California Authors

Craig MacDonald

When friends and family need help making their copy sing & dance, they call on historian, author and journalist Craig MacDonald to help pen their thoughts and give them polish.

The son of a San Jose State University English professor began writing in his youth and found success in getting things published before he graduated college. His interest in California and Nevada gold rush era history is a passion he shared with his father who he co-authored several books and magazine articles with. However, Craig MacDonald has actually written 24 books, has spoken to thousands of people about California history, and his articles have appeared in magazines world wide.

While those accolades are his pride, Craig MacDonald has also won many awards for his press, public relations and marketing efforts spanning several decades at AT&T and former Bell companies. 

Also working nearly a decade as a reporter on the San Diego Union-Tribune, MacDonald covered many beats from breaking news (his coverage was nominated for a Pullitzer Prize,) to the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld and a syndicated column about people's hobbies. delights in being able to publish this legend's great works.


By Craig MacDonald

Many of nature's best gifts are free. One of the least recognized of these is SAND. Those loose granules can provide the utmost entertainment for both people and animals. Not only is sand fun to walk over while barefoot, but it sometimes stays with you as a memento for a long time. For weeks after a day at the beach, you may find sand in your pants cuffs or shoes, prompting fond memories. Sand, that's the happy stuff which can bring an unexpected crunch to the hamburger you cooked on the beach. And what better way to occupy children's attention than to get them started building sandcastles. Such expressions of a child's creativity can also be educational because it encourages the work of both hand and mind. Unlike other playthings, sand does not usually pose a litter problem. It also may have some neat things on or in it--like driftwood, shells, starfish, polished stones, tiny animals and seaweed, which fascinate young and old for hours on end. Sand often plays an unsung role in a lot of special things in life. Like the pleasure of lovers walking hand in hand on the beach or watching the sinking sun slurp beneath the horizon or gazing at the dream-like distant lights of a city at night. And what could be more significant to two friends than the simple act of carving hearts, names and love letters in the sand? How much enjoyment your dog gets when you fling a Frisbee far, watching him race with all his might, splashing across the sand and into the surf, trying not to let you down. We can be thankful to reside in a city where there is so much sand. Think of what Huntington Beach would be without it!', 'It's the Sand that Makes Huntington Beach',

Awe Inspiring: Monterey Bay Aquarium

By Craig MacDonald

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has become internationally known for its incredible ocean conservation efforts, was born on October 20, 1984. That's when the official grand opening was held.

I was there, with my mother and 3-year-old son, the weekend it opened Oct. 20-21, 1984, and it has been creating major waves ever since. Spectacularly-built at the south end of Cannery Row, the amazing aquarium has played host to over 46 million visitors, 1.5 million school kids and distributed more than 32 million Seafood Watch Guides (which objectively show people the best ocean-friendly seafood). The Seafood Watch Program has even shifted the buying habits of the two biggest food service companies.

The aquarium's cutting-edge research and advocacy programs further help protect white shark, tuna and sea otters. Innovative exhibits, in the area previously made famous by John Steinbeck, even inspired the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary--the largest national marine sanctuary in the Continental United States.

It's the only aquarium to successfully exhibit Great White Sharks, be home to the first living kelp forest and the largest living exhibit of deep sea creatures ever created, as well as the unbelievable jellyfish exhibits.

As a former Conference Director for one of the top companies in the World, I've never found a more incredible facility--full of awe and wonder to go along with delicious food--than this place. I have put on several major dinners in the Outer Bay Wing and Kelp Forest areas and not only are the venues awesome but the employees were an absolute delight to work with.

Credit must be given to David and Lucille Packard, whose foresight and funding helped create this fabulous facility as well as the Monterey Bay Research Institute. Under the loving stewardship of their daughter, Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, the caring team members, over 1,250 volunteers and the exciting creatures, the MBA continues to spread fascination and understanding of the oceans to young and old alike, gaining a new appreciation of the water that makes up more than 70% of the Earth's surface.

