Hanna Boy’s Center
One Sunday a month we would make a trek up to Hanna Boy’s Center in Sonoma to visit Frank, who had spent 18 months there when he was a young teenager. We made the approximately hour-long drive north from the city for the weekend visits that the center allowed for the families.
Hanna Boy’s Center is located in a quasi-rural, almost pastoral type setting surrounded by wide-open spaces with lots of fresh air. To me it seemed much like a boarding school type atmosphere, a kind of home away from home for the boys in residence there. They came from all walks of life, and now in retrospect, I marvel at the many circumstances that must have brought them all there. They were very diverse and the many hues of the colors of their faces are a memory I’ll always have. Some of them had families and some of them did not.
Ralph reminisced at how Frank had come to be staying at the center that Mom, being good friends with Father Cummins, who was then one of our local Parish priests from St. Agnes Church, had some kind of connections with Hanna Boy’s Center at the time and he helped her to arrange it.
Of our monthly visits Joe put it perfectly into words, he wrote;
“I remember the once a month trips to the center, traveling across the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday morning towards Sonoma. Everyone had his seat in either the big green station wagon or the Plymouth valiant station wagon. Mom and Dad in the front, then next oldest had the choice of which window seat, followed by hierarchy on seating. The oldest had the first choice and then the youngest; myself, Ralph or George would usually wind up in the back seat. The roads were pretty wide-open back then, so the drive was scenic and for some reason, I remember the heat. It was hot and sunny with hot breezes. This was always a family get-together, one was never asked to go, and it was expected that you’d have made no plans except to spend the day together.
Food preps started the day before. Mom would start by boiling some elbow macaroni for salad, then start cutting up the chicken fryers. I remember watching her with the bowl of pieces of chicken and a large brown paper sack of seasoned flour. After dipping and shaking she would fry the pieces up, then bake them in the oven to make them super crispy. Lots of chicken, in the big Dutch oven filled halfway with hot oil, tongs and the back door of the kitchen opened up to vent the house. The cooked and cooled pieces of fried chicken then ended up either in a box or Tupperware container and put into the refrigerator overnight. Once we arrived at the center, we’d find a picnic table or tree to gather around. Mom would always have loads of food, enough to go around even for unexpected center kids that would wander over. The ice chest was topped with macaroni salad, fried chicken, sandwiches, fruit and drinks. Paper sacks held napkins, plastic ware, paper plates and plastic cups. She never missed a beat; ensuring that everybody had a plate, no matter if we knew them or not. She was teaching us how to treat extended family even before it became a buzzword.
I think that these visits were about four hours in duration. I don’t really recall many of the particulars when we visited, only that we always had fun.
Ralph and George recalled Axlerod the Bassett hound, the mean dog who was himself a fixture there at the center during those days.
After the visit and before leaving the Sonoma area we’d occasionally stop by the local Foster Freeze and grab a cold snack. We’d all get a soft serve cone and Dad would get his 'vanilla shake'
But the most indelible images come from two distinct perspectives; Ralph remembers the car drive off as he watched Frank waving, and Frank remembers waving as he watched the car drive off.
Examples of the currency used in the 60's, each person had their 'Laundry Number' stamped on their money - My number was 88.