Saturday, October 27, 2007

Selma Band Review: Monache Sweeps Up Awards

Photos by Esther Avila

They did it again!

For the 23rd time, the Monache Marauder Marching Band from Porterville, CA took home the grand sweepstakes at the 43rd annual Selma Marching Band Festival and Field Show Competition at Staley Stadium in Selma Saturday. Click here for full story.

Congratulations, Justin Adams, band director, Monache High School; Troy Rexell, band director, Granite Hills High School; and Donna Steigleder, band director, Burton Middle School, Porterville, CA. You've made our town proud!


Burton Middle School:
Second- Percussion, middle schools
Third - Parade Band, division A, middle schools
Third - ID unit, middle schools
Third - Flag Team, middle schools

Granite Hills High School:
Second - Majorettes
Third - Field Show Drum Major
Third - Parade Band, division D
Second - Field Show Performance, division B

Monache High School:
Grand Sweepstakes
Half-Time Sweepstakes
Field Show - General Effect
Field Show- High Music
First - Majorettes
First - ID unit / shields
First - Band Parade, division A
First - Field Show Drum Major
Second - Field Show Attachments
Third - Parade Percussion
Third - Flag Team

Friday, October 26, 2007

The "Greatest Generation"

Story by Esther Avila
Contributed photo / Ivanhoe watchtower
The Fresno Bee / October 26, 2007

Watchtowers sprang up all over Tulare County
after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They served as lookouts for incoming Japanese aircraft.

Stories of the 'Greatest Generation'

Tulare County members of the 'Greatest Generation' share memories of World War II era.

TULARE -- They remember rationing their food, school air raid drills and blackouts.

More than 100 Tulare County residents who are members of the "Greatest Generation" have shared memories of their experiences during the World War II era as part of an ambitious project aimed at preserving history. These "oral histories" are now available to the public.

The stories, part of a Tulare County history project, span from 1941 to 1946.

"This whole program was conceived in 2003 when I needed to write a grant," said Judith Wood, county reference librarian and project director at an Oct. 14 celebration party for the people involved at the Tulare Historical Museum. "I thought it would be good to get California stories of what the people were doing here in Tulare County during World War II."

The project, titled "Years of Valor, Years of Hope: Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946," was born.

"The main question we wanted answered was how that time frame affected them and how it affected the way they are today," Wood said.

They recruited 20 people who were then trained to do the oral histories, she said. In addition, they found 100 people who lived in Tulare County during that time frame.

"We started interviewing in 2003 and started editing the stories in 2005," Wood said. "We ended with five boxes of tapes and transcripts of 104 different interviews."

Among the stories is that of Strathmore resident Ted H. Iles who was 70 in October 2003 when he was interviewed by Kris Gray for the project.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in December of 1941, Iles said he was 8. Because his family was poor, the rationing that followed of meat, sugar and other essentials did not create a great impact on his family. But something else did. He could not understand why his Japanese-American friends suddenly disappeared.

"They were gone. They were essentially rounded up with their families and sent all over the country to relocation centers," said Iles during that interview. "Suddenly our friends were gone, and we couldn't understand it."

Iles also said he remembers the original flag salute, which included extending the arm towards the flag.

"This continued until the early days of the war -- until they decided that Hitler's salute and that of Mussolini in Italy were too similar," Iles told Gray. "So they terminated the extending of the arm [to] just a laying of the hand over the heart the way we do today."

Iles' stories are but a few of many that have been transcribed into hard copies. The original tapes, as well as transcriptions, can be reviewed at the Annie Mitchell History Room at the Visalia Library.

Five other libraries and museums are also recipients of the four-year project: the Tulare County Historical Museum, the Tulare Historical Museum, the Porterville City Library and the Fresno County Historical Society.

"It is such a great contribution to our local history room," said Sandi Farnsworth with the Porterville Library. "We are losing the history so rapidly. This is great for future generations and a great way to honor our veterans."

Ellen Gorelick, executive director and chief curator of the Tulare Historical Museum, agreed.

"We're losing people of that era. It is a wonderful project that Judith has gotten involved in," Gorelick said. "The project is a combination of a lot of people's hard work. It has been very successful, and we will all benefit from it."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

WORLD SERIES: Rockies pitchers Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez and my daughters

It is so exciting to watch baseball when your boys are playing - and I mean that literally. The great thing about minor league baseball is that you get to know the players before they disappear into the big leagues .

Jeff Francis with my daughter Jennifer / May 2003
Jeff Francis with my daughter Catherine / August 2003

Sometimes, as in Jeff Francis' case, they are here only for a little while. Other times they stay for a couple of seasons before we have to say goodbye.

But because I was an active member in the Visalia Oaks Booster Club since 1998 (six years as secretary and board member, wrote mission statement) we knew our boys very well.

In fact, several of them have eaten in our home. And Jeff Francis' family (Uncle) used to invite my children and I to their home in British Columbia. Now it is so exciting to see Jeff Francis pitching the first game of the World Series - needless to say I am cheering for the Colorado Rockies!

Jeff Francis is not the only one - we have several - FIVE - former players -- representing our Visalia Oaks in the World Series.

