HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUIZ: 2017
One question ten times; four multiple choices. Answers are located at the bottom of the page.
1. From its earliest days, El Cerrito had several neighborhoods named after people from Germany or of German ancestry. Which of the following neighborhoods did not exist in El Cerrito?
a. Schmidtville, an area around Schmidt Lane, which was laid out by two gentlemen named Schmidt and Fink in 1893, one of the earliest subdivisions in the area. It was later followed by “Schmidt Village,” in the vicinity of today’s Schmidt Lane.
b. Rust, named for an early settler William (or Wilhelm) Rust, who operated a hardware shop at the site of today’s Pastime Hardware store.
c. Kaiserville, named for Henry Kaiser, who developed a small neighborhood of upscale homes in the El Cerrito hills for managers at Richmond’s nearby Kaiser Shipyards during World War II.
d. Stege Junction, named after a German immigrant Richard Stege who’d been a fur trader, among other occupations, before marrying Minna Quilfelt, owner of a prosperousranch in Richmond. Stege added frog ponds whose denizens he sold to French restaurants.
2. From at least the mid-1910s through the mid-1950s El Cerrito was awash with gambling dens, prostitution, prize fighting rings, and even a greyhound racing track. Vice flourished in our town because? All, some or none of these may be true.
a. Big time gamblers from out of the area brought their talents to El Cerrito.
b. Few people lived in town so no one complained.
c. The territory was lawless because it was unincorporated.
d. Both lawmakers and law enforcers were on the take.
3. In the late 1990s when city officials contemplated a rebuild of El Cerrito Plaza, help arrived from a member of the royalty. The royal urban reformer was:
a. Then-Prince Willem Alexander of Netherlands, today the King, whose strong interest in infrastructure and ties to leading Dutch architects produced a conceptual plan for solar-paneled buildings.
b. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who became emir of Dubai in 2006, and proposed in 1997 four 10-story towers alongside an outdoor souk-like bazaar to be designed by architects in Dubai along with the American firm of SOM.
c. Prince Charles of England who, working with students from the Wales Summer School of Architecture, proposed a neo-Urbanist plan for the center that was inspired by Old World models of village living.
d. Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, a pretender to the throne of Russia, who was living in San Francisco and teamed up with the family of Paul Hammarberg, the architect who first designed the center, to modernize and refurbish it.
4. In the early 2000s when the city of El Cerrito and the first operators of the Cerrito Theater began restoring the long-closed theater, the Art Deco murals and art glass were intact, but the neon marquee was long gone because:
a. The city demanded that the prior owner remove it for aesthetic reasons.
b. In the mid 1960s the marquee caught fire due to an electrical issue. It was the final straw leading to the theater’s closure for more than 40 years.
c. The city ordered it removed in the 1970s because structural problems were endangering pedestrians.
d. No one knows why it disappeared.
5. Among the many entertainers who brought jollity to El Cerrito, one famous striptease artist occupied a special place in people’s hearts. This was:
a. Gypsy Rose Lee, who performed at the Kona Club regularly from 1935 to 1937. It is said she was discovered at the Kona Club by a Hollywood agent and went on to make her first films.
b. Donna Powers, who went on to fame as “The Girl in the Fish Bowl” at Bimbo’s Club in San Francisco, and as a member of the Richmond City Council, developed her act in the mid 1960s at the last of the night clubs remaining in El Cerrito from the Bad Old Days, the It Club.
c. Sally Rand, who began as a silent film actress and won fame as a fan dancer with Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch at the world’s fair on Treasure Island in 1939, operated and performed at Sally Rand’s Hollywood Club in El Cerrito during the 1940s.
d. Bubble dancer Noel Toy performed in the 1940s at El Cerrito’s only Chinese-themed club, Forbidden City East, a sister club to one in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
6. For a time in the 1970s and 1980s El Cerrito emerged as a leader in the field of recorded music – at least when it came to folk and jazz and related fields. Which of the following labels were based in town:
a. Fantasy Records, which made a mint in the 1960s and beyond from the recording by the El Cerrito band Creedence Clearwater Revival.
b. Arhoolie Records, one of the leading folks labels in the world, focusing on Cajun, bluegrass, Norteno and other kickass music.
c. Kaleidoscope Records which, among other projects, reissued reissue after reissue by the great Western swing artist Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.
d. Theresa Records, which specialized in jazz and featured such artists as Pharoah Sanders, Idris Muhammad and George Coleman.
