Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 3, 2013

Blast to the past: 1991

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

A while back I went on a mini rant about the not-so-nice history of Alameda because of the proposed “Heritage Day” to celebrate Alameda’s heritage, whatever that is proposed to be.   Someone mentioned to me that in Alameda’s fairly recent history there was a pretty significant reminder of how Alameda, while quaint and lovely, had a bit of an undercurrent of uncomfortable race relations.   For those of us that were not around in 1991, in 1991 there was a huge scandal (for lack of a better term) involving the police computers and some racist language.

I checked around the internet for any thing about the incident and nothing came up regarding the specifics, only an LA Times article that mentioned that an investigation would be launched.   I then put in a public records request which turned up some general background via City Council minutes, but didn’t have the real meat of what had actually happened, and so armed with a very vague date range I went to the Library to go through the microfiche (since I had already tried accessing the archives online that the Library makes available).

I started at the beginning of October and nearly passed it by, oh by the way, back then the Alameda Times-Star was a legitimate newspaper and had this super fun section called “Open Talk” or something like that where people could leave anonymous snarky messages, sort of the precursor to online commenting.

Apologies for how I had to break it up to make it readable, here it is in all it’s pretty horrifying glory.   Although to be honest some of the public letters to the City Council were a lot more disappointing.

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23 Comments

  1. moved here in 1991. never got the Times Star but letters in the Journal by what seemed like mostly retired geezers complained regularly about things like having to be represented in congress by Barbara Lee who I think had recently been elected. They didn’t complain about her race per say, just about the Dellums legacy etc. It was status quo and nobody wrote response letters, though it took me about a year to get up the nerve to wade in. Feeling like an outsider and being deliberately outrageous is an m.o. which stuck. Fledgling gay movement back then (Out on the Island) and a lot of fire and brimstone in letters too. As newbie I didn’t really have deep knowledge of what made this place tick, though one thing that happened was being reminded of that verbally by long time residents. The Alameda theater was rented out as a sort of night club with d.j. for under 21 year olds. I think there was an influx of kids from off island and there was a shooting in the parking lot which led to it being shut down. There may have been an adult scene on Webster too. The nights these places were hopping ( hip hopping, ha-ha) the police got a lot of activity and it’s what the officers were referring to. Use of n-word right in a head line also seems unusual for this day and age doesn’t it? The ambiance of walking down Park street on any day or evening is so different today it’s kind of amazing.

    Comment by MI — April 3, 2013 @ 8:45 am

  2. Thank you for digging this up through microfiche Lauren. Remembering this incident is painful but necessary. I definitely would like to see the city rename this festival. Maybe a Unity Day where everyone’s diversity is celebrated as a wonderful part of the whole.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — April 3, 2013 @ 8:47 am

  3. Re #1– the whole sorry incident refers to a bar/nightclub/dance spot called Johnny B. Goode’s on Webster. They were frequently mentioned in the Police Log in the Times-Star and had a large number of police calls. Here is a little story about the bar: http://www.americandivebars.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128:dive-bar-movies&catid=35:history

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — April 3, 2013 @ 8:57 am

  4. 1986 The PRK and Vietnam enslaved 380,000 peasants at the cost of 30,000 lives.[54] The PRK regime and Vietnamese troops were estimated in total to have murdered ten of thousands of civilians, possibly more than 100,000.[55] One tactic the Vietnamese and KPRAF used to fight the Khmer Rouge was to withhold food from areas controlled by the Khmer Rouge. Thousands of tons of food provided by international relief organizations spoiled on the docks of Kompong Som. Food sent by aid organisations was often instead used to feed Vietnamese troops and their allies. This contributed heavily to the ongoing famine conditions in Cambodia.[56] Vietnamese troops used illegal chemical weapons to quell resistance to the occupation.[57]

    Comment by Back in the Homeland looking back at Blast from the past — April 3, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  5. As a member of the Mayor’s Committee to review the police dept practices at the time, the incident was not related to either the theater night club or the Johnny B. Goodes, although those were areas of concern to the police and residents in that era. The incident was not an incident at all, but an attitude of tolerance for bias (not just racial as it turned out, but economic as well) in the police department – at all levels. “Institutional racism” it was called in those days. The committee found plenty wrong in the police department at that time and suggested corrective actions, which were taken. Unfortunately, the racism was accompanied by some other “wrongs”, including nepotism, violations of civil service rules, and sexism. All not good. I am very pleased that our current police department, under leadership which is both competent and does not tolerate such antics is much more professional and “clean”.

