From the Publisher's Desk: 60 years ago: when we were ‘town of the month’

Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Ican relate to the Citizens Dock at the harbor. It's still working hard as it turns 60 this year. Tomorrow is the official anniversary.

Like much of our local history the back stories are fading away with the generation before me. But thanks to one man's scrapbook and his son's desire to share it, I've got some history about the Citizens Dock I'd like to share.

In 1951, Crescent City was named "The Town of the Month" by Good

Housekeeping Magazine (the clipping does not show which month). The

article by Katharine Best and Katharine Hillyer begins, "The place was

Crescent City, a 3.000-person town pocketed dramatically between the

giant-redwood forests of northwestern California and the rugged,

rock-strewn coast of the Pacific Ocean."

The authors paint a picture of disappointed businessmen and women

whose bid for a government-financed dock was rejected in the fall of

1949 for the fifth time in 32 years. The government wouldn't put up

money for a dock because Crescent City didn't have the business to

justify it. Crescent City argued that without a dock, it would never get

that business.

Somebody-no one remembers who-said, "Let's build our own dock," and

"At that moment civic lightning struck Crescent City."

"The fever got us," said Mrs. Emma Cooper, county clerk.

A $10,000 quota was set and within two weeks, $17,000 was raised.

Over 200 volunteers stepped up. Hotel Lauff offered free lodging to

out-of-town workers. Local businesses donated gasoline and lumber.

Employees of Brownie's joined a payroll contribution plan; the Shamrock

Cafandeacute; gave free lunches to workers and the bus station served free

coffee. The local branch of the Bank of America gave, besides cash, the

services of one teller each day for dock work.

There were benefits and auctions. A department store clerk even

donated a bolt of red fabric to use as danger flags.

On March 18, 1950, Citizens Dock was finished. It was a $200,000

project that took $17,000 in cash and countless hours of donated labor.

Mayor Al Manuel declared March 18 an annual legal holiday (what happened

to that?).

A day-long celebration included fishing boat races, a parade, a crab

feed and the naming of Miss Citizens Dock, 16-year-old Gail Barnum. The

dock party with 5,000 revelers lasted into the night.

"On March 19," recalled county judge Alyce Moseley, "you could shoot a

cannon down Main Street and not hit anybodyandhellip;everybody was getting some

sleep, at last."

The magazine article continues, "Today Crescent Citizens look with

almost tearful pride at their dock-a 900-foot pier projecting into the

blue waters of Crescent Harbor and right-angling into a fisherman's

pier, a lumber wharfhead and a loading platform. And they gaze

sentimentally at the big, handsome, redwood-bound scrapbook encased in

glass at the Chamber of Commerce office on Second Street. On its pages

are listed the names of the people who contributed to the building of

Citizens Dock. 'There are more than seven hundred names in that book,'

says Bill Mason, local realtor. 'It represents, without a doubt, the

most stupendous example of civic cooperation this region has ever

known.'"

The redwood-bound scrapbook was lost, presumably in the tsunami. The

man who crafted it was cabinet maker Frank Burtschell. He also kept a

personal scrapbook and that's where his son Bob found the magazine

article from 1951.

The authors paint a bright future for Crescent City in their closing

paragraphs: "A lot of new things are being planned for Crescent City.

There's a highway beautification plan presently under way, in which

Crescent City's women, working in teams, are cleaning underbrush and

planting seasonal blossoms so that throughout the year color and beauty

will beckon motorists toward the little city. Downtown, too, is being

spruced up. One section of Second Street has become a gay stretch of

green, blue, pink and yellow store fronts."

Bill Mason, who gave up his real estate business to serve as the

Citizens Dock Committee's unpaid financial chief said, "We have our

river. We have our trees. We have our rugged shore line and our

crescent-shaped bay. Now all we need to do is make ourselves as

good-looking as our surroundings."

Sound familiar? Thank you, Bob, for sharing your father's scrapbook

with us.

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The Del Norte Triplicate
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