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Sparks from the Anvil
The Castro Adobe
Chung Mei Home


One question ten times; four multiple choices. Answers are located at the bottom of the page.

1. Camp Herms in the El Cerrito Hills, a Boy Scout camp since 1930, is one of the most amazing spots in the city. One of its features is a stone-walled swimming pool that was built to resemble:
a. A 14th century French fortified hill town
b. The pool at San Francisco’s Sutro Baths
c. The Mayan temple of Chac Mool in the Yucatan
d. The Valley of the Kings in Egypt

2. One towering figure in American jurisprudence played a lead role in halting gambling and vice in El Cerrito in the mid-20th century. Who?
a. Louis Brandeis
b. Thurgood Marshall
c. Rose Bird
d. Earl Warren

3. Over the years, businessmen and other big shots from Berkeley have created institutions in or around El Cerrito that they wanted nearby – but not in their own town. Which of these is not one of those? More than one answer may be correct:
a. Sunset View Cemetery
b. El Cerrito Plaza
c. The sewage plant at Point Isabel
d. Mira Vista Country Club

4. El Cerrito’s Recycling Center has long been one of the most popular, even beloved spots in town. Yet for a time it raised a major ruckus because: (More than one answer may be correct)
a. Poor sanitation led to a plague of rats running into people’s yards
b. Trucks and cars caused traffic jams and noise as they lined up to sell cans and bottles and paper to the recycling center
c. An industrial sized glass crusher could be heard crashing and bashing from half a mile away
d. The City Council tripled garbage fees to pay for losses generated by recycling

5. The first European, or American or Mexican, of European descent who is known to have visited what is today El Cerrito is:
a. Juan Cabrillo in 1542
b. Sir Francis Drake in 1579
c. Pedro Fages in 1772
d. John C. Fremont in 1847

6.For many years we had an area called “No-Man’s Land.” Where was it and why did it take on that name?
a. The area west of San Pablo Avenue and south of Central Avenue, because of gambling and crime.
b. The area west of San Pablo Avenue between PotreroAvenue and Cutting Boulevard, because it was all flower growers and industrial.
c. The area of today’s Hillside Natural Area near the present Recycling Center, because it was used for quarrying and dynamite was frequently used to loosen rock.
d. The Rifle range area in today’s Wildcat Canyon, because of the shooting that occurred there

7. Japanese flower growers based in El Cerrito and Richmond once made up an important business sector in West Contra Costa County. At least two structures associated with this era of the history of El Cerrito Japanese American community remain. They are:
a. The former Chamber of Commerce Building, a stone-facedstructure just down from City Hall on San Pablo Avenue.
b. The cute but now unused, brick-faced Bead Biz Building, on San Pablo Avenue across from El Cerrito Plaza.
c. What is now the Old West Gun Room on Carlson Boulevard.
d. What is now Trevino’s Mexican Restaurant on San Pablo Avenue in the north end of town.
8. El Cerrito Plaza has been the site for many important things – but not what? More than one answer may be correct
a. The original Mexican residence in town, the Victor Castro Adobe
b. A thoroughbred horse track
c. A drive-in theater
d. A roller rink

One of the major industries in town was TEPCO (Technical Porcelain and China Ware Co.) which manufactured dishware and much more for restaurants, individuals, hotels, even the military, from 1918 to 1968. Where can you go around here to find physical memories of this institution?   (More than one answer may be correct):
a. “Bubble dancer” Sally Rand
b. “Miss Calypso” Maya Angelou
c. Adele and Larry Rogers
d. Isadora Duncan

10. The first dwelling built by people of European descent in El Cerrito, the Castro Adobe, from the 1840s, is no longer with us. Why not?
a. It deteriorated after years of use as a gambling hall and was condemned by the building department in 1947.
b. It was torn down after World War II to make way for the Motor Movies, a drive-in that occupied the site that’s now El Cerrito Plaza.
c. It burned down in 1956, shortly before the Plaza was built, in a suspected arson.
d. It was demolished by a firm that used its original bricks to reconstruct the Alvarado Adobe in San Pablo, where portions of the Castro Adobe can be admired today.

El Cerrito History Quiz

1. C. 

2. D. 

3. B. and C. EC Plaza, which was primarily a local project supported by the city and aimed at a local market, and the sewage plant, which was built by Stege Sanitary District which serves EC and the Annex and Kensington. Sunset View was built by and at the time for Berkeleyans; Mira Vista was originally the Berkeley Country Club.

4. B. From 1978-1981 the recycling center ran a buy-back program, using state funds to buy heavy equipment. When they folded the program due to community anger they shifted that equipment to the Berkeley recycling center on Gilman Street.

5. C. Pedro Fages

6. A. This is where the Chinese gambling halls existed in the teens, then many of the larger gambling joints, including the Wagon Wheel. The area had other problems too, including illegal (and legal – a city of EC dump was there briefly) dumping, and flooding during storms accompanied by sewage overflows.) The name came from the area between the trenches in World War I.

7. A and B. A is the former Mabuchi Flower shop, with their home behind it; Bead Biz is the former County Line Cleaners run by a Japanese-American family

8. B and D. It was the site of a dog track, not a horse track.

9. A, C and D. At the very end of Central Avenue, south of the sewage overflow plant, is “Tepco Beach.” If you walk beneath the bluff at low tide you are crunching thousands of TEPCO shards, dumped there decades ago. The DMV is the site of the TEPCO plant. Shards of TEPCO porcelain can be found along the lower part of Motorcycle Hill, maybe leftovers from skeet shooting?