Back in 1911, Crescent City was a lively town with 13 saloons, a
bunch of billiard halls, a few barbershops, one genuine electric
traffic signal, churches, schools, a theater, a bad phone service, bad
roads, and an expanding population.
A community support system was definitely in order.
So a group of public-spirited citizens funded the forerunner of today's Crescent City Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, which wasn't officially established as such until 1926.
This historic community-building group will soon be 100 years old and can take a lot of credit for the area's ability to weather all kinds of storms, natural, economic and political.
The chamber of commerce is a European invention. America's first one dates to 1768 in New York. The purpose of a chamber is to lend organized community support for economic growth, attract business enterprises conducive to the area's well-being and support a community's efforts along the same line.
Volunteerism is essential to places like Del Norte County, where big bucks aren't available to stage mega-events and where the physical location demands a certain amount of basic resourcefulness to survive.
This chamber has helped weave a network of community volunteerism that impacts most of its citizens in some way.
Many people may not know, for example, that this newspaper and the chamber have teamed up to create the annual the Del Norte Pride award, dedicated to sprucing the area up. Few may know that chamber members have joined hands to produce and run many popular events here, such as the Fourth of July festivities and Sea Cruise.
There are annual awards for best business leaders, volunteer, etc.
According to Chamber Executive Director Gina Zottola, the Apprenticeship Program is one of the most important projects going. In cooperation with the schools, Rural Human Services and 20-odd local businesses, the Work Force Center was established.
Qualifying 11th-and 12th-grade students can get paying apprentice-type jobs to learn and earn their way to proficiency in a chosen field or trade. So far, says Zottola, at least 25 kids have received jobs, and more are in the offing.
Since day one, community leaders have stepped up to the plate. The work of building a community is demanding work and the chamber is always looking for a few good men and women to join up.
However, progress or not, some things never change. For example, complaints about local gasoline prices and bad roads have, according to archives, been a kind of litany for decades. C'est la vie!
Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.