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A Valentine’s Day throwback: Love in our letters

In 1922, Firgie Todd wanted to make a shirt for her boyfriend, Charlie Smith. Todd had forgotten to take Smith’s measurements the last time she’d seen him, however, and the two lived far apart, on opposite ends of Humboldt County, California.

But Todd, a clever woman, had a plan:

“I do not suppose you have a tape measure,” wrote Todd in a Dec. 11, 1922 letter. “So I shall enclose a piece of string, and you please cut it off the length of the inside seam.”

The charming correspondence can be found in a box of material on the family of James Samuel Todd — a Presbyterian minister who moved to California in 1868. Firgie Todd was James Todd’s granddaughter, and hers is one of many love letters living in The Bancroft Library.

The letters, which go back to at least 1851, when the California Gold Rush tore many a lover apart, document the quirks and pains of love through war, separation, and cultural strife. In a pre-digital, largely pre-automobile world, the letters show the resolve and resourcefulness of long-distance relationships, kept alive through streams of affection and babble. In many cases, letters traveled between lovers as if on a merry-go-round, coming and going precisely each week.

And so, for the lover in you this Valentine’s Day, here’s some inspiration from lovers past, pulled from the troves of the Bancroft collection. The quotes are grouped by common themes that reflect the sentiments of nearly 120 letters between seven pairs of lovers.

1. It’s always darkest before the dawn

“When I cast my eyes over the much-valued lines of your letters, I can almost imagine that Carrie is near me. I can hear her sweet and gentle voice. It leads me to ask myself how long will it be before I shall have the pleasure of seeing you. O, may the time be as fleeting as the tears of an infant.” — James J. Bxxxx, who signed his name like that, writing from Drayton, Georgia, on March 21, 1856 to a woman named Carrie.

“I am waiting for the day when you will be telling me that there is too much pepper and not enough salt.” — Eva Weintrobe to Morris Davis on March 3, 1938.

Weintrobe worked as a seamstress in Liverpool. The couple wrote back and forth for a year — breaking up once or twice over some hastily written letters — until Weintrobe left her family in England to marry Davis, an American in New York.

“I, who kept on telling you to think of the future whenever the loneliness of the present would sadden you, I feel depressed and disheartened a la folie. … Don’t scold me for it Lily — It is only a passing weakness, and will be short-lived. … [T]here is a balm for my ailment, and that is the very first of your cheering smiles,” wrote Nathan Edelman to future wife Lily Pokvidz on Sept. 7, 1931. Pokvidz, an author and educator, was born in San Francisco and lived in Petaluma during the couple’s courtship. Edelman was studying languages at the time and became an expert in French literature. They often worried that Edelman would be drafted to fight in World War II.

2. Dating without a cellphone could get a little ridiculous

In 1943, a young man named Robinson Jeffers often snuck into the bedroom of Connie Flavin Palms, in Carmel, California. Their secret meetings were arranged on scraps, folded into pieces no larger than a finger, and exchanged at various meeting points:

“I must see you — I must. Nothing can prevent us from having an hour together sometime. I was thinking — if I knew where your room is — I’d climb up and scratch on your window — some night at 3 a.m. — it would only take two hours to walk there — and you’d let me in — so beautiful but a dream. I love you forever. …

“Telephone before 10 p.m. if possible. If someone else answers, ask her to tell me that you saw Pigeon Point light from here — and I’ll look for you at 11. Or, say New Year’s Point light, and I’ll look for you at three. I love you. I love you. I love you.”              

3. Distance makes the mind go crazy

“I’ll never be whole till you return to me, I must have you at my side, with me, around me, in me … the present remains incomplete without you; music, which I adore, sounds flat … yes! even Gilbert and Sullivan! — sound frivolous.” — Nathan Edelman to Lily Pokvidz on Sept. 7, 1931.

“Darling, there is no one like you in all the world — every gesture beautiful, and every inflection of your voice and movement of your mind. I think of you every instant — really — day and night — don’t you feel it? It is very hard not to be able to see you, and hear you, and touch you. … The night is wild/With stars but ours/Has not risen yet/Some might it will/— sometime soon —/I hope I don’t go/Mad first.” — Robinson Jeffers to Connie Flavin Palms, 1943 (date unknown). 

