Constance Budgen Doty
When Paul asked me to recall some of my childhood memories of Berkeley Hort, it brought back to me an over-50-year-old image of Berkeley and Monterey Center in the 1930’s and 40’s. I wasn’t born until the nursery’s tenth year, but as a child living across the street from the business it was my playground. My father, George Budgen, was there 7 days a week and home for lunch every day. The “rock,” still a natural feature at the back of the property, was an imaginative playhouse for me and my playmates. The pine tree now growing there had not yet even started from a seed. To this day I can tell you which hump is the living room “sofa,” which hollow is the “kitchen,” and where the “front door” is!
I have memories beginning when I was only 3 or 4 of a visiting Oregon nurseryman, Paul Doty, who came through the Bay Area once or twice a year to visit the buyers of his wholesale nursery stock. He was a family friend and was usually invited to dinner at our house in the evening after his visit. Little did I know then that he would someday become my father-in-law and grandfather of the current president of BHN, Inc., his namesake.
Since the nursery contained hundreds of varieties of fuchsias, so popular then in Berkeley, I knew just which bushes offered the most edible berries in fall, and I sometimes helped my mother make fuchsia jelly. The annual Fuchsia Show weekend in September was the highlight of the nursery’s year. The new “introductions” were displayed, all the fuchsias on the property were at their prime, and orders were enthusiastically placed.
Grandpa Arthur Budgen worked there too, doing all the propagating. He had retired after a life working with gardens and plants, and loved continuing to do productive work. He usually lunched with us, too, but always brought his own bread–the dark and heavy whole-grain bread he insisted upon baking himself–as he claimed the store-bought product was “too paa-sty” (broad Devonshire accent!) He walked to the nursery each day from his home on Michigan Ave., no problem since his weekends were spent tramping the East Bay hills with the Berkeley Hiking Club. As he approached his 90th birthday he was still a familiar figure in town–a little Englishman, with a trim white beard–pausing sometimes for an hour or so to observe the many new construction projects going on downtown.
The fields west of the nursery were also an idyllic child’s play area. When the Key System train, which ran along what has now become California St., was abandoned, tall grass grew lushly there and the same playmates could play hide-and-go-seek or imagine secret forts, just by lying down in its depth.
The nursery staff was small in the 1930’s and 40’s. Off-duty Berkeley firemen drove the delivery truck and maintained the yard. They were faithful employees for years. I remember especially Roy Lee and Tony Decosta. On the sales staff, many older customers still remember Bert Googins—such a “distinguished gentleman”—and Linnore Carlson, the “fuchsia lady”, whose collection of fuchsia memorabilia and creative theme ideas made each year’s Fuchsia Show unique.