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El Cerrito: Historic adobe lost in arson fire 59 years ago today

The building once considered to be the most historic structure in Contra Costa County was destroyed in an arson fire on April 21, 1956.
Just 11 days earlier a city council member’s bid to preserve the landmark Castro adobe had been rejected by his colleagues as because it was considered an impediment to the construction of the planned El Cerrito Plaza shopping center. The developers were adamant that the center could not be constructed with the ancient building on the property.
In the days before the fire a petition drive led by Kensington pharmacist Louis Stein was being mounted to rally the public for saving the adobe.

Here is the coverage of the fire from the April 21, 1956 Richmond Independent, along with some pictures posted earlier on this blog that were taken the day after the fire by Cynthia Cameron, then a young girl who lived two blocks away.
Note that the article on the fire also mentions the recent demolition of the Alvarado adobe in San Pablo.

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Richmond Independent story 11 days before the fire.

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The fountain added to the Castro adobe in the late 1930s by El Cerrito gambling boss Walter “Big Bill” Pechart as seen after the April 20, 1956 fire in this photo by Cynthia Cameron.

The fire, which witnesses said broke out in five locations at the same time, destroyed the wooden second story.

The adobe and surrounding grounds. A police car is to the right.

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Photo from the El Cerrito Historical Society of the adobe in happier times.

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In final hours of Doctors Medical Center, violence victim moved by helicopter

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Dr. Ronald Berman, a longtime medical staff member at Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, was driving out of the parking lot of the hospital on Monday, the last full day of operation (DMC closed at 7 a.m. on Tuesday), when he saw several people gathered around a person on a stretcher. Presently, ambulances arrived, followed by a REACH medical helicopter.
“This hasn’t happened in ages, as all 911 calls have been diverted from DMC since last August,” Berman said in an email. “I thought it was ironical that this disaster (don’t know the nature of it) occurred on the very evening before closure, and wound up literally on DMC’s doorstep. I happened to have my camera with me, so took some pics.”

(Photos courtesy Dr. Ronald Berman)

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Winning students in annual Richmond Writes! poetry contest will be honored April 18

Students in Richmond schools selected as winners in the fifth annual Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest will be honored at a ceremony at 6 p.m. April 17 in the City Council chamber at 440 Civic Center Plaza. The public is invited to attend.

Below is the official announcement, including the names of the contest honorees who wrote poems on this year’s theme of Poetry in Motion.

Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest Announces Winners

Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest winners have been selected for 2015. The contest, conceived of by the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission (RACC) as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month, is in its fifth year.

Students from fourteen elementary, middle, and high schools in Richmond submitted both haiku and short poems. This year’s theme was Poetry in Motion and students wrote nearly 600 poems about it. The world is in motion, always moving and changing. They found motion in events, time, seasons, physical movements and activities, travel, music, and more.

Students from fourteen schools submitted nearly 600 poems this year! Poetry was judged by an eight-member selection panel: Susan Antolin, Lincoln Bergman, Donte Clark, Brenda Quintanilla, Maryann Maslan, Susan Anderson, Steve Early, and Connie Van Guilder. Three of them are Richmond’s own Poets Laureate (Quintanilla, Clark and Bergman); Antolin is a member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California; early is a published writer; Van Guilder is a professor and Liberal Studies Chair at JFK University in Pleasant Hill; and Maslan and Anderson are both commissioners on the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission.

Judges reviewed the contest entries in teams of two, picking favorites together in their packets. This method allowed for discussion and compromise, yet still accommodated individual taste. Poetry, for both the writer and the reader, is extremely subjective, and the judges made a point of honoring that in their final selections.

This year’s winners are:

Elementary Schools:

1st Prize: Anthony Alvarez, Washington Elementary
1st Prize: Ariella Benavides, Caliber Beta Academy
1st Prize: Clarissa Castro, Washington Elementary
1st Prize: Silvia Coca Cruz, Washington Elementary

2nd Prize: Amelie Banuelos, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Hannah Benavides, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Sania Kaleko, Wilson Elementary
2nd Prize: Citlali Mano, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Gloria Zearett, Washington Elementary

3rd Prize: Angel Abreau, Bayview Elementary
3rd Prize: Leah Ambernathy Saphon, Caliber Beta Academy
3rd Prize: Giselle Barragan, Washington Elementary
3rd Prize: Reiley Dillon, Washington Elementary
3rd Prize: Amitra Kellogg, Washington Elementary

Honorable Mention:

