Thursday, February 04, 2010

Have a minute for some Chico history?


"Chico History Minutes" ($10 in paperback at the Made in Chico store) is Verda Mackay's self-published compilation of scripts from her radio program of the same name. First aired on Northstate Public Radio KCHO, 91.7 FM, in September 2005, the feature generated requests for a print version. The thick booklet contains 114 "minutes"; though most center around the Bidwells, other entries consider places, names and culture in succinct summaries.

Mackay, who is also a Buzz contributor, writes that "as a history enthusiast and a Docent at Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, I welcomed the opportunity to volunteer for the program. . . . Chico history research has involved many publications, Butte County Library in Chico, personal interviews and other sources. . . ." What emerges are quick takes on the life and influence of John and Annie Bidwell, the original DNA of Chico.

In 1848, she writes, John Bidwell "used choice wine grape cuttings from mission vineyards to start his own 8-acre vineyard. By 1856, he had 15,000 vines and began making his own wine. But Bidwell's enthusiasm for viticulture changed when he met his future bride, Annie Kennedy, who was a staunch prohibitionist. Before their marriage in 1868, he tore out his wine grapes and planted raisin vines, a new crop for California." The result? "In October, 1868, Bidwell marketed his first commercial raisin crop and began an era of California raisin growers."

"Adventures of Robin Hood" came along in 1937, but the first movie made in Chico? Mackay writes that "'Folly of a Life of Crime' was made in 1914. . . . Annie Bidwell gave special permission for use of Bidwell Park locations. From 1937 to 1997 several movies were shot in Chico. In 1939, scenes from 'Gone With the Wind' were made in Bidwell Park, and scenes for 'The Thin Man' took place inside Bidwell Mansion."

Mackay notes that in 1875, Chico's population "of about 1800 people was served by three physicians when Dr. Oscar Stansbury arrived in Chico. . . . Office visits were $5.00 and there was a frequency of home visits. As a country doctor, he was on call 24 hours a day."

For the price of two office visits, "Chico History Minutes" will help keep the past alive.

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