Monday, July 3, 2017

World War One Centennial: Part 2

April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI – the “war to end all wars.” To commemorate this historic centennial, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum is featuring an exhibit called “Over There/Over Here” which runs through August 26, 2017. Following are a few of the interesting local stories featured in the exhibit:

Corporal Ed Houseman – “There was no time for fooling.”

Corporal Ed Houseman
Vallejo native Edwin Houseman worked at Mare Island prior to WWI but like many others he enlisted in the Army when the War broke out. Houseman traveled by train to the U.S. Army Training Camp at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but never made it “over there” to Europe. The Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 just before he was shipped overseas.

Ed Houseman was also a passionate researcher of local history, and he wrote about Mare Island during WWI in a later memoir: “Then in April 1917 came the First World War. The various classes of apprentices [at Mare Island] were pushed in their education to the limit of their ability. There was no time for fooling. Long hours and urgent work took all of our energy. The manufacture of electrical components, the preparation for sea of our own ships, and the repair of the battle damaged British and the interned German ships were of first priority. Then came the advent of new employees. Some good mechanics, some not so good, and some just plain draft dodgers. Two of these were so loud in their bragging about their ability to beat the draft that it resulted in the enlistment of several apprentices, including myself.”
Dazzle Camouflage

Unlike other forms of camouflage, the intention of dazzle is not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading. The concept was invented by Norman Wilkinson, who explained in 1919 that he had intended dazzle more to mislead the enemy about a ship's course, and so to take up a poor firing position, than actually to cause the enemy to miss his shot when firing.

USS Beaver at Mare Island, 1918
Dazzle was adopted by the British Navy, and then by the U.S. Navy, with little evaluation. Each ship's dazzle pattern was unique to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognizable to the enemy. The result was that a profusion of dazzle schemes was tried, and the evidence for their success was at best mixed. So many factors were involved that it was impossible to determine which were important, and whether any of the color schemes were effective.

Several Mare Island built destroyers experimented with the dazzle scheme, including USS Ward. Dazzle camouflage patterns were also said to have inspired Picasso, Braque and the Cubists.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

World War One Centennial: Part 1

April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI – the “war to end all wars.” To commemorate this historic centennial, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum recently opened a new exhibit called “Over There/Over Here” which runs through August 26, 2017. Following are a few of the interesting local stories featured in the exhibit:
“Thirty Days or Bust!”

    In 1918, in order to prove that they were the fastest, most efficient, and most patriotic workers at any U.S. shipyard, Mare Island “yardbirds” set a goal to build and launch the destroyer USS Ward in only 30 days. A banner on the Building Ways proclaimed “30 Days or Bust!” It was a seemingly impossible task, yet crews worked round-the-clock and were able to build the ship in a record-setting 17 ½ days. Original ceremonial rivet hammers, photo- graphs, and a scale model of USS Ward are included in the exhibit.

African Americans in WWI                                   
    The wartime draft did not discriminate among the races, although African Americans still served in segregated units. Many of those units gained fame on   the battlefields of Europe and were lauded for their bravery and decisive military action.

On October 29, 1917, the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the following:

9 SOLANO COLORED DRAFT MEN - ALL FROM VALLEJO; Leave Fairfield For American Lake in the Charge of Calley Oliver; Addresses Made Before Detachment Entrains For Trip North.

    “Nine men from Vallejo comprised Solano's full quota of colored soldiers of liberty and they left here this morning on the first leg of their journey to American  Lake in the charge of Calley Oliver.

    “Fairfield, Suisun and adjoining places turned out to give the boys a send-off and there were patriotic addresses by Judge W.T. O'Donnell, Rev. John Barrett of Vallejo, County Recorder F. M. Dickey, F.F. Marshall of the County Exemption Board and L.J. Williams, the latter a colored man from Vallejo, who spoke on behalf of men entraining, making an unusually fine address.

    “Those in the increment leaving today were: Calley Oliver, Edward Hayes, Stephen Corpage, Lorenzo Mitchell, Frank J. Smith, James M. Taylor, Izaac Shaw, James Kay, and James Hackett.”

