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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.

priscilla elder
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

bay  trail richmond

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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Wayback Wednesday: Miss America visits El Cerrito in 1974

miss america 1974

Rebecca Ann King, the reigning Miss America, signs autographs at the Value Giant in the Moeser Lane Center in El Cerrito in 1974. King earned a law degree with her scholarship money from the pageant. Our thanks to the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce for these photos from its archives.

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The still-new Moeser Lane Center in the 1970s, when it was home to Safeway, Value Giant and the Jerry Lewis Theatre, a short-lived movie house visible at the right.

El Cerrito had its own national pageant winner when Maria Remenyi was named Miss USA in 1966.

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El Cerrito police seek surveillance video related to hate crime; plan presentation to Human Relations panel on March 2

El Cerrito police issued the following statement Feb. 29 regarding the incident on Feb. 24 that is being investigated as a hate crime:

ECPD investigators are requesting all video surveillance to assist with an investigation.
ECPD investigators are requesting all residents on Arlington Boulevard or any street near it, with video surveillance systems to review their activity for February 24th, between the hours of 0130 and 0400 hours. In specific, investigators are looking for any vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians active between the aforementioned hours as part of an on-going hate crime investigation. Anyone with video footage or additional information is encouraged to reach out to ECPD investigators at investigations@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

The Police Department will be making a brief presentation at the Human Relations Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 to provide information about the investigation and response to this incident, and be involved in the Commission’s discussion about how the City promotes tolerance and mutual respect between all persons. Community members are welcome to attend the Human Relations Commission meeting, which will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at El Cerrito City Hall, 10890 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito CA 94530

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San Pablo: West County science fair winners to be announced tonight

Announcement from the West Contra Costa Unified School District:

WEST COUNTY SCHOOLS HOST 58TH ANNUAL SCIENCE FAIR

RICHMOND—Top finishers in the 58th annual West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Science Fair will be announced during an awards ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, at the Knox Performing Arts Center on the Contra Costa College campus at the corner of Castro Street and El Portal Drive in San Pablo.
The awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and the public is invited to view projects from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This year, nearly 200 students exhibited projects in the categories of Behavioral, Biological, Math, Computer and Physical Sciences. The schools represented are Crespi, DeJean, Helms, Hercules, Korematsu and Pinole middle schools; Mira Vista and Stewart K-8 schools; and, El Cerrito, Hercules, Kennedy, Pinole Valley and Richmond high schools.
The projects were evaluated by approximately 50 judges from the corporate and educational community. Volunteers include employees from Bayer, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Chevron, City College of San Francisco, Dominican University of California, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Retired teachers from WCCUSD were also among the judges.
Who: Parents, students, teachers and science fair winners
What: 58th Annual WCCUSD Science Fair Awards Ceremony
Where: Ceremony: Knox Performing Arts Center at Contra Costa College (at the corner of Castro Street and El Portal Drive), San Pablo, CA
Project Viewing: Gym Annex Room 40 (Proceed North on Castro Street – the Gym Annex will be on your left)
When: Ceremony: Wednesday, February 25, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Project Viewing: Wednesday, February 25, 2016, at 8 p.m.
Why: Acknowledging students who have produced exceptional projects and presenting them to the community for viewing.

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Richmond Black History Month presentation Tuesday will revisit forgotten men of war era tragedy

richond blaze 01 10 1944

The Richmond City Council meeting on Tuesday will mark Black History Month with what promises to be a poignant presentation by National Park Sevice ranger Betty Reid Soskin on eight men who worked at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond and died in a fire in a war worker housing dormitory in January of 1944.
While it made headlines at the time, the fire and its victims had been forgotten in the ensuing decades until Soskin was studying a photograph of the time that set off an investigation to uncover a neglected part of the city’s history.
According to a news release:

The genesis of this effort began in 2010 when Rosie The Riveter’s oldest and most famous staff member — National Park Ranger Betty Reid Soskin — was looking over a familiar picture of funeral services in the “Negro” section of the then-segregated National Cemetery in San Bruno of what park officials had long thought were the caskets of eight of the more than 200 African-American sailors who died in the munitions ship explosion at Port Chicago in 1944.”
Although she had seen the photograph many times before, she said that she had “never noticed it before [and the] impact was almost painful. Though this was a solemn military burial rite … the caskets were not flag draped.”
Soskin set out to discover why those eight black Navy sailors might have been so dishonored. Months of historical detective work by Park staff and associates turned up the discovery that there had been no dishonor at all, because the remains in the casket were not Navy sailors at all.
Instead, they were the remains of eight civilian African American shipyard workers, one of them only 17 years old, who died in a dormitory fire at the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond six months before the Port Chicago tragedy.
The site where the Kaiser dormitory burned is now a collection of warehouses at South 11th Street and Potrero in Richmond, less than a mile from the Rosie The Riveter Visitors Center. No marker of what Soskin calls “the awful event” currently marks that spot. Rosie The Riveter Park officials are hoping that their proposal for a memorial to the eight Kaiser dormitory deaths on that site will start the process of both recognizing and honoring the American civilians who gave their lives supporting the war effort in this country.

The presentation is at the top of the agenda for the meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in the council chamber at 440 Civic Center Plaza. The meeting will also be televised on city channel KCRT.

Below are the item on the City Council agenda on Tuesday and Oakland Tribune coverage of the fire.

PRESENTATION FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH REGARDING THE DORMITORY O FIRE IN RICHMOND, WHICH CLAIMED THE LIVES OF EIGHT AFRICAN-AMERICAN HOME FRONT WORKERS IN RICHMOND DURING WORLD WAR II.

