Friday, November 24, 2017

Only in Larger College Towns With Rich Social Media Networks: The Amazing Episode of Translating a Greek Passage in an Obscure 1736 French Opera (275)

Recently, Davis resident and musicologist Beverly Wilcox was writing an article on an 18th-century French opera that contained a passage, seemingly in Greek, that she wanted translated (images 1 and 2).

In the “old,” pre-digital world she would likely address her query to the UCD Classics department or such. But, we are now in the new digital age and “social media.” So, she took the more direct route of posting the problem on Davis Nextdoor! (Actually, it is on the even more specialized Old North Davis Nextdoor, although also sent to 30 neighborhoods.)

What is amazing to me, at least, is the outpouring of good help she got, as chronicled in images 1 through 5, which are extracts of what ensued. (The URL is

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cycles of Growth & Stasis in Post WWII Davis, CA (274)

I was looking over a summary of growth, growth control, and development events in the last some 70 years in Davis and the idea came to mind that the series of them formed two long-term, two-stage cycles.

Twice since WWII and today, a phase of “growth” as a dominant mindset and policy was followed by a phase of “stasis.” Eerily, the first or growth phase of each cycle is about 11 years long and the second or stasis phase is (or might be) just less than 30 years long.

This to suggest that Davis’ history of growth and development and reactions to it might not be merely “one damn thing after another.” Rather, it might exhibit systematic and repetitive patterns that deserve (or require?) characterization as a cycle, defined in one dictionary as “a round of years . . . in which certain events or phenomenon repeat themselves in the same order and at the same intervals.”

A key feature of this cycle conception is that Davis might now be nearing the end of the second one. If It has the same “shape” in years as the first cycle, we should expect a third “great turning” in matters of growth and stasis within the next two years or so.

All of this is shown in overview in the accompanying chart titled “Cycles of Post WWII Growth and Stasis in Davis, CA.” Let me elaborate on what is shown there.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

1932 Labor Day Snapshots by Arnold Rosenwald & El Rodeo (273)

1932 El Rodeo, Labor Day Description
As reported in the previous DHT post -- number 272 -- Arnold Rosenwald made 12 photos of  Davis campus events in 1932, nine featuring Picnic Day and three of Labor Day. 

The meanings of the name, and observances of, “Labor Day” differ greatly between the U. S. and the UC campus at Davis. In the larger U.S., Labor Day is, quoting Wikipedia, “a public holiday [that] honors the American labor movement and the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” Unions began to promote such a day in the late 19th century and, in 1887, Oregon was the first state to make it an official holiday. “By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.”

A curious and interesting aspect is that, starting in 1897, the same name was used at the University of California (then meaning Berkeley) to label a campus-wide day of voluntary labor devoted to campus improvement projects (Ann Scheuring, Abundant Harvest, p. 35).

Given what we know about the intensity of public sentiments for and against labor unions, it is not a stretch to guess that Berkeley’s Labor Day was a sideways negative comment on the larger and “real” Labor Day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

1932 Picnic Day Snapshots by Arnold Rosenwald (272)

Picnic Day page, 1932 El Rodeo
In post 266 on this blog, I reported on Dr. Arnold Rosenwald’s amazing home movies of ‘60s UCD Picnic Day parades and related public events. That report is at the URL immediately below and the movies themselves are at the URL below it.

Dr. Rosenwald was a poultry disease researcher and extension practitioner at UCD for some seven decades, dying at age 98 in 2008. He was also an undergraduate at the “Branch College,” graduating in 1930 (and subsequently earned a DVM degree, an MA in bacteriology, and a PhD in veterinary science).

Apparently also a “shutter bug,” the materials I acquired from his estate sale included not only the movies mentioned, but also an envelope containing 12 snapshots stamped on the back as developed in May of 1932. He had completed a BA at Davis in 1930, and was apparently visiting the campus and made nine photos of Picnic Day and three of Labor Day. (I report on them in the next DHT post, #273.)