If you haven't been to the Aquarium, go see it. If you can't go, you can still participate through podcasts and their website (

If you want to make ocean-friendly seafood choices and eat healthier, visit Seafood Watch on the Internet. If you join the aquarium as a member, you get all sorts of benefits from unlimited free admission, to discounts at the stores and for programs plus lots more.

It's no wonder the aquarium has inspired more than 24 others that have been created the past quarter century. A visit there will change your life!

Craig MacDonald is a Pulitzer Prize nominee, an Historian and Journalist.

Musicians Put "Big Squeeze" on Orange County

By Craig MacDonald

Costa Mesa, Orange County Market Place --The incredibly energetic music from accordions, fiddles, guitars and drums permeated the air to the absolute delight of thousands of people at "The Big Squeeze," the First Orange County Accordion Festival, held in conjunction with the Orange County Market Place in Costa Mesa Sunday.

Folks of all ages, sizes and talents stomped their feet, kicked up their legs and swung their partners in Zydeco/Cajun style at the wildly popular musical event.

Grammy Nominee Lisa Haley & The Zydekats brought down the house with their pulsating, rhythmic sounds that captured the spirit of the day and the hearts of onlookers, some of whom leaped up and danced like there was no tomorrow.

A rollicking grand time was had by all, who appreciated the enthusiasm and all-out performance of the fun and fantastic entertainers and their audience.

Also, "Raving Polka," some of whose members got their start in Moscow 23 years ago, showed their pizzazz with dynamic folk music that brought cheers from the overflow crowd. Their dynamic delivery, including Russian dance, brought an electricity to the air that commanded attention. No wonder their music has been featured in major motion pictures and on television.

Event Creator Jill Lloyd and her team amazingly were able to bring many of the best accordionists and music players in the World together for this truly memorable day. We hope it becomes an annual tradition at the widely-popular Orange County Market Place, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays at the OC Fair & Event Center (

There were many other noteworthy acts at the festival, including enot and Pappion Louisiana Band, who played scrub boards and other fascinating instruments.

Life-long partners share Thanksgiving at Disneyland "Disneyland Couple" Craig MacDonald

Thanksgiving means different things to different people. To a small child, it might mean a chance to eat turkey and talk with grandpa. To a young adult, it's a day to be glad if you have a roof over your head and a meal on the table. To newlyweds, it's a day of togetherness and time to recall the joys of a young marriage. To many parents, it may be a day of work--cooking a turkey and getting ready for a visit from relatives. To grandparents, it's a day to be with their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. It's a day of reflection--a day of memories. A chance to close your eyes and think of all the people who have helped you--from the postal carrier, who may brighten your day by bringing a letter from a loved one; to the boss who tolerated you during your dull spells; to the neighbor, who unselfishly returns your lost dog; to your pastor, who gives you positive enthusiasm, while you look for work after being laid off; to your health care provider, whose smile makes you feel a tad bit better; to the trash person, who takes away your garbage; to the delivery person, who brings your paper, sometimes in pitch dark and rain; to your spouse who encourages you even though you have doubts.... Yes, Thanksgiving is a time to have an "attitude of gratitude," to be grateful for whatever you have, with the realization that you're lucky to have it. No matter what condition you're in, there will always be people less fortunate than you. If you haven't already, Thanksgiving is a great time to begin "lighting a candle in the darkness," to do whatever you can --in whatever way you can-- to make a difference. By helping others, you'll probably help yourself. And the World will be a better place because of it. And last, but far from least, Thanksgiving is a time to be Thankful that you are able to live in the United States of America, a country that gives you so many freedoms, which are taken for granted; a country that has enabled you to get where you are today; a country that gives you opportunities for tomorrow. (Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to read this.)

