Author: JD Conway
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing House
The following interview was conducted by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor at Bookpleasures.com
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com, is honored to be our guest, Jim (JD) Conway, author of Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo and Port (The Making of America Series). Jim is also a historian and genealogist, museum coordinator for the city of Monterey.
Good afternoon Jim and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.
Jim, can you tell us something about your personal and professional background. What are your responsibilities as a museum coordinator for Monterey?
Thank you Norm for your interest in my book. As coordinator of the Monterey Museums, I am responsible for the city museums, along with cultural art activities.
We have 4 museum facilities:
*** Colton Hall: This began in 1847 and completed in 1849. This is the site of the Constitutional Convention in 1849. This is where California becomes a state
*** Presidium of the Monterey Museum. It is located in the heart of Lower Presidio Historic Park, which is 26 acres from one of the most historic lands in all of California. The museum traces the military heritage of the city during the Spanish, Mexican and American periods.
*** We are in a number of canned goods, we have 3 "worker huts" interpreting the living conditions for seasonal workers that helped Monterey to become Sardinia's capital of the world.
*** Across the shack is the Pacific Biological Laboratory. It was the home, office and laboratory of Edward Flanders Ricketts that Steinbeck immortalized as Doc. There is also a rich collection of arts in the city that I observe.
I was born in Hope, Arkansas, grew up in Southern New Mexico, and went to college at the University of New Mexico Highlands in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where I completed a major in history and political science.
I like to say that after four years of college, I spent another 4 years in the Marine Corps, where I also received an education, including a tour in Vietnam. After many years in the Marines, I worked as a logistics and warehouse manager. In truth, this particular business brought me to Monterey County, where I worked for the Spreckels sugar company. It was close to being in a time warp. We lived in an urban city 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 about Spreckels and for the first time fifty years in the Salinas Valley. While working for the Sugar Company, I became interested in family history, went back to college, taking genealogy classes, and this fueled my passion for history.
After earning a master's degree in history in San Jose history, I went to work in Monterey as a museum employee and research associate. Over the next 6 years, my responsibilities expanded to cover all museums and cultural arts. But at heart I'm a historian. I am married and have two grown children and two big children.
How did you become interested in Monterey's history and what made you write Monterey: Presidio, Pueblo, and Port?
When I first came to work for 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 Del Monte Hotel. What I found was that this period was heavily overlooked by historians. And much of the information they had was based on the prevailing idea that Monterey was bypassed during the Golden Tide and is a "Mexican village without ambition" according to a prominent California historian. The more I researched, the more I realized that an updated Monterey story was needed. New evidence, research and a new interpretation redefined Monterey and this story had to be told.
What important historical sites should you visit or look for when you visit Monterrey and why are they important?
Monterey has such a diverse past that the choice of attractions becomes a personal preference.
*** If those interests are locals or the Spanish and Mexican period, then the historic part of the old town is the place to be.
*** The Road of History offers the visitor the opportunity to visit all the historic buildings and sites that make up the historic quarter.
*** The San Carlos Cathedral, one of California's oldest European buildings, is on the walkway and is still in use today. I think this is a must.
*** I may be prejudiced, but the Lower Presidio Historic Park was the site of an indigenous village 2000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards. This is also where Vizcaíno landed in 1602 and where Father Serra and Captain de Portola meet to find Monterey on June 3, 1770. The park is the only site in California where a land and sea battle is fought, and site of the first US fort in California and probably the entire West Coast. And it only takes one to 1846, with much more after the American takeover. Did I mention that some of the most stunning views of the bay are from the park?
*** If anyone is related to the literary story promoted by Steinbeck, they will not want to miss Cannery Row. I like to challenge visitors when they are on Cannery Row and try to differentiate between literary stories and the real events and places that make up the canning and fishing business. Monterey has museums and art galleries that can sustain the interest of the youngest to the oldest.
When is the right time to visit Monterey and why?
Another difficult question. If you are looking for a good time, I would suggest autumn. However, during the summer months (the problem is cool, not hot) more festivals and activities continue. But if you want to miss most of the crowds from December to April are the best times.
How is Monterey's history different from other neighboring areas such as Carmel, Pacific Grove, Salinas, etc.?
They all start with Monterey and then branch out to clarify their own identities. Salinas & # 39; history is related to agriculture, which makes it a little different from the peninsular communities that surround Monterey. This is not to say that the only story in Salinas is agriculture, but it is the cornerstone of its existence. Pacific Grove came earlier than Carmel. It began as a retreat of the Methodist church in the 1870s and has retained its identity as a seaside settlement with a rather frozen and hometown atmosphere. Carmel-By-the-Sea was a colony of artists who became famous with the California artist after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It developed a Bohemian flame that spread along the coast to Big Sur. One of the best things about Monterey and surrounding communities is its faithfulness to cultures and the unique role they have developed to make this area more than a one-dimensional location.