    STATEMENT OF THE ISSUE: Black History Month occurs each February as an annual observance for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. This presentation honors the lives of eight African-Americans who were killed in a deadly fire in Richmond during the World War II. RECOMMENDED ACTION: RECEIVE a presentation for Black History Month regarding the Dormitory O Fire in Richmond, which claimed the lives of eight African-American Home Front workers in Richmond during World War II. FINANCIAL IMPACT: There are no financial impacts related to this item. DISCUSSION: National Park Service Ranger Betty Reid Soskin recently uncovered the forgotten story of eight African-American men who worked in the Richmond Kaiser Shipyards and were killed in a devastating dormitory fire. The location of the fire is less than a mile from Dr. Martin Luther King Park on Harbour Way South and Virginia Avenue. Remembering this tragedy is important to Richmond’s history, because it honors the lives of black men and others who answered our nation’s call to service by working on the Home Front.


Oakland Tribune, Jan. 10, 1944:

8 Die, 20 Hurt in Richmond Fire
Firemen Aid in Rescue of 30 as Shipyard
Dormitory Is Razed; Watchman’s
Shots Rouse Sleepers, Coll Fire Engines

RICHMOND, Jan. 10—At least eight Negro shipyard workers were burned to death early today and score of others were injured when fire swept through Dormitory O, a war housing building at South Eleventh Street and Potrero Avenue.
At least 30 others were saved from death or injury by an alert patrolman who fired shots in the air to awaken them when he discovered “lames pouring from the structure at 2:10 a.m.
The eight who lost their lives were burned beyond recognition, and housing authorities said they probably could not be identified until all of the men mown to have been in the building are accounted for. It is feared there may be more bodies in the smoking ruins.
EIGHT BODIES FOUND
Five bodies were found when the blaze was brought under control and three more were discovered in the embers later.
The two-story frame structure burned mrncd to the ground in less than two hours. Fire Chief William Cooper said there never was chance to save it.
His men were handicapped in trying to fight the blaze, he reported, because two hydrants in the immediate vicinity were too rusty to be used and because water pressure in the area was very low. The hydrants, the chief pointed out, are the responsibility of the Federal Projects Housing Corporation, which erected the dormitories with Maritime Commission funds.
CRITICAL CONDITION
One of the injured workers, Henry Manney, 17, is in a critical condition it the Permanente Foundation Hospital in Oakland. He is burned badly on the arms and legs and may not live.
One fireman, J. E. Nelson, stepped on a nail and cut his foot. He was given emergency treatment and an anti-tetanus shot and sent back to duty.
LEAP FROM WINDOWNS
Almost immediately, sleepy residents of the dormitory were jumping from windows or fighting their way through the fire at the doors. Most of them were clad only in underwear or night clothes and were barefoot.
The seven who died either didn’t awaken when the shots were fired, or were unable to get out of their rooms.
The shots also aroused firemen at a city fire station a block away.
They saw the flames shooting up from the building and rang in an alarm for more apparatus.
Three engine companies responded from their station and another came from the main fire station at Fifth Street and Macdonald Avenue. The entire building was blazing by the time they arrived.

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Richmond: Plan for airport at Point Isabel never got off the ground 50 years ago


Before the Point Isabel proposal, an airport was proposed off of Berkeley in 1945. (San Francisco Public Library History Center)

point isabel airport 10 1966a

If a plan first raised in 1966 had flown with regulators, there might have been an airport for small aircraft along the Bay in Richmond where dogs now frolic, strollers and bicyclists take in Bay views and UC Berkeley is planning its global campus.
The proposal for the Point Isabel airport between Point Isabel and Brooks Island surfaced in the summer of 1966 and was largely embraced by business leaders in Richmond as beneficial to local commerce and the region as a whole. Had the proposal been made 10 years earlier, it might have flown. But plans to fill 225 acres of mudflats now had to go before the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the regulatory panel established in 1965 as a result of the activism of the the Save San Francisco Bay Association (later Save the Bay).
The airport proposal was exactly the type of project Save the Bay tried to halt, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the idea’s promoters.
The City Councils in Albany, Berkeley and El Cerrito all went on record in opposition, with Kay Kerr, one of the three founders of Save the Bay and the wife of UC Berkeley President Clark Kerr, speaking against the project before the El Cerrito council.

point isabel airport 10 1966

The plan did get as far as being submitted to the BCDC for consideration, but discussion was postponed a few times and the notion ultimately ran out of steam.

On Nov. 16 the Oakland Tribune reported that Berkeley had officially stated its opposition to the project:

OPPOSE AIRPORT
The council also went on record as opposing the proposed Richmond Airport in the bay between Point Isabel and Brooks Island. The project, which is to come before the Bay Conservation and Development Commission on Friday, would require
filling 225 acres in two stages.
The council opposed the project because it would create a noise problem and commit a major portion of the Eastbay shoreline before a regional plan could be drawn up. Councilmen also noted that regional plans call for inland rather than bay airports.

On Nov. 19 the Tribune reported that “BCDC took no action at this time on a request by the city of Richmond for an ‘advisory opinion’ on a proposed airport construction at Point Isabel which would involve filling 225 acres of tidelands. The project would serve small planes.”

A man readies to throw a ball for his dog to fetch while enjoying the sunset at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011.  (Dean Coppola/Staff)

A man readies to throw a ball for his dog to fetch while enjoying the sunset at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011. (Dean Coppola/Staff)