I moved to Concord when I married at the age of 17. My husband was in the Navy, and I saved all my allotment checks and we bought a house on Rose Lane when I was 18. Since I was under 21, I could not take ownership of the home, and my husband had to list me as his dependent (he was 21). The house was built by his uncle, and his uncle was about to lose it for lack of funds, so I (we) bought it from him. At 18 and female, I could not get credit in my name, and in fact, credit for a woman in the 1950’s was rare.
There was an old train station somewhere in the area, and my children (born in 1954 and 1956) and I used to walk over to it.
We also liked to hike over to the little town of Cowell and walk around inside the big empty metal buildings which surrounded the old smokestack. There were lots of houses in Cowell that were owned by the Cowell Cement company, and many of them were still occupied in spite of the factory being closed. Workers at the Cement factory lived there, and they also shopped at the little grocery store that was on the property. We heard stories that when the factory was in operation, the employees lived in company houses and shopped at company stores to the point of being in servitude – rarely could they get out of debt to the Company.
Embedded in the sidewalks around the housing area were remarks about safety, awards to particular individuals, symbols, and mottos of encouragement. We used to walk the streets and read them. There was also a facility run by the University of California Agricultural Dept. that dispensed information about local growing issues and flora and fauna. There was a little grocery store there, and we would buy penny candy to lick on our way back to our home on Rose Lane.
There was also an airport on what is now West Street here in Concord. People think I’m joking when I say that.
My facts may not be 100% accurate, but these are my memories. My children loved living on Rose Lane where they had forts built in the ground (sandy soil) and tree houses. When we moved from there to a bigger home near Concord High School, they were furious with me.
Someone in the blogs suggested that Brown’s Department store may have become Hilsons. Not so – I knew the Hilson family – their main store was in Martinez where I worked – but Brown’s was a relic of the long-ago past. The merchandise was placed on top of tables and bare light bulbs hung on long strands from the ceiling. The floors were very rough and splintery, and had big cracks between the boards.

Ruth Steiner

Story from Cowell


Cowell Historical Society