Thanksgiving Stuffed with Meaning

By Craig MacDonald

Thanksgiving means different things to different people To a small child, it might mean a chance to eat turkey and talk with grandpa To a young adult, it's a day to be glad if you have a roof over your head and a meal on the table To newlyweds, it's a day of togetherness and time to recall the joys of a young marriage To many parents, it may be a day of work--cooking a turkey and getting ready for a visit from relatives To grandparents, it's a day to be with their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters It's a day of reflection--a day of memories. A chance to close your eyes and think of all the people who have helped you--from the postal carrier, who may brighten your day by bringing a letter from a loved one; to the boss who tolerated you during your dull spells; to the neighbor, who unselfishly returns your lost dog; to your pastor, who gives you positive enthusiasm, while you look for work after being layed off; to your health care provider, whose smile makes you feel a tad bit better; to the trash person, who takes away your garbage; to the delivery person, who brings your paper, sometimes in pitch dark and rain; to your spouse who encourages you even though you have doubts... Yes, Thanksgiving is a time to have an "attitude of gratitude," to be grateful for whatever you have, with the realization that you're lucky to have it. No matter what condition you're in, there will always be people less fortunate than you. If you haven't already, Thanksgiving is a great time to begin "lighting a candle in the darkness," to do whatever you can --in whatever way you can-- to make a difference. By helping others, you'll probably help yourself. And the World will be a better place because of it And last, but far from least, Thanksgiving is a time to be Thankful that you are able to live in the United States of America, a country that gives you so many freedoms, which are taken for granted; a country that has enabled you to get where you are today; a country that gives you opportunities for tomorrow (Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to read this.)

Craig MacDonald, who has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, is a professional Historian, Author & Speaker

Birds Have Their Day on Mission Bay Beaches

By Craig MacDonald

SAN DIEGO--The beaches are for the birds on autumn weekdays. On first glance, one might think Mission Bay's beaches seem bleak, but upon closer examination you can see they are beautiful in their own way as a paradise for bird life. On the bay, where motorboats, sailors and water skiers take over on the weekends, a lone seagull can be seen swooping and gliding, this way and that, taking his time as he picks and chooses fish for lunch. Birds of many families are the only sunbathers seen today on the totally isolated beaches. Over on the nearby lawns, where energetic football and frisbee contests occur every weekend, it is these same birds who are still in control of things. Some have three inch long beaks and bony legs, which they bound around on, poking here, then there; taking an occasional peak over their shoulder as if to wonder, "Where is everybody?" Other birds, very young, choose to follow their mothers around, trying to imitate her every move, just like in the game, "Simple Simon." Many of the birds seem unconcerned as they wobble about, for they apparently know this is a weekday and the beach is reserved for their pleasure. There aren't even any dogs or horses around, and more peculiar, at this time the joggers are gone. The overcast, cool day has even discouraged bicyclists and hikers from taking their usual trails. At the east side of the bay, the tide is out and the popular basketball courts are bare, with their metal nets tingling against the hoops in the wind. Perched atop one hoop is a seagull; perhaps a lone sentry over the birds' paradise. Below, another feathered friend bathes in a small puddle, left over from the morning dew. There's no doubt about it. Mission Bay is "reserved" on autumn weekdays--the birds know and appreciate it. Maybe someone should post a sign: "The place is for the birds!"

