History


The middle of February is always a busy time in the United States and Canada, and this year it will be especially busy in Canada. Indigenous activists have announced plans for a one-day, coast-to-coast version of the Occupy movement. More about that in a moment.

Both countries will celebrate Valentine’s Day this Saturday, Feb. 14. President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday will be Thursday, Feb. 12, and President George Washington’s birthday will be Feb. 22. In accordance with Congress’ Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, California and most other states will celebrate the two presidents’ birthdays together as Presidents’ Day this coming Monday, Feb. 16.

Beyond that, however, things fall apart; the center cannot hold, for the holiday never falls on Washington’s actual birthday although in some years it falls on Lincoln’s. In addition, some states honor different presidents with different holidays.

In Massachusetts and Virgina, only Washington’s birthday will be celebrated Monday. Massachusetts, however, will celebrate a second Presidents’ Day on May 29, honoring Presidents John F. Kennedy, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and the lackluster Calvin Coolidge. Why those guys? They were all born in Massachusetts.

In Washington and Alabama, Washington’s and President Thomas Jefferson’s birthdays will be celebrated next week on Presidents’ Day but not Lincoln’s birthday. Arkansas on Monday will officially celebrate the birthdays of both Washington and Daisy Batson Gates (1914-99), an NAACP leader during the struggle for integration.

The Big News this coming weekend, however, will concern neither Presidents’ Day nor Valentine’s Day.

Nor will it occur in the United States.

Just across the border, thousands of First Nation people plan to economically disrupt Canada for a day.

Canada geese over Point Reyes Station bring to mind two impending events: Valentine’s Day and #ShutDownCanada.

#ShutDownCanada, as it’s called, is a collection of nationwide protests being organized via Facebook, the Two Row Times of Hagersville, Ontario, reported on Jan. 21. The group is asking for “communities across Canada to blockade their local railway, port or highway on February 13th,” the First Nation publication noted.

“Don’t buy, don’t fly, no work and keep the kids home from school… The goal is to significantly impact the Canadian economy for a day and demand there be an independent inquiry into the 2000+ cases of missing or murdered indigenous women….

“Plans to demonstrate outside city halls, shut down highways, occupy high traffic areas and more have been organized by groups in Calgary, Espanola, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kamloops, Lethbridge, London, Moncton, Montreal, Niagara, Oshawa, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.”

#ShutDownCanada intends to draw attention to both the “missing and murdered indigenous women” and to several “man-made environmental disasters [including] existing and operational fracking wells, open-pit mining projects, the Site C Dam construction [a hydroelectric dam planned in northeastern British Columbia], and the widespread devastation that tar sands and related pipeline projects brings to all life forms, ecosystems, families and communities.”

Drawing particular ire is the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative. Percentage-wise, four times as many First Nation females as white females are being murdered or disappearing in Canada. So says a recent report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States.

In December, however, Harper (at right in Canadian Broadcasting Corporation photo) shrugged off complaints that his government was not looking into the disproportionate number of attacks on indigenous women. “It isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” he acknowledged.

“Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this…. I would rather spend my time focusing on what actions we can take to improve these situations, prevent these situations than have more multimillion dollar inquiries.”

Further offending many First Nation people were comments by Canada’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt. When 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, who had been physically and sexually attacked, called for a national inquiry into the violence against indigenous females, he responded: “Listen, Rinelle, I have a lot of sympathy for your situation… and I guess that victims… have different views and we respect them.”

The First Nation reaction was immediate. Referring to the girl’s traumatic ordeal as a “situation” epitomized the insensitivity of the Harper government to indigenous people, one critic wrote.

Beyond fuming at the conservative government’s lack of concern about attacks on indigenous women, many First Nation people also accuse Harper of corruption, saying his government plans to take over more aboriginal land for development of natural resources in violation of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling.

In 1990, Mohawks in Quebec faced provincial and federal troops for six months in a standoff that resulted from a dispute over land ownership. Friday’s conflict will probably be more peaceable. An Eastern Door editorial by editor and publisher Steve Bonspiel, whom I wrote about last week, advised his Mohawk readers: “A unified approach without violence but with plenty of information to inform others is a sound one.”

The Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) was observed Saturday evening in downtown Point Reyes Station. It’s a day set aside each year for special remembrances of friends and relatives who have died.

Meanwhile up the bay, Tomales Regional History Center on Sunday opened a well-attended exhibition, “The Region’s Lost Buildings: Their Stories and their Legacies.” More about that in a moment.

A Día de los Muertos altar in the Dance Palace held dozens of photographs of deceased family members and mementos of their lives.

Saturday’s celebration began with a procession from Gallery Route One to the Dance Palace. These young ladies wore angel costumes and looked very sweet while some celebrants wore Halloween costumes which were downright ghoulish.

Aña Maria Ramirez, the de facto matriarch of the Latino community around Point Reyes Station, spoke in English and Spanish about Dia de los Muertos. The event was organized by Point Reyes Station artist Ernesto Sanchez, who also created the altar. The Dance Palace sponsored the event with financial support from Marin Community Foundation.

A variety of excellent Mexican food drew a long line to the serving table.

Local singer Tim Weed and his partner Debbie Daly (in white) led some impromptu singing in the Dance Palace.

For many in attendance, including Mary Jean Espulgar-Rowe and her son Joshua, it was a family event.

Elvira de Santiago of Marshall paints the face of Ocean Ely, two and a half, of Point Reyes Station.

Carrie Chase and Diego Chavarria, 10, of Point Reyes Station showed up in elegant costumes. Here Diego waits to have his face painted.

And while all this was going on, photographer Eden Trenor (left) of Petaluma and formerly of Point Reyes Station, was having an opening in the Dance Palace lobby for an exhibit of her works. With her is Dan Harrison, a printmaker who owns a gallery in Olema.

This photograph of ponds is part of Trenor’s show, which is called “For the Yes of It.” _______________________________________________________________

“The Region’s Lost Buildings: Their Stories and their Legacies,” which opened at the Tomales Regional History Center Sunday, is also a photographic exhibit for the most part, but the photos are far older.

Curating the exhibition was Ginny Magan of Tomales, and she did an excellent job, both in her choice of pictures to display and in her captions for them.