Alicia Acosta, Washington Elementary; Carlos Acosta, Washington Elementary; Mara Bravo, Coronado Elementary; Aaliyah Castillo, Washington Elementary; Rogelio Contreras, Washington Elementary; Selenah Corona DesSilva, Wilson Elementary; Gloria Diaz, Washington Elementary; Asia Jacobson, Coronado Elementary; Melvin Lopez, Jr., Coronado Elementary; Antonia Mason, Bayview Elementary; Parker Mina, Washington Elementary; Jacqueline Plascencia, Coronado Elementary; Maryanna Preciado, Coronado Elementary; Daniel Rodinson, Washington Elementary; Savannah Qualls, Washington Elementary; Daniel Rodinson, Washington Elementary; Kylie Alyssa Velazquez, Washington Elementary; Jimena Villarreal, Washington Elementary; and Tyrah Weems, Washington Elementary.

Middle Schools:

1st Prize: Teressa T. Bigbee, DeJean Middle School
2nd Prize: Jade Synott Brandow, Fred Korematsu Middle School
3rd Prize: Santiago Sixto, DeJean Middle School

Honorable Mention:
Juan Zamara, DeJean Middle School

High Schools:

1st Prize: Gabrielle Green, De Anza High School
2nd Prize: Yaritza Gomez, De Anza High School
3rd Prize: Angel Wiley, DeAnza High School

Honorable Mention:
Eugene O. Gaines, III, Kennedy High School
Jasmine Gill, DeAnza High School
Chandandeep Kaur, De Anza High School
Yajaira Sandoval, Kennedy High School
Austin Williams, Kennedy High School

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1st Prize: Teo Scura, LEAP

The Award Ceremony will be held at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond in City Council Chambers on Friday, April 17th at 6:00 pm. All participants of the poetry contest will receive certificates of recognition from Mayor Tom Butt, and a copy of the chapbook containing all of this year’s poetry entries.

The Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest helps students learn how to write poetry as a way of expressing how they see the world. Each year their poems touch the hearts of the art commissioners, judges, teachers, parents, city staff, and all who read them. The public is welcome, and the poetry chapbooks will be available on a first-come first-served basis once the students have received their copies.

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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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Berkeley: Giveaway on Sunday of seats from UC Theatre

The UC Theatre in Berkeley is offering a unique opportunity to longtime fans on Sunday: Free original theater seats, available first-come, first serve. The new owners of the funky and beloved movie house, who are raising funds to turn the theater into a performance venue, posted the following Friday on their Facebook page:

Memories that last a lifetime available Sunday Noon to 4pm at The UC Theatre!
We’re giving away some of the UC Theatre Rocky Horror nourished, Landmark Theatre initiated, historic theatre seats…
FREE – ONE TIME ONLY this Sunday, March 1st, from 12noon to 4pm.
If you are interested, here are the conditions we ask you to follow:
1) First come, First Served.
2) Seats are in sections – no single or double or triple seats available – the smallest sections available are 4-6 seats. Larger sections are also available. The seats are VERY HEAVY!
3) Seats must be removed as is.
4) You must have a truck or van, and a minimum of 2 strong people to load them. They are VERY HEAVY!
5) We cannot give away the chairs unless you meet the criteria above. No exceptions.
Please spread the word to people who will adopt, cherish, and give these seats a good home!
Donations to the Berkeley Music Group in support of The UC Theatre “Turn on the Lights” Capital Campaign are much appreciated. www.theuctheatre.org/support.
See you at the Theatre this Sunday!
Thanks!

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When baseball great Jackie Robinson came to Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville

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Program page from the 1951 exhibition game at Oaks Ball Park between Jackie Robinon’s All Stars and Billy Raimondi’s Major-Minor Leaguers.

Saturday, Jan. 31, is the birthday of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who was 28 years old in 1947 when he broke Major League Baseball’s longstanding unwritten ban on black baseball players.
Robinson made at least three visits to Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville on barnstorming tours.
The first two were in October of 1946, when Robinson, still about six months away from breaking the major league color barrier when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, came to the East Bay with a group of black baseball players to face the local black baseball team, the Oakland Larks, in an exhibition game.

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Jackie Robinson caused something of a sensation in 1946, when he was signed to play with the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodger farm team.

(Robinson and team also made a stop in San Francisco to play a team led by another future Hall of Fame player, Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller.)
Robinson was an established big league star when he made a return trip to Emeryville in November of 1951, when his barnstorming All Star team played a squad of current and former Pacific Coast League players led by Oakland Oaks catcher Billy Raimondi.