Happy Thanksgiving Telephone Operators Everywhere

Craig MacDonald

One of the busiest calling days of the year is Thanksgiving, when people talk to loved ones. Over the years, one of the persons who has helped connect people more than almost any other is the Telephone Operator, both Long Distance and Directory Assistance. I was a DA Operator back in the 1970s and I know how important the job is. I later was in charge of a program that honored Telephone Operators. I'd like to honor them again today. Way back when, the first telephone operators were men, but many of them didn't do such a good job and were replaced by women. Today, men have redeemed themselves and there are plenty of men and women serving as operators, assisting you in your various communication needs. I once interviewed several veteran operators and what stories they had. Some had worked for more than 50 years and told me things like how the windows had to all be blacked out during World War II for security. One told me if you're ever in a phone booth and don't have a pen to jot down the number, breathe on the glass, then write the number with your finger. I've done that and it really works. Another said she got a call from a woman requesting a number. The operator discovered there were several people with that name and asked if the caller knew the address. "No, but she lives in a brown house with a green Chevy parked in front," came the reply. A phone company employee said when she placed a collect call, a child answered the phone. "When the child didn't understand calling collect, I asked her to have someone older come to the phone. The next thing I heard was a dog barking into the receiver." In San Diego, a customer asked how much a call would be to Dallas. "I told the customer," explained a male operator. "The customer then asked how much could he say for that amount. I told him it depended on how fast he could talk." Another operator told me that she got a call in 1950 from a very confident-sounding chap. "Before hanging up, he gave me his name and insisted I write it down because he would be famous some day," she said. "Over 10 years later, I was cleaning out my desk and found a note: 'I must remember this fellow's name because he will be famous some day--Johnny Carson.'" Happy Thanksgiving Operators Everywhere. And Many, Many Thanks For All You Do! Editor's Note: Pulitzer Prize Nominee Craig MacDonald's new book would make a great Holiday Gift. If you want an autographed copy of "Gold Rush Glimpses III, Outlaws, Inspirations & Amusements," send a check for $25 made out to "Anderson's Art Gallery" and mail to P.O. Box 1710, Sunset Beach, CA 90742-1710 or visit It's illustrated by two internationally-known artists.

'81-Year-Old Jim Long Links Aviation Past to the Present and Future'

By Craig MacDonald

SUNNYVALE, CA--Over 60 years ago, Jim Long flew a plane in the Navy at Pensacola, Florida. Today, at 81, the Master Pilot Award Winner from Sunnyvale is still flying and teaching the next generation of pilots. He has flown more than 40 different kinds of planes, from F9F Panthers--the first major Navy carrier jet fighters-- to Cessna, Piper and Beech aircraft. And the thrill of flight has never left him. Long still has the passion and the right stuff to be honored for his flying safety and dedication in training the next generation.

The decorated aviator also has spent more than 2,000 hours as a docent explaining military flying to visitors at the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier, based at the former Alameda Naval Air Station in Northern California ( The Hornet is a highly decorated World War II and Vietnam combat veteran that also helped in the recovery of the Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts.

"As a docent, my job is to make the museum come alive so guests will tell others about it," Long said. Hornet guests love to hear the Navy vet talk about landing on such a carrier. Long has more than 170 such landings, flying jet fighters on such famous carriers as the USS Midway (now a museum in San Diego, CA) and the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Landing on a carrier is not much different than on land except the stopping is very much quicker," said the enthusiastic flyer. "A carrier has the wind always down the runway, while learning to land a plane on a ground runway with the wind from the side is not an easy task. The carrier always turns into the wind for landings and takeoffs--a great advantage because you can move the airport to where it's needed."

The pilot, whose aviation heroes were Glenn Curtiss and Charles Lindbergh, said he always wanted to fly and loved model airplanes as a youth. "The greatest thing about flying is that each flight is a new adventure--you take off, fly a mission and try to successfully complete the flight. The satisfaction is realized after each flight, unlike in industry, where it might be months or years before a task is completed."

"Aviation also has the feeling of finality--you must do things correctly or the end will not be pleasant," said the former Flight Test Engineer with Martin Marietta and Lockheed.

When he's not up in the air, Long's teaching others the joy of flying or the affable aviator is on the Hornet giving visitors a tour, serving on the carrier's Docent Council or Training Committee, assisting as Boy Scout Badge Counselor and even being the ship's Command Duty Officer (once a month).
Few people have given so much of their lives to aviation--from Navy fighter pilot to Flight Test Engineer to FAA Certified Flight Instructor. Long's an invaluable link from the past to the present to the future. One of his former students is even an Airline Captain. His zest for life and sharing his love brings his passion to new heights for everyone lucky enough to cross his path. Jim Long, We Salute You!

Read about Pulitzer Prize Nominee Craig MacDonald's new book, "Gold Rush Glimpses III".