The narrow-gauge railroad depot in Marshalls, as Marshall used to be called. The Shields store to the right of the depot still survives and now belongs to Hog Island Oyster Company. “This image of Marshall’s depot shows a style typical of small, early train stations across the country, with its board-and-batten siding and deep eaves,” its caption notes.

The Bayview Hotel, which once stood in this spot on the shore of Tomales Bay, was built by the Marshall brothers in 1870 and was frequented by fishermen and hunters.

When it burned in 1896, the Marshall brothers had the North Coast Hotel (above) constructed on the site. “As the photo shows,” the History Center points out, “the building was a few feet from the railroad tracks.

“The hotel was knocked into the bay by the 1906 earthquake, but pulled out and repaired by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Shields.

“Except for its use as military housing during the Second World War, the building remained a hotel under several proprietors until it caught fire in 1971. The 25 guests, all the employees, and owner Tom Quinn and his family got out safely, but the hotel — with only its brick chimney standing — was a complete loss.”

“The depot at Tomales was unusual,” according to the History Center’s caption. “Because of its low-pitched roof, it resembles something built a century later. All Tomales railroad buildings were painted a brick red.

The aptly named hamlet of Hamlet, another stop on the North Shore Railway line, was a village from 1870 to 1987, when the National Park Service bought it.

“Hamlet’s namesake was John Hamlet, a dairyman from Tennessee who purchased the site with gold coin in 1870. He left little but his name. The next owner, Warren Dutton, developed Hamlet as a railroad stop that the Marin Journal described as ‘one of the most inviting places on the bay for aquatic sports.’

“To most of today’s locals, the name Hamlet is connected with the Jensen family, who purchased the land in 1907, and developed and inhabited the village over 80 years and four generations. By 1930, the Jensens were establishing Hamlet’s well-known connection with oyster farming.

The Tragedy of Hamlet.

“In 1971, third-generation matriarch Virginia Jensen was left a widow with five children. She — and eventually they — carried on, though maintaining the oyster farm, its retail components, and the property’s buildings was clearly a struggle.

“A 1982 storm all but obliterated the oyster beds. ‘I never planted [oysters] after that; that was my last tally-ho,’ remembered Mrs. Jensen. In 1987, she sold the site to the Park Service, which then looked the other way as vandals and the elements savaged it. In 2003, the Park Service demolished the last of the buildings.

Highway 1 is the main street of Tomales where it’s known as Maine Street.

“Trotting down Maine Street toward First c. 1890. Originally the Union Hotel occupied this site; after it burned this group of small buildings housed a saloon — one of six or eight in the town — a billiard room and Sing Lee Washing and Ironing. Today the Piezzi Building is at this corner.”

“On a windy day in May 1920, the Plank Hotel caught fire. Despite the best efforts of townspeople at least 16 buildings burned to the ground — two dwellings and most of the town’s commercial center south of First Street.”

“The William Tell was established as a hotel and saloon in 1877. The original building burned in the 1920 fire but was rebuilt within the year. This photo was taken in the mid-1950s.

“The Fallon Creamery, built near the end of the 19th century, used state-of-the-art, steam-operated machinery. The creamery exhibited a 500-pound wheel of cheese at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in San Francisco.” ________________________________________________________________

By the end of the weekend I was again thanking my lucky stars to be living in West Marin. Everybody had been on their good behavior — even the cops.

When a sheriff’s deputy needed to use his patrol car to create a buffer for the Día de los Muertos procession marching down Point Reyes Station’s main street, I walked over and with feigned indignation exclaimed, “They’re all jaywalking.” The deputy replied with a laugh, “They are all jaywalking. And everyone is going to get a ticket.” And soon he drove off.

What a contrast with police in Saint George, Utah. At least according to the Daily Kos website, police last week raided a Halloween party at a family fun center simply because the event included dancing.

One can only imagine how St. George’s police would have reacted to the Aztec Dancers (left) in Point Reyes Station.

They weren’t just dancing, they were dancing on the main street.

Two major events drew crowds to Nicasio last weekend. One was in the center of town Saturday, the other on the edge of town Sunday, and that was in addition to the usual throng who showed up for Rancho Nicasio’s weekend music.

On Saturday, the Nicasio Historical Society held a grand opening for its new headquarters and museum on Nicasio Square. Out of necessity, most of the celebration took place in the Druids Hall next door. The museum itself is so small it would have been overwhelmed if 20 people had tried to squeeze inside.

In the Druids Hall, Elaine Doss, president of Nicasio Historical Society, urges a crowd of talkative history buffs to take their seats so the presentations can resume. The Historical Society was founded 10 years ago.

I wasn’t surprised that there was a fair amount of public interest in the opening, which included refreshments, music, art, and history talks by Dewey Livingston and Betty Goerke. The interest, however, proved to be so great that even Druids Hall was close to being overwhelmed.

Entertaining guests outdoors was piano man Petaluma Pete.

The town and especially its square are favorite locales  for en plein air painters, and several Nicasio paintings were on display inside the Druids Hall.

‘Summer Morning in Nicasio’ by MaryMcCaffrey.

Detail from ‘Gallagher Ranch’ by Tom Wood. The artist happens to be one of the museum’s neighbors. ________________________________________________________________

Among the most fascinating displays at the museum opening was an exhibit of Miwok Indian history. Artifacts suggest that a Miwok village referred to as Echatamal had existed in the Rancheria Road area as far back 1400.

Between 1783 and 1817, however, the Spanish Mission system took 1,700 Miwok from their homes throughout Marin County to work for Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Only 485 of them survived, according to the exhibit.

Many of the survivors were then moved to Mission San Rafael.

When the Mexican government ended the mission system in 1834, Governor José Figueroa decreed that each head of family and male Indian receive somewhere between two and 29 acres, as well as some of the mission’s livestock.

Five Coast Miwok received a total of approximately 80,000 acres in Nicasio but by 1870 had lost ownership of the land to white settlers. A few Miwok families continued living on the land, but a number of others moved to Marshall.

The only Indian who was able to actually buy traditional Miwok land was chief José Calistro (above), who in 1872 bought 24.53 acres surrounding his village at Nicasio for $980 in gold coin. However, chief Calistro died five years later, and in 1887, his son sold the land to his lawyer for $5. ________________________________________________________________

Much of what is known about the final days of the Miwok in Nicasio comes from the late Mary Copa.