Last Man’s Club

   The Solano County Last Man’s Club was organized on November 20, 1937. The Club was made up of Solano County veterans of WWI. The club met regularly to commemorate and honor those who had served in the War.          

    A bottle of vintage Champagne was at the heart of the club’s existence. As club members grew older and eventually passed away, the club grew smaller, until eventually it would be made up of “the Last Man.” That veteran would then have the honor of finally opening the bottle and drinking a toast to the comrades who had preceded him. 

     The tradition of the Last Man’s Club was not limited to Solano County. Such clubs have existed in many countries and among veterans of many different wars.

    On November 11, 1977, with only eight members remaining, the club decided to cease holding regular meetings due to age and ill health. The club also voted to present its records, photographs, and the Champagne bottle to the Museum. The bottle, photos, and original club roster book are featured in the exhibit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

“Prodigal Son: The Return of Douglas Heine”

   A new exhibit opening on Saturday, January 14, 2017 will feature the work of Vallejo-born sculptor Douglas Heine, who is returning to Vallejo for his first full-scale showing in his hometown.
Douglas Heine was born in Vallejo in 1935 and graduated from Vallejo High School in 1953. His high school years were tumultuous and with his group of friends that some considered a gang, things often got pretty wild. He went on to attend Mare Island’s Apprentice School, as did many young Vallejo men of that time. Heine helped build reactors on nuclear submarines but visualized something else for his life’s work. While working night shifts at Mare Island, Heine attended California College of Arts and Crafts and Solano College during the day. Working at the shipyard, he learned the value of working with tools and developed skill in working with his hands. Heine had taken classes from DorothyHerger at Vallejo High School and was pleased to again study with Herger at Solano College. Through his study with Herger, Heine realized his passion in life was to work with his hands making art. He continued studying art while upholding the responsibilities of family life after marrying his sweetheart from Vallejo High School, Judy Anderson. Heine soon pursued work at UC Berkeley and moved the family to Berkeley at age 30.
     At UC Berkeley, Heine worked with Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez at the Space Science Laboratory.  He was part of the team that crafted scientific experiments for high-altitude balloons that would study cosmic particles. After a decade in that heady company, he met Professor Harold Paris at a meeting of Experiments with Art and Technology and was offered work in the art department to establish a plastics shop. No funding developed for plastics, but Heine was soon managing the process of bronze casting at UC Berkeley’s foundry with artist Peter Voulkos.
   Heine traveled to Carrara, Italy and visited the marble-carving studio of sculptor Manuel Neri, who encouraged him to try his hand at carving marble. After spending time in Studio Nicoli, Carlo Nicoli encouraged him to bring students from the U.S. and teach workshops   in marble-carving. For sponsorship, Heine approached the administration of UC Berkeley’s Extension “Travel Abroad” program, and for the following six years led an annual marble-carving workshop in Carrara.
    Heine worked with a consortium of universities and for Boston College to study mueon interaction. He traveled to Italy to work in the insulating caves of the Gran Sasso Mountains near the city of L’Aquila, not far from Rome. During this year of scientific study, he continued his study and the craft of carving marble.
    Heine developed his art in the Berkeley studio shared with fellow sculptor Jorge Duron. Originally from Mexico, Duron encouraged him to teach drawing workshops in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende. Heine drew students from the U.S. to workshops every year for ten years. During this same time, he taught figurative clay workshops in Berkeley. He continued his work at UC Berkeley, this time in the Astrophysics Department, working with George Smoot, winner of the Nobel Prize for the experiment Cosmic Background Explorer.
    After many years of work at UC Berkeley and teaching workshops, he took early retirement and  began to focus full time on his art in his West Berkeley studio. He has shown his art internationally and locally. Heine’s public installations grace the City of Orinda, Solano College, St. Hilary’s in Tiburon, and the Embarcadero BART station. After an absence of fifty years the prodigal son returns to his roots.
    Heine is pleased to return to the city of his birth, Vallejo, to share his life’s pursuit of art via the multiple media of marble, bronze, aluminum, paint, and tapestry.