The Murder of Fred Hampton


Thanks to Axis of Evel Knievel I found the classic documentary about the life and death of Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton online. Everyone says that Fred was special. He'd get up at dawn to rally his recruits, then go off to cook in the free breakfast program, and spend his days on other programs, meetings and coalition work. Its no secret that there were guns in his house when he died, but there's also no longer any controversy that he was murdered in his sleep by a dozen Chicago cops. He was 21.

The film came out before certain details of the case were understood. For example, his close comrade William O'Neil who was with him the night before he was killed turns out to have been an FBI informant. Still, the movie is well worth watching. Here's the link.


Primary sources, baby!

I've been digging a new collection on the Library of Congress' American Memory site about early California history.

It only includes works in English which excludes material from the Spanish speakers who had been running the place when it was a colony of Spain and then later when it was the most Northern province of Mexico. Also missing are voices from members of California's 70+ native tribes which used spoken but not written languages, and from the thousands of international gold seekers who came from China and Chile, and from all over the rest of the world, leaving an emphasis on adventuring Anglo-American men. As limited as adventuring Anglo-American men can be, I like the first-person accounts of California history. Here's a passage from San Francisco bartender John H. Brown, recalling the Anglo-American seizure of California from Mexico. At that time, those "rising up" were attempting to found an independent Republic of California until the Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and occupied California in the name of the United States, quickly quashing that idea. Note that the then-sleepy pre-Gold Rush city of San Francisco was still called Yerba Buena at the time:

Things went on as usual in the city until the latter part of May, when a report reached the city, that trouble was expected. A party at Sutter's Fort were raising a company to take possession of the upper part of California. In the early part of June, a boat arrived from Martinez, with the news that Sonoma was taken, and a proclamation, with Mr. Hyde's signature, was posted in a prominent place which announced that General Vallejo and Timothy Murphy, of San Rafael, with many others, were taken prisoners... A few days after, General Castro issued a proclamation, commanding all Mexican citizens to meet him at Santa Clara for orders. The only foreigners who left the city for Santa Clara, were Captain William Hinckley and Robert T. Ridley. They were ordered to stop all boats and prevent all persons from landing in Yerba Buena. On their return home, Hinckley was taken sick and died, on Burnell's Ranch, and was buried in the church at Mission Dolores.

Robert T. Ridley returned to the city to carry out the orders of General Castro, but could not find anyone to assist him, as there was not one Mexican citizen to be found in Yerba Buena, and the few foreigners who were here, were in favor of the ''Bear Flag,'' as it was called. This flag was made at Sutter's Fort, of bunting, and had the picture of a grizzly bear painted in the center, as the parties making the flag had no paint on hand, they used some blackberry juice, which answered the purpose very well. (The flag can still be seen at the Pioneer's Hall, in San Francisco). But they did not take up arms until the American Flag was raised.


Community Clinics

Over the last few days I've learned some exciting new facts about scabies. Shall I share?

scabies mite.jpg
The Scabies Mite: as ugly as it is unpleasant

1) The first and most exciting fact I've learned about scabies is that I DO NOT HAVE IT. It took two visits to my friend the PA who works in an STD clinic, a phone call to the craigslist date who could have given it to me, and finally, my own admission that I don't actually have scabies symptoms to convince me, but I'm now sure that I do not have a communicable disease, at least not one involving tiny mites that cause uncontrolled itching by shitting underneath the skin.

2) If I did have scabies, or any other disease for that matter, I would be 100% reliant on my saint-like friend the PA who works in an STD clinic to care for me because actually, as it turns out, having no health insurance and living in the East Bay = having almost no medical care at all. I called three or four local low-income clinics and they all told me that they only do intake for new patients ONCE A MONTH. So in other words, keep scratching for a couple weeks until we can see you. The exception is the Berkeley Free Clinic, but their hours are limited as is the range of care available there.

3) Even if they take forever to see you, the folks who run the Bay Area's community clinics still rock. I spent 15 or 20 minutes on the phone with a nice gentleman at the Free Clinic who failed to scream and hang up when I said I thought I had a social disease and then shared his recommendation for best East Bay community health clinic (LifeLong Medical Care). The person answering the phone at Lyon-Martin was also patient and kind even as she was telling me that their next appointment for new patients wasn't until January 18th.