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Jackie Robinson had just finished his first and only minor league season with the Montreal Royals in 1946 when he came to Oaks Ball Park in Emeryville with a team of Negro League players and black teammates as part of a barnstorming tour. Their opponents that day were the Oakland Larks, a black baseball team whose members included Lionel Wilson, future judge and Oakland mayor.

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Robinson’s barnstorming tour made a second visit to Emeryville in October of 1946.

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Players on Robinson’s touring team that came to the East Bay in 1951 included Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League, and his Cleveland Indian teammate Luke Easter.

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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 4: The ill-fated original School for the Deaf

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The original California School for the Deaf, which was destroyed by a fire in 1875.

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 original California School for the Deaf, which was destroyed by a fire in 1875. (The building had earlier been damaged while still under construction by the last major earthquake on the Hayward fault in 1868. Mr. Emslie also relates tales about an early “haunted house” in the area.

Local Pioneer Tells of Fire
That Razed Deaf, Blind Home

By C.C. EMSLIE
During the explorations mentioned yesterday we found places of never-ending interest. One favorite trip was to the ruins of the Deaf and Blind Institute, which had been destroyed by fire in 1875. The stone walls which survived the blaze were blown down by explosives, as they had been damaged by the flames. Nothing remained but a mass of ruins.
The story of the fire, for which I am indebted to Mrs. Leon J. Richardson, whose father, Warring Wilkinson, was superintendent of the institute at the time of the fire, shows how fallible is human judgment. The original
specifications for the building called for a slate roof. The exterior walls and inside partitions were to be of stone.
In 1868 while the building was underway came the great earthquake of that year. Masonry and brick buildings bore, as usual, the brunt of the damage . Frame buildings stood up fairly well. The directors decided to complete the stone walls but to avoid danger from future temblors by the substitution of studding, lath and plaster for the partitions, and wood shingles instead of slate, and thus the building was completed.
One fine Sunday afternoon a spark from a kitchen chimney lodged on the roof and in a few hours the interior was completely gutted and the outside walls so damaged that they were taken down by the use of explosives. I am sure the comments of the directors as they surveyed the result of their efforts to construct an enduring edifice must have been interesting.
HAUNTED HOUSE
Losing interest for the time being in the ruins, we would wander south by the old Kelsey orchard to Russell St. and up to the Dunn Ranch, passing on our way a vacant building known as the “Haunted House, ” which stood on the north side of the street, near the head of Pine Ave. There was a number of hair-raising stories about the place and we believed them although they were somewhat contradictory. Among the pleasures of youth in my day was the faculty of believing everything you were told. Mr. Kelsey was seriously annoyed by juvenile raiders of his orchard, then one of the finest in Alameda County.
He had some success in keeping them away with the threat of a salt-loaded gun.
Of course he could not patrol the entire orchard at night and I have been told that he invented the haunted house legend to keep the more youthful of the night time raiders out of the east end of the orchard, where the building stood.
Arriving at the Dunn home on the southeast corner of the Tunnel Road and Domingo Ave., we would stop long enough to sample the juicy pears which Mr. Dunn delighted in growing. A few of the trees still stand opposite the entrance to the Claremont Hotel.
Miss Mary Dunn tells me the trees were planted in 1860.
Following the road a couple of hundred yards, we turned south a short distance to the north fork of Temescal Creek where was the most famous blackberry patch in the Berkeley hills. It is probably that a combination of soil and climate peculiar to the location that added size and flavor to the berries beyond those of any other section.
If our berrying was finished before sunset, our homeward route was straight down Russell St.
After sunset ‘it wasn’t, as there was the little matter of the haunted house to be considered, so before we came to the abode of fear we would make a wide detour through what is now Elmwood Park until we were sure no ghost would bother us.

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The successor school building in 1895.

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Souvenir postcard views of the 1925 Tournament of Roses parade

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In the age before television, the only to see the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena was in person or via news photos or newsreel. If you did attend in person, you could share the experience with a souvenir postcard. We found this 80-year-old postcard strip of prize-winning floats, originally mailed when address requirements were minimal, at Wonderland Books in El Cerrito.
Note the float that has a dirigible made of flowers.

The Rose Bowl that year was a legendary matchup between Notre Dame, coached by Knute Rockne and featuring the famous “Four Horsemen,” in a showdown against Stanford, coached by Pop Warner and featuring all-time great Ernie Nevers.

Nevers established a Rose Bowl single-game rushing record in the game, with 114 yards on 34 carries. But Notre Dame prevailed 27-10.
Radio play-by-play of the Rose Bowl commenced the following year.

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