Monday, May 29, 2017

In My Fashion

By C.J. Hirschfield

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there was a women’s clothing store called Petite Sophisticate. I used to joke that this was one store that I would never visit, because I was neither petite nor sophisticated. The chain went out of business in 2010, perhaps because there were too many like me.

I thought of that store when I was recently approached to be a model in a “Movers and Shakers” fashion show for a fundraiser being put on by the good people at Family Bridges. While I have been known to move and shake, I am definitely neither a fashionista nor a model, despite having watched many seasons of “Project Runway.” 

Invitation to Family Bridges' dinner and "Movers and Shakers" fashion show.

But how do you say no to an organization that serves Oakland’s Asian community with everything from child day care to senior health care to immigration services? I couldn’t, and didn’t.

That’s how I found myself last week journeying to the San Mateo studio of the delightful and talented designer Jessie Liu. Here’s how she describes her work: “In an artistically expressive yet sophisticated [that word again!] and elegant approach each season, the Jessie Liu Collection captivates its wearers and the purveyors of style.” In my own words: Jessie’s clothes are beautiful—luscious fabrics, bold designs, all very wearable.

Selections from Jessie Liu's Fall 2017 collection. 

Jessie suggested a number of pieces, and I obligingly tried them on. We settled on a black silk long-sleeve shirtdress with a “flounce hemline featuring dramatic draping back with double layers,” along with striped silk pants with a hand-painted effect.

After the fitting we chatted. Jessie has two young children, and I convinced her that she has to bring them to Children’s Fairyland.

Then, on the same day, I ventured into downtown San Francisco, where Victor Tung Couture is located. KQED has described Victor as “San Francisco’s Own Haute Couture Master.” (“Haute couture” – high fashion – is one of those labels, like “Petite Sophisticate,” that I thought would never apply to me. I was about to be proven wrong.)

Victor Tung (center) with pieces from his collection.

Victor’s creative designs are literally unique: There were more than 200 one-of-a-kind pieces on display at his store, made from fabric he’d hand-dyed or hand-drawn. I read about one of Victor’s dresses, described as the designer’s masterpiece: It had been constructed from the cocoons of silkworms, and it took him more than four months to complete. For me, however, Victor chose a vibrant blue jacket that I’d be wearing with black leggings and heels.

At least I wouldn’t be alone on the runway. Other models included Oakland City councilmember Abel Guillen and my very own husband/mover/shaker David Stein.

C.J. Hirschfield and Abel Guillen practicing their duck faces before making their runway debuts.

I was a little nervous about modeling for the Family Bridges Gala, which honored Suzan Bateson and the work of the Alameda County Community Food Bank and Andrea Ho, super volunteer and regional vice president of Cathay Bank. But then I reflected on the evening’s theme: “Yes, We Can!”

And yes, I thought: I will.


C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

Monday, May 22, 2017

In Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

By C.J. Hirschfield

“My hunch is that if we allow ourselves to give who we really are to the children in our care, we will in some way inspire cartwheels in their hearts.”  -- Fred Rogers

On Mother’s Day, instead of having breakfast in bed, I was on an early-morning plane to Latrobe, Pennsylvania – birthplace of Arnold Palmer, Rolling Rock beer, and Fred McFeely Rogers – to participate in a symposium about developing and disseminating messages to improve outcomes for children and families.

I left Latrobe two days later with cartwheels in my heart.

C.J. Hirschfield with a photo of Fred Rogers at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Party Like a Pirate!

By C.J. Hirschfield

We like to think of Children’s Fairyland as Oakland’s hidden treasure: eight acres of enchantment on the shores of Lake Merritt filled with surprises around every corner – including a pirate ship, several dragons, and some well-concealed fairy houses.

So it’s only fitting that our big Gala fundraiser this year – on Thursday, June 1 – is called “Hidden Treasure.” It’s our chance to show off our treasures in a special after-hours, grownups-only celebration.

Sally Walker and Fairyland board member Ron Zeno at the 2015 Gala.

And for everyone who attends, it’s a chance to:

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Mouse That Roared

By C.J. Hirschfield

Duarte, Calif., is a city of about 21,000 located on historic Route 66 in Los Angeles County. One of its claims to fame is that was the home of the first avocado tree grown in the state. Another is that in 1987, Duarte’s Rotary Club won a U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down the international service organization’s male-only membership policy. Later that year, Duarte Rotary elected Dr. Sylvia Whitlock as the first female Rotary president in the world.

Dr. Sylvia Whitlock

Last week I hosted this impressive lady at my home. She was in Oakland to give a speech in honor of the 30th anniversary of women in Rotary. As a woman who has belonged to Rotary for 15 years – and who became friends with my future husband through Rotary – I count myself as one of her many grateful beneficiaries.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Good Hat Trick

By C.J. Hirschfield

Jennifer Hurlburt, Fairyland’s groundskeeper of six months, was sad.

As she worked around the park—watering, pruning, planting, weeding—children seemed to be actively avoiding her. But why?

Eventually Jennifer, who doesn’t have children and who had never been inside our fairy gates before she applied for a job here, realized what the problem might be. But it took a lost child for her to make the connection.