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Barry Schrader


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

Your mother’s maiden name is at the Fair

By Barry Schrader.................................June 30, 2005

If you haven’t been to the Alameda County Fair, there is still another week left, and you may find your mother’s maiden name on a computer there. This is not an ID theft by computer hackers, but rather a public service being performed by the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society at its booth in the Technology Adventures building.

This is the sixth year L-AGS has been staffing an informational family history center at the fair and hundreds of people get their first taste of genealogical research each year there with the help of trained volunteers. Gail Bryan, volunteer coordinator this year, said it is rewarding to help fairgoers begin the search for an ancestor and in a few minutes access data bases on the computer that give them names and ties they never knew existed before.

They have computers hooked up to a high speed Internet connection so people can spend just a few minutes and walk away with valuable family history in most cases.

If you can’t get to the fair booth, then try visiting the society online at its website: www.L-AGS.org and you will find some fascinating local history, cemetery records and a multitude of other online resources to help you research any branch of your family.

* * *

Since I got into the history mystery search for the dates that Abbott and Costello were in Pleasanton filming the movie It Ain’t Hay at the fairgrounds, I was contacted by Ron Palumbo, the co-author of the book “Abbott and Costello in Hollywood” regarding the period the film was being made. It was shot between September 28 and November 11, 1942. It was released in March of 1943. I did find a big ad in the Livermore paper announcing it would be shown at the State Theater beginning April 11, 1943. So the original answer two weeks ago was incorrect.

One problem in researching Pleasanton area history in the 1940s is that bound file copies of the Pleasanton Times for that period are missing and no microfilms were apparently made of the papers during most of that decade. Does anyone know where some old copies of the Pleasanton papers can be found between 1939 and 1948?

* * *

There were several correct answers to the question about the title of the movie classic being shown at the Model Railroading exhibit’s drive-in movie theater during the fair. It depends which day and hour you visit the display. Alan Peasley was the first to answer correctly that Casablanca was featured there last year as well as now, but when checking with the model train folks I learned they have six different movies that are shown: Beside Casablanca there are American Graffiti, Gone With the Wind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invaders from Mars, and The Wizard of Oz.” Iris Gan, a former news photographer in the Tri-Valley, guessed the Wizard so is also a winner.

The second question about the “beloved Livermore character” whose photo was taken by Keith Fraser back in the 1960s and displayed with the memorial camera collection exhibit at the Fair got three correct responses so far. Connie Frydendall, Jan Buckley and Gary Draghi identified the man in the photo as Harold McKenzie. Harold was a familiar figure downtown, working for his parents who ran the railway express business for many years. His trademark was a fresh flower worn in his lapel every day and he could be seen hauling the SF newspapers around in his little wagon. He also posted funeral notices around town for the mortuary since the local papers were weekly and there was no other way to notify townspeople of someone’s death in time for the funeral except by telephone or word of mouth. This I learned from Bill Junk of Livermore who reminisced about Harold. He died in 1973 and had lived 70 of his 77 years in Livermore.

Can you think of a few other “characters” around the Tri-Valley in the Sixties and Seventies so they can be profiled in future columns? Pleasanton has had its own notables over the years, two of which I can recall not more than 20 years ago—Birdie Bianchi and Thurmon Caudill. I knew them as “news makers” but others must have a more personal recollection of their lives.

* * *

Have a meaningful and historic Independence Day. Enjoy the parade in Danville, the dedication of the landmark flagpole and Peace Monument in Livermore and then the fireworks at dusk.


The columnist can be reached via email at :


or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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