In the National League - left-hander Jeff Francis (2003) is starting - impressive - he only stayed in Single A one season and quickly moved up - making it to the majors for a cup of coffee his second season - eventually staying there for good. Now he's their No. 1 pitcher. He has been outstanding in his two post-season starts, boasting a 2-0 record and a 2.13 ERA. Jeff has had unbelievable control, striking out 12 and walking just 3 in 12.2 innings.

The Rockies second starter is also someone we know - Ubaldo Jimenez (2003-2004) - and he is just as impressive as Jeff Francis. He has a quick fastball and a 1.59 ERA. Ubaldo has plenty of "swings and misses" - striking out 11 in 11 1/2 innings.

Ryan Speier (2003) has yet to give up an earned run in the 2007 postseason. He has collected one save in two outings and has given up one hit and no walks in 2.1 innings pitched.

Rockies outfielders Ryan Spilborghs (2004) -- batting .300 through five of seven games, scoring three times, and has an on-base percentage upwards of .450
and Jeff Baker (2004) batting .667 (2 for 3) and has one RBI

sidenote: When the Rockies played the Diamondbacks in the playoffs - I got to see three more Oaks players there -- Justin Upton(2007 Oaks player - imagine going from Single A to the majors in the same year) Jeff Salazar (2003-2004 Oaks player) and Eric Byrnes (1998 Oaks

Jeff offers advice on how to hold and throw a baseball correctly

Jeff Francis watches Jennifer pitch

Jeff Francis pitching to Jennifer

Jennifer at bat - Jeff Francis pitches to her

(all photos by Esther Avila)

Ubaldo Jimenez with Catherine and Jennifer, 2003

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Miss Porterville - Emmylou Dowling

story by Esther Avila/photo by Chieko Hara
The Porterville Recorder - Monday, Oct. 22, 2007

Dowling crowned queen
Homecoming: Queen carries double honor.
Emmylou Dowling earned double honors Saturday night when she was named Miss Congeniality by her peers and minutes later crowned Miss Porterville and the 2007-08 Veterans Homecoming Queen in front of a packed crowd at the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Dowling said as she wiped away tears of joy. “It has been a wonderful evening. All of the contestants deserve this crown. I am honored to become the homecoming queen.”

Also wiping away tears were Dowling’s parents, Robert and Patricia Dowling. Approximately 50 family members attended, including her three siblings, Bobby, Mario and Tiffany, Patricia Dowling said.

“She’s so excited. She deserves and earned this,” Robert Dowling said. “She’s always been involved in many clubs and many [extracurricular] high school activities — and has kept her No. 1 ranking for four hears of high school a GPA of 4.2. Ever since she was little, she’s been really outgoing and a little aggressive. If she wants something, she goes out and gets it.”

The Granite Hills High School straight A honor student, one of 13 young women vying for the title, sang a patriotic medley of “God Bless America,” “This is my Country” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” for her talent portion of the competition.

The girls were judged by a panel of five out-of-town judges on four areas, each worth 25 points: a 200-word essay, interviews with the judges, poise and the way they presented themselves, and talent.

In addition, the contestants were asked three questions on stage by returning master of ceremonies Jamie McGlasson.

When asked if she could spend an afternoon with one person from any time in history, who it would be, Dowling’s answer brought a hearty applause from the audience.

“My savior, Jesus Christ,” Dowling said. “I believe he was a real man who walked the earth — definitely who I would like to spend the afternoon with.”

Joining Dowling in her royal court are Sammie Jo Stone, senior princess; Crystal Ervin, first attendant; Sabrina Ziegler, second attendant; and Sarah Chandler, third attendant.

“The girls were all wonderful. They are the cream of the crop,” Monique Page, coordinator of the event, said. “They have been very supportive of each other. Any of them could have won the title.”
Former queen Katie Lopez spoke on her experience as Miss Porterville and offered words of advice to any young girl who may have her sight on the crown -- encouraging them to believe and to enter the pageant if they have the slightest spark of interest.

“This has been the most wonderful year,” Lopez said before the program started. “For me it was life-changing and something I wanted so much. It has given me such a positive outlook on life. It was unexpected and it happened. That is how it is: When you least expect it, it shines on you. It’s a little sad that it is ending but I also know that it is something that will never go away, this feeling that I accomplished something I wanted so much, and that I was Miss Porterville and the Veterans Homecoming Queen. That will always stay with me.”

The evening began with a welcome by Don Dowling, general chairman of the Veterans Homecoming Committee, posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance by Ruben Bonilla, commander of American Legion Post 20 and Tom Jacobs, commander of VFW Post 2001. The National Anthem was performed by five brass members from the Monache High School band.

In addition, a spirit dance performed by all of the contestants was choreographed by Pam Sheldon of Deenie’s Dance Studio, as well as two presentations by Deenie’s dance performers.

A touching patriotic slide show — including photographs of Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and various other war memorial sculptures, and recent photos of the U.S. military in the Middle East — had several people in the audience wiping tears as solemn patriotic music filled the auditorium.

The 62nd annual Veterans Homecoming Queen, Miss Porterville Pageant was sponsored by American Legion Post 20; and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2001. Emmylou Dowling and her court will preside over the Veterans Day activities on Nov. 11 — the Veterans Memorial Service, Veterans Day Parade and the Veterans Day Band-A-Rama.