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Clint Eastwood in Piedmont: A Cinematic Prelude to Stardom

Clinton Eastwood Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American actor and film director. After achieving success in the Western TV series Rawhide. Eastwood was born on May 31, 1930, at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco, California, to Ruth (née Runner; 1909–2006) and Clinton Eastwood (1906–1970). During her son's fame, Ruth was known by the surname of her second husband, John Belden Wood (1913–2004), whom she married after the death of Clinton Sr.

Eastwood was nicknamed "Samson" by hospital nurses because he weighed 11 pounds 6 ounces (5.2 kg) at birth. He has a younger sister, Jeanne Bernhardt (b. 1934). He is of English, Irish, Scottish, and Dutch ancestry. Eastwood is descended from Mayflower passenger William Bradford, and through this line is the 12th generation born in North America. His family relocated three times during the 1930s as his father changed occupations. Contrary to what Eastwood has indicated in media interviews, they did not move between 1940 and 1949. Settling in Piedmont, California, the Eastwoods lived in an affluent area of the town, had a swimming pool, belonged to a country club, and each parent drove their own car. Eastwood's father was a manufacturing executive at Georgia-Pacific for most of his working life. As Clint and Jeanne grew older, Ruth took a clerical job at IBM.

Eastwood attended Piedmont Middle School, where he was held back due to poor academic scores, and records indicated he also had to attend summer school. From January 1945 until at least January 1946, he attended Piedmont High School, but was asked to leave for writing an obscene suggestion to a school official on the athletic field scoreboard and burning an effigy on the school lawn, on top of other school infractions. He transferred to Oakland Technical High School and was scheduled to graduate mid-year in January 1949, although it is not clear if he did. "Clint graduated from the airplane shop. I think that was his major", joked classmate Don Kincade. Another high school friend, Don Loomis, echoed "I don't think he was spending that much time at school because he was having a pretty good time elsewhere." Fritz Manes, a boyhood friend two years younger than Eastwood, said "I think what happened is he just went off and started having a good time. I just don't think he finished high school." Biographer Patrick McGilligan notes that high school graduation records are a matter of strict legal confidentiality. According to the author, Eastwood's school principal had to call his management first before deciding whether to be interviewed, and "whoever answered the phone at Malpaso advised him against talking to me, and he didn't". [Wiki]

So where did the Eastwoods live?

His grandparents lived at 141 Bonita Avenue according to the 1930 Census

He was fifteen, she thirteen, when they met in Piedmont, California, not long after her family moved from San Francisco to this prosperous Bay Area suburb, which lies due east of Oakland, due south of Berkeley. His father, Burr, built a house there soon after Clinton Sr. was born and worked as a manager in a wholesale hardware concern. Ruth's father, Waldo, had been a railroad executive— she moved back and forth across the country several times as a child because of his work—and then founded, with a partner, the Graybar Company, which manufactured automobile bumpers and luggage racks.

...He has fond memories of visits to Grandpa Burr, who also upped stakes during the depression, surprising everyone by selling his Piedmont house and, with his second wife, buying a little farm devoted to apple trees and chicken raising near Sebastopol.

Where did Clint, Jr live while attending PHS?

A J W Knowland article from The Oakland Tribune on 23 Jul 1955, Page 5 incorrectly states 1. he graduated from PHS and 2. he lived at 5655 La Salle Avenue in Piedmont.

While doing Walking on Wednesdays around Piedmont, we wanted to understand where the 108 Hillside Ave address for Clint Eastwood came from since it is not in any census.

108 Hillside address:

  • Oakland Tribune 15 Jun 1924, Sun ·Page 24 - mentions the 108 Hillside for lease

  • Oakland Tribune 27 Apr 1935, Sat ·Page 20 - mentions the the Kelley family lives there - (Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930)

  • Oakland Tribune 04 Aug 1942, Tue ·Page 23 - house is for sale

  • He transferred to Oakland Tech in around 1947/48

  • So it had to be a time between 1942 - 1954.

  • I found on a 1940 Census that  they were living at: 4003 Ardley Ave, Oakland, California in Oakland there is a Clinton Sr and Clinton (Clint) Jr living there

And a Ruth Eastwood (his great aunt) owned a house at 108 Hillside Ave.

