Pinole Valley High School Student Completes Oral History Project
January this year, Pinole Valley High School senior Olivia Lubinger participated in the Pinole Historical Society’s Oral History Project, designed to give students an opportunity to learn more about their family history and contribute to the society’s historical archives.
The society is seeking oral histories of families that have more recently moved to Pinole, as opposed to the histories of Pinole’s pioneer families from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Olivia interviewed her mother, Christina Chavez, whose oral history has been archived on the Pinole Historical Society’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/0mOUvgFlrp4
As part of the project, Olivia was required to write an essay to accompany her video interview, to ascertain what she learned about her family and about Pinole’s history, and why it’s important to her.
PINOLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
By Olivia Lubinger
Pinole Valley High School
I have lived on the same street, in the same house, in the same small city of Pinole my whole life. Pinole is where I took my first steps and made my best friends. I will graduate and leave Pinole in a matter of a few short months, but, more importantly, I will always come back to Pinole.
I have known that Pinole played an important role in my mother’s life, too; however, through interviewing her I was able to see just what the city of Pinole was like and how it shaped her into the woman I know.
My mother moved to Pinole in 1978 when she was eight years old. She recalls looking through the backseat window of the Realtor®’s car with her older sister as he showed them around the city.
Her mother and stepfather settled the family into a house on Savage Avenue and began operating a carpet cleaning business from within its walls. For my mom, this was the beginning of a childhood she describes as “just fun.”
Hot summers and cold hose water, roller skating and knee scraping, a childhood set to the funky upbeat music of the Bee Gees. She reminisces on the old plaza off of Pinole Valley Road which used to hold a small beatdown Lucky’s standing where Trader Joe’s is today, the family owned dance studio where she took baton classes, and Fiat Music, which is right where it’s always been.
Things like the WestCAT bus system were just being introduced; she describes it as more like a “taxi” than a bus because it dropped its passengers at destinations rather than bus stops.
However, there were also things my mom would describe as not so fun, things like financial issues and bitter arguments between her parents. Over all though, her childhood was lively, and she wouldn’t have traded the safe setting of Pinole for any place else.
In 1988, my mother entered her senior year at Pinole Valley High School. She remembers this year vividly. It began with donkey basketball in the gym and watching the car club drive by in their low riders.
In her junior year my mom started working at a store called Best Products, which ironically was where Best Buy is today; this is where she met the man that would become my father.
In June of the next year the little girl she babysat, Amber Swartz, would be abducted from her front yard and never seen again. When my mom thinks back to this time it is with teary eyes. Suddenly a safe and secluded Pinole did not feel that safe anymore.
This wasn’t the first time that tragedy breached Pinole’s suburban borders; years prior Amber’s father, Bernie, was killed in a shooting as an onduty police officer. The Swartz family’s devastation left a mark on Pinole’s history, but it also brought the community together to look for Amber and support her mother. My mom told me this story when I was very little because we passed by her memorial park on our walks around the neighborhood. I know Amber’s story will always be dear to my mom’s heart.
My mom would graduate from Pinole Valley High and end up leaving Pinole for a while when she moved into a condo with my dad in 1990, but she would come back. My parents bought our house in 1995, right off of Pinole Valley Road and started their family.
The interviewing process allowed me to capture the stories from my mother I grew up with, as well as extrapolate more I had never heard before. Her stories help me understand both her and Pinole better, and subsequently myself, because I am a product of both.
Seeing the joy light up in her eyes when I asked her about her childhood, or the tears when I asked about Amber, remind me my mom was once a kid, too.
I hope that the stories I have shared in this paper help paint a picture of Pinole not only as a town, but as a home. I would also hope this encourages others to ask questions and capture the history of their loved ones before it is lost to time.