Sunday, August 31, 2014

Old Oakland + West Oakland with OHA and Ruben Llamas

Saturday was the 2nd to last Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour of the summer, "Stepping Into the Past" led by author Ruben Llamas.

While these days people think of Old Oakland and West Oakland as distinctly different places, before the freeways came through they were all one continuous neighborhood. Ruben grew up in the area, and through his stories brought Oakland from pre-WWII to the 1970s back to life. His father ran a music store (and barbershop), La Ideal Music, which was at the corner of 7th and Castro, where the 880-980 connector now runs.

The walk started in front of La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen, where Tina Tamale was busy preparing for a catering job. La Borinquña is one of the oldest stores in the area, although they were forced by eminent domain to move twice for new freeways. Tina is the 3rd generation running the business; her mama still comes in on Saturdays to offer tamale and other advice, and reminisce about the old days.

Our walk took us past Jefferson Square Park, where Ruben and other area youths spent countless hours playing baseball. Ruben told us about getting his first baseball glove, playing on police-sponsored teams, and at least one broken window story. We meandered past the site of La Ideal Music and heard about the once thriving music scene in the area, as well as further down 7th Street.

A nice walk, full of people stories, which is what history is all about. If you're interested in Oakland history, I recommend Ruben's book, Eye from the Edge. He sold and signed copies after the walk, but you can also find it at local bookstores.

More pictures from the walk:

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