Report on Richmond Waterfront Field Trip

S.S. Red Oak Victory

S.S. Red Oak Victory

On July 26 a dozen or so Institute members and friends visited aboard the SS Red Oak Victory ship moored in Richmond (an exhibition of the Richmond Museum of History). This Victory ship, built in 1944 at the Kaiser Shipyards, was one of ten built for the Navy. (Compared to the Liberty ship, the Victory was faster, longer, and with a greater cargo capacity.) After World War II the Red Oak was transferred out of the Navy. Although in the Reserve Fleet (i.e. in “mothballs”) on three different occasions, the Red Oak saw duty during the Korean and Vietnam wars. The ship was retired again to the Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay. In the 1990s as ships were being moved out of the mothball fleet and shipped to China for scrap, a campaign began to save her as an historic ship, the only Kaiser-built ship remaining.

For fifteen years, work has been taking place to restore and make the Red Oak operational, as is the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, one of two Liberty ships remaining. Her two lives as an armed auxiliary Navy ship and as a merchant ship are being preserved as much as possible. It is a challenge. The aim is to show enough of the armament to show the ship’s Navy heritage, but without installing all the 20mm anti-aircraft guns that were carried. “We do have the forward 3″ gun, and hope to acquire a proper 5″ gun for the aft gun tub” our docent told us. “There is a 5″ gun stowed in the hold, but it has the wrong type of mount, designed for a shore installation.” Finding funding is a constant challenge. For example, the Navy has offered guns which are free, but money needs to be raised to pay for their transportation.

We then enjoyed lunch before visiting the Home Front Museum run by the National Park Service. The museum highlights the transformation of Richmond from a small town (24,000) to a boom-town (100,000) of shipyard construction and other war-time production. Among Henry Kaiser’s visionary solutions to the problems of this very large work force was the creation of an employee health plan and childcare facilities for one-year-olds and up. The museum had interactive exhibits that appealed to all ages. The highlight was hearing 93-year-old park ranger Betty Soskin speak of her experiences working in the shipyards and how the war shaped the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and beyond.

– Kathleen O’Connor


California and the West Events

Fall 2020: Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts, lecture by Susan D. Anderson, SF History Days (video here)

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento

Fall 2019:  Tour of Marin Civic Center and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

In the abundance of caution recommended by heath authorities, the group has decided to take a break from regular meetings.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, June 12, 1:30 pm, Writers Group via Zoom. Jim Gasperini will present.

Public Programs

Thursday, July 22 2021,  7:00 pm, Public Program, via Zoom. Member Stephen E. Barton will introduce his new book, J. Stitt Wilson: Socialist, Christian, Mayor of Berkeley.

Steven Barton

Faced with the dramatic extremes of wealth and poverty that characterized Gilded Age America, Wilson (1868-1942) gave up a promising career in the ministry to advocate for “applied Christianity”—a democratic and socialist economy based on caring and cooperation that would embody Jesus’s message of love. His varied efforts included socialist evangelism in the Midwest, California and Great Britain; building an alliance between the Socialist Party and the labor movement in his campaigns for governor, mayor and Congress, and supporting Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California campaign within the Democratic Party. He and his family became an integral part of “Bohemian Berkeley,” and although his sons all died young, his daughters became socialists, feminists and stars of stage and screen. This will be an online event on Zoom; the link will be sent to those who register here. The event is cosponsored by the Berkeley Historical Study.
Public programs have included panel discussions, individual presentations, and film series. Programs are co-sponsored with other institutions, including public libraries, universities, museums, and archives. Read More...

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, July 17, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.
The Joy of Life: Impressionists and Post-impressionists in Russia
A Presentation by Marina Oberatova
Russia has one of the world's best collections of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. It rivals the holdings of French museums—especially when it comes to the masterpieces of Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissarro. Far less well known is the fact that Russia had its own important school of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, painters whose works spanned the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century. How did it happen that Russia accumulated so many great works of the French impressionists and post-impressionists? Where can one see these collections? How do Russian Impressionism and Post-Impressionism differ from the French? What does it tell us about Soviet history? Marina Oborotova, Ph.D., is a historian, researcher, and lecturer. She earned her M.A. in International Relations from Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs, and her Ph.D. from Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO). Marina wrote two books and over 40 articles and worked around the world in Europe, Latin America, and for the last 30 years in the United States. She has taught courses on Global, European and Latin American history and politics at the University of New Mexico.