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — April 3, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  6. I agree Kate…….Things Change and attitudes change…See No Good in Dredging up Negative BS unless you have point to make….Unless you just need more pins for your VoooooDDDDOOOOOOOOOO doll

    Comment by Why Keep throwing Rocks — April 3, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  7. Events related to the free speech and the anti-Vietnam war movement fundamentally changed Alameda in the late 60’s and early 70’s, as they did in many cities including Oakland. Prop A, thinly masked as a savior of old houses, was passed as a way to legally exclude unwanted’s from filling the rabbit warrens replacing old houses.

    Race has always been an undercurrent in this country as it has been in most of the world. Alameda was no different than most places in the United States in those days except it had the uniqueness of being an island in the midst of a cluster of city-suburban conglomerates and was inhabited by people many of who chose not to move to the suburbs.

    There was a period of time in the 70’s when Alameda teetered between retaining its Mayberry like character or succumbing to the process and becoming an adjunct of what left downtown Oakland a dangerous and vacant place.

    The more recent decades have seen Alameda slowly change into what it is now. And whatever it is, good or bad, it ain’t what it was

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 3, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  8. Johnny B Goode’s wasn’t an old time Alameda bar or even a ‘dive’ bar. The building was a pizza parlor before an Oakland movie guy (Black) bought/leased it in the 80’s 90’s (?) and turned it into a bar based on his TV series about a Black detective (forget what the series was named). Some of the episodes were partly filmed there. Obviously the bar drew a lot of Oakland patrons and things got wild off and on as places do when thousands of horny sailors pull liberty off aircraft carriers and vie for the same thing the locals vie for.

    Old time Alameda bars were scattered all over the city but only a few, in my view, met the term ‘dive’: Johnnie’s, Dales, Clyde’s by the Sea, John’s Snug Harbor, and other’s I forget.

    When I was stationed here in the early 60’s I’d usually skip Alameda and pull liberty in downtown Oakland. Back then the blocks surrounding 14th street were great, safe, crowded and fun.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 3, 2013 @ 11:42 am

  9. Jack, I resent your calling all of my favorite watering holes “dive bars”. I thought the Snug Harbor was a teen bar because its where we started as teens. The most high class bar in the West End was TIMS. I didn’t go there until I was 25 or so.
    great memories.

    Comment by John P.(L) — April 3, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  10. The two bars I think truly qualified as dives were Johnnie’s Locker Club (where the shore patrol was more often than not) and Dale’s. Both were “sailor bars”. When we moved to Alameda in 1973, liquor was sold on three of the four corners of 9th and Santa Clara, and Saturday nights were often raucous from the spillover from Webster St. However, most of the Navy guys I think went into Oakland or SF as there were “more opportunities” there. Webster Street was a totally different place at night than it was during the day. Nothing was going on much on Park St. The local police were bolstered by the shore patrol, so policing was more oriented toward the residents than toward the Navy, I thought. The residential area that was of great concern was the “BV
    s” on Atlantic, and the LinOaks Motel where the new library is. And the projects. And anything west of Webster St. because that is where the minority folks were to be found. Strange how that “de facto” segregation lasted a very long time. Or not strange, considering there were plenty of apartment house owners who would not rent to persons of color and many East End properties had sale covenants barring minorities which were being honored long after the law said they were illegal. I think things have changed for the better but I know many people who do not like the changes.

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — April 3, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

  11. I think my sister lived here in 91 and I would come down to see her once and awhile…I never stopped on Webster st…I was from a small Oregon town…and Webster St seemed wild to me…but back from the past…today I went to 7-11 and there was a hooker standing there with tight shorts and something which hardly covered her breast…why here, why now….the game has changed on this side of town.

