Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking to a New Year and the nagging problem of homelessness, the magic of the camellias that remind me of Nancy Wickersham Hall and Brian Smith eyes running for sheriff

Monday, December 31, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your tips to

 * ... NEW YEAR: If I had one wish for our community for the new year, it would be to get a handle
on our homeless problem. Hard to do? Certainly, given the toxic mixture of drugs, hopelessness, lack of education and addiction that contribute to the problem. But the hard truth is this: failing to address homelessness will have a lasting negative impact on our community. It will devalue our neighborhoods and put a permanent blight on the reputation of this community we call home. It will demand money, focus and more resources than we want to spend, but I can think of no other single issue that trumps homelessness as our first cause of concern.

 * ... RIP NANCY: The camellias in my back yard are blooming once again, so vibrant in their shades of pink, white and red. And I can't look at those flowers without thinking of Nancy Wickersham Hall, who died over the holidays after a long and distinguished career and life. She was born a Wickersham and later married jeweler Don Hall in 1951. My connection with Nancy was late in coming: when I moved into a 1934 California bungalow downtown in 2014, Don Hall reached out to tell me that his beloved Nancy grew up in my house, and the camellias that now frame my lot were planted by her late father. So here is to the late Nancy Hall, her husband Don, their son Jon and all the memories she left.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Yesterday I tried on something from five years ago and it still fits. So proud of myself? It was a scarf, but let's stay positive here."

 * ...  BRIAN SMITH: I ran into retired California Highway patrolman Brian Smith at a holiday party a few days ago and learned he is ready and eager to run for Kern County Sheriff. Smith told me he is running but there is one caveat: he won't run if Sheriff Donny Youngblood decides to seek another term. "I told Donny that," he said. "I won't run if he does."

 * ... SPEED OF LIGHT: If you don't think technology has changed our world, consider all the things that did not exist 15 years ago, among them: iPhone, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, iPad, Netflix streaming, Google Maps, Snapchat, Spotify, Android, Uber, Lyft, Alexa, Airbnb, App Store Google Chrome, WhatsApp, Fitbit, Waze, Slack, Square, Dropbox, Pinterest, Venmo, Bitcoin, Hulu and Kindle.

 * ... FACE OF EVIL: Take a look at a real face of evil, this man who is accused of shooting and killing a northern California policemen during a traffic stop. The illegal immigrant was identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 32, arrested by Kern County deputies in Lamont. Authorities believe he was headed to Mexico to escape arrest.

* ... MEMORIES: A picture of Chester and 19th Street back in 1910.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Nancy (Wickersham) Hall dies, some snapshots of our homeless problem around town and celebrating the last standing Woolworth's right here in downtown Bakersfield

Monday, December 24, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your tips to

 * ... MERRY CHRISTMAS: Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog, which has now
entered its seventh year publishing multiple days of the week. Though we have plenty of problems here locally, the positive spirit of our community remains as strong as ever. Here's to your Christmas and a successful and healthy 2019.

 * ... RIP NANCY HALL: Our community lost a grand dame this week with the death of Nancy Hall, wife of longtime jeweler Don Hall and long a fixture in Bakersfield. Born Nancy Wickersham, she was raised in a Spanish bungalow on Cedar Street downtown, where her soon to be husband Don courted her. They were married in 1951. She was 86 years old when she died. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's and died on Sunday. Her son, Jon Hall, posted this about his father on Facebook after announcing his mother's death: "Prayers for him, because two hours later he receives more news that his sister; my Aunt Sonya passed in Los Angeles. I am numb."

 * ... HOMELESS: Here are some random shots of homeless in our downtown on the Sunday before Christmas. The problem is not getting any better.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My wife just called me a chauvinist, which is silly because I don’t recall giving her permission to talk."

