Category Archives: Halls of History

Where do I cancel?

Out & About

On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Visalia, California, a distance of 327 miles. It was a 10-hour round-trip. My purpose was to speak to the Visalia Succulent Club on Nature’s Geometry in Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I got to go over The Grapevine, a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 over the Tehachapi Mountains from California’s San Joaquin Valley to Grapevine.

The Grapevine

It’s a monster of a road because there’s a lot of semi traffic doing 5-10 mph in the slow lane, and semi traffic doing 10-30 mph in the second lane. Traffic in the other lanes is cruising by at 55-65 mph, with some doing up to 90 mph in the fast lane. The weather can be atrocious because of the height of the mountains, raining at the top (4,000 feet) but clear on both sides, and even snow at some times of the year. Couple the weather with the wide range of speeds, and there always are various accidents.

The meeting was at 6:00 p.m., and since I got there at 10:15 a.m., I had a lot of time to explore. Visalia and its sister city of Exeter were quite beautiful with all the trees that were blooming.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus sp.)

Flowering Maple (Albutilon sp.)

Redbud trees

Flowering trees

Exeter, with a population of 10,000, had a very cool little downtown area. There were murals on the exterior of 32 buildings. I didn’t find them all, but the following one, #15 and titled “Tracks of Time,” was my favorite.

Tracks of Time

In Exeter, I found a bookstore with lots of local history books, so I bought one, a hard-cover edition of a book that itself is difficult to find.

Visalia Electric Railroad

The bookstore also had a cat. I’m one of those who have to take time out of my busy schedule to pet a cat, so this little one got 15 minutes of love and attention from me. Look at the expression on his face as I told him that I had to go but would make him a Facebook star.

Exeter bookstore kitty

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, when I got home at 4:00 Sunday morning, I decided to self-isolate, not because I think I might have caught something in the Central California Valley but rather because at my age (65 years and 8 days) and with my high blood pressure; skin cancer and seborrheic keratoses; BPH; and constant coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing due to a deviated septum from a broken nose sometime in my early childhood (according to the otolaryngologist), I’m in the high-risk category. My constant coughing and sneezing also might cause concern to anyone within hearing distance. I have pills to help control the coughing and sneezing, but I never know how long before they take effect and when they might expire.

I’m keeping a journal of my days at home in self-isolation., trying to keep things in perspective.

Day 1—I have decided to self-isolate. Since I am retired, between watching television (although no sports), gardening (lots of weeds to pull and flora to plant), and taking care of Little Queen Olivia (who doesn’t seem to be real excited about me being home all day), self-isolation shouldn’t be too hard.

Day 2—After a day of drinking margaritas and watching the Hannibal series on Prime TV, I can definitely state that drinking margaritas all day does not make you poop. Thusly, I am out of margaritas, but I have 1,618 rolls of toilet paper.

Day 3—Little Queen Olivia is completely oblivious to the fact that I am home and willing to give belly rubs.
Little Queen Olivia

Day 4—Self-isolation isn’t so bad, but I do find it interesting that there are 8,471 grains of rice in one box and 8,552 grains in the other box.

Day 5—It’s been raining all this week, with 3½ inches these past two days, and it’s raining hard right now. Pulling weeds and planting flora is going very slowly. Ah well, that means I definitely still have things to do during the next nine days of my self isolation.

My self-isolation will end on March 28, and three days later my 90-day free trial of the year 2020 ends. Where do I cancel?

Hope everyone is doing well in these weird times we’re living in.

The historic Southern Pacific Railroad depot in Bakersfield

Halls of History

Never fails! When I’m out and about doing one thing, trains seem to crop up here and there.

When I was in Bakersfield on February 11 speaking to the Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society, I had to go downtown and check out the historic Southern Pacific depot.

