"Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age." -- Victor Hugo

Someone once told me you can tell you're getting old when somebody phones at 9 p.m. and asks, "Did I wake you up?"

As Concord residents for almost half a century, my wife and I consider ourselves among the city's bona fide old-timers.

The day we moved to Concord, Sunvalley mall had not yet opened, and BART was making test runs between Concord and Walnut Creek.

My wife and I worked in San Francisco and commuted daily to the city by car. Since Highway 24 was still under construction, those of us who relied on that freeway had to alternate driving on city streets pending its completion.

Whenever we got stuck in evening traffic, we stopped for hot dogs at Casper's across from Oakland Technical High School before proceeding on to the Caldecott Tunnel, which had only two bores at the time.

New homes were popping up like weeds all around us although there was still ample space for expansion in most of Central and East County. The average cost of new homes ranged between $20,000 and $40,000. A bargain? But so were our earnings!

Having some free time one day last week, I dropped in at the Concord Senior Center to see what was going on. As I walked along the hallway, I caught sight of Nell Adams who is a volunteer there.


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I frequently drive by Nell's house, which is a short distance from mine, but I rarely see her around except at the center. Come to think of it, I hardly see any of my neighbors except at the local supermarket or other public places.

Nell and I exchanged greetings and before long we were ruminating about our pasts, which most seniors tend to do.

Nell, I learned, had been living in Concord 22 years before I arrived.

Originally from a small community in Nebraska, Nell's family fell upon hard times. ("We were poor.") along with the countless thousands of families who lost everything as a result of the Dust Bowl of the '30s that all but decimated the agricultural lands of many Midwestern states.

After drifting for years in search of work, the family settled in Concord when Nell's father found employment as a carpenter and her mother went to work in the Kaiser shipyards. That was 1944.

As expected, the family's living condition improved markedly. But Nell, who was a high school student, found things not so promising. She, along with everyone from the Midwest, were cast as Okies and Arkies and treated with disdain by their peers.

Recalling what the region was like in the mid '40s, Nell says much of the area was surrounded by orchards and most of the inner city streets were two-lane roads.

A "small" train ran between Pittsburg and Concord that transported students to Mt. Diablo High School and stationed at what is now the Concord Terminal Center.

It wasn't uncommon to see a horse in downtown Concord, and the Old Hangout located in the heart of town actually provided a hitching post for its patrons. This is a sampling of how things were in Nell's time.

I'm certain others who've been around longer have much more to add to the local history -- but it all falls on deaf ears unless the information is openly shared. Most cities have historical societies for that very reason, and are constantly in search of such material.

If you take pride in your community, support your local historical society. It's a nonprofit organization that is always looking for volunteers and donations -- or better still -- memberships to stay afloat.

And if your community doesn't have a society, I'm certain those that do -- like the Concord Historical Society -- will be more than willing to assist.

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.