Tag Archives: History

The Rainmaker in San Diego

“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  Mark Twain made famous this quote by his writer friend Charles Dudley Warner.

According to an account in Wikipedia, the citizens of San Diego so appreciated Warner’s flattering description of their city in his book, Our Italy, that they named three consecutive streets in the Point Loma neighborhood after him: Charles Street, Dudley Street, and Warner Street.

Interestingly, San Diego leaders later proved Dudley’s quote wrong by actually hiring someone to change their weather.  In 1915, the San Diego area was suffering a drought.  They asked Charles Mallory Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam Reservoir. Hatfield, who was from the San Diego area, had already achieved some acclaim for bringing rain to other areas, including Los Angeles. Hatfield was a “pluviculturist,” a fancy term for rainmaker.  By 1902, he had created a secret mixture of 23 chemicals in large galvanized evaporating tanks that, he claimed, attracted rain. (He took this recipe to the grave.) Hatfield called himself a “moisture accelerator.”

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California's drought.

The Original Rainmaker, Charles Mallory Hatfield was hired to cure California’s drought.

A Kansas native, but raised in California, Hatfield traveled western North America promising to bring rain to areas suffering a drought.  One of his biggest “successes” was San Diego, although he didn’t get paid because he “created” too much rain and was lucky he didn’t have to pay for damages.  Hatfield was hired by the city to fill the reservoir, which was only a third full.  Not long after he set up his apparatus filled with his secret chemical connection, it began to rain, and eventually the reservoir was filled  to overflowing and other areas flooded.  At least 20 people were drowned.

It’s likely the rain wasn’t the result of Hatfield’s efforts, but it was certainly a coincidence that more rain fell than usual.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rain is most likely in November through March, with January, on average, measuring 2.28 inches.  NOAA didn’t mention January 1916 as being particularly rainy, though. When I visited my daughter in Huntington Beach, California, in January 2010, we had several days of perfect weather during which we watched a surfing competition and then a couple of days of really hard rain and high winds, something I’m no stranger to in Kansas, but golly, I came to California for the sun!  There was even a small tornado on the beach, which flipped over a car. (Click the link to my “Outgunned” post at the bottom of this post to see surfing competition photos.)

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in january 2010.

This car flipped over in a Long Beach, California, tornado in January 2010.

From the text associated with the YouTube video above about Charles Mallory Hatfield: “In 1915 the San Diego city council, pressured by the San Diego Wide Awake Improvement Club, approached Hatfield to produce rain to fill the Morena Dam reservoir. Hatfield offered to produce rain for free, then charge $1,000 per inch ($393.7 per centimetre) for between forty to fifty inches (1.02 to 1.27 m) and free again over fifty inches (1.27 m). The council voted four to one for a $10,000 fee, payable when the reservoir was filled. Hatfield, with his brother, built a 20-foot (6 m) tower beside Lake Morena and was ready early in the New Year.

On January 5, 1916 heavy rain began – and grew gradually heavier day by day. Dry riverbeds filled to the point of flooding. Worsening floods destroyed bridges, marooned trains and cut phone cables – not to mention flooding homes and farms. Two dams, Sweetwater Dam and one at Lower Otay Lake, overflowed. Rain stopped January 20 but resumed two days later. On January 27 Lower Otay Dam broke, increasing the devastation and reportedly causing about 20 deaths (accounts vary on the exact number).”

Despite Hatfield’s flood, San Diego is said to have one of the most ideal climates in the world.  When I learned that my paternal grandparents lived in the San Diego area in the 1920s, I took an interest in the area’s history.  My grandfather Jack Sherman was a civil engineer surveying projects there, including orchards. My grandparents left California when my father and his two sisters were still young, returning to the Sturgis, South Dakota, where my grandmother’s parents owned a hotel. My grandmother missed home and her mother was sick, but when I first heard about that, I thought, leave sunny southern California, hmmm?  They had good reasons to leave. In addition to my maternal great-grandmother’s poor health, my grandparents’ Escondido house had burned down after a worker knocked over a lantern, but the Black Hills of South Dakota are cold! Of course, had they stayed, my parents wouldn’t have met, and I wouldn’t be telling this story.
My blog post on the Surfing Competition called “Outgunned.” My lens envy.
Wikipedia History of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
San Diego History Journal Biography of Charles Mallory Hatfield.
Charles Hatfield is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.
Southern California Tornado in January 2010.

