Turning Stones ~ George McKale

George McKale George McKale is a practicing archaeologist and Sonoma’s City Historian. He has excavated throughout California ranging from Native American sites thousands of years old to Gold Rush era locations. His passion and specialty in archaeology is the study of human remains.


A little bit of this and that

Posted on July 25, 2013 by George McKale

First, an update regarding recent events in Egypt.  On July 3, the army took control of Egypt, relinquishing the democratically elected President of his duties.  Some have called this action a coup, while others consider it a needed action to prevent a civil war.  Regardless of what it is called, the word from both Luxor and Aswan, two highly visited areas for their incredible antiquities, there are literally no tourists.

Most of the people I have met over the years in Aswan, in one way or another, are associated with the tourism industry.  Since the 2011 revolution, tourism in Egypt has been minimal.  With recent events, the hotels are empty.  No one is visiting Egypt.  I have received some very somber phone calls from Aswan.  While the hardcore protesting is centered around Cairo and Alexandria, the economic ramifications of this turmoil has hit Aswan hard. Their anguish breaks my heart and I am wishing for a quick recovery.

On to something a little less serious, summer fun. There is no better time to visit local history museums than summer.  It is an inexpensive way to learn more about one’s past and is something the whole family can do together. Yes, I am serious!

The Sonoma Valley Historical Society has a new website and they’ve done a great job.  In its History section, the group states, “In January of 1937 a small group of citizens formed the Sonoma Valley Historical Society to honor pioneer families and collect, preserve and share the history of the Valley of the Moon.  Exhibits were placed in City Hall and the Community Center.  The Society, a non-profit organization, has operated continuously since that time.” Visit the new website, but more important, go visit the museum!

Another quick and rewarding excursion should be to the West County Museum housed in the old Petaluma and Santa Rosa Electric Railway Depot built in 1917.  The Depot was restored to its old glory in the 1980’s and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The museum presents a variety of local themes including “…movies filmed in Sonoma County, historical toys, eclectic collections from the community, the World War II experience on the home front, the apple industry and apple festivals and fairs, early lighting devices, etc…”

Here’s one to put on your calendar. The Sonoma Valley Museum of Art will be featuring Kitchen Memories: Kathleen Thompson Hill Culinary Collection from September 7 to December 1, 2013. Hill writes, “My goal with this exhibition is to entertain people and inspire them to learn about our kitchen culture through utensils and implements.  The art of their design along with their function throughout history is illuminating.”

According to the Museum’s website, visitors will come to understand how society has changed utensils through time.  Hill has over 1,000 items, “gadgets and implements, food pamphlets, advertisements, cookbooks and even old radio commercials.” Put it on your to-do list!

Finally, for a virtual history tour of the area, head to the Glen Ellen Historical Society website.  For a small town oozing in history, it is one of the best I have ever seen.  The site offers some great historical photographs that truly bring you back to the days of old.  They recently came out with a DVD titled “The Bear Flag, The Gold Rush & Statehood: The Americanization of California 1846-1850,” in which myself, and local historians Peter Meyerhof and George Webber were panelists.

I am so proud of our local historical societies and their efforts to reach out to the public. In return, I know that they would be very appreciative if we could reach into our pockets and become members or simply make a small donation. The money goes a long way to preserving and sharing our historical past.