Saturday, December 7, 2013

Another December 7

For me, December 7 will always be bitter-sweet.   It is the day of a great American disaster, but that is not what I remember.  Of course, I only remember the event in the stories retold at family gatherings and in history books.    My memories are more personal.

December 7, 1913 was the day that the Raker Act was passed, a federal legislation allowing the City of San Francisco to build a drinking water reservoir within what was already patented land and not long after included within Yosemite National Park.  It has always been associated with Yosemite because of the proximity of Hetch Hetchy Valley to Yosemite Valley and because the headwaters of the Tuolumne River in Hetch Hetchy Valley are in the high country of the Sierras south of Tioga Pass.  The act was controversial in 1913 and is still an emotionally charged issue, especially in the City of San Francisco which operates the drinking water system fed primarily from the reservoir, and some within the environmental movement who want the dam removed and the reservoir drained.

Under ordinary circumstances I would not remember this kind of history in such detail, but part of my job was to understand the Raker Act and explain it to visitors to the Hetch Hetchy system.   It also shares a birthday with my father, making the date particularly unforgettable.

Today both the Raker Act and my father celebrate their 100th birthday.   Faithful friends know that my father did not live to see this day, although he came close.  96 years +46 weeks is pretty darn close.  My brother tells the story in his blog post of this morning, 7 Dec 2013.  You can read it over at  You will also find his transcription of my mother's unfinished letter to her sister written on the morning of December 7, 1941.

Happy Birthday, Daddy ...