 1970. The walkers first went across the street from the Exedra, their starting location, to the Wells Fargo building. Reading from Gail's article the walkers learned that until 1912 Piedmont was known as a "store-less" city.
It had just over 1,700 residents and approximately 700 houses, but the closest grocery store was the H. F. Sacks grocery on Piedmont Avenue, now Piedmont Grocery. A group of citizens led by Wallace Alexander bought two acres from Frank C. Havens directly across from Piedmont Park. They engaged noted architect Albert Farr to design a commercial building. It was to be an aesthetically pleasing building with a mission tile roof that covered three stores, Hamby's Market, Piedmont Drug Company, and the Highland Sweet Shop.
There were large front windows and bold columns that framed the storefronts. In front of the stores at the corner of High- land Avenue and Highland Way, were a set of steps. Sitting on the steps was the cool place for Piedmont students to be. Dick Carter fondly remembered the Sweet Shop in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and ordering "cherry phosphate" sodas at the Sweet Shop. In 1928 Albert Farr added the American Trust Bank to the original three stores. A small building behind the bank housed a realty company, and later a barber shop, which has served Piedmonters for decades. The buildings were demolished in 1970, replaced by the current Wells Fargo building.
By 1930 Standard Oil was op- eating a gas station where the Valero station is now located, and in 1939, the Tidewater Oil Company built a gas station at the corner of Highland and Vista Avenues where the Bank of America is today. It operated as a Flying A and Phillips 66 station into the late 1960s.
The history of the site of the current Citi Bank and Mulberry's Market site was also told. In 1940 Safeway Stores opened a super- market there. It was designed in a Spanish Colonial style with tile roof so that it fit in with Piedmont's residential nature. It was an important part of Piedmonters' shopping until 1970 when Safeway determined the location was too small and demolished the building.
This led to the construction of the current building that was divided between a bank and a convenient store. Citibank and Mulberry's Market now occupy the space. With the telling of this local history completed, the group headed downhill to Grand Avenue, past the high school and merging into Wildwood Avenue. Along the way, they passed reindeer, snowmen, Santas, and elves. K-9 friend Chili DeRoche was not able to go into the restaurant, so Nancy headed home, as the rest of the group went inside, en- joying Zachary's special spinach and mushroom pizza, and chicken special. Chelle Putzer had to return to work just as the pizzas were being served, so the group gave her some pizza in a box to go. Sherry Jacobs's sister, the former Andrea, was in town from New Mexico, and joined the group for lunch. It was learned she and Dick Carter were PHS classmate from the class. of 1965.
The walkers brought an extra pizza back to the Recreation Department for the staff to enjoy. After lunch the rain had picked up, so most of the walkers found ways to become car riders. The historical tour of the city center had been fun, and the pizza lunch was a great way for the walkers to spend time together.