Looks like this:

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

When construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad line had reached the southern San Joaquin Valley in 1874, Bakersfield was the preferred stop. However, a land dispute between Bakersfield and Southern Pacific resulted in Southern Pacific building its tracks two miles east of the Bakersfield, in Sumner, a town laid out by the railroad, as many towns were back in those days. A small depot also was built.

When the Bakersfield depot opened on June 27, 1889, it was located in Sumner, California. Sometime between 1888 and 1892, Sumner incorporated under the name Kern City. In 1910, Kern City voted to become part of Bakersfield.

The depot originally was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, comprising both a train station and a hotel. One of the station’s most defining features was the long arcade stretching along the north side and connecting the station and the hotel.

In the late 1930s, Southern Pacific wanted to demolish the depot and build a completely new one. Instead, the depot was remodeled, providing a more streamlined appearance by removing many of the ornamental Romanesque features and transforming the depot into a Spanish Colonial Revival style. The steep roofs, part of the original style, were kept. Additional expansions included a section in the Moderne style.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

The depot served Southern Pacific passenger trains that ran on the San Joaquin Valley Route: San Joaquin Daylight, Sacramento Daylight, Owl, and West Coast.

Eventually the hotel closed and was converted to office space; I could not find the date of its closing. Closing the hotel also resulted in half of the portico (on the hotel side) being enclosed.

It currently is used as an office building and crew change center by Union Pacific, and on very rare occasions (about once every ten years), it serves as a stop for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight when Union Pacific’s Coast Line is closed. When that happens, the Coast Starlight goes through the Tehachapi Loop. Getting a video of Amtrak on the Tehachapi Loop is #1 on my Bucket List. Here’s a video of a long BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop in February 2017 showing the front of the train passing under the rear of the train:

BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop

The depot itself closed in 1971 with the founding of Amtrak and the termination of individual railroad passenger trains, thus ending Southern Pacific passenger trains through the station. The office portion would continue to be used by Southern Pacific, and later by Union Pacific.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

There is a nice Amtrak station not too far away, and there are plans for two new rail systems, both having a stop in East Bakersfield near the historic Southern Pacific depot. Kern County also has been toying with the idea of a regional commuter rail system which would use existing Union Pacific tracks. Not to be left out, Bakersfield also has been mulling a future light rail system. Both systems are not on the drawing board before 2025.

Halls of History — The Cardiff Mystery House

Halls of History

When I was in Wrightwood Village a week ago, I immediately noticed that there was not a single brick or stucco home. All were wood. That’s because Wrightwood is built directly on top of the San Andreas Fault. As has been regularly seen in earthquakes throughout the world, brick and stucco homes don’t do so well in earthquakes.

Consequently, building codes in California have changed significantly since the Loma Prieta (World Series) earthquake of 1989 and the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Thus, whenever I see a brick building in my part of the world, I’m pretty sure it was built before 1989.

Recently I found a two-story brick building in Cardiff near the Cardiff Elementary School.

Cardiff Mystery House

There was only one window in the place, although it looks like there were many more that were “boarded up” with brick.

Google Maps shows it as a gray rectangle in a public park.

Location of Cardiff Mystery House

It took a lot of research to find out about this house, known locally as the Cardiff Mystery House.

I did find lots of interesting guesses:

  1. A haunted house to keep the kids close to the school during recess.
  2. The original Cardiff schoolhouse.
  3. The old Cardiff jailhouse.
  4. The Cardiff power station from the 1970s.
  5. A secret lookout or radar facility to guard against a West Coast attack by the Japanese in World War II. Note that many spotter bunkers were established along the California coast after Pearl Harbor but they all are camouflaged bunkers rather than being 2-story structures.

None of those appear to be correct, but #1 and #5 are fun to imagine.

Apparently the “house” was built in the 1940s by Bell Telephone as a telephone relay station to connect services throughout Southern California. It held large, low-voltage batteries that amplified every phone’s handset and powered the phone’s ring.

Bell designed it as house structure to avoid a possible air attack by the Japanese, which would have knocked out communications.