11 Comments

Filed under Environment, History, Journalism, Life

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times. The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

We were near the end of our visit to beautiful, amazing Peru, with a free afternoon.  My family and I had visited Cusco and Machu Picchu (too briefly) and now we were in Ollantaytambo, a town in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, where the Inca had won a battle against the Spanish.  In the morning, we’d climbed the ruins overlooking the city, the site of this battle.

We were walking to the Plaza in Ollantaytambo, deciding what to do and see during our afternoon, when a taxi driver approached us, saying the magic words “Moray, Salineras.”  Soon we were in his car for an hour-long taxi drive to the spectacular terraced salt pans, called Salinas de Maras, high in the Andes Mountains, and later to Moray, an Inca agricultural site. The trip with its stops took about four hours.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces.  The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces. The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

Halfway there, we left the paved highway and drove on a dirt road that bisected pastures where shepherds watched flocks, where a rainbow arched across the valley after a rain shower, under the towering snow-capped peak of Ch’iqun (Chicon), which stands at 18,1400 feet.  In the distance, smoke curled from pastures being burned to renew the grass.  (Ranchers burn pastures in the Flint Hills in my state of Kansas, too.)

The driver stopped the car at an overlook, where we first saw the 3,000 beautiful multi-colored terraced pools of the Salinas de Maras (Salineras) stretching down a hillside in a valley fed by spring water.

Peruvians have been gathering salt from the terraced salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  Salty water originating from the Qoripujio spring is carefully channeled into shallow man-made pools. The water evaporates, leaving behind salt, which is harvested by the 600 area families that own the ponds. There are markets at the entrance, where you can buy food, woven goods, pottery and other souvenirs, as well as salt, both plain and flavored, harvested from the site.

The salt ponds are near Maras, which is 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Cusco, in the Cusco Region of Peru. Cusco is the ancient Inca capital.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don't stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don’t stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food, woven goods, salt and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

 

We were inspired to visit Ollantaytambo and other Peruvian sites by Terri and James Vance, who write a wonderful travel blog at Gallivance.  Here is one of their many fascinating Peru posts.  Ollantaytambo, a Living City of the Inca. Here is a listing of their Peru blog posts: Gallivance: Peru

Here are some posts I found from other travelers who visited the salt pans near Maras.

The Sacred Valley of the Inca — Moray and Salinas.

A Visit to the Salt Pans of Maras

Off the Beaten Track: A Visit to Salinas de Maras

Wikipedia: Maras, Peru.

 

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans  near Maras, Peru.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans near Maras, Peru.

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Salt Pans, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Man with a Harvest of Salt, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

19 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Travel

Post Rock Fences in Kansas

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I saw these limestone fence posts, called post rocks, on a recent drive to western Kansas.

I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, but I hadn’t seen more than a few limestone fence posts until this past weekend when I saw miles of them as I drove west in a section of the state I’d never visited before.  It has been estimated that at the peak of their use, there were about 40,000 miles of these stone post fences in central Kansas.  In the last  quarter of the 19th century, ranchers and farmers needed fences to keep the cattle from wandering onto cropland, but wood was scarce. Providentially, there is a bed of limestone buried only a few inches beneath the top soil, which is about about 18 inches in thickness, the perfect dimension for fence posts. It was easy to shape the soft stone, which hardened, enabling the posts to resist weathering in the elements.

About Post Rocks in Kansas.

More about Post Rock Fences and Where to Find Them.

 

1 Comment

Filed under History, Kansas, Life, Photography, Travel

“Whale” You Help Me?

Whale mural, Kapa'a, Kauai.

Whale mural, Kapa’a, Kauai.

I grew up in Kansas, far from any ocean (though I was born within a stone’s throw of the Potomac River in Virginia), so visits to the ocean were rare, and I didn’t see a whale until I was an adult. But once I did, I was hooked. Who can resist the majesty of whales, their power and grace? I admit, I’m a landlubber, so the pull of the traveling the deep, blue sea is lost on me, but I love the creatures that live within it.

Some of my best photos of whales are of murals…I think these are all of Humpback whales. Can someone help me identify them?

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

Humpack whale, Kona, Hawaii.

