Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas in Vallejo, 1896

Miss Annie Pennycook hosted a holiday gathering of her close friends on Christmas Day, 1896. The celebration included refreshments, holiday games and an exchange of gifts. Among those who enjoyed the festivities were A.E. Lucy, Lavina Bushnell, Ethel Cutler, Jean Brownlie, Estelle Lucy, Grace Brownlie, Maud Harrier, Maud Rounds, Belle Roney, A.L. Halliday, John Rothschild, Milton Cutler, G.G. Halliday, B. Beinenfeld, L.G. Harrier, Will Green, Johnston Cooper, James Topley, and Herbert Diamond. Pennycook was a teacher and principal in the Vallejo schools for more than 40 years, and Pennycook Elementary School was later named in her honor.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vallejo's Holiday Fashions - 1880

The Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported on Vallejo's holiday fashion trends on December 3, 1880:

Now look out for holiday gifts.
Amaranth red is the favorite shade.
Yellow blonde hair is no longer stylish.
The Sara Bernhardt gloves are very stylish.
Muffs to match bonnets or coats are fashionable.
Fashion may be studied in the church or theatre.
Little girl’s coats are to have hoods at the back.
Sashes are worn with nearly all the new costumes.
Large hats are most becoming to children, and continue in vogue.
Chinese and Hindoo designs are seen upon many of the new dress materials.
Bayadere stripes will be again worn for underskirts. They come in new silk and wool materials.
A novelty is the floral pocket, which is likely to be worn very much this season on evening and full dress toilets.
Jersey webbing in the new shades of red, purple, wine-red, and variations of olive are among the new dress goods.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving at the Orphanage, 1910

From 1869 to 1922 the Good Templar's Home for Orphans in Vallejo provided care for needy children from throughout California. After it closed, the grounds of the former Home served as the Vallejo Municipal Golf Course. In the 1930s the Vista de Vallejo subdivision was built on the hilltop location.

In November 1910 the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported on the sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner prepared for the Home's residents that year. The dinner, according to the paper, "was well worth looking upon. The heavily laden tables were covered with snow white table cloths and spread upon them was a wealth of roast turkey, cranberry sauce, fruit, candy, cakes, pies, and other good things. There was an abundance of everything; two huge turkeys being set aside to be used later. The Home contains 112 children at the present time and every one of them was made happy... through the generosity of our people. Those having charge of the arrangements for the dinner desire to thank the employees of the Mare Island Navy Yard and the people of Vallejo for their liberality."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Winged V's

Although they only played from 1905 to 1911, the Winged V's amateur football team rolled up an astounding winning record and became the undisputed football champions of northern California. Over a span of six years the team had 65 wins, with only one loss and three ties. Many team members went on to prominent careers including Columbus Castagnetto (Solano County auditor), Oscar Hilton (elected to the California State Assembly), Jack Thornton (Solano County Sheriff) and Harry Gee (Vallejo City Attorney).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Celebrate Vallejo - Hawaiian Style!

It's once again time to "Celebrate Vallejo" at the Museum! "Celebrate Vallejo" is our annual gala event to celebrate our Museum and our diverse community. This year we will “Celebrate Vallejo” Hawaiian Style! Join us for an evening of Hawaiian and Asian/Pacific cuisine, tropical drinks, and South Seas entertainment! The event will be held on Friday, November 5th at the Museum. Festivities commence at 6:30 p.m. and will include elegant hors d' oeuvres, complimentary cocktails, raffle, silent auction items and a live auction.

You can help make this event a great success:

• Donate items for our live and silent auctions. Ideas for auction items include: time-share vacations, weekends or overnights at vacation homes, services you or your company can provide, an outing on your boat, gift certificates, antiques, gift baskets, etc. The sky's the limit . . . use your imagination!

• Purchase tickets for the event. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.

