(Editor?s note: This is the second in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)
In the 1950s and ?60s, a small, tightly knit neighborhood surrounded by beautiful open fields and known for its decidedly slow pace of life resided north of East Washington Street, between North McDowell Boulevard and what is now Sonoma Mountain Parkway.
Gradually, as more homes, Bern-ard Eldredge Elementary School, Lucc-hesi Park and nearby shop-ping centers were built, the appearance, feeling and pace of the area dramatically changed. By the ?90s, many of the original in-habitants had moved away and the new residents included several Hispanic families, thereby diversifying the traditionally Caucasian neighborhood.
Some longtime residents miss the former intimacy and raw, natural beauty of the neighborhood, but enjoy many of the appealing additions.
?It?s a mixed blessing,? said Gerald Moore, who has lived with wife Mary Edith on East Madison Street in the neighborhood since 1977. ?When we moved here, we had a beautiful view of the farmlands and Sonoma Mountain. But now there are a lot more amenities, including restaurants.?
When they moved to Petaluma, Gerald and Mary Edith were biomedical scientists at the Presidio in San Francisco. Gerald now is retired, but since 2003 has been the chair of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance. He also is an avid nature photographer, and taught a basic photography class at the Petaluma Community Center from 1995 to 2005.
Moore saw Lucchesi Park being developed, and helped to plant trees there. He now regularly walks by many of those trees in the park, which houses a soccer field, Little League baseball field, playground, community center, senior center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Petaluma headquarters.
?My wife and I go through the park when we take our two-to-three mile walk several days each week,? Moore said. ?I used to be the photographer for the Petaluma Community Center in the park, and still take photos there a lot.?
Moore, 67, says he never considers living anywhere else.
?I like the location, and enjoy living here ? and I intend to stay until I?m carried out in a pine box,? he said, laughing.
The 1950s and ?60s
Like Moore, Al Pedrani, a former resident, helped to plant trees in the neighborhood at another location, the Bernard Eldredge parking lot.
?The school was built when I was growing up, and I attended it the first year it opened,? Pedrani said.
Pedrani, who now resides in Walnut Creek, lived with his family in a home on Jeffery Drive while growing up in the ?50s and ?60s.
?When I was a kid, I thought that the house was huge, but when I went back there as an adult I found that it actually is quite small,? he said, laughing.
Pedrani, 55, said that the neighborhood was filled with fields, but lacked entertainment facilities.
?Downtown and the Petaluma Fairgrounds were the only places to go for entertainment. Kids from my neighborhood liked to go to the fairgrounds? roost dances and skating rink,? he said.
Another former resident, Glenn Alexander, who grew up while living on Joan Drive from 1960 to 1975, has fond memories of the neighborhood.
?It was a quaint place, with very few rentals, and everyone knew each other,? he said. ?The kids went to the same schools and families had a lot of block parties.?