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TBT: Once-familiar El Cerrito building had a link to black Americana

spring chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner —
Here is the ID of the once-familiar building in El Cerrito and its background, which we asked about last week. The building is best known (see photo above) from its decades attached to El Cerrito Mill & Lumber, with the lettering growing more faded as the years passed.

The building originated around 1929-30 as Mammy’s Place, a plantation-themed attraction for travelers on the newly rerouted Lincoln Highway (San Pablo Avenue), just south of Cutting Boulevard, “near the large Carquinez Bridge sign,” according to the menus given out to customers as a souvenir. The proprietor was Harry Bottger, who may have also operated the food concession on the Richmond-San Rafael ferry.
Mammy’s Place boasted a “fine hardwood dance floor and music,” though the establishment once ran afoul of the authorities over the use of its jukebox, according to news accounts of the day.
Bottger later opened another restaurant on the southern end of San Pablo in El Cerrito and Mammy’s closed.
With demand for housing at a peak during World War II, contractor Elmer Freethy purchased what was then El Cerrito Lumber at 1206 San Pablo Ave. (now 10812 San Pablo Ave.) from John Carrick to secure a supply of building materials. At some undetermined point, he also purchased the abandoned Mammy’s Place building and had it moved and attached to El Cerrito Lumber. There was a sentimental attachment. Freethy, in a 1990 interview about the “chicken dinner” building, referred to it as “the chicken shack,” and said he had purchased and moved the building because he used to take his future wife dancing there.
Elmer and Marjorie Freethy were married in 1930 and he started his contracting business the next year, according to an El Cerrito Wall of Fame profile in the city newsletter. One of his early big contracts was construction of El Cerrito High School from 1939-41.
The old chicken dinner building was torn down when El Cerrito Mill & Lumber underwent a major remodel by Elmer’s son, Jack Freethy, in 1996 as noted in this earlier post. The business, which had grown over time to include major portions of several blocks, closed in 2000 and the remodeled original El Cerrito Lumber building, redesigned in Victorian style, was moved across San Pablo and is now the Vitale Building.
Mammy’s Place is long gone and even though original owner Bottger was of European extraction, those free menus once given out to travelers are now rare and prized pieces of black Americana. A menu listed on eBay about in 2011 sold for more than $120.
Elmer Freethy died in 1998. Marjorie Freethy, a native of Point Richmond, died in 2013 at age 105.

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elmer freethy el cerrito lumber
Elmer Freethy at El Cerrito Lumber.

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San Pablo Dam Road/I-80 interchange work described in video

The long-awaited work on the interchange at Interstate 80 and San Pablo Dam Road is described in a video from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which says:

The Interstate 80/San Pablo Dam Road interchange will offer improved access between residential areas north and east of the interchange and Bay Area employment centers. Improvements will address current major delays and limited room for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the project will improve access for everyone. Phase 1 will be completed by in Spring 2017.

Learn more: http://www.ccta.net/sanpablodamroad

The first phase of work is expected to be completed by spring 2017, according to CCTA.

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Another mountain lion sighting reported in El Cerrito

Something to keep in mind if you’re out on a morning walk or jog, or even just rolling you collection bin down to the curb. An El Cerrito resident reported in an online neighborhood group that she saw a mountain lion while walking her dog a little after 6 a.m. on March 15 at Stockton Avenue and Balra Drive. The location is in the hills, but only a block (as the crow flies or the lion prowls) from Cerrito Vista Park and Korematsu Middle School, and about four blocks from El Cerrito High School.
Deer and turkeys are common in the area and could be attractive game.

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El Cerrito High School hosting spring bands concert on Friday

The spring bands concert at El Cerrito High School, 540 Ashbury Ave., is set for 7:30 p.m. March 25.
The evening will include performances by the ECHS Concert and Symphonic bands, and Wind Ensemble, and will feature special guest guest conductor Jesse Leyva, director of bands at Kent State University.
Admission is $6.
Doors open at 7:15 p.m.

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Interstate 80 lane closures in West County planned today for Caltrans road repair

Via Bay City News Service:<img src="http://www.ibabuzz.com/westcounty/files/2016/03/interstate-80-300×197.jpg" alt="Traffic moves along Interstate 80 in Richmond. Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)
There will be rolling lane closures today on Interstate Highway 80 in Contra Costa County due to repair work, according to the California Department of Transportation.
The rolling lane closures will occur from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. between El Cerrito and Crockett.
The work is to repair potholes on the highway in both the eastbound and westbound lanes.
Crews anticipate working on the highway between the Carquinez Bridge and the Alameda and Contra Costa county line near Central Avenue in El Cerrito, according to Caltrans.
Multiple lanes of traffic may be closed at a time, and Caltrans plans closures to be in the non-commute direction outside of commuting hours.

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TBT: Can you ID this once-familiar El Cerrito building?

mammys tease

This building was once a familiar sight for a long time in El Cerrito, first at its original location and even longer at the property where it was moved and attached to an existing building and given a new use. By then in rundown condition, it was ultimately torn down during a major remodeling of buildings on the property that became its second home.
Can you identify its original and/or later locations, as well as its original name and use from this photo detail?
Feel free to click the comments button above and post guesses or memories of the building.

