To say the Fields' family roots run deep here is simply an understatement.
Father and husband Jim Fields has lived in the same home on Walnut Drive since 1953 -- and he's a newcomer compared to his wife Joanie, whose local lineage dates to the pioneer Andresen/Mortensen families and their homestead in the Sycamore Valley area (Chicken Alley) in late 1880s.
Both Jim and Joanie are well-known around town: Jim for his long teaching career that included many years of coaching as well as his service on the Parks and Recreation Commission, while Joanie is the first volunteer leader many organizations recruit when they want to get something done and a recently retired parks commissioner. She also operated a successful catering business.
They have been married for 60 years.
Their daughter, Shelly Fields, followed Jim into education while their son, Tyce, set up Protocal, a call center business in Pleasanton with Frank Richards. Later, he moved to the Peninsula with his wife where he's operated an insurance agency for years. He's been a Rotarian in both locations.
Ty and Jim hold a unique distinction -- the only father and son to have both been student body presidents at Amador Valley High Schools, a mere 24 years apart. So, they will have a special time when the high school celebrates its 100th anniversary Sept. 14-16 with a series of events.
To prepare for this story, we chatted at length during a family gathering on Memorial Day weekend.
Jim's family moved to Pleasanton in 1953 when his dad relocated his moving and storage business to First Street in the building that Specialty Cars now occupies. They moved into their Walnut Drive home that same year.
When Jim graduated from Amador Valley in 1962, the entire enrollment was about 400 students and his class was less than 100 graduates. At 5-foot-7, he played varsity football, basketball and baseball in addition to serving as student body president. Longtime Pleasanton administrator and coach Neil Sweeney was already an administrator.
After graduating, he went off to UC Davis for his undergraduate degree and teaching credential. Jim and Joanie were already a couple during his senior year; she said they'd meet for lunch in his car where he tutored her in algebra. His teaching career started in Sacramento and then he moved to the Mother Lode before relocating to Alaska for a big raise. They returned to Pleasanton in 1973 where Jim spent the next 34 years teaching.
The 1950s started the Livermore Valley's growth spurt with the opening of the Livermore Radiation Lab in 1952 followed by Sandia Livermore. In that decade, Livermore grew from about 4,000 residents to 16,000. The beginnings of Dublin as we know it today came when Volk McClain formed the Dublin San Ramon Services District and started selling single-family homes under Alameda County auspices.
In Pleasanton, the Jensen track across Santa Rita Road from Amador started to develop in the 1950s. The Jensen brothers, who constructed many homes off East Avenue in Livermore in that time, also built the homes on Walnut Drive.
Joanie had grown up in the family home on Sycamore Road. Her mom and aunt each received a 2-1/2-acre site on part of the pioneer homestead that stretched all the way to Happy Valley Road and what is now the Callippe Preserve Golf Course. Her grandfather literally moved their homes, surplus from Camp Shoemaker (Parks Reserve Forces Training Area in Dublin, commonly called Camp Parks from its earlier designation). When Joanie went to Pleasanton Elementary School on the First Street and Bernal Avenue site, she was the fourth generation to attend that school.
When Ty graduated from Amador in 1986, his class totaled 432 people with Amador having more than 1,700 students. In addition to his student body presidency, he played varsity tennis and junior varsity baseball.
After he established his business, Protocal, he also joined Rotary, which already had two members, Cyril Bonanno and Bob Hagler, who both were administrators when he attended Amador. He joked he struggled to call them by their first names instead of "Mister".
Shelly had a very light schedule in her senior year in 1981 and said she got good at mimicking Jim's signature. That worked until Joanie showed up at school one day looking for her. She'd checked herself out and was sailing at Shadow Cliffs with her boyfriend at the time. Oops.
After earning her teaching credential, she worked in several districts as a teacher and an administrator before settling into San Lorenzo as an administrator. Eventually she returned to the classroom. She's taught social studies, English as a second language to adults, continuation school, junior high and high school during her more than 30-year career. She also served as president of the Livermore teachers union.
During our discussion, a common theme (given two educators) was teachers at Amador who had really made a difference to them, as well as favorite administrators.
Throughout its growth spurt that started in the 1950s, the school district recruited many teachers, some of whom spent their entire career in the Pleasanton schools. Jim remembers the late Tom Hart, who hired him when the family returned from Alaska. Tom's daughter, Mary, taught in town, while his son Dr. Kevin Hart has practiced medicine for nearly 30 years here.
Some, like the Neil Sweeney family, became institutions in town. Neil arrived in Pleasanton in 1951 and a family member has been a teacher in the district ever since. One of his sons, Matt, coached the Foothill High School football team to 15 league championships in his 31-year career.
People can expect to see many of them with ties to Amador celebrating the 100th anniversary along with the Fields family. To learn more, visit www.amador100.com.