4. Letters were essential, and people got salty over delays

“What made you think I was sore with you about something? If it was because I did not answer sooner, I want you to know that I am not a person of leisure and have not much time for letter writing. … You asked me again why I do not write more sentimental and intimate letters. I am not a poet and cannot express my feelings in black and white and feel I will not be doing justice to my feelings.” — Eva Weintrobe to Morris Davis, April 10, 1936.

“When you will write, I shall feel once more in contact with you — but you must write me all your thoughts and share all your emotions with me; you must let your pen run as if your mind; free and open, were expressing itself without any restraint whatever; I wish to feel you through your letters, and by adoring the Lily I shall divine between the lines, I will find a year’s waiting more bearable.” — Nathan Edelman to Lily Pokvidz, Sept. 7, 1931.

“I’ve read and read your precious letter — it’s the strangest thing how the older we get, the harder I find our separation, no matter of how short duration. To bear, I clutch at every scrap of letter to shorten the gaps and narrow the distances.” — Lily Edelman to Nathan Edelman, Jan. 1, 1943.

“Dear Carrie, I anticipated an epistle from the last mail, but was sadly disappointed. You can not imagine my feelings when I called at the office. … No letter from Carrie, one that I love.” — James J. Bxxxx to Carrie, April 18, 1856. 

5. If you liked it then you should’ve bought a house for it

“You don’t know how I long to see you to hold you in my arms and call you my own but I don’t know when that will be again. Money is what I want for I know I have got to have that before I can claim you. … I shall not come until I can offer you a home, and I presume you will be married before that time comes for it will be years before I can do that, and you will get tired of waiting.” — A man named Ralph, writing from Corning, California, to Myrtie on March 9, 1880.

6. Late night letter writing could get a little PG-13

“Never can I forget the ecstatic thrill of thy sweet kiss or the rapture of folding thy lovely form to my bosom.” — Gold miner Alfred to his fiancee, Orpha, on Aug. 7, 1851.

“Well dearest it is now ten o’clock and I must get my bath and get to bed, for tomorrow is another day. If my darling girl was with me tonight ten o clock would be quite early, even two o’clock in the morning was early sometimes.” — William H. Staniels Jr. writing to fiancee Marianna Monkhouse on Sept. 29, 1920. (The couple fell in love in Berkeley, spending most days in nature. They were engaged six weeks after meeting.)

“As much as I should like to travel the world over, like a master of the planet, I could forget that yearning, in your presence. With your hand in mine, and a deep, soulful kiss from you, and with you next to me everywhere, in everything, I would have the bliss of an eternity.” — Nathan Edelman to Lily (Pokvidz) Edelman, early to mid-1900s.

7. Love painted adversity in rose gold

In 1851, a man named Alfred moved to Iowa City, California, to work in the mines during the height of the Gold Rush. Here’s an excerpt from a letter to his fiancee, Orpha, written Aug. 7, 1851:

“Amid all the disappointments and vexations of California life, I have still the same unimpeachable assurance that there is one that loves me. … And my greatest study now is to make myself worthy of that love. Come what may I hope at least to have an honest heart to give in return. …

“I wanted to send you enough to do your little fix me up, but expenses since I have been here have taken all the money I had so I can’t help it without borrowing, and that I dislike. … I must ever admire the expression of yours, about wealth, that the ‘wealth of a cottage is love.’ Well then, Dearest Orpha, we may be wealthy if I should make nothing by this long sojourn in California. But still I believe that I will make a few hundred dollars here. … [T]he boys all say that we will make from five hundred to two thousand here, but how little we know. …

“I believe this letter is the poorest one that I have written in California. My excuse is that I have worked very hard for five weeks past and now my hands are so badly bruised that I can’t hold a pen. But you know one thing, that it comes from one whose heart is yours until death.”

The Berkeley Remix: Season 3 of the Oral History Center’s Podcast

Listen to Season 3 Episode 1 of our podcast now known as The Berkeley Remix.