Affordable Hobbies to Wet Your Whistle

Craig MacDonald

Everyone can afford one of the most beautiful instruments around. It won't cost you a cent and you can play it when you're a kid or a senior citizen. It's called "the whistle." Nearly everybody can develop a certain degree of proficiency in this ageless art of enjoyment. There are so many ways to whistle, the most common being the "kiss whistle." You pucker your lips and then inhale and exhale. But the most unusual whistle is the "chicken scatterer." My grandfather taught it to me many years ago. He said he came up with it before the Turn of the Century, while riding his bicycle in San Francisco. "I was riding my bike very fast, when I came upon a bunch of chickens," grandpa explained. "In an instant I developed this emergency sound that undoubtedly saved the lives of the fowl, who barely escaped." "The chicken scatterer" sound comes from sucking in your lower lip over the bottom row of teeth and blowing air out your mouth. If you do it properly, it will enable you to signal chickens in front of you (and anyone several blocks away). Another loud whistle involves placing your index and middle finger in your mouth and blowing air out sharply. This whistle will either win you a lot of admiring friends or get you some hostile enemies. Some people's favorite whistle is created by placing your thumb and index finger in your mouth and blowing between them. A branch of this involves putting your index and small finger in your mouth. But the most unusual whistle I ever came across was one my grandfather perfected, called "the knuckle ball." Somehow he was able to place his knuckles against his teeth and blow through the finger cracks for one of the strangest I've ever heard. Whistling is kind of making a comeback these days. You can hear the Andy Griffith Show's "whistled" theme song more and more on TV as different stations/networks rerun the popular 1960s series. Some Country Music stars use whistling in songs, just like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry did. I even saw a comedian on Comedy Central, who whistled while he drank a cup of water. On the radio, I recently heard the old "Whistle While You Work" classic. So pucker up and add your own whistle to this exciting resurgence of recreation, relaxation and rescue (chickens that is). (For 5 years, Craig MacDonald had a nationally-syndicated hobby column, "At Your Leisure," that appeared in more than 2,000 newspapers.)

Dogs & Snakes Surprise Service Techs

By Craig MacDonald

Everything looked peaceful when Dick Donnelly reported to work his first day as a phone company installer in Mission Viejo, Ca. "The neighborhoods were well kept up, things were quiet and the sun was shining in all its glory," recalled the former professional athlete, who once caught Dodger great Sandy Koufax. But he had no idea what lurked behind closed doors. On his very first residential visit, Donnelly entered a backyard and came face-to-face with a coiled 15-foot python. "I could feel my heart in my throat," he recalled, still a bit shaken by the ordeal. Fortunately, Donnelly discovered the python was dead. It had been stuffed and used as a high school science display. "You really never know what to expect when you enter a yard." Pat Boulger agrees. He once asked a woman if she had any dogs out back. She said, "No." So he walks out into the yard carefree, only to suddenly become horrified as a 6-foot alligator comes slithering out from under a bush. A shocked Boulger barely made it back to the house. Installer John Allen was walking up a driveway in Laguna Hills, when he passed a pickup truck. Much to his surprise, a monkey leaped from the cab and bit through his pant leg. Charles Johnson said he ran into a cat problem years ago while working in Live Oak Canyon. "A lady had more than 20 cats and they hunted most of their food in the canyon," he said. "Some of the felines weighed 15 pounds or more. If they grabbed you by the leg to play, it could be a real touchy situation." Pete Maris was installing a phone in a barn when he was approached by a two-foot miniature horse. His co-workers refused to believe him when Maris said the critter began running a figure eight pattern between his legs. The unique horse was part of a show put on at fairs. The main animals installers and other techs encounter are dogs. "The German Shepards and Dobermans scare the daylights out of many of us," said Bob Ruzzi. "When I was an installer, I entered a backyard on several occasions without any problem from a small dog that always eyed me closely. But as I left the yard a final time, the dog ran up and bit me from behind, tearing my pants. The moral of the story is 'Don't take your eyes off any kind of pet, any size."


