Author: JD Conway
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
The following interview was conducted by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures.com
Today, Norm Goldman, editor of Bookpleasures.com is proud to host as Jim, JD Conway, author of Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port (The Making of America Series). Jim is also a historian and genealogist, museum coordinator in the city of Monterey.
Good morning Jim and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.
Jim, you can tell us something about your personal and professional background. What are your responsibilities as a museum coordinator in the city of Monterey?
Thank you Norm for your interest in my book. As a museum coordinator in the city of Monterey, I am responsible for museums belonging to the city and cultural activities.
We have 4 museum objects:
*** Colton Hall: it was started in 1847 and completed in 1849. It was the place of the Constitutional Convention in 1849, it was in this state that California became a state
*** Presidio of Monterey Museum. It is located in the heart of the Lower Presidio Historic Park, which is 26 acres of the most historic sites in all of California. The museum tracks the city's military heritage through Spanish, Mexican and American periods.
*** In Cannery's row we have 3 "shacks for workers" explaining the living conditions to seasonal workers who helped make Monterey the capital of Sardinia in the world.
*** Pacific Biological Lab is located across the street from the huts. It was the home, office and laboratory of Edward Flanders Ricketts, whom Steinbeck immortalized as Doc. The city also has a rich art collection that I supervise.
I was born in Hope, Arkansas, grew up in southern New Mexico and went to study at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where I studied history and political science.
I like to say that after four years of study I spent the next 4 years in marines, where I got an education, including a trip around Vietnam. After Marines, I worked as a Logistics and Warehouse Manager for many years. In fact, this company led me to Monterey County, where I worked for the Spreckels Sugar Company. It was close to being discovered in time. We lived in a company city with generations of employees who worked for the company. It was a quiet experience and when I returned to graduate school in 1997, my graduation work was at Spreckels and the first fifty years in the Salinas Valley. Working for the Sugar Company, I became interested in family history, returned to college & # 39; u, attending genealogy classes, and that revived my passion for history.
After receiving my master's degree in history from San Jose State, I started working for the city of Monterey as a museum worker and research assistant. Over the next six years, my responsibilities expanded to all museums and cultural activities. But deep down I'm a historian. I am married and we have two grown children and two grandchildren.
How did you become interested in the history of Monterey and what forced you to write Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port?
When I first came to work in the city, my boss asked me to explore the history of Monterey between 1849, the end of the constitutional convention, and 1880, the opening of the Hotel Del Monte. I discovered that historians neglected this period very much. Much of the information they had was based on the widespread idea that Monterey was left out of the gold rush, and according to one prominent California historian, she was a "Mexican village without ambition." The more I researched, the more I realized that an updated history of Monterey was needed. New evidence, research and new interpretation have redefined Monterey, and this story had to be told.
What important historical monuments are worth visiting or looking for in Monterey and why are they important?
Monterey has such a diverse past that the choice of landmarks becomes a personal preference.
*** If you are interested in native inhabitants or Spanish and Mexican periods, then the place for the historic old town is the right place.
*** The history path offers visitors the opportunity to visit all the historic buildings and places that make up the historic district.
*** On the path is the Cathedral of San Carlos, one of the oldest European buildings in California, which is still in use. I think it's a necessity.
*** I may be biased, but Lower Presidio Historical Park was the site of the hometown of 2000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards. It is also the place where Vizcaíno landed in 1602, and Father Serra and captain de Portolá met to found Monterey on June 3, 1770. The park has the only place in California where the land and sea battle was fought, as well as the site of the first American fort in California and probably the entire West Coast. And that only takes one until 1846, and much more after the American takeover. Did I mention that some of the most stunning views of the bay come from the park?
*** If you're interested in Steinbeck's literary history, you won't want to miss Cannery Row. I like facing visitors in Cannery Row and trying to distinguish literary stories from actual events and places that were canning and fishing activities. Monterey has museums and art galleries that may interest the youngest and oldest people.
When is the best time to visit Monterey and why?
Another difficult question. If you are looking for good weather, I would suggest autumn. However, during the summer months (the problem is not cool and not hot), more festivals and activities are taking place. But if you want to miss a lot of crowds, December to April is the best time.
How is the history of Monterey different from other neighboring areas such as Carmel, Pacific Grove, Salinas etc.?
They start with Monterey and then branch out to come up with their own identity. Salinas & # 39; history is related to agriculture, which makes it somewhat different from the peninsula communities surrounding Monterey. This does not mean that agriculture is the only story in Salinas, but it is the cornerstone of its existence. Pacific Grove appeared earlier than Carmel. It began as a Methodist Church retreat in the 1870s and retained the identity of a coastal village with a fairly modest and family atmosphere. Carmel-By-the-Sea was a colony of artists who became a prominent artist from California after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She developed an artistic flare that spread along the coast to Big Sur. One of the best things about Monterey and the surrounding communities is their authenticity of cultures and the unique role they have developed to make this area more than just a one-dimensional location.