First Response: AIDS and Community in San Francisco

This podcast is about the politics of the first encounters with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The six episodes draw from the thirty-five interviews that Sally Smith Hughes conducted in the 1990s. A historian of science at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Office, Sally interviewed doctors, nurses, researchers, public health officials and community-health practitioners to learn about the unique ways that people responded to the epidemic. Although these interviews cover a wide range of topics, including the isolation of the virus HIV and the search for treatments, the interviews we selected for this podcast are more focused on public health, community engagement, and nursing care. Most of the following podcast episodes are about the period from early 1981, when the first reports emerged of an unknown disease that was killing gay men in San Francisco, to 1984 and the development of a new way of caring for people in a hospital setting.

Episode 1 explores what it was like to be gay in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s, before people became aware of the epidemic.

Visit The Berkeley Remix for release of Episodes 2-6 each Wednesday.

In Memory of Ruth Bancroft 9/2/1908 – 11/26/2017

Photo of Ruth Bancroft in The Ruth Bancroft Garden
Ruth Bancroft, photo courtesy of The Ruth Bancroft Garden, photographer unknown

UC Berkeley alumna Ruth Petersson Bancroft, founder of The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and well-known expert in dry gardening, passed away at the age of 109 on Nov. 26. Her oral history, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California: Creation in 1971 and Conservation, conducted in 1991 and 1992, is described by interviewer Suzanne B. Riess as “…the amazing chronicle of the growth of a passionate gardener, from her childhood recollections of spring wildflowers on the hills of an earlier, bucolic Berkeley, to her current triumphs, and the tribulations of stewardship of a garden more or less in the public trust.”

The daughter of first-generation Swedish immigrants, Ruth Petersson was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Berkeley, California when her father landed a professorship at UC Berkeley. Of her childhood, she said, “I spent a lot of time wandering around and also over into Wildcat Canyon, just looking at the wildflowers and I think that’s what started me in the interest of wildflowers…” Although Ruth originally studied architecture as one of the only women in the program at UC Berkeley, the Great Depression hit and so for the sake of job security, she switched her career to education. It was during her time as a teacher of home economics in Merced that she met Philip Bancroft, Jr., the grandson of Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose 60,000-volume book collection began the Bancroft Library. After they married, the couple moved onto the Bancroft Farm in the East Bay. The Bancroft family sold much of their land to the city of Walnut Creek as it expanded over the years. Later, in 1971, Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave the last 3-acre plot of walnut orchards to his wife in order to house her extensive collection of succulents.

Though The Ruth Bancroft Garden now boasts a beautiful display of water-conserving plants, the garden was not without its hardships at the beginning. Just a few months after Bancroft began her garden, a severe freeze in December killed nearly all that she had planted. Still, she persevered. “Well, I started again the next year… I figured it doesn’t happen that often, and you can’t just not replant those same things, because they might have another twenty years before they’d be killed again. So I’m just replanting. Have to start over again.” To this, Riess queried, “You didn’t think in some way you had been given a message?” Bancroft laughed and replied, “No.”

A long-time friend of Bancroft and former manager at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Wayne Roderick said, “I would classify Ruth as a genuine dirt gardener. She’s out there doing things with her bare hands. She would be out in the garden by seven at the latest, and for the first hour she was weeding the path of the little spotted spurge, hand-weeding those paths until her knees would get so sore from the rocks, the gravel. That’s what I mean by a genuine dirt gardener.” In addition to Bancroft’s hands-on style of working, she also kept meticulous records as she created her garden. An invaluable addition to her oral history is the transcription of the entirety of her handwritten notes on the garden’s first year, cataloguing every trial and triumph. Riess urges in her introduction to the oral history, “Any gardener will do well to read that year of Ruth’s journal, to see the value of a journal, as well as the work involved in realizing a dream, and the necessity of being willing to weed!”

