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What a Week: Enjoying a trip down 'Memory Lane' in Pleasanton

Book launch party set Sunday in downtown Pleasanton

"What was it like to live in Pleasanton back in the 1950s? How many people lived here? Where did they come from, and why did they come here? How did they make a living? What did they do for entertainment? If you are curious, this book is a treasury of stories that answer those questions and many more."

The opening lines of the foreword by Francine King Rivers teases well the tales and photos shared in "Cruising Down Memory Lane: Stories of Pleasanton in the 1950s".

The 400-page book features first-person anecdotes from more than 40 longtime residents about themselves and the people, places and institutions that made the city what it was in the '50s -- and in many ways, what it still is.

You may remember the cover story our reporter Christian Trujano wrote last Oct. 21 (with four of the storytellers posed at the Pleasanton Pioneer Founders Mural on our front page) highlighting the book's creation process when the authors and editors were in the final stages.

"Cruising Down Memory Lane" is now complete, and it's every bit as engaging and insightful as the organizers hoped it would be.

"The stories they tell, recounting their own lives and those of their Pleasanton forebears, form the collective fabric of the Pleasanton we know today. Please note that the stories in this book are not history. Rather, they are the individuals' own stories, told in their own words from their memories and their perspectives,"

Donna Kamp McMillion, the lead interviewer for the book, wrote in its introduction pages.

Reading through the courtesy media copy I received from McMillion ahead of the public book launch party this weekend, I was struck most by the authentic storytelling throughout: Real people opening up about their memories, and that of their families, coupled with original black-and-white photographs from the era to present a true community chronicle.

The book represents a who's who of Pleasanton history. The family names jump out right away: Koopmann, Irby, Hansen, Fiorio, Lund, Orloff, Georgia, Philcox, McCloud -- the list goes on and on.

So many stories that should intrigue old-timers, newcomers and any resident in between.

It should come as little surprise that Patty Walker Cleveland's chapter stood out to me. In "Recalling the times of The Pleasanton Times", she talks about the founding of their family-operated newspaper and its impact on her, the family, its employees and the community over the years through to her folks' difficult decision to sell to the Lesher group/Contra Costa Times.

Here's a snippet of the other sections I really enjoyed:

"Growing up on the Meadowlark Dairy, wooden shoes and all" by Bruce Takens, Bob Takens and Winnie Takens Smith. "Remembering Pleasanton's first town doctor" by Hal Shanks. "Growing up Italian in 1950s Pleasanton" by Mike Antonini and Carolyn Antonini Cardinalli. "From the wrecking yard to life in the fast lane" by Rich Guasco. "A good life, with animals all around" by Lynn Moller Skarratt.

Consider checking it out for yourself. The book can be ordered now via Towne Center Books for $38.50. The launch/book-signing party is set for 3-5 p.m. Sunday (May 7) at the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Pleasanton. The event costs $10 per person; RSVP required via the book store.

Proceeds from the book sales benefit Amador Valley High School's AV/journalism program. Individual donations to support the book organizers' "Stories from Pleasanton's Past, Powering the Future" project can be made via the Three Valleys Community Foundation. Learn more at

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh is the editorial director for the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division. His "What a Week" column is a recurring feature in the Pleasanton Weekly.


About the Author: Jeremy Walsh

Jeremy, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017.
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