 * ... WOOLWORTH: Did you know that our Woolworth's downtown in the last one still standing in America? That's what a Los Angeles based website reported recently when it devoted a long story on the history of the Woolworth Co. and how the Bakersfield location has been converted into a lunch diner and antique mall. Here are some of the pictures that accompanied the story.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out these rare old pictures of Bakersfield in the late 1890s. The pharmacy was located on Chester and 19th, and the hospital on the north side of Oak and 19th Street in 1980.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Friday's Bakersfield Observed: Homelessness is out of control across the country, Ken Keller becomes CEO of Memorial Hospital, and are women in Bakersfield more likely to cheat on their husbands?

Friday, December 21, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your tips to

 * ... HOMELESSNESS: For the second consecutive year, the number of people living homeless on our streets has risen. There is a critical shortage of affordable housing, opiod abuse is adding to the
problem and despite the best efforts of cities, the problem remains out of control. Sound familiar? If you thought I was talking about Bakersfield, you are wrong. These are excerpts from a new report on homelessness across the nation. Like Bakersfield, cities big and small are facing the same vexing problem in confronting homelessness: it is bad and it is getting worse, and there are no easy solutions.  In Los Angeles just two hours south of us, Mayor Eric Garcetti has responded by dedicating special funding to set up temporary shelters across the city.

 * ... PEREZ: Supervisor Letitia Perez will go on trial in March for allegedly violating conflict of interest laws when she voted to regulate marijuana while her husband, consultant Fernando Jara, represented clients seeking to get into the business. I am still betting this will be settled before trial, but the pressure is on to find a compromise before the March trial.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Apparently putting Alka-Seltzer in my mouth while getting baptized and pretending I’m being possessed by the devil is not funny."

 * ... RIP CHRISTOPHER: Christopher Kreiser lost his battle with cancer this week and with that our community lost a good soul. Kreiser, son of Carney's owner Rick Kreiser and the late Kristen Kreiser, was just 39 years old. He had been undergoing experimental treatment at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles for a few months when he passed. Ironically, it was 10 years ago that his mother, Kristen, died of cancer. Rick Kreiser is the founder of the Guitar Masters concerts series that has raised tens of thousands of dollar for the Kern County Cancer Fund. Christopher is survived by his wife, Katie, and their three children.

 * ... KEN KELLER: Ken Keller, chief operating officer at Memorial Hospital, has been appointed president and CEO following the promotion of former CEO Jon Van Boening. Keller holds a masters in the executive program from the University of New Orleans and a bachelors in pre-medicine from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Van Boening is now president and senior vice president of operations for all the Dignity Health hospitals in Central California.

 * ... CHEATING: I spotted this on Facebook. Are our women here more likely to cheat? Yes, says the cheating website Ashley Madison.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy this walk down memory lane with this shot of the old Allard Furniture Company building on Baker Street from 1920.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

One in four Americans want Santa to be gender neutral (seriously), downtown traffic is a mess due to the 24th Street widening project, and setting the record straight on the history of Mexicali

Monday, December 17, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your tips to

 * ... DOWNTOWN TRAFFIC: The 24th Street widening project downtown is now in full swing, and boy has it created a mess. The city closed off parts of 23rd Street over the weekend to install a
storm drain at D and 23rd, forcing traffic into the Westchester neighborhood to skirt the construction. And if you think this is bad, prepare for all those bridges for the Centennial project (across Stockdale Highway, California Avenue and Truxtun) that are just now getting underway.

 * ... GENDER NEUTRAL SANTA: Well here is a sign of the times: a recent survey in both the United States and Briton revealed that one in four people believe Santa Claus should be either female, or gender neutral. Given the changing views of sexuality, all this is not unsurprising but it does reflect society's evolving view of the role of gender in society. And so it goes.