Over the years, Bancroft also had many helpers that contributed to the development of her impressive creation, such as Lester Hawkins, who created the original design of the garden, and her husband Philip. Roderick recalls, “Phil Bancroft just adored Ruth, and he wanted her to have anything she wanted. He did everything he could to help her. I don’t think Phil thought about the garden continuing, but he certainly was there to make sure she got what she wanted for the place. He was a farmer-type, but he enjoyed seeing the garden, and he was willing to get in and help.” Later, her garden would inspire fellow gardener Francis Cabot to create the Garden Conservancy, of which the Ruth Bancroft Garden became the first of many private gardens to be preserved for the public.

Still, through all of the international recognition and acclaim she received, Bancroft maintained a simple and genuine love for gardening: “You never know just what’s going to bloom when, during the summer. And a lot of the bloom just lasts a day, or possibly two days. It’s interesting to see what there is, and catch it before it’s gone.” When asked whether she had had a mission for the garden, she replied, “I just started it for the fun of it, and the enjoyment of it. I had no idea that people would be looking at it, no idea at all.“

The Ruth Bancroft Garden will hold a public, all-day celebration of Bancroft’s life on February 17th, 2018.

Maggie Deng
Oral History Center Student Assistant

Announcing the Release of the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project

The world of firefighting is much more than masked people in uniforms running into burning buildings and rescuing scared cats from trees. While the bravery of firefighters can’t be overestimated, they also work in a complex system that requires constant training and education, a cohesive partnership with local government, extensive procedures and protocols, managerial oversight, effective communication within departments and to the public, acute familiarity with the local and regional environment, and a whole lot of administrative work. The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) is a shining example of how people make a civil service operation run and keep people safe. All of these elements, as well as the historic and cultural aspects of the department, are why we chose it as our focus for our California Fire Departments Oral History Project.

The project was originally conceived by Sarah Wheelock, an independent researcher. She wanted to explore several major thematic areas of firefighting in California and she worked with the Oral History Center to do just that. With great sadness we learned that Sarah passed away in 2014 and thus she was unable to see the project through to completion. Taking over the project in 2016, I wanted to honor her original plan and cover the themes that she had outlined. So, I decided to embark on interviews within one department – the SFFD – to document the ways in which they have handled urban fire, climate change, diversity, technological change, and changing demographics.

The SFFD was founded in 1849 and was run by volunteers. It became a paid department, officially integrated into city government, in 1866. The 150th anniversary of the paid department was in 2016, when I was conducting interviews. Given my budget for the project, I was able to interview six people who worked with the SFFD in different capacities. I wanted to include multiple perspectives to understand the organizational, cultural, geographic, economic, and political systems of one of the oldest departments in the country.

The individuals who I interviewed were able to illustrate many of the themes that I wanted to document, and much more. Among the six people I interviewed were Chief Robert Demmons (the first and only African American chief of the SFFD who instrumental in integrating more more women and people of color into the SFFD), Bill Koenig (longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Jim Lee (also a longtime firefighter and co-founder of Guardians of the City and the SFFD Museum), Steve Nakajo (member of the SFFD Fire Commission), Lt. Anne Young (one of the first females hired), and Jonathan Baxter (longtime paramedic and current Public Information Officer). 

These interviews work in concert to illustrate day-to-day operations in the stations, administrative duties, how the city of San Francisco and the department work together, the relationship between paramedics and the department, training, equipment, fire science school, the role of unions, the challenges and triumphs of integrating the departments, the public perception of the department, the role of innovation and changing technology, cultural changes in the department, challenges in fire safety particular to the geography of San Francisco, and the hopes for the future of the SFFD.

It is with great excitement that we present the California / San Francisco Fire Departments Oral History Project. I want to give a special thanks to all of the narrators for sharing their stories with me and helping me to document one of the most historically significant fire departments in our country.

This project is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Wheelock. Her California Firefighter oral histories from the 2000s will be released in early 2018. 

Bancroft Fellowships & Awards

The Bancroft’s Fellowships and Awards page has been updated to include The Donald Sidney-Fryer Fellowship. Submission deadlines for awards and fellowships vary, but for those listed below, apply by 5 PM on Monday, February 5th, 2018.

