Monday, October 18, 2021

Dry Creek Garden, Union City, California

by Jeff Bennett

I have been writing a series of articles about the Dry Greek Garden. In my first article, I introduced myself and my history with irises. In the second, I introduced readers to the land that encompasses Dry Creek Garden and its acquisition by the May family and then passed down to become a part of the Meyers’ estate. The third described the transition from cattle ranch to a summer retreat. In this fourth installment, I will share some of the parties that were held at Dry Creek Garden commencing in 1952 and ending in the final summertime bash in 1972.

The gatherings at Dry Creek were held to benefit the Alameda Welfare Council, which raised money for the needy in the Alameda area and still exists to this day. The Meyers sisters were very generous to local causes and loaned their ranch for the annual events for the Council which brought in thousands of dollars to help families with physical, psychological and monetary needs. They were well known not only for their kindness in helping the disadvantaged, but also for giving generously of their resources and time.

Themed parties at the Dry Creek Garden were planned well in advance of their August date. The themes varied from things like national origin, Gold Rush Days, Colonial, Victorian and the color pink. Yes, pink! For the pink party, they planted the grounds with all kinds pink flowers available at the time. I’m guessing they may have even found a pink iris or two to plant. Everything was pink, even the clothing to wear was to be pink. This made for fun times for the ladies who gathered.

During these events, a box lunch was provided with soft drinks. Booths were set up with items for sale, and many of them were hand made. Jams, pastries, fruit, clothing, and crafts were offered for sale. A nursery area sold plants nurtured by Council members. Most items were sold out at the annual events. With 400 to 700 women attending, there’s no reason why there should not be a sell out of the items.

The pictures in this article are from published newspaper periodicals in the Oakland Tribune under the sections of Women’s World and Feminine Sphere. The Alameda Times-Star also published reviews of the events under Social Whir. According to newspaper reviews, some party goers drove over 50 miles to attend the annual event and the line of cars parked down Mission Boulevard was over a half mile long. No tickets were sold at the gate—tickets had be purchased in advance. The pictures show that all the ladies wore dresses and fancy shoes. This was the highlight social event of the area every summer.

Gardens were planted and full of summer blooming flowers: dahlias, roses, zinnias, daylilies, hydrangeas, daisies, begonias, fuchsias, hollyhocks, snapdragons, petunias, and others. Events started at 11 am and ended at 3 pm. Some years, it actually rained and thundered during the event. These days, it would be quite rare for it to rain in August. During parties at Dry Creek, visitors were free to roam the approximately 4 acre site, see the fruit trees of citrus, apples, plums, almonds, avocado, peaches and persimmons. They would also play bridge or other card games. A dip in the swimming pool was also allowed for any that wanted to.

The last of these parties was held at Dry Creek Garden in 1972. Dr. Edith Meyers became ill and passed away in 1971 at 70 years of age. With Edith gone, the remaining sisters, Mildred and Jeanette, decided to donate the 1,200-acre ranch to the East Bay Regional Park District. They kept the cottage and garden as their summer home. Mildred, the architect, passed away in 1986 at age 88. In the later years, Jeanette no longer traveled to the garden as often. Jeanette, the gardener, passed away in November of 1993. In their will, the final 60-acre parcel of Dry Creek Garden was passed to East Bay Regional Park in 1995 to be preserved for the public to enjoy.

It took until 2007 to get repairs done to the cottage and property to open to the public. Thirty-five years after the last party in 1972, Dry Creek Garden was once again open to the public for all to enjoy. Today, both parcels of land are enjoyed  by hundreds of people on a daily basis. To this day, the 1,260 acres that Mildred, Edith and Jeanette donated is the largest piece of land ever donated to the 121,000+ acre park system called the East Bay Regional Park District.

In my next and final article, I will bring you to the development of the iris gardens at Dry Creek that were established for the 2019 American Iris Society Convention, “The Sun Sets on Rainbows”, headquartered in San Ramon, California




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