The envelope also had negatives of 11 of the 12 snapshots and I have used them to make fresh images for this and the following post.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The First Core Area Plan’s Smooth Journey From Conception to Policy: Part II, July-December 1961 (271)

1. City Council Minutes, July 24
This post continues Post 270 on “the 1961 Core Area Plan’s smooth journey from conception to policy.” The previous post stops with the dramatic and mid-point moment of the formal presentation of the plan to Davis people. This post continues through City Council Adoption in December, 1961.

As with the first post, I try to let the story tell itself.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The First Core Area Plan’s Smooth Journey From Conception to Policy: Part I, January-June 1961 (270)

1. January 5
In reading the 1961 Davis Enterprise recently, I was struck by how matter-of-factly and amiably Davis civic leaders commissioned a planning firm to work up a radical scheme to redevelop a newly invented “core area,” walked that plan through a complex series of public hearings, and anticlimactically adopted it into the Master Plan of the City of Davis by a unanimous City Council vote. Not least of the amazing aspects, virtually all of this happened in the single calendar year of 1961.

The purpose of this two-part post is to depict the tenor or emotional tone of how this process worked, at least to the degree one can understand it from Davis Enterprise reports on it. Put differently, I try here to capture the attitudinal atmosphere of that year.

I am struck, for example, with such aspects as the degree to which civic leaders appear to have agreed on the need for rather radical ideas about a new “core area” and were willing to work together rather than endlessly to bicker.

The 1961 Enterprise coverage of the core area story is rich and exceeds the conventions of length for a single Google blog post. The material does, though, fit reasonably well into two posts. The first six months of 1961 are presented in this post and the second six months in the next post  (#271).

I believe the reports are pretty much self-explanatory and I provide little interpretive comment.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Davis Core Area Plan of 1961: A Moment of Development Audacity in Davis History (269)

 In May of 1961, urban planners Lawrence Livingston and John Blayney presented to Davis citizens a 44 ledger-size page document that: 1) argued the existing Davis downtown was obsolete and should be replaced by a larger "core area;" 2) provided a vision of what should replace it; and, 3) outlined a plan for getting from the first to the second. 

This was a plan for which City officials and a 60 member Davis Core Area Advisory Committee had contracted many months ago. They were receiving what they asked for.

Daunting in its scale and complexity, the plan was nonetheless widely and positively received with upbeat sentiments and the document itself exudes “can do” optimism.  

While it was never implemented wholesale, it did become official policy for a time and parts were implemented. Significantly, it enlarged and reframed the way Davis people thought about  the "downtown." Not least, these gentlemen introduced the term and concept “core area,” a shift in Davis’ cognitive map that endures.

Be the longer term reception aspects as they may, the features of this document that fascinate me include the very fact it was created and that it was embraced and thought, in its time, to be a wonderful thing. Its place in Davis life of that time exudes audacity.  It was a moment when people still believed that bold and positive development visions were worthwhile and could be carried out.

We do not see this kind of “go get ‘em, we can do it” attitude in city affairs much anymore and so I thought it might be at least a little refreshing to remind ourselves that such a mindset could at least exist. So reminded, perhaps people can be emboldened to think it could happen again.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Downtown Davis Rail Corridor in the Classic Era: A Few Glimpses (268)

Given that we now have an officially named Downtown Davis Rail Corridor,* I thought it might be of interest to bring together a few photographs of some aspects of it from what can be called its “classic era.”
The most familiar and even iconic of such photos have been published several times so I will not repeat many of them here.** Let me strive, instead, for what little new material I can scavenge from my files. I offer seven glimpses with brief explanatory captions.
1. Image 1 is a well known but too nice not to repeat. We are standing northeast of the train depot looking northeast toward 3rd Street crossing in the mid-distance. The building in the center-left is where the current 901-07 3rd building now stands and where the Trackside Center would be. The water tower is also on that site and is estimated to rise almost 50 feet.  (That tower might well have been a sun blocking blight for then bucolic Old East Davis.)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Design Guidelines Historical Error That Fosters the Trackside Debate and the Real Question: What Do We Want There? (267)


1. Overview. In this post I will argue that the brouhaha over Trackside is in part a result of an historical error appearing on pages 74 and 75 of the Davis Downtown and Traditional Neighborhood Design Guildenes (images 1 and 2). Inferences based on that error versus historical accuracy contribute to opposing development decisions.  But beyond such historical/conservation technicalities, the real question is brute policy: “what should be built there, anyway?”

