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San Pablo: Why Doctor’s Medical Center hasn’t closed yet — a commentary by Dr. Sharon Drager

Why DMC Hasn’t Closed Yet

By Dr. Sharon Drager

If money were the only consideration, DMC would have closed years ago. Its financial challenges are no different than they have been. Hospitals close all the time; however, except for rural hospitals, there are usually other hospitals in the community to pick up the slack. So when Los Medanos closed, Sutter Delta was just down the road; the community still had a hospital and most of the medical staff was intact. The situation in West County is different, and everyone knows it. That’s why there’s a reluctance to see it close. DMC is not just the only public hospital in West County, it’s the ONLY hospital except for a Kaiser facility that has to take anyone who shows up in the emergency room, but is not open to the public for anything else.

Hospitals are ecosystems, not just inpatient facilities. In West County a medical community rich in specialists has grown up around DMC and cares for a community that has a high burden of chronic illness. So, when the hospital closes, so does the Cancer Center (radiation and chemotherapy), a busy Wound Care Center, advanced heart attack care, advanced comprehensive care for dialysis patients and comprehensive care for surrounding nursing homes, among other services.

Physicians won’t practice for long in offices surrounding a dead hospital. Many surgical specialists cluster around hospitals, which are their work places. They will disappear form West County and won’t be replaced.

The Hospital Council’s assertions that an Urgent Care Center will fulfill the needs of the community are disingenuous. Yes, many patients visiting any ER can be treated as outpatients, but many require advanced imaging, consultations and fairly aggressive treatment to allow them to go home. Urgent Care centers associated with hospital systems do can work like this but not small stand-alone units attached only to primary care clinics.

West County is in a relatively isolated position for an urban community as far as heart attack care is concerned. Without DMC, heart attack patients whether they’re Kaiser members or non-Kaiser members and whether they live in Richmond or Kensington have to be transported to Concord or Oakland. A 10-minute trip becomes an eternity.

The new hospital model for West County residents will be strictly 20th century, not up to date. Patients who require inpatient care will be treated episodically at whatever institution has room for them, often with a new set of specialists every admission. Kaiser has a vaunted coordinated care system, which applies only to its members. The default mode for non-members at Kaiser hospitals is “treat and street.” Pat Frost can argue that no one has yet died in an ambulance, but I know complicated patients who died because they were shipped to unfamiliar hospitals.

Finally, while I hope the community will consider a parcel tax, it is grossly unfair to tell West County residents that they don’t merit a hospital because they didn’t support another parcel tax. No one, including the editorial board of the Contra Costa Times, has ever suggested that residents of Walnut Creek or San Ramon or Antioch don’t deserve a hospital because they don’t pay a property tax. I guess those people are just luckier.

Dr. Sharon Drager is a vascular surgery doctor in San Pablo.

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El Cerrito: PG&E explains cause of this week’s power outage and the reason bright lights are being used overnight

El Cerrito residents have inquired about bright lights being used all night at the PG&E substation on Schmidt Lane and the utility has an explanation.
The lights are needed to replace equipment at the substation that was damaged at the substation on Jan. 20, which in turn caused a power outage to more than 30,000 customers from Berkeley to parts of Richmond.The lights allow crews to work safely at night.
Crews will continue work at the substation 24/7 through the weekend, said a PG&E spokeswoman, which may not help nearby beighbors rest any easier, but at least provides an explanation.

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Richmond: Students invited to free screening of “Selma” on Monday

Students will be admitted free to the 10:50 a.m. Jan. 19 showing of the film “Selma” at the Century Hilltop 16 Movie Theater, 3200 Klose Way, in celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis and the ticket price for adults will be $7.
All other screenings that day will be at the regular ticket price.
Free bus transportation to the showing, leaving at 10 a.m., will be available at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 684 Juliga Woods St.
The shpwing is sponsored by Richmond Cease Fire/CCISCO and Cinemark Theaters.

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Pinole Historical Society seeking photo of former miniature golf course

If you have a snapshot of the miniature golf attraction that was once on San Pablo Avenue in Pinole, the Pinole Historical Society would love to hear from you.
Society Vice President Jeff Rubin sent out the following appeal on Jan. 6:

Hi all,

There used to be a miniature golf course on the north side of San Pablo Avenue, near The Embers.

The Pinole Historical Society is preparing a new book called “Pinole Through Time.” It will feature photos of buildings from the city’s past and what is on those sites today. The book will be similar to our “Pinole Then and Now” exhibit at the Pinole Library.

