Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A teacher laments the state of our public schools, a Netflix special puts the spotlight on priests who prey on young men and the victims society ignores and a son of Bakersfield returns home to share some "cosmic outlaw country at Temblor Brewing Co.

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... STATE OF OUR SCHOOLS: Bakersfield High school history teacher Jeremy Adams has become an important voice in the debate over the state of our public schools, and his latest essay in Newsweek magazine sends a strong message that something has gone terribly wrong. After a career of teaching both in high school and over at Cal State University Bakersfield, Adams has witnessed the decline of public

education in America, whether it be the lowering of academic standards or the lack of discipline in the clsssrooms. Earlier this week he published "Hollowed Out,"a remarkably candid and often alarming look at the state of our public schools, and now Adams is sharing his thoughts with Newsweek magazine. As Adams told Newsweek: "Amidst the vandalism and endless spigot of foul language, standing in front of students who brazenly take out their phones and start playing video games in the middle of class, walking amongst the trash that is left strewn in stairwells after lunch, phoning security to accompany 17-year-olds to the bathroom because they can't be trusted, is the American teacher who knows deep down they have lost the basic quest for decency on school campuses. Within the classroom, we have become softies, asking little, tolerating everything, knowing we are expected to take late work, knowing that open book tests are increasingly the norm, group projects are all the rage, and asking students to engage in sustained reading of texts or master large quantities of information is something a post-COVID student probably lacks the acumen to do."

 * ... PRIEST SCANDAL: For any community that has endured the upheaval of having a local priest accused of sexual abuse, there is a new documentary on Netflix that will undoubtedly hit home. The new movie is called Procession, a feature about six men who survived childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy. The film premiered earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival, where it instantly began generating buzz as a potential Oscar player. At the heart of every abusive priest case are the accusers, who are often - as happened here in Bakersfield when former priest Craig Harrison was put on a "credibly accused" list of wayward priests - denounced as opportunists out only for themselves and money. "Procession" focuses on six men who kept the secret of their abuse for decades, sometimes at great cost to their emotional sanity and happiness. The documentary makes a convincing case that we listen to their stories before dismissing their allegations.

 * ... HERBIE BENHAM IV: Mark your calendars for Thursday, Nov. 18, when a prodigal son returns to Bakersfield to lay down some "cosmic outlaw country" for an audience at Temblor Brewing. Herb Benham IV, son of The Californian's Herb Benham, has been honing his skills in the California desert and returns to town to croon a few tunes. Herbie was born and raised here, lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco before moving to the Mojave desert and was influenced by Buck Owens and the Bakersfield Sound. His own sound has traces of out;aw country, psychedelic folks, punk rock and stadium rock but he makes it all his own. This is a show you don't want to miss. Thursday, Nov. 18, at Temblor.

 * ... SHOOTERS: In the parlance of the newspaper business, photographers are often called "shooters" because of the number of times they "shoot" pictures, and over the course of my 20-plus year career at The Bakersfield Californian I was fortunate to work with some terrific "shooters" - Felix Adamo, Casey Christie, John Harte, Henry Barrios to name a few. Casey Christie was known for his nature shots, and today I share one of his more famous pictures, the owls at CALM. Enjoy and thanks to The Californian for allowing me to republicize them.

 * ... MEMORIES: Here is a remarkable aerial view of the Garces Circle taken soon after its completion, date unknown.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The debate heats up over Critical Race Theory, Jordan Love to take the field for the Green Bay Packers and former TV anchor Ron Kilgore passes away

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... CRITICAL RACE THEORY: It looks like our local school boards, traditionally viewed as venues of decorum, have become ground zero in the debate over Critical Race Theory. Already activists have

descended on meetings of the Kern High School District to oppose CRT, and some analysts say it was this debate that led to Glenn Youngkin winning the Virginia governor's race. Tune into the Bakersfield Observed podcast on Spotify for a lively conversation on CRT between Pastor Angelo Frazier and me.

 * ... JORDAN LOVE: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has tested positive for coronavirus meaning he will sit out this Sunday's game at Kansas City. Filling in for Rodgers will be Bakersfield native Jordan Love, a Utah State graduate who has been playing a backup role for Rodgers while in Green Bay.

 * ... WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Bakersfield has seen some great TV news talent come and go through the years and today we put a spotlight on some of the best we have lost. One of those who’s made it big: Melissa Magee.  McGee was at KBAK for three years in the early 2000s. After Bakersfield, Magee switched to weather reporting and received her Broadcast Meteorology Certificate from Mississippi State. She spent 11 years at East coast powerhouse WPVI-TV in Philadelphia before joining KNBC Los Angeles in 2020. She replaced longtime KNBC weatherman Fritz Coleman upon his retirement last year and is now the lead forecaster on the NBC4 News at 5, 7 and 11 pm.  

 * ... TV PASSINGS: And speaking of news personalities, former anchor Ron Kilgore passed away this week. Keep him and his family in your thoughts. Kilgore was news director, reporter and an anchor  at KBAK, KERO and KLYD radio.  He passed away earlier this week. He had most recently been a radio news reporter at KNX Newsradio in LA. Beverly Carr was one of the first women in Bakersfield TV news at KBAK in the late 1970s. She later spent the 1980s and 1990s in Spokane at KREM and KHQ. Carr passed away last September at just 66. (pictures courtesy of Facebook Group Bakersfield Radio and TV Broadcast Group).

 * ... RIP ROSE: We lost Rose Lee Maphis recently, one of the great names in the story of the Bakersfield Sound. Maphis performed as a harmony singer and rhythm guitarist as a duo with her husband Joe Maphis. They were pioneers of the Bakersfield Sound that developed in the mid-1950s and were known as Mr. and Mrs. Country Music. In her later years, she worked as a greeter at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, sharing stories about the genre's legends. Maphis's guitar is on display, next to that of her husband's double neck Mosrite and sheet music for their recording of the song Dim Lights.


 * ... MORE MEMORIES:  Who remembers Granite Station, located a bit northeast of Bakersfield just outside a Woody? This station is the location of an historic stage coach stop. Sadly the station accidentally burned down with all the historical artifacts in the mid 1990s. Thanks to the Facebook history page for this Greg Iger soht of Granite Station.


 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And how about this old bar on Chester Avenue, which I spotted on a Facebook page devoted to old bars and saloons. The caption read: "Inside the "Arlington Hotel Bar" at 19th Street & Chester Avenue in Bakersfield, California......c.1895."

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Leticia Perez will not run again for Supervisor while eyeing other options, Home Depot kicks out a resident tabby from the paint department, and medical marijuana for depression and anxiety?

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... MUSICAL CHAIRS: It's that time again when politicians across Kern County starting looking at their options: who is being termed out, who isn't, and what is the next step? And this week, Supervisor

Leticia Perez confirmed this week that she will not seek reelection, presumably to set herself up for a run to succeed Rudy Salas in the State Assembly. In normal times this would come as no surprise as Perez solidifies her position as a popular Democratic centrist whose views embrace some positions - like how fast do we get off fossil fuels - that are highly unpopular in more liberal circles. But these are not normal times and Perez is not saying what she might do, despite the fact that Salas is vacating District 32 to run against Congressman David Valadao. What is Perez planning? Stay tuned. (Perez photo by The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "You know you’ve reached middle age when you choose your walks or hikes based on which parks have the most benches and bathrooms.

 * ... MOMMA CAT: Have you ever noticed how many cats live, quite peacefully, at so many local retail shops about town? Go to almost any Home Depot, Lowe's or a privately run nursery like Bolles and you will find them, cats of all sizes, shapes and dispositions living harmoniously among the shoppers and inventory. That was the case at the Home Depot on Rosedale Highway where a sweet "momma cat," a black and white tabby, has lived for more than 10 years. That is until someone in management decided she had to leave. Thank goodness for "momma cat," an employee found her a home. One customer told KGET's Bob Price that the cat made her home in the paint department while employees paid for her food out of their own pockets. “During the day you’d usually find her asleep in the shelves somewhere,” the customer told Price. “But she would come out if you were wearing an orange apron. She would come out and let you pet her. But if you weren’t wearing an orange apron, forget it because she couldn’t trust you. But if you were wearing an orange apron she’d let you because she knew you were her friend.”