Mary Copa’s mother, Jauna Bautista, is seen here with her grandchildren, Joseph Monzaga, Julia Frease, and Edward Monzaga.

Nicasio, by the way, takes its name from a Miwok from the area. He was given the name Nicasio in 1808 when at the age of 20 he was part of a group of Indians baptized en masse at Mission Dolores.

The name originates with a 12th century Sicilian knight who fought in the crusades. _______________________________________________________________

The next day, Sunday, was a fundraiser for Marin Agricultural Land Trust. The crowd who showed up for MALT Day at Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch was even bigger than the previous day’s.

Along with pumpkin picking and perusing the wares of the adjoining Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, people could get information about MALT, which was founded as a nonprofit alliance of environmentalists and conservation-minded ranchers.

Using grants, donations, and bond money, MALT buys agriculture-conservation easements from ranchers. The easements guarantee their land will be kept in agriculture in perpetuity, thus remaining open space without any commercial development or subdividing.

Squealing all the way, youngsters enthusiastically went down a giant slide during MALT Day.

It wouldn’t be a community celebration in West Marin without a 4-H bake sale.

Kids got a chance to ride a mechanical bull a la ‘Urban Cowboy’ — but at a slower speed and with a softer landing should anyone get bucked off.

One way to keep the children entertained was to take them on train rides. _______________________________________________________________

As many girls as boys overcame any fear of heights and clambered up the face of a MALT Day monolith.

Using handholds children got their exercise climbing and then used their safety lines to rappel back to the bottom.

 

 

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It wouldn’t be a harvest festival without a hayride, and for many youngsters this was their first.

Nicasio is in the geographic center of Marin County, and for that reason some landowners once proposed that Civic Center be built here; however, it was deemed too remote for East Marin residents. As a result, the town today has a population of only 96. At least according to the 2010 census. Yet it sure knows how to host a lot of fun. ________________________________________________________________

 

Little did I realize four years ago when I wrote a posting about Scotland’s ill-fated attempt to establish a colony in Panama that I was telling the backstory to last month’s referendum on Scottish independence.

On Sept. 19, Scots voted 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent to remain in Great Britain and not become an independent country. Given most coverage in the US press, readers could have easily missed the fact that Scotland had previously been independent, but when a nationwide get-rich-quick scheme went awry, it lost its independence.

I’m going to let a Scottish journalist, whom I met this summer, describe the significance of the vote against independence. First, however, here’s an excerpt from my Sept. 14, 2010, posting that gave the backstory.

Scotland was an independent kingdom from 843 when it was unified until 1707 when it became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain. As an independent country, Scotland during the 1600s had imperialistic ambitions in the Americas. It tried unsuccessfully to establish colonies in Nova Scotia, East New Jersey, and South Carolina, but the worst disaster occurred in Central America.

In the late 1690s, the Scots attempted to establish the colony of New Caledonia on the Isthmus of Panama. A series of crop failures had caused Scotland to look for an overseas source of income. Enter financier William Paterson with a scheme for establishing a colony at Darien in Panama. It would be a way to facilitate trade with the Far East and with European colonies on the west coast of the Americas.

The site of the Darien colony is shown just to the left of the word “Darien” in the “Gulf of Darien” on the right side of this map from 1699.

Despite no one really knowing how all this could be done, the Company of Scotland was chartered in 1695 to raise money to finance the scheme. The company’s first expedition to Panama in 1698, however, ended in disaster. About 1,200 colonists sailed for Panama, but because of disease and starvation, only about 300 survived. Of the five ships that had made the crossing, only one was able to return to Scotland the following year.

Unfortunately, a second expedition had unwittingly set sail before the remnants of the first arrived home. The second group tried to rebuild what the first group had abandoned, as well as complete a fort for defense against the Spanish. And the Spanish did indeed attack. The Scots were briefly able to hold them off but were ultimately forced to surrender. By then, most of the colonists who had joined the expedition had died of dysentery or other diseases. Only a few hundred (out of about 1,300) made it back to Scotland.

The economic effect of these failures devastated Scotland. Citizens from all levels of Scottish society had invested in the Darien scheme, and estimates of their combined losses range from a fifth to nearly a half of all the wealth of Scotland at that time. Many Scots were left indebted and impoverished.

Desperate to recover — in large part by sharing in England’s international trade — the Scots agreed to the 1707 Acts of Union, which created Great Britain as a political union of England and Scotland.

The Scottish contingent at the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) annual conference, which was held in Durango, Colorado, last June. From left: Julian Calvert, senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, having previously edited newspapers in England and Scotland; Scott Reid, group production journalist for the daily Glasgow Herald and the weekly Sunday Herald, both national Scottish papers; Roisin McGroarty, editor of the weekly Irvine Times on the west cost of Scotland and publisher of a quarterly magazine, the Stewarton Advertiser. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

While in Durango, I had the honor of receiving ISWNE’s Eugene Cervi award for career achievement and also gave a talk based my new book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light. Lynn and I met scores of editors from throughout the English-speaking world.

Among the foreign journalists we met was Scott Reid of Scotland (above center). Interestingly, he works for a pair of sister newspapers that took opposing positions in their endorsements regarding Scottish independence. In the wake of the referendum’s defeat, Reid has given his fellow ISWNE members a copy of his observations to share.

This little country cannot be taken for granted

By Scott Reid
For more than two years, those of us working in Scottish journalism have been privileged to have a front row seat as history was made in our country.

The nation faced a simple question – Should Scotland be an independent country? The answer wasn’t so simple. And the tale of how Scotland, a nation of five million people, at one point looked on the verge of making a decision that would send shockwaves around the world will be talked about for decades to come.

To say the Scottish people were transfixed by the prospect of independence from the outset would be to lie, frankly.

Scott Reid, who wrote these observations, (right).

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which has campaigned for independence for Scotland from the U.K. for many decades, won a landslide majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011 because it had governed well for the previous term, rather than due to any great interest in this particular policy.

An agreement with Westminster was made for a referendum to be held. And most people, while appreciating the historic nature of this, got on with their lives.

