Disaster Preparedness – Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Last week’s Petaluma City Council meeting (7/6/15) featured a two part presentation by members of the Fire Department related to Emergency Preparedness.  You may want to also see my earlier post Can Sonoma Communicate?. Part I of the meeting reviewed what was learned from the recent Napa Earthquake, and Part II reported on the city’s current readiness in the event of a major disaster. Here is the video segment of the city’s meeting on this agenda item:

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Disaster Preparedness - Neighbors Helping Neighbors 1 One important point expressed was that citizens should be prepared to react and to be prepared to be self-sufficient because they could be on their own for three-to-five days without assistance from the city’s first responders. Over the past several years, there have been various Disaster Preparedness programs offered by local groups and organizations that address these needs.

One major concern of this blogger has been how will neighborhoods communicate with one another when all power is out and normal means of communication by Because of the large of volumes of callstelephone, cell phone, computer, etc. are not available. This concern motivated a group of local licensed amateur radio operators to form a Neighborhood Ham Watch (NHW) network that been has conducting weekly Ham radio check-ins, as well as monthly face-to-face meetings for education and training.

There are three main NHW purposes: (1) Get on your radio and talk to other operators from other neighborhoods, and thereby ease tension and isolation associated with an Firefighters Presentation of Disaster Preparednessextended power outage; (2) establish a NHW net and communicate with local Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs), and (3) send welfare traffic at the request of neighbors to extended family outside the stricken area to relieve concerns and reduce clogging of telephone systems that might still be functioning.

Hopefully, this blog will attract the attention of licensed Hams in the 94952, 94953, and 94954 zip code areas, and motivate them to register their name, call sign, and e-mail address with the Petaluma NHW network. Please e-mail Bill Hammerman, KI6GOO, at [email protected]

Lest We Forget – Helen Putnam’s Petaluma’s 4th of July Tradition

Fourth of July Bell Ringing in PetalumaAlthough former mayor and county supervisor Helen Putnam died thirty-one years ago on July 2, 1984, there are many new comers that have moved to Petaluma that may not know about her public service and many contributions to her local community.  One of my earlier blogs summarized her many accomplishments and was posted on this site, November 4, 201 4, and titled, “Lest We Forget – Helen Putnam.”

One of Petaluma’s historic traditions, the ringing of a bell on the steps of the Petaluma Historical Museum & Library, can be traced back 53 years to 1962. If you want to hear the story behind the bell and the history of this local traditional celebration, please join us at the Museum on Independence Day, July 4th, at 10:30 a.m. The sounding of the bell will take place at 11:00 a.m., and followed with the serving of cookies and lemonade in the Courtyard behind the Museum.

Fourth of July Bell Ringing in Petaluma  2In 1962, the Putnams had the Korbel Bell mounted on an “A” frame, with a rope attached, set up on the front yard of their home. On a nearby oak tree, the American flag and California Bear Flag were hosted, and one of the boys tooted his bugle. The Korbel-Putnam bell was rung 13 times, followed by everybody gathering in the rear garden for lemonade and cookies. Thus started Petaluma’s July 4th. celebration tradition.

The American Legion’s Historic Flagpole

Alan CooperA local history buff, Alan Cooper of Monkey Ranch, sent me an interesting story about the history of the American Flag that flew on the American Legion Hall, when it was located on 4th Street, east of “B” Street. The following blog includes many parts of his original message.

tumblr_nicndt0GtE1qll289o1_1280Alan and his wife, Sue, purchased the old Fred Zimmerman dairy ranch, which was located about four miles out on the “D” Street Extension, four years ago. “The Ranch was divided into smaller parcels, but we own the largest one (about 50 acres) with most of the buildings. We live in the old farmhouse, originally built in 1879. We love it here and call our slice of heaven Monkey Ranch.”

Petaluma American Legion Post 28 1953, Sonoma County Library Archives
Petaluma American Legion Post 28 1953, Sonoma County Library Archives

“My neighbor, Don Gilardi, knows that I’m a history buff and an amateur woodworker, so he gave me an old wooden flagpole. It had been sitting out in a field in his son, Donny’s, ranch, which is adjacent to ours, for a dozen or so years. Evidently, a friend of Don’s had been involved in the demolition of the old American Legion Hall on 4th Street (where the Bank of Marin’s parking lot is now). He snatched the treasure from destruction and gave it to Don for safe keeping. Don gave it to me, and I’m in the process of restoring it for Monkey Ranch. I’m contacting you to find out more about the flagpole’s life story.”

