Friday, November 14, 2014

That Time I Went to See the Hut Where an Author My Students Had Never Heard Of Once Lived

Close-up of bronze statue of Jack London created by artist Cedric Wentworth. (7/12/14)
Guess where. (7/12/14)
This past week, while working with my Advanced Placement juniors in the library on a research project about American Literary Movements, I asked one student if she had read Call of the Wild. When she looked at me as if I had three eyes I followed up with "You've read works by Jack London before, haven't you?" To that she replied, "Who is Jack London?" It was that point that I decided we would be reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London next, despite its present location on the district's seventh grade reading list (where it has been replaced by more Common Core friendly shorter texts as part of a mandated prescribed curriculum).

Fortunately, I have a level of  flexibility as I am working from a curriculum that is more rigorous than the Common Core (College Board approved and all that) so I can detour slightly to insure students have read authors its hard to understand them graduating without even a passing familiarity of.

View from the road. (7/12/14)
Despite it having ended over three-and-a-half months ago, my summer trip to California is the photographic gift that continues to keep on giving. While driving home the day of "the London conversation," I recalled that my best-friend Jerry and I had visited a London-centric locale on my last day in California this past July. I also realized that pictures had been taken that I hadn't really taken the time to process (in was the last day of an 8-day trip after all).

Jack London Square is one of Oakland’s most identifiable landmarks and a symbol of the city’s history as a seaport. It is also a popular entertainment and business destination on the waterfront of Oakland, California. Named after the author Jack London and owned by the Port of Oakland. It was also our last stop before heading to the airport for my flight back East. Like many red-blooded American lads (or at least so I thought), I greatly enjoyed he Yukon adventures weaved by London as a youth, so visiting the reconstruction of Jack London's Klondike Hut in Jack London Square was something of a thrill. Simple and unassuming, it was pretty neat to get a sense of the small scope from which such great adevntures flowed.

Reconstruction of Jack London's Klondike Hut in Jack London Square. (7/12/14)
John Griffith "Jack" London (born John Griffith Chaney, January 12, 1876–November 22, 1916) was born to Flora Wellman in San Francisco. Though he was raised in Oakland, and is a "Favorite Son," I'd never really associated London with California. Unlike John Steinbeck (though not quite a favorite son while alive, but the possibility of tourist dollars heals all wounds), I've always envisioned London in more frigid surroundings,  That is more a tribute to his writing and my imagination than fact, but that's how my minds always saw it.

These conflicting (mis)perceptions was made concrete by the presence of his Klondike hut on the beautiful Oakland waterfront. Creating an interesting dichotomy of visuals, the (re-located) cabin Jack London lived in in the Klondike, now rests on the California Waterfront amid palm trees. Certainly leaning how to start a fire would not be nearly as life-saving as one might think in this environment...

Plaque directly outside the Klondike hut. (7/12/14)

A replica of Jack London's Klondike hut. (7/12/14)
Klondike hut, rear view. (7/12/14)

Dog statue: if you have any info on the artists, please 
comment with the name below. (7/12/14)

Your's truly with the dog statue. (7/12/14)
Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon is a historic bar in Jack London Square. It opened in 1883 in a building made from pieces of an old whaling ship. The floor is sharply tilted, resulting from pilings underneath shifting in the 1906 earthquake. During the 1920s, Alameda was a dry town. The Alameda ferry was nearby, making the bar a traveler’s last chance for a drink when going to Alameda (and first when vice-versa), it was renamed from J.M. Heinold’s Saloon. Though I attempted to get some pictures inside, poor lighting (and a weak photographer) hampered their being worthy of posting.

As a schoolboy in the late 1800s, Jack London studied at Heinold’s. Jack confided in owner John Heinold about his ambition to attend the University of California. Heinold loaned him tuition money, but Jack only lasted a year at university. He later returned to Heinold’s where he wrote his notes for The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild. Heinold’s is referenced 17 times in John Barleycorn.

Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon. (7/12/14)
Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, front view. (7/12/14)
Bronze statue of Jack London created by artist Cedric Wentworth.(7/12/14)
Quite a few modern art pieces also liven up 
Jack London Square. (7/12/14)

Oakland Wiki
Official Jack London Square Site

1 comment:

troutbirder said...

Great on a favorite author of mine