I'm a former radical health care provider and I've got a very big and very special spot in my heart for community health care of all types. The Bay Area is home to a number of community clinics that grew out of a part of late-60s history where folks believed that health care was a basic human right and also that people could and should control their own care. If I ever get my shit together to write a book about Bay Area history, it'll be about the history of the Bay Area community health movement, but its going to take a lot of research because I don't know much beyond the skeleton. I can tell you about a few of the local community clinics though.

La Clinica de la Raza was founded in 1971 by Chicano students and doctors and community folks to provide community-based care in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. Now that La Clinica is one of the largest non-profits in the East Bay, it doesn't quite have the homemade community feel that started things off. On the other hand, they now provide health care for thousands of uninsured folks from South East Asia, all over Latin America, and all over East Oakland. Similarly, the Native American Health Center started in '72 when Indian activists and allies, post-Alcatraz occupation, called for a self-directed clinic for Native folks.

The way I heard the story of the Berkeley Free Clinic was that it was founded during the People's Park Riot by medic veterans of the Vietnam War. I can't recall the details of that story so I'll have to go with the vague history they have up on their site.


The BFC is especially close to my radical health care heart because they primarily use lay medical workers – non-professionals who undergo a rigorous in-house training program. A trip to the BFC often involves a discussion with the staff medic in front of an open medical textbook, with both of you trying to figure out what's bugging you.

The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic is the most famous of our clinics. As I understand it, they were among the first medical clinics to treat drug addicts like human beings, and they still specialize in treating addiction and caring for addicts. I liked this free-association piece about their history from David Smith, the clinic founder.

Thanks clinics. I'm going to celebrate my lack of scabies by signing up to become a patient somewheres.


Lost Amusement

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Idora Park in Oakland, 1910 (?). From the Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library.

Finals are over (thank the maker) and apparently, some guy named Jesus was born today. Seems like the right time to talk about boozing, gambling, and flipping upside-down on roller coasters. Here goes: Before TiVo, iPods, or Guitar Hero, when folks had to leave the house for a little something exciting, the Bay Area was peppered with amusement parks. The parks incorporated natural beauty along with human-made entertaiments like junk food, race-tracks and shooting ranges.

Playland at the Beach is the most well known of our lost parks. It started as a disorganized collection of concessions and rides at Ocean Beach in the late 1800s and only shut down in the early 1970s. At one point it spanned three city blocks and included roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, five restaurants, and eventually the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House restaurant which to this day traps tourists before they fall off the edge of San Francisco and onto Seal Rock in the Pacific. Outsidelands.org collects photos and stories of Playland and wikipedia has a pretty thorough entry including descriptions of the various rides nausea inducing rides like the Aeroplane Swing, the Whip, and Dodg-em.

Chelle and Noelle Beloy in front of the Fun House at Playland at the Beach.
Copyright Dennis O'Rorke, early 1970s from outsidelands.org.

From 1904 until 1929, Idora Park in the present day Oakland neighborhood of Temescal was home to a miniature railway, a car race track, the Illusion Theater, a successful opera house, and a skating rink that billed itself as the largest in the world. The park also housed a number of caged animal displays and served as a temporary home of the Oakland Oaks baseball team. This postcard set provides some images of that disappeared park.

Grizzlies caged at Idora Park on Oakland, from Alameda Info

Shellmound Park in Emeryville lasted from 1876 to 1924. It was built, morbidly, on the lopped off top of the Bay Area's largest indigenous Shellmound. The best online resource about the park is this PDF from the Emeryville Historical Society. You can read there about the pleasant picnic grounds, the shooting range, bowling alley, bicycle and horse racing and two dance pavilions that were part of this destination for San Franciscans who wanted panoramic Bay views and a getaway from city hustle. The picnic grounds in particular were utilized by all types of local civic groups, ranging from the Household of Ruth, a Black women's chapter of the Odd Fellows, to the notoriously racist Workingmen's Party. Local anti-gambling ordinances and the new national alcohol prohibition killed Shellmound Park. There's no point in picnics and horse races without booze, apparently.