Flagpole Photo SAved Pole“The old pole is rough but beautiful. It’s made from a single, old growth Douglas Fir tree and is 30′ tall. It is square at the base and tapering round at the top, with an octagonal transition area. It has the original bronze hardware (rotating truck with halyard block and halyard cleat) manufactured in San Francisco, although the topmost bronze ball was lost.” Alan spent some time in the Hoppy Hopkins Research Library, located on the second floor of the Petaluma Historical Museum & Library, located on 4th and B Streets. He was able to find one photograph that claims to be of the original, 1907, Legion Hall. The flagpole in the photo isn’t as tall as the one that Alan currently has in his posession; however, he is in the process of restoring the old pole, fabricating new mounting hardware, and building a plinth in my front yard.

Also seen in Argus Courier Blog, The American Legion’s Historic Flagpole Wednesday, at 1:00 by

Alan is interested in finding any additional information, history, pictures, or memories, about the Legion Hall and its flagpole. He plans to affix an explanatory plaque to the pole so its purview will be known to all. Readers may contact Alan by telephone (650) 454-6903 or e-mail: [email protected]

Did You Know That #Petaluma Had A College?

As I continue to wade through the historic “golden nuggets” (documents, photographs, files) stored in the Research Library on the second floor of the Petaluma Historical Museum & Library, our local “Treasure Chest,” I discovered that there was a college located in Petaluma for four years. (No photograph available.)

On August 15th, 1866, Preparatory Department of the Petaluma College opened. Professor Mark Bailey was placed in charge. The school was open to all regardless of religious preferences, although it was under the supervision of the Baptist denomination. The program of instruction included Science, Literature, and the Arts; the same as best colleges of the United States. Students who wanted to become lawyers, doctors, or ministers, found introductory courses to those professions available at Petaluma College.

philip-sweed-school-1927-owl-dscf1981rawcroppedawebPupils were allowed to enter at any time, and each term ended with examinations. Tuition fees ranged from $3-$4/month for academic courses, and $6/month for classical and scientific classes.  Vocal music was free. A $30/month fee was charged for tuition, board, and washing, and was payable in advance; except for those students who were boarding in the Institution. They were quarterly. Women seeking a  residence were allowed to board in the College building, while men could find accommodations with private families at reasonable prices. Books and stationary was purchased in Petaluma at San Francisco prices.

The following information about Petaluma, copied from the First Annual Catalog of the Petaluma College, 1867 (p.16), states: “Petaluma is located in one of the most beautiful, picturesque, and healthful regions of the state, fifty miles by water from San Francisco. The fare by steamboat is only one dollar from San Francisco. It is accessible by steamboat and stage from all parts of the state. The city is thrifty, and rapidly growing; churches of all denominations are prosperous; and few places afford equal attractions to parents who desire to settle where they have good social, religious, and educational advantages for their children; and there are none where their children will be under better influences while pursuing their studies away from home.”

P.S. CUAS, or the California University for Advanced Studies, was established in 1984 and authorized to offer grant management degrees up to the doctorate level. It was originally located in Novato, but moved to Petaluma in 1987, where is was housed in the old Philip Sweed Elementary School on Keller Street. (Photo above.) It was reported to have an enrollment of 600 students and a faculty of 70 members. Tuition fees for the various degrees ranged from 2,400 to $3,000.

Unfortunately, after two and one-half years as a correspondence school, it was forced to shut down operation, leaving unpaid bills and tuition reimbursements. According to CUAS business manager, George S. Ryan, “the state forced the school’s closure on May 1, when officials at the Private Post-Secondary Education Division (PPSED) pulled his license to operate. The Department of Education bankrupted the school.”

This blog was originally posted on Petaluma360 on June 3, 2015.

Check out the new ‘Petalumans of Yesteryear’ website

2015-06-04_7-47-03Yesteryear is a word that has been used in a variety of ways. The Walking Tour Guides of our Historic Downtown District, who have adopted the personas of some of Petaluma’s prominent citizens from the late 19th or early 20th Century, have created a unique team of historical enthusiasts who are known as the Petalumans of Yesteryear. Through special presentations, Adult School history classes, and cemetery tours, they help preserve knowledge about our town’s past.

Several years ago, a website was created that included, in addition to a historical time line of Petaluma; a write-up about the contributions each of the Petalumans of Yesteryear made as our river town grew and developed over the years was created. Since then, some of the original Petalumans of Yesteryear have died or moved away. New volunteers have stepped up to the plate to replace them and to add new historic  personalities. Over the past few weeks, a new website has been designed and is now available for the public:Petalumans of Yesteryear Website



Stay tuned as we continue to preserve and to share many of the interesting stories about the people and events that made Petaluma what it is today.  Look for future “Lest We Forget” posts about prominent citizens, past and present, on this site and my blog “Our River Town” on Argus-Courier’s Petaluma360.