In the 1990s, Bob Sinclair, the founder and owner of Pannikin Coffee and Tea, bought the Cardiff Bell Telephone house, intending to repurpose it for his growing coffee shop chain, something he was good at doing. In fact, he bought the old Encinitas railroad depot, moved it to Leucadia, renovated it, and turned it into a coffee house, shown below.

Former ATSF railroad depot in Encinitas, California

I found the Encinitas railroad depot a couple of years ago and did a blog post about it, which you can find here.

The Cardiff Mystery House was deemed non-earthquake proof, thus requiring massive retrofits to make it suitable for a a coffee house, not to mention that it probably would not have the requisite number of parking spaces.

The school district bought the property from Sinclair in 2001 and now uses it to store the school’s equipment and carnival supplies. Surrounding the building is a student garden.

There are at least two more surviving Bell Telephone houses, identical to the Cardiff house both in size and architecture. I actually have seen both of them but didn’t have time to stop and explore them. One is in the San Onofre State Beach campground, visible when driving southbound I-5, just west of the California Highway Patrol weigh station. The other is at the west end of Ortega Highway 74, in San Juan Capistrano.

I guess you know that I’m going to have to go by those two and take pictures, yes?

Cardiff Mystery House

Cardiff Mystery House

Cardiff Mystery House

I’m worried about his followers

Out & About

Yesterday I went to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain location

This was my sixth or seventh trip to Salvation Mountain since 1993, but I was always alone, so I never exited the car and walked around.

I did not feel safe.

Yesterday I was with a group of seventeen photographers…. There’s power in numbers.

I felt safe.

Not completely safe.

But safe enough to get out of my car and take pictures.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Is it odd that I don’t feel safe in the midst of Bible Thumpers, especially those spouting “God Is Love?” On the surface, yes, I think it is odd. The underlying reality, I believe—

—and as my wise old grandmother told me,
“You can’t argue with someone’s beliefs
because their beliefs are not always based in reality.”—

—is that these people will do just about anything to protect their beliefs, and they often are not sane, sober, or interested in other beliefs, not to mention opinions, facts, science, truth….

Armed & bitter libertarian drunkards live here

Salvation Mountain is a “hillside visionary environment” created by Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County. Knight started it in 1984 when he was 53. Although there are many Bible verses painted on Salvation Mountain, its main philosophy is the Sinner’s Prayer. Knight’s version of the Sinner’s Prayer seemed to be the following because it was everywhere!

Jesus, I’m a sinner.
Please come upon my body
and into my heart.

Sinner's Prayer

What little research I could tolerate doing this morning on the Sinner’s Prayer indicates that it’s just another of those beliefs. In this case, even the Bible does not contain any reference to the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s all made up gobbledygook even beyond the fairy tales in the Bible.

Salvation Mountain is the “showpiece” of Slab City. Other parts of Slab City include the “neighborhoods” of East Jesus and West Satan. I’m pretty sure I would  be living in West Satan.

We didn’t make it to West Satan yesterday. Seems the West Satan folks and the East Jesus folks weren’t getting along…. Where’s God’s love?

All residents of Slab City are “squatters” and seem to be paranoid about government, technology, and science. However, if you want to donate to their paranoia, they have an email address and they do take PayPal. They also have a Facebook page. Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

East Jesus PayPal

I do find it interesting that for a “city” propounding God’s love, there was a lot of non-love exhibited throughout Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and East Jesus.

Slow the fuck down

I'll have them all shot

More irony (my belief)
No stupid people

No fucking parking

In 2000, The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain

a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described Salvation Mountain

as a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight, suffering from dementia,
was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon, California (where I live!).
He died there February 10, 2014.

In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support and maintain Salvation Mountain.

I found the question mark in this little section of Salvation Mountain to be quite interesting:

Bible Jesus Loves ? You

I’m not worried about whether or not Bible Jesus loves me. I’m worried about the followers of Bible Jesus….