  • The Bancroft Library Meylan Study Award assists advanced graduate students from any recognized institution of higher education in the United States or abroad, and is funded by the Edward F. and Marianne E. Meylan Fellowship Fund. Not offered every academic year.
  • The Bancroft Library Summer Study Award assists advanced graduate students from any University of California campus and is funded by the Friends of the Bancroft Library.
  • The Arthur J. Quinn Memorial Fellowship, established in memory of Professor of Rhetoric Arthur Quinn (1942-1997), supports research by doctoral candidates in the history of California.
  • The Gunther Barth Fellowship supports undergraduate or graduate students researching the 19th-century history of the North American West. $2500
  • The Reese Fellowship, available to qualified researchers, supports work relating to either systematic bibliography of any part of the Western Hemisphere, or any investigation of the history of the book in the Americas. $2500
  • The Robert E. Levinson Fellowship, available to qualified researchers, supports original research relating to the depth and breadth of the Jewish experience in California from 1848 to 1915. $1000
  • The Donald Sidney-Fryer Fellowship, available to qualified researchers, supports research relating to the Clark Ashton Smith’s literary circle. $2500

Undergraduate

To apply, please see the Fellowships and Awards page for application instructions.

Voices in Confinement: A Digital Archive of Japanese American Internees

The Bancroft Library is pleased to announce the publication of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Digital Archive.

Notice of Japanese American Evacuation
Image credit: Lange, Dorothea –San Francisco, California. 4/11/42

The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Digital Archive is the result of a two-year grant generously funded by the National Park Service as part of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. The grant titled, “Voices in Confinement: A Digital Archive of Japanese American Internees”, includes approximately 150,000 original items including the personal papers of internees, correspondence, extensive photograph collections, maps, artworks and audiovisual materials.

Selected from Bancroft’s vast holdings, these rich and often requested collections were digitally captured as high-quality archival TIFFs for preservation. Access images were created as JPEG image files and text searchable PDF formats for optimal accessibility. The project website provides context to our comprehensive digital archive with pointers to collection guides on the Online Archive of California and curated searches of digitized objects on the Calisphere website.

The project builds upon a previous grant conducted between 2011-2014 to digitize 100,000 pages from the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study. Together, these collections form one of the premier sources of digital documentation on Japanese American Confinement found anywhere.

View the Japanese American Evacuation & Resettlement Digital Archive Website: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/jacs

This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior.  

Connections and Friendships: Roger Samuelsen’s Years with the University of California

New to the Oral History Center: Connections and Friendships: Roger Samuelsen’s Years with the University of California

Roger Samuelsen has held a number of key administrative positions for the University of California System. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s School of Law in 1964, Samuelsen was the Director of the UC’s Natural Reserve System from 1974 until 1991. He subsequently served on the Executive Staff to the Site Selection Task Force, which was responsible for recommending to the President and The Regents the site of the tenth campus, and assumed several leadership roles during the early development of UC Merced. Throughout his career, he has maintained a deep involvement in UC Berkeley, and served on multiple boards and committees. He has also served on boards and committees with the Save the Redwoods League, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, and the Orinda Community Church.

This oral history is, like many of those that are part of the University History series, the continuation of institutional history by means of a life story. Through the life of Roger Samuelsen, we learn about the history of the development of the Natural Reserve System of the University of California; the site selection for the tenth campus of the UC system, UC Merced; and the changing fortunes and evolution of UC Berkeley, his alma mater and an important lifelong focus.

What immediately became apparent as I was preparing for this oral history was the enthusiasm his friends and former colleagues showed for the project. The refrain was that Roger was a key driver in the institutions that he helped to found and develop. As I began to work with Roger, I wanted to understand this particular species of administrator in the UC system. For many years, Roger was the director of the Natural Reserve System, which he shepherded from its initial foundation to encompass dozens of sites across California, preserving and guaranteeing access to unique ecosystems for the benefit of the public, students, and the international scientific community.

What did it take to succeed in roles such as these? Like the organisms in the ecosystems he worked to preserve, Roger fit well into the ecosystem of the University of California. When he graduated from UC Berkeley, Roger was passionate about student life and politics, and was already well developed to lead a purposeful life. After training as a lawyer, he immersed himself in the elements that make up higher education in California: laws, rules, institutions, money, and people, most of all people. This immersion would serve him well in his second career helping to develop the recommendations for the final site of the tenth campus of the University of California – UC Merced.

