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March 4, 1864: “The Saint of the Pacific Coast” Lays Down His Burdens

That’s what contemporaries call Universalist and Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King, who  lies on his San Francisco deathbed, 160 years ago.  According to Charles Wendte’s 1921 biography of Starr King, the resonant orator — whose passionate sermons are instrumental in keeping California in the Union during the Civil War — tells his wife, Julia:

“Don’t weep for me. I know it’s all right. I wish I could make you feel so; I wish I could describe my feelings. It’s strange. I see all the privileges and greatness of the future. It already looks grand, beautiful. Tell them at home I went Read more »



On February 25, 160 Years Ago…

As soon as lawmakers deliver him the approved bill, Gov. John Bigler ends California’s five-year game of musical capitals by signing legislation making Sacramento California’s permanent seat of government.

The current capital is Benicia. Previously it’s been Monterey, San Jose, briefly Sacramento and Vallejo. Benicia’s representatives are eager to have Benicia remain the capital. They join with lawmakers from other parts of the state to block Sacramento’s attempts to “remove” the capital there.  At first their efforts succeed – despite support for moving the capital from Bigler, a Sacramentan. In his January 4 message to the Legislature, Bigler tells Read more »



“Never Sleep With Anyone Whose Troubles Are Worse Than Your Own.”

That’s one of the more memorable of the many memorable lines penned by mystery novelist Ross Macdonald who was born Kenneth Millar in Los Gatos on December 13, 1915.

Many of Macdonald’s one-liners and hard-bitten observations came from the mouth of his most famous character, private investigator Lew Archer. Macdonald named him after Sam Spade’s dead partner in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Miles Archer, and Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur. 

While Macdonald spent most of his childhood in Canada, he returned to California in the 1950s and lived in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years — the fictional Santa Theresa Read more »



Forty Five Years Ago, Everything Changed

On December 9, 1968, at a San Francisco Civic Center exhibition hall  that no longer exists,  engineer and inventor Douglas Engelbart unveiled personal computing.

Engelbart, who died in July at 88,  never used the phrase “personal computing” in describing the hardware and software he and his team created but his presentation to 1,000 computer professionals at Brooks Hall demonstrated the core elements of personal computing including the mouse, networking, hypertext, video conferencing, word processing and multiple windows. 

At a time when computers were hulking, punchcard-driven number crunchers, Engelbart offered a revolutionary conception of what a computer — and its user — could become.  

Steven Read more »



Thirty Five Years Ago On November 27…

Angered that he wasn’t to be reappointed to the Board of Supervisors slot he resigned from on November 10, Dan White enters San Francisco City Hall at 10:30 a.m. through a basement window.

Mayor George Moscone agrees to meet with White after a meeting with Assemblyman Willie Brown concludes. Brown leaves. White enters. Moscone lights a cigarette and pours he and White a drink. As he does so, White shoots the mayor four times at point blank range with a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver.

Leaving the 49-year-old father of four dead, White reloads and walks to where the supervisors’ offices Read more »



A Generation Defined — California’s First Drive-In Opens

On October 22, 1948, newlyweds Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first In-N-Out burger stand. Demolished during construction of the Interstate 10 freeway, the stand was California’s first drive-thru restaurant.

The Baldwin Park site at Garvey and Francisquito — across the street from Harry Snyder’s childhood home — was barely 10 feet square.

McDonalds and Carl’s Jr., founded in 1948 and 1946 respectively, are contemporaries of the Snyders. But they were drive-ins.

The Snyders pioneered the use of a two-way intercom system allowing drivers to place orders without leaving their car. Like McDonald’s and Carl’s, they kept the menu simple — burgers, fries, drinks, Read more »



A Different Side of Jerry Brown Revealed at Memorial for Fresno Lawmaker

 On Saturday October 19, Gov. Jerry Brown attended a memorial in Fresno for former state senator and appellate justice George Zenovich.

The event, not listed on the Democratic governor’s public schedule, was supposed to begin at 11 a.m., shortly after Brown arrived. It didn’t conclude until nearly 2:30 p.m.

Brown was the last of nine speakers reminiscing about the easy-going but effective Zenovich, a Fresno Democrat who carried the 1975 legislation creating the Arts Council and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. 

The governor made no effort to be moved higher in the program to accommodate his schedule. Of Zenovich he Read more »



An Icon Is Born — In The Back of a Real Estate Office in Los Feliz

Ninety years ago on October 16, 1923, brothers Walter Elias Disney and Roy Oliver Disney founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.

The studio was located in the rear of a small office occupied by Holly-Vermont Realty at 4651 Kingswell Ave. near Vermont Ave. in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. Rent was $10.

Walt Disney had come to Hollywood from Kansas City after his first company, Laugh-O-Gram Films, went bankrupt. One of Disney’s final Laugh-O-Gram features was Alice’s Wonderland, a mix of animation and live action. 

In the short, a young girl visits a cartoonist’s studio where the cartoons come to Read more »



Ten years Ago Today — California’s First Recall Election

On October 7, 2003, California voters removed Gov. Gray Davis from office and replaced him with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Davis, a Democrat, was the first California governor to be recalled although previous governors, including Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan, were targeted.

It was the first time in 92 years enough signatures were gathered to call a special election under the state’s recall process, enacted by voters in 1911 ostensibly as a way to break the stranglehold of Southern Pacific Railroad and other business interests on the Capitol.

The historic significance of the election was masked behind an almost carnival- like atmosphere fueled by Read more »



Jerry Brown Repeals California’s Subversive Organization Registration Act

 Obscure Statute Recalls the Golden State’s Red-Scare Years and Its Grand Inquisitor, Jack B. Tenney

During California’s 1941 January-to-June legislative session, Germany had conquered Western Europe and was preparing to invade Russia.

America had not officially been drawn into World War II because Japan had yet to bomb Pearl Harbor. But it had approved the Lend-Lease program to aid Great Britain and Russia.

At home, Assemblyman Jack B. Tenney was trying to pass the Subversive Organization Registration Act.

For more than 60 years, the law remained in effect only becoming history on August 16 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1405, striking Tenney’s Read more »