Craig MacDonald

(The following is a true love story, one of the most unusual I ever came across. Thanks for the memories.)

Once upon a time, I met two single men named Jim. The two men were splicers for the phone company. One day while splicing cables together they started talking about double-dating. Jim said to the other Jim, "If you'd like to take my daughter to dinner, I'd like to take your mother." Done deal. They've been double-dating ever since. Both courtships blossomed into full fledged love and the couples were appropriately hitched in a double ceremony in Santa Ana, Ca. After exchanging their sacred vows, the two couples set up housekeeping rather simply--the brides just switched houses. Eugenia, Jim's mother, moved to Newport Beach, Marilyn to Costa Mesa. However, the happy story's simplicity stops here. As a result of the marriages, Jim's mother became his mother-in-law. His wife's father, her father-in-law. And his wife was considered his stepsister. (Are you following?) Marilyn was not only Eugenia's daughter-in-law but also her stepdaughter. Marilyn's husband became both son-in-law and stepson to his new father-in-law. Complicated as it may seem, the couples said their relationships weren't a bit confusing to them. And they hopefully lived happily ever after. (Seems like this should be in "Ripley's Believe it or Not" but I'm still trying to figure it out. Happy Holidays!") Craig MacDonald, is a Pulitzer Prize nominee whose latest book, "Gold Rush Glimpses III-Outlaws, Inspirations & Amusements" just came out. Google "Gold Rush Glimpses III" to find out more.

Twinkles Saved the Day With Her Holiday Spirit

By Craig MacDonald

LOS ANGELES--Seeing LA's millions of holiday lights reminds me of a woman who brightened many a face in San Jose back in the 1960s. People called her "Twinkles," in honor of her unique Yuletide dress. The home economics teacher had made it herself and there wasn't another one like it anywhere. Carefully sewn into the fabric were hundreds of tiny, colorful lightbulbs, designed to form a Christmas tree, stars, musical notes and even Baby Jesus. I've never seen anything like it before or since. Twinkles powered her spectacular display with batteries, which were cleverly concealed in her purse, itself encircled in a barrage of bulbs made in a pattern to look like reindeer. This walking, one-person holiday extravaganza also had red and green lights on her shoes and even a twinkling ensemble of bulbs on her hat, patterned with mistletoe and a grinning Santa as well. There was one time when Twinkles' merry presence was especially appreciated. It was at a high school Christmas dance, attended by the entire student body of over 1,000 kids. Twinkles was there in her best dress, full of holiday glow as usual, content with being the highlight of the dance floor. Then it happened. A driving rain knocked out some electrical wiring and the school's auditorium when pitch dark. Very calmly, Twinkles, aglow once again, made her way through the hall, trailed by several kids. Following our electrifying "Pied Piper," we were led to the arts & crafts classroom. Twinkles unlocked the door and we all grabbed candles, which we took back to the auditorium where a special luminescence made for a night we would never forget. As the choir broke out in a bevy of Christmas songs, the dance continued, thanks to Twinkles who literally "lit up" our lives. Happy Holidays Twinkles, wherever you're glowing!

Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig MacDonald's latest book was just released. Gold Rush Glimpses III

California Gold Rush Christmas Harsh and Lonely

By Craig MacDonald

The Holiday Season during the early days of the Gold Rush was for many a very harsh, lonely and difficult time to cope with. Miner Elisha Perkins wrote in his diary in 1849: "Oh, how I wish I could spend this day at home, what a 'Merry Christmas' I would have and what happy faces I should see, instead of the disappointed set around me, Christmas Day was ushered in by the firing of guns...This is about the amount of celebration. Some miners spent a cold, hungry day together but managed to temporarily dodge the pain by singing old Christmas Carols like "Jingle Bells" or "Away in a Manger." Others lucky enough to make it to a hotel, might splurge for a feast and enjoy the company of others. Occasionally, Preachers who came West in the Gold Rush actually held short Christmas services in saloons or out under trees, honoring the real reason for the season--the birth of baby Jesus.