 * ... JAKELIN DEATH: I think we can all agree that the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Makin at the border was a tragedy, but do both sides really need to politicize it? Sen. Dianne Feinstein has called for an investigation, asking how the Border Patrol "allowed this to happen." Say what? The youngster, suffering from dehydration, died after just six hours into U.S. custody after being hospitalized. Isn't blaming her death on the Border Patrol a bit like blaming the death of a car crash victim on the Hall Ambulance medics who responded to the scene? Or blaming Kern County sheriff's deputies for the death of a person who was swimming in the Kern River after they respond to reports of a drowning? The child's death is lamentable, but politicizing it serves no purpose. Check out this meme lifted from Facebook with this caption: "Jakelin AmeĆ­ Rosmery Caal Makin- only 7 yrs old - died of thirst, shock and exhaustion while in U.S. Border Patrol Custody. No child should be placed behind cages, no child should die because of inhumane treatment."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Running is the best way to remind yourself how much you love sitting."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A middle aged man is relating the story of a shoplifter who was chased out of a Rite-Aid downtown: "So he is chased out the door and he runs to a newer Mercedes parked in the parking lot and drives off."

 * ... MEXICALI: My friend David Lyman sent me this note to correct the record: "You refer to Mexicali West as the 'second' Mexicali.  It actually is the fourth. The company's first location was on Baker Street. It then opened its second location downtown on 18th Street. The third location was on Niles Street which has since closed. Mexicali West is number four."

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old photo of Emerson School from 1904, courtesy of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Bill O'Reilly picks Biden and Bloomberg as the Democratic frontrunners for 2020, Guapo's Tacos offers a full line of vegan meals, Mexicali West prepares to close and a cookbook benefits the homeless

Friday, December 14, 2018

 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 such a special place to live. Send your news tips to

  * ... BILL O'REILLY: Former Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly doesn't think the Democrats will push to impeach Donald Trump, at least based on what we know now about the investigation into
alleged Russian collusion. That's what he told me when he appeared on The Richard Beene Show (KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM) this week. Looking ahead to the 2020 general election, O'Reilly thinks the Democratic front runners are former VP Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg. He dismissed the others - Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kristen Gillebrand - are too far left for even the Democrats to nominate.

 * ... GUAPO'S TACOS: One of the hottest vegan restaurants in town is located off White Lane and Highway 99. Run by Ali Gazali, Guapo's Tacos offers a full selection of steak, chorizo and chicken but also an ever evolving offering of vegan tacos, vegan nachos and vegan chili cheese fries. I tasted them all when Ali appeared on my radio program (KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM) and they were simply outstanding. They are open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My boss said 'Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.' Now I’m sitting in a disciplinary meeting dressed as Batman."

 * ... MEXICALI: The choice has been clear for years: are you loyal to the downtown location of Mexicali, or do you prefer the Mexicali West location on California Avenue? If you are the latter, chances are you have made a pilgrimage to the "second" Mexicali as it prepares to close down at the end of the year. The building has been  sold and the family that runs the restaurants will concentrate on the downtown location. Scores of loyal customers have been visiting the California Avenue location, just to get that last meal (and margarita) in before it closes for good.

  * ... 23ABC COOKBOOK: Hats off to Allison Gargaro and her crew at KERO-TV for pitching in to help the Mission of Kern County. Gargaro, who handles the weather and is studying to become a meteorologist, partnered with different local personalities (Mayor Karen Goh and Rep. Kevin McCarthy among others) to write a cookbook. All of the proceeds from the sale went to the Mission.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this photo of our old train depot, courtesy of the Kern County History Facebook page. The caption read: "Southern Pacific Depot, East Bakersfield, California
Postcard Dated: 12 September 1918."

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The LA Times comes out against Tejon Ranch's Centennial project, Gregory Porter comes back to the Fox Theater and the U.S. has become a net exporter of oil

Monday, December 10, 2018

 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 such a special place to live. Send your news tips to

 * ... TEJON RANCH: The Los Angeles Times has come out against Tejon Ranch's Centennial development, citing its negative effect on climate change and arguing against more development in "remote" areas. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will vote on Centennial,
which envisions a 19,000-home mini city within the county of Los Angeles. The Times editorial was brutal: "California continues to approve sprawling developments and people are driving more, not less. Emissions have risen despite the arrival of electric cars and vehicles that burn less fuel per mile. ... Why do we accept business as usual when radical change is needed? Why do we keep building houses in the path of wildfires, only to act surprised when people are forced too flee? Why do we build in remote areas and then wonder why people drive so much." Stay tuned.

