Monday, September 03, 2007

Those WWII-related PBS Specials are about to be aired... .

On the weekend of September 29-30th the 1st Annual Home Front Festival by the Bay ( will be held here in Richmond. We've been gearing up for it for weeks with bi-monthy meetings now morphing into bi-weekly ones, and at times, daily meetings standing in doorways or quick sessions in the parking lot. It's a crazy time for us all.

The festival will fall during the showing of Ken Burns' epic series, "The War!" with several PBS one-hour local specials airing that week as well. I've been interviewed for at least 3 of those about to be aired.

Received an advance copy of the KCET-TV PBS production on Saturday. This would be the session with the California Connected production crew that came up from Southern California some weeks ago. So much has happened since that time, I had no idea what would show up on the DVD. As it happens, I'm on camera for all of 3 seconds, in two places. In the first -- a single line clipped from the hour-and-a-half of talk is absolutely untrue! They've taken out of context the line, "...African Americans could not live in the city of Richmond." Anyone with half a brain knows that Richmond was the site of the largest HUD program of temporary war housing constructed in the nation and that many of those units were occupied by African Americans. The second line is accurate and I spoke it well through my veil of wrinkles (but didn't my necklace of garnets look great?). It was this, " registered on the Richter Scale in Berkeley." That's it; the sum total of my part in the proceedings. This followed scenes of the tragic explosion at Port Chicago in July 0f 1944.

And you know what? It's a great production. It bears the title, "California at War" and is a truly impressive account of the war years with many film clips that I've never seen before, and with an overview of the period that was great. Original music (I think), and the careful and evenhanded telling of the story made this a major production fine enough for Emmy consideration.

Some of the other talking heads were people known to me; Tom Debley, Kaiser Permanente historian; Kevin Starr, esteemed State of California historian; Maggie Gee, of the University of California, Berkeley; and others.

Watch for it. It has already been shown in Southern California -- twice during late August -- and is scheduled for viewing in the Bay Area on September 20, at 3:00 in the afternoon, I'm told, but you'll want to check your own program schedules for changes.

Despite my less than compelling performance, I'm really proud to have been a part of this important work. Now I can't wait to see what the other two documentaries will show. I believe that I'm seen for an additional ten seconds (I'm sure) in both the KTEH (PBS-San Jose) one-hour special, then again in one that was created by KQED (PBS-San Francisco). I'm guessing that -- all together -- my on-screen appearances will amount to less than a minute, and that may be an exaggeration; and it's probably just as well.

It matters not. These are fine documentaries, and to have been chosen to help tell this important story is to be greatly honored by some very creative professionals.

But now I'm real-ly curious ... .

Photo: The launching of the SS Red Oak Victory, one of the last victory ships built in the Kaiser Permanente Shipyards in Richmond. She served as late as the Vietnam War and is presently moored at Shipyard II while being lovingly restored by veterans of the Maritime Service, and others.

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