Can Sonoma County Communicate?

On 10-19-95, a special report TV show by PCMG, raised the question, “Can Sonoma County Communicate?” Now, almost 20 years later, this same question needs to be asked again; because WHEN, not IF a major disaster strikes Petaluma and/or Sonoma County, and all electric power is lost and most regular forms of communication are inoperable, how will Sonoma County communicate and exchange information with its citizens?

Participants in the 1995 TV show, hosted by Brad Bollinger, included the following guests: Christopher Helgren, Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services; Eric Swanson, Auxiliary Communication Services Team Leader for South County; Chris Albertson, Petaluma Fire Chief; and Bill Hammerman, Westridge Knolls Neighborhood Watch Facilitator. The current emergency service operations offered by these organizations and groups may be found by clicking on the following links:




Here is the episode:

PCMG.TV Special Report – Disaster Preparedness, Can Sonoma County Communicate from Wayne Dunbar on Vimeo.

Whether or not any significant changes have taken place to the different communication networks (County, City, or Volunteer Organizations), will be left up to their leaders to answer. The one area I can comment on is what happened at the neighborhood level between 2006-2011. Various acronyms were created as the emergency training programs were initiated and developed:

  •    CERT = Community Emergency Response Team
  •    NERT = Neighborhood Emergency Response Team
  •    CERN = Community Emergency Radio Network
  •    STAR = A “Safe-Trained-Alert-Ready” neighborhood team
  •    ALERT = Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams

NHW-12-300x293[1]Before municipal sponsorship of the Petaluma CERT courses ceased, the FCC Certified CERT instructor had taught 12-27 hour courses and graduated over 120 citizens, 24 of whom became licensed amateur radio operators. Following Hurricane Katrina, the term “Neighborhood HamWatch” was adopted to identify those licensed Hams who would serve their neighborhood emergency response teams. NHW is a voluntary program all amateur radio operators who want to provide a helpful service to their neighbors during times of extended power outage. These volunteers included those certified ACS, Red Cross, ARES, and SATERN who would serve their neighbors prior to any deployed assignment, following the official declaration of an disaster by their emergency leaders.

There are three main NHW purposes: (1) Get on your radio and talk to other operators from other neighborhoods, and thereby ease tension and isolation associated with an extended power outage; (2) establish a NHW net and communicate with local EOCs through ACS and ARES operators; and (3) send welfare traffic at the request of neighbors to extended family outside the stricken area to relieve concerns and reduce clogging  of any telephone systems that might still be functioning. Hopefully, this blog will attract licensed Hams in the 94952  and 94954 zip code areas, and motivate them to register their name, call sign, and e-mail address with the Petaluma NHW Network. Please e-mail Bill Hammerman at [email protected]


Petaluma Historic Downtown Tours

Pictured above, left to right, are: Linda & Steve Buffo (Mr. & Mrs. E.S. Lippett, Susan Coolidge (Clara McNear), Homer Johnstone (Capt. Thomas Baylis),  Sherri Ortegren (Addie Adwater), Marshall West (Isaac Wickersham), Bill Hammerman (William Howard Pepper).


Just in case you missed the announcement about the Historic Downtown Walking Tour schedule for 2015, and the fact that several of the volunteer guides are members of “The Petalumans of Yesteryear,” I wanted to share the following information.

The Petalumans of Yesteryear evolved from the original group of volunteers who spent three months studying the history of Petaluma and its downtown area, using the Research Library of the Petaluma Historical Museum at 4th & B Streets. Gradually, several members of the group adopted the persona of an early Petaluma, who contributed to the development of our favorite river town in the late 1880s, with whom they identified. In my case, since I had been a professional educators for 40 years, I identified with William Howard Pepper, a local nursery and orchard owner who eventually founded the first Kindergarten in 1894.  Although some of the original Petalumans of Yesteryear have died or moved away, they have been replaced and currently lead the free downtown walking tours on Saturday mornings, from the Museum’s front steps at 10:30 a.m., May to October.

Are You A #Petaluma Sage?

The Sage – A wise man by Steven Lingham

Several years ago (2007), a small group of long time Petalumans who were interested in sharing their memories of the “Good Old Days” living, playing, working, and learning in “Our Favorite River Town,” initiated a group known as the Sages of Petaluma. They selected the name – Sages – because, by definition, they became “somebody who is regarded as knowledgeable, wise, experienced, and a person of advanced years revered for his/her wisdom and good judgment.” Almost half of the participants are native-born Petalumans, while the others have lived most of their lives here.

