We discuss life in Bay Area suburbs in the ’50s and ’60s with Fred Setterberg, author of “Lunch Bucket Paradise,” a novel based on his life. Setterberg grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in San Leandro in a time of working-class prosperity.

Setterberg’s essays, stories and journalism have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Iowa Review and other many other publications.

‘Lunch Bucket Paradise’ 21 June,2012forum

Fred Setterberg, author of "Lunch Bucket Paradise" and former staff writer for The East Bay Express

  • Gerald Fnord

    This sounds like a good companion piece to “Season of the Witch”, which I found very interesting, but a little too Whiggish (things progress)—a similar book written by someone who liked the old, working-class, religious, San Francisco would be very different, and perhaps this has a bit of that flavour.

    (Mind you, I’m one of the counter-culturistos who might not come out looking that good from that other point of view…but because I am one, I see the need for fairness and accuracy in history.)

  • Slb220

    I grew up in upstate New York and My life was so similar.
    Metal banks from the bank to encourage saving, hearing that we didn’t know how good we had it from depression era parents, the local swimming hole, being told I that I could hope for no more than purgatory from my predominately Catholic neighbors, taking buses to the city to a different  school each year because there was no school system in the suburbs, iron lungs still in my first  few years after nursing school etc….. Thanks for the memories

  • Gerald Fnord

    Not to belabour the point, but to what extent was the ‘near-psychotic racism’ of a piece with ‘keeping the neighbourhood good’—I do _not_ mean to imply that the two were the same, but in the minds of the adults….

  • Xcollett

    I grew up in Lafayette from 1957 to 1970.  New housing developments all in ranch style were taking over the walnut orchards.  School systems were terrific and it was all white, only integrating by one black family sometime around 1967.  I remember that most of my friends’ fathers were WW II veterans.  In elementary school in 57-64 we competed about how much we knew about the German army, equipment, uniforms etc.There was a prominent Hispanic family also.  It was Monte Carlos’s family who I think has been involved with KQED over the years.  I remember the time as a “golden era” even as inter-racial issues, drugs, VietNam and same-sex issues were becoming hotly debated.  I’ve lived in Salt Lake City since late 1970.

  • Sfelter

    I’d like to ask Fred about the difference between the older and younger generation in his book — especially the post-war parents being grateful yet somehow bored with the post war factory economy … like the ketchup factory…

  • erictremont

    I think few people under the age of 50 recall how socially and politically conservative Marin County was prior to the 1970s.  In fact, Ronald Reagan received a majority of the votes in that county when he ran for governor in 1966 and 1970.

  • Jillianlaurel

    Thank you for doing this program. My husband is adopted by a Mexican American family, but he is biracial by birth. This makes me want to discuss his identity and what he feels his identity is with him.

  • Sandra Carter

    Fred Setterberg:
    This message is from Candy Carter. I attended Mariana High School with you
    during the 60’s. I graduated in 1971.  I remember you well because  we were cast in Kiss Me Kate; also, I remember your band called The Post Raisin Band that played soul music. Anyway, what struck me while I listened to your interview was the  idea of a ‘serpent in paradise’. I think that ‘serpent’ was the drug movement that swept through Washington Manor; it destroyed families, classmates and family members, and undermined that ‘anything is possible’ optimism you mentioned.  The later class members, 1972, 73, 74, suffered  a much more unstable and threatened future than we did, I think. By the way, I remember when I asked you years ago in high school what your plans for the future were; you answered, ‘writer!.  I’ll certainly check out your latest! Candy Carter,  Sandra Carter

    • Monica Govednik Abrahamsen


      I agree…..*S*…..later years worse than the early timers!

  • Kerthialfad

    Back then who did the jobs that Americans refused to do?

    • Robin

      Back then Americans weren’t afraid of working. They were thankful to have jobs because we didn’t have the welfare system that coddles Americans today.

  • Hilo Hattie

    Born in  ’48, I grew up in the West Bay, on the Peninsula, expressively selected by my parents because there were ‘good schools there’.  Probably also because it was white and upper-middle class… though we weren’t!?
    We Hispanics were very much trying to “pass” even though Dad couldn’t get a security clearance to work with the military during WWII because of his foreign roots.  Mid-Peninsula allowed us to do this… to pass!  But, I early understood the economic class differences between the ‘Ladera crowd’ and the ‘Redwood City crowd’.  It was an environment to be working class but to aspire and occasionally pass as upper middle class.

  • Monica Govednik Abrahamsen

    Fred, having gone to school with you, and knowing you.  I still find you very amazing!! 

    I love your books!!  “The RoadsTaken” also! 

    Brings  back memories

  • fsetterberg

    Many thanks to Michael, Judy, and the Forum staff for the opportunity to talk about working class life in the 50s & 60s.  If you’d care to hear a reading from my book, Lunch Bucket Paradise, please click:

  • Nancy Alibrandi Griffin

    I am Fred’s cousin (our mother’s were sisters) so, I am part of the Italian Catholic side of the family.  Growing up in rural NH, we always thought Fred was so lucky and more experienced living and growing up in CA !!!  He was in a band !!!!  When my mother and I visited San Leandro in 1968, I remember streets of garages, the homes were in the back.  The ladies wore “Donna Reed” floral dresses, gloves and hats and waved to each other on the street…. and fruit trees as well as gold fish in the pond in front of the house.  Fred and my Uncle Spencer were so tall — certainly from all the sun in CA !!  We wrote letters to my Aunt on a regular basis, and talked with her on the phone twice a year, on her birthday and Christmas.  My parent’s friend was a telephone operator and she would continue dialing the number until she would get a line, and call us back, sometime in the middle of the night.  Thanks so much for the family memories.

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