In the months leading up to the vote, the atmosphere changed. In May, a paper I work for, the Sunday Herald, backed a Yes vote. This was no overnight switch – the tone of the paper had been moving in that direction for some time. The response was incredible. Sales rocketed and continued to fly as the weeks went on. In one recent week after the referendum sales of the paper year-on-year actually doubled to 49,291.

After two television debates between Alex Salmond of the SNP and former U.K. chancellor Alistair Darling of the No camp – one which was broadcast around the world and even picked up by C-Span – huge viewing figures showed that the public was now on-board with this process.

“I firmly believe that distance adds enchantment to the bagpipes” — William Butler Yeats’ jest, not Scott Reid’s

After the second debate, won by Salmond, the No campaign had a wobbly period. The polls narrowed. There was something in the air. I increasingly wondered if change was afoot.

Then a poll showed Yes ahead. 51% to 49%. And all hell broke loose. The markets shook, there was talk of both the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.K. leader of the opposition having to resign if they lost the vote, the issue dominated the front pages of papers in Scotland and throughout the U.K., and clearly had an impact beyond.

In response, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the opposition charged up to Scotland to try to retrieve the situation and offer Scots more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Throughout the final weeks, our papers were dominated by the referendum. On a daily basis The Herald contained 10 full broadsheet pages on the topic, featuring news, columnists, and occasionally four pages full of letters. The Sunday Herald, which had declared its position early doors, was also dominated by the topic.

Counter to its Sunday sister paper, The Herald decided to back the No side a few days before the vote after Westminster leaders promised extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. However, it warned that if much enhanced extra powers for the Scottish Parliament promised were not delivered then another referendum should follow suit, and the No side would deserve to lose.

It was an articulate case and one that even met with approval from many of those on the Yes side. Both papers have different editors and were given free reign by their owners to come to their own conclusions.

After such a build-up, referendum results day itself was a bit of an anti-climax. Soon after polls closed at 10 p.m. it became brutally clear this wasn’t going to be a nail biter. The head of polling company YouGov pointed to new figures suggesting No would win and said he was 99% certain the survey was accurate. As much as there were doubts over the polls for much of the campaign, for someone to put his neck on the line that far told its own story.

Then from the minute the first result came in and Clackmannanshire was the centre of the world’s attention, it was obvious. That area was designated by many as a guaranteed Yes vote – it went the other way.

Scott Reid (right) believes the referendum was good for Scotland. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We set to work putting out several editions throughout the night, culminating in an 8 a.m. special edition, our work being rewarded by huge sales increases throughout that week well ahead of the Scottish market.

In the end, the result came in as 55% No, 45% Yes. So was there any point? Well, yes. It opened up a debate about who we are and what kind of country we want. It engaged almost the entire population in politics.

It proved that, when people know every single vote counts and it’s an issue they really care about, they will come out in numbers. It allowed voting for 16 year olds and 17 year olds, which proved to be such a success I suspect it will be carried over to regular Scottish Parliament elections.

And it has worked in Scotland’s interests, as it has made it clear that this little country in the north of the U.K. cannot be taken for granted.

Nowhere is the effect of the ongoing drought more dramatic than at Nicasio Reservoir, which is currently only half full. According to Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) which owns the reservoir, West Marin is in its ninth drought since 1975. At least as measured on Mount Tamalpais.

MMWD, however, is not yet hurting for water. Its seven reservoirs together are still 92 percent full thanks to late-spring rains.

Nicasio Reservoir is so low because the district is steadily drawing on it to supply the San Geronimo Valley treatment plant while leaving as much water as possible in its other reservoirs, which are slower to fill. These include Lagunitas, Phoenix, Alpine, Bon Tempe, Kent, and Soulajule.

Today’s Nicasio Valley Road can be seen to the left of the low-lying old Nicasio Valley Road. This photo of Nicasio Reservoir was taken in 2009 when the water level was also dropping.

Nicasio Reservoir was created by the erection of Seeger Dam in 1961. The new reservoir flooded a number of longtime ranches and inundated the north end of Nicasio Valley Road, which had to be relocated to higher ground (as seen at left).

When the water level dropped this year, thousands of freshwater clams were left stranded and easy prey for various creatures.

Among the creatures currently scavenging on the reservoir’s increasingly exposed bottom are daily flocks of Canada geese.

The old Nicasio Valley Road and its bridge often remain submerged for several years at a time. These days they are high and dry, far from the water’s edge.

Even the centerline on the usually flooded old road is visible in many places now that the water level has dropped.

January, 2010

Creation of the reservoir in 1961 also necessitated relocating a large section of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, a project that cost more than acquiring land and building a dam.

A relic of a mishap that occurred during the construction of today’s roadway can still be found half-hidden in fennel and Andean grass on the south side of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road between Platform Bridge and Seeger Dam.

It’s easy to overlook this rusted steel bar sticking out of a basalt roadcut about 50 yards downhill from Laurel Canyon Road, but according to oldtimers there is a curious history behind it.

As part of blasting through the rock 55 years ago, the road builders one day were drilling a hole for some explosives when their drill shaft broke. Removing it would have required considerable work, so they merely cut off the top and left the bent shaft sticking up beside the road where it can still be seen.

I first heard this account from an oldtimer I knew decades ago, and today I asked Pete Maendle of Inverness Park if it was accurate. Pete is the senior road maintenance supervisor in West Marin for the country Department of Public Works, and he said he had heard the same thing from oldtimers in his department.

So see if you can spot the broken drill shaft the next time you drive slowly by. It’s easy to miss because of all the vegetation around it, but it’s a relic of an historical mishap.

This week’s posting looks at some of the signs of life I’ve photographed over the years. Why signs? My premise is that what gets displayed in public is a good indication of the social-cultural concerns of a certain time and place.

Left Bank, Paris, 1985

The now-defunct newspaper France Soir once had one of the largest circulations in Europe, approximately 1.5 million. Parisians are known for their sophistication, so the gaudiness of the newspaper’s self-promotion seemed a bit gauche: “the BIG BINGO! with France Soir, 250,000,000 to Win.”

Paris, 1985

This scene also stuck me as a bit incongruous. A houseworker wearily lugs home food for dinner while a semi-topless girl on a billboard behind her flirtatiously laughs, “My shirt for a beer.”