 * ... TEJON OUTLETS: Meanwhile here is one thing Tejon Ranch did right: the Outlets at Tejon were buzzing with holiday shoppers this weekend, and why not? Most stores have slashed prices anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent, including the wildly popular Pottery Barn.

 * ... OIL EXPORTS: Here's a bit of good news or the oil patch: for the first time in decades, the United States has become a net exporter of oil and other refined fuels. That's according to The Wall Street Journal which said the very thought of the U.S. being an oil exporter was unthinkable 10 years ago.  The Journal noted that OPEC's decision to try to curtail production was a direct result of surging U.S. production. In short, the U.S. exported 3.2 million barrels of oil the last week of November, along with 5.8 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

 * .. SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "No one in my entire life has believed in me more than the waiter who just gave me a single napkin to use while eating my lunch.'

 * ... OVERHEARD: At a southwest gym a man is telling a friend: "I would enjoy the Christmas parade more if people didn't leave it so littered. It's disgraceful."

 * ... GREGORY PORTER: Looking to spice up your holidays? Then grab a ticket to see the incredible Gregory Porter on Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Fox Theater. The Grammy-winning Porter is returning to his hometown (that's right, he's from Bakersfield) to benefit the Agapeland Christian Academy, where his own son attended. Porter is one of today's most acclaimed jazz musicians and his upcoming concert is a must-see event.

 * ... MEMORIES: Here's an old photo of Highway 99 through Gorman from 1952.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Rep. Kevin McCarthy secures funding to widen Highway 46, winners and losers in the city sales tax and Michael Bowers lands a job at Centric Health

Friday, December 7, 2018

 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 such a special place to live. Send your news tips to

 * ... HIGHWAY 46: Rep. Kevin McCarthy had some good news this week, announcing that he had
secured $17.5 million from the Department of Transportation for the widening of Highway 46 to four lanes in Lost Hills. This comes on top of the $50 million that McCarthy helped secure for the Centennial Corridor, and it will go a long way in making "blood alley" a much safer commute to the coast.

 * ... BUSH FUNERAL: McCarthy went on to say he was moved by the funeral for President George H.W. Bush, adding he hoped it would lead to a "resetting" of the national debate that has turned so ugly. The funeral allowed "America to take a deep breath," he said, and hopefully that will lead to a more civil dialogue.

 * ... JUDY MCCARTHY: And speaking of the House majority leader, here's a big happy birthday to his wife, Judy Wages McCarthy, a true class act.

 * ... SALES TAX: The big winners in the narrow passage of the city sales tax: Bakersfield police chief Lyle Martin who will get another 100 sworn officers on the street, City Manager Alan Tandy who will be able to make the city's pension obligations, and possibly homeless center executive Louis Gill who may benefit from a city contribution to his organization. The big loser? That would be Sheriff Donny Youngblood who may lose dozes of sworn deputies to BPD as they seek higher salaries.

 * ... MICHAEL BOWERS: Congratulations to Michael Bowers who is leaving the political world to become head of public affairs for Centric Health. Bowers worked for state Sen. Andy Vidak until Vidak's defeat in the mid-term elections.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The worst thing about seeing my parent's sex tape was remembering the day I filmed it."

* ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction." - Mark Twain

* ... MEMORIES: Check out this series of photos from a Kern County historical Facebook page. It appeared with this caption: "DARE DEVIL DERKUM
Paul J. C. Derkham
2 Jul 1881 to 17 Apr 1958 (aged 76)
Burial : Union Cemetery
Bakersfield, Kern County, California

--Pro bicycle racer 1898-1902
--Pro Motorcycle racer -California, US and World Champion 
--Manager: Kern County Fair 1913-1924
--Owner of 1st "Drive-in" Service Station in Bakersfield 
--Owner of 3 Tire Businesses
--Operator of Stage Line: Kern Co. to Santa Maria 
--Beverage Industry Distributor 
--1939 Manager of "Cotton is King Festival"

One of the greatest motorcycle riders of his time, if not all-time, Paul "Dare Devil" Derkum dies at 78. He was owner of Derkum Service located at 2200 Chester Avenue at 22nd in Bakersfield, California with a 2nd location on Center Street in Taft, California.

