Dr. Bill Atwood

Lovely hokiness

This weekend we have the opportunity to celebrate our community heritage by participating in the annual Heritage Day festivities. It’s a chance to enjoy the reasons we live here and a time to visit with friends at the parade and at the Historic Sites center.

Ours is a community that has an interesting and exciting historic past and I encourage everyone to visit the museum and other buildings at the Sierra Historic complex, and to take the time to wander through the buildings, read the posted information that explains the exhibits, and chat with the docents who can answer any questions.

History is not the dead past of the living, but rather the living past of the dead. There are reasons that places have been named what they have been named and reasons why different industries came to town with some thriving, and others being shuttered after a few months or years in operation.

We have a mining history, along with logging and lumber, and there is always the tourism component, along with ranching and agriculture. The state carved out roads because the federal government established Yosemite as a national park, and people wanted to see those natural wonders.

People came to this area to create what is now called the infrastructure of a community. Loggers, miners, road builders needed groceries so markets opened up to sell goods. Supplies for animals were needed so feed stores, blacksmiths, and wagon builders came into being. Throats get dry and folks want something to quench the thirst; bars and saloons opened up and in a few decades, the area then saw roadside restaurants such as Big Foot Drive-In along with A&W or the Ol’Kettle.

Sears and Montgomery Ward opened catalog stores and a couple of gasoline stations sprang up. The Raymond Telephone Company strung wires along poles and in the trees to begin the process of connecting us to the world. Doctors arrived and people could then get treatment for what was ailing them. The Masons established a Lodge and men found a place to have a fraternal relationship that helped build a sense of community along with providing a place where people could share dances.

Later, a community center is deemed necessary and this area’s residents gave of their treasure and talents to build the place we enjoy today. With all those folks moving into this area, families began to come into the equation. This means that schools were needed and teachers were hired.

The Gertrude School in Ahwahnee was the educational hub for many kids in the area and you can see how different school was back then as compared to our wonderful educational facilities of today. Religion needed a home and Christ Church was the first church in the area. The building you see in the cemetery was the original church but it was located at a different site, which is now known as Chapel Hill and houses a medical office building.

This was a town that shows little master planning during its early days. The road through Fresno Flats, Oakhurst’s former name, headed toward Yosemite and business owners set up shops along the route. Everything grew out from that.

But this Saturday you and your family can enjoy more of the small town feeling by coming out to the parade and waving at your neighbors as they march or ride by. Following the parade, visit with your friends as you look at our treasured past.

I describe events such as Heritage Days to my city dwelling friends as small town hokiness and I say that with pride. The parade isn’t close to The Rose Parade and the museum isn’t anything like the Huntington, and for that I am so grateful. Those are wonderful in their own way but most of us prefer our simpler way of life in which we know our neighbors and shop at stores many of which are staffed by the owners.

It’s our spot on the globe and as the millions each year pass through, we know many wish they could live where we get to live with all our lovely hokiness. A caring, compassionate, supportive, charitable, friendly bunch of folks who simply continue that old-fashioned manner of life that city people just don’t have or understand. That’s our heritage and that is worth celebrating.

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