A city cemetery in northeastern Iowa, 1969

A sudden, unexplained shudder or shivering, according to some superstition, can be caused by someone walking over your future grave. Nonetheless, I figured it was highly unlikely my ghost-like shadow was giving some far-off person a creepy feeling so I took my time to compose an image.

San Salvador, 1982

With FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) guerrillas mounting an insurrection, armed soldiers and bodyguards were seen throughout El Salvador’s capital during the weeks before the 1982 general election. The political billboard these men are passing says: “All for the Homeland, Defending Justice, Together the People and the Armed Forces.”

Note the Lions Club sign at the right.

San Agustín, El Salvador, 1982.

Control over San Agustín in eastern El Salvador went back and forth between the government and leftist guerrillas for months. On this wall pockmarked with bullet holes, guerrilla graffiti warned, “Death to the Ears,” the ears being townspeople who were government informants.

San Salvador, 1982

Coming upon a patrol of Salvadoran soldiers in pursuit of a guerrilla sniper outside a Coca-Cola bottling plant, I couldn’t help but remember the 1971 Coca-Cola commercial: “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” Fat chance.

Alas, even though the insurrection has ended, El Salvador is still wracked with criminal violence.

San Salvador, 1982

This election center had been under fire from guerrillas earlier in the day, and the office was under heavily armed protection. With a national election only weeks away, the official slogan was: “Your vote: the solution.”

The election resulted in a rightwing demagogue, Roberto D’Aubuisson of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA party), becoming head of the Constituent Assembly (the national legislature). More significantly, days of political negotiations ultimately led to a moderate, US-educated economist, Alvaro Magaña, becoming head of state.

As time has passed, the former guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front have gained legitimacy as a political party, and on March 12, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, FMLN’s candidate, won the presidential election in a runoff.

Before I sign off, I should note there are many collections of public-sign photography — each different because of time and place and because of each photographer’s unique framing of the world he sees. If you get a chance, pick up a copy of Neon Nevada by newsman Peter Laufer and his wife Sheila Swan Laufer. It’s fascinating in style and concept (and available online).

With airlines becoming increasingly unpleasant — airport security treating passengers as suspected terrorists, flight attendants abusing fliers, and seats too close together to sit comfortably — there are better ways to travel.

Three weeks ago when Lynn and I traveled to Durango, Colorado, we saw no need to let an airline ruin an otherwise happy trip, so we didn’t. It was a good decision.

On the first part of our journey, we rode Amtrak from Emeryville to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Our roomette gave us space to stretch our legs and to sleep lying down. Unlike airlines that travel at roughly 30,000 feet, trains travel at ground level, and the scenery we passed through, such as this stretch of Utah desert, was spectacular.

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From Grand Junction, we drove almost 150 miles to Durango.

South of Ouray, Colorado, Highway 550 crosses Red Mountain Pass, and last year USA Today described that section of highway as one of the “world’s 12 most dangerous roads.”

As The Durango Herald reported while we were in town, it shares that distinction with the “Highway of Death in Iraq” and “Death Road” in Bolivia.

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“Red Mountain Pass, per mile, has the highest avalanche hazard on the North American Continent,” The Durango Herald added. “The narrow, two-lane road winds through the mountains like a drunk crazily stumbling, and there’s no guardrail to protect cars attempting hairpin turns from hurtling into the jagged ravines that lie, stunning and ominous, hundreds of feet below.”

While Amtrak locomotives, of course, burn diesel fuel, steam locomotives still burn coal. The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE), whose conference Lynn and I were attending, took an excursion on the 132-year-old Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Silverton to Durango. I had as much fun as a kid with a Lionel Train set.

While trains in general are rich in history, steam engines are especially rich in nostalgia — even for the trainmen. Our engineer, Mike Nichols (seen releasing extra water for making steam), has been on the run for 43 years.

The route of the Durango and Silverton Railroad provided spectacular scenery of its own. Some passenger cars on the train have traditional, enclosed seating while some are open-air for enhanced sightseeing.

You may recall Arlo Guthrie’s hit, The City of New Orleans, in which: “The conductor sings his song again: the passengers will please refrain….” The line may be an allusion to a ribald ditty that folk legend Oscar Brand popularized with a 1956 recording. Sung to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, it begins: “Passengers will please refrain/ from flushing toilets while the train/ is in the station, Darling I love you….”

Toilets on trains traditionally dumped their sewage on the tracks, which was unpleasant for track workers and for anyone below a bridge the train was crossing. At the insistence of Congress, Amtrak between 1991 and 1996 installed holding tanks for sewage in all cars with restrooms. Likewise, the Durango and Silverton Railroad’s toilets no longer empty onto the tracks although its restroom sinks still do. ___________________________________________________________________

Like all the Amtrak crew members we encountered, Nathan, the attendant for our two-level passenger car, was friendly as well as efficient.

Not only did he maintain the car throughout its trip from Emeryville to its ultimate destination, Chicago, he converted our roomette seats to beds at night and back to seats in the morning.

He also provided passengers in his car with free coffee, juice, and snacks.

__________________________________________________________________

A view of Utah from a window in the dining car.

Passengers in sleeper cars pay nothing extra for their meals, and Amtrak does not skimp on its fare. Steak and seafood were among the dinner entrées.

Travelers typically are seated with other travelers at tables in the dining car, and all the strangers Lynn and I ate with turned out to be pleasant, friendly folks. Train travelers, we soon realized, more easily socialize with each other than air travelers do.

Amtrak’s lounge car was great  for sightseeing, snacking, and socializing. Some passengers brought their computers there to work in pleasant surroundings.

Riding Amtrak provides a tour of numerous towns that remain part of the Old West. This is Truckee near Donner Pass over the Sierra Nevada.

Winnemuccca, Nevada.

Amtrak does not own the tracks it travels on, and our train rode on Union Pacific rails the entire way. Union Pacific freight trains have priority, and Amtrak trains have to sit on a siding or stay in a station whenever a freight comes along. As a result, Amtrak is almost never on schedule.

We spent an unscheduled 90 minutes in Winnemucca while waiting for the Union Pacific’s relief engineer and conductor to show up. The delay was no problem for Lynn and me. It just brought to mind the old Hank Snow song I’ve Been Everywhere, which begins with a trip to Winnemucca.

