El Cerrito/Richmond: Free live music this weekend at Down Home Music

Pianist Wendy DeWitt.

You have to hand it to Down Home Music — the store with an El Cerrito address (10341 San Pablo Ave.) that’s actually in Richmond — for putting up a fight.
The store is hosting two free musical performances this weekend.

At 2 p.m. Saturday you can hear local pianist Wendy DeWitt play boogie woogie and blues, accompanied by drummer Kirk Harwood.
DeWitt has appeared with artists such as Etta James, Charlie Musselwhite and Otis Rush.
At 1 p.m. Sunday it’s The Bee Eaters, “a very talented and young trio comprised of “hammer dulcimer wizard” Simon Chrisman along with 6-time Grand National fiddle champions (and siblings!) Tristan and Tashina Clarridge.”
Down Home is one of those endangered brick-and-mortar businesses and its trade is in CDs, tapes and LPs, all of which have been eroded by the sterile world of poorer-sounding digital downloads.
The store offers a rare experience where you can browse, listen, consider and actually see what you are buying beforehand. It also has a knowledgeable staff (including a former newspaper music critic) you can consult with before you buy.
Did we mention both performances are free?


New B&B keepers needed at East Brother Light Station in Richmond

East Brother Light Station. Photo courtesy of Tom Butt.

There’s a job opening now available in Richmond that includes nice compensation and free room and board in one of the more picturesque work locales imaginable.
Before you get too excited, be aware that the position of lighthouse keeper on Brother Island off the Richmond shoreline has some specialized requirements that will eliminate many would-be applicants, most noticeably the need to have a valid U.S. Coast Guard commercial operators license for a boat carrying at least six passengers.
Applicants must also be a couple (not necessarily married) who have the skills needed to manage the most exclusive bed and breakfast in the Bay Area. Experience in the hospitality industry is helpful but not required.
“After a very successful stint highlighted by bringing culinary offerings to a new high, Lighthouse Keepers Peter Berkhout and Dina Kashou will be moving on to new careers in June of 2012,” writes Tom Butt, President of the nonprofit East Brother Light Station Inc.
Here is the text of the job announcement released Friday:

East Brother Light Station, Inc., a non-profit corporation, is seeking applicants for Keepers of East Brother Light Station, an island in San Francisco Bay that is the home of an intact 1874 lighthouse and fog signal. The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard but maintained for public use by the non-profit corporation. Since 1979, it has been operated as one of California’s best-known and unique bed and breakfast inns. The income from operations is used by a group of volunteers to maintain the buildings, which are both a California State Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The successful candidates will be a couple, one of whom must possess a Coast Guard commercial boat operator’s license. They will operate the five-room inn, serving both dinner and breakfast, as well as providing ferry service for guests and all other tasks from chef to maid. High quality culinary experience and capability will be a critical qualification. The inn is open four days a week, and the island is also available for day use and special events. The new keepers will start about June 1, 2012.

Compensation is a function of the level of business, but has ranged in the $60,000 – $100,000 range for the couple, depending on occupancy level and the economy. The current level is $approximately $90,000. Compensation includes a health plan and living quarters on the island.

For additional information about East Brother Light Station, see www.ebls.org. For videos, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-4s5sKwgcE, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ncb-oNrZO5Q and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vam9vcXSJ1c&feature=related.

Applicants can download an application by clicking here or entering http://www.tombutt.com/pdf/keeper_application.dot in your browser.
Email completed application with proof of Coast Guard license to Tom Butt, East Brother Light Station, 117 Park Place, Richmond, CA 94801 at tom.butt@intres.com.

Please, no phone calls from potential applicants. Email questions only to tom.butt@intres.com.


Caboose on the loose in Richmond

You may not realize it, but one of the last examples of a caboose you’ll see on an operating train can be found in Richmond.
The Richmond Pacific Railroad runs one regularly on its tracks near the city’s waterfront and we captured this shot of the endangered specimen just outside the door of the new West County Times office on Marina Way South.


When Berkeley went to Richmond to celebrate the new year

An estimated 10,000 people, most of them from Berkeley, attended the New Year's launching of the SS Berkeley Victory in 1945.
The New Year’s event most heavily attended by Berkeley residents on Dec. 31, 1944 attracted almost one-tenth of the city’s population — and but they weren’t in Berkeley, they were in Richmond.
The launching of the SS Berkeley Victory warranted same-day coverage in the Berkeley Gazette on Jan. 1, 1945.
A crowd estimated at more than 10,000 people were at Kaiser Shipyard No. 1 for the launching of the SS Berkeley Victory, a victory ship named in the city’s honor and the 639th ship launched from the Kaiser yards at that point.

Admission tickets to Shipyard No. 1 for the ceremony were distributed widely around Berkeley and attracted local dignitaries and thousands of residents.
“God speed the Berkeley Victory and bring her home to safety!” said featured speaker Sam B. Hume, who also invoked the famous quote of George Berkeley, “Westward the course of empire takes its way.”
Mrs. Fitch Robertson, described as the first lady of Berkeley, handled the christening duties, and the A Cappella Choir from Berkeley High School performed “Smooth Sailing,” the official launching song of the Kaiser yards.
The ship was built in 42 days and in the build up to the big event, the Gazette noted that a number of Berkeley residents were involved in its construction.

We had no luck finding out what ultimately happened to the ship after the launch, though a colleague tells us that it was anchored in the Mothball Fleet.
What we did find was an interesting item in the Oakland Tribune, which noted that the ship’s chief officer was Wilson Wong, an Oakland resident and former Cal student. The paper pointed out in early 1945 that Wong was “one of the few, if not the only Chinese to attain such a high rating.”


El Cerrito: In memory of Lee Susman, 1917-2012

Lee Susman's most memorable cartoon, published Sept. 15, 1955 after the Oakland Oaks announced they would leave the city and become the Vancouver Mounties the next year.

There’s so much to say about Lee Susman, who died Sunday at age 94, but that can wait for now. Lee, who lived in El Cerrito for many years, was one of the last great newspaper sports cartoonists and his skills continued right until the end. So we’ll let that suffice for now.

Some of Susman's classic characters are used to preview the 1952 Rose Bowl. The UCLA Bruin has yet to acquire his beret, sunglasses and cigarette holder.

A classic Oakland Tribune sports page cartoon by Lee Susman (until recently an El Cerrito resident) announces the return of baseball and the Lil Acorn mascot.

A classic Oakland Tribune sports page cartoon by Lee Susman announces the return of baseball and the Li'l Acorn mascot.