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 has the honor of having as our guest, Jim (JD) Conway, author of Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port (The Making of America Series). Jim is also a historian and genealogist, the coordinator of the museum of the city of Monterey.
Good morning Jim and thanks for agreeing to participate in our interview.
Jim, could you tell us something about your personal and professional experience? What are your duties as Coordinator of the Museum for the City of Monterey?
Thank you Norma for your interest in my book. As Coordinator of the Museum of the City of Monterey, I am responsible for the museums owned by the city along with the artistic cultural activities.
We have 4 museum facilities:
*** Colton Hall: which began in 1847 and was completed in 1849. It was the site of the Constitutional Convention in 1849, it is where California became a state
*** Presidio Museum of Monterey. It is located in the heart of the Bajo Presidio Historic Park, which is 26 acres of some of the most historic lands in all of California. The museum travels through the military heritage of the city through the Spanish, Mexican and American periods.
*** Located in the Cannery line, we have 3 "worker huts" that interpret the living conditions of temporary workers who helped make Monterrey the world capital of the sardine.
*** Across the street from the cabins is the Pacific Biology Laboratory. This was the home, office and laboratory of Edward Flanders Ricketts, who Steinbeck immortalized as Doc. The city also has an extensive art collection, which I oversee.
I was born in Hope, Arkansas, I grew up in southern New Mexico and went to college at the Highlands University of New Mexico in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where I specialized in History and Political Science.
I like to say that after four years of university, I spent 4 more years in the Marine Corps, where I got an education, including a tour in Vietnam. After the Marines, I worked as a logistics and warehouse manager for many years. In fact, it was that business that brought me to Monterey County, where I worked for Spreckels Sugar Company. That was close to being in a distortion of time. We lived in the city of the company with generations of employees who had worked for the company. It was a quiet experience and when I returned to graduate school in 1997, my thesis was in Spreckels and the first fifty years in the Salinas Valley. While working for the Sugar Company, I became interested in family history, went back to university taking genealogy classes and that revived my passion for history.
After receiving my master's degree in history from the state of San José, I went to work for the city of Monterey as a museum assistant and research assistant. Over the next 6 years, my duties expanded to include all museums and cultural art activities. But deep down, I'm a historian. I am married and we have two adult children and two grandchildren.
How did you get interested in Monterey's story and what prompted you to write Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port?
When I arrived to work for the city, my boss asked me to investigate the history of Monterrey between 1849, the end of the constitutional convention, and 1880, the opening of the Hotel Del Monte. What I found was that this period had been very neglected by historians. And much of the information they had was based on a predominant idea that Monterey had been ignored during the gold rush and that it was a "Mexican people without ambition," according to a leading California historian. The more I researched, the more I realized that an updated history of Monterrey was needed. New evidence, research and new interpretations redefined Monterey and that story needed to be told.
What important historical landmarks should I visit or look for when visiting Monterrey and why are they important?
Monterrey has such a varied past that choosing benchmarks becomes a personal preference.
*** If you are interested in the native towns or the Spanish and Mexican periods, then the historical section of the old town is the ideal place.
*** The Path of History offers visitors the opportunity to visit all the historic buildings and seats that make up the historic district.
*** Located on the road is the Cathedral of San Carlos, one of the oldest European buildings in California, and is still used today. I think it is a must.
*** I can be partial, but the Bajo Presidio Historical Park was the site of a native village 2000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards. It is also the place where Vizcaino landed in 1602, and where Father Serra and the Captain of Portolá met to found Monterey on June 3, 1770. Inside the park, it is the only place in California where a land and sea battle was fought , and the site of the first American fort in California and possibly the entire west coast. And that only takes one until 1846 with much more after the American takeover. Did I mention that some of the most impressive views of the bay are from the park?
*** If one's interest is linked to the literary history promoted by Steinbeck, they won't want to miss Cannery Row. I like to challenge visitors when they are in Cannery Row and try to differentiate between literary stories and the events and real places that made up the canning and fishing business. Monterey has museums and art galleries that can keep the interest of the youngest to the oldest.
When is the best time to visit Monterrey and why?
Another difficult question. If it is good weather, I suggest autumn. However, during the summer months (the problem is cold, not hot) more festivals and activities are held. But, if you want to miss many of the crowds, from December to April are the best moments.
How does Monterey's history differ from other neighboring areas such as Carmel, Pacific Grove, Salinas, etc.?