Boxing kids.jpg
Boxing kids at Neptune Beach, 1924, from Alameda Info.

Neptune Beach didn't open until 1917, late compared to other Bay Area parks, and it lasted until 1939 when the depression and increasing car use spurred in part by the recently completed San Francisco Bay Bridge made Alameda a less appealing destination for Bay Area funseekers. While it lasted it contained a giant swimming area, prime beach land, snacks, concessions, and a roller coaster that offered views across the Bay to San Francisco.

Neptune Beach Roller Coaster 1922, postcard from Alameda Info.

Amusement parks were popular around the country in the early 20th century. Most started as Trolley Parks, created by the streetcar companies as a destination for trolley lines. The parks were often built at beaches or, as in Idora Park, at locations that otherwise showed off nature's lovelier features. The natural features were eventually obscured by the gaudy rides that were installed later. The parks patterned themselves after each other and tended to rip off rides and even their names from larger or more successful parks elsewhere in the country. You might recognize the name "Playland" for example from the more famous Long Island park of the same name. Like the streetcar companies that built these places, the parks themselves were killed by the rise of car culture – not to mention the Great Depression and then television. Although as in the case of Playland, there were some late holdouts. Amusement Park fans are quite loyal. Besides lovingly maintained memorial websites to the various amusement parks, the Neptune Beach Amusement Museum is trying to build a physical space in the old location of Neptune Beach.

The destruction of Playland at the Beach,
copyright Dennis O'Rorke, 1972, from outsidelands.org.

(Thanks so much to peacay at the beautiful bibliodyssey for giving me the Cliff House link that started me on this post.)



Hi Folks!

I'm still here, just severely weakened by a massive pile of biology homework until Wednesday. I might as well shout out the New Earth Artists Cafe where I'm finishing my microbiology papers and enjoying a Jill Scott (grits and eggs) and coffee and the view of basketball players and martial artists at the F.M. Smith rec center and playground. He was a classic robber baron and exploited Chinese workers in his Death Valley borax mines, but for those of us who live in The Town Frances Marion Smith is our robber baron, and we've got a corner of his once enormous estate as a cute little neighborhood park where I grew up playing and where my little Ru is playing with her Auntie today so I can get some work done. Speaking of which...



Illinois St. and 19th at the Eastern edge of Dogpatch.
An 1862 photo by Eadward Muybridge. From pier70sf.org

Hey, look at that: The Dogpatch has a website! Nice work. More cool stuff about Pier 70 elsewhere on the same site.


Bearings Blog

I'm pretty much out of commission research-wise until my finals are over in two weeks. In the meantime, I'll keep up the links to sites that are a)Bay Area related, b)history related, c)activist related, and/or d)just really awesome.

Under the heading of Just Really Awesome and Bay Area History Related: Bearings A Geographers Blog. Bearings looks at our "built environment", often at the portions of that environment which have been abandoned in our ever forward moving rush towards wealth and progress. There's a strong emphasis on the West and on history, and there are lots of beautiful photos, both historical and contemporary. I was extra interested in a recent series of Bearings posts about sugar beet factories in Colorado because I watched Burn! last night, and now I want to learn everything I can about the changes and tragedies of the sugar industry.

Filter presses to purify liquid beet sugar, from Bearings.

Bearings is the creation of author and photographer Jon Haeber. He's got a great Flickr page too (recently profiled on Boing Boing). Maybe if I'm very nice he'll be my new best friend.


Letters from a Concentration Camp

Dear Miss Breed.jpg

Clara Estelle Breed, a San Diego children's librarian, was outraged by the WWII era policy of internment for Japanese Americans. In response, she met Japanese American families as they were being sent away by train and distributed stamped and addressed postcards to the children, asking them to write to her and describe life in the camps. Her papers, including cards sent by interned adults and children are now collected at the Japanese American National Museum.

Thanks to amyms on metafilter for this find.
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