Making History Blog

Many of these articles have been published in the Mendocino Beacon’s Kelley House Calendar.

Speakeasys and Blind Pigs

Speakeasys and Blind Pigs
The early years of the 20th century were a time of innovations. The automobile had come to stay. People enjoyed the new fashions brought about in the wake of the First World War. With the vote, women had reason to hope that their social status would change for the better. It was also the decade during which national prohibition, or “The Great Experiment”, was underway. In the town of Mendocino, the voting population, meaning men only, had decided to do away[... see full page]

What’s on Your Shopping List?

What’s on Your Shopping List?
Both Aileen Gomes and her husband, Joseph, came from Portuguese families. Joseph Antone Gomes was born on the island of Flores on April 19, 1893. He left the Azores and immigrated to the United States in 1911. When the First World War came along, he registered for the draft and by 1920 his papers for naturalization had been submitted. Aileen Victoria Francis was born in California January 7, 1897, but both her parents were from the Azores. Joseph and Aileen[... see full page]

Something in the Air

Something in the Air
In the last half of the 19th century, most of Little River was cultivated farmland, from acres of field crops and grazing land for livestock, to family vegetable gardens. Even in early Mendocino vegetable gardens were grown between houses, with some of the produce to feed the cows and horses, like sugar beets; other crops fed families and the mill workers at the cookhouse. Katie Ford (1857-1944), daughter of Jerome and Martha Ford, wrote about her childhood garden memories: “We[... see full page]

An American Venus

An American Venus
As the Miss America pageant prepares for its annual show this Sunday in the wake of the #MeToo movement, it is trying to remake itself. Among its changes, Miss America 2.0, as it calls itself, has gotten rid of the swimsuit competition! That made me think back to 1925, when the pageant didn’t pretend to be anything but a beauty contest (notwithstanding those ugly gabardine swimming suits), when a woman was a woman and a good cigar was a smoke,[... see full page]

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures
In its earliest days, social activities in Little River were not much different from the way folks have fun today. There were bars and saloons, card games and gambling for those who liked that sort of pleasure. There were parties, dances, family gatherings for holidays, birthdays and such, often with singing, sometimes with a musical instrument or two. The 74th birthday of Isaiah Stevens, as recorded in the newspaper, was celebrated with his three daughters, their husbands and children, plus his[... see full page]

Inheritors of Resource Extraction

Inheritors of Resource Extraction
As someone who has always embraced the past, particularly that belonging to California and the other western states, it is now almost painful to look at a photograph such as this. We see the mill of the Mendocino Lumber Company, sited on the flats of Big River, going full tilt. Plumes of steam and presumably smoke as well, enter the atmosphere as countless numbers of trees were converted into lumber and shipped away. Of course, the town would not be[... see full page]