Tag Archives: history

Folsom Prison Blues

folsom gate familyFolsom State Prison is located in Represa, California – which interestingly doesn’t really show up on the map. The prison is it’s own town with it’s own postal code, located in what was once a large green space in the middle of nowhere, but is now the town of Folsom.

IMG_3867Folsom State Prison opened in 1880 and is the second oldest prison in California, after San Quentin. It was one of America’s first maximum security prisons but now holds mostly medium security folk.

The main gate to the prison property is just after you come through an older residential section of Folsom. Once you drive through the gate you are surrounded by lush green fields and lots of woodlands – totally not what I expected for a prison grounds. There are actually 3 prisons now on site – the original Folsom State Prison, Folsom State Prison 2 (now called Sacramento State Prison) and a Women’s facility. Total capacity of all of them put together is about 7000 inmates.

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We weren’t quite sure what to think when we pulled into the parking lot right below the prison wall and then walked towards the gates and read the “visitors” sign.

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We came to check out the Folsom Prison Museum, which looked like a non-traditional learning experience for our law enforcement focused kid. Although small in stature and foot print the museum was jam packed with interesting displays and facts.

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In the middle of the prison land, in between the two prisons, sits a small town with residential streets and houses. For a long period of time prison staff were required to live on site. Many still do but more to take advantage of lower cost rents. The school bus even comes and goes each day for the local kids. This felt as weird as the deer that we saw in the fields from the parking lot – the scenes just didn’t seem to fit with a maximum security prison!

Folsom Prison was originally designed to hold inmates serving long sentences, habitual criminals and incorrigibles, which led to them getting a reputation for having a violent and bloody beginning.

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Interesting factoid – a new hanging rope was used for every hanging as they need to take into consideration the individuals height and weight to minimize swing, slack and ensure a quick death.

The variety of things that prisoners were able to turn into weapons is really impressive while also leaving you incredibly curious as to where they get pieces of metal in their day to day lives. There also seems to be an art to the smuggling of things into prison up your butt – ouch!

Folsom has a number of industries under the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) program, which includes administration, a Braille enterprise, a license plate factory where the inmates have been making 100% of the State of California license plates since before the 1930s, maintenance, metal fabrication, a printing plant, and a sign shop.

My question is where does an inmate get 250,000 toothpicks from??? Talk about impressive!

Johnny Cash made FSP widely known to the outside world through his song “Folsom Prison Blues” (1956), which narrated a fictional account of an outlaw’s incarceration, and the two live concerts he performed at FSP.

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Overall it was a pretty cool place to visit and we learned a lot of interesting tidbits…

 

San Luis Rey Mission

IMG_3796San Luis Rey Mission was founded in 1798 and is a National Historic Landmark located in Oceanside, California. It is a few blocks off the San Luis Rey bike path so we headed out for a family ride (30km round trip) to check it out… The history of the San Luis Rey area reflects five periods of occupation: Luiseño Indian, Spanish Mission, Mexican Secularization, American Military, and Twentieth Century Restoration.

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The mission was established by Spain as a way to ward of the threat of Russian expansion. Spain had learned that land could be claimed inexpensively by establishing a mission and sending dedicated padres, a handful of soldiers and a few supplies.

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With a shortage of Spaniards in the New World, Spain decided to colonize with the indigenous people. The Franciscans were chosen not only to preach to the Indians, but to teach them new skills so they could become productive citizens for Spain. Between 1798 and 1832 the mission became home to approximately three thousand Indians. In their name and as a result of their labor, the mission cared for over 50,000 head of livestock. Large sections of the mission’s lands were brought under cultivation. Grapes, oranges, olives, wheat, and corn were some of the crops produced. Fields were irrigated by water channeled from the river just north of the mission. The mission was self-sustaining; its buildings were constructed of local materials, such as adobe, fired clay bricks, and wooden timbers. By 1830, the mission was the largest building in California.

After Mexico won the war with Spain in 1821 each mission was given 10 years to fully educate the indians and turn over the missions and land to them. This did not end up happening at San Luis Rey and by 1833 the administrators had actually gathered more land.

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From 1847-1857 the mission was used as an operational base by US military. In 1850 California became part of the United States and the Catholic Bishop in California petitioned for the return of the mission. Unfortunately after it became vacated by the military it sat vacant until 1892.

In 1892 a group of Franciscans from Mexico sought refuge in California and asked the Bishop for a site to move their noviate. They were assigned to San Luis Rey under the guidance of Friar O’Keefe. From 1892-1912, Fr. O’Keefe repaired the church and rebuilt the permanent living quarters on the foundations of the old mission (where the museum sits today). Restoration has continued throughout the years since Fr. O’Keefe’s death. Included in this has been the partial rebuilding of the quadrangle in 1949 for a Franciscan college which serves today as a Retreat Center. During the 1950’s and 60’s the Friars uncovered the soldier’s barracks and the lavanderia from layers of dirt accumulated over the years. In 1984 a restoration effort to stabilize and preserve the exterior of the church building was completed. Conservation of painting and sculptures in the museum collection is an ongoing process, and archaeological investigations continue to unearth the past.

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Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

Historic Charleston is rife with PIRATES

hunter & pirate tour guideWe killed 2 birds with one stone and everyone was happy (fabulous parenting moment for me!). We went on the Charleston Walking Pirate Tour and learned about the cities sordid pirate past as well as got to see and experience much of the historic architect. We managed to do a 2 hour walking tour with no complaints about the walking part… The pirate part was really interesting for all of us, with Hunter being more interested in the shooting, jailing, plundering etc., and it fit in very well with all of our American History work.

tim hunter powder museumThe walking tour starts out at the Powder Magazine, Charleston’s oldest public building. It was built in 1713 and used as an arsenal from 1713 to 1748 to defend the colony from the Spanish, French, pirates, slave rebellions and native attacks. It provides you with a great visual overview of the City of Charleston and the founding history.

Historic Charleston has stood for a century as the cultural capital of the south. It was, and still is, an economic centre. It was founded in 1670 and was subject to periodic attacks from French, Spanish and plenty of Pirates. The heart of the city was fortified in 1704, however most of the walls were removed during the 1720’s.

Through our walk we learned all about a number of Pirates, their role in the history of Charleston, the difference between pirates and privateers, the story behind the pirates being offered pardon’s by the British Colonial Government and lots of other juicy tidbits. We also touched lightly on the slave trade. As a compromise between the North and the South, the sale of slaves on the street was made illegal in the 1850’s. This caused the creation of the Old Slave Mart in 1856, where slave auctions were held until the end of the Civil War in 1865.

slave martWe had a bit of a rush between the end of our Pirate tour and the afternoon tour we had arranged. As we walked to our afternoon stop, we took a quick detour to check out the downtown Charleston Fire Station.

Grooving with Grimm at the Colonial Quarters

colonial quaters grimm musket 2The Colonial Quarter in St. Augustine is a 2 acre property right in historic downtown that takes you through 300 years of life in St. Augustine, from founding in 1565 through to the late 1800’s after the civil war.

Your admission ticket includes a guided tour and it is one of the best we’ve ever been on. Grimm (our guide) was outstanding. He made history fun, approachable and understandable. You could picture it all right in front of your eyes.

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We learned about ship building, blacksmithing, armoury, market trade and all sorts of fun things. We learned the difference between a british pub and a spanish taverna (pub’s are open to the PUBLIC, while taverna’s are focused on people of like role, standing or profession). We also got to see a musket firing. He took us all through the militia training with demo muskets and then fired the real one, which is louder than you expect it to be…

We went back to the Colonial Quarters later that night for a family magician show and holiday drinks/carols under the lights. Your admission is good for 7 days and it is well worth the visit…