Allen Allensworth and Allensworth California

Allen Allensworth was looking for a place to establish a town outside the Jim Crow South, a town where African Americans could own property and pursue their economic potential.

Allensworth was born into slavery in 1842. While still a youth he was punished for learning to read and write, illegal for those in his situation. During the Civil War he escaped and made his way behind Union lines. He signed on as a civilian nurse with the Army Hospital Corps. He then served in the U.S. Navy from 1863-1865. After the war, Allensworth was ordained a Baptist Minister. He later became an Army chaplain. He retired from the service as a lieutenant colonel, the highest rank of an African American in the U.S. Armed Forces to that time.

The Allensworth family settled in Pasadena California. Allen joined with four others to establish what was then called a race colony. They founded their town in 1908 on the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley, aka Central Valley, a region that still today is sometimes less than welcoming to minorities. They called their new town Solito, later changed to the eponymous “Allensworth” in honor of its most prominent citizen.

A school district was formed in 1912. Two years later the state sanctioned a judicial district and a post office opened. Unfortunately, Allen Allensworth was run over and killed by a motorcycle while on a visit to Los Angeles in 1914.

The town continued to thrive, serving the growing agricultural activity surrounding it. It reached its peak in 1925. That’s when water shortages began. Pacific Farming Company, the land development company that handled the original purchase, failed to deliver the promised irrigation water in sufficient amounts. Legal battles with Pacific Farming drained the municipal coffers and lack of water resulted in farmers moving away. By 1930, the population had dropped below 300.

Today, Allensworth is mostly remembered by a state park on Highway 43, between Bakersfield and Fresno. Huge corporate farms now dominate and the Westland Water District exercises its political muscle – this is the region that gave us House Reps Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy – to get water from other parts of the state delivered to them at taxpayer expense.

Waylon Jennings and the Day the Music Died

February 1959: Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson died when their chartered plane crashed into an Iowa cornfield. Richardson, suffering from the flu, had talked bassist Waylon Jennings into letting him have his place on the plane. Guitarist Tommy Allsup had given up his seat to Valens on a coin flip.

Waylon Jennings talks about his friend and mentor Buddy Holly and the Day the Music Died.

A Very Brief History of Black History Month

Historian Carter G. Woodson declared the second week of February as “Negro History Week” in 1926. He chose that week because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on the 12th and Frederick Douglass on the 14th.

Black History Month became official in 1976 when white people recognized it. President Gerald Ford announced it was time to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Subsequently, each year the President has proclaimed February as Black History Month.

Notably, in his 2017 declaration the current occupant of the White House, a renowned historian in his own right, stated, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

From the 2019 declaration:

This year’s theme, “Black Migrations,” highlights the challenges and successes of African Americans as they moved from farms in the agricultural South to centers of industry in the North, Midwest, and West—especially the migrations that occurred in the twentieth century.  Through these migrations, millions of African Americans reshaped the demographic landscape of America, starting new lives in cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and New York City.

Read the entire proclamation here (not likely that it was written by the current President).

Alaska Airlines and Me

During my working life Alaska Airlines has done a couple good things for me. They began non-stop service between Portland and Phoenix at a time when I lived in Portland and business required travel to Arizona. Years later, when I lived in Santa Rosa California, Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska, initiated flights from the Sonoma County Airport to several destinations on the West Coast. Again, helpful to me, saving the sixty-mile trip to San Francisco or Oakland airports. Alaska was always a little bit better than its competitors, with clean planes, a bit more legroom, helpful staff and food on most flights. Horizon, later re-branded as Alaska, even served complimentary wine and beer on its flights.

Airlines over the past few years have striven to make air travel ever more uncomfortable and inconvenient, Alaska has followed that path, with the apparent goal to be just like all the other airlines. They now charge for checked bags, charge for a change of itinerary, charge for food and are squeezing more seats into their aircraft. What’s next, no free beer and wine on Horizon?

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How Do You Know Where You Are?

The prototypical traveling salesman carried among other necessaries a Thomas Brothers Street Guide for the area he (in those days, usually a he) was working. A Thomas Guide was usually within easy reach on the front seat of the car. The guides, with their foldout maps and street indexes were especially popular in California and other western states. Businesses, government agencies, law enforcement and emergency responders used Thomas maps, including the company’s large wall maps.

Cartographer George Coupland Thomas and his two brothers founded the company in 1915. Early maps were detailed block grids with bird’s-eye three-dimensional drawings of major buildings. As the business expanded, the Thomas Company moved its headquarters from Oakland to Los Angeles.

George Thomas died in 1955. The family’s lawyer, and brother of a former Oakland mayor, purchased the company. Business continued to grow and in 1970 the company moved into a shiny new building in Irvine, south of L.A.

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Is Vancouver Wash Sending Its Best Across the Border?

Three decades ago – maybe four – in the waning days of music on AM radio, the era of morning drive-time disc-jockey teams supposedly being light-hearted and humorous, a pair of funny guys on one Portland station had a running gag, blaming incompetent Washington drivers for any traffic problems. Now in 2019, a study by something called WalletHub ranks Washington motorists number 48, the worst in the continental United States. Numbers 49 and 50 are Alaska and Hawaii respectively.

Vancouver – not the British Columbia Vancouver – sits just across the Columbia River from Portland – the Oregon Portland.

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