Airplane contrails high in the sky over the Utah desert. Eighty million years ago, the USGS website says, most of this area was covered by a warm, shallow, inland sea.

Seen from our Amtrak window, the Colorado River flows past Utah’s dramatic rock formations.

Ouray, Colorado

After enjoying a family get-together with my cousin Leck Mitchell and his wife Pat in Grand Junction, we embarked the next day on a mostly relaxed drive to Durango. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in the old mining town of Ouray. The city of only 1,000 residents is full of historic buildings and offers a variety of places to eat. __________________________________________________________________

South of Ouray, however, our drive over Red Mountain Pass became a challenge.

“Although the speed limit is 15 mph for much of Red Mountain Pass,” The Durango Herald noted, “more than 300 accidents took place there between 1995 and 2010.

“The majority occurred in dry conditions and involved only one vehicle. Eight accidents killed nine people, including five highway workers.”

The newspaper quoted Nancy Shanks, the local Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, as saying, “It’s so scary it forces people to focus and slow down.”

Another reason there aren’t even more wrecks, a shopkeeper in Silverton theorized, is that there’s no cellphone reception going over the pass, so drivers don’t get distracted by texting as they skirt the precipices. ___________________________________________________________________

With no guardrails and — in many places — no shoulder between the asphalt and the edge of a cliff, the pass must be impassable for drivers bothered by vertigo.

Heidi Pankow, public relations manager for the Ouray Chamber Resort Association, told The Herald, “People stop in and ask, ‘Why are there no guardrails?’ We explain there’s no room because plows have to push the snow off the edge in winter. It’s definitely a topic that comes up a lot.”

The road is also known as the Million Dollar highway. However, “the origin of the ‘Million Dollar’ name is clouded in myth,” Road Trip USA has noted. “Some say it was first used after an early traveler, complaining of the vertigo-inducing steepness of the route, said, ‘I wouldn’t go that way again if you paid me a million dollars.’

“Others claim that it derives simply from the actual cost of paving the route in the 1930s. But the favorite explanation is also the most likely: when the highway was first constructed, the builders used gravel discarded by nearby gold and silver mines, only to find out later that this dirt was actually rich in ore and worth an estimated ‘million dollars.’”

Lynn prepares to board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Silverton during the ISWNE excursion.

Silverton was born as a silver- and gold-mining town in 1874, and at one time Blair Street (pictured) was lined with 40 saloons and brothels that served the miners. Most of the old buildings are still standing, and the downtown area is now a National Historic Landmark District. With an elevation of 9,308 feet, the town has a summer population of around 600 but far less in winter.

The town’s 139-year-old newspaper, The Silverton Standard, is now a nonprofit owned by the San Juan Historical Society, which took it over five years ago when The Standard was about to go out of business. The paper is now marginally in the black, its editor, Mark Esper, told ISWNE members when we met with him in the old county courthouse.

In keeping with Silverton’s rakish past, the town council is now considering modifying its zoning to allow a retail marijuana shop just east of downtown, The Standard reported while we were in town. Current zoning would already allow a marijuana-growing facility in the area, the paper noted.

ISWNE members gaze at the scenery as the narrow-gauge railroad crosses the San Juan Mountains en route to Durango.

Train conductors warn passengers not to stick their heads or arms out the window during the ride. The train passes so close to rocks and trees a passenger could easily bang into them.

Like the “Highway to Hell,” the train route in places winds along the edge of cliffs. The precipices, however, seem far less daunting when riding on a train than when driving above them in a car.

Air travel too, of course, includes a lot of looking down from high places, and that makes some people even more queasy. All in all, Lynn and I found traveling by train and car far preferable to flying, and the scenery was immensely better.

As last week’s posting noted, our destination was an annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which this year was in Durango. I was there to give a talk and receive ISWNE’s Eugene Cervi Award, and these were the highlights of our trip. But getting there, around, and back was great fun too.

My life companion Lynn Axelrod and I have just returned from Durango, Colorado, where we attended an annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at Fort Lewis College.

Two posts will deal with our adventures. The second will concern transportation, ranging from driving “the highway to hell” (in the words of the Durango Herald) to travel by old-fashioned steam engine and modern Amtrak. Because this first post deals with my receiving a journalism award, I’ve let Lynn prepare it.

Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, opened in 1891 as a boarding school for Native American Indians and remained so until the 1930s when it became a two-year college. In 1956, it was relocated from the town of Hesperus to its present location 18 miles to the east and became a four-year college. Under federal law, Indian students attend it tuition free. (Photo by Tim Waltner, member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and publisher of the Freeman Courier in South Dakota)

By Lynn Axelrod

The highest international award in the English-speaking world for editing a weekly newspaper went to Dave Mitchell of Point Reyes Station last week.

Mitchell, 70, who retired in November 2005, edited and published The Point Reyes Light for 27 years. On June 28, Mitchell received the award in Durango, Colorado, during the annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE).

Editors from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as from England, Scotland, and Australia, were on hand.

Mitchell’s “Eugene Cervi Award” is named after the late editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain Journal in Denver, where some Colorado politicians once called the liberal newspaperman “the most dangerous man in Denver.”

Eugene Cervi (at left)

After he died in 1970, “the New York Times described Cervi as ‘one of the most outspoken voices in American journalism,’” ISWNE executive director Chad Stebbins has written.

The Eugene Cervi award recognizes “a newspaper editor who has consistently acted in the conviction that ‘good journalism begets good government.’

“The award is presented not for a single brave accomplishment, however deserving, but for a career of outstanding public service through community journalism and for adhering to the highest standards of the craft with the deep reverence for the English language that was the hallmark of Gene Cervi’s writing.

“The award also recognizes consistently aggressive reporting of government at the grassroots level and interpretation of local affairs.”

Chad Stebbins (left), executive director of ISWNE, and Mitchell standing with the Eugene Cervi Award, which is represented by a street-vendor “Newsman.”

Although the four-day conference was held in Colorado this year, ISWNE’s annual conferences are often held abroad: Calgary, Alberta, 1994; London, Edinburgh, Cardiff & Dublin, 1995; Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1999; Victoria, British Columbia, 2000; Galway, Ireland, 2003; Edmonton & Fort McMurray, Alberta, 2005; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 2009; Coventry, England, 2011. In 2016, the group will head to Australia.