We are looking for an exterior photo of the miniature golf course. If you have one, we will scan it and return it to you.

Please let me know by January 31. The book is due at the publisher’s office on March 1.

Thanks.

Jeff Rubin
Vice President

The Pinole Historical Society can be contacted by email at info@PinoleHistoricalSociety.org, by phone at 510-724-9507, or by mail at P.O. Box 285, Pinole, CA 94564.

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Berkeley in the 19th century, part 3: San Pablo Avenue and other early roads

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College Avenue was unpaved in this view from 1885, but had separate pathways for carriages and pedestrians.

In 1941 the Berkeley Daily Gazette ran a series of articles for the city’s 75-year jubilee by Charles Colin Emslie reminiscing about life in the young town and the greater area in the late 19th century.

“As a special feature, tying the 75th birthday of the city in with the Diamond Jubilee events extending through May and into June, the Gazette tonight published on page two the first of a series of articles on the early history of Berkeley. They have been compiled and written by C.C. Emslie, whose family have lived here since the middle “seventies.” Emslie, now a veteran among local realtors, was a local newspaperman in his early days,” the Gazette noted in introducing the series.
“Today’s special edition of the Gazette is intended to give impetus to the Berkeley celebration which already has attracted national attention. The idea of an annual observance of Berkeley’s birthday was started by the Gazette. Overnight the suggestion was taken to heart by civic leaders.”

This installment is about the city’s early streets, including San Pablo Avenue, with the author citing no less an authority than Richmond schools superintendent Walter Helms as saying San Pablo took a different route north of the county line at what is now El Cerrito. Tom Panas of the El Cerrito Historical Society theorizes that there may have been seasonal wetlands in that area that would have forced early travelers to detour inland (see illustrations below).
Panas adds, “I recall that I once found in County Supervisors minutes from the early 1850′s (Victor Castro was a supervisor at the time if I recall correctly) that there were multiple requests for rock to be dumped along San Pablo Avenue at the County Line because it was so wet.”

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Charles C. Emslie in 1944.

Pioneer Discusses Early
Roads Through Berkeley

(Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article of a series on early Berkeley
written by Charles C. Emslie, who grew up here.)
By C. C. EMSLIE
San Pablo Ave. has an interesting history, too long to be told here.
It is usually considered to be Berkeley’s first highway but this is open to discussion. It was laid out as a public highway from Oakland to the old Spanish village of San Pablo in 1852 when the Berkeley region was a part, of Contra Costa County. There is some evidence that a roadway existed prior to that time, along part of the present route.
I am told by School Superintendent Walter Helms of Richmond, who is well versed in Contra Costa County history, that originally part of the road ran northerly along the foot of the hills from the entrance of Sunset View Cemetery to a point on the present highway near the northern boundary line of Richmond. This route was used to avoid the marshy ground which at that time made impassable a large part of the low country between El Cerrito and Richmond.
This is confirmed by Arthur A. Gray, head of the history department of the Berkeley High School, who was acquainted with a Mrs. Woolf whose father had settled in San Pablo in 1835. Mrs. Woolf, who died some 18 years ago at the age of 90, told Mr. Gray the same story. Unfortunately we have no information as to the southerly route from-the Contra Costa line.
OLD PERALTA ROAD
However, it is possible that the road through Berkeley to Oakland joined the old Peralta Road, whose history is also obscured in the mists of time.
When a small boy I heard occasional mention of an old road running northeasterly across Berkeley which was in use when our first settlers came but had long since disappeared. With one exception, Andrew Poirier, none of our oldest residents, some of whom were born here over 80 years ago, have any recollection of the road.
While gathering data for this sketch I found among the Poirier papers, of which more later, the original deed to the ranch which had been filed on in 1851 but the title to which had not been cleared until 1857, the date of the deed.
In this document the eastern boundary of the land was given as Peralta Road. This is now Racine St.
This street, which starts at Telegraph Ave. and 58th St., and runs northerly to Alcatraz Ave. is all that is left of the ancient Spanish highway.
In the office of the county engineer I found a helpful soul in D.H. Davis, who delved back to the Kellersberger map drawn in 1857.
This map showed that the Peralta Rd. ran from the homo of Vicente Peralta at 55th and Vicente Sts. just, north of Temescal Creek on a straight line to a point about 200 feet north of Addison St. just west of Shattuck Ave. and thence angling northwesterly, still on a straight line, to the home of Domingo Peralta, which stood at what is now the corner of Hopkins St. and Albina Ave., and ended at the old Castro home at El Cerrito.
Domingo Peralta settled in Berkeley around 1840. The road we are discussing was the direct route to his hrother Vicente’s house, from which the home of the other Peralta brothers, at San Leandro, was reached by following Telegraph Ave. to some point in Oakland and thence to San Leandro. Is it not reasonable to assume that the road dates back to the building of Domingo Peralta’s house?
San Pablo Ave., if it were in existence in 1840, would provide an easier road to Temescal and beyond than the Peralta Rd. It was but a short distance from Domingo’s home to the avenue which, if it then existed, he could follow it down to Temescal Creek, along which ran road from the mouth of the creek to Temescal. Near the foot of the creek was the landing place for boats bearing passengers and freight between San Francisco and Vicente Peralta’s home.
This route would provide the advantage of an established road the greater part of the way and the distance would be only about a mile longer than by way of the Peralta Rd., a large part of which ran through a swampy territory.
Does it seem likely that if there were a road where San Pablo now runs Domingo Peralta would go to the expense and trouble of building another highway to his brother’s house?

