History Day in Salinas

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This morning I woke up and walked to Roosevelt School to attend and help out with the first Local History lecture series. My friend and former Principal, Mary Randall, had organized this group of historians to talk about Salinas of the past, and have some fun, too. There were lots of cookies brought by the Women’s Club, including some celebrating the Claus Oldenberg Statue called Hat in Three Stages of Landing. Delicious!

hat cookies at History.jpg
Hat Cookies

Before the lectures started I met old friends Larry Smith, who works as a docent at the First Mayor’s House, and Ruth Muldoon. Ruth taught kindergarten here in Salinas for about 35 years and now reads stories to third graders who visit the House. Liz Hibbard, another retired teacher, was there, and Rosalie, a wonderful lady who has worked with the Women’s Club for most of her many years. My School’s head custodian, Cesar, was there, too! Mary was his first principal and they are old friends, so he came. I also talked with Jeanne Garcia, who I worked with when I started teaching 30 years ago. I met Bingta Frankie, a new Board member at the First Mayor’s House. She looked so beautiful, I had to take her picture!

Bingta Frankie at History.jpg
The Historic Fashions of Bingta Frankie

Since we were gathered in the cafeteria of an elementary school, it felt natural to start off with the pledge of allegiance. Then Hannah Levi and Samantha Scattini, two lovely young ladies, sang a beautiful harmonic rendition of “My Country ’tis of Thee”. Patrick Redo was the master of ceremonies, and introduced former Mayor Dennis Donahue, a very nice man. He asked about Auntie Bridgett, because they are old friends. There was a mosaic (you know how I love mosaics) on the back wall that was from when Roosevelt School was very new, in the 1920s. It shows the Horse Parade, part of the Salinas Rodeo.

Mosaic from the 1930s

Sam Pacheco, who is a teacher at Hartnell College, talked about John Steinbeck. Sam is not from Salinas, but was drawn here by reading Mr. Steinbeck’s stories of the area. Rene Astorga played us music from the 1860s like Old Susannah and got us to sing along. We weren’t very loud, but we had fun.

Anita Mason unraveled the historic riddle of why the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad came across the muddy Elkhorn Slough and through tiny Salinas. Santa Rita had flatter, more solid ground, but the Spanish laws of inheritance, which were still in effect in California, made it almost impossible to sell land that had been part of a Spanish Rancho Land Grant. This was most of the land around Santa Rita. By the time the Railroad figured this out, the Salinas Valley was beginning to boom and they decided to come through the Salinas Valley to move all the grain, dairy and fruit growing here to the rest of the country.

Deborah Silguero gave a very interesting talk about women’s fashion of the 1860s, including all the interesting underwear! Very different from our clothing these days. Mary Randall talked about the schools and social life of the time, and Girl Scout Troop 30110 came and showed us all how to do the Virginia Reel, and got about 20 folks up to join the dance. It was fun, having grown ups and kids dancing together, making mistakes and smiling and trying again.

By the time the dancing was over, I was ready to head home again. What a great day of Salinas History!


Grandma Judy


Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

2 thoughts on “History Day in Salinas”

  1. Ruth Muldoon was my kindergarten teacher. That was 1977. I’m a neurosurgeon now and I owe part of my success to the fact that she was a good teacher and she was good to me. She and Beverly Weekly were both nice to me.


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