Noe Valley Voice December-January 2007

Florence's Family Album

The Block Party

By Florence Holub

Editor's Note: This December 1993 column could almost as easily have been written in 2007. It describes "a wonderful day in the neighborhood"--Mrs. Roger's neighborhood, in fact.

In the summer of 1980, a memorable block party was held on our hill, on Sanchez Street between Hill and 21st streets. That year, we residents had great cause to celebrate, for after two years of relentless effort to protect our area from overdevelopment, we were informed that the neighborhood had been granted the designation of "Special Use District."

This protected our hilltop with zoning provisions designed to preserve its unique green and open space--a characteristic that to this day enhances not only Noe Valley, but the city as a whole.

Our tireless leader, whose brilliant strategy led us to victory, was Audrey Rogers. Then, as always, she worked diligently for what was good and just--and believe me, achieving special-use status was no piece of cake!

More recently, another important block party was held on 21st Street between Sanchez and Noe--this time to celebrate the formation of a neighborhood SAFE group. When my man Leo, with camera in hand, and I, with notepad and pencil, climbed the hill, we were delighted to see so many familiar faces, including Audrey's. Oldtimers mingled with new homeowners, whose children were scampering around tables filled with games and goodies.

All of these adorable little ones looked like pussycats, thanks to a young lady with a paintbrush in her hand who was expertly daubing spots and whiskers on one pair of cherubic cheeks after another.

As we watched, she introduced herself as Gloria Saltzman, the person in charge of the entertainment, along with her musician husband Hans Kolbe, who was, she added, from Germany.

Not quite understanding, I politely asked if Hans would be staying in the neighborhood for long. "With two children and a 30-year mortgage," Gloria responded, "I certainly hope so!"

We both had a good laugh, and she then announced that Hans the Pied Piper was about to play a tune for the children, while leading them to the puppet theatre nearby. She rushed off to get there before they did, because she was the puppeteer, too.

After the children sat down, the show began as the curtains of the small stage parted, and the characters were introduced. First, the head of Rosa, the female lead, popped up (like in a Punch and Judy show). Next came Abdul, the male lead, followed by a fuzzy, cuddly bear. Rosa and Abdul began arguing over the ownership of the animal.

"He's mine!"

"No, he's mine!"

They grabbed at the poor animal, getting so angry that outside help was required. It arrived in the form of an American Indian puppet, who was acting as chief of a community mediation board. After hearing the conflicting pleas, he decreed, King Solomon­like, that the bear should be cut in half so that both Rosa and Abdul could have a portion.

That did not satisfy either Rosa or Abdul, however, so the bear was given a chance to decide. He confessed that he would really like to live alone in a cave, but that every so often he would be happy to visit Rosa and Abdul in their homes. This solution satisfied everyone, so they hugged and kissed, and all lived happily ever after. The audience, young and old, loved the play.

Gloria, Hans, and their daughters, Zena and Madeline, live in the white cottage covered with climbing red roses, where Frank and Myra Cassidy lived until about six years ago. Frank was such a fine young man and good neighbor that we all hated to see him move to Santa Rosa. But he and Myra were concerned about the invasion of vandalism and petty crime in the neighborhood and the city at large, so they left.

They had been gone for only two weeks when Frank's heart failed him. Although he had a serious heart condition, I have always believed that it was the tranquility of suburbia that did him in. We thought of him fondly during the block party, as we did of the late Linna Kaye, an energetic little lady who loved this hill and lived on it for much of her long life.

After the puppet show, Anna, a newcomer to our block, arrived, leading her black and white long-haired cat, Miss Thing, on a leash. Miss Thing is no scaredy-cat; she loves parties, and she even likes dogs--a lot. It wasn't long before a male cat named Butch also appeared. His master, Robert Akins, informed us of Butch's idiosyncrasies, saying that, just like Miss Thing, he also liked dogs.

There was an instantaneous attraction between the two fine-looking felines. Miss Thing took a subservient position on the sidewalk, flat on her stomach looking upward at Butch with her big blue eyes, as the dominant male regally remained sitting on his haunches.

Robert said he could envision a future for the pair. He predicted that the two cats, being so compatible, would get married, and that since they had both been neutered, they would go down to the SPCA to adopt a baby dog. And then they too would live happily ever after.

The 21st Street block party was a wonderful opportunity to converse with old friends and to become acquainted with new neighbors. There was a festive mood to the day, with sunny skies, balloons, music, potluck food to satisfy every taste, and chairs to accommodate every size, even the small fry. As the day drew to a close, Hans brought out his cello and favored us with a beautiful suite by Bach. I was reminded then of the serious and solemn purpose of this surge of neighborhood solidarity: to do everything possible to keep each and every person's home safe and secure. Just as the residents of Sanchez did many years ago, these 21st Street neighbors have resolved to stand together in a cooperative effort, sharing responsibility for one another.

That is a thought that could grace every Noe Valley resident's New Year's resolution list. And on that note, I bid you a safe and sane new year. May we all live happily ever after.

You can get help in creating your own SAFE group (Safety Awareness for Everyone) by going to or calling 553-1984 or 673-SAFE.