• Encourage your business or organization to become an Official Sponsor. Your $400 sponsorship gives you:
- A table for 8
- Table signage for your business or organization
- Listing in the Celebrate Vallejo program.
- Special recognition during the event

The goal of Celebrate Vallejo – Hawaiian Style is to raise much needed operational funds so we can continue to develop programs at the Museum and to reach out to build awareness of our unique community. Vallejo and Mare Island, by the way, have many interesting historical ties to Hawaii. In December 1874, Hawaiian King Kalakalua visited Mare Island while on his way to Washington D.C. for a meeting with President Ulysses S. Grant. Later, in 1965, Mare Island launched the USS Kamehameha, one of seventeen nuclear submarines built at the Shipyard. Please join us on Friday, November 5th to share the fun, Hawaiian style!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vallejo Mourns McKinley

On this day      in 1901, Vallejoans gathered in mourning after the assassin- ation of President William McKinley. McKinley had been shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz after delivering a speech at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York on September 5th. He died nine days later.  Following the announcement of McKinley’s death, hundreds of Vallejoans formed a public procession that wound through the streets of downtown. The procession was led by members of the Vallejo Police Department, and also included a cavalry detail from the Benicia Barracks, a U. S. Marine Corps unit from Mare Island, a group of Vallejo Civil War veterans and representatives from various local fraternal organizations.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

35 Years of Collecting: 1975 - 2010

In 1975 the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum accepted its first official donation: a painting of the original 1927 Carquinez Bridge by artist Julie Polousky. In the succeeding 35 years, our fine art collection has expanded to include paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture and textiles reflecting a broad cross section of works by both local artists and well known regional and national artists. More than 30 of those works are featured in a new exhibit in the Hall of History that continues through October 16th. Most of the works were chosen for their historic themes ranging from submarines to historic architecture to commemorative prints and posters.

Among the works featured in the exhibit are Chinese-American, a bronze sculpture by Beryl McCarthy Wynnyck, created in 1937 as part of the WPA’s Federal Artists’ project; Pipeline Welder, 1928 by Maynard Dixon; Cliff Shadow, Sierra Buttes by Douglass Fraser; USS Wahoo (above), an oil painting of one of Mare Island’s legendary WWII submarines, by Vladimir Shkurkin; Sketch of Mare Island on Aug. 11, ’42 by noted Bay Area watercolorist Dong Kingman; Vallejo-Mare Island Map Series by Roberto Rovira; Carqunez Bridge 50th Anniversary, a limited edition print by Roy DeForest, and many more.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Burning of the State Capitol

August marks the anniver- sary of a significant event in Vallejo's early history. Vallejo served as California's state capital in 1852 and 1853. The capitol building was located near the corner of York and Sacramento Streets - today the location of the new downtown transportation facility. Following the departure of the state legislature to Benicia in 1853, the former capitol building served as a library, meeting hall, and warehouse. In August 1859, the old capitol building was destroyed by fire.

A later newspaper account described the fire:

"At the time of the conflagration, J. B. Frisbie and Burcham had a considerable quantity of hay stowed in the basement. The day before an incendiary attempt on Georgia Street had aroused apprehensions among the citizens, and Mr. Topley and some others who had examined the State House with the possibility of a fire there in view, found evidence of the occupation at night of the place where the hay was stored. They nailed up everything securely so that no access was offered to the hay, and left. It was on the next day after - the morning of August 20, 1859 - that the building burned."

"The flames first broke out on the water side and were seen first by a man in a sloop on the bay. The alarm was given and the people rushed to the spot. But there was no fire apparatus in that day and the building burned to the ground before their eyes."

Following this disaster it became apparent that the community needed better fire protection. Volunteer hose companies were formed in the following years and these companies protected the city until the establishment of a municipal fire department in 1906.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vallejo's Beer Gardens

Got time to enjoy a nice cool beer on a hot summer day in one of Vallejo's shady beer gardens? One hundred years ago a popular Vallejo gathering spot was Germania Park, shown here in 1895. The park was located on Georgia Street, near present day Wallace and Solano Avenues. The adjacent Cyclodrome was a popular outdoor sports facility. Germania Park was operated by Larry Monreal until about 1915. Another fashionable Vallejo beer garden around the turn of the 20th century was Weniger's Gardens, located on Benicia Road.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

USS Daniel Boone

The nuclear submarine USS Daniel Boone (SSBN 629) was launched on this date in 1963 at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The ship was the ninth nuclear powered vessel built at Mare Island and the fourth “boomer,” or ballistic missile submarine built there. Altogether Mare Island built seventeen nuclear subs between 1957 and 1970.