Wow, oh wow. Hidden San Diego.

Halls of History

In my never-ending exploration of all things San Diego, I found a plaque along a walkway in Balboa Park. Looks like this:

Agaston Haraszthy

I have walked this path hundreds of times yet never saw this plaque even though it is on a good-sized rock. However, as you can see in the picture, it looks like the vegetation that once covered it has been pruned back.

Or maybe, just maybe, it has been in storage from when the walkway was expanded a couple of decades ago and now has been returned to its original location. I know the City of San Diego often does that. Sadly, sometimes things never get returned to the original location…..

So, of course, I had to jump on the research wagon to find out more.

Research Wagon

Agoston HaraszthyWe know from the plaque that Agoston Haraszthy was born in 1812, was the first Sheriff of San Diego, and died in 1869….

I was sure that my 762-page book, San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman, would provide quite a bit of information. I mean, after all, he was San Diego’s first Sheriff!

I was excited when the index said that Agoston Haraszthy was on page 6. A full page all to himself!

Sadly, the entry’s not even about Agoston Haraszthy. It’s about Roy Bean. Yes, Judge Roy Bean. Haraszthy is casually mentioned. Here is the entry:

Roy Bean. Around the mid-1800s, San Diegans decided to be truly civilized, they needed a jail. Bids went out, and Agoston Haraszthy, who was sheriff and town marshal, was picked to do the job. He hired someone to build a 20-by-50-foot room of cobblestones, which wee set in mortar that contained no cement. According to legend, the first prisoner in the 1852 cell was Roy Bean, nephew of Mayor Joshua Bean. This was the same Roy Bean who was later known as “Judge” Roy Bean, famous for his “Law West of the Pecos.” No soon was Roy incarcerated than he began digging in the soft mortar with either a jackknife or a spoon, and quickly made his way out.

I wondered what a Google search might provide. I was not hopeful.

Surprise!

A Google search took me to the greatest encyclopedia in the history of the world: Wikipedia (where I happen to be an editor who can make edits stick permanently). Following are highlights of his life, and the link to his Wikipedia page follows this list.