How have historians established and interpreted Monterey's story and do you believe their perceptions are correct?
I love this question. Without going into the full historiography of Monterey, I would say that earlier interpretations are too romanticized and often repeated without being explored. They where often one-dimensional, looking at only one aspect of an object, ignoring other elements that helped to complete a more diverse picture.
One good example is the period between 1850 and 1880, when most historians claim that Monterey was in decline, without civic ambition or economic basis. It just wasn't right. Yes, there were economic changes in Monterey, but every city in California suffered from the same problems. If you look at what the Chinese did locally during this time, Monterey was better than many communities.
Too often in the history of Monterey we overlook the contribution of different cultures. Studying history has changed significantly over the last 30 to 40 years today as we look at more cultures, gender and class in our interpretations, and this gives us a more complete history. I suspect that after 30 or 40 years another historian may criticize my work based on new sources and techniques that have been developed.
You mention in your book that culturally, Monterey has a connection to his native heritage, but that connection remains secondary to his Euro-American past. Why do you believe this and how is the evidence today?
The Monterey native people, known as Rumsien, did not have written language, much of what we know about them is from what the missionaries have recorded and several oral histories passed down through the generations. To survive, Native people marry Spaniards and Californians, and they are the ones who wrote the story, often ignoring their own ancestral heritage. We know that the descendants of the first inhabitants still live in the area and this is the connection Monterey has to its ancestral heritage.
What is the origin of Sixteen Mile Driving and could you briefly describe this tourist attraction?
In 1880, Charles Crocker opened the Del Monte Hotel. It has been referred to as "The Most Elegant Sea Object in the World". Presidents, royalty, business leaders and celebrities came from all over the world to enjoy the hotel and all its amenities. One of his attractions was driving or riding through the Del Monte Forest and along the scenic coastlines of the Peninsula. The original 25mm loop began at the hotel and ran to the Pebble Beach hunting lodge. Today the hotel is the Naval Postgraduate School and the lodge is the Lodge of the Beach Beach.
I learned that Monterey will have a History Fest in early October. What are you talking about?
The Monterey History and Art Association, the California Historical Park and the City of Monterey as part of a Memorandum of Understanding to promote Monterey History Fest's historical sponsors. It is a means of promoting the multilayered and diverse aspects of Monterey's past. Monterey's history has exhibits and programs that educate and educate visitors as well as locals. Other organizations such as military bases, the Historical Garden League and cultural groups are joining the celebration.
What is the historical significance of Cannery Row?
After the turn of the century (20th century), Monterey experienced growth in 3 areas. First was the tourism related to the Del Monte Hotel. Second, was the return of the army to the Monterey Military Reserve, known today as the Monterey Presidency, and third, the expansion of the fishing and canning industries. After World War II, the demand for canned sardines helped create an entire industry based on delivering fish from the sea to customers. Not only were there canned food, but the offal was turned into fertilizer, chicken feed, fish oil and other necessities.
Because the smell associated with the delivery rooms was so intense, the cans were moved away from the city and the Del Monte Hotel along Ocean Street Avenue.
It is from this industrial, blue collar that the Steinbeck District found its inspiration for Tortilla Flats, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and East of Eden. So the meaning today is twofold. One was the site for the fourteen factories that made up the series. And second, it has a literary story related to John Steinbeck.
In conclusion, you point out that Monterey today is at a crossroads in how it will cope with development, water restrictions, traffic congestion and the cost of living. Could you briefly explain?
The issues you mentioned above are common to all communities on the Monterey Peninsula. How these problems are solved locally will be the next major chapter in Monterey history. For the City of Monterey, each of the issues has the potential to completely change the way Monterey is or will be viewed in the future. What type of development will be allowed, how we manage our limited water supply, how young families will afford housing, where even the smallest villa goes for $ 800,000, how 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 covered a huge amount of land. I hope I have been able to give some insight into Monterey's past and create some interest in his future. It is an exciting place to be a historian and I look forward to sharing it with those who discover his legacy.
Jim Conway's Next is a book on the California Constitutional Convention held at Colton Hall. It is surprising that more is not done about this momentous event, especially when you put it in context with what was happening in the US at the time. However, do not expect in the near future, as I have to work around my entire working day in the city. And that load is exciting in itself.
Thanks again Jim
To read Norm & Book Review, click on bookpleasures.com