Man Volunteers To Clean Up Oakland Street, 36 Years Later, He's Still At It

In the gutter is not, normally speaking, a place anyone wants to be.

Except if that person is Michael Lydon. The gutters of Oakland's Piedmont Avenue are where the 70-year-old retiree has been spending a good chunk of his time for a good number of years.


Well, because that's where the litter is.

"I'm just doing my thing," Michael said one recent Tuesday morning as he walked up and down Piedmont Avenue, broom and dust pan in hand, sweeping up every stray napkin, coffee cup, and cigarette butt he saw.

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Michael, who retired in 2007 after a 38 year career in broadcasting, sweeps up along Piedmont Avenue, from MacArthur Blvd. to Pleasant Valley Ave., twice a week, 52 weeks a year.

What's remarkable is that Michael is that no one is paying him to sweep the streets of his neighborhood. What's really remarkable is that he has been doing it for 36 years.

"If you love your neighborhood," Michael says of his incredible display of dedication, "you've got to work for it."


Micheal, who retired in 2007 after a 38 year career in broadcasting, began his sweeping of Piedmont began back in 1979. His father, a retired Port of Oakland worker, was volunteering his time maintaining the grounds of their local Catholic church, Saint Leo.

As his father got along in years, Michael would accompany him to help with some of the heavy lifting. It was on his way home one day, after spending time cleaning the church property, that Michael first noticed how littered the street out front of it was.

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Michael first began sweeping along Piedmont Avenue in 1979, after helping his retired father maintain the grounds of their local Catholic church.

"So on the way back, after helping him, I would clean the stuff up," Michael says. And though more than three decades have since passed, "I'm still sweeping."

It didn't take long for Michael's effort to get noticed. 

Michael says not long after he began his regular cleaning of the blocks of Piedmont Avenue closest to his home, the local merchant's association took note of how nice they looked.

They approached Micheal and asked if he would interested in creating a five-day-a-week, paid, street sweeping program. Michael was. He started the program, keeping two days a week for himself, though, and refusing any payment.

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With the exception of a stint in the Navy, Michael Lydon has spent almost all of his life living a stone's throw from Oakland's Piedmont Avenue.

His regular walks have made Michael a fixture along the Avenue, and although he doesn't receive a cent for the work, there are other rewards. On that recent Tuesday morning, in addition to the regular shouts of good morning and well wishes, one woman, stopped to give Michael a hug. "So there's that," he says.

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