7. El Cerrito’s city boundaries do not reach the bay. In sections the boundaries do not even go west of San Pablo Avenue. Why? Some, all or none of these answers may be correct.
a. When El Cerrito incorporated 100 years ago, Richmond had already absorbed much of the bayside land into its territory.
b. The land was so swampy and increasingly malodorous that city leaders did not think it was worth adding to the city.
c. Gamblers who ran dens of iniquity in the area were opposed to joining the city.
d. The operators of the Vigorite powder works, which manufactured dynamite along Albany Hill, fought efforts to become part of the city fearing they would face closure.
8. By 1946, El Cerrito’s days as a Mecca of vice were coming to an end. What was causing this? Some, all or none of the following may be true:
a. Prominent citizens formed the Good Government League, threw the rascals out of office and cracked down on criminality.
b. A shootout at San Pablo Avenue and Central avenues between gangsters tied to the Black Jack Jerome and Big Bill Pechart mobs shocked the community and led to police action against the gangsters.
c. Once the war ended and war workers and GIs left the area, business dried up for gamblers, nightclubs and prostitutes.
d. Attorney General Earl Warren, later chief justice of the US Supreme Court, cracked down on the evildoers.
El Cerrito History Quiz
1. C. While it is often said that Kaiser built homes for his managers in the hills there is no evidence that this is so. In fact many of the fine, Period Revival homes that are sometimes cited as Kaiser homes, on such streets as Barrett Avenue, Edwards Avenue and Charles street, were built years before the 1940 opening of the shipyards.
2. All are true at least in part except for “B.” In fact, although El Cerrito only had a few thousand people in the 1920s, complaints about gambling were frequent – so much so that mayor Phil Lee had to defend the city and his administration often. “El Cerrito has been pictured as the home of vice and the center of a hideous vice ring,” he said in defense of the city. “The fact is that El Cerrito is a city of average Americans -- responsible, home-loving people, who work in the industries of the East Bay section.”
“B” is only partially true. Many people say gambling flourished here because the land was unincorporated and thus lawless. But after El Cerrito incorporated in 1917 gambling continued to flourish. What makes the statementpartially true is – once El Cerrito cracked down on gambling and crime in 1946, both continued unabated in the Bayview district on the west side of San Pablo Avenue near Central Avenue until that land was added to the city in 1956.
3. C. Prince Charles. The plan, more a student exercise than a serious proposal, nonetheless was well thought out and called for creating a town square, and in part for returning the Plaza’s layout to a standard street grid for a more town-like atmosphere. For a time city officials did try for more of an “urbanist” rebuild of the Plaza but no developer would go along.
4. A. Harry Kiefer, who used the marquee sign to advertise sales for his store Kiefer’s Furniture, which used the theater for storage, was ordered to remove it in the mid-70s by what he called the city’s “taste board,” probably referring to the Design review Board or a predecessor agency.
5. C. Sally Rand. Her club at San Pablo Avenue near the Albany line later became a jazz venue, Hambone Kelly’s.
6. All except A. Fantasy was and is based in Berkeley. There were other El Cerrito record labels as well.
7. C. Gamblers throughout town opposed the incorporation of El Cerrito. In devising its proposed border, proponents of cityhood carved out areas they knew would vote no to ensure there were enough yes votes to establish a city. Also excluded was the enclave known today as Kensington, where ranchers opposed joining the new city. Vigorite did produce dynamite at Albany Hill – but not after the 1880s.
8. The answer is “A.” Earl Warren did crack down on gambling, but that was in 1939 when he forced closure of the El Cerrito Kennel Club, the dog track. And even then, his action followed much outcry from the public against the track.
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