I don’t have any good photos of a recent whale watching trip my husband and I took off of the Na Pali coast of Kauai, because my camera had to be put away in a waterproof area because of the 17-foot swells (as tall as the boat!).  Also, I spent at least fifteen minutes with my face in a bucket, my first time ever being seasick, after having been on ocean-going ships dozens of times. The captain warned us that the sea would be rough, but I thought I was an old salt and wouldn’t have any problem. Wrong!  Had an entire pod of whales been performing the Nutcracker Suite within feet of the boat, I wouldn’t and couldn’t have looked up from my beloved bucket.

After my stomach calmed, I did see a month-old humpback whale breaching time after time very close to the boat, it was wonderful! (Sadly, no photo.)  You could tell this baby was having such a fun time.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Humpback whale, Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In addition to being in the right place to see whales, you also need to be there at the right time. One February, we watched Humpback whales off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.  They winter in Hawaiian waters.  Then that summer, we saw Humpback whales in Glacier Bay of Alaska, their summer feeding grounds.  In January 2013, we looked for whales off of the coast of South Africa, too, but it wasn’t the right season, alas.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Monterey, California.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Whale Mural in Portsmouth New Hampshire.

Sadly, there are still whalers in modern times.

Whalers Museum in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

A List and Photos of Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.

“In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which inspired inspired Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” film, directed by Ron Howard, scheduled for release in 2015.

About the novel “Moby-Dick.”

History of Whaling.

4 Comments

Filed under Animals

Official Spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny.  It's a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. It’s a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen.  I didn't make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen. I didn’t make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Nineteenth century writer Robert Louis Stevenson has done as much as anyone for popularizing Pirate Lingo so, of course, he’s my choice for spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19. There’s a lot of pirate talk and bravado in Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.”

Stevenson was from Scotland, but he traveled widely and spent some time in California.  He honeymooned in a cabin with bride Fanny, sleeping on hay, on Mt. Saint Helena in Napa County in the summer of 1880.

A year ago, I trekked to the site of the Stevenson honeymoon cabin, which is now gone but is marked with a granite book monument in a California state park named after Stevenson. My husband decided to read in the car, so here I was hiking alone, not a good idea, but it was a lovely late afternoon in a beautiful forest. I knew it was going to be a steep mile up the mountain, so I shouldn’t have worn flip flops, even though they were sport flip flops. I also worried about spotting mountain lions, or worse still, mountain lions spotting me first.  And on top of that, we didn’t leave any time during our visit to Napa (wedding!) to visit wineries, but I was determined to see this memorial — all for you, dear readers.

The Granite Book Memorial Says:

On the left side:

THIS TABLET PLACED BY
THE CLUB WOMEN OF NAPA
COUNTY MARKS THE SITE
OF THE CABIN OCCUPIED IN
1880 BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
AND BRIDE WHILE HE WROTE
THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS

On the right side:

DOOMED TO KNOW NOT WINTER
ONLY SPRING, A BEING TROD
THE FLOWERY APRIL
BLITHELY FOR AWHILE
TOOK HIS FILL OF MUSIC,
JOY OF THOUGHT AND SEEING,
CAME AND STAYED AND WENT
NOR EVER CEASED TO SMILE.

                                                R.S.L.

 To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.  The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain.  I only made it to the memorial.


To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena
The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park. The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena
is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain. I only made it to the memorial.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn't find any information about when this memorial was placed.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn’t find any information about when this memorial was placed.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

To read my 2012 post about “Talk Like a Pirate Day” click on “Robert Louis Stevenson Talks Like a Pirate.” In that post is a link to an earlier post I wrote about the origin of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

About Robert Louis Stevenson in California.

About Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.

8 Comments

Filed under History

Drive-By Tourist in Boston

My daughter, son-in-law and I were stuck in traffic during Boston rush hour after leaving the Museum of Science. That's when I saw the Bunker Hill obelisk.

My daughter, son-in-law and I were stuck in traffic during Boston rush hour after leaving the Museum of Science. That’s when I saw the Bunker Hill Monument.

Earlier this month, my daughter, son-in-law and I left the Museum of Science in Boston at the beginning of rush hour. Stuck in traffic, I was happy to see that I could notch another site on my tourist belt without leaving the car when I saw the Bunker Hill Monument through the windshield.  On my left was Bunker Hill Community College. I leaned out of the window and grabbed a couple of shots. I was going to straighten the photo I included here, but that would have cut out some of the signs. In the sky, you can just make out a jet airplane, which you can see when you click on the photo to see it full size.

