I heard from one of my classmates Roy Dunn about a new little book on Trona. It is called Why would anyone go to Trona? I got a copy and really enjoyed it. I imagine you have seen it because the author is your nephew Bryce Steven Banks. He tells the story from a kids perspective on his trips to visit his grandparents in Trona. I enjoyed it and am sharing with my daughters and grandchildren. I got a copy ordered through our local Barnes and Noble store and I think it is on Amazon as well. It would be good to spread the word on your Trona websites. I order a copy for my older brother Tom, class of 1948, who lives in Portland, OR and I was going to e-mail George Sherman about it to spread the word on his network, which seems mostly to focus on death notices. It would be good to add something positive.
I have meet a lot of lawyers who work on social and economic justice issues but have never met one quite like Paul Henry Abram. I look forward to his visit to Fresno on Friday, when he will appear in a benefit for listener sponsored radio station KFCF (see details below). Abram has written an extraordinary account of his experience representing the union members in ILWU local 35 who were on strike in Trona Ca in 1970. Most lawyers are more cautious (some would say conservative) than the activists they represent, but Abram gains the trust of the workers by being as militant as they are and willing to share the risks needed to win.
In the first couple of days after Abram arrives in Trona, he describes scenes that are neither conservative or nonviolent. The subtitle of the book is “A Revolution in Microcosm.” The strike against the Kerr-McGee plant in the Mohave Desert saw the workers and their legal counsel cutting electrical power to the plant, dynamiting communications systems, and “kidnapping” scab employees. I kept thinking, as I read these accounts, that it is good the statute of limitations has expired on these remarkable actions. The kidnapping charges, which Abram claims were all a big misunderstanding, were resolved in court – you will have to read the book to see what the judge and jury decided. To read the complete review go to: Trona, Bloody Trona A book review by Mike Rhodes
I will never think of Trona in the same way again. Kerr McGee changed Trona. The 1970 strike changed Trona. Time changed Trona. My memories of Trona are childhood memories of wonderful teachers, Austin Hall, the club house, the sables and the fish pond at the railway office. I really don’t want the images of Trona this book has put into my head.
In 1970 I was working in San Bernardino and apparently I was so busy living my own life that I was barley aware of the strike in Trona. I can remember visiting my parents in Trona a short while after the strike was over. We sat in my mothers kitchen on Argus Ave. and I listened to them and my brothers talk about the things that happened during the strike. Some of the stories they told were different versions of the stories Paul Abrams tells about in his book. They were different versions of the stories that were on the news during the strike.
One of the stories we talked about while sitting at my mother’s kitchen was the fire at Zimmerman’s Lumber. I had forgotten all about the fire until recently and was doing research for a story I wanted to write about the stables. Someone I asked about the stables mentioned a fire in the barn. I wrote to Mary Bermani to ask her what she knew about the fire. Well, that was the wrong thing for me to do. Her memories were about the fire I had forgotten. The fire that changed her father’s and her families lives.
There were many families that lost all they had before the strike was over in spite of what this book implies. The strikers were sold out by their union and all I can say is that if corporations were people Kerr-McGee would have died and gone to hell.
I know that most of those that were involved have forgiven and forgotten. That is the way Trona people are. I also know that there will be some with long memories that will never forget or forgive. I am a big believer that forgiveness is very important but I also know that it is something that I often find hard to do.
I see Paul Henry Abram as the hero he makes himself out to be in this book. He wrote a good book. I enjoyed reading it. My only regret is that it may tear a scab off a wound that that will never totally heal.
Some of you may remember Paul “Butch” MacLean, especially if you you were in the class of 1959. I don’t remember him at all but I do remember the places and the people that he wrote about in his chapters about Trona. Paul didn’t write this book in hopes that it would be a bestseller. He wrote it so that his children and grandchildren could read about and know about his life.
If like me you grew up in Trona about the same time Paul did you should enjoy this book. If you grew up as an ordinary child and became an ordinary man like most of us you will be able to relate to Paul and the story of his life.
I’m glad that he decided to share his story with the rest of us by using a self publishing service. The book is a fun read. I can recommend it.