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.



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


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.


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:

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)


Richmond schedule for King holiday event revised due to weather

Organizers have revised plans for the annual day of Service on Jan. 18 for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The following announcement was sent out this weekend:

Scaled back Martin Luther King Day of Service in Richmond due to anticipated rain

Richmond, CA. Due to rain forecast for Monday, Friends of the Richmond Greenway (FORG) decided to modify plans for the 9th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday.

The noontime program with speakers and performances has been cancelled, and there will be no kid’s zone activities.

Projects and activities will focus around mulching, weeding, and some planting, Coffee/pastries in the morning and a hot soup lunch will be provided for volunteers.

All are welcome—wear layers and rain gear!!

What: 9th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service
Who: Friends of the Richmond Greenway (FORG) and City of Richmond
Where: 8th and 16th Streets on the Richmond Greenway (between Ohio and Chanslor)
When: Monday, January 18, 2016, 9:00 am – 12:00noon


Flashback Friday: A forgotten view of El Cerrito

el cerrito san pablo ave 1970030

San Pablo Avenue looking north at the county line about 1971. El Cerrito Plaza is on the right and MacFarlane’s Candies and Ice Cream, with the distinctive candy cane poles holding up its sign, is on the left. This is what you would have seen as you entered the city in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Our thanks to the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce for making these photos available from their archives.

el cerrito chamber slides032a

el cerrito chamber san pablo ave041a

el cerrito san pablo ave 1970031 detail
Detail of MacFarlane’s, the longtime Oakland-based candy retailer. Pity the parents whose kids got a look at the sign as they entered town. Behind the sign at the right just past Grand Auto is the back of the Doggie Diner head sign for the Doggie Diner location in El Cerrito. The location of MacFarlane’s was originally the Kona Club and is now a Chipotle. The Shell station at the left is now a Peet’s Coffee and Tea. And the Plaza, while still there, is not the same as it was then.

Above and below, Easter time ads for MacFarlane’s from the late 1950s.



Monarch butterflies return to Albany Hill

Monarch migration

Along with sightings of monarch butterflies overwintering at Aquatic Park in Berkeley (see below) the beloved creatures have made their annual return to the eucalyptus grove on Albany Hill.
This photo was taken by El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford, who reports, “They are harder to get to this year since they have taken up residence in a tree about halfway down the steep west side.”

Monarch butterflies huddle together on the branches of a tree at Aquatic Park in Berkeley on Nov. 24. Bay Area News Group photo by D. Ross Cameron.


Richmond: Salesian College Preparatory celebrates Native American Heritage Day


The students, faculty and staff of Salesian College Preparatory gather in the school’s gym to honor the Native American. This Heritage Day celebration brought together representatives from 8 tribes. Special activities included Fancy Shawl dancing by Lakota Holder (Lakota, Tlingit, Navajo), drumming by Michael Bellanger (Sac and Fox/Kickapoo), storytelling by Jessie Riddle (Pit River/Apache), corn husk doll-making by Diane Dierking and a special guest, Tommie Postoak, from the The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Also, Richmond resident Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney (Cherokee) offered a beautiful Cherokee prayer song. The governor of The Chickasaw Nation, Bill Annouatubby, sent a flag to the school in support of this event.
“It’s important that we keep the Native American spirit alive and thriving,” said Salesian senior and event organizer Ellissa Thompson, an enrolled member in the Chickasaw Nation. “By doing so we help preserve this vital culture and help others understand the richness and vitality of the Native American way of life. With November designated as Native American Heritage Month, it was important that the culture be brought to life, and not brushed off as another notation on a calendar.” Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation sent a Chickasaw flag and a letter of support in recognition of the event. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)


Fancy Shawl dancer Lakota Holder mesmerized the audience as she demonstrated various kinds of powwow dances. Michael Bellanger, Bay Area drum teacher and singer, accompanied Holder while she danced, beating traditional powwow music. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Jessie Riddle regales the audience with her vibrant Native American tales. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Tommie Postoak from the Department of Culture and Humanities flew out from Oklahoma to share the rich culture of the Chickasaw Nation. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney ended the assembly with a Cherokee blessing song. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

The performers pose together after the sharing of Native American culture (left to right: Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney, Jessie Riddle, Carol Thompson, Tommie Postoak, Ellissa Thompson, and Lakota Holder). Both Carol and Ellissa Thompson wear “traditional regalia” from the Chickasaw Nation, including beaded tribal collars and dresses that were adopted by the tribe just after the era of Indian removal in 1837. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Ellissa Thompson and student helpers serve traditional Chickasaw “pashofa” (cooked cracked corn, a staple of the Chickasaw tribe for thousands of years) and fry bread tacos for lunch. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Diane Dierking (Pit River/Apache) sets up a table to teach students how to make corn husk dolls. Although commonly referred to as “Pioneer dolls”, this type of doll was first made by Indians and then shared with the settlers. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

One of the many student-recreated pieces of artwork that were on display throughout the hallways. This piece is representative of the Tlingit tribe. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Photos and text courtesy of Carol Thompson and Salesian College Preparatory.


Richmond’s Salesian High raising funds for Middletown High School students in Valley Fire

Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond is raising funds for its counterparts at Middletown High School in the aftermath of the Valley Fire and is asking for community support. Salesian made the following announcement Thursday on the school’s Facebook page:

Salesian College Preparatory sends its thoughts and prayers to our long-time friends and sports rivals at Middletown High School who were affected by the Valley Fire. In order to show our support, the Salesian community members are organizing a fundraising drive for Middletown High. We are accepting cash or check donations and will be sending 100% of our collections to Middletown High School. We will be accepting donations throughout the end of day tomorrow and once again during the week of Triduum. Let’s join together to help our friends at Middletown High School.
For more information on how to give, contact us at (510)234-4433. Thank you for considering to help our friends in need.