USS Daniel Boone was named after the legendary American frontier pioneer and backwoodsman (1734-1820). The sub was one of the Navy's “41 for Freedom,” - Polaris missile-equipped submarines all named after significant figures in U.S. History. Daniel Boone was sponsored by Mrs. Margaret Wakelin, wife of Assistant Secretary of the Navy James H. Wakelin, who delivered the keynote address at the launching. USS Daniel Boone served the U.S. Navy until she was decommissioned in 1994.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1940: Fats Waller Plays in Vallejo

Seventy years ago this week, on June 14, 1940, famed jazz pianist Fats Waller played at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Vallejo. “Local dance and music fans,” announced the Vallejo Times-Herald, “will have an opportunity this evening to see and hear one of the country’s out- standing entertaining stars when “Fats” Waller brings his famous orchestra to the Memorial Hall under the auspices of Samoset Tribe of Red Men. The essence of spontaneity in humor, he has an individual style not heard from any other entertainer as he leads his popular dance band.... Dancing will start at 9 o’clock and continues until 1 a.m.”

The Vallejo newspaper promoted the show in almost every edition during the week preceding the dance: “A songwriter of no mean ability, “Fats” is a virtuoso of the piano, organ, violin and a master of ceremonies extra- ordinary. He began his musical career in the choir of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he also played the organ and his father preached. Over parental objection he accepted an offer to sing and play at Leroy Wilkins’ cabaret where he remained until 1924, doubling occasionally as a theatre organist and making piano rolls for the Q-R-S Company. He next took to the vaudeville stage and started writing music for the show “Keep Shufflin’.” Since then his climb to stardom has been unhalted and today he ranks with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and other swing masters. His appearance here will be a rare treat for dancers and spectators alike.”

Another article described Waller and listed a few of his many well-known compositions: “Just a big, good-natured boy making a living out of fun, with a smile that won’t come off, is “Fats” Waller, the composer, pianist and vocal entertainer who brings his famous orchestra to Memorial Hall next Friday evening…. As a composer he is known for “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “My Fate Is In Your Hands,” “I’ve Got A Feelin’ I’m Fallin’,” “If It Ain’t Love,” “Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now,” and “Crazy ‘Bout My Baby.” He has also written a number of musical reviews, such as “Connie’s Hot Chocolates,” and “Keep Shufflin’.” Waller is recognized as the most outstanding rhythmic pianist in the popular field today.”

Waller, who died in 1943, was just one of the many famous Swing and Big Band era musicians to play in Vallejo during the 1930s and 40s.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Carquinez Bridge Opening - May 21, 1927

May 21, 2010 marks the 83rd anniversary of the opening of the Carquinez Bridge. The bridge spanned the Carquinez Straits between Vallejo and Crockett and completed the first direct highway link between San Francisco and Sacramento. The bridge had been the brainchild of Aven J. Hanford and Oscar H. Klatt, operators of the Rodeo-Vallejo Ferry Company. The growth of automobile traffic had caused a ten-fold increase in the number of vehicles using Hanford and Klatt’s auto ferries in the five years from 1918 to 1923. The need for a bridge across the Straits became obvious and the two partners formed the American Toll Bridge Company to undertake the project.

Ground was broken in 1923 and construction took four years. The new bridge was described at the time as a “majestic masterpiece of engineering” and was heralded as the world’s largest highway bridge. When it was finally completed in 1927, the total length of the new bridge was 4,482 feet and the main support towers stood 325 feet above the water. 14,000 tons of steel were used in the project and five steel workers lost their lives during construction.

On March 19, 1927, the final section of the span moved slowly up the Carquinez Strait on barges. Massive counterweights were suspended from the already completed portions of the bridge and were slowly filled with sand. As the counterweights eventually increased to 750 tons each, the span was slowly hoisted on cables into position. This spectacular engineering feat was completed in less than an hour.

