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August, The Annual Picnic

August 2021

The History Corner

The Annual Picnic

For thirty years during the early twentieth century, the first event of the Hillside Club year was the Annual Picnic on September 9th—California Admission Day, which was then still a State holiday and a day off work.

The first annual picnic was held on 9 September 1922 at “Hillgirt,” the 185-acre ranch and vineyard of Frank & Myrta Swett, in the Alhambra Valley near Martinez. Frank was the son of John Swett (1830-1913), the founder of public education in California as well as the founder of the California Teachers Association. From 1922 until 1936, the picnic was held every September 9th (except when it fell on Sunday, when the picnic was held on Monday the 10th) at the Swett Ranch. Many Club members did not own automobiles in the 1920s, and every picnic had carefully organized carpools.

In 1937 the September “picnic” was held indoors at the Clubhouse, perhaps due to Myrta Swett’s failing health (she died in 1938 at the age of 75). But as a teaser, the Club announced that future picnics would be held at the end of each Club year in the brand-new Tilden Regional Park. The

However, in September 1938, an Admission Day picnic was held once again, this time at the Taylor Farm, the summer home of members Grant & Kate Taylor, three miles up Whipple Road in the hills above Redwood City. This was an even farther automobile journey from Berkeley than was Martinez—and no freeways yet in 1938—but the new Bay Bridge made the trip feasible. Another September picnic was held at the Taylor Ranch in 1940, but then gasoline rationing during World War II curtailed most recreational travel. Picnics resumed at the Taylor Ranch in 1946 after rationing was lifted,

Picnics were held in 1947 on the upper slopes of Mount Diablo, and in Tilden Park in 1949 and 1951, but that appears to have been the end of the annual picnic.

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