Columbia in 1970

The Anecdotal History of Columbia

The Anecdotal History of Columbia

As a class project, the students of Mrs. Øydegaard's Hands-on History elective at a local elementary school, gathered a plethora of tales representing each decade of 20th century Columbia State Historic Park history. Columbia, known since the early gold rush years, as the "Gem of the Southern Mines," has been a town since 1850 and a state historic park since 1945. Thousands of school children and other visitors come each year to experience a real gold rush town and, as you can learn from the Columbia Memories recorded here, they keep coming back for a myriad of good reasons.

A memory might not make it into the history book, lacking factual backing, but even so, it ought to have a place to be recorded and shared. Many a memory that seemed too fanciful to be true has been validated by some late-coming evidence. On the other hand, and probably more often, stories are related as fact, when they ought to be retold as “just stories,” lacking significant reality and truth (an “art form” the movie-making industry has perfected).

Here we share our Columbia memories, whether laden with fact or fiction, as well as give readers a chance to compare, validate, or provide the missing factual information making this blog an educational exchange as well as a place to tell our cherished tales of Columbia.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Date: 1970

By James Jorge
For Ben

My earliest memories of Columbia are from my high school years.  I grew up on a small farm in Turlock, California, and spent every waking moment that I can remember outdoors.  There was always something to see or do.  Going to a first through eighth grade parochial school, we did reading, writing, and arithmetic, but not a lot else.  A minimum amount of time was spent on science, but it captured my imagination.  I was fascinated with sciences, and chemistry really captured my interest.  I don’t exactly recall how I acquired this interest but photography seemed to combine the interests I had and I became very interested in photography in the seventh grade.

I purchased a photographic kit with money I had earned working for neighbors on their farms.  It had everything that was needed to develop film and make contact prints of the negatives.  Of course, this led to a greater understanding of photography and better photographic equipment, a passion to photograph anything and everything, and a constant search for subject matter.

My first year of high school I actually got to choose some elective classes and I chose yearbook publications as one of those electives.  This fed a growing love of photography and having access to a fully operational darkroom larger than my closet at home was incredible!  I became close friends with the two other students that were photographers on the yearbook staff and one always spoke of Columbia as a place his parents had taken him as a young child.  He was the first to get his driver's license and at the first weekend opportunity, with the loan of an old Belvedere station wagon from his parents, we packed all our photography gear and headed for this magical place called Columbia State Park.

Seeing Columbia for the first time was unlike anything this farm boy had ever experienced before.  The presence of history was so rich to me that everywhere I turned and everything I saw was fascinating and wonderful and almost overwhelming.  Needless to say, we took photograph after photograph and there was still so much to photograph that Columbia became our destination of choice every weekend for many months.

I have continued to visit since that time and even had the chance to live in Columbia for a short time while working in Sonora in the late 1970’s.  Later in life when I met the girl that would become my wife, we made trips to Columbia with her children and their friends.  After we were married and our family grew, we continued to visit regularly.

Columbia is living history and will always be a special place to me.  A place that was the first adventure with friends, opened my eyes to real history and continues to be a place that we share as a family, a family that has now moved to a new generation.  I started loving Columbia in  my teens, but our children and now our grandchildren have visited Columbia in the first months of their lives, and I hope that when they have children they continue to share Columbia and memories through generations.

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