"The Body in Bodega Bay"

May 12, 2014

Old and more recent events in local history are strands in a brand new mystery novel based on the Sonoma coast, as a pair of frequent visitors from the Midwest set their art-themed novel there. 

  Having two authors share a single, first-person narrative voice can be a tricky balance. Michael Hinden says he and his wife, Besty Draine, manage it by trading off regularly, and through a "non-aggression pact" regarding each other's editorial choices.

Sorting Out 'The Galapagos Affair'

Apr 24, 2014
Zeitgeist Films

  History cites the Galapagos Islands as a key inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the remote island group west of Ecuador has other, more provocative and mysterious chapters in its own history. One of the strangest, from the 1930s, is revealed in the new documentary film, The Galapagos Affair:  Satan Came to Eden.

The Galapagos Affair opens tonight in  at the Rialto Cinema Sebastopol, with the  filmmakers present for an after-screening Q & A session. You can see the trailer for the film below.

Holiday Foolishness in Occidental

Apr 1, 2014

  It may be April Fool’s Day today, but the full celebration of the occasion happens on Saturday, when Occidental holds its 10th annual Fool’s Parade. It’s a long-standing tradition, and one that has an appropriately colorful history. So, here, with a recap of that foolish past, is KRCB’s Bruce Robinson.

For more event details, click here.

"The Lost Landscapes of San Francisco"

Mar 28, 2014

The San Francisco of past decades can still be seen in rare archival film footage, but it’s left up to the audience to identify and comment on what they are seeing, in a featured program making a return appearance at this weekend’s Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. Bruce Robinson offers a preview.

Some scenes that film archivist Rick Prelinger has found show locations that have long since been swallowed by progress. He cites one memorable example, shot in a now-vanished San Francisco cemetery.

Historical Context for Occupy's Tents

Mar 13, 2014

  The most visible and enduring images of the Occupy protests were the communities of tents that sprang up in public spaces across the county, including the lawn outside Santa Rosa’s City Hall.  Whether by design or out of necessity, those encampments were part of a much longer history of outdoor protests in America, as we’re about to hear.

University of Colorado history professor Phoebe Young will be speaking at Sonoma State Friday at noon on “The Occupy Movement, Outdoor Politics and the History of American Camping.” More details here.

Local Civil War History Displayed at Healdsburg Museum

Mar 5, 2014

 You may be surprised to know that back in 1864, Sonoma County was the only county in California that did not support Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election. Santa Rosa was solidly behind the Confederacy, while Petaluma and Healdsburg were deeply divided. Some local history of that era is on display now at the Healdsburg Museum.

The exhibit, “Sonoma County and the Civil War,” currently on display at the Healdsburg Museum through May 4. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11-4, and admission is free.

Historic Figurehead Donated to Museum

Feb 28, 2014
Sonoma County Museum

The Sonoma County Museum offers exhibits of both fine art and local history, and in the latter category, they have just announced an unusual new addition to their permanent collection. Bruce Robinson gets us a bit of a preview.

Further details from the Museum's announcement of the acquisition:

Life in Mexican California

Feb 25, 2014

Between the missions and the ranchos, northern California was a male-dominated realm in the 1870s. But it is from the accounts of a handful of women there that we get an inside picture of what day-to-day life then was really like.

We have these detailed accounts of life in early northern California thanks to the vision of a single man, says Santa Clara University History professor Robert Senkewicz. Fortunately, his vision was unusually inclusive for its time.

Black History Month Film Series Continues

Feb 13, 2014

  February is Black History Month, and one way that is being observed locally is with a mini-film festival, being held on three consecutive Thursday evenings at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa. The second of those three films is being shown tonight, and we get further details on today’s Exchange segment.

The showing of the film “Freedom Riders” is at 7 o’clock this evening, with a discussion to follow. Admission is just $5.

For details on the entire film series, see the flyer posted below.

Shady Characters from Western History

Jan 20, 2014

  History is dotted with notorious characters, and often know their names and not much more about them. A six week extension class beginning tomorrow night at Santa Rosa Junior College aims to fill that gap, and we get a short preview from the instructor.

You can register online for Bruce Elliott's "Shady Characters in Western History" class  here.

A Founding Father of California

Jan 12, 2014

 Father Junipero Serra was a man of curious contradictions, in the view of biographer Greg Orfala , a Spanish priest who saw, and served the Crown by shaping the indigenous culture into the missions that dot California, and even found merit in Native American spirituality.

Though most Californians who recognize the name of Father Serra hold a rosily favorable impression of the priest, there are some who see him as a exemplar of Spanish imperialism in the New World. Serra biographer Gregory Orfalea says neither extreme is an accurate perception of the real man.

Wanted: Home Grown Stories

Nov 29, 2013
Beverley Dorsey McChesney, Santa Rosa.

Were you born and raised Sonoma County? A new book project, called Sonoma County Baby, wants your story. The book will gather stories of people locally born and raised, partly as a celebration of region’s history, partly as a celebration of a new hospital opening soon in Santa Rosa. 

The Race to Save the Record Plant

Nov 11, 2013

  From 1972 into the new century, The Record Plant in Sausalito saw dozens of memorable songs and albums created in its studios. Today, a last-minute fund-raising effort is underway to preserve the space for further music-making.

Recalling the Siege of Khe Sanh

Oct 28, 2013

In early 1968, thousands of US troops were pinned down and bombarded for 11 weeks inside a base and airstrip in the far northwest corner of South Viet Nam. A new documentary offers first-hand accounts of that campaign from Marines who survived it.