In 1979 when Mitchell and his former wife Cathy published The Light, the newspaper received the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service. It was only the fourth year since the prizes were established in 1917 that any Pulitzer had gone to a weekly newspaper.

The prize was for an investigation and editorial crusade warning about violence and other illegal activities by the Synanon cult. Synanon, which officially dissolved in 1991, was headquartered on Tomales Bay in Marshall during much of the 1970s.

Mitchell’s new book, The Light on the Coast, which was coauthored by Jacoba Charles, includes key articles and opinion pieces about Synanon. Using news stories published when events occurred, The Light on the Coast tells the history of West Marin since the paper’s founding in 1948. At ISWNE’s request, Mitchell gave an hour-long talk on Synanon and other stories from the book. The Light’s reports on five waves of ethnic immigration to West Marin beginning in the 1850s were a major part of his talk.

Fort Lewis College, which is named after Lt. Col William Lewis, a hero of the Union Army in the Civil War, is in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado at 6,872 feet in elevation. It borders wildlands, and a small herd of mule deer graze the campus undisturbed.

Nominating Mitchell for the award were San Francisco Chronicle reporter and columnist Carl Nolte, retired Santa Fe Reporter editor and publisher Richard McCord, and California Newspaper Publishers Association executive director Thomas Newton.

Newton praised Mitchell for trying to make The Light the “New York Times of West Marin” and for his “swashbuckling journalism for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, including trips to El Salvador and Guatemala to cover the upheaval and insurrection of the time [1982-83].”

Commenting on Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning reporting Nolte wrote, “Synanon was very tough. Big city papers went after the organization but were scared off by threats of lawsuits…. But nobody and no lawsuit could stop The Light.”

He added, “Don’t think The Light is a one-trick pony…. Mitchell has taken on the Park Service, which runs the [Point Reyes] National Seashore with an iron hand…. He has also followed the immigration patterns on the land, from the now nearly vanished Miwok Indians to newer people…”

Richard McCord (seen introducing Mitchell at ISWNE’s awards banquet) is best known nationally for his 1996 book The Chain Gang, which exposed the Gannett newspaper chain’s illegal efforts to drive competitors out of business.

In his letter of nomination, McCord focused on The Light’s Synanon exposé: “Despite warnings that he might… be in physical danger, Dave Mitchell continued writing about Synanon in stories and editorials.”

During the awards dinner, Mitchell told the crowd he had “thought he was fading away like the old soldiers cited by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his farewell speech to Congress,” ISWNE’s June 29 newsletter reported. “To me this is like winning a second Pulitzer. It had been so many years since I had put on a tie, I couldn’t remember how to tie it.”

The advent of email roughly 20 years ago created a new phenomenon in humor: jokes that quickly get forwarded and re-forwarded to an ever-expanding crowd of Internet users worldwide.

A Canadian cousin and her husband, both of whom shall remain nameless so they keep me on their email list, send me one or two jokes almost every day. Believing that clever humor — including blonde jokes and the like — should be shared, I’ve decided to pass along a few.

Turkey in the straw outside Mitchell cabin last week.

• An old man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his tomato garden, but it was difficult work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament. Dear Vincent, 
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here, my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me.
 — Love, Dad

A few days later he received a letter from his son. Dear Dad,
 Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where I buried the bodies.
 — Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son. Dear Dad,
 Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances. — Love you, Vinnie

• A sign in the bank lobby reads: “Please note that this bank is installing new drive-through ATM machines enabling customers to withdraw cash without leaving their vehicles. Customers using this new facility are requested to use the procedures outlined below when accessing their accounts. After months of careful research, male and female procedures have been developed. Please follow the appropriate steps for your gender.”

Male Procedure:

1. Drive up to the cash machine.

2. Put down your car window.

3. Insert card into machine and enter PIN.

4. Enter amount of cash required and withdraw.

5. Retrieve card, cash and receipt.

6. Put window up.

7. Drive off.

Female Procedure:

1. Drive up to cash machine.

2. Reverse and back up the required amount to align car window with the machine.

3. Set parking brake; put the window down.

4. Find handbag, remove all contents onto passenger seat to locate card.

5. Tell person on cell phone you will call them back and hang up.

6. Attempt to insert card into machine.

7. Open car door to allow easier access to machine due to excessive distance from car.

8. Insert card.

9. Re-insert card the right way.

10. Dig through handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page.

11. Enter PIN.

12. Press cancel and re-enter correct PIN.

13. Enter amount of cash required.

14. Check makeup in rear view mirror.

15. Retrieve cash and receipt.

16. Empty handbag again to locate wallet and place cash inside.

17. Write debit amount in check register and place receipt in back of checkbook.

18. Re-check makeup.

19. Drive forward two feet.

20. Reverse back to cash machine.

21. Retrieve card.

22. Re-empty handbag, locate card holder, and place card into the slot provided.

23. Give dirty look to irate male driver waiting behind you.

24. Restart stalled engine and drive off.

25. Re-dial person on cell phone.

26. Drive for two to three miles; release parking brake.

• Two Virginia hillbillies walked into a restaurant. While having a bite to eat, they talked about their moonshine operation. Suddenly, a woman who was eating a sandwich at a nearby table began to cough. After a minute or so, it became apparent that she was in real distress.

One of the hillbillies looked at her and said, “Kin ya swallar?” The woman shook her head no. Then he asked, “Kin ya breathe?” The woman began to turn blue and shook her head no.

The hillbilly walked over to the woman, lifted up her dress, yanked down her drawers, and quickly gave her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue. The woman was so shocked that she had a violent spasm, and the obstruction flew out of her mouth. Once she started to breathe again, the hillbilly walked slowly back to his table as his partner said, “Ya know, I’d heerd of that there ‘Hind Lick Maneuver,’ but I ain’t niver seed nobody do it!”

• A blonde was on holiday and driving through Darwin (Australia). She desperately wanted to take home a pair of genuine crocodile shoes but was unwilling to pay the high prices the local vendors were asking.

After becoming frustrated with the no-haggle-on-prices attitude of one of the shopkeepers, the blonde shouted, “Well then, maybe I’ll just go out and catch my own crocodile, so I can get a pair of shoes for free.” The shopkeeper said with a sly, knowing smile, “Little lady, just go and give it a try!” The blonde headed out toward the river, determined to catch a crocodile.