The obelisk commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place in the Charlestown area of Boston during the American Revolutionary War. The Americans lost the battle, which took place on June 17, 1775, but the British lost so many men, including many officers, that it was a Phyrric victory in which the gain was small but the cost was very high. The order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was made popular in stories about the battle of Bunker Hill, although that wasn’t the first case in which that phrase was used.

The Bunker Hill Monument stands 221 feet (67 m) high on Breed’s Hill. The Marquis de Lafayette laid the cornerstone on June 17, 1825, the fiftieth anniversary of the battle.  Daniel Webster delivered an address during the cornerstone dedication. Soil from Bunker Hill was sprinkled on the graves of Lafayette and his wife. Some day, I need to return to visit the Bunker Hill Monument site on foot.

About the Battle of Bunker Hill.

6 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Travel

Historic Theaters

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California, photographed in September 2009. Opened in 1925, this theater is now closed.

It was love at first sight when I saw The Rialto Theatre.  I was introduced to this old beauty when I visited my friend Jan in South Pasadena, California, in the 1990’s. I’ve taken many photographs of “The Rialto” since then, but may not get the chance much longer if it isn’t saved.  This venerable theater opened in 1925 but it is now closed and in danger of demolition, as are many old theaters.  A scene in Robert Altman’s movie film “The Player” was filmed in The Rialto’s back alley.  “Scream 2″ also featured The Rialto.

The Rialto is beautiful even in its decay.   Like so many old theaters, it was decorated grandly.  It has a fanciful Moorish, Egyptian and baroque motif. When I wrote an article for the Kansas City Star’s magazine about Orval Hixon, who photographed vaudeville stars from 1914 to 1930, I saw photographs of many glamorous theaters that have now fallen into ruin or are gone.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the background is The Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena, California.

In the “old days,” an evening spent in the theater was a beautiful experience beyond what was being performed on the stage or shown on the screen. Some of the first movies I saw as a child was in The Orpheum, a gorgeously decorated old theater in Wichita, Kansas, which was originally built for vaudeville shows. Like many entertainment legends, these old theaters needs more than face lifts to keep them alive.  Sometimes only the marquee sign is all that’s saved from an old theater.

Some of the theaters, such as the ones in Hawaii that I photographed, might not be grand, but they have their own charm. Farm workers and U.S. servicemen were among their clientale.

It’s bittersweet seeing these old cinema relics, whether they are grand cinema palaces or more humble screens. I’m grateful many of these historic theaters are still standing, but who knows for how long? People watch films on their computers and even on their phones these days.  When people do go to the theater they want a great sound system, recliner seats, cup holders and even 3-D screens.

Jan and I and our husbands planned to see a movie at The Rialto in the early 2000s, when the theater was still open, but when we got to the box office we were told that the projector was broken.  So we walked across the street to a video store and rented a VHS movie to watch at home. Sadly, I never saw a movie at The Rialto before it closed.

Here’s a slide show of theaters I’ve photographed in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan and Missouri.  There is information about each theater when you click on the photo.  CLICK ON ANY THUMBNAIL PHOTO TO BEGIN THE SLIDESHOW AND SEE THE PHOTOS FULL SIZED.

Click on Cinema Treasures for a guide to more than 30,000 movie theaters from around the world, including theaters that are now closed.

Click on I’m Not Ready For My Close Up to read about my brief appearance on the Big Screen in the movie “fling.”

Here’s a blog that documents grand old theaters, many sadly in advanced decay.  After the Final Curtain

About the theaters featured in slide show:

The Rialto, South Pasadena, California

Friends of The Rialto

Friends of The Rialto Facebook Page.

Sebastiani Theatre, Sonoma, California.

Michigan Theatre, Escanaba, Michigan

Gem Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

Aloha Theatre, Kainaliu, Big Island, Hawaii

Honoka’a People’s Theater, Honoka’a, Big Island, Hawaii

Honomu Theater, Honomu, Big Island, Hawaii

Na’alehu Theatre, Na’alehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Park Theatre, Estes Park, Colorado

Screenland Crossroads Sign from old Isis Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri.

20 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, History, Movies, Photography, Travel