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May 31, 2005 > Still dancing

Still dancing

By the time Leo Sayer's hit song, You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, topped the United States singles chart in October 1976, Estelle Anderson, born and raised in Irvington had celebrated 71 years of life. Now, 29 years later, this indomitable Irvington resident, a member of the pioneer Hirsch family and wife of late civic leader, Andy Anderson, remains clear of mind and an energetic link to people and events of the last century.

Estelle has fond memories of learning to dance at eight years old. She recalls that Madeleine Frank, a "wealthy debutante" from San Francisco took an interest in her and "got me into [ballet] dancing which I loved." Estelle's father would bring her to San Francisco where Madeleine would meet them at the ferry building in her electric car. "I would stay for a couple of days, singing and dancing for charities," said Estelle. She stayed in a 24-room, three story mansion which was impressive for "a little girl from the country."

Her love of classical music, jazz and dancing would never falter, but Estelle's training was cut short after approximately three years when her mentor "up and got married, too soon for my dancing." Visits to San Francisco stopped and Estelle said that was the end of dance instruction. "What was going to happen in Irvington, for Heaven's sake?" Estelle continued to listen to music and played piano. Many weekend hours were spent with her friend, Kay, who lived in Mission San Jose where Ohlone College is now. She said, "That was the only place in Fremont that I know at the time that had a swimming pool."

Following graduation from Washington High School (the last class to graduate from that location) on Peralta Boulevard, Estelle attended secretarial school in San Francisco with a job in the city waiting as soon as she completed her studies. A friend in Niles asked if she was interested in a job closer to home and she was thrilled. Not only did her boyfriend live in Niles, but Estelle was spending a lot of time commuting; "six-thirty every morning you walk up to the depot and get home at seven, eat and go to bed."

She was hired by the International Wood Products Company, a subsidiary of Kraft Cheese. "I was the only girl they ever had - they built a beautiful office after they hired me," Estelle said. "I just loved that job." The first car Estelle purchased was a Durant "Star" in 1926 so she could get to work. She bought a Pontiac a couple of years later and decided to have it painted yellow even before driving it. A yellow car, rare in those days, had driven through Irvington and Estelle wanted hers to be of the same color. She chuckled as she said, "I went to San Francisco and looked up and down Van Ness Avenue, found a yellow and had the car painted before I ever drove it. It was silly, but that is what I wanted."

Leaving the area for a short time after her marriage to Adolph "Andy" Anderson, Estelle and Andy returned at the urging of her mother to be close to her terminally ill father. "We stored our furniture and came out and lived in Irvington with her." She remembers that Andy said he liked the area and "that did it!" The couple had initially been looking at homes in Walnut Creek and "out that way," but Estelle exclaims, "I am so grateful that we came back here." She was able to reconnect with her friends and "we had a wonderful life here."

Approaching the milestone of 100 years, Estelle said she had not thought much about it until she received a handwritten card from President George and Laura Bush. A party in her honor will be held on June 3 at a local hotel. "A lot of people asked me why I didn't have the party on Saturday and I replied, because Friday is my birthday! I am beginning to feel the excitement."

Estelle quipped, "I can't believe that I have lived that long, I just can't believe it!" Anyone who meets this 100-year young woman will understand the phrase, "young at heart." When asked if she concurs, Estelle replies, "I sure have been!"

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing
By Leo Sayer
(excerpt) make feel like dancing
I feel like dancing dancing dance the night away

...quarter to four in the morning
I ain't feeling tired no no no no no

...and if you'll let me stay we'll dance our lives away
you make me feel like dancing I wanna dance my life away

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