 * ... POT FOR MENTAL HEALTH?: Now that cannabis has been legalized in California, some folks are finding other uses for it other than getting a recreational high. According to The Wall Street Journal, more people are turning to cannabis for anxiety and depression, many of them dropping their standard anti-depressants to give pot a try. "Research has found that anxiety, depression and sleep problems are among the most common reasons why people use medical cannabis," the Journal said. Some studies have found CBD can alleviate social anxiety while other research is looking into marijuana as a remedy for chronic pain.

 * ... KERN NATURAL REFUGE: Some random shots from the Kern Natural Refuge compliments of my friend Pam Taylor.

 * ... MEMORIES: My thanks to the Kern County History Fans for these pictures of the old French Shop and what it is today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Former homeless shelter director Louis Gill challenges Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Democrat Rudy Salas takes aim at Rep. David Valadao, a big gift for the CSUB wrestling program and CBD retail pioneer Ted Sisco dies

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... RIP COLIN POWELL: We lost Gen. Colin Powell this week, but he leaves behind a legacy of leadership and wisdom. Powell had been suffering from cancer and Parkinson's when he contracted

COVID-19 (he was vaccinated but remained in a high risk group) and died. He was 84. Powell left the nation a lot in his writings, and one of his most powerful were his 13 lessons of leadership. Here they are:

* ... LOUIS GILL: Former non-profit leader Louis Gill is challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the 23rd Congressional District, but are voters ready to send McCarthy packing just as he may be ready to become House Speaker, assuming the Republicans win the House back? Gill spent 21 years with Bethany Services, serving as head of the homeless shelter and the Alliance Against Family Violence. In announcing he faulted McCarthy for focusing on his own political ambition at the expense of the district. Gill will run as a Democrat and will join two others - actor Bruno Amato and teacher Marisa Wood - in the campaign. While anyone challenging McCarthy may seem like a long shot, Democrats believe this time is different. Here is why this is important: McCarthy has enjoyed overwhelming support for reelection over the years, but he did so while positioning himself as something of a moderate in the mold of his mentor and predecessor, Bill Thomas. But the Trump presidency, and specifically McCarthy's loyalty to Trump, as well as McCarthy's wishy-washy response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, has cost McCarthy support among moderate Republican business owners and voters. And McCarthy also is widely distrusted by the conservative fringe of his own party, where he is viewed as a Trump conservative out of convenience, not conviction. Has McCarthy lost enough local support to allow someone like Louis Gill to slip through? It's doubtful, but only time will tell. Gill will also have to go up against McCarthy's ability to build a sizable war chest, not insurmountable but tricky to say the least. It's game on. Stay tuned.

* ... RUDY SALAS: Meanwhile the Democrats also took aim at the 21st Congressional District where Rep. David Valadao is seen as vulnerable. Assemblyman Rudy Salas has announced he is running against the Republican Valadao, and he made the announcement surrounded by some Kern County Democratic power brokers, including Supervisor Leticia Perez and civil rights advocates ate Dolores Huerta. Already announced as a candidate on the Democratic side was former Assembly person Nicole Parra, a once formidable leader and opponent who appears to be getting marginalized by her own fellow Democrats. (file photos of Valadao, Parra and Salas)

* ... TED SISCO: It was distressing to learn of the passing of Ted Sisco, one of the retailing pioneers of the CBD industry in Kern County. Sisco died under unknown circumstances and services are pending. He was just 52 years old. This note was posted by employers of his CBD Shoppe on F Street: "It is with great sadness that we have to inform you all of the loss of our owner, Ted Sisco. He was not just our boss. He was a mentor, a leader, and most of all our friend. He cared for all of us employees like family and he truly cared for the well-being of our customers. We thank you all for the shares, phone calls, and prayers. We also ask to please respect his family's privacy during this difficult time. We will continue to stay open for the time being and will give updates on any changes."