Watkins 1861 - Lkg w from Kens at Fleming Pt, Albany Hill,  Pt Isabel & Brooks Is - 300dpi
An 1861 photo Albany Hill and San Pablo Avenue, with what could be a pond-like area crossing the road. (Courtesy El Cerrito Historical Society)

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Detail from a 1909 panoramic map showing Albany Hill and San Pablo Avenue. Many more streets had been added by this time, but the area west of San Pablo and north of Albany Hill appears darker than the surrounding land.

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Folk art Christmas display pieces by El Cerrito’s Sundar Shadi were made from recycled materials

shadi figure

A small exhibit at this year’s display shows how Mr. Shadi constructed the figures from recycled and repurposed materials.

The volunteers who set up and restore the beloved Sundar Shadi Christmas display on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito are offering a look at how the figures were made in a small exihibit.
It turns out Mr. Shadi, who fashioned and cared for the collection of homemade folk art figures and pieces for almost years, was what could now be considered a “green” or “eco artist,” making his pieces from recycled materials and items around his house.
Materials included scraps of wood, wire hangers, boxes, milk cartons and the like, said Dee Amaden, one of the volunteers with the Sundar Shadi Holiday Display group that now oversees the collection. “He made them out of found things,” she said, “and would repurpose them.”
Costumes for the human figures were made from oilcloth (water resistant) by Mr. Shadi’s wife, Dorothy, Amaden said.
A new addition to the display is a plywood figure of Mr. Shadi himself, as so many saw him when he was tending his garden or setting up the display.
The display, which has upgraded light and sound systems this year, is down the hill from Mr. Shadi’s home on the Arlington at Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive. It is illuminated nightly through Dec. 26.

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Angel figure originally made by Sundar Shadi and restored by El Cerrito artist Mark Canepa.

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Shepherd and sheep figures. Mr. Shadi experimented with different materials for the exterior shell of the sheep, including concrete. But he preferred plaster.

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Camels and the “Peace be with you” sign.

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Instructions for making a figure.

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Volunteers placing the figure of Mr. Shadi, the newest addition to the display.

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A 1985 article from Scouting magazine Boy’s Life shows one of the elaborate floral displays Mr. Shadi used to design and grow on his Arlington property.

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A 1980s shot of the buildings made by Mr. Shadi at their original location next to the family home on Arlington.

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Mr. Shadi as a young man. A native of India, he came to the United States and enrolled at UC Berkeley in 1921. Mr. Shadi died in 2002.

Time-lapse video by volunteer and El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford of this year’s display setup:

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Black Friday protest held at shellmound site in Emeryville

bay street mall
While the day after Thanksgiving has again attracted bargain-seeking shoppers to Black Friday sales, it has also brought out protesters.
A group of at least 200 people representing different organizations and religious groups, as well as members of the Ohlone tribe, were at Bay Street Emeryville today.
The gathering was held to call attention to the fact that the shopping center stands on the site of one of the largest of the shellmounds that were once found on the East Bay shoreline from Oakland to Richmond. The mounds and contained the remains of native Americans who inhabited the area. The protest was held at the corner of Shellmound Street and Ohlone Way.
Most of the shellmound sites were leveled and developed long ago. The Emeryville mound was developed as a dance pavilion and amusement center more than 140 years ago and later was an industrial site, before the area was redeveloped with the shopping center.
Other Black Friday protests in the area included one at the Walmart at Hilltop Mall in Richmond.

