Column 1: Good news for Martinez!

By BILL SHARKEY III
Martinez News-Gazette Columnist

GOOD NEWS for Martinez! The too-long controversy over what should be done with Pine Meadow has been resolved, apparently to the satisfaction of several participating interests. So be it. Now, let’s move ahead with the additional residences so badly needed.

Also, the proposed work on parks. Hopefully, the community will benefit from all the back and forth discussion, litigation and generally unhappy activity. A community in action! A resolution with community input.

MORE ACTIVITY pending, apparently, or maybe underway. We see white markers on the pavement on Muri Station Road, off Pleasant Hill Road East. Plans call for, and approved, are a rather large and too-much condo project on Muir Station Road, site of an RV storage area for many years. All adjacent to the Episcopal Church. All way too much, in our humble opinion, of course, for the roadway and for the adjacent neighborhoods. For those of us who have traveled the roadway for eons, and knowing the present traffic to and from the shopping center, and for those who use it as a shortcut, it is difficult to understand how such a massive undertaking could be approved by the city planners and commission. What is done is done, apparently.

JULY brings memories of good and bad, for those of us old enough to have been there or heard the news. The two events which come to our mind were the Port Chicago explosion on July 17, 1944, and the Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969 sending three astronauts to the moon. All three events made the headlines here and abroad.

I had a ‘home alone in Martinez’ experience when the two ships blew up while being loaded at the docks of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine. As a teenager I was at our home in Alhambra Valley while the rest of the family was at the old State Theater downtown watching a war movie, “A Guy Named Joe”, featuring Spencer Tracy as an Army Air Corps pilot, as I recall.

I was listening to programs on the radio and reading when the world seemed to blow up all around me. As the room filled with dust from our ceiling which had opened, and the hair on my head flattened back down, my first thought someone had tried to kill my father, a Navy officer.

While I quickly surveyed the damage, including blown in front door and Dutch door in the kitchen, the rest of the family was finding their way from the theater and exchanging thoughts of the origin of the theater shaking and rumbling. Many thought of the Shell Refinery. Several suggested the ammunition depot or the Avon refinery. No cell phones to listen to in those days.

The family made its way home. My father, then on wartime leave from the CHP, and an active duty officer, changed clothes and grabbed his service revolver and badge to go out to help wherever he was needed. He spent the night and much of the next day helping with traffic control around Port Chicago, keeping the curious away as bodies were retrieved by emergency crews, and as investigators began to gather to do their work.

In the aftermath of this horrendous tragedy, and for some weeks and months, victims’ bodies were found by fishermen along the waterfront and coastline of the waters in the inland area.

Some 320 lost their lives that night. So many more injured, some while sleeping in their barracks on the base. Many jumped from their bunks onto broken glass and suffered foot injuries.

The tragedy has been memorialized on the property, with more to come.

The other July ‘event’ we think about was the July 16, 1969 launch of Apollo II on its mission to the moon. Three courageous astronauts on board for the ride of their lives. And did they do so well!! They came back to earth on July 20th with a splash down in the Pacific and a ‘pick up’ by the USS Hornet, a battle-tested Navy carrier which is now a museum at Point Alameda. Special events and ceremonies are being held this week to which the public is encouraged to attend. (The Hornet is open year-round to the public with many historic exhibits available.)

THE WORLD is inhabited by several billion ‘good’ people who live lives from poverty level, always hungry and in need, to ‘the good life’ like so many of us. The majority live in a community of some kind, trying to survive, raise families to the best of their abilities. In spite of challengers, some insurmountable. With so many ‘good’ people in the world, WHY do the scum of the world and our society make so much of the news headlines?

Why do our news media spend so much time and space featuring these losers? Why do we see and hear them every day? The ’WHY is because ‘we’ demand the coverage. That’s why so many of us watch TV coverage and listen to the radio news. Think about it, please, Dear Readers. Do you find the salacious details of the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein something you want to see or hear? How about the slimy members of the current administration, 13 of whom have left the Cabinet because of malfeasance of some kind, in addition to lower level ‘hierarchy’ who have been dumped by the Oval Office Occupant after some deed causing ‘the leader’ to send them packing.

How about the political name-calling going on? Does that add to our civility? Does it make interesting listening? Sure it does Why?

Many years ago at a newspaper writers’ and editors’ conference held on the Diablo Valley College campus, at a Q & A session with the veteran newspaper folks, a woman asked the question: “Why do newspapers put so many ugly stories of crime, etc., on their front pagers, and not more stories about the Boy Scouts?” The response from one of our veteran senior news guys, “Because if we just put stories about the good deeds of Boy Scouts on the front page, before long we would not have newspapers because readers demand to see the crime stuff”. “Readers would begin to look elsewhere for what they wanted to read about.”

Sad then. Still true today. Probably always! And, social media is making the situation worse.

EDUCATION is wonderful. It can be exciting. It is, and should be, ongoing. Such an opportunity for ‘kids’ from ages 7 to 12, a one-week session at the John Muir Historic Site starts tomorrow, July 22, with a second session from July 29. For details or sign-ups for the John Muir Mountain Day Camp, call (925) 680-8807. Great opportunity!

TONY ROMAN, a friend in school and a 40-year-plus Shell craftsman and supervisor. passed away last week. The Roman family lived up on Muir Station Road as we grew up. His younger brother, Frank, a classmate of mine, was killed in Korea at about 20 or so. A good Martinez family..

CHEERS to the San Joaquin Yacht Club for achieving its goal of $500,000 raised over 30 years in support of the Meals on Wheels of Contra Costa which now delivers meals to 1,850 homebound elderly residents throughout Contra Costa County.

Good friend and fellow Kiwanian in Martinez, Paul Kraintz, Secretary/Treasurer, was a co-founder and a perpetual ‘pusher’ of the organization. Many of the recipients of the noon meal daily see only the volunteer driver who delivers the meal to them. Their only personal contact/visitor that day. What a wonderful service!! Want to donate or know more? Call (925) 313-6311.

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