San Francisco's Legendary Columnist Herb Caen Remembered

Craig MacDonald

Feb. 1, 2010 marks the 13th anniversary of the death of my favorite newspaper columnist, Herb Caen. He wrote his SF column for 58 years, right up to the end at age 80. Nobody promoted, exposed, celebrated, chided and enjoyed the City of San Francisco more than Herb. He won a Pulitzer Prize near the end of his life for his "extraordinary and continuing contribution as a voice and conscience of his city." I used to buy The Chronicle, just to read Herb's entertaining and enlightening "Three Dot Journalism" columns, where he covered just about everything one time or another. I can still remember a mention in the last column I saw--about a man who was accidentally locked in a bank vault. So many people--from the homeless to the Mayor to the Cable Car drivers--bought or borrowed The Chronicle every day just to see what Herb had to say. Not only did he coin terms like "Beatnik," but he came up with some saucy quotes, like, "Cockroaches and socialites are the only things that stay up all night and eat anything." "A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew." "I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there." It used to be that everybody knew--and had an opinion--about Herb. But now, there are thousands of folks who moved to San Francisco after his passing, and they may never have heard of him, even though there's a Herb Caen Way. I always loved the man and his column. I loved it so much, I started contributing to Herb. Living in Southern California, I sent him an "item" about an embarrassing use of words on a Cliff House (SF) postcard I had received. I also mentioned I was being relocated to SF. Herb wrote back saying he "adored the item" & wanted to officially welcome me to San Francisco and looked forward to further contributions. I kept my eyes out and my ears perked for other "items." At the SF Airport, I happened to be standing alongside an elderly man, waiting for his young mail-order bride coming from overseas. They'd never seen each other. I stayed around and covered it for Herb, who loved the story. Politicians will tell you no one had more power in SF than Herb and his column. He could make or break a restaurant or person by what he said. When the city was doing things wrong, he'd "pound 'em." And often things amazingly somehow got fixed. We really need Herb around today, more than ever before. With the way the economy is and the weird stuff happening in the World, Herb would have a field day, making his comments, coining new words, trying to fix stuff and getting us to chuckle at ourselves. For many of us, as John Steinbeck once wrote, "Herb's city is the one that will be remembered." If you'd like to learn more about this fascinating character, you can get his books and columns (some are on the Internet and others on microfilm at places like the SF Public Library). Your life will be enriched. As Herb once wrote: "The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever!"