      1. August 30, 1812—Born to a Hungarian noble family in Pest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire. Pest has been part of Budapest since 1873.
      2. January 6, 1833—Married Eleonóra Dedinszky in Bács-Bodrog County, Hungary. The Dedinszkys were a Polish family but had lived in Hungary for many centuries, being accepted into Hungarian nobility in 1272. Agoston and Eleonora had six children.
      3. March 1840—Traveled to the United States with a cousin, making their way through Austria, Germany, and England, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to New York, and made their way to Wisconsin via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes.
      4. 1840—Founded the town of Széptáj, now knosheim winery
      5. roxbury winwn as Sauk City, which was the first incorporated village in the State of Wisconsin.
      6. 1842—Returned to Hungary to bring his parents, wife, and children to Wisconsin as permanent residents of the United States.
      7. 1842-1849—Built mills, raised corn and other grains, and kept sheep, pigs, and horses. Kept a store and opened a brickyard. Many of the oldest houses still standing in Sauk City were built with bricks from Haraszthy’s brickyard. Owned and operated a the first commercial steamboat to carry passengers and freight on the Mississippi River. Donated land on which the first Roman Catholic church and school in Sauk City were built. Planted grapes and dug wine cellars on the east side of the Wisconsin River in what became the Town of Roxbury. The cellars and slopes are today home to the Lake Wisconsin AVA and the Wollersheim Winery, the second oldest winery in the United States.
        Wollersheim Winery
      8. March 1849—He and his family left for California, not for the gold rush, but to settle in San Diego and plant a vineyard. Elected captain of the wagon train that traveled the Santa Fe Trail, arriving in San Diego in December 1849.
      9. 1850-1868—Formed a partnership with Juan Bandini, a prominent Spanish-Californian in San Diego (see my blog post about Casa de Bandini). Planted fruit orchards, operated a livery stable and stagecoach line, built a state hospital, and opened a butcher shop. Organized a syndicate to subdivide a large section of the San Diego Bay shore into streets, parks, and building lots, called Middletown. Planted a vineyard on a tract of land near the San Diego River. Led an unsuccessful movement to divide California into two states.
      10. April 1, 1850, elected Sheriff of San Diego County. Also served as city marshal. In his capacity as a private contractor, built a jail for the city of San Diego, which was completed in 1851.
      11. September 1851—Elected to the California State Assembly from San Diego, serving from January 5 to May 4, 1852.
      12. March 25, 1852—Bought land in San Francisco near Mission Dolores and near Crystal Springs and planted vineyards. Found the climate too foggy to ripen the grades.
      13. April 1854—Haraszthy became the first U.S. assayer at tne newly opened San Francisco Mint.
      14. 1856—Bought a small vineyard northeast of Sonoma.
      15. 1857—Founded Buena Vista Winery, the oldest commercial winery in California.
        Buena Vista Winery
      16. 1858—Wrote a 19-page “Report on Grapes and Wine of California,” published by the California State Agricultural Society. Now recognized as the first treatise on winemaking written and published in California, and praised as the “first American explication of traditional European winemaking practices.”
      17. April 23, 1862—Elected President of State Agricultural Society. Contributed articles to newspapers and made speeches to gatherings of agriculturalists. Entered his wines in the competition of the California State Fair and received the highest awards.
      18. 1863—Incorporated the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society, the first large corporation in California (perhaps in the United States) organized for the express purpose of engaging in agriculture.
      19. 1864—Harper’s Magazine proclaimed that Buena Vista was “the largest establishment of the kind in the world.
      20. 1861—Appointed by California Governor John G. Downey as a commissioner to report to the Legislature on the “ways and means best adapted to promote the improvement and growth of the grape-vine in California.” Traveled through France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Hungary before returning to California in December 1861 with more than 100,000 cuttings of more than 350 different varieties of vines. It is a disputed claim that Haraszthy brought the first Zinfandel vines to California.
      21. 1868—Left California for Nicaragua. He formed a partnership with a German-born physician and surgeon named Theodore Wassmer and began to develop a large sugar plantation near the seaside port of Corinto, Nicaragua, where he planned to produce rum and sell it in American markets.
      22. July 6, 1869—Haraszthy disappeared. His body was never found, and it is unknown whether he fell into a river on his property and was washed out to sea, or was dragged under the water by alligators which infested the area.
      23. March 2007—Inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame by the Culinary Institute of America.

All I have to say is, Wow! I have read so many books on San Diego history, and this is the first I ever have heard of Agoston Haraszthy, his relationship with San Diego, his entrepreneurship, and his significant vintner history. Wow, oh wow. Immigrants…. Thank goodness Twitler wasn’t around then.

Here is the link to his Wikipedia page.

Agaston Haraszthy

If you get lost in Beverly Hills

If you ever get lost in Beverly Hills, get lost at Camden Dr & N Santa Monica Blvd to visit the awesome historic cactus garden.

Location of the Beverly Hills Historic Cactus Garden

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And there you have it

This beautiful Gingko biloba and its sidekick bench caught my eye a few weeks ago in San Diego’s historic Presidio City Park:

Tommy Geta Memorial

After taking the picture, I went over to the bench. Here’s what I found:

Tommy Getz Memorial bench

Since I always have been a fan of history, a memorial created in 1935 really piqued my interest.

I found a newspaper clipping from The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California, published on Wednesday, October 30, 1935.

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa CA, October 30, 1935

I also found this from the book, San Diego in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to America’s Finest City:

Tommy Getz

I’m quite familiar with the Estudillo House since I did a blog post on it back on February 13, 2015: San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14: Casa de Estudillo.

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

And there you have it.