Both the NRS and the UC Merced site-selection stories turn on the use of land in California. It is difficult to think of a more contentious domain with more numerous stakeholders.  It will become apparent in this oral history that the key to success in managing these contentious spaces was Roger’s passion for the people and nature of California. He developed strong bonds with the people with whom he worked in the course of his career. He grew to share the deeper purpose of the preservation of the diversity of life in these precious ecosystems of California, and the preservation of the diversity of opportunity that the University of California represents. To that end, he has devoted uncounted hours volunteering his time and efforts to strengthen the university by helping to raise funds and administer programs for the university system and even K-12 schools. Since his encounters with Clark Kerr as a young man, Roger has spent his life fostering the furtherance of the democratic ideal of California education.

I am concerned that Roger’s humility and care for others sometimes obscured the extent of his roles in these larger stories. You will note that he readily deflects attention away from himself and toward the work and importance of his friends, family, and colleagues. For Roger, this oral history was in many ways an exercise in the expression of gratitude. But it is also perhaps an example of how he has lived a life very deeply connected to others.

Paul Burnett, Berkeley, CA

Hadley Roff: A Life in Politics, Government and Public Service

Photograph of Hadley RoffNow available: Hadley Roff: A Life in Politics, Government and Public Service Oral History Transcript with video excerpts below. Hadley Roff (1931-2016) was a top aid and advisor to four San Francisco mayors from 1967 to 1992: Joseph Alioto, Dianne Feinstein, Art Agnos and Frank Jordan. He attended Stanford University from 1950 to 1954 where he was editor of the Stanford Daily. From 1957 to 1964 he was a night beat reporter for the S.F. News. He became a vocal advocate for firefighter safety and was beloved by the San Francisco Fire Department, serving on the Fire Commission beginning in 1995. In these interviews, Roff recalls the turbulence in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s: Harvey Milk’s and George Moscone’s assassinations in 1978, Jonestown, the early years of the AIDS crisis. He recalls events on the national stage as they played out in San Francisco: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and Watergate, among others. In 1992 Roff was press secretary for Dianne Feinstein’s senatorial campaign, and head of her California senate staff office from 1992 to 1995.

COLLECTIONS as CONNECTORS Holdings from Off-Center

by Steven Black, Bancroft Acquisitions

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
–William Butler Yeats, from “The Second Coming”

As they do in a teeming metropolis, connections occur naturally among collections in libraries and other repositories. These linkages may involve ideas and people, whether by description (cataloging and metadata), archival arrangement, researcher access and review, or, in the case of a new exhibit at The Bancroft Library, by time-shifted serendipity.

“The Summer of Love, from the Collections of The Bancroft Library” fortuitously brings together two representative figures who, in 1967, circled each other warily, but never met.

Joan Didion
Joan Didion in Golden Gate Park’s Panhandle, near Oak and Ashbury, 1967, photographed by Ted Streshinsky, BANC PIC 2004.132–NEG, M674-2, frame 9A

Joan Didion’s reportage in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” is highlighted in a timely Bancroft exhibition along with images of the hippie scene in San Francisco taken by photographer Ted Streshinsky.

One thread running through her piece (in a reproduction of her typescript essay as submitted for later book publication) is a search for the Communication Company printer and publisher Chester Anderson.

Chester Anderson
Photo of Chester Anderson from the back cover of The Butterfly Kid. New York : Pyramid Books, 1967., p PS3551.N358 B8 1967

Funded by proceeds from his cult-hit novel The Butterfly Kid (1967), Anderson arrived in the Haight district of San Francisco just as the seeds for the coming “Summer of Love” were sown.  In January 1967 he purchased a state-of-the-art mimeograph machine from Gestetner “to provide quick & inexpensive printing service for the hip community.”

Among the works issued by this newest member of the Underground Press Syndicate were innumerable Diggers flyers and handbills, a chapbook by Richard Brautigan (All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace), revolutionary manifestos, notices for performances, the Invisible Circus, other happenings, and street level public service announcements.