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 

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We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history

 

 

Member News

Members' Recent Activities:

Peter Meyerhof received the Campbell Augustus Menefee Scholastic Award from the Sonoma County Historical Society “in recognition for his many significant historical research projects and presentations about Sonoma County history.”
Carol Sicherman was invited to blurb Politics, Democratization and Academia in Uganda: The
Case of Makerere University (2021), an impressive analysis of efforts by academics to intervene in politics.
On March 25 Bert Gordon presented a paper, “Music, Power, and Tourism: Occupied France during the Second World War,” at the Tourism and Musical Imaginaries 2022 Conference, at the University of California Berkeley. Bert is also teaching an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course at UC Berkeley: “The History of France: From Roman Gaul to the Present,” March 28 through May 16.

Kevin Knauss’ latest book, Amos P. Catlin, The Whig Who Put Sacramento On The Map, is now
available. See Kevin’s post about the book and Catlin’s life, including "a YouTube video where I
visit different places where Amos lived and worked.”

Margaretta (Gretta) Mitchell’s latest book is called Dreamscapes and Destinations. “This book was hatched in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Since travel was out of the question, I turned to pictures to return to various destinations, some of which live in my memory as dreamscapes — beginning with the Ancient Stone Circles in England and ending with the vast space of Death Valley, California.” Each
geographical section includes brief anecdotal introductions to the 93 black and white images.

Gretta has produced three “legacy” books: Iconographies (2015), Island Dreams (2017) and Secret Garden (2020) published by her imprint, Elysian Editions. Institute members have a $10 discount on book purchases: $30 will cover tax and shipping. Please send checks to: Margaretta Mitchell, 280 Hillcrest Road, Berkeley, CA 94705.

Marilyn L. Geary has published the book Miners, Milkers & Merchants: from the Swiss-Italian Alps to the Golden Hills of Australia and California. Based on letters of the Rotanzi family from the Vallemaggia in Ticino, Switzerland, the family biography also reflects the experiences of the multitudes who left Ticino seeking relief from poverty in the mid-nineteenth century. It is available for purchase at https:www.marilynlgeary.com.

Welcome to our newest members.

Lyndon Comstock has worked in the field of community economic development. Since retiring, he has
published books about Annie Clemenc and the 1913 Keweenaw copper strike, the early history of a Berkeley neighborhood, his grandmother in Salonica at the time of the Balkan Wars, and pre-abolition Black history in central Kentucky. Other historical research topics include: the United States Colored Troops at Fort Pillow; the community of Bolinas, California; Croatian partisans in World War II; Students for a
Democratic Society; and Chögyam Trungpa’s life in Tibet before 1959. Lyndon also served as a primary source for Cliff Rosenthal’s book about community development financial institutions.

Kieren McCarthy describes himself as “a journalist and writer based in Oakland. I’m from the UK but have been in California for over a decade now. I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering but went into journalism from university. I’ve written for a wide range of national newspapers and magazines, most in the UK. I wrote a book about the extraordinary battle for the internet address Sex.com. Currently I’m writing a book about John McLaren, the superintendent of Golden Gate Park from the 1890s to 1943 and have been digging into San Francisco and California history.”

About himself Michael Several writes: “Having never been an academic, I have had the luxury of learning about a great variety of subjects and taking my time to investigate each one at a leisurely pace. This life-long journey resulted in articles on empire building in ancient Egypt, public memory in Los Angeles, anti-Chinese racism in Redlands, and institutional and community formation of the San Gabriel Valley Jewish community. Currently I am researching the impact of the environment, the introduction of new communication technology, the advances in horticulture, and the completion of water and transportation projects on the development of the San Gabriel Valley between 1873 and 1886.”

Laure Latham describes herself as “a blogger, storyteller and lawyer,” holding a B.A. in religious anthropology from Paris Jussieu University and a B.A. in law from La Sorbonne. She has practiced law at the Paris Bar and has taught international tax at La Sorbonne. Her writings include articles on the environment as well as children and the outdoors. Laure coauthored George-Daniel de Monfreid: Ami et confident de Gauguin and is currently working on a fictional account of Russian America and Ohlone people taking place in 1839 California. She lives in London.

Esther Shallan is a philosopher (PhD in Philosophy from Oxford Brookes University and Mphil in the philosophy of psychology from Kings College London) with interests and research on the problem of evil, the nature of suffering, and personality traits. She is also a psychotherapist working in North London who specializes in bereavement, depression, and anxiety disorders. Esther is currently working on a book entitled "God, Good and Evil: The Problem of Moral Evil Re-evaluated.”

Congratulations to Our 2020 Mini-Grant Recipients:

Steven Levi for expenses of a visual presentation of his poem, “The Contract," about women's suffrage.
Pam Peirce for editing of her biography of Katherine Gibson Wicks.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.

Join Us

We welcome all men and women who have a commitment to historical study, which may be demonstrated in one or more of the following ways...

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Institute for Historical Study
1399 Queens Road
Berkeley, CA 94708
info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org

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