Two months after the final span was lifted into place, the Carquinez Bridge officially opened. Thousands of people attended the ceremony on May 21, 1927. The governors of four states - California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada - were on hand for the dedication. The great celebration was nearly eclipsed by other momentous news, shouted by newsboys hawking their afternoon papers on the bridge. American pilot Charles Lindbergh had reached Paris, completing the first solo trans-Atlantic airplane flight.

Following WWII, California’s population continued to boom. The nation’s interstate highway system expanded in response to America’s increasing dependence on the automobile. In 1958, a second bridge was built across the Carquinez Straits, parallel to the 1927 span. After the war the toll for crossing the original bridge had been eliminated, but when the new eastbound span opened on November 25, 1958, tolls were reintroduced at 25 cents per car.

In 2003 a new westbound span opened and the original 1927 bridge was demolished. Several pieces of the original 1927 bridge were identified as historical artifacts and are now housed at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Haunted Shipwreck?

When the Vallejo steamer Sunol sank in March 1897 after colliding with the sailing vessel Olympic, she carried a valuable cargo of lead and silver bars from the Selby Smelting Company. But when divers set about salvaging the wreck, they had a ghostly encounter that nearly ended the operation. On April 13, 1897 the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the mysterious story:

“There are spooks about the sunken wreckage of the steamer Sunol, according to the wild tale related by Diver Dolph, who has been working most energetically at recovering the treasure that fell out of the Sunol when she was sunk by the big bark Olympic. Dolph has given satisfaction in his work for a diver especially, but he balked at the spooks Saturday afternoon and refused to work any more.

“Captain A. E. Pryor, who heads the wrecking party and is generally addressed as the superintendent of the prospecting party that located a silver mine in the bay, was greatly astonished to see Diver Dolph rise to the surface hurriedly late on Saturday, tear off his diving costume and swear that imps were holding a high revel around the lead and silver bars sixty-five feet down in the depths of the bay, and that an infernal band was playing “A Life on the Ocean Wave” to amuse the imps.

“Pryor looked at Dolph, whom he knew to be a level headed and sober man, but whom he did not know to be superstitious. Divers see queer things in the depths and imagination can make them appear to be still more strange. Dolph was closely questioned as to what caused his fear. He finally said that that while clearing away some wreckage he came across a dark-colored box of hard wood about a foot and a half square and several inches deep. As he threw it aside to pick up some lead and silver bars he said he heard well-known music and then he saw fantastic figures hovering around the wooden box. Without waiting to investigate, Dolph left the depths and came to the surface. As he told the tale the seamen who were working on the schooner became interested at first, and finally began to show as much superstitious fear as the diver.

"Pryor tried to think out an explanation to the mystery, and suddenly remembered that there was a large music-box on the steamer. He came to the conclusion that it had remained water-tight, and that Dolph, throwing it aside, had set the machinery into motion, and that the music Dolph heard was the result. Pryor had saw that it was useless to dispute with the men as to Dolph’s ability to hear the music, and, as they had all worked so faithfully, he decided to give them a holiday and strive to have them regain their spirits by listening to real music, so he secured seats for the whole party of fifteen and took them to the Orpheum Saturday night. Dolph and the rest of the men were hard at work yesterday, and nothing further was heard of spooks or spook music.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Ferry Sunol

Among the many beautiful ship models on exhibit at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum is a model of the ferry boat Sunol. The model was donated to the Museum in 1989 by Mr. Peter Stauffer of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Sunol was a stern-wheeler built in 1890 in San Francisco and operated by the Aden Brothers Ferry Co. Sunol made regular daily trips between Vallejo and San Francisco but her running time of 3 hours and 45 minutes made her impractical as a commuter ferry. In March of 1897 the Sunol was sunk in a collision with the sailing ship Olympic. Fortunately no lives were lost. This is how the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the story:

“The steamer Sunol was wrecked at 4:15 o’clock Wednesday afternoon in a collision with the sailing vessel Olympic, and turned over in the water. The accident occurred near Alcatraz, soon after the vessel had left her moorings at San Francisco on her 4 o’clock trip to Vallejo. No lives were lost, but during the collision the greatest excitement prevailed.
“The Olympic caught the Sunol almost amidships on the port side, while going at a speed of about three knots. The impact of the steamer on the vessel’s bow, and the resistance of the water created by the moving of the ship, kept the steamer up a sufficient length of time to permit every passenger to escape in safety to the deck of the Olympic.

