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001 First Memories
002 Hampton Road
003 Cedar Wood
004 A Room Of My Own
005 School Days
006 My Friend Wayne
007 A Great Flood
008 My Mother Makes Biscuits
009 To Disneyland
010 We Go To Mexico
011 The Cabin In The Woods
012 We Go To Yosemite
013 Grandma Nelson
014 Nelson Nursery Early Years

I.B. Nelson according to himself

Nelson Nursery, Early Years, 1942 - 1955

a view north inside nursery next to shed built by my Grandfather William Nelson
Early view of Nelson Nursery, looking North. Shed built by my Grandfather to the right, greenhouses to the left. Lath houses straight ahead, with racks for holding 'flats' of groundcover, waiting to be loaded on trucks ©I.B. Nelson

Foothill Boulevard

Before moving his nursery to 1601 165th Avenue in San Leandro, my father leased a pre existing nursery property near Foothill Blvd. and 150th Avenue. He was about 25 years old at the time. A Japanese American family had been forced out by government edict because of the War. At War's end, that family returned, and the nursery property was returned to them. My father had made his money though, and purchased property on 165th Avenue, not far away. There are no nurseries there now, but when I was growing up, there were a number of them on our street, producing ground covers, carnations, and roses.

1601 165th Avenue

By the time I arrived on the scene, my parents lived in an old one story house at the upper end of the property. That house later became the nursery office. The property was about five acres, located at the very base of the East Bay Hills. There were five glass greenhouses, a large 'dirt shed' (for sifting dirt brought in, used to fill flats for planting), a large steam boiler (producing steam to heat the greenhouses), wood benches for holding plants at a convenient level, lath houses for shade plants (Fuchsias, ferns, Chinese Lanterns etc.), plastic houses, and open areas for plants that needed less protection.

Exploring the Nursery

As I grew old enough to get around on my own, I began to explore my "five acre world", discovering all sorts of nooks and crannies. The entire property was on an uphill slant, with one wide strip across the entire top of the property. On that upper strip was the body of an old delivery truck, which had been set up to carry flats of bedding plants (panseys, nemophilia, scotch and Irish moss etc). The truck was there, dismantled, as far back as I can remember, unused except as a play space. My sister Margaret and I used a small strip of dirt at the very highest point for a long narrow garden. The dirt was rich, dark, and extremely productive. If a water hose was run on that soil, the water never collected and ran off - it simply continued to sink into that loose deep soil. Everything we planted there grew prodigiously.

A great Hill

Getting to the garden area required climbing up a steep dirt road which ran atop the "dirt pile". Being a typical 1950's kid, I devised ways to roll down the hill at speed for adventure. My dad had some employees build a steerable cart, so that my high speed trips down the hill would be 'safer', with my conveyance less likely to fall apart during the descent. The cart had a rope attached to each end of the front axle, near the wheels. The axle was solidly attached to the frame with a central bolt, which left the axle fully articulated, capable of fancy turns and spins at speed (which I quickly learned to do much to the horror of my mother). We'd drag it up the hill and go flying down the rough dirt road at terrific speeds. It's a wonder I wasn't killed, as there were lots of things to run into. The only prohibition was that I couldn't ride the cart during business hours: there was too much chance of getting run over by nursery vehicles or equipment.

Piles of dirt

My dad was forever buying truck loads of dirt from around the county, which was piled up for later use. The major pile became my cart ramp and provided access to the top strip of the property. Other dirt piles came and went as soil was needed for planting. Active boys are eternally fascinated by piles of dirt and the possibilites they present, especially that of tunnels. So we dug. Tunnels. My mother was convinced we were going to die by burial in one of those unsupported tunnels. We thought it was great fun to dig "secret tunnels" to hide in, peering out at the world from our dirt hideouts. My mother always found them though, and had them collapsed, whereupon we'd dig another.

The Sand Pile

Near where we dug our potentially lethal tunnels in the dirt, was a large sand pile. I remember being fascinated by watching the sand flowing in rivulets of water which I poured on the pile. At the time I didn't realize I was seeing proof of "angle of repose", the angle at which a material remains stable, and beyond which it becames unstable and begins to flow downward with the force of gravity. I was entertained with the water driven sand for hours. Of course, I also built "cities" at the base of the sand pile, which would be destroyed my massive "floods", just like in "Calvin and Hobbes". The sand pile wasn't as interesting as the dirt piles, though, because we couldn't dig our life-threatening tunnels in the loose sand.