 * ... CSUB WRESTING: The CSUB wrestling program may have an enviable record in competition, but the program has struggled to survive through the years thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the Coyote Club. And now one of wrestling's biggest supporters has stepped forward with a big gift to keep the program going. The Tobin family (Craig Tobin represented CSUB on the team when it won a national title) is donating $125,000 to establish the Tobin Wrestling Scholarship at CSUB. It will be paid out over five years. Craig Tobin, a 1979 alumnus, said the focus of the new scholarship is to bring more students into CSUB’s wrestling program and support them in their academic and athletic pursuits. There are currently 30 student-athletes in the program, according to the university. “We want to give back a little bit,” he said. “This is a strong program that CSUB has. There’s a lot of good, hard-working kids out there. All they need is a chance.” (historic picture of CSUB wrestlers provided by CSUB)

 * ... MEMORIES: Every wonder where the lines for the old trolleys ran in East Bakersfield? Well this old map from the Kern County of Old website answers some of those queries.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Walgreens shuts downs more stores due to looting in San Francisco, Hank Pfister Jr. and Carl Bowser among those inducted into the BC Athletic Hall of Fame, a remembering when they broke ground for the homes in Westchester

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... WALGREENS AND SHOPLIFTERS: A true sign of the times are the live shots from California retailers like Walgreens, where shoplifters are causing so much damage that the chain has been forced to

close locations. That's right, all those videos you have seen of people cleaning out Walgreens with stolen items have finally taken their toll, particularly in San Francisco where Walgreens is closing four more retail outlets, citing the "organized" theft rings. Why all the theft? Well it all started when the state decriminalized store theft, saying any theft under $900 would are treated as a misdemeanor. And that opened the floodgates, yet another well intentioned law that backfired. Walgreens has now closed 17 stores because of the thefts.

 * ... BC ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME: Bakersfield College honored some of its most prominent former students this week, holding its inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame dinner over at the Luigi's banquet hall of 19th Street. It was a packed hour of BC supporters to recognize some of the biggest names in BC athletic history. Among those honored:
 * Gil Bishop – BC Athletics Director from 1954 to 1968.
 * Carl Bowser – Football head coach who led the team to the 1988 National Title
 * Bruce Burnett – BC state wrestling champion in 1969 and 1970.
 * Gerry Collis – BC baseball and football coach. He is the winningest head football coach in school history with 121 wins.
 * Bob Covey – Track and field coach for 42 years at BC. His teams won 24 league titles, 10 league cross country titles, named California Coach of the Year five times.
 * Billy Cowan – Basketball and baseball athlete. Set several school records in basketball.
 * George Culver – All conference player in baseball in 1962 and 1963. Played nine seasons in Major League Baseball.
 * Frank Gifford – Named Junior College All-American at BC in 1949. Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
 * Dean Jones – Starting point guard for BC’s state champion basketball team in 1978. Coached men’s basketball from 1985 to 1993.
 * Colby Lewis – Standout pitcher for baseball in 1998 and 1999. First team All Conference player in 1999. Draft in first round by the Texas Rangers.
 * Aisha Harrison-Maston – State champion on women’s track and field team in 1997. Won individual titles in long jump, triple jump, and 100-meter hurdles.
 * Hank Pfister Jr. – Standout tennis player winning conference, sectional championships for BC before playing 11 years in the ATP Tour. Won two French Open doubles titles.
 (file photos of Hank Pfister and Carl Bowser)

* ... TRASH HAULERS: Let's hope this all turns out well but a local group of family owned trash haulers, with familiar names like Varner Brothers and Superior Sanitation, have banded together to sell their businesses to a Fontana-based company. Those being sold include Howard's Garbage, Lamont Sanitation, Mountainside Disposal, Price Disposal, Superior Sanitation, Varner & Son, Varner Brothers, Kern Refuse Disposal and Metropolitan Recycling Corp. Some of the locally owned companies cited a wave of upcoming state regulations as the reason they are leaving the business.


 * ... MARK ROOT: The Bakersfield community laid to rest Dr. Mark Root, the popular obstetrician and gynecologist who was killed in a motorcycle accident recently. An overflow crowd turned out at St. Francis for an emotional mass that centered on Root's passions, his love of medicine and his devotion to family and friends. Monsignor Michael Braun came out of retirement to helped preside over a mass that emphasized Root's legacy of loving fiercely and freely, living bravely and boldly and honoring family.

 * ... SPOTTED AT BRUNCHFEST: Two of the hardest working people in our local pet care industry, city animal control director Julie Johnson and Dr. Rose Rakow of Stiern Veterinary, were spotted at this weekend's Brunchfest celebration at Stramler Park handing out samples of the Babe alcoholic drink. The event was put on by American General Media and its lineup of local radio stations.