Inspirational Rueben Martinez & Libreria Martinez Books & Art Gallery

By Craig MacDonald

SANTA ANA--Rueben Martinez will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Ceremony on April 17th. Nobody is better deserving. From his humble beginnings in Arizona, Martinez has risen to incredible heights because of his amazing ability to inform, to challenge and to inspire kids and adults in the field of reading and literacy. For his efforts, he has already received the Peter Drucker Inspiration Award, the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, a Presidential Fellowship at Chapman University, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Whittier College, a CBS "American Heroes" Honor and much more. In Chicago, he even has a weekly TV Show in Spanish (called in translation, "The Little Books Club.") He co-founded the Latino Book & Family Festival with actor Edward James Olmos. He's seen regularly on PBS and is the subject of feature stories in major media around the globe. Yet, Martinez is not interested in talking about himself and his achievements. He's much more interested in talking about his promotion of the love of reading and literacy. He grew up in an Arizona home that had no books. His love of reading came in school where he learned you can become whatever you want; travel wherever you want to go, and become smarter every day--all though reading. "Read Today, Lead Tomorrow," said the enthusiastic owner of Libreria Martinez Books & Art Gallery, newly located to 216 N. Broadway in Santa Ana. "If you read 20 minutes a day, that's one million words a year and you'll learn up to 3,000 new words." "The more you read, the more you know, and the more you know, the smarter you grow," said the barber-turned-bookstore proprietor. "Reading helps you gain a vision--most of us have eyesight but can we see where we'll be in 5 years?" "Reading is education and education is freedom. Anything and everything in this world is possible if you read and believe in yourself." Martinez is an inspiration to millions of children and adults because he practices what he preaches and these days he's preaching around the world. As a young man, he practiced the barber trade and always kept books in his shop to encourage adults and children to read. Eventually, books took over his business. Ironically, his new bookstore location is across the street from where he operated a hair salon in 1974. He commuted to the salon from East Los Angeles but has lived in Santa Ana for many years. In fact, he has been made "The Official Reading Ambassador for the City of Santa Ana." Some call him a "literary evangelist." Four years ago, he founded "Rueben Martinez LEAP" (Literature, Enrichment, Achievement, Plus), a program where volunteers, including a professor from Santa Ana College, teach art, Spanish, English, Immigration, Finance and other subjects. "I've always wanted to make sure that kids and their parents realize the value of reading," he said. "I want to make sure kids stay in school. I want to make sure they have hope and realize that life is important and you have to embrace it." In the Children's Book section he has beautiful paintings on the wall showing kids reading and playing; one shows a wisdom tree, indicating in picture how you can be a doctor or whatever you want. Martinez has passed on his passion for reading to his two daughters and son, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The role model reads every day. His favorite book is "Alice in Wonderland" because it's "so interesting and exciting." He loves Hemingway, Tolstoy and short stories by Juan Rulfo that talk about good and difficult times in life."I highly recommend it." If he was teaching a college course, it would be about History because "I love to go back in time." And, although he'll be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award this month, my guess is that we will be seeing fantastic new ideas and unbelievable results from this modest, caring great-grandfather for many years to come. (Be sure to stop by and see Rueben, Dee and his friends at Libreria Martinez Books & Art Gallery at 216 N. Broadway (next to Subway) in Santa Ana. It's open from 11-7 every day but Sunday. 714-973-7900.

Book Review: ONCE UPON A TIME (Traditional Latin American Tales)

By Rueben Martinez; Illustrated by Raul Colon; Rayo-An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; 2010

By Craig MacDonald Well, it's about time! The first book by accomplished Santa Ana barber, bookstore owner, reading and literacy icon Rueben Martinez just came out and it's a winner from cover to cover. The caring man, who for decades gave books to his barbershop customers to take home and read to their kids, has hit the jackpot with this cleverly crafted, superbly illustrated bilingual book of Spain and Latin American folktales that's perfect for reading to and capturing the imagination of children. (Some children could even read it to adults.) The seven very colorful tales, simply, yet sensationally told.

told by storyteller Rueben, feature creative characters, ranging from a Coyote, King and Rooster to a Giant and "Mother of the Jungle." The work, full of tricksters and heroes, makes us think, and teaches valuable lessons on how we treat one another and nature. The oversize book is easy to read, with large print, plenty of whitespace and captivating artwork. Noted artist Raul Colon's lavish and intriguing illustrations demand attention, encouraging discussions about their subjects and stories. At the end of a chapter, Rueben shares the origin of each tale, i.e., the one about mischievous Pedro Urdemales came from Spain in the 18th Century. Pedro's adventures were so popular, great writers immortalized him in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. One of my favorites is the heartwarming story about "Martina the Cockroach and Perez the Mouse," the most popular version of which came from Cuba and Puerto Rico. "As you read these tales to a child, I hope you take the opportunity to talk about the characters and the feelings that the stories evoke," wrote Rueben, who has read books for years to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "I always told them, 'Read today, lead tomorrow,'" said the enthusiastic owner of the newly relocated Librerian Martinez Books & Art Gallery, 216 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. I hope this won't be the last time we see a book from Rueben, whose wonderful words of wisdom encourage readers of all ages to expand their minds and enjoy the journey called "life." The journey through life, and what you learn along the way, everyday, is "Rueben's Reward," for him and us. (Pulitzer Prize nominee Craig MacDonald is the author of 16 books.)


By Craig MacDonald


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