Gentleness: a play in infinite acts ., 1967, The Communication Company, publisher Chester Anderson papers, BANC MSS 92/839 c, box 1, folder 3

In her quest, Didion describes meeting Com/Co’s co-founder, who (she writes) “says his name is Claude Hayward, but never mind that because I think of him just as The Connection.”

As she is on assignment for a mainstream publication, Didion is considered (in a Diggers phrase-du-jour) to be “a media poisoner.” The Connection urges her to dump the photographer she is with “and get out on the Street” leaving her cash (“You won’t need money”) behind.

Responding to her request to speak directly with Chester Anderson, The Connection says:  “If we decide to get in touch with you at all, we’ll get in touch with you real quick.” Although she crosses paths with The Connection again that spring in the Panhandle during an agitprop intervention by the San Francisco Mime Troupe, his passive refusal to hook her up rebuts his street-inflected nickname.

Joan Didion was unable to find the oracular man who could ostensibly help her understand “the scene,” or genius loci. Despite this missed connection with Chester Anderson, by detailing her forays into the Haight-Ashbury and other hippie enclaves around San Francisco, Didion captured in prose a time in violent flux. “Slouching” became the title essay of her celebrated first book of non-fiction, securing her reputation as a caustic and insightful social seismograph.

janis didion excerpt
Joan Didion papers, BANC MSS 81/140 c, carton 1

Today their works are co-located in Bancroft’s Summer of Love retrospective: two radically different writers can be seen in a long-delayed meeting that eluded them in real life.

*                          *                          *

Provenance notes:

Joan Didion (1934-) Joan Didion’s manuscript (BANC MSS 81/140 c carton 1) came to The Bancroft Library as a gift of the author.

Chester Valentine John Anderson (1932-1991) Chester Anderson’s papers (BANC MSS 92/839 c) came to The Bancroft Library via friend and fellow underground journalist Paul Williams.

Paul Williams (1948-2013) founded Crawdaddy, the first zine of rock and roll journalism (predating Rolling Stone), authored many works of hippie (Apple Bay: or, Life on the planet) and new age journalism (Das Energi), books on Bob Dylan and Philip K. Dick (whose literary executor he was, for close to 20 years). Through his imprint Entwhistle Books, he published two books by Chester Anderson:  Fox & hare : the story of a Friday night (f PS3551.N358 F6 1980 Bancroft) and Puppies (p PS3572.A395 P9 1979 Bancroft) under Anderson’s pseudonym John Valentine.

Ted Streshinsky (1923–2003) Ted Streshinsky’s photo archive (BANC PIC 2004.132) was a gift of his wife Shirley.

Public Presentation: The Kitchen Sisters’ Nikki Silva in Conversation with Shanna Farrell

Join us on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 for a special evening with Nikki Silva of the award-winning Kitchen Sisters. She will talking about her work with oral history, radio, and their new project, The Keepers. OHC’s Shanna Farrell will be moderating the conversation. This event, free and open to the public, will be serve as our Advanced Oral History Summer Institute’s keynote presentation.

Tuesday, August 8

6 – 7:30pm

MLK Jr Student Union, Tilden Room

5th Floor

Nikki Silva is one half of “The Kitchen Sisters” independent radio, podcast and multimedia production team. With her artistic partner Davia Nelson she has produced hundreds of stories on NPR and public media including the duPont-Columbia and James Beard Award winning series Hidden Kitchens, the Peabody Award winning Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project, The Hidden World of Girls and many others. Their podcast The Kitchen Sisters Present received the 2017 Webby Award for Best Documentary Podcast. The Kitchen Sisters national radio collaborations have brought together independent producers, NPR stations, artists, writers, historians, and public radio listeners throughout the country to create intimate radio documentaries that chronicle untold stories of cultures and traditions around the world. Their upcoming series, The Keepers, explores the world of archivists,  librarians, curators, collectors and the collections they keep. The Kitchen Sisters are the authors of Hidden Kitchens: Stories Recipes and More, a New York Times Notable Book of the year. Silva is also a museum curator and exhibit consultant. She lives with her family on a commune near Santa Cruz.

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