Later in the day as the shopkeeper was driving home, he pulled over to the side of the river bank where he spotted the same young blonde woman standing waist deep in the murky water, a shotgun in her hand. Just then, he spotted a huge, 3-meter croc swimming rapidly toward her. With lightning speed, she took aim, killed the creature, and hauled it onto the slimy banks of the river.

Lying nearby were seven more of the dead creatures, all on their backs. The shopkeeper stood on the bank, watching in silent amazement. The blonde struggled and flipped the croc onto its back. Rolling her eyes heavenward in exasperation, she screamed, “What the hell? This one’s barefoot too!”

• The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with a co-worker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?”

No joke, something similar actually happened to the late Ralph Craib, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter who nominated The Point Reyes Light for its Pulitzer Prize. Ralph came home from World War II legally — but not totally — blind, and his family got a Disabled Veteran license plate for their car.

The plate permitted them to park in handicap spaces, but one day a San Francisco policeman upon seeing Ralph get into the car accused him of parking in a blue zone without having a handicap placard. Ralph pointed out the car’s Disabled Veteran license plate and noted he was legally blind.

If you’re legally blind, the cop demanded, what are you doing driving a car? With great patience, Ralph explained that the license plate allowed his wife to drop him off and meet him close to his destinations.

Nancy Hemmingway and her husband Bruce Mitchell during a retirement party in her honor Saturday.

Inverness resident Nancy Hemmingway, who retired at the end of last month after 42 years as the town librarian, received a series of emotional tributes, some of them downright tearful, during a gala Saturday in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace.

A series of speakers commented on how well Nancy got along with library patrons and with colleagues in the Marin County Free Library System. Her concern for children drew particular praise.


So many people showed up to honor Nancy that the Dance Palace was almost as packed as it is each November for the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.

“Nancy Hemmingway has been the Inverness librarian longer than the Inverness library has been at its current location,” The Point Reyes Light reported on March 20.

“She’s devoted more than half her life to this community, in more ways than one,” The Light quoted Bonny White, the library’s West Marin branch manager, as saying. “Nancy is irreplaceable. She’s one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met in my life, either in library service or out of it. We have been so lucky.”

An ad hoc group calling themselves the West Marin Library Singers serenaded Nancy with “I’ve Been Working in the Library” sung to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Branch manager Bonny White (center) emceed the celebration.

Dance Palace Community Center founders (from left): Kate Adams, Carol Friedman, Michael Jayson, and Nancy Hemmingway in 1971. The photo appears in my new book, The Light on the Coast, courtesy of the Friedman-Jayson family collection. Saturday’s event ended, appropriately enough, with everyone being invited to dance. ____________________________________________________________________

Learn to Help! Have fun! Get dirty!

By West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator Anne Sands

What would you do in a disaster if no help were available?

Following a disaster event, such as a wildland fire, flood, tsunami or earthquake, West Marin’s first responders — firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement — expect to be overwhelmed. We need to be prepared to take care of ourselves for at least three days and maybe longer.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is a national program that teaches you how to take care of yourself and help your community until first responders are able to assist.

Practicing extricating a victim from a damaged building during CERT training last January in Nicasio.

This 18-hour training, a two-day class taught on Saturdays by our local firefighters, teaches preparedness and survival skills that you can use to help you, your family, and your community survive after a disaster. Completion of the training qualifies you to be a volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  member and makes you an official Disaster Service Worker (covered by worker’s compensation).

How you participate is completely up to you and your level of comfort. No special skills or experience are needed in order to be a CERT member. Don’t let age stop you. We’ve trained participants from teenagers to over-70 year olds. The important thing you bring to the class is a commitment to be ready for the next disaster.

Practicing transporting a victim during the training in Nicasio.

What will you learn?

• CERTs are trained to work in teams, organize a command post, set up a triage area, and perform basic first aid, such as identifying symptoms of shock, splinting limbs, and stopping bleeding.

• CERTs learn about when and how, to extinguish a small fire using a fire extinguisher.

• CERTs learn light search and rescue (SAR) techniques to find victims and safely transport them to the triage area.

• CERTs record activities and information to accurately report to the first responders when they arrive.

This isn’t just a lecture class. There are plenty of hand-on experiences and disaster simulations to practice your newly learned disaster preparedness skills.

Congratulations to the 23 graduates of the West Marin CERT class held in January. They are: Lynn Axelrod, Troy Clemons, Diane Doubleday, Walter Earle, Russ Faure-Brac, Gail Fechter, Jerry Feichert, Margaret Graham, Ann Griffin, Graham Hawkes, Oliver Hawkes, Peter Herbert, Don Holmlund, Shirley Holmlund, Paula Linton, Stella Petrakis-Rinne, Risto Rinne, Alison Romano, Anne Sands, Julie Siegel, Jacquie Waterman, Maureen Williams, and Luisa Young.

The next CERT class in West Marin will be Saturdays May 17 and 31 at the Marin County Corporation Yard in Nicasio. Learn more about CERT and register for this or another CERT class at www.readymarin.org or call 415 485-3409. The class costs $45, but scholarships are available.

It’s fun! It’s challenging! It’s worth it! ___________________________________________________________________

And now for the odd news…

A “Blue Monday” for all concerned.

• As you may recall, shortly after takeoff, a JetBlue airliner struck a bird last March 28 and was forced to make an emergency landing. No one was injured except the bird, which ended up stuck in the nose of the plane. These things happen.

What was odd about this collision was the New York Daily News description of the mishap: “Flight 671 departing from Westchester County Airport for West Palm Beach smashed into the nose of the Airbus A320 at about 9:30 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said.” A bird with a flight number? Now that is weird.

• Apparently fewer Americans are turned off by other people’s smoking than we are sometimes led to believe. The Huffington Post three weeks ago summarized an industry survey of what people in 24 of this country’s large cities look for when they browse online for porn. As might be expected, videos featuring Asian, black, and lesbian actresses are popular throughout the US. In Anchorage, Alaska, however, the most popular videos of all feature actresses who are smoking. Folks in Jacksonville, Florida, likewise consider smoking women hot. Sounds like the Surgeon General’s warnings may not be doing the trick.

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