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May 20, 2009 > A Snapshot of Life in Hayward

A Snapshot of Life in Hayward

By Diane Curry, Curator, Hayward Area Historical Society

Photography is a huge part of our lives. Most people have a camera and document moments in their lives with it. Without photographs we would have only our fallible memories to remember past events. When photography became more than just an experimental science project in Europe in the 1840s, few anticipated the long term impact of this amazing process.

Once "capturing light" was perfected and actually produced an image in two dimensions, photographers across the world picked up a camera and began documenting what they saw around them. In its infancy, photography required special training to handle the dangerous chemicals and tons of equipment necessary to produce a photo. Each image took hours to make from exposure to the final product. But cameras soon improved, the cost went down, and the process for making photos became much easier with the introduction of film and better photographic papers.

The hand-held camera, in particular, made taking photos anywhere at any time possible. These cameras cost less and gave amateur photographers the opportunity to begin capturing all sorts of things: formally posed portraits, public gatherings, parades, picnics, sporting events, family vacations and street scenes - all sorts of never-before-seen images. These informal images are called "snapshots"- mostly because the cameras were made to "point and shoot," no need for careful framing and light balance to make the perfect image.

In documenting the history of a community, snapshots are often some of the best images because they are informal, capturing people and events at unexpected moments. Often snapshots are funny and enlightening - providing a different perspective on what a community was like. The photos shown here are some of my favorite snapshots from the Historical Society's collection. In some cases, we have information on who, what, where, and when provided when the photo was donated. In other instances, there was very little, if any, information provided with the photo, so the snapshots require a close inspection combined with knowledge of Hayward's history to tell their story.

1) These are some of the participants in the Rodeo Parade on B Street in downtown Hayward around 1948. The parade was part of a week-long celebration held before the Rowell Ranch Rodeo. Different community groups sponsored the event and participants included local businesses, clubs, dance groups, grammar schools, marching bands, and horse enthusiasts. Apparently, this donkey decided he had walked far enough and was not going any further! The spectators laughing in the background make it pretty clear it was a funny moment.

2) Here are Hayward residents celebrating the opening of "The Strip" on Foothill Boulevard in 1949. The Strip was the first post-World War II retail expansion the city of Hayward undertook. They widened First Street, changed the name to Foothill Boulevard and created the major thoroughfare it is today. But at the time of opening, "The Strip" was THE place to shop for residents of Hayward with candy, jewelry, department, optometry, drug, shoe, and grocery stores all lining the street. The large crowd evident in this snapshot attests to the interest and popularity of the Strip from the beginning.

3) The girls in this snapshot are playing around on the campus at Markham School in 1922. While the actual event is not identified, their butterfly costumes indicate they were getting ready for a performance or even participating in one of the many local parades. The school was located at the corner of B Street and First Street (later Foothill). Just a corner of the school is visible in the background on the far right. The girls look like they are having a grand time, don't they?

4) These are members of the Marlin family playing around at their farm Palmdale in San Lorenzo in 1901. This image is part of a scrapbook and includes little notes next to the photos. The title of this image is "The Happy Hooligans." Besides providing a glimpse into the light-hearted side of a family, the photo provides a great view of the family's orchards in the background.

5) This image is one of two taken at Lund's Service Station on Niles Road (now Mission Boulevard) and Orchard Avenue in 1933. The photo was donated by Carol Oldmixon and she tells us in a family history that her father worked at this service station after her family moved to Hayward from the East Coast in the early 1930s. The Oldmixons had a house just across the street from the station. This couple might be her parents, William and Lillian Oldmixon. The kitten clearly liked her perch on this gentleman's shoulder where she could watch the cars racing by on Niles Road in the background.

6) Here is another family playing on their ranch in Hayward. This is the Goulardt family at their Fairview Ranch about 1925. The people, none of whom are identified except for "Dad," are sitting in the middle of the ranch's poppy field. It looks like the woman in the middle has been plucking a few of the poppies too because she has a pile of blooms in her lap. This is one of a series of snapshots that look to me like they were taken on a day when friends or out-of-town family came to visit and the Goulardts showed them around the ranch. A handy camera allowed them to capture the day's memories.

7) These are members of the Oliver family digging for oysters in the mudflats along the shoreline around 1890. At one time, there were plentiful oyster beds along the bay shoreline from Bay Farm Island down to below the San Mateo Bridge. It was a bonus for anyone who owned property along the shoreline to be able to go out to the beds and harvest whatever they wanted. The Olivers were one such family that owned property along the shore. These gentlemen appear to have made quite a day of oyster hunting. Their bags are packed with oysters and it looks like they are taking a break and sampling some of their finds and washing them down with maybe a little alcohol. This snapshot is wonderful evidence of the oyster hunting that went on here and is a rare find in our collection.

To learn more about Hayward's diverse history, visit the Hayward Area Historical Society's Downtown Museum at 22701 Main St. in Hayward. For more information on current exhibits and programs, visit their website at

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