Thursday, June 28, 2007

Strange names, towns, communities

A circle of friends discussed the word and notion of "Claycord" a conjunction of the words/ towns of Clayton and Concord. "March 3rd, 1964 Clayton declared their independence to prevent Concord Annexation", ducky. Following in suit were discussions of other towns and communities, from present and past, and previous names in between. Now, my focus is primarily the central contra costa region, the Diablo Valley, if you will, with some mention of the East County (West County, Richmond, only serves to make East County, Pittsburg and Antioch, look more appealing and habitable). But, a venture to Mapquest, GoogleMaps, Yahoo Maps, reveals something quite alarming. On their maps, they retain names of towns from long ago. Perhaps these are akin to names of tract home develpments of today, possibly they describe the general region of old transit stops (see my continuing gig on old CoCo Transit), but here's a run down : Aside from the currently known Danville (that's as far south as I'm starting now), Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, Martinez, and hell, I'll hit Pittsburg, there's lesser known communities/ areas. Maybe I'll even give locations. Clyde, which housed Navy weapon personnel for the Port Chicago shipyard in WW2, just north of HyWy 4 and Concord is partially known of. The town of Cowell, home of the monolithic and awe inspiring cement tower (, a company town for the workers of the Portland/Cowell Cement Co. whick quarried limestone from Lime Ridge Area (which divides Ygancio Valley from Clayton Valley - see this pic

But aside from all of this, the lesser known areas, Hookston, from Hookston Rd., relaying information from the old Hooks Brothers winery back in the day, branching from Concord to Pleasnat Hill. Bancroft area, from the Bancroft ranch and the Bancroft rail depot, located on present Bancroft Rd. Four Corners, I'm guessing the corner of Detroit and Monument, a mecca, a capitol of the Little Mexico that is now, I haven't a clue as to its historical ramifications.
The area known as "Walden" is now known as Contra Costa Centre,, a new legislative development. Through this research, I have come across what is known as "census-designated place", of which supposedly must not be incorporated. But the majority of names I'm pulling are purely historical. An interesting note about incorporation is that an area can vote for incorporation, and the County can either accept and praise the efforts, or deny the application and vote for incorporatio, strange stuff, all political and money, I'm sure.
Below is a list of other area names that have breezed through the area, and hopefull a description as to its location

Las Juntas - Just a tad north of the Pleasant Hill BART station
Sparkle -where the hell did this come from? - but just between Walden and Las Juntas
Poet's Corner - a nice intersection of Oak Park and Putnam/ Patterson BLVD. in Pleasant hill (name still in moderate use)
The area of Pacheco - still in use - the former big city of Contra Costa, situated by both Wlanut Creek (the actual creek) and Greyson Creek. According to historians, the creeks were dredged annually to promote ships loaded with goodies to float in and out into the land to promote better material transport. After several years, ports in Martinez and other waterfronts became more optimal and in use, so the dredging ceased. Since the dredging ceased, the winter rains would swell the creek to overflow capacity and every year flood the town of Pacheco. People finally got smart and moved their locations to dryer grounds of Concord.
The town of Concord went through a ew name changes. Initially Don Salvio, or was it the son Fernando, Pacheco initially named it "Todos Santos", but after several years, those silly white folk had a better name for it, "Drunken Indian". It was roughly around the time of the city's incorporation, 1905, that the leading newspaper publications started calling it "Concord". I personally like "Drunken Indian"
The area of Mountain View came up in the news a few months back because they are an unincorporated area and thereby receive no funding for sidewalk repairs or whatever infrastructure they believe they need
Vine Hill is to the east of Mountain View - Where the Viano winery is. My assumption is "Vine" refers to the ancient plethora of grape vineyards from back in the day.
On a lazy Saturday, I would presonally recommend a drive from Martinez west, first, wondering what the hell Ozol was, which supposedly now lies in Carquinez Straight Regional Shoreline. But to do all of the westward travelling, head south along Alhambra to HyWy 4 junction, to an Area noted as "Muir", in reference to the big man John muir, and his Mount Wanda on the south side of the freeway. Take the frontage road west, through some area called "Glen Frazer", guessing a land holding by some family named Frazer, and find a way to get on Carquinez Scenic Drive. Travel through an area called "Eckley" (according to Google satelitte, now it's a wild goose chase. But continue along this road to the big city of Port Costa, rich in history and rumored to have a really good restaurant, and continue on to Crockett (or Crotchet as people in the know refer to it as). Crockett was strictly a company town for C&H Sugar Co., and through the years let go of a lot of its land holdings in the community. A few years ago C&H stepped in a public relations bee's nest by monkeying with land that they owned but the U.S. Post Office was on. Some residents with nothing better to do decided that the postal worker was the sexiest and that no one, not even C&H should mess with the status quo. Sure. Historically speaking, there had been worker strikes over the past century there, some of them turned bloody and gnarly. Good stuff! As well, in the town of Crotchet, there was an Italian community that attempted to segregate themselves from the metropolis of Crockett, and the residents called it "Valona". Sure. Now you could continue farther west, hitting small pockets of historical significance, hit up Rodeo where the once lived a wonderful elocution instructor by the name of Alberta Thompson (I got videos!), and further on to San Pablo and then into Richmond, where you'll get shot. All ending a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

