The artists and artisans and savants and anarchists of West Berkeley speak of the Wild West, meaning the open and free and funky character of their part of the city. That is not what I am talking about here. Cue theme song for this posting:
CBS Friday nights 1965-1969. Black and white in our house. We watched as a family. Followed by Hogan’s Heroes (cringe – prisoners of war as comedy!).
I am talking here about the myth of the American west, and the several material cultural manifestations of that mythology in Berkeley, a few of which actually reflect a western reality in our early days. We were, after all, a horse town in the beginning.
I must here confess that as a boy I was entranced with the west, although “Ghost Riders in the Sky” scared me.
I played with a Fort Apache playset and lead soldier cowboys and Indians, most of which had been my brother Eric’s.
From the distance and perspective of today, the unthinking, unquestioned hero status which we gave the cowboys and the villain status of Indians is remarkable. I myself do not think that I embraced the exterminatory impulse (I learned this phrase from Tom Englehardt’s brilliant The End of Victory Culture) that the cowboy-Indian dichotomy invited. Trying to be seven again, for this moment, all I can think of is the great fascination that I had with the daily life of the Indians of the Great Plains and the Southwest as learned by the View Master that I got for my birthday in 1958.
My Massachusetts and Pennsylvania boyhood fantasies are reflected in this 1954 Berkeley photo:
Okay. Enough. The “Wild West in Berkeley?”, you ask. Well, sort of. We have a cowboy and an Indian.
We have hitching posts. Relics, still there. I know of four. There may be more.
There are two in Plaza Drive (41 and 42) in the Uplands.
There are two more, on Shattuck, near the Oakland line. You can debate whether they are authentic or original – go ahead, debate. They are there. They Count!
Cool, no? And where there are hitching posts there are horses.
And where there are horses there are horseshoes.
Time out. I know that horseshoes are often hung as talismans against the devil, witchcraft, and bad luck – not as symbols of an equine past.
I acknowledge this intellectually, and I dealt with this weakness in my choice of images on a very personal and emotional level, when a Walking Companion and Photographer who Shall Not Be Named came very close to abandoning his participation in this quest when we found two horseshoes in one day.
That said, I am going for anything that even remotely fits my theme. Horseshoes remotely fit my theme, so here are some:
Where there are horses there are cattle and so there must be cattle guards.
Or at least one. Right across the street from Greenwood Commons. Ron Sipherd pointed it out to me. He’s got an eagle eye and walks a lot. One suspects that it is designed to guard against deer, not cattle, but – still – here it is.
And then log cabins. I can picture two in Berkeley. And I can picture playing with Lincoln Logs. They were the best.
The log cabins of Berkeley, first at 18 Oakvale:
And then on Euclid:
And one on campus:
A fundamental, core principle of Quirky Berkeley is that we stay in Berkeley. This is a rule that is essential for the integrity of the project. So – let’s go to Albany. I know – cheating. But what a log cabin:
Sam’s Log Cabin, 945 San Pablo, Albany. You can see Berkeley from there, and it is a Very Very Good breakfast spot. A perfect one. The owners report that it was built in 1930, that it was a speakeasy, a roadhouse, and an off-track betting book. Best of all is that it was built from a Sears Roebuck kit.
How could I possibly exclude it because of a silly core rule?
A final piece of Western-themed material culture is the dried, bleached animal skull, preferably cattle.
Here are a few. I know that I have seen more. I have 8,000 photos. For good and bad reasons both I don’t have a perfect way of tracking down photos. Lesson learned. So I will add more as I go, starting with these:
I showed my friend these photos. I confessed to him that this posting feels like a reach. A stretch. A suspension of disbelief. It is a lovely concept, but a bare minimum of content that fits. He sensed my doubt. He left the room for a minute and came back.
He handed me this autographed photo. “I was gonna save it for Christmas. But, here, you need it now.” Sally Starr! Queen of childrens television in Philadlephia in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
I saw her in person at the Devon Horse Show in 1964. Here she is there. I was there with Rick Knight and John Bourland and other boys, and we were following some girls from the Baldwin School around.
Well, yes, Sally Starr cheered me up. I asked my friend about the wild west Berkeley photos. He knew that I needed this: