Grosmama's on Vermont Street
Etienne Schier Simon was five years old, dressed to perform the Cabbage Dance when she posed for her grandmother’s camera in 1928. Etienne lived at 22nd and York streets, but spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house nearby at 1333 Vermont Street, between 24th and 25th streets. Grosmama Amelia Schier was widowed, and served as chief babysitter for little Etienne, her cousins, and other neighborhood children.
It wasn’t only Schier’s light-filled Victorian and frequent plum cake — ‘pflaumenkuchen’ in her native German — that made the house a great place for kids to play and explore. The lot her home stood on was large even when it was built in the 1870s’ standards, 100 by 100 feet, and included a carriage house the kids called ‘the barn,’ her husband’s machine shop, a wash house, chicken yard, flower and vegetable gardens and many fruit trees. Amelia sometimes took Etienne with her when she collected rents from her several properties. On some Sundays they visited the Lutheran church she attended across the street, at 1332 Vermont, now the Community Church.
Etienne’s dance school was at 22nd and Treat streets. The Cabbage Dance was a lot like the Hokey-Pokey, with little kids extending their feet as they pretended to plant cabbages. Etienne kept her wooden shoes for a long time.
1333 Vermont is gone, moved to make way for the James Lick 101 Freeway in the early 1950s. According to a Schier family legend, it ended up in Hayward. Etienne went on to marry, raise a family, teach at elementary schools and adult reading classes, and, ultimately, to serve as an acting principal. Today she’s the editor of Golden Leaves, the quarterly of the California Retired Teachers Association.
Etienne Schier Simon will talk about her Potrero Hill years at her Grosmama’s on Vermont Street at the 14th Annual Potrero Hill History Night, November 2 at International Studies Academy, 655 De Haro Street.
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