How historians have determined and interpreted the history of Monterey and do you believe that their perception is accurate?
I love this question. Without going into Monterey's full historiography, I would say that earlier interpretations were excessively romanticized and often repeated without research. They were often one-dimensional, looking at only one aspect of the subject, ignoring the other elements that helped to get a more diverse picture.
A good example is the period between 1850 and 1880, when most historians claim that Monterey fell into decline with no civic ambitions or economic foundation. It just wasn't accurate. Yes, economic changes took place in Monterey, but every city in California suffered from the same problems. If you look at what the Chinese achieved locally at that time, Monterey was in a better position than many communities.
Too often in Monterey's history, we have ignored the contributions of different cultures. History study has changed considerably over the past 30 to 40 years. In our interpretations, we look more at cultures, sex and class, which gives us a more complete history. I suspect that in 30 or 40 years another historian may criticize my work based on new sources and developed techniques.
In your book, you mention that culturally Monterey has a connection with her native heritage, but this relationship remains secondary to his Euro-American past. Why do you believe it and how does it have proof today?
The native inhabitants of Monterey, known as Rumsien, did not have a written language, much of what we know about them comes from what the missionaries wrote and several oral stories passed down through the generations. To survive, the indigenous people got married to the Spaniards and California and they wrote the story, often ignoring their own native heritage. We know that the descendants of the first inhabitants still live in the area, and this is Monterey's relationship with his native heritage.
What is the origin of Seventeen Mile Drive and could you briefly describe this tourist attraction?
In 1880, Charles Crocker opened the Hotel Del Monte. It was called "The most elegant coastal factory in the world." Presidents, royalty, business leaders and celebrities have come from all over the world to enjoy the hotel and all its amenities. One of his attractions was a ride or horseback riding through the Del Monte forest and along the picturesque coastline of the peninsula. This original 25-mile loop began at the hotel and ran to a hunting lodge on Pebble Beach. Today the hotel is Naval Postgraduate School and the lodge is Lodge at Pebble Beach.
I understand that the History Festival will take place in Monterey in early October. What is this all about?
The Monterey History and Art Association, California State Park and the City of Monterey, as part of their MOU to promote Monterey History Sponsors & # 39; s History Fest. It's a way to promote many layers and various aspects of Monterey's past. There are exhibits and programs that educate and enlighten visitors and locals about the history of Monterey. Other organizations such as military bases, the Historic Garden League and cultural groups join us during this celebration.
What is the Historical Importance of Cannery Row?
After the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Monterey recorded growth in 3 areas. The first was tourism associated with the Hotel Del Monte. Secondly, the army's return to the Monterey military reserve, today known as Presidio Monterey, and thirdly the development of the fishing and canning industry. After World War I, the demand for canned sardines helped create the entire industry based on supplying fish from the sea to customers. Not only were canned food, but offal was converted into fertilizer, chicken feed, fish oil and other needs.
Because the smell associated with rendering devices was so strong, the canvases were moved from the city and Hotel Del Monte along the waterfront to Ocean View Avenue.
It is from this industrial blue district that Steinbeck found inspiration for Tortilla Flats, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and East of Eden. That is why today's meaning is twofold. First, it was the location of the fourteen canisters that formed the government. Secondly, it has a literary history related to John Steinbeck.
In your summary of your book, you indicate that Monterey is at a crossroads today, how it will address development, water restrictions, traffic jams and maintenance costs. Could you elaborate briefly?
The above-mentioned problems are common to all communities on the Monterey Peninsula. How to solve these problems at local level will be another important chapter in the history of Monterey. For the city of Monterey, any of the problems can completely change the way Monterey is perceived or displayed in the future. What kind of development will be allowed, how we will manage our limited water supply, how young families will be able to afford an apartment where even the smallest house costs $ 800,000, as we answer these questions, our story will be.
Is there anything else you would like to add that we did not discuss, and what next with Jim Conway?
I think we have overcome a huge amount of land. I hope that I was able to gain insight into Monterey's past and arouse interest in her in the future. This is an exciting place for a historian and I can't wait to share it with those who discover his heritage.
Next for Jim Conway is a book about the California Constitution that took place at Colton Hall. It is surprising that no more was done in connection with this important event, especially if you put it in the context of what was happening in the United States at that time. Do not expect, however, in the near future, because I have to work around it full-time in the city. And this workload is exciting in itself.
Thanks again Jim
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