The discussions are informal, but often relate to theme such as education, your first job, or an annual event or holiday such as the Butter & Egg Days Parade, the 4th of July Bell-Ringing, or Memorial Day. A recent program initiated by The Petalumans of Yesteryear, the Petaluma Oral History Project, has involved several of the Sages.  Sages3 002.jpgHopefully, by the end of next month. visitors to the Petaluma History Museum may be able to view a video interview by a Sage who wanted to share some of his memories for future generations. Most of the interviews last from 15-20 minutes. Those interviewed, to date, include: Dick Dunbar, Growling Bear, Jim Giovando, Lily Krulervich, Shep Sheperd, Tim Talamantes, Don Waite, and Bill Sovel. Three Sages who have adopted the personas  of earlier Petalumans of Yesteryears and were interviewed are also available: Capt. Thomas Baylis (Homer Johnstone), Isaac Wickersham (Marshall West), and William Howard Pepper (Bill Hammerman).

If you wish to join the Sages, just attend one of their meetings on the last Wednesday of the month, from 10:00 a.m.-Noon at the Museum. Our next meeting will be Wednesday, May 27th.

Lest We Forget – Bert Kerrigan

Bert KerriganAt last, the sun came out and Saturday’s Butter & Egg Days Parade (April 25) was the 34th year that Petaluma celebrated its historic roots in the chicken and egg industry, which can trace its roots back to 1879, when Lyman Byce invented the first successful incubator for hatching eggs.  As this new industry grew over the years and the demand for chickens and eggs increased, Petaluma became the world leader of this industry and was called “The Egg Basket of the World” in 1917. Much of the credit for this recognition has been awarded Bert Kerrigan, who had been hired by the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce to market and promote Petaluma. On August 13, 1918, Petaluma initiated National Egg Day Petaluma Chicken Pharmacywith a downtown parade led by a queen and royal chicks. In addition to the parade, there was also a Chicken Rodeo and Egg Queen Ball. In 1920, the original Egg Day events ended, but the current parade took its place in 1982, in honor of Our Favorite River Town’s chicken and egg days legacy.

Lest we forget, Bert Kerrigan and all the other Petalumans whose efforts have put Petaluma back on the world map. Ripley’s Believe It or Not column and National Geographic discovered and featured the Chicken Pharmacy located on Main Street. It has also been reported that by 1920, the price of eggs increased and that “for nearly two decades, there was more money on deposit in Petaluma banks, per capita, than any other town on Earth.”

paradeThis positive and strong sense of community continues to this day and has influenced the current generation of Petalumans to never forget their favorite river town’s legacy. Stay tuned as we continue to blog about the city where we have chosen to live, work, play, and retire.


“Our Favorite River Town” – Petaluma

Petaluma In The Press Democrat
Karen Nau’s Google+ Post Where is “Petaluma”? #Petaluma #Peanuts In today’s PD

How many readers of the Press Democrat comics have noticed that Snoopy is asking about – “Petaluma?” because that is where the annual World’s Wrist Wrestling Contest is held. This competition was started in a Petaluma bar in 1953 and was publicized by a local reporter – Bill Soberanes. This series of cartoons by Charles Schultz was originally published years ago, and has helped put Our Favorite River Town on the world map. Snoopy is wondering where Petaluma is located. Why is the contest being held there? Can a blogger help Snoppy find the answer to these questions?

Snoopy and Charlie Brown Talking About Petaluma Wrist Wrestling Championships

A new blog site titled, Our Favorite River Town, is being created for use on the Positively Petaluma website. Although there is another blog, Our River Town, published on the Argus-Courier’s Petaluma360.com site by the same blogger,; we will be experimenting with this new site in order to get maximum exposure to the largest audience. Readers of both sites will be encouraged to read both posts and to share their thoughts.

Snoopy Arm Wrestling Linus Comic Strip

My Our River Town blog was initiated in the 1990s to share reflections about how the information and technology world of today was impacting Petaluma. To date, over 600 blogs have been posted in the following categories: Our Community. Then & Now, Web of Life, Remembering Bill Soberanes, Lest We Forget, Emergency Preparedness, Fred Wiseman, Our Cyberplace, Petaluma History, The Sages of Petaluma, and the Petalumans of Yesteryears.

Snoopy - Welcome To PetalumaAbout The Author:

Following a 40-year career as an educator, Bill Hammerman is currently a community volunteer who founded Petaluma Electronic Network (PEN) in 1996, the Petaluma CyberCity Roundtable (PCCR) and the Petalumans of Yesteryear in 1998, and the Petaluma Alliance for Local Emergency Response Teams (ALERT) in 2006. He was one of the original walking tour guides for the Petaluma History Museum and currently serves as the facilitator for the Sages of Petaluma and the Petalumans of Yesteryear.

Please feel free to share these  blogs with your friends and colleagues and help put Our Favorite River Town on the world map.