Around this time the family was favored by another stroke of good luck. Perusing the newspaper real estate section, the elder Eastwoods observed that one of Ruth's aunts had placed her home in Piedmont on the market. "We knew the house very well," Ruth recalls, "and so we went ripping up the next day and sure enough it was for sale and they would sell it to us for what we would give them. Houses weren't selling in Piedmont at all, so we bought it for very little down and very little a month." Ruth Eastwood was working, too, at this time, for IBM, and, at last, the family was able to settle down; the Eastwoods would remain in Piedmont for eight years, until Clint was in his last months of high school.

It was a middle- and upper-class enclave. Some of California's oldest money (the Crockers of the bank, the Hills of the coffee company, the Witters of the Dean Witter stock brokerage) was settled here. The Eastwoods did not travel in those circles.

Indeed, their modest shingled house was close to the Oakland line, and it was that blue-collar port and industrial city, always invidiously compared to glamorous San Francisco across the bay, not conservative Piedmont, that would eventually claim his loyalty. In interviews he gives it, not the suburb, as his hometown.

He attended Havens Elementary School, then Piedmont Junior High School. He made lifelong friends during his first years in Piedmont, among them a good-natured boy named Harry Pendleton, who spent much of his adult life on the fringe of lawlessness and died early; Jack McKnight, who in late adolescence would live with the Eastwoods for almost a year; Fritz Manes, who would eventually work for Clint as a line producer in his production company; Don Kincade, through whom Clint met his first wife, Maggie, and with whom he remains close.

...His father bought Clint the first of them—a 1932 Chevy touring car the family referred to as "the bathtub" because it had no top-before it was legal for him to obtain a driver's license. The rationale was that he needed it for his newspaper route, but according to Manes, lots of Piedmont kids had cars before they passed their driver's tests; it was something of a local tradition. In Clint's case, the gift was conditional; he was obliged to take full financial responsibility for the vehicle's upkeep.

The bathtub soon gave way to a '34 Ford, then to subsequent jalopies, even, for a time, a motorcycle. To support those ramshackle wheels Clint took on jobs in addition to his newspaper route: He bagged groceries at the Peabody Market, caddied at the Claremont Country Club.

...He didn't even like hanging out at Bud's Bar, where the Piedmont jocks and those from the University of California often met. There was no live music there, only a jukebox stocked with mainstream pop.

He was beginning to gather a sense of Piedmont's contempt for people who didn't match its norm, a contempt that included Clint. "The kids were driving better cars than my parents were," he recalls, "and I learned very early on that I was at the low end of the social structure." His mother confirms this assessment.

"Particularly in his class there were an awful lot of wealthy kids, and I could see where Clint would have a funny-looking car and they would have Cadillacs or something."

The prejudices he encountered extended beyond the automotive. He vividly remembers some junior-high schoolmates asking him what his father did, and putting him down when he told them that he worked in a shipyard. Their dads, they proudly told him, were merchants and executives, and his argument that his father was at least engaged in vital war work made no impression on them. He was, as well, acutely conscious that there were no blacks in Piedmont, no Asians, only one or two Jewish families. And precisely because it was so "white bread" (Manes's description) the place was rife with a kind of heedless bias. "That's where I was first introduced to bigotry," Clint recalls, and though he says he doesn't know how or when the conviction came to him, "I never could stand intolerance. In my soul, I couldn't buy into it."

His response was, as he gently puts it, "Fuck you and move on." Which was quite all right with Piedmont High and, as it happened, with his mother. "That didn't worry me at all, because I knew he was going to be different than the rest of the group."

Leaving Piedmont:

The Life and Legend

By Patrick McGilligan · 2002:

Many years later Ruth Eastwood would confirm to an Oakland newspaper that Clint left Piedmont High School because he was 'asked' to. Clint not only wrote an obscene suggestion to a school official on the athletic field scoreboard, but buried someone in effigy on the school lawn.' According to his mother, it was these incidents, on top of other school infractions, that prompted a Piedmont school official to firmly suggest her first-born might thrive elsewhere.

Rumor has it that he rode his motorcycle in the quad and that also added to the move out of Piedmont and to Oakland Tech High School. Eastwood was inducted into Oakland Tech’s Hall of Honor in 2015.

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