“Naturally during the collision great consternation prevailed, but it is reported that the crew of the Sunol acted gallantly throughout the whole scene. They assisted in the transfer of women and children to the Olympic, and wisely examined every stateroom and the decks to see that no one was injured or hemmed in, preventing their escape. Captain Dye was the last man to leave the steamer.

The Cause.

“There seems to be many opinions regarding the cause of the collision, and who is at fault, but probably the nearest to being correct is the statement that it was of a misunderstanding of Captain Dye of the Sunol, who thought that the Olympia was at anchor. As the steamer was proceeding up the bay Captain Dye saw the bark Alden Besse being towed in by the tug Reliance. The Alden Besse was off the seawall at the time, and though the Olympic was ahead, she had no tow, and Captain Dye made a disastrous mistake in believing the bark to be at anchor.

“The Olympic was sailing in without a pilot or a tugboat, as Captain Gibbs considered he was able to manage his vessel without assistance. The Olympic was moving slowly through the water with her sails all clewed up but not furled. There was a good breeze blowing, and the unfurled sails caught considerable wind. As the Olympic is a very heavy vessel, it had a considerable impetus, and moved slowly but with great force.

“When Captain Dye of the Sunol realized that the Olympic was bearing down on him he signaled to back but the order came too late.

“When the crash came, all that the crew of the Olympic could do was to help the passengers on the Sunol to a place of safety on the decks of their own vessel. The passengers swarmed over her bow and the helpless were given every aid, so that all forty-five were safely transferred to the Olympic.

Minds Relieved.

“When the news came to town of the accident, R. J. R. Aden was besieged with inquiries by anxious ones, particularly those who had relatives on board, and naturally having so many passengers on board it was thought surely that there must have been some lost. The news at first was indefinite, but a half hour later the first dispatch was received another came, stating positively no lives were lost. This was a great relief, very much so to Mr. Aden who said for his company; “we can restore the boat, but not lives,’ and Mr. Aden was relieved in mind and his face was brightened with smiles when he got the good news that there were no lives lost. As for the loss of the boat and its freight, of course it was considerable yet he looked on it philosophically.

The Losses.

“Estimates as to the loss occasioned by the collision ranged from $25,000 to $150,000, but it is no doubt nearer the first figure. The boat is values at $20,000. According to the reports received to-day, her hull and machinery will be saved, as she is now on the Berkeley mud flats, and can be raised. The sum of $5,000 is an outside figure to make her good as new.

“The freight that she carried is a total, loss and it is likely the shippers are the injured ones.

“Two valuable brood mares belonging to B.C. Holly were a part of the cargo. One of the animals was lost and the other is probably injured.

“K. Casper had from $300 to $400 worth of piping and fittings for his electric station on board. They were from the firm of Keogh & Co. and are a total loss. Mr. Casper had ordered one of the dynamos to be shipped in the afternoon, but for some reason it had not been placed on board.

“Roney’s Express was also a sufferer, for all the business of the Express is done on the Sunol.

“The heaviest loss will fall on the Selby Smelting Works. For these works the Sunol had 1,500 bars of lead valued at from $6,000 to $10,000, also a few bars of gold bullion which were locked in the safe. Unless the safe went overboard, which is not likely, this is safe.

“The decks of the Sunol were filled with freight of all kinds, all of which of course fell overboard.
The Humorous Side.

“The Call says that: “In the safe there was $25,000 in specie for the Mare Island Navy Yard. In the big iron tank on the forward deck in which the bullion and crude ore for the Selby Smelting Company was carried, there was about $40,000 worth of raw material and the general merchandise would probably amount to $5000 worth more. The steamer was valued at $25,000. So somebody will be “out and injured.”