 2. Trackside Proponents. Among other facts supporting their project, Trackside proponents point to the historical fact that Davisville north-south railroad corridor development was of larger scale than in the areas to the east and west. The scale of the proposed Trackside building is therefore simply a continuation of the larger scale of the Downtown Rail Corridor that was created at the founding of Davis and that persisted until not very long ago. Trackside is consistent with, and is in the spirit of, that history, the argument goes.

3.Trackside Opponents. Opponents of Trackside read pages 74 and 75 in the Guidelines (images 1 and 2) as calling for “a transition zone from downtown, from taller buildings to smaller residences . . . .” (Miller, image 3).

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Eleven 1950s-60s Home Movies of Davis Life Filmed By UCD Avian Disease Expert Arnold Rosenwald (266)

Browsing at an estate sale recently, I happened onto a cardboard box containing a couple of dozen of those little yellow boxes in which Kodak used to mail developed movie film back to the home moviemaker.

Surprised that such seemingly private items would be on public sale, I asked the estate sale official if they were really for sale or left at the home inadvertently. I was assured that “the family” had indeed consciously decided to sell the movies (as well as about a thousand letters the couple had written each other over the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of family photographs and other personal documents). So assured, I bought the lot.

Veterinary medicine doctor and UCD Avian disease expert Arnold Rosenwald made the movies over the mid-1950s and early 1960s. Rosenwald was himself a figure of some significance in UCD history as an avian disease expert in the extension service who traveled the state dealing with disease outbreaks in chicken flocks. While not a professor, he was nonetheless very much a researcher and scholar who was preeminent in avian sciences. He retired from UCD in 1977, but continued to practice his profession. His active career had spanned more than 70 years when he died at age 98 in 2008. (To boot, In WWII he served as a veterinarian -- with the rank of Captain -- in the U. S. Army carrier pigeon corps.)  

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Iconic Brinley Building Over a Half-Century (265)

Nighttime 1965

On reason I collect DHS and UCD yearbooks is the startling and enlightening historical photos I sometimes happen onto in them. I was recently fortunate to have yet another such positive experience when an old friend emailed me that she had acquired a 1965 DHS yearbook that, if I did not already own it, I could buy from her for the $10 she paid at a garage sale. I did not own it and I was delighted to pay $10 in order to hunt for a remarkable new photo (among other topics I peruse in these volumes).  

I was not disappointed. Spanning pages 146 and 147 and measuring 13 inches wide by eight inches tall, we are given the glorious view of the Brinley Building ablaze at night seen here and labeled Nighttime 1965. (It is of course best viewed on a large screen desktop computer and after you have clicked on it in order to zoom it up to full-screen.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In Fond Memory of RIchard Berteaux, 1929-2017 (264)

                                                                       Davis Enterprise photo, July 16. 2013

Davis: Transformation, page 87.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The 1926 University Farm Sewage Treatment Plant (263)

1. One of two photos on the cover of the April, 1930 issue Pacific Municipalities. Looking northwest. 
2. Caption to the two photos on the April, 1930 cover of Pacific Municipalities.

From the beginning, agricultural research and education at the UC Farm created an unusual density of humans and other animals in adjacent corners of rural Yolo and Solano counties. Not commonly recognized but of fundamental import, that density produced a large and increasing stream of what is politely termed “sewage.”

Merely to avoid inundation--much less health and aesthetic disasters--significant control measures were required. One of these was a “sewage works” plant constructed in 1926 in the northeast section of the intersection of Old Davis Road and the South Fork of Putah Creek (images 1, 2 and 8).

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:

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.