Thursday, January 12, 2012

Following Steinbeck's travels through Kern County and recalling an Old West shootout in downtown Bakersfield

* ... MCCARTHY: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, enjoyed some good press when Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton mentioned he might make a good senator, governor or even president. "I'm sitting wondering why McCarthy - savvy, substantive, sane and civil - and other Republican members of Congress don't run for higher office in California: U.S. senator of governor," he wrote in his Capitol Journal column. Skelton praised McCarthy for his focus on economic policies instead of divisive social issues. "I'm not saying McCarthy would be a good senator or governor, let alone president.... but he certainly has a track record in office that shows he's plenty qualified to be senator or governor."

* ... STEINBECK: One of my regular correspondents, Glenn Worrell, wrote to put some context around the idea that John Steinbeck spent some time in Bakersfield around the time he was writing 'The Grapes of Wrath.' Said Glenn:  "It is also rumored that John Steinbeck lived in the Sunset Labor Camp (under an assumed name) or spent a lot of time in the camp interviewing or talking to migrant (dust bowl people) before going back to Salinas to write the 'Grapes of Wrath.' There were a lot of Lamont residents who took strong issue with the book. It was banned in Kern County for a few years because it was critical of the Sheriff's action."

* ... OVERHEARD: On Facebook someone referred to a "nice, new car" dealership off Panorama Drive but then checks himself and says, "Oh, that's student parking at Garces."

 * ... BLOG: For those of you who read this blog online, it is back at Somehow I lost the ".com" address and the blog was offline for a few days, but it is back at

 * ... CORRECTION: An earlier post that referred to a shootout at "the Joss house" in old Bakersfield was apparently partly incorrect. As Margaret Lemucchi told me: "The term 'joss house' refers to a Chinese temple or shrine. When historians have used the term in connection with the shoot-out downtown I am pretty sure it also implied opium den."

  * ... JOSS HOUSE: Gary Johannesen also added some detail to the joss house story. "The date was April 19th, 1903.  Outlaw Jimmy McKinney was hiding at the Chinese joss house, having fled Arizona after killing two men.  McKinney was also wanted in Tulare County for killing two other men in Porterville.  The joss house was surrounded by seven lawmen and McKinney was ordered to surrender.  He chose to start shooting instead.  Deputy Sheriff (Will) Tibbett was killed along with Constable (Jeff) Packard in the gun battle; in addition to McKinney. An accomplice was arrested and taken to the County Jail where an angry mob tried to lynch him. Meanwhile, an additional accomplice remained hiding in the house and refused to surrender. The house was lit on fire and the second accomplice surrendered.  Obviously a sad day for the town."

* ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that East Bakersfield began as a company town named Sumner, laid out by the Southern Pacific Railroad? It was incorporated into Kern County in 1893, became known as East Bakersfield around 1900, and was incorporated into Bakersfield in 1909. Thanks to the Kern Economic Development Corporation for this bit of history.



Hope one of my pet peeves can be addressed here. In today's (01/13/12) edition of the Californian, Kern's Past has a photo of the original clock tower. Here's my beef. The rebuilt clock tower is located on Chester Avenue NOT North Chester Avenue. North Chester begins north of the river NOT north of the traffic circle.

Thank you for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

About your Steinbeck item: Steinbeck was in the Bakersfield area, according to his biographer, Jackson Benson. BUT he would returned to Los Gatos, NOT to Salinas. Read his journal, Working Days for more information. Herb Behrens