October 20, 2018
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Tidbits of Cotati-1983

By: Irene Hilsendager
June 8, 2018
Did you know?

Did you know at one time Cotati was a hotbed of dissent: Coffeehouses have played a significant role as gathering places for the so-called “Cotati counter culture” some the 70s. the Last Great Hiding Place (now the Café Paris) was popular in the mid-70s with couches and armchairs in front and a theater in the back. Many significant dramatic events and much political planning took place here.

When the Hiding Place closed, coffeehouse habitués found a new if somewhat isolated home at Cotati Donuts in the Rancho Cotate Shopping Center.

Soon after Cotati Donuts closed, Lindy’s New and Delicious opened and the caffeine faithful flocked in, glad to be back in the central part of town and grateful for the couch, the art on the walls and especially the typewriter.

Barricade: Residents of George and Arthur Streets by 1978 had enough of the 3000 plus cars per day which were using their residential neighborhood as a high-speed shortcut. They organized and descended upon the city council, convincing it to block Arthur Street at East Cotati Avenue, stopping all through traffic.

Many people who didn’t live in the neighborhood took strong exception to the street closure and a long and fierce battle began. The barricade became a major political issue and source of battles before the council, planning commission and in the courts. Finally, in June 1983, the city council took the final legal step to declare the barricade permanent.

The George-Arthur Streets neighborhood has changed dramatically since the barricade was installed. Children now abound, their parents willing to settle families in such a traffic safe environment. The streets themselves, with their open ditches, free-form parking and sparse, slow-moving traffic, are reminiscent of a quieter Cotati of years ago.

 The Second Beginning: Johnnie Frances Morgan came to Cotati in June 1976 to work as Senior Coordinator for Kairos Community Center, a local human services agency. She visited many seniors in their homes and asked them what their needs were. It became apparent that what was needed most was a program that the seniors themselves would run and direct.

Thus, was born the Senior Citizen Center in 1981. Now called Second Beginning, it is run by and for seniors; serves 20 meals a day (without state aid), supports the weekly Senior Food Mart, provides some emergency transportation and is  like a second home for Cotati seniors.

Many meaningful relationships have developed as a result of activities at Second Beginning. Young people have found that volunteer work there is a rewarding experience and the seniors enjoy having the young people. The City of Cotati, Rotary Club, businesses and other groups and individuals have shown themselves to be good friends of Cotati seniors through their contributions.

The goal of Second Beginning now located on La Plaza is to help seniors maintain their independence as long as possible.

Cotati Company No. 2: In 1969, Irving and Irene Lipton closed their downtown variety store and Brad and Liza Loop leased the building, delving into local history for its name: Cotati Company No. 2. They rented space as small as 12 feet square for as little as $10 a month to youthful entrepreneurs.

People built booths, clothes racks, or whatever they wanted and went into business selling everything from comic books and rolling papers to candles, jewelry and clothing. The enterprise bustled along with ten or more merchants under one roof for almost two years until a fire closed it down.

The Freestore…absolutely: The Freestore was a large shed behind the Daisy (formerly Meander Inn, formerly Barrel of Suds and long-ago blacksmith shop) from which many Cotati citizens outfitted themselves without charge. Vito Paulekas and others constantly organized the steady flow of cast-off clothes, shoes and accessories that were left there, creating a treasure trove of “find” for indigent browsers. The “store” was burned down and rebuilt, vandalized and cleaned up again, surviving until 1983 when it was crushed flat by a semi-truck. Its influence was great on that peculiar style of dress known as the “Cotati look.”

 Irene Hilsendager’s column each week touches on moments in the history of Cotati, Rohnert Park and Penngrove.