Born on July 2, 1881, he had the need for speed even as a youngster. By the time he reached his teens, he had already been racing bicycles nationally for two years. Motorcycles were just a natural progression.

Indian was the bike of choice for many of the early racers, but Paul J.C. Derkum literally made his name on a 1908 Indian twin. On February 22, 1908, Derkum broke ten speed records at a one-mile dirt track in Los Angeles—clicking off the fastest time ever for a flying mile, two miles, three miles and so on up to ten miles!

His achievements were chronicled in the California newspapers, with one Los Angeles reporter dubbing him “Dare Devil Derkum,” a name that stuck throughout his racing career.

The following excerpt is from the Los Angeles Herald, July 27, 1909.....

On July 20, 1909, at 11:15 a.m. Paul “Daredevil” Derkum checked in at Temecula during a timed 320 mile roundtrip race between Los Angeles and San Diego. He was determined to lower J. Howard Shafer’s June 30, 1909 record of 16 hours and 50 minutes. In a cloud of dust, Derkum raced his Indian north out of town and into the record books. His finishing time was 10 hours, 59 minutes, and 30 seconds.

Everyone wondered if J. Howard Shafer could break Derkum’s record and reclaim the title. On July 26, 1909, at 5:00a.m. Shafer revved up his two-cylinder Thor motorcycle at the Los Angeles Herald office on First and Broadway. Shafer was confident that he could make the run in ten hours flat. However, at 12:20 p.m., he returned to the newspaper office failing to set a new record.

“Shafer, who went as far as Santa Ana, was met by a large brown hen at that city and in the mix-up which followed, Shafer, the hen and the motorcycle precipitated into a nearby ditch with the result that Derkum's record is still unsullied and that Shafer returned with a badly battered up machine and a whole handful of chicken chicken feathers as the result of his effort.” Source: Today in Motorcycle History, April 17, 1958

Monday, December 3, 2018

Remember George H.W. Bush's connection to Bakersfield, we should learn the fate of the city sales tax this week and the eight-day Hanukkah celebration begins

Monday, December 3, 2018

 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 such a special place to live. Send your news tips to

 * ... RIP 41: Looking back at the remarkable life and career of George H.W. Bush, our 41st president, we should remember the Bakersfield connection. It was June of 1949 when George and his then pregnant
wife Barbara, with little George Bush in tow, moved to a 967 square foot home on Monterey Street in east Bakersfield. The elder Bush was just 26 years old and was working for a subsidiary of Dresser Industries, an oil supply business later bought by Halliburton, and he was selling supplies out of the trunk of his Studebaker. The family lived here for only three months, but the house remains standing today.

 * ... SALES TAX: We should learn this week if the proposal one percent sales tax for the city of Bakersfield (Measure N) will pass or fail. The last we checked the "yes" votes on the sales tax were just 13 votes behind, with some 2,900 ballots still to be counted. The results of those last ballots should be released this week. The way the votes are trending appear to give an edge to the sales tax passing, which will make City Manager Alan Tandy and most of the city council happy. Stay tuned.

 * ... SOCCER PARK: Another big decision is coming up, possibly this week or next, on the fate of the Kern County Soccer Park out ate Hart Park. This 21-field park is run by a non-profit foundation, but the person who founded it all, John Trino, wants out. The problem: the county has neither the money nor the will to run the park, so Trino is trying to line up an operator who could operate it in agreement with the county. One thing is for sure: the soccer park is a community treasure, it lures tens of thousands of visitors here a year, and the county supervisors need to find a way to keep it operating.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "It's all fun and games until you piss off a redhead. Then it's just a barren landscape of death and destruction."

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "If service dogs knew that they wear signs that say “don’t pet me” all day they’d get really upset."

 * ...HANUKKAH: Happy Hanukkah to Bakersfield's Jewish community. Hanukkah began Sunday and is observed for eight nights and days. The celebration commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this photo of North Chester circa 1943, compliments of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.