Friday, April 8, 2011

Going, Going, G---o---n---e...




I can't help but wonder what's next. Maybe a hidden nuclear fallout shelter? Now that the dust has settled the big pile of concrete rubble does not give us much insight into the lives of folks who were doctors or nurses or patients there. For that matter, there could be a hidden tunnel from my property to enter the debris. Only the deer and a curious wild cat would discover it, as I've never ventured to the front of my three and a half acres. Too much poison oak, and an occasional rattler. As long as I have lived in this house, which is almost 50 years, the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital has stood as a tall landmark in the valley about two miles to the south outlining the horizon between me and the salt flats of San Francisco bay. I’ve had a perfect view of it, but only occasionally visited sick and retired servicemen hospitalized there. I wonder why? Before that the beautiful rolling land was a country club and golf course which fell to disuse in the Great Depression. In ’42 a military hospital was needed. Needs change as do parties in power. A magnificent hospital was erected on the bucolic 186 acres. It served thousands of wounded. Now empty since the 1993 base realignment legislation, the stately eleven story concrete building has become a victim to abandonment and politics, so that demolition was the only logical answer. Like perfect clockwork, some 800 pounds of dynamite accomplished that task at 12:10 pm today. I counted eights blasts, (though the tv saids 12) and then it was gone in three seconds. As I watched from the deck I thought of what memories those walls must hold. Stationed nearby, my good friend Ruth Talley, now in her nineties, once served in the Waves as a 2nd class personnel officer for service women assigned to Oak Knoll. She was billeted on the grounds in an old psychiatric hospital. “I took care of the girls in the barracks,” she laughingly recalls.

When she was about seven, dear surrogate daughter Catherine, daughter of an army officer, did not want to take a school spelling test for which she was unprepared. Her mom hauled her, over protests, to the hospital. They had at first ignored her complaint of feeling ill until they discovered a high temp. She had put the thermometer in her Oma's tea to avoid school. At Oak Knoll they feared meningitis and performed a spinal tap, not believing her even after she confessed. She was a mighty scared and unhappy kid. No more will she drive by and shudder at the memory.

If you or anyone you know has personal memories with Oak Knoll I'd welcome them.

One day this sixty year old house where I sit writing, like the hospital, will fall from use and be demolished. I wonder if all this land will someday return to its native habitat of redwoods and streams leading to the bay, or if it will become military bases for space shuttles or the like? Perhaps aliens will inhabit it! Its intriguing to speculate.

Enjoy the photos.

2 comments:

Jan Hagan said...

Great photos and deep thoughts. You write so well. Time to get dressed and get into the garden.

Bella Mia said...

I have some wonderful memories of volunteering at Oak Knoll Hospital, through the Red Cross, when I was in my early 20's. I was a hostess, along with some other single women. We would attend dances and dance with the patients, mostly the psychiatric patients. I still have my Red Cross volunteer pin. I'm not sure how long I volunteered, probably no more than a year or so, but I remember really enjoying going there to dance and bringing some joy to those troubled guys, or was it that they were bringing joy to me. Hmmmm. I think it went both ways.
-Sheila