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Musings: 1952: A watershed year in our Valley

One might assume that 70 years ago our town was less busy and a lot quieter than it is today, but, as the song says, “it ain’t necessarily so.” In fact, 1952 was one heck of a watershed year for our Valley of the Moon, as I found out when I looked back through some old I-T issues while doing research for the 70th anniversary celebration for the Sonoma Community Center.

In 1952, Dr. C.B. Andrews purchased the Sonoma Grammar School, which had been slated to be demolished. He bought it for $28,500, and with community-wide support took the first steps towards turning what many local residents thought was a “white elephant” into an invaluable asset that we all recognize as our Sonoma Community Center.

But that was far from all that happened that year.

Here are a few highlights:

– Our community dumps, located for years on the scenic hill just west of Mountain Cemetery, was finally shut down when a new site was completed on Stage Gulch Road.

– Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building was completed and immediately put to use by many community organizations and veterans’ groups.

– Next door, to the new veterans building, Arnold Field, our town’s major baseball and football facility, built with community donations by community volunteers, officially opened.

– Residents of the Flowery School District approved a bond issue for much-needed additional classrooms at our elementary school in the Springs.

– Joan McGrath was elected the first ever female mayor of Sonoma.

– A major step was taken to move our local hospital from the end of Castle Road to Andrieux Street.

– Residents of the Springs successfully fought to retain the post offices for Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs and El Verano.

– Sonoma residents welcomed the first set of triplets on Aug. 3 when three boys, Alan, Steven and Glen, were born to Mr. and Mrs. John Moll at our hospital.

– There was an all-time record crowd at the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, the fifth in a row since its revival following the end of World War II.

– Sonoma State Home (later renamed Sonoma Developmental Center) became known in the medical world as the institution where 61 children were successfully immunized using a brand new vaccine against a common form of polio. The practice of using the patients at such state facilities as subjects for medical experiments, no matter how benign, was discontinued in following years.

– Ground was broken for the $230,000 El Verano School, said to be one of the most modern elementary schools in California. The same month, a bid of $64,873 was accepted by the Sonoma Valley Unified School District for the addition of three new classrooms at the brand new, but badly overcrowded, Prestwood School. And, further north in the Valley, the beautiful new and modern Dunbar Union School classrooms were dedicated.

– The majority of all the Valley’s much needed sewer lines were finally completed and a site for a brand new sewer treatment plant was selected.

By any Measure, 1952 was a great year for our community. With only a few exceptions, the changes and improvements made in those 12 months continue to serve us.

It would be nice to have a few more years like that one.

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