“The crew lost everything they had except the clothes they stood in, and as all the passengers had been on shopping expedition they lost all their purchases, and consider they were lucky to escape with their lives.

A Swift Kick.

“In another place the Call says; “As each male passenger was helped aboard he was given a swift kick by the crew of the bark, because they had shoved women and children aside in their hurry to reach safety.”

The Crew and Passengers

“The crew of the Sunol numbered sixteen all told. The officers were: Captain S. Dye, Mate Charles Ostrowski, Chief Engineer Ed. Mahoney and Second Engineer J . F. Wallace.

“Among the passengers were : Wm. J. Moore, T. Lynch, Mrs. F. Cooper and two children, Harry LeClaire J. Johnson, William Fahr, John Ingle, Michael Byrne, Edward Harris, Mrs. F. P. Worshaw and child, Mrs. W. E. Lane, Emil Stoltenburg, of Oakland, O. B. Rowell of Butte, Mont., R. J. Lennox, Misses Josie, Mary and Madeline Tinelli, and H. F. Stahl.

Will Be Raised

“R. J. R. Aden went to the city this morning to consult in regard to raising and repairing the Sunol. The steamer is now on the Berkeley mud flats, and in such a position that no difficulty is anticipated in raising her.

Volunteered Assistance.

“Captain Hatch with the steamer Monticello left San Francisco in the wake of the Sunol and witnessed the collision. He steamed around the vessel twice and offered assistance, but in the excitement and the difficulties of working to advantage, his proffered assistance could not be accepted.

“There were about 140 passengers on the Monticello, and among them there was considerable excitement. Captain Hatch remained fully half an hour at the scene of the wreck before continuing on his course.

The Grace Barton.
“The Piper, Aden, Goodal Company have engaged one of the Red Stack tugs, so that their freight and passenger business will go on as usual. In a day or two they will put their streamer, the Grace Barton on the run.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vallejo's Big Band Era

The decades of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were the heyday of the Big Bands. Most of the big name national bands played in Vallejo at the Casa de Vallejo, Veterans Memorial Hall, and the Dream Bowl. Vallejo’s own local bands were also popular favorites at dances and concerts. The Ken Harris Orchestra is shown here playing at the Veterans Memorial Hall in 1935. Other popular local bandleaders included Roy Graff, Jimmy Emerson, Hal Hay, Keith Kimball, Gene Gelling and Lou Boss.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cowboys for Defense

On this day in 1942 the WWII-era Vallejo Defense Council received an odd request: Cowboys.

This is how the Vallejo newspaper reported the story the next day:

“Shades of the Old West were revived last night in a request from Flosden Acres to the Vallejo Defense Council, asking that they help them round up a committee of six cowboys for – of all things – defense work.

Carl B. Lawshe, captain of the Flosden air-raid warden district, and his assistant, A. L. Watson, related their cause to L. E. James, commander of Mare Island Post No. 550, who is chairman of the committee on Civil Liberties.

“Flosden Acres takes in an area on both sides of the tracks, and on the west side of the Solano Meat Company, the wholesalers, who have a number of large corrals and stockyards where beef cattle are quartered before butchering. We figure that in the event of an air raid, these creatures would probably become so frightened from the noise and bombs that they would stampede through their fences like so much matchwood. Suppose at the same time the highways were crowded with vehicles all trying desperately to get safely away. The cattle would naturally dart onto the highways, and where would traffic be?”

“If we had six good cowhands used to managing animals, they could control them and do a valuable thing in keeping cars moving.”

Larry Wise made a note of the request, and will contact nearby ranches from whose cowboys such a group can be named.

