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Memories of California

It’s a never-ending source of wonderment: how the human mind stores memories away in its deepest recesses, and trots them out when the right button is pushed.

For The Legal Genealogist, that button gets pushed whenever travel ends in the Bay Area of California.

That’s where I lived many many years ago when some business obligation brought my family to San Rafael for several months when I was in the second grade.

To this day, I can’t tell you exactly where we lived in San Rafael, just that it was at the top of what seemed to my six-year-old self to be a very very big hill.

I can’t tell you exactly what the business obligation was that brought us to California.

I can’t tell you what month we came out to California — except that it was after school had started in New Jersey.

And I can’t tell you what month we came home to New Jersey — except that it was before the school year ended.

But I can tell you that, for the months we lived in California, my older sister and I attended the Short Elementary School in San Rafael.

You can see the Short School on this map:

Short School

It’s shown by the red indicator.1 And we lived somewhere in those hills up above the school.

And I remember vividly the trek down to the school in the morning. From our house high atop whatever hill that was, there were concrete steps going down to the school. In my considered six-year-old opinion, there were a kazillion of them. Steep and tiring.

In the afternoons, the stairs were more than we could face. We took the longer route, walking along a winding road up to the house.

And in between, in those school year months, were the rains of a California winter.

We were obliged, as I recall, to bring a change of clothes in to the school and leave them there in the cloakroom. When — when, and not if — we arrived at school soaked to the skin despite our raincoats and rain hats and rain boots, we were to go into the cloakroom, shed our wet clothes, don the dry ones and hang the wet ones up. At the end of the day, we could reverse the process — provided the wet ones were dry enough to swap out by day’s end. Otherwise, that day’s outfit would stay behind to become the change of clothes the next time around.

There were more than a few days when even the heat of the cloakroom wasn’t enough, and we would arrive home dressed differently than when we’d left the house that morning.

I can’t tell you what the Short School looked like.

I can’t tell you who my teacher was, all those many years ago.

I can’t tell you the name of a single classmate.

But I can describe, in detail, what it was like inside that cloakroom. The sounds of dripping raincoats. The squish of wet socks inside rubber boots. The smell of wet fabrics. The warmth of dry clothes.

And roughly a kazillion concrete steps leading down to where that cloakroom was.

I can’t tell you if today’s Short School children use that cloakroom for that purpose, whether their memory banks are storing away that memory to be trotted out decades from now.

But I can tell you none will after this year.

That cloakroom, if it still even exists, would be deep inside a school that, according to news reports, will be closing at the end of this school year because of declining enrollment.2


  1. 35 Marin Street, San Rafael, California; 3D Google Maps ( : accessed 2 Oct 2019).
  2. Keri Brenner, “San Rafael trustees OK closing Short school,” Marin Independent Journal, posted 15 Oct 2019 ( : accessed 2 Nov 2019).

    Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Inside the cloakroom,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 2 Nov 2019).

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