    Comment by Joe — April 3, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

  12. Times have changed, and it’s a good thing we’re moving forward and not backward. Here’s an interesting find and a possible link between Alameda and Heritage Day:

    In July of 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama designated the City of Alameda a “Preserve America Community”.

    Preserve America is administered by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The tag line for Preserve America is: Explore and Enjoy our Heritage

    Here’s what I found on their website:
    The program began in 2003 and Preserve America Communities have become great places to visit and explore.

    The Preserve America Community Program recognizes a select group of communities that use their heritage resources and share the myriad benefits for historic preservation with residents and visitors.

    Comment by Karen Bey — April 3, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

  13. Thank you for helping us to remember our checkered past in Alameda. Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat it. I see a significant difference in the ethnic composition of Alameda’s police force today, and heartened that we see that diversity on our city council and school board.

    Comment by Alan — April 3, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

  14. Kate and Joe, I’ve been from the West side of Webster for 70 years. Johnny’s Locker room was always good for trouble as we never got along with the sailors very well. Dales was like going into a bar from a scene in Star Wars.

    Comment by John P.(L) — April 3, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

  15. Yes, John P (L) that is what I recall. Didn’t hang out at either place, ever, but we all from this end of town knew where things were going on. When I was a social worker in the early 70’s, a lot of my Alameda clients told me they got pregnant after “going dancing at Dale’s.” That dancing stuff is dangerous!

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — April 3, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

  16. Yikes, hope they don’t do DNA checks.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 3, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

  17. The more I think about this Post (The blast to the past: 1991) the more I wonder what motivated the author. The author admittedly is someone who lives in a walled off community of wealth, a community that really has no historical connection to Alameda yet she is someone who constantly digs into, not the underlying history of the city, but the veneer of negative incidents gleamed from old newspaper clips and then writes as if that veneer represents the foundation of the city.

    She gleefully reminisces about a recent dirt post (linked in today post) and then attempts to outdo herself in finding new dirt…dirt which is nothing new and really had nothing to do with 99% of the city. It’s almost like the only thing good about the city is when she started writing about the bad.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 3, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  18. Today you can walk down Webster in the dark and feel fairly safe…I would still keep your keys in your hand. As more new development come to this part of the island…it will be safer…but more traffic. The next part I would like to see developed it tearing down the old Commissary and some of the land around it and build nice houses…that place is dangerous and falling apart…there have been several fires in the old apartments around there.

    Jack why are you worried about DNA checks…didn’t you have safe sex?

    Comment by Joe — April 3, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  19. Uh, no Joe. I didn’t want Kate to lose her job.

    Comment by Jack Richard — April 3, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  20. Jack, you are pretty funny for being an old fart…which I can say because I am close to being an old fart myself…I think I can retire in 2 years or maybe 12…I am not sure what the retirement age is anymore…they keep changing it.

    Comment by Joe — April 3, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

  21. If I could have been the Alameda Administrater and retire at 53 and recieved close to 1/2 millon a year how cool whould have that been. What a rip off.

    Comment by Joe — April 3, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

  22. Re #5– oh dear me Kate, I certainly did not mean to imply that the racism was somehow a result of activities at Johnny B Goode’s. The racism evident in the message transcript in the paper was also evident the part of the transcripts referring to Johnny B Goode’s in a different part of the conversation from those 3 days. There was lots of press on this and some of it was even printed in the Chronicle.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — April 4, 2013 @ 12:33 am

  23. “17.The more I think about this Post (The blast to the past: 1991) the more I wonder what motivated the author. The author admittedly is someone who lives in a walled off community of wealth, a community that really has no historical connection to Alameda yet she is someone who constantly digs into, not the underlying history of the city, but the veneer of negative incidents gleamed from old newspaper clips and then writes as if that veneer represents the foundation of the city.

    She gleefully reminisces about a recent dirt post (linked in today post) and then attempts to outdo herself in finding new dirt…dirt which is nothing new and really had nothing to do with 99% of the city. It’s almost like the only thing good about the city is when she started writing about the bad.”

    Jack that is what Haters DOOOOOOOOOO.

    Anyone who is selling you dissatisfaction is working for their own selfish ends.

    Comment by What Haters Do — April 5, 2013 @ 9:41 am


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