 * ... OLD WESTCHESTER: Thanks to my friend Chris Lowe for posting this remarkable aerial picture of  new homes being built in Westchester around 1948. This picture confirms that the Westchester neighborhood is located north of 24th Street and the residential area to the south is known simply as downtown.

 * ... MEMORIES: A special thanks to the Kern County of Old website for this old picture showing a group of students from 1919 at Kern Union High School (Now Bakersfield High School). Students names: in no particular order Emma Howard, Robert Bennett, Rosa Driver, Lena Hogge, Emma Sanders, Leo Kennedy, Walter Vernon, Grifa Colston, Mark Wilcox and Orneeta Atkinson. The Professor seating in front is probably, last name Dunn or Wilcox.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A new study finds 300,000 victims of priest sexual abuse in France while others who left the priesthood accused continue to work with children, authorities warn about fake Covid-19 vaccination cards for sale on the internet and services are set for Dr. Mark Root at St. Francis Church

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... PRIEST SEXUAL ABUSE: The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is well known and there are few communities that have escaped being touched by the scandal. Locally, former priest Craig

Harrison faces allegations from multiple men that he used his power and influence to extract sexual favors and two lawsuits against Harrison are moving forward. (He has not been charged criminally because the statute of limitations has expired, but he is subject to civil action) Now comes word that in France alone, a study found an estimate 330,000 victims of child sex abuse within the church over the past 70 years. Those are truly astounding numbers, and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said that "in country after country, state after state, we learn of horrifying stories from survivors and of the devastating effect that abuse has had on victims." So what happens to priests who have been identified by the Catholic Church as being "credibly accused? Well, an Associated Press analysis found that nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that were credibly accused are "living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement." And some of them, the AP said, are working as teachers, nurses, volunteers at non profits and other even foster and care for children. And yes, the AP said some had continued to abuse children even after leaving the church. Harrison's name appeared on the Diocese of Fresno's list of priests who have been "credibly accused" released earlier this year.

 * ... MARK ROOT SERVICES: Services for the late Dr. Mark Root, a popular obstetrician and gynecologist who died in a motorcycle accident last week, have been set for this Friday at St. Francis Church. The service is set for 1:30 p.m. with a lunch and reception afterward at Woolgrower's. Root, 65, died while on on a night motorcycle ride and was not found for several hours. No cause of the accident has been determined.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Wow so when Facebook and Instagram go down, everyone loses their mind, but I have been feeling down for the last ten years and nobody cares. Is it because I'm brown??"

 * ... PASSAGES: Lauren Skidmore takes over the Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Alliance Against Family Violence this week and she will be tested from the start. The stubborn pandemic lingers, the public's appetite and patience for the homeless have worn out their welcomes, and virtually everyone agrees the number of homeless on our streets is woefully undercounted. Meanwhile, over at CSUB men's basketball coach Rod Barnes is preparing for a new season that kicks off Dec. 2 against Santa Clara. Barnes will appear on my Bakersfield Observed podcast this week, and if you want to catch Skidmore's conversation with me, check it out on the podcast on Spotify or

 * ... BEWARE FAKE COVID CARDS: Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer is warning the public to stay away from fake COVID-19 vaccination cards for sale on the internet. Her advice is simple: don't buy them and don't print them out. “Our office is aware of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination record cards advertised on social media websites, e-commerce platforms, and blogs, as a way for individuals to misrepresent themselves as vaccinated,”  Zimmer said in a news release. “These counterfeit records are illegal and undermine the health and safety of our community. Please do not purchase a fraudulent vaccination record card, do not make your own, and do not fill in blank vaccination record cards with false information.” People are also discouraged from posting a vaccine card on social media, where personal information can be stolen.

 * ... SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: The Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra will be celebrating its 90th concert season with a live performance this Friday at Mechanics Bank Arena. The concert will open its doors at 5 p.m. with an optional pre-concert lecture and the concert begins at 6 p.m. Guest violinist Simone Porter will be performing Bruch's Scottish Fantasy while Maestro Stilian Kirov turns his attention to Dvorak's Symphony No. 9.

 * ... MEMORIES: Some wonderful old shots of our community back in the day courtesy of the Kern County History Fans.