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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Bicentennial invigorated communities three decades ago

By Barry Schrader.................................May 11, 2006

Where were you on July 4, 1976?--probably at the park enjoying the fireworks, in New York witnessing the spectacle of tall ships coming into the New York Harbor, or maybe even watching President Ford on TV at Valley Forge as he started the day saluting the Bicentennial Wagon Train that crossed the continent as a part of the nation’s 200th birthday celebration.

I was one of the lucky people to be on the tail end of the wagon train adventure at Valley Forge with Harold and Ruth Gabriel of Livermore, a bittersweet tale told before in this column.

The story of the Bicentennial would take volumes—thousands of towns, large and small across the nation—celebrating with volunteer projects that spruced up their communities, created permanent historical sites, and planned events that showcased the heritage and diversity that make up this vast country.

Recently I had the opportunity to reminisce with a few Tri-Valley residents who were a big part of their home town’s activities. The most prominent local celebrant was Marie Cronin of Dublin who was named to the position of executive director of Alameda County’s Bicentennial Commission. Thanks to her loyalty to this part of the county we received our fair share of funding to accomplish a number of projects—big and small—that have had a lasting impact in our communities.

Dublin got funding to restore the old Murray School, plus an attempt to build a replica of pioneer Jeremiah Fallon’s home. The original house had accidentally been burned in a fire training exercise earlier, but the rebuilding project never got very far. There were also several historic markers on historic buildings and sites around town. Heading some of the efforts was the fledgling Dublin Historic Preservation Association which included officers Judy Earl, Harvey Tulchinsky, Virginia Bennett, Dawn Rutter, Al Nishimoto, Harry Demmel, Lila Euler, Linda Ferris, Josephine Haas, Joe Kappeler, Barbara Laursen, Ida Rabello, Ken Whipple, Bob Witt, and Charlotte Zika.

Pleasanton tackled 11 major projects during its Bicentennial effort, according to one of the key players Charlotte Severin. She singled out such admirable efforts as the work with the Lions Club to build the Chan Henderson Bicentennial Bandshell in Wayside Park, the Bicentennial Fair Parade, the founding of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, first led by Jerry Lapinsky, and the publication of a Pictorial History of Pleasanton, a book edited by Dorothy Davis and committee. Named in the book as members of the Pleasanton Bicentennial Heritage Committee were chair Callie Heinbaugh, LeeAnn McFadden, Bill Apperson, John Amaral, Linda Cooley, Dorothy Davis, Dagmar Fulton, Loretta Lund, Jim Jordan, Judi Hanhy and Diana Larson. Charlotte said there were a score of smaller projects that added spark to the year-long celebration, one of them being Bev Hamlin leading an effort to make sun bonnets that also doubled as aprons for those dressing in period costume. Many of the original committee still meet once a year around Christmas to reminisce.

In Livermore the original makeup of the Bicentennial Committee (in August 1974) was Gib and Marj Marguth as co-chairs, plus members Earl Duarte, Chet and Henri Fankhauser, Mary Ann Ramspott, Janet Newton, Mary Kay Berg, Priscilla Payne, Bill Ormond, Bill Manis, Ralph Condit and myself. By 1976 the committee had tripled in size.

Some of their more notable projects were publication of a booklet on the Juan Bautista DeAnza Expedition of 1776, plus the plaques and celebration of the Anza riders’ arrival in the Livermore Valley, the creation of a Livermore History Center in the Carnegie Library building, the restoration of May School (later burned by arsonists in December 1979), and the Bicentennial Ball at the Veterans Memorial Building, where many dressed in costumes of 200 years ago. And we can’t forget “Uncle Sam” Walt Arnold who played the role all year and also collected historical flags for community display. One project that didn’t make it past the concept stage was proposed by Granada High school student Kevin Smith and the late Kris Aaland for a “Geotek,” an underground structure to house new facilities such as a city hall and community auditorium. Just think, if their idea had been successful Livermore would have had a community performing arts center 30 years ago!

Doug Baird shared with me a little publicized but vital work project from that year. He headed the Livermore Arts Festival “A-crew” which volunteered to refurbish the outside of the Carnegie Library. Organized by Dorothy Svets of the park district staff, the labor intensive effort took nine weekends of sweat and dangerous dangling from scaffolding to sandblast the rust from roof and eves, repaint the building, and repair the sheet metal and stucco. Dorothy even rounded up some “recruits” from the Santa Rita jail community service program to help each week. Helping her and Doug were Jim Doggett, Chet Weaver, Arne Kirkewoog, Les Edwards, Fred Rienecker, and Ted Kozman among others. That renovation effort has kept the historic structure intact for 30 more years, Doug assured me.

The Livermore Bicentennial group didn’t tackle a historical photo book at the time, but just this summer one will be published, called “Early Livermore,” through the efforts of Heritage Guild members Gary Drummond, Don Meeker, and Loretta Kaskey. It should be available no later than August. It is just a precursor to a much more voluminous and comprehensive history of the town being wrapped up by author Anne Homan. Her book will be a treasure trove of history about the town and its people—something we have been awaiting for many years.

To be sure, there are numerous other local Bicentennial efforts not included here, but I thought it worthwhile to highlight some what our communities were able to accomplish in a nationwide burst of patriotism and volunteerism.

* * *

My recent column on the tragic 1941 Western Pacific train collision in Niles Canyon caught the attention of Hayward resident Virgil Lown. He told me his father Alvah was the fireman on the Exposition Flyer who was killed along with engineer Frank Huff and baggage man Oscar Lane. Virgil said that he was 14 at the time of his father’s death. His mother received only $24,000 in life insurance on which she had to raise Virgil and his younger brother through the 1940s in Stockton. He still has the Oct. 6, 1941 issue of Life magazine that featured the horrific crash, including a full page photograph.

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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