But let's travel east of Martinez for a minute. Mococo, where the Shell Oil Refinery is. THe area looks as dumpy in person as it does on Google Satelite. Continuing east, there are areas of former company towns, such as Avon, Maltby, Monsanto. Port Chicago, otherwise known as the Naval Weapons Station has a huge history. Aside from the explosion that took place July 19, 1944 (I raise a bottle every anniversary), there is even more stories. The area was originally known as Bay Point - before West Pittsburg was toying with that name - it was a thriving community. An interesting book by Dean L McLeod shows wonderful pictures of what the town used to look like. several store fronts, a movie theater etc. in the late 1960's, the federal government decided to seize all that land, (it surrounded the actual port chicago magazine), the thought was that if more land surounding their actual magazine could be controlled and mothballed, the magazine activity could continue less impeded by evergrowing peace protesters. Make sense? The residents of the community were not happy and fought the federal government tooth and nail for the taking of their land. This whole eminent domain stuff isn't pretty. Now, onward! Nichols, an area which is now situated in the Concord Naval Weapons Station juristiction, was a company town, had their own rail stop there, as well, I believe as McAvoy. Shore Acres, there's still a sign there (it's the only decent looking thing there), makes New Orleans post-deluvian look like the damn Taj Majal. When ever some complains about the high price of California real estate and how it's impossible to get a starter home piece of property, merely point them to Shoree Acres. I guarentee you there are a few lean-to's up on the market.

Further eastward, I will not bore you with more details, but just a few notes yuo can toss to your friends and act like you're wearing your smarty pants. "Los Medanos" is spanish and supposedly means "sand dunes". Do not confuse "Los Medanos" with John Marsh's ranch way south east from here, "Los Meganos". Down deep in Pittsburg, the "New York of the West Coast" as to what it was actually refered to as, the was a Los Medano Hotel, which according to historical texts, was supposedly on par with other classy hotels such as the Clairemont. Who knows, but I do know of some elderly gentleman mentioning that when he was a wee lad, his folks whould have him dressed to a T and the'yd travel there, must have been a long journey back in the day, to this fancy hotel to get some fancy pants dinner. Sure.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

quick notes :

check out , a very cool site in the same vein of concord history.

As well, a few weeks ago, yours truly visited Martinez historical society (don't visit the CC historical records department a few blocks away, there's a bunch of old scornful crows in ther), but, so I was at the museum, and this delightful Irish lady named Sanchez (I don't get it either) took me under and toured me the place. Sure, there was old milk jugs and generic junk you'd find in any historical museum of how life was 100 years ago, but interesting exhibits of the Italian fisherman (pizza, yum), and more to the point, my interest, an exhibit regarding the wineries that were of Martinez, complete with old wine bottles and old wine labels. Irish Sanchez also noted that Christian Brothers Brandy first started in Martinez and continues to donate money to the local De LA Salle High School in Concord. Also noted is the fact that though there was a plethora of wineries in the Martinez region, only one survived, and that is Viano Vineyards

I had the opportunity to visit the winery there. . . spooky. Instead of your normal wine snobs that frequent these places, the type that swirl and sniffthe glasses, and spit the wine, (well, that's what stands out in my mind- I'm a booze hound, don't waste the stuff!), the place was empty save for two strange men, i could get what they were doing or discussing, and the lady behind the counter. My traveling partner and I entered and eyes were fixed on us like an African visiting the North Pole. My partner informed me that after a few tastings the wine was nondescript, but at seven bucks a bottle, really, who's complaining. I intend to toss a couple bottles t a wine critic friend and hear what he says, I'll probably duck from the flying glass.

On the subject of wineries, there were wineries peppered throughout contra costa county, specifically Diablo Valley; one in my back yard, the Hookston winery, by the Hooks brothers, of which, when the old railway system was being built here, they had pull to make a stop near their winery to load up barrels for shipping.

Now, as stated, though wine's got a percentage of which I enjoy, my preference is beer and whiskey. Maybe it's Irish heritage. Maybe it's ethnic slurs. Italian equals wine, Irish equals beer and whiskey. I don't know of any irish wine, but then again, I don't know much of anything. I remember reading one of the many illustrious books by Nilda Rego "Days Gone By" series, of which some Irish immigrant living in Port Costa brewed his own suds, gave it away, a liter to those lucky passers by. He became so popular, he became a judge. A happy, realistic success story. This is the only historical beer story I know. Presently, there's Black Diamond Brew Co., Shasta D Brew Co, and EJ Phair. Any others, please post