  The location of the base at Khe Sanh, not far from the border with Laos, was isolated largely unprotected, recalls Ken Rodgers, with hurried air transports the only connection to the outside during the siege.


Jeju Island

Oct 23, 2013
Nicholas Sismil

 One of Santa Rosa’s Sister Cities is actually an island, where construction of a big new naval base has drawn persistent protests.

While the protests outside the Jeju Island naval base persist, filmmaker Regis Tremblay holds scant hope they will change anything, especially as the South Korean government cracks down on the dissenters.


The Black Panthers Share Their History

Oct 15, 2013

The history of the Black Panther Party will be on full display in Santa Rosa this week, as the Oakland-based activist group holds its yearly reunion in Sonoma County for the first time.

The Anniversary gathering of the Black Panthers is much more than a social event for its members, explains one-time Deputy Minister of Information Elbert “Big Man” Howard. A primary focus is educational, sharing their history with those who may not know much about it.

Martin Lee's "Smoke Signals"

Sep 3, 2013

  The recreational use of marijuana goes back thousands of years, around the world, and medicinal uses of the cannabis plant are just about as ancient. It’s all documented in, Smoke Signals, a new book by another local Sonoma County writer.

Why Did Jack London's Wolf House Burn?

Aug 20, 2013


What started the fire that ruined Jack London’s Wolf House in Glen Ellen almost exactly a century ago? A local London scholar thinks he has traced the answer, and is about to make his theory public.

Pre-History Along the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Aug 6, 2013

Native people dwelt along the Laguna de Santa Rosa for thousands of years, but details about how they lived--and how long they’ve been there-- have only gradually emerged.

Robert Ripley: A Curious Man

Aug 1, 2013

The brand of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not has long outlived its creator, and largely eclipsed the one-time celebrity of the man himself. A new biography revives the details of his improbable life.

  It’s somewhat surprising that the personal history of Robert Ripley has faded from public awareness, agrees biographer Neal Thompson. But without heirs or family to perpetuate his name, it’s also understandable.

Tales of the Russian River

Jul 22, 2013

The Guerneville area has been home to some colorful characters, huge demographic and economic changes, and for the past 50-plus years, a hometown historian who likes nothing better than sharing the stories that he’s compiled.

Having lived near Guerneville since the 1960s, local historian John Schubert has also been a first-hand witness to a good deal of change. He says the region’s housing stock has been a good yardstick for tracking the evolution of the local population and business community.

Cotati Celebrates 50 Years as a City

Jul 11, 2013
Bruce Robinson, KRCB

A few months after Rohnert Park observed its 50th anniversary, the City of Cotati is about to do the same. But the smaller city actually has a much longer and more intriguing history.

  It’s no accident that people have lived in what is now Cotati for centuries, says Pru Draper, the city’s unofficial historian. It’s well positioned for human habitation, then and now.

Haslam’s Hayakawa Biography

Jul 4, 2013

  Dr. S.I. Hayakawa was a colorful and polarizing figure in California politics in the 1960s and '70s. But an award-winning biography of the noted semanticist traces an unexpectedly complex history before that notoriety enveloped him.

Hayakawa’s academic credentials were established early on, says his biographer, Gerland Haslam. But in the 1940s and ‘50s, Hayakawa’s Japanese-American status stood in the way of his career advancement.


Grace Slick's New Medium

May 15, 2013
Joel Lipton

For much of her life, the White Rabbit has been an iconic image for Grace Slick. Once the central metaphor for her huge hit with the Jefferson Airplane, the rabbit now serves as a signature element in her prolific paintings.

Wappo Indians, Then and Now

Apr 4, 2013

The biggest thing standing between the small Wappo tribe of North Bay Indians and their goal of regaining official recognition from the federal government could be a potential casino they’re not sure they would ever build.

Tall Ships Return to Bodega Bay

Apr 1, 2013

They’re back! Following a wildly successful debut visit last spring, a pair of tall-masted wooden sailing ships will return this afternoon to Bodega Bay, one year to the day after their local debut.

  Ticket information, reservations and a schedule of activities are all available from the Tall Ships website. The two vessels will visit Bodega Bay April 2-8, before sailing on to Eureka.

Wednesday, March 20 at 8 pm

During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Southern-born, Chicago-raised and New York-made Sister Rosetta Tharpe (rt) introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music into the secular world of popular rock ‘n roll, inspiring the male icons of the genre. This flamboyant African-American gospel superstar, with her spectacular virtuosity on the newly electrified guitar, was a natural-born performer and a rebel—one of the most important singer-musicians of the 20th century.

The Making of 'Rebels With a Cause'

Mar 15, 2013
Kelly-Yamamoto films

The thousands of acres of open space and shoreline now protected and accessible to the public might not be there but for the efforts of a handful of visionary conservationists just few generations ago. A new documentary by a couple of North Bay film-makers  tells their story. Bruce Robinson has theirs.

See below for upcoming screening dates, and a map showing the footprint of the proposed Marincello development.

The Parallels of Pearl Harbor and 9/11

Feb 14, 2013

When the 9/11 attacks rocked America, Muslim communities here had no idea what to expect. But survivors of the Japanese internment camps during World War II did, and many were quick to act on that experience.

The Day of Remembrance workshop in Sebastopol will be held at the Enmanji Temple from 1-3 pm on Saturday, Feb. 16. It’s free, but advance reservations are requested. Further details in the flyer below.

Social Justice Posters

Feb 6, 2013

A history of social activism in the bay area can be found in a Berkeley man's collection of thousands of political posters, newly documented in the book, All of Us or None by Oakland archivist Lionel Cushing. Today's North Bay Report takes a peek inside.