The old year passes. Always an occasion for (choose the word that suits your mood as you prepare to watch 2017 fade into the smoky mists of the second millennium): rejoicing, reflection, astonishment or hope.
It could be “all of the above,” because it’s been that kind of year.
Let us begin with rejoicing — in the best municipal manner as preparations are underway for the 2018 sesquicentennial of Santa Rosa becoming, officially, a city.
Rejoicing would be an appropriate choice. By 1868 this scrappy and more-than-a-little ragtag town on the biggest creek in the valley had already observed two decades of ups and downs — the departure of the padres and the Mexican grantees, the entrepreneurial interests of unsuccessful gold miners, a political coup that brought the county seat to a trading post that wasn’t even a town and its own shadow Civil War with an older, better-positioned rival to the south.
So, yes, what was described by the Sonoma Bulletin — the first newspaper in the county — as a place where there was “nothing but dogs, dust and whiskey drinkers” became an official chartered city.
Having survived the ensuing years of alternating drought and deluge, an assortment of earthquakes including The Big One of April 1906 that leveled the business district and killed one in 80 residents in this city of 8,000 and, from the front of our collective mind, the wildfires of 1964 and the month before last, Santa Rosa has achieved a population that has crept ever closer to 200,000 along with a “Wine Country” reputation for prosperity and pleasure. So “rejoicing” would definitely be a defensible choice.
And as the city celebrates 150, we will also rejoice in Santa Rosa Junior College’s centennial honors.
It was a committee of 14 determined women who would have described themselves (proudly, I suspect) as “housewives” that convinced the school board that the city and county needed to take advantage of the 10-year old state law providing for the establishment of junior colleges.
In 1918 it became the 18th JC in California and a focus of community pride.
“Reflection” is your next choice. And it could apply to the many lessons learned in the year that ends at midnight.
For journalists, timing is everything, particularly upon reflection, as syndicated columnist Joe Mathews can tell you. In late September, Mathews stumbled into a pitfall of prognostication in a column about Santa Rosa. It appeared Oct. 1 in the San Francisco Chronicle.
A week later his observations — leading off with “Adjust your California maps: The little dot marking Santa Rosa needs to be bigger” — were sitting on my desktop, about to become the starting point of my first column of October.
I was planning to take a tone of sardonic disbelief. Joe was nothing if not positive about this city’s economic future. “No place in California stands to benefit more,” he wrote, from the “dramatic changes” taking place in the Golden State. Santa Rosa, he suggested was an “edge city,” a kind of border town between the metropolitan Bay Area and the rural north, in his words, “a bastion of hoary traditions like economic growth and middle-class opportunity.”
It all sounded so good. (Although some of it was a bit odd, like his assertion that Santa Rosa’s city motto is “Out There. In the Middle of Everything.” I had never heard that before.)