“Pavement and buildings now mostly cover what used to be hundreds of shellmounds — gently rounded hills formed from accumulated layers of organic material deposited over generations by native coastal dwellers,” writes the Sacred Land Film Project. “Often the sites of burials and spiritual ceremonies, these shellmounds are still places for veneration. But preserving the remaining shellmounds has proven to be a contentious issue among developers, indigenous rights groups, preservationists, and local governments.”

The protest included remarks, chants and drumming, as well as signs calling for shoppers to boycott Black Friday sales.
The shopping center does include a small memorial site dedicated to the shellmound.

bay street 2

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A 1907 illustration by researchers showing known shellmound sites on the East Bay shoreline.

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Richmond home front: The return of sliced bread in 1943 was the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread

kilpatricks 1943
A January 1943 ad for Kilpatrick’s Bread, in the familiar gingham wax paper wrapper, notes that it “is easy to slice.”

enriched bread 1943
A January 1943 Richmond Independent article on the changes coming to bread, including the end of pre-sliced loaves and orders that bread be enriched.

During World War II the federal government restricted, rationed or ceased production of numerous consumer goods for the duration. New cars and tires and large household appliances weren’t available at all. Staples such as gasoline, sugar and beef were rationed. It was all to allow the shifting of materials to war production and supplies for the military.
But maybe the most puzzling restriction of all was the short-lived ban on sliced bread, of all things, which had been around since the late 1920s. The ban was enacted in 1943 with the logic that more wax paper (bread didn’t come in plastic bags) was needed to keep sliced loaves fresh than whole loaves. There was also some stated rationale that more labor was needed to produce sliced bread and that whole loaves would help keep consumer costs down.
At the same time, bakers were ordered by the government to enrich white bread with the nutrients removed during the milling process, so that it would be as nutritious as whole wheat bread, in case you were wondering where that practice started.
Bakeries complied, but less than a month into the ban were asking that the restriction be lifted, contending that the slicing process was automated and therefore required no extra labor. They also offered the somewhat flimsy excuse that housewives would be forced to buy bread knives, which were made of metal, a critical war material.
The ban, enacted on Jan. 18, 1943, was rescinded less than two months later.

sliced bread 1943
Bakers on the West Coast lobbied the government to end the slice bread in Februrary 1943.

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Richmond: For National Comic Book Day, here’s the Henry J. Kaiser story told in comic book form

In honor of National Comic Book Day today, here is a four-page, World War II-era comic book story on the life of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser that concludes with his determination to build ships for the war effort. The Richmond shipyards of the home front era are part of the basis of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.

kaiser 1

kaiser 2

kaiser 3

kaiser 4

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Richmond: Adult literacy program celebrating 30 years on Sept. 21

LEAP, the Literacy For Every Adult Program in Richmond, has been serving the community for 30 years and will celebrate its successes at an anniversary event from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 at its offices at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 150 in Richmond.
The celebration will be an open house with “entertainment, raffle prizes, informational workshops and networking opportunities for all.” The community can meet LEAP volunteer tutors past and present, and learn about the success stories of those served by the free program, which is sponsored by the Richmond Public Library.

Below, courtesy of LEAP volunteer Paul Ehara, are examples of lives changed by the program:

If it hadn’t been for that moment 28 years ago when she snapped at her seven-year-old son for asking how to spell a word she didn’t know, maybe Mary Johnson wouldn’t be sitting now in her office at Contra Costa Community College as coordinator of its Cooperative Education program.

Mary vividly remembers that moment and her son Rodney’s reaction to her frustration. “The look in his eyes… he was confused, surprised more than scared. I’ll never forget it,” she said. At the time she was a single mother living in Richmond, California. “My son at age seven was reading and spelling better than I was,” she said. “I felt so badly that I couldn’t help him.”

Most of the adults in Mary’s early life didn’t anchor her childhood and could not always be counted on. And so she had vowed to be a permanent resource for Rodney. “Not being able to help him, it’s when I realized I needed to do something, if only so that he could have a better life,” Mary noted. Compelled by the desire to help her son, Mary set out to become a better reader. Only later would she come to understand that learning how to read and write proficiently would also be a gift to herself.

