Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Oldest Known Film of the UCD Campus? (262)

Still picture from the California Sewer Works Association film linked below.

The UCD Department of Special Collections website includes a selection of “Historic Picnic Day Films,” one of which is reported to be “the oldest known footage of campus,” here: https://www.library.ucdavis.edu/dept/specol/collections/media/?media=picnicday

That footage is dated April 22, 1939 (screenshot below).

“Est” declarations, such as “oldest,” tallest,” “fastest,” “best,” and the like, are implicit challenges and, I suppose, even part of human DNA. Once issued, an “est” challenge sets a benchmark for evaluating future events of that type.

So, when I came onto a film made on the UCD campus on April 21, 1930, one of my thoughts was “this might be the oldest UCD campus film!” In that spirit, I call attention to it on Davis History Today.*

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The 1965 UC Davis Picnic Day: Moments At the End of an Era (261)

1. L to R: Clark Kerr, Emile Mrak, Pat Brown
Browsing Davis topics on eBay, I recently acquired at auction a reel of 8 mm home movies that included about two minutes of 1965 UCD Picnic Day scenes.

Among other moments and views, there are shots of Pat Brown, Clark Kerr and Emil Mrak riding together atop a long convertible, of Aggie males chasing panicked greased pigs, and of the elaborate floats student groups made for the parade.

I was quite struck by the perhaps two dozen scenes making up the film and I think they are worth sharing. I have therefore converted it to the MP4 digital format, enhanced it, slowed the some two minutes to a more viewable 8-minutes, and uploaded the result to YouTube,  here:


Most striking to me is the fact that we are looking at California post-WWII boom and exuberance at their height and this exaltation is -- at the same time and outside these views -- starting seriously to come apart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Davis History 1870-1970 Is a Microcosm of The Most Important Century in Human History? (260)


Robert Gordon’s majestic, thousand-page treatise titled The Rise and Fall of American Growth is best known for the argument that rapid economic growth from about 1870 to 1970 was a one-time artifact of a unique conjunction of innovations that cannot and will not be repeated.  

The declining and sluggish growth since the 1970s is therefore not easily remedied or perhaps even remediable. Such a thesis is, of course, heresy to the political left and right alike.

As important as the economic growth issue may be, it is not the reason I want in this post to draw attention to Gordon’s wonderful book.*

I savored this work a bit at a time over several weeks because I was enchanted by the “unique century” claim of Gordon’s informing thesis that economic growth was essentially zero in human history before 1870, climbed greatly between 1870 and 1970, after which it has declined and will continue to be low.

Because of a flurry of physical and social innovations over 1870-1970, that century can be claimed to be the single most significant one in human history. The burden of the great bulk of this extraordinarily complex book is to, chapter after chapter, chronicle the “Great Inventions,” the networking of American homes (water, sewer, electricity, etc.), and other widely adopted technical and social innovations.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Today’s Organizational Websites Foretell a Revolution in the Configuration of Local History? (259)

In studying Davis history, I have sometimes puzzled over what the detailed stories of various organizations actually were, including those of even the best known and longest existing entities, such as the Community Church, the Masons and the Davis Enterprise, as well as shorter-lived but key institutions such as the Buena Vista Hotel, the original Varsity Theater, the Davis Joint Grammar School, and Harby’s Meat Market--among a great many others.
There is, of course, at least some information available on these and other organizations. For a few, there are even fairly detailed accounts. But, overall, the record is sparse. The consequence is that our picture of ordinary Davis life fifty, a hundred, or more years ago is fuzzy and faded.

The simple fact is that no one kept detailed records on organizations, or, if they did, those materials have long since been thrown away for want of storage space or for other reasons.

But, in recent years, all that has begun to change. We are living at the start of a new era of compact and detailed organizational record keeping. We see this in two forms.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

An Oddly Rare Postcard of Davis’ Larry Blake’s Restaurant/Rathskeller (258)

1. 
Virtually all Davis history postcards have been identified and collected by the half a dozen or so people who work at that arcane hobby/obsession. Indeed, a good part of the interest in collecting such cards resides in the rarity of new finds.

As one of those hobby/obsessives, I was therefore jolted when I came onto the card reproduced here, which I had never seen before. It is an apparently 1960s image of Davis’ Larry Blake’s.

The view in the front side of the card, Image 1, seems to be from First Street looking northwest, with the equipment and truck rental firm there at the time visible across F Street on the left.

The reverse side, Image 2, features the two curious assertions that the place is only “one minute off the freeway” and that there is “community singing every night.”

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A 1990s Booklet titled “Downtown Tour of Landmark Trees” (257)


1.
Just over 20 years ago, City of Davis staff teamed with volunteer tree activists to produce a pocket-size booklet titled Downtown Tour of Landmark Trees. I reproduce it here.

One can see that it chronicles the locations and features of 16 trees in the new University City “Downtown” that have survived from the Ag Village and College Town eras.

In looking at the booklet after not having read it in a long time, I was struck with how so-long-ago and out-of-date it appears. What was once new, has become quite old, even though now “classic” and “historic.”

It is also true, I think, that it would no longer occur to anyone that a booklet of this sort was a good idea or even possible to produce. The resources and will for such work have ebbed and civic energy has turned in other directions (cf. http://www.davishistorytoday.org/2014/06/davis-enterprise-traces-history-of.html  ).

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Downtown Potholes in 1974 (256)


Image # 1
Rummaging through the 1974 Davis Enterprise I happened onto two images of potholes in downtown alleys that I thought might provide a little perspective on current concerns about the state of Davis’ infrastructure.

Davis Enterprise, March 28, 1974
Image # 1 looks north from the south end of the railroad/I street alley as it intersects with 3rd street, just behind the viewer.  Fourth Street is in the middle distance.

In Image # 2, the viewer is also looking north in that same alley, but the view is now just south of Fifth street in the near distance. The former Dairy Queen building (now Indigo Hammond + Playle Architects) is visible above the white pickup truck on the left.