Posts Tagged With: History

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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Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Visiting This Summer

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What would life be like without teachers, doctors or firefighters? Every day Americans are hard at work on farms, factories, in homes or at desks keeping our communities thriving. The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum, will explore the professions and the people that sustain American society when it hosts “The Way We Worked,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. “The Way We Worked” will be on view June 15 through July 20.

MCARLM and a few other California communities have been expressly chosen to host “The Way We Worked” as part of the Museum on Main Street project—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour five communities in California from October 2013 through July 2014.
“The Way We Worked,” adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives and Records Administration, explores how work has become a central element in American culture. It traces the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years, including the growth of manufacturing and increasing use of technology. The exhibition draws from the Archives’ rich collections, including historical photographs, archival accounts of workers, film, audio and interactives, to tell the compelling story of how work impacts our individual lives and the historical and cultural fabric of our communities.

MCARLM is excited to be hosting The Way We Worked. It will allow the opportunity to explore fascinating aspects of our own region’s history, and hopefully it will inspire many to become even more involved in the cultural life of the local community.

The Way We Worked is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), state humanities councils across the nation and local host institutions. To learn more about “The Way We Worked” and other Museum on Main Street exhibitions, visit http://www.museumonmainstreet.org.

Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. SITES connects millions of Americans with their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of art, science and history exhibitions. State humanities councils, located in each state and U.S. territory, support community-based humanities programs that highlight such topics as local history, literature and cultural traditions. To learn more, visit http://www.sites.si.edu.

Sack Room Operations

      To kick off the visit of this exhibition, MCARLM will be hosting an evening grand opening that will advance through an average work day while touring the exhibit and enjoying progressive heavy appetizers. Featured speaker, Meg Clovis, will tell the stories of generations of working people who made Salinas Valley agriculture what it is today. The Junior Historian members will be adding to the exhibition by creating a local aspect of the exhibit showing different pieces of local industry, how they have built and influenced our local community.

The exhibit will be located in Harden Conference room of the King City Train Depot and will be available for visitation Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 3, or by appointment. A public closing event will be held on Thursday, July 17 starting at 5:30 and will include a panel of local businessmen to discuss different aspects of business’s that have created, built and impact our area, community and the people that inhabit it. This event will be in conjunction with a mixer for the King City Chamber of Commerce. Make a point to visit the museum during this traveling exhibition and don’t miss out on an opportunity to view this first class exhibit from the Smithsonian.

 

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Setting a 1930’s Event Theme

The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum recently held its 1st annual Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser.  Easily planned was the dinner and venue, and once we decided on the setting the program around the 1930’s magic lantern slides that have been housed in our archive, the time period and theme was decided.  So the task that lay before me was how to plan and decorate for a 1930’s theme that didn’t leave attendees in a great depression, and how to turn a plain, small hall

DeAnza Building before Event

DeAnza Building before Event

that’s décor is already pretty retro (think laminate floors with carpet on the wall) in to a speakeasy/art deco lounge with little to no budget.  After hours of strenuous research via the internet, I realized, I was pretty much on my own.My first thoughts went to the tables.  To me round over rectangle was a clear choice.  Sure you can fit more in a room with banquet style seating, but I was looking for elegance.  Needing to save money, we needed to use our stock of tablecloths, which meant I had to work with a burgundy color scheme, which actually worked out quite well.  I Centerpiecechose to hunt down peacock feathers which were reasonably easy to find and ostrich feathers, much harder doing so within a meager budget, but I eventually found a source that was within an acceptable realm of indulgence.  I paired these plumes with a few white Calle Lilies, some pearls, votives and round mirrors for a simple, classy centerpiece that enhanced the table, but wasn’t so tall it took away from the conversation of the guests.

Dinner SetupThe building has 8 windows that look out upon a beautiful park, which would never do for a ‘speakeasy’ so I needed to pull the eyes away from the lovely brown carpet and frame the room and windows accordingly.  Looking on-line for backdrops, I found that they are pretty pricey, so that was out of the equation.  My first thought was to bring out a pen and cover the windows in art deco cityscape and silhouette designs.  After realizing that my artistic ability would greatly prevent me from accomplishing much more then rectangles and stick people, I needed to come up with something else.  So instead of looking out at an art deco scene, I decided to brick wall all of the windows.  Using clip art and over 100 11×17 pieces of paper, I copied, cut and taped together enough brick walls (complete with bullet holes) to cover the windows.  The lovely silver drapery is nothing more than plastic table covering by the roll.  I completed the room with posters of movies, art deco art and magazine covers from the 1930’s, many great conversation pieces (ever heard of ‘Reefer Madness’?  The poster alone is worth checking out!).

Keeping with the theme, using a cardboard beer flat, I made some chocolate cigars and added a little ambiance by having a cigar girl walk around offering “Cigars, Cigarettes”.  After weeks of planning

DeAnza Building Event Ready

DeAnza Building Event Ready

and crafting, my venue was ready for the party.  So, did I do all of this within a reasonable budget and was all the work worth it?  For a party of 75, the final cost of decorations was just under $3 per person, the event which included a fantastic Live Auction was a huge success and attendees raved about it for days, and this is for sure the museum’s newest annual event.  This event is barely to rest and now my mind is spinning with plans for next year.

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Jumping into Blogging

To Blog or not to Blog? Such a big question. Here at this little museum in a relatively small town, we find ourselves hesitantly dipping our toes into new areas of technology and with so much going on we are attempting to test our hand at the world of blogging. No promises on the outcome that will be reached. All we can hope for is to reach out and keep our readers interested and impart a little information about our ever-changing museum.

Right now we are in the middle of planning for not 1 or 2 but 3 big events, with smaller events popping up around us. We are weeks away from the Jack Hayes Prime Rib Dinner Museum Fundraiser. (Yes, here at Magic Lanternthe Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum, we believe in long titles!) This dinner will be set in a 1930’s theme to complement the private preview of the King City Magic Lantern Slides. The museum has recently acquired a 1930’s Balopticon, also known as a Magic Lantern.  We will be providing attendees the opportunity to view firsthand over 180 glass slides of ads from local businesses that range from the early 30’s to mid 40’s that the museum has preserved in its collection.

We are also gearing up to host an exhibition that will be on loan from the Smithsonian from May 31, 2013 to July 28, 2013 called Bittersweet HarPostcard_A_frontvest, The Bracero Program 1942-1964.  The museum will focus on the families’ aspect of the exhibit while planning its programming and is working on a Cultural Community Celebration including dancers, music and original artwork by local youth as well as lectures and a movie based around the program.  The community opening will be held on June 1, so there is a lot to look forward to with this program.

Of course not to be forgotten amongst all of this planning is the annual community celebration, 4th of July in the Park.  This fun day brings the local area to the park to enjoy live music, local food and beverage vendors and a great family activities area featuring fun old-fashioned games and activities.  This event is annually a great opportunity for friends and family to connect as well as support the museum.

With so much going on, and being a new blogger, this site will have to be a work in progress.  Any suggestions will be appreciated.  So, enjoy the story and join me on this adventure into a world of technology that we are hesitantly exploring.

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