Emerson, then known as Railroad School, circa 1880. Emerson strikes a chord in this community because of its history.

Columns can surprise columnists. Surprise because you never know which one will hit or thud. Animal columns, especially when your animal does something cute or dies, usually find an audience, but who figured that writing about the 1967-68 Emerson Junior High handbook would ripple the literary waters.

It’s history. That and a bunch of people have gone there. Emerson dates to 1876. Called the Railroad School because it was close to the local railroad station, Emerson was one of the first schools in town. The name was changed to Emerson in 1902, after author and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The school was mortally wounded by the 1952 earthquake and then rebuilt and reopened on Fourth Street in 1954.

“Although I’m about 10 years before you, it was a joy to read your take on Emerson Jr. High School,” wrote Patti Imes. “Unfortunately all I have left is my Letter (E) and a picture from 1958 of Mr. Stevenson’s home room class. I remember teachers like Mrs. Halstead, Mrs. Ralston, Stevenson and Ms. Foley.

“We trekked from Emerson to Myrtle & Bank Streets, always stopping at Warren’s for a coke to help us get the rest of the way home. Smiles…”


“As a former duly elected “Student Body - Supt of Grounds” class of 1945, at the Truxtun school house location, it was necessary to unlock all six outlaying gates one hour before school started. I did and sadly it has caused me to get up an hour early every day since.”

George Russell


Bill Deaver writes: “My late maternal grandmother Addie Clayton Mack was principal of Emerson in the late 1930s-early ‘40s”


Finally, a letter from Jeff Redford, student body president in 1967-68:

“Allen Andersen, an old family friend from Bakersfield, just sent me your column about Emerson JHS. The memories flooded back.

“The student body president thing wasn't my idea but that of Ron Hanst, our band teacher. He put me up to it and I went along, believing that I was a sure loser. I ran against Shirley Mosely who was infinitely more popular than me. To the surprise of everyone, I pulled in more votes.

“Ms. Ellis and Mr. Cato changed my life. When we started reading 'A Tale of Two Cities' in Ellis' class, I was completely lost. She took me under her wing and tutored me after class until I grasped all the metaphors and Dickensian lingo. Her teaching was a clear line of demarcation in my life. Mr. Cato was similar in his inspiration.

“I left Bakersfield in 1977 after my LDS mission to Uruguay and Paraguay. I spent a short time in Arizona before settling in Utah, working as an appraiser of high-value homes. You may have known my uncle, Babe Lazane, the golf pro at Bakersfield Country Club. He and my aunt were my last family ties to Bakersfield.

“My memories of growing up in Bakersfield are unforgettable. I've attempted to describe to my children what it was like growing up there in the '50s-'70s. It's impossible to convey to them how much it means to me. Whenever someone finds out I'm from Bakersfield, I get that I-can't-believe-you're-from-that-place look on their face. Defending Bakersfield, I explain the immense diversity that I experienced growing up there and wouldn't trade for any other place I've been."


Marcia Hall emailed about mushroom hunting (no mushrooms so far this year).

“We lived on an oil lease in Fellows until 1962. We had plenty of open areas for mushroom hunting. Taking our paper bags filling them with our 'treasures.' We would come back and my dad would always check them before we cooked them.

“My husband grew up mushroom hunting with his grandmother in Arvin so we also shared the tradition with our kids. My dad, on the other hand, always tried to talk us into snipe hunting.”


Judy Pierce called with advice for those of us who have burned the bottom of a frying pan:

“I’ve always had good luck adding baking soda to white vinegar and boiling it in the pan.”


Proud dad Christopher Meyers (CSUB emeritus professor) wrote about his daughter, Renee Elsdon Jacobs, who recently set the record for “fastest known time” (female) climbing all of California’s 14,000-foot mountains. Fifteen peaks in six days, four hours, five minutes. Jacobs shattered the previous record by over three day’s worth.

AND, she did it alone. Alone, in the middle of the night, through rain, snow, wind and the demons she met along the way.

Jacobs is a newish mom who went to Centennial, trained as an architect/engineer and now lives in Truckee.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

(1) comment


I recall some time after the quake that turned Emerson into a pile of rubble (I think it was Emerson) I noticed that the lawn in the parkway, that part of the landscape between the sidewalk and curb was still well groomed and the irrigation was on with all the sprinklers working. Even 7 year old me saw the incongruence of that but it was what came to mind when I saw an unoccupied county building with the landscape not being maintained I was motivated to contact a county official to remind them that even with the building not being used the landscape visible to the street should be maintained until such time as a final decision is made to address the future of that asset.

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