Monday, July 10, 2017

Sacramento Then and Now

Sacramento Then and Now:

Sacramento Then and Now

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Sacramento Historic Photos: K Street Then and Now

It was a hot summer day in Sacramento, California’s capital city, in 1965. The cool water of a local public pool beckoned, three blocks away. Alone, I strolled there, ambling past manicured lawns in a suburban burg next to the American River. This pool, part of the city of Sacramento Parks and Recreation, opened on Memorial Day and closed on Labor Day. My male friends and I, dressed in swim trunks, t-shirts and rubber flip flops, gathered outside the pool entrance. We traded insults. In no time, we paid the pool entrance fee, ambled through the mall dressing room and arrived outside on the brown cement deck. Jump in the cool water. Feel refreshed. We spent the day there, minus sun block, munching on Payday bars. This was the daily routine until the neighborhood public school opened in early September.
At that point, the pool’s dressing room became a city-run teen center, open every day but Sunday. Movable walls dividing the gender-separated dressing rooms shifted. The extra space made room for a pool table and ping pong table. My male friends and I enjoyed spending time in the teen center, criticizing each other, but also chatting with the city staff, a few years older. They were the legal adults in charge. We looked up to them. It was a learning experience with role models to emulate and imitate.
City parks and rec staff also opened and closed the playground at the local neighborhood school. They checked out sports equipment to my male friends and me after school ended. Want a basketball, football or tetherball? We knew who to see. We did that, day after day. For us, play was the thing. Adequately funded public parks made it happen. I took this policy to be a natural thing, a little like the sun rising in the morning, or clean water flowing from a faucet.
Little did I know that my experience of growing up in Sacramento as the postwar economy of shared prosperity was exceptional. It came to an end. A weatherman, as Bob Dylan sang, is not the only soul to see changed climate. The changed winds of public policy did not arrive via what author Naomi Klein terms “disaster capitalism1,” a shock such as Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast and led to the firing of all public school K-12 teachers in New Orleans.
Back in Sacramento, a gradual decline of tax funding for the public services such as parks and schools which undergirded my youth of year-round play unfolded. For example, my neighborhood’s city-run teen center at the public pool closed its doors years ago. The city parks and recreation playground at the local school has been gone Sacramento Then and Now:


Seth Sandronsky lives and works in Sacramento. He is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email
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