History

History in the Making; Your Museum in a Pandemic

Stay at home, flatten the curve, social distancing . . . We are experiencing a world unlike which our society has ever seen. Through history, there has been an ongoing battle with virus’s and bacterium, but not since the influenza pandemic starting in 1918, has the world been so greatly affected by a quickly spreading pandemic, and the reactions from all levels of government, and personal beliefs that comes with uncertain times. Through confusion, fright, and loneliness, people are struggling to do their part, stay at home, and watching news feeds and social media anxiously to follow the impact on the world we have temporarily left behind in an attempt to do our part to protect our at risk populations. Through much contemplation and a concern for our staff and visitors, MCARLM made the tough decision to shut the museum doors, and cancel programming through the crisis.

PROGRAMMING CANCELLATIONS AND MCARLM RESPONSES

Over the years, MCARLM has focused our core mission on educational programming. From our school tours, Intern program, and adult lectures, the museum has provided educational opportunities to thousands of community and visitors annually. With a downgrading in social studies lessons in the classroom, MCARLM has used our school tours and 4th Grade History Jamboree to fill a bit of that void. Typically in a 3 month period, the museum hosts over 1500 students to a hands-on-history experience. With the school’s shutting down, the school tour season has been cancelled for this year.

In response to the student shelter in place, with so many children distance learning from seclusion at home, and so many parents struggling to figure out how to make this happen, MCARLM is trying to do our part to help. Utilizing

Hands-on History Activity Pack for a boy

the educational resources that we have at the museum, we created an At Home Hands-on History Activity Pack. This pack contains a 32 page history activities booklet, 3 individual crafts, a traditional Ohlone Native American game for the family, and all of the supplies needed to be creative and utilize the pack, with an sweet treat of a candy stick. The packs have been provided, free of any charge, to area children, since March 23. Over the past month, (as of publication of this newsletter), MCARLM has provided this pack to 520 area youth, through doorstep delivery by MCARLM staff. An additional 45 youth have been provided the activity book by mail to areas all over the state, including Sacramento, and as far as the Winterhaven, in the southern part of the state. This project has been a ongoing labor of love, with the MCARLM staff working daily, at home, to continue creating and compiling these packets, in an attempt to remain relevant and to continue our mission of providing educational experiences, even if it is from afar.

Starting in 2012, with our Lost Towns lecture, MCARLM has provided an annual adult education lecture series. This years lecture was planned for April 2, on the topic of the artist, Jo Mora, locally know for creating the beautiful sculptures that are a part of the historic Robert Stanton Theater, presented by Peter Hiller, the curator of the Jo Mora Trust Collection. Due to the shelter in place and social distancing mandates, the presentation had to be postponed until further notice. In response to the loss of this educational entertainment MCARLM staff worked with Peter Hiller, and a local video editor to create a YouTube channel and a video presentation on Jo Mora for people to enjoy at home. With over 650 views to date, this informative video presentation provides almost an hour of entertainment to distract you for a short period of time during your shelter in place. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, and favorite snack and check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJwB4e0fqV0. We are currently working on more virtual tours to bring the museum to your living room., so follow our channel and let us know what you would like to see.

With the ending of the school year, and the closing of the museum, the staff has also lost their abilities to work over the past many weeks. In trying to help the staff, the MCARLM board voted to continue to provide pay for the scheduled shifts as long as possible within budget viability. The ability to do that is greatly in part to the foundations that generously supported the museum in the winter grant cycle.

MOVING FORWARD

The future remains uncertain for everyone. When will we be able to go back to business as usual, and really, what will business as usual look like? With the rising need from lost business there is now and will be a growing need in all sectors of personal and business life. Traditionally, non-profits struggle in times of uncertainty, and have the most difficult recovery time, relying on donations from businesses, supporters, and grantors that need healthy portfolios to determine the amount of generosity they can provide.  Like so many, we are looking forward to a time when we can get back providing a variety of programming, outreach, and having our doors open to the public so that we can continue teaching the community, youth, and visitors about the rich heritage of the Salinas Valley. We hope that when your life is back in full swing, you will join your museum in our mission and future goals. In the meanwhile, continue to wash up and stay safe.

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MCARLM COVID-19 Response

The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum cares deeply for our staff, docents, members, visitors, and area youth. If we have learned anything from the years of cultivating the rich heritage of the Salinas Valley, it is that together we are resilient and will persevere. During this time we have, as many have, made the hard decision to close our museum doors until we come through this crisis, and do our part to flatten the curve. This does not mean that we have stopped serving the community to the best of our ability. We have just had to re-imagine what the means, and what we can do. Here are a few options we are providing at this time:

At Home Hands-on History Packs: With the schools closing and thousands of children being confined to their homes for the next couple of months, we have responded to create and supply, free of charge, an activity package for children 7-12 that includes 3 crafts (and all needed supplies), 1 Native American family game, and a 32 page activity booklet, (created to provide a small amount of the educational experience a child would receive with a visit to the museum), and an old fashioned stick candy. While getting supplies at this time have proven difficult, we intend to continue to provide this pack as long as the need continues and the supplies last.

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Hands-on History Activity Pack for a boy

-Virtual Lecture: Originally planned as a part of MCARLM’s annual history lecture series, the program on Jo Mora by Peter Hiller had to be cancelled and re-imagined due to the shelter in place ordered due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Thank you to Peter Hiller for suggesting and putting together the content of this presentation, and thank you to Nick Potts for creating and editing this video. This virtual presentation can now be enjoyed in the comfort of your home, at your leisure. https://youtu.be/hJwB4e0fqV0

Unfortunately, we have had to cancel our school tours (for the Spring Season), 4th Grade History Jamboree, Lecture, and Kids Day at the Museum. As the situation progresses, the MCARLM board will continue to analyse our responses and the community need. Please reach out to us with any thoughts, ideas, needs or suggestions. We greatly appreciate the years of support from our community, and look forward to many more years of making history with you!