Mr. James also gave a short report on the excellent defense preparations being made by Flosden Acres, including an efficient first-aid set-up, a nursing auxiliary of women, and even their own fire siren, furnished by the Hanson Service Station.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jack London and Vallejo

Author Jack London, shown here playing cards at the Vallejo Yacht Club around 1913
was a frequent visitor to Vallejo. Pictured above are (from left) George F. Hilton,
unidentified, Judge John Browne, and London. The Roamer, London’s yacht, was often berthed at the Club, and London himself spent much time around Vallejo and Benicia as a young man. His adventures up and down the Carquinez Straits were detailed in his book Tales of the Fish Patrol. In one passage from the book, London describes how he tried to maneuver a small boat through the brutally swift currents of the Straits:

“We were now at the mouth of the Straits, in a bad stretch of water. Here the Vallejo Straits and the Carquinez Straits rushed directly at each other. Through the first flowed all the water of Napa River and the great tide-lands; through the second flowed all the water of Suisun Bay and the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. And where such immense bodies of water, flowing swiftly, clashed together, a terrible tide-rip was produced. To make it worse, the wind howled up San Pablo Bay for fifteen miles and drove in a tremendous sea upon the tide-rip.”

“Conflicting currents tore about in all directions, colliding, forming whirlpools, sucks, and boils, and shooting up spitefully into hollow waves which fell aboard as often from leeward as from windward. And through it all, confused, driven into a madness of motion, thundered the great smoking seas from San Pablo Bay.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snow in Vallejo?

On the morning of January 9, 1913, Vallejoans awoke to an unusual site - snow in Vallejo! During the night, the snow began to fall and by morning the city was covered in nearly 4 inches. The next day the newspaper proclaimed: "Vallejo Covered in Mantle of 'The Beautiful.' Sees the Spirit of Winter Awakened in Many Breasts." The accompanying article described the reaction in the community:

“There were some near casualties due to excessive exuberance the primordial spirit. Miss Eleanor Morgan of Coalinga, who is visiting Mrs. Guy Peabody, was struck in the head with a hard snowball and knocked unconscious. Mrs. Louis Vandre slipped on the slippery sidewalk while dodging a snowball, and was badly shaken up, and Mrs. Richard Ruling was knocked unconscious. Several windows were broken during the morning.”

“For the first time since 1886, a white mantle of snow covered Vallejo for several hours yesterday morning. Since that date a few slight flurries have been noticeable, but the precipitation yesterday was the heaviest on record in more than a quarter of a century. The first specs were noticed shortly before 3 o’clock yesterday morning, and the fall was steady until 10:30. The weather was warm, considerably under the freezing point.”

“If some hardened individual from the frost bitten east should have chanced to have been in Vallejo yesterday, he would have wondered what sort of mania the people were suffering from. It is safe to say that it was the first time five thousand of local people had ever seen bonafide snow, except on nearby hills or the Sierras a few miles to the eastward, and its effect on the uninitiated was magnetic.”

“Young and impressionable children screamed with delight when they first peered out of the windows and saw the earth enveloped in the sparkling coat. Fond parents watched them desport themselves out of doors. Most approached the snow banks timidly, touched the stuff gingerly, smelt it, then tasted it. Then they rolled it into snow balls, awkwardly, yet instinctively, and a Jack London would have said they felt the experience of some ancestor, who in times past rolled and made balls out of frozen water. Young Vallejo then proceeded to sit down in the strange stuff, then rolled around in it, and the parents, who had seen something like this in their younger days, forgot to advise them about wet feet.”

“It was a strange sight for an observer, accustomed to snows and blizzards to watch the reception of the snow in Vallejo. In downtown streets staid business men forgot their dignity and gingerly rolled up the balls and belted passersby. An introduction was not necessary and many a new stiff hat is badly dented today as a result of a fusillade from men and boys, who made targets of everyone in sight.”

“Many showed their strangeness to the sensation of being in the snow. Where some east coast urchin would have snatched up a handful and vigorously ‘washed’ someone’s face in it, and perhaps rolled snowballs with ‘bullets’ in them, these past master features were lacking in Vallejo. The instinctive ‘spirit of winter’ which in many cases had been slumbering for three generations, awakened awkwardly but it nevertheless existed and blossomed forth.”

“The snow was such an uncommon treat that school authorities recognizing the futility of compulsory attendance at classes dismissed all the youngsters and allowed them to enjoy a white winter’s day.”