Our thanks to the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce for sharing this photo from its archive.

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Richmond: Happy birthday Priscilla Elder, original Rosie and Pinole resident who turns 96 today

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Priscilla Elder.

Priscilla Elder, a Pinole resident and one of the group of original women war workers who relate their experiences each Friday at the Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front National Historical Park visitors center in Richmond, turned 96 today and was acknowledged by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and other dignitaries at an event with National Park Service officials today at the Craneway Pavilion.

“I had a very busy morning” at an event that brought fourth grade children to the park for a presentation of National Park family passes as part of the national “Every Kid in a Park Initiative” being coordinated with the White House.

“It turned out very nice. They let everybody know I was 96,” Elder said. Mayor Butt, who shares the same birthday, presented her with a rose, and she was also given a bouquet of roses.
“I had all kinds of congratulations and kisses. I have people say ‘You don’t look 96,’ and I say ‘But I feel like it,'” she said.

Elder and the other Rosies who volunteer at the center keep busy.
They will be at a naturalization ceremony on Thursday at the Craneway and back at the visitors center for their regular time on Friday.
Earlier this month they went to Sacramento to meet Gov. Jerry Brown, the Women’s Legislative Caucus and other elected officials. There they had brunch with the governor and were honored by both houses of the Legislature.

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Rosies at the State Capitol in Sacramento in early March: (Standing) Marian Sousa, Marian Wynn, Kay Morrison, Agnes Moore, Mary Torres, Phyllis Gould. (Seated) Margaret Archie, Priscilla Elder. Photo courtesy Rosie the Riveter Trust.

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Phyllis Elder’s biography that she gives to visitors to the park.

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Richmond: Bay Trail and Point Richmond history hikes offered this weekend

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A pair of outings incorporating portions of the Richmond shoreline are being offered on March 26, and timed to allow more intrepid to take part in both.

County Supervisor John Gioia and environmental organization San Francisco Bay Joint Venture are hosting a free one-hour walk along the Bay Trail from 10 to 11:30 a.m. March 26 to discuss “wetlands, wildlife and the progress being made to protect our Bay Area shoreline,” say organizers.
The outing is “a chance to see and discuss the restoration work being done around the Bay and how both wildlife and the public benefit,” as well as learn about regional Measure AA, which will be on the June ballot in all nine Bay Area counties seeking authorization of 20-year, $12 parcel tax for the San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program.
The walk will set out from Shimada Park at the end of Marina Bay Parkway and go along the Bay Trail to Meeker Slough and then return.

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The Richmond Plunge public swimming pool in Point Richmond. Staff photo by Kristopher Skinner.

Karen Buchanan will lead a Point Richmond history hike from 2 to 5 p.m. March 26.

The 2.5-mile outing will start and end at the Point Richmond History Museum at 139½ Washington St. at West Richmond Avenue, next to the Point Richmond Library and Community Center.

Karen will lead a 2.5-mile hike through historic downtown Point Richmond, up to the top of Nicholl Nob, down to Keller Beach, then through the tunnel and back to downtown.

Learn some local history, get some exercise (there’s a fairly strenuous section going up to the top of the hill) and see some amazing panoramic views. There will be random trivia questions and the chance to win Fabulous Small Prizes! Hope you can join us!

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Crockett: C&H will douse the lights on its famous sign for an hour

Crockette American Sugar

C&H Sugar will turn off the large sign at its refinery in Crockett for an hour on March 19 in the name of promoting sustainability during the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour.
The company, which installed lower wattage LED bulbs in the sign last year, issued this announcement:

LIGHTS OUT AT BAY AREA LANDMARK SIGNALS CALL FOR SUSTAINABILITY

C&H Sugar refinery joins thousands of landmarks around
the globe commemorating 10th annual Earth Hour

Crockett, CA (March 18, 2016) – On Saturday, the C&H Sugar refinery in Crockett will take part in the 10th annual Earth Hour by turning off its iconic “C and H Pure Cane Sugar” sign for one hour starting at 8:30 pm.

Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement in which people and businesses turn off lights to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to inspire positive environmental action in their communities. An initiative of the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour has grown since its inception in 2007 to engage residents, businesses and governments in more than 7,000 cities and 172 countries across the globe.

“Earth Hour’s commitment to a more sustainable planet is consistent with our values and efforts here at the refinery, especially when it comes to conserving energy, waste and water,” said C&H Sugar Refinery Manager Derwood Brady. “We hope that our participation will encourage others across the Bay Area to join us in continuing to make sustainability a priority, not just during Earth Hour but throughout the year.”

Last spring, the C&H Sugar refinery, owned by ASR Group, replaced 900 40-watt incandescent bulbs in the sign’s 22-foot tall “C” and “H” letters with eco-friendly LED light bulbs that require 80 percent less energy, resulting in an annual reduction of 90,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The C&H sign celebrates its 60th anniversary as a Bay Area landmark in April. The refinery in Crockett has been in operation for 110 years. It employs 455 people and produces 14 percent of the nation’s cane sugar.