Friday, December 15, 2006
Ridge historian's story of Paradise is richly illustrated and a grand gift
By DAN BARNETT
Robert Colby, former editor of Tales of the Paradise Ridge, has just published "Paradise" ($19.99 in paperback from Arcadia Publishing), part of the publisher's "Images of America" series of pictorial treatments of towns and cities across the country.
"Paradise" is available at area bookstores or through Arcadia's Web site (www.arcadiapublishing.com). The book completes the story of Paradise and the upper ridge begun last year in "Magalia to Stirling City," also published by Arcadia, written by Colby and the late Lois McDonald, to whom "Paradise" is dedicated.
Colby's introduction recounts the origin of the town (for awhile it was called "Orloff"), the development of agriculture on the ridge and the formation of the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) in 1916. Then, in more than 200 beautifully reproduced black-and-white historical photographs, seven chapters take the reader from a consideration of the area's Maidu inhabitants on through the late-19th and early-20th centuries, to Paradise as it was in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
Each photograph carries a long explanatory caption. Several chapters focus on some of the important names associated with Paradise. In 1884, for example, Francis "Fannie" Breese, just 17, helped raise $21.50 toward the $41 needed to purchase three acres of land from her uncle for what was to become Paradise Cemetery.
More recently, Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote 82 Perry Mason novels, "bought 20 acres at the end of Crestview Drive" in the early 1950s to escape all the folderol his fame had brought him. Colby writes that Gardner "was no stranger to Butte County, having spent his teenage years in Oroville in the early 1900s, where he was suspended from Oroville Union High School for pulling pranks on the principal."
In "The Case of the Runaway Corpse," published in 1954, Gardner had one of his characters actually give the directions to the Paradise hideaway, in reality known to "only a few of his closest associates. ... Here he could relax, write, and ride his dirt bike. The term 'dirt bike' was years in the future, but J.W. Black, a longtime Paradise resident and master mechanic, constructed ones for Gardner and himself to ride in the surrounding mountains."
"Paradise" is full of such tidbits. There are also pictures of harvest fairs (the one on the cover shows the "Woodman's Dance Platform at Olive Street and College Avenue in 1912-13") and the famous pipes of PID. "From the beginning," Colby writes, "leaks in the PID water system were a problem. Because of steel shortages in World War I, pipes made of redwood staves bound with steel wire were used. ... Even today, much of PID's budget goes to replacing the inferior World War II steel pipe."
A train engineer and brakeman were killed on June 25, 1909, "when a 27-car lumber train left Stirling City for Chico. Leaving the Magalia Depot, the train 'ran away' on the down slope, passing the Paradise Depot at 70 miles per hour, and three quarters of a mile below the depot at Neal Road, it derailed." An extraordinary photograph of the wreck shows only a mass of twisted metal.
"Paradise" is a must-have for those interested in local history. Oh, and let Santa know, too, for old times' sake.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.