High school dropouts

November 30, 2009

Mill workers, young and old

My grandfather on my mother’s side was born in 1917 and made it as far as eighth grade graduation before dropping out of school completely.  For his generation, his education level wasn’t that bad, though it did set him up for an early life of odd jobs and scraping by to feed his young family.  Early in their marriage, he and my grandmother were migrant workers, chasing ripening crops from town to town, following the harvests.  My mother remembers living in a peach orchard when she was very, very young.

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Humboldt’s innovators from way, way back

November 24, 2009

Little River Valley Railroad Trestle

 It appears the Humboldt County was full of innovators.  We had the first railroad in California and, according to the info at HSU, at the time of construction this was the 

Highest single spile trestle in the world being over 100 ft.

Conrad S. Bullwinkle had rented the ranch to his nephew, Herman Balke (father of this collector). The trestle crossed Little River Valley and crossed Balke Creek at the start of the canyon 1/2 to 3/4 miles south of Bulwinkle. It gradually rose to Dows Prairie then joined the Carson line who took the cars on to town.

My husband works for Cal Trans and is involved with the construction of the new Mad River Bridge, which will replace the ones just south of McKinleyville.  They had cranes to move stuff, huge pile drivers to put things in the ground and experts of every kind to help along the way.   These guys just got it done.


A broken knife blade in his right shoulder

November 23, 2009

I know that the fact that these are from Texas is sort of random, but I was doing genealogy research for a client and accidently ran across this list –please note that my client’s ancestors are NOT among them.

Not to trivialize their crimes, but I actually found the descriptions of the fugitives to be the most fascinating part of the list…

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The Bitterest Tears Shed Over Graves

November 20, 2009

On Tuesday I had lunch with my friend Carol.  It was the first time I’d seen her since her husband died of a heart attack a few months back and we spent much of the time talking about him.  About their life together and the changes that take place when one loses someone.

We also talked about whether or not it was better to know beforehand if someone was going to pass…  Ken’s death was sudden.   My family has lost people after long, terminal illnesses and my mother is convinced that sudden loss is better. Easier. 

I”m mixed, though I mentioned to Carol that time before an impending death gives families and loved ones a chance to let each other know how much they love them.  How much they care.  And if the death is sudden, well….

Carol’s response was, of course, that the unknown is why you ALWAYS let someone know you care.  You don’t wait.  You don’t miss an opportunity, because you never know.

Wednesday, the day after our lunch, Carol’s 24 year old son Garrett died in a single vehicle accident on Hwy 101.  While I can’t even begin to comprehend Carol’s pain right now, I have no doubt that her son died knowing that his mother loved him.  Knowing that people cared.

Don’t miss an opportunity, folks.  Not everyone is given the clear deadline of a terminal illness… the time and opportunity to tell people they love them, to address regrets and repair relationship damage. 

Never wait.

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid
and deeds left undone.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe, Author


Sending decent people into the world

November 18, 2009

As a mother I often wonder what it takes to create a decent human being.  What lessons should be taught by parents, and which can only be learned by experience.  There is no magical book for parents, and so often we just cross our fingers and keep moving forward.

I recently ran across a paper entitled “Collected documents on the Causes and Effects of the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850.”  Humboldt had many tragedies during the settlement period,  but we weren’t alone with our atrocities.

The Bloody Island Massacre was committed by a group of white men set on avenging the killing of two settlers in the Clear Lake area,  Andrew Kelsey and a man known as Stone.   Many believed that Natives killed Kelsey and Stone after suffering years of abuse in which hundreds of Natives died.   There were also stories of Kelsey and Stone taking the wives of their Native servants as concubines, and starving and beating their workers  with little or no provocation-the beatings often administered as entertainment for visitors.  These were cruel, horrible men but NO ONE STOPPED THEM.   Until the natives finally revolted, of course, and killed them.  Which instigated the Bloody Island Massacre and other murders of Natives.  Tragedy compounding tragedy though it didn’t have to be that way.

I would love to think that these tragedies are ancient history, but the recent gang rape of a fifteen year old girl in Richmond  shattered my blissful ignorance.  

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Arcata boasts first railroad in California

November 17, 2009

Arcata Wharf and Ferry

Yesterday I wrote about the Arcata wharf and railroad.  According to the City of Arcata Website, the first “train” for that railroad was a four-wheel car powered by a single horse.

“Passengers coming from Eureka to Arcata on the ferry… were met by the horse-drawn car and taken into Arcata to the depot located on the site of the present Post Office. In 1875, the horse-powered locomotive was replaced with a steam locomotive, called the Black Diamond. This is considered by many to have been the first railroad in the State of California. “

 The Timber Heritage Association is working to establish a museum and revive the rail system here… I think most have ruled out the viability of using trains for cargo transportation, but it may still have merit as a tourist attraction… maybe even short distance passenger service.

I know I wouldn’t mind skipping a trip through the Eureka traffic and riding a train to do my old town shopping instead.


From the Arcata Wharf to the Marina Center

November 16, 2009
HSU Special Collection. Film 78 - Arcata Wharf

Arcata Wharf

Humboldt Bay has always been viewed as an important commercial asset for Humboldt County.

In 1855, the Union Plank Walk and Rail Track Company completed construction of a wharf and railroad that ran from the Arcata Plaza and down into the bay about two miles This wharf allowed ships to load and unload cargo during any tide. [Source here

Many of the goods brought into the area were immediately packed onto mules and taken to the thousands of waiting gold miners working the inland rivers.  As the logging industry grew, the wharf was often used to ship logs out of the county and into lumber hungry ports in other areas.

Arcata’s wharf is gone now-though I wasn’t able to find anything that told me why.  A storm… neglect.  Remnants are still visible from the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary.  

Many people still believe in Humboldt Bay’s viability as a commercial port.

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