Everyone starts with Monterey and then branches to find their own identities. Salinas & # 39; the story is associated with agriculture, which makes it a little different to the peninsula communities surrounding Monterey. That does not mean that the only story in Salinas is agriculture, but it is the cornerstone of its existence. Pacific Grove arrived before Carmel. It began as a retreat from the Methodist Church in the 1870s and has maintained an identity as a coastal town with a rather demure and hometown environment. Carmel-By-the-Sea was an artist colony that became prominent with the California artist after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He developed a bohemian flare that spread along the coast to Big Sur. One of the best things about Monterey and the surrounding communities is their veracity of cultures and the unique role they have developed to make this area more than a one-dimensional location.
How have historians established and interpreted the history of Monterrey and believes that their perceptions are accurate?
I love this question. Without going into a complete historiography of Monterrey, I would say that the previous interpretations were too romantic and were often repeated without being investigated. They were often one-dimensional, just looking at one aspect of a topic, ignoring other elements that helped complete a more diverse picture.
A good example is that period between 1850 and 1880, when most historians say that Monterrey was in decline without civic ambition or economic base. That simply wasn't accurate. Yes, there were economic changes in Monterrey, but all the cities of California suffered the same problems. If you look at what the Chinese were doing locally during this time, Monterrey was better than many communities.
Too often in the history of Monterrey we have ignored the contributions of different cultures. The study of history has changed considerably in the last 30 to 40 years. Today, we look more at cultures, gender and class in our interpretations and that gives us a more complete story. I suspect that in 30 or 40 years another historian may be criticizing my work based on new sources and techniques that have been developed.
You mention in your book that Monterey culturally has a connection to his native heritage, but that connection is still secondary to his Euro-American past. Why do you believe this and how is it in evidence today?
The natives of Monterey, known as Rumsien, did not have a written language, much of what we know about them is what the missionaries recorded and some oral stories transmitted from generation to generation. To survive, the native peoples married the Spaniards and the Californians, and they are the ones who wrote the story, often ignoring their own native heritage. We do know that the descendants of those first inhabitants still live in the area and that is the connection that Monterey has 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 nicknamed "The most elegant coastal establishment in the world". Presidents, royals, business leaders and celebrities came from all over the world to enjoy the hotel and all its amenities. One of its attractions was driving or riding through the forest of Del Monte and along the picturesque coasts of the peninsula. That original 25-mile circuit started at the hotel and ran towards the hunting lodge in Pebble Beach. Today the hotel is the Naval Postgraduate School and the lodge is the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
I understand that in early October Monterey will have a History Festival. What is all this?
The Monterey History and Art Association, the California State Historic Park and the City of Monterey, as part of its MOU for the promotion of Monterey History Fest history sponsors. It is a means to promote multiple layers and varied aspects of Monterey's past. There are exhibits and programs that educate and illuminate visitors, and locals alike, about the history of Monterey. Other organizations, such as military bases, Historic Garden League and cultural groups join us in this celebration.
What is the historical significance of Cannery Row?
After the turn of the century (20th century) Monterey experienced growth in 3 areas. First it was the tourism associated with the Hotel Del Monte. Second, it was the return of the Army to the Monterey Military Reserve, known today as the Monterey Presidio and, thirdly, the expansion of the fishing and canning industry. After World War I, the demand for canned sardines helped create a complete industry based on bringing fish from the sea to customers. Not only were there canning factories, but the offal was transformed into fertilizers, chicken feed, fish oil and other diverse needs.
Because the smell associated with rendering facilities was so strong, canning factories moved away from the city and Hotel Del Monte along the coast on Ocean View Avenue.
It was from this industrial blue-collar neighborhood where Steinbeck found his inspiration for Tortilla Flats, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and East of Eden. So the meaning today is twofold. One, was the location of the fourteen canning factories that formed the line. And secondly it has a literary history associated with John Steinbeck.
In his conclusion to his book, he indicates that Monterey is currently at a crossroads on how he will address development, water restrictions, traffic congestion and the cost of living. Could you explain briefly?
The problems mentioned above are common to all communities in the Monterey Peninsula. The way these problems are addressed at the local level will be the next important chapter in Monterey's history. For the City of Monterey, each of the problems has the potential to completely change the way it looks or looks in the future. What kind of development will be allowed? How do we handle our limited water supply? How will young families pay for a home, where even the smallest cabin goes for $ 800,000, how will we answer these questions will be our story?
Is there anything else you want to add that we haven't covered, and what's next for Jim Conway?
I think we have covered a lot of land. I hope I could give an idea of Monterey's past and create some interest in the future. It is an exciting place to be a historian and I hope to share it with those who discover their heritage.
The following for Jim Conway is a book about the California Constitutional Convention that was held in Colton Hall. It is surprising that no more has been done at that important event, especially when it puts it in context with what was happening in the United States at that time. However, I did not wait in the near future, as I have to work around my workload full time in the city. And that workload is exciting in its own right.
Thanks once again Jim
To read the Norm book review, click on bookpleasures.com