Shortly after the incident Mary watched a television public service announcement from the local library offering help with reading and writing skills. So she called the Richmond Public Library and the staff there referred her to the Literacy for Every Adult Program, or LEAP, where she received a skills assessment. Mary learned that her overall academic prowess was at a fifth/sixth grade level, and she had the reading and writing skills of a second grader.

How could this be? While Mary had in fact graduated from high school, she had known for years that she possessed beginning literacy skills. Years of moving and changing house-holds between Trenton, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Florida and California had exacted their toll. “I kept quiet in school and was obedient,” she recalled. “I picked up enough survival skills to get to the next grade level.” Mary memorized hundreds of words by sight and thus could read to herself, but she didn’t like reading aloud in front of others; she did so slowly and haltingly. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience.

At LEAP Mary found help. She experienced the “Aha” moment that she wasn’t alone. “We were all low-level readers,” Mary recalled. “We were all scared, not wanting anybody to know we were there.

“LEAP was like a safe haven, so we could be ourselves and not be embarrassed or ashamed. We could let people know where we were at, and learn. We could support each other, and seeing others in the same situation took away the fear.” The stigma, if not removed, had been softened.

Enter Doris Lopez. A Richmond resident like Mary, living not far from the LEAP office, Doris had recently become a volunteer and had been assigned by LEAP staff to be Mary’s tutor. “This was the best match ever made,” said Mary. “Without Doris I wouldn’t be where I am now.” LEAP had just received a donation of two Apple computers, and the learning materials were being converted from printed materials to software. “But the main resource was the tutors,” said Mary. With help from Doris, Mary worked to improve her reading and writing skills.

“Mary was my first student at LEAP,” recalled Doris. She had just started volunteering, and she remembers noticing Mary’s penchant for African American history and culture. So one day she cut out an article in the Smithsonian magazine about the acclaimed painter Jacob Lawrence and brought it in for the two of them to read together. “Doris would bring in materials she knew I’d be interested in,” recalled Mary. “An article or something to read about Jacob Lawrence, or Othello, anything that tied back to African American or African history. I’d want to read it.” Then there was the time Mary wanted to throw a Kwanzaa celebration, and the two of them worked on the invitations together. Call it a practical writing exercise.

Doris said many times Mary would bring Rodney to the tutoring sessions because she had no other childcare option. For his part, Rodney remembered how many times—for months on end—that Doris would go out of her way to pick them up at their home and drive them to the Richmond Public Library where the tutoring sessions took place. “Eight or nine times out of ten, I’d be in the Children’s Library while my mom worked,” Rodney recalled. Here he spent the time reading books. “That’s where I learned to love books, to love reading,” he said. And if it got late and the library closed, he’d head over to the LEAP office and play learning games on one of the computers. After the tutoring session was over, Doris would then drive them back home.

Soon Doris and Rodney Ferguson, LEAP’s Learning Center evening manager at the time, both encouraged Mary to think about attending the local community college. With some trepidation, Mary would enroll at Contra Costa College and go on to earn her degree. The road was not without its washboard moments. During this time Doris continued to tutor Mary; every now and then Mary would call her, asking if they could get together so she could get some help with a paper she was working on. Thirty years later, they still keep in touch. “It’s been a great friendship,” said Doris. “I’ve been very impressed with her,” she added. “I always thought Mary was an intelligent person. To navigate in a world and not being able to read, you had to be very intelligent.”

Rodney looks back on his mother’s struggles with grace. If Mary’s beginning literacy skills prevented her from helping her son the way she wanted to, she did the next best thing. “I learned how to become self-reliant,” Rodney said, “because she taught me how to look stuff up on my own.”

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§ After earning her associate degree at Contra Costa Community College, Mary Johnson went on to receive her B.A. in psychology at California State University, Hayward. In 1996, two months after graduating, she was hired by LEAP Director Isabel Emerson to be one of the organization’s Learner Coordinators, recruiting students and tutors until 2003. Mary would later earned her graduate degree in marriage and family counseling. She is currently the Cooperative Education Coordinator and an instructor at Contra Costa College, and also serves clients through her private practice.

§ Doris Lopez lives in Richmond and is a volunteer for Richmond Trees (www.richmondtrees.org), founded in 2011. To date Richmond Trees volunteers have planted over 300 trees throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

§ Rodney Wilson (Mary’s son), 35, is the father of a daughter and son who will turn seven and six, respectively, this month. He’s currently majoring in American Studies at UC Berkeley with a concentration in Race and Education. Rodney is applying to Ph.D. programs in sociology and plans to begin earning his doctorate degree in the fall of 2015.