Onions and Oranges
“Onions and Oranges” takes place in the cities of Citrus Heights and Sacramento. Both cities are located in Northern California. Citrus Heights is located in Sacramento County and has a population of more than 87,000. Sacramento is the county seat for Sacramento County and the capital of the State of California. It has a population of more than 530,000. Known as the “River City,” Sacramento sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers.
Sacramento dates back to 1839. At that time, Sutter’s Fort was established. It was intended to develop into an agricultural community. However, in 1848 when gold was discovered in the nearby foothills, Sutter’s Fort was transformed into a trading and mining epicenter of what was to be called the “Gold Rush.” According to the City of Sacramento’s history, at the time of the gold rush, Sacramento was made up of hastily built wooden structures – many of which had canvas roofs. A series of fires prompted a citizens group to establish the first volunteer fire department in the western United States.
The California State Legislature officially moved to Sacramento in 1854 and at the 1879 Constitutional Convention, Sacramento was named the permanent State Capital.
The City’s waterfront location made it vulnerable to flooding. After two seasons of severe flooding, a project was proposed to raise the entire downtown. A third flood made this proposal a reality and thousands of cubic yards of dirt were brought in by wagon to raise the entire city one story. Throughout Old Sacramento, the original street level can be seen under boardwalks and in some basement.
Marcus Plato Hanlon
Marcus Plato Hanlon, who is the protagonist of Sidewalk Spots, was born and raised in The Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The Tenderloin covers about 31 blocks. While it’s an area of the city that usually conjures up mixed reactions, it has a unique and an interesting history. Residents of San Francisco who might avoid the area and visitors to the city who are curious about it are encouraged to visit The Tenderloin Museum at 398 Eddy Street to learn more. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Because of Covid 19 restrictions, please call (415) 351-1912 to ensure that the museum is open. The Tenderloin Museum’s website reveals that the district’s “raucous history has been routinely overlooked in historical accounts of San Francisco.” The museum offers visitors an opportunity to get to know the real story by taking a walking tour, visiting interactive museum exhibits and exploring the retail store where you will learn more about:
- The Blackhawk Jazz club where Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk played and recorded.
- San Francisco’s golden age of vice with gambling dens, speakeasies, bordellos and a historic sex worker protest of 1917.
- The Wally Heider Studios where the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Crosby, Stills & Nash crafted their music.
- Stories from immigrants from around the world who called The Tenderloin home while they struggled to make a new life in the United States.
- The Tenderloin’s role as a center of LGBTQ activism which inludes the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, the first recorded militant uprising against police harassment in U.S. history.
Most importantly, visitors will learn that The Tenderloin is now a rich and diverse community that offers live music and theatre performances, film screenings, lectures, local art exhibitions, poetry events and more. For more information tenderloinmuseum.org
The city of Colma, California is featured in Sidewalk Spots. Colma is a city with an interesting distinction – it’s a cemetery city made for dead San Franciscans with 1,000 times more dead inhabitants than living ones. While many American suburbs are known for their outlet malls, Walmarts, and multiple fast food locations, Colma is famous for something different, multiple cemeteries. It has 17 of them,.
In the 1920s, San Francisco was a growing and booming metropolis. Unfortunately, it was also a tinderbox of wood structures tightly packed together just waiting for a disaster to hit. When the massive 1906 earthquake rocked the city, its cemeteries quickly filled up and the concentration of dead bodies in San Francisco cemeteries led to public health concerns. The solution was to move the dead from their San Francisco resting places in the city to Colma. As a result, the largest relocation of graves in history took place nearly 20 years after the earthquake.
Several of Colma’s graveyards are home to mass graves that contain tens of thousands of people who were relocated from their San Francisco-resting places. Though the city would pay to have anyone buried in its cemeteries moved to Colma, unless families paid $10 to have their loved ones moved, their bodies would end up being reburied in mass graves. The Holy Cross Cemetery has a marker that says 39, 307 Catholics are buried there, while a marker at the Cypress Lawn graveyard memorializes over 30,000 bodies in a mass grave there.
Over 155,000 bodies ended up being moved from San Francisco to Colma, but some of them didn’t make the trip. Construction crews can’t manage to dig a hole on the University of San Francisco’s campus without stumbling upon human remains. More bodies were discovered at the Legion of Honor when crews laid plumbing pipes and disturbed grave sites.
Included among the dead and buried in Colma are some of the most famous figures from the turn of the 20th century. Wild-West Sheriff Wyatt Earp and denim pants-pioneer Levi Strauss are both buried there along with newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst and railroad owner Charles Crocker.
Beermann Plaza is featured throughout “Just Jeeves: Life lessons from the end of short leash.” Jeeves and his friends, The Downtown Dogs, meet around the fountain in the plaza where they discuss Lincoln’s issues.
As far as Jeeves can determine, Beermann Plaza is named after Fritz Beerman and his son, Charles who came to Lincoln in 1880 and worked together in the harness and saddle shop at 5th and F Streets. A commemorative plaque marks the spot. Charles Beerman served as Lincoln’s Town Treasurer after the election of 1892. Sadly, Jeeves could find nothing more about the Beerman family. For example, he wonders why is the plaza named Beermann rather than Beerman? Jeeves hopes the Downtown Dogs will uncover the mystery.
The Lincoln Area Archives Museum now stands in the vicinity of the Beerman saddle shop. It is housed in the old City Hall and overlooks the fountain in the center of historic downtown Lincoln. For more information about historic Lincoln and the museum, visit laamca.org
Since Sidewalk Spot’s September, 2020 release, book clubs have invited me to participate in their discussions. I am grateful for their interest in Sidewalk Spots. During a recent online Zoom book club meeting, participants suggested that I post the questions I developed for Sidewalk Spots on Kathy Kronikles. They appear below. If you would like to share your responses to these questions or, if you have any questions you would like to add, please contact me.
Book Club Discussion Questions
1) When you were in elementary school, high school or even college, did you know or know of anyone like Marcus?
If so, was that person you?
If not, were you friends?How was that person like Marcus?
2) Do you have a hobby?
If so, to what extent do you focus on it?
Do you view your hobby differently than Marcus viewed his?
If so, how?
3) Marcus laments that his sidewalk spots give him more comfort than his religion.
Why do you think he has this point of view?
4) At least one reader described Marcus as a ‘hero,’ while another described him as a ‘blob,” and yet another described him as ‘lonely,’ how would you describe Marcus?
5) Have you ever wanted to shake things up?
When, why and how would you go about shaking things up?
6) One teacher who read the book found the chapters about Marcus’ elementary school teachers unbelievable yet another teacher who read the book found the depictions ‘right on’.
Were Marcus’ teachers unbelievable to you?
If not, did you have any school teachers with quirks?
What quirks did they have?
7) Have you stayed in touch with friends you made in elementary school?
If so, how do those friendships compare with Marcus’ friendships with Nobby, Rusty and Mary Ellen?
If not, have you met up with them later at a reunion, for example, and what was your reaction to them?
8) If you were casting Sidewalk Spots, who would you seek out to play the following parts in a movie version:
-Marcus Plato Hanlon?
-Rita Marie Hanlon, Marcus’ mother?
-Edna Louise Hanlon, Marcus’ aunt?
9) For many readers, the ending was a shock.
Without spoiling the ending for anyone who may not have finished the book, did it shock you?
If so, how did you think the book should have ended?
10) Who or what was your favorite character in the book?