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Hundred Year Old Tree Wreaks Havoc

Scan_20160718 (3)On May 15, during a gusty evening, the earth, and barn shook as a 130 foot Eucalyptus tree lost its footing and fell hard and strong onto the MCARLM Main Exhi20160515_183725bit Barn. This tree, estimated to be well over 100 years old and over 100 feet tall, was located on the north side of the museum in what used to be the Sugar Beet Harvesting outdoor exhibit. The tree blew over, roots and all, mangling irreplaceable pieces of equipment, including a Farmall M, Marbeet Jr. and a Single Row Marbeet Harvester, destroying the wood awning that protected the antique wood farming equipment and  causing a large amount of damage to the roof of the Main Exhibit Barn.20160517_133347

The clearing of the debris has been quite an undertaking. The biggest job was the removal of the tree from on top of the barn, revealing to us what the real extent of the damage is to the equipment and building. While we realize that the damage could have been way worse and more devastating, we mourn the loss of equipment pieces that we will never be able to replace. The destruction to the barn and the loss of the awning are both fixable with some work. We are currently working with engineers and the county insurance  to create a plan for repairs and rebuilding of the damage and structures that were lost in what really 20160517_175422comes down to a gust of wind. This random act of mother nature showed us here at the museum just how valuable our artifacts are, and how quickly these irreplaceable items can be lost and gone forever.

 

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Mesa del Rey Training Facility

During WWII, a large portion of the pilot training was provided under government contract by civilian flying schools. The schools provided cadets with the same training and discipline as they experienced at military facilities, but because they were owned and operated by private entities, they were not designated as Army Air Fields and were not listed in any directories. Mesa del Rey, also known as Palo Alto Airport Inc. was one of these flying schools.

MDR Train Facility 1The original airport was first leased from the Spreckles Sugar Company in 1940 by the city who subleased it to Palo Alto Airport Inc. The airport began construction with the intention of training pilots for the Army Air Corps. The property was purchased by the city in 1941.

In 1941 the first group of Army Air Corps cadets arrived via train to be the first class to be trained at the Mesa del Rey flying school. It contained five barracks, a hospital, administration building, mess hall and 3 hangers on the property that is now the King City airport and Rava Farms complex (formerly the Basic Vegetables facility). The civilian operated facility accommodated 280 cadets and had 110 mechanics, 400 civilian workers, an administrative staff of 45 and a military staff of 35. This provided much needed work for local residents. At its peak, cadets logged 700 hours a day flying Stearmans and Ryans. By the time that the operation closed in October 1944 around 10 thousand cadets had passed through and graduated from the school.

MDR Train Facility 2As written in “Army Pilots in the Making”, a pictorial story created by pilots in attendance of Mesa del Rey to document a cadet’s experience at school:

“With the advent of the airplane to its position of such extreme importance, as proven since the start of the present conflict, a system to train hundreds of thousands of pilots had to be developed. The answer lay in the Army Air Forces; decision to contract the primary phase – to establish the now famous Army Air Forces Contract Flying Schools. To those . . . flocked the man who in the pre-war years had built up thousands of hours of experience in training men to fly – experience so vital in laying a sound foundation upon which to build the Air Force.
Since Time was of the essence, the Army needed pilots and needed them quickly . . . equipment had progressed rapidly to a point of being very intricate and calling for a high degree of skill in operating. With it came the outstanding achievement of all – a Safety Record. Not only are the pilots being trained but . . . they are the world’s best and the story of their deeds will long live in the history of the future.”

In February 1945, the U.S. Navy took over the facility to train fighter and torpedo plane pilots. 800 men were stationed at the Naval Auxiliary Station located in King City. The Navy demobilized the basin in September 1945, and the property reverted back to the City of King in 1951.

In 2011, through the perseverance of Joanne Banuelos, MCARLM received a video depicting Army pilots in the making at Mesa del Rey. It contained video footage, photos and records that were provided to the City by the family of Harry S. White. Mr. White was one of the three principle owners to start the civilian flight school. The video footage shows pilots arriving in King City by train and provides a view of how Mesa Del Rey operated in the 1940s.
Recently, during the Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser, this video was shown to those in attendance. Local boy, Jack Hayes attended the school in 1943. During an oral histories interview with Jack he talked briefly about his time at the facility:

Jack Hayes

“ . . . they’re all sharp young men from the age of 20 to 26. We call them the cream of the crop and I suppose they were. The cadets were assigned to living quarters, two to a bedroom with a bathroom dividing every two bedrooms, so it was pretty deluxe accommodations. We were here for 9 weeks to get about 65 to 70 hours of training before we went on to basic. Cadets were assigned 5 cadets to an instructor. King City was one of the earliest primary training fields and had one of the top ratings of the primary fields. Harry White and his people went all over the United States recruiting top flight civilian flyers and they got a pretty darn good bunch. As a local boy, nobody wanted to instruct me because I knew them all and they were afraid they’d have to wash me out. I got Joe Gillespie to start with, and he solo’d me. Then I got Luke Zanidovich for my second half of training. We flew a Ryan PT22. It was a good interesting airplane to fly. The snap roll to the right was so quick you didn’t know what was happening. Most of the time they used bi-planes, Stearmans for training. They had a pretty high wash out rate here, somewhere between 20 and 40% didn’t make it. Most of us made it and I’ve loved flying ever since.”

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