Dr. Bill Atwood

It’s our history, so come celebrate at Heritage Days

On Dec. 8, 1980 I moved into this community. Having been offered a teaching position in the Raymond-Knowles School District by then principal Don Bryant, I left my home in Los Angeles. I knew little about here except that I enjoyed vacationing at Bass Lake and Yosemite. I was young and looking to carve out a life in this mountain community.

Names of areas such as Teaford Meadows, along with roads named Bissett or Beasore, were just identifiers to me. I grew up in a metropolitan area and did not really know about those roads either. In short order I soon came to know that those names had direct ties to the history of this area. I learned of the families that came here to develop Fresno Flats, Coarsegold, North Fork, and other wide spots along the highway.

I learned of gold panning and mining, about the timber industry and the flume from Sugar Pine to Madera. I’ve learned about the name change from Fresno Flats to Oakhurst brought about by Charlie Myers’s wife who had tired of hearing the phrase, “Fresno Flats, where they hanged Charlie Myers.”

I heard about Teddy Roosevelt coming into Raymond on his way to Yosemite and, thanks to the Fresno Flats Historic Society, we have learned about other pioneers in our hometown.

This weekend we celebrate our area’s great heritage. There will be the annual parade with many of our neighbors riding on floats, driving beautiful antique automobiles, or marching in bands. Equestrians and dancers, a clown or two and, if they can get away from the fires, emergency responders will be there as well. It is typical “hokey small town stuff.” I love “hokey small town stuff.”

Following the parade we can all venture down to Fresno Flats Historic Center to wander through the buildings to learn or relearn about our heritage. We can buy from local vendors and eat some really great food. While there we can meet and greet neighbors and celebrate our safety from the fires, our good fortune to live here, and smile that others before us established the area and provided for the creation of many of our local services.

Like many of you I have antique furniture and last week I sat in one of the chairs and looked at the two more than 100-year-old sofas in my living room. I was trying to imagine the conversations that took place when those sofas were fairly new.

Conversations about coming west, or adventures lived during the Civil War. Talk would have centered on new marvels of technology which would have included discussions of Edison’s lightbulb or Graham’s telephone. Some dreamer may have even been the subject of laughter when they mentioned that man would be able to fly.

People here would have talked about cattle prices and the lumber industry along with a local congregation trying to get a circuit riding priest to schedule monthly services. Doctors and merchants came to establish their practice or enterprises and we became a town.

A teacher would have come to town and schools grew. The Gertrude School still sits in the Ahwahnee area as a reminder of days gone by. A dear friend, Alyce Whitacre, was baptized in the Little Church on the Hill because that was her family’s regular place of worship years ago.

I hope you make it a point to stop the chores for a few hours and celebrate the great heritage we all share in this area. It’s a part of us and we are a part of it.

Happy Heritage Days.