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Hayward Historical Society visitors Nicole Diodados of Castro Valley, left, and her four-year-old son Sidney explore the city's past, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 in Hayward, Calif. The Society is marking their 50th year this year with a series of special events. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
HAYWARD — Visit the Hayward Area Historical Society's latest exhibit and be assured you have something in common with every single person you see: a birthday.

"It's Your Birthday" is designed to be interactive, informative, modern, traditional and eye-catching. The displays in the society's downtown Hayward museum also are meant to be fun, with something for everyone from tots to centenarians.

Script rimming the museum's interior walls spellsout "Happy Birthday" in a dozen languages. A marble bust of William Hayward, after whom the city was named, is adorned with a pointed paper birthday hat.

Stand back about six feet from a 6-by-6-foot computerized montage of 1,000 society photos, and the pictures form the numbers "5" and "0."

It's the society's birthday, too, this year.

Curator Diane Curry explained that the society, in commemorating its establishment 50 years ago,

decided to explore various ways birthdays are celebrated in the greater Hayward area.

"Birthday traditions vary depending on where your family comes from, where you live, what language you speak, or even how much money you have," Curry said. "However, all birthday celebrations have three things in common: the party, the gifts and those special milestone birthdays."

Tennyson High School's multimedia class got involved in the exhibit by recalling their favorite birthdays. The written reminiscences from teenagers of Mexican, Filipino and Eritrean heritage are part of the place settings at a table decorated with a birthday cake and hats.


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Tennyson student Armando Elias also donated a 1998 picture of himself on his seventh birthday — with dabs of cake frosting covering his nose and face.

Milestones represent different ages for different cultures, Curry added.

-A display case includes pictures, speeches and religious items from Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies at Congregation Shir Ami in Castro Valley. A bar mitzvah for boys, and bat mitzvah for girls, traditionally is held when they turn 13.

-A beautiful blue-appliqued formal gown — along with table decorations, favors and pictures — depict Genesis Gutierrez's quinceanera in September 2004 at St. Joachim's Catholic Church in Hayward. The celebration marks a Latina's 15th birthday.

-And Jerilynn Fanuncio's elegant white dress recalls the young Hayward lady's 18th birthday "debut" in September 2002, a tradition for Filipina girls entering adulthood.

File cards are available for visitors to fill out their favorite birthday meals and post on a wall for others to read and chuckle over. Chocolate was the hands-down favorite choice, but one youngster wrote, "cold Spaghetti-O's."

Gifts received by residents in Hayward, Castro Valley and San Lorenzo over the years include the 16th birthday typewriter given to Doris Marciel of San Lorenzo and the doll that Hayward's Jackie Grissom has cherished since her second birthday in 1937.

Youngsters also have had the chance to create their own birth certificates, pasted around the walls of an indoor garden where they also made cupcakes.