Host Alice Daniel takes you to places that aren’t typically what people imagine when they think about the Golden State — small rural towns in the San Joaquin Valley, rich with stories and unique histories. Places that play a role in shaping not only The Other California, but the entire state. Produced by KVPR in Fresno. More at KVPR.org.
Episode 1: Ridges
In this episode of The Other California, Host Alice Daniel starts out by sharing her own story about what brought her to the San Joaquin Valley, her first impressions, and how reporting on the stories of the people who live in the many small towns in the region allowed her to better see the richness of the place, the real ridges, the diversity, the distinctness of a land that is truly like no other as well as the vital role of the Valley in the state’s history. An old friend from Tennessee, Mike, also makes an appearance in this episode due to his unbridled enthusiasm for the Valley and his deep understanding of just how unique this place really is. Mike introduces listeners to a Southern phrase that’s apt for those who just don’t “get” or appreciate the Valley. “Bless their hearts,” he says.
Alice also talks to organic peach farmer and writer Mas Masumoto and peach farmer and activist Nikiko Masumoto about what The Other California means to them. And there’s an interview from the late writer and historian Gerald Haslam, who coined the phrase The Other California to define the part of California that is often forgotten about and even snubbed, the part that isn’t Hollywood, beautiful beaches and movie stars.
In Ridges, Alice sets up the rest of the episodes where she and the KVPR news team delve into fascinating stories in the small towns that represent The Other California.
Episode 2: Woodlake
The town of Woodlake doesn’t have a stoplight but it does have a 13-acre botanical garden where kids learn about agriculture and earn their community service hours. Locals Manuel and Olga Jimenez created and designed the garden to improve their town and give kids a chance to work in the dirt.
This episode also takes listeners to Dora’s restaurant where Mariachi singer and owner Dora Orozco serves Mexican food and entertains guests with her songs. And we delve into why the city embraced cannabis businesses ahead of other towns in the valley. Jennifer Malone explains the work she is doing to keep her Wukchumni language and culture alive.
Credits: This episode was produced by Alice Daniel, mixing and sound design by Rob Speight, with editorial help from Polly Stryker. Web support from Alex Burke. Technical support from Don Weaver. Joe Moore is our president and general manager. Special thanks to the KVPR news team - Madi Bolanos, Soreath Hok, Kerry Klein and Kathleen Schock - and to musicians Omar Naré and Jim Karagozian.
Episode 3: Chowchilla
The town of Chowchilla has an annual cattle drive that goes straight through the center of town to mark the beginning of the Chowchilla Western Stampede, an event that includes team roping and barrel racing. This episode explores the history of the stampede and introduces listeners to an 87-year-old rodeo star who has competed in the stampede since the early 1960s. She also tells us about her life as a stunt woman in Hollywood where she doubled for movie stars like Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. And a horse trainer reflects on his 50-year career.
Episode 4: Chowchilla and Fairmead
We leave last week’s Western Stampede behind but return to the town of Chowchilla to find out more about its history from its Dust Bowl migrants to present day immigrants, including the only Yemeni-American family living in Chowchilla. We also meet the 84-year-old grandson of one of the town’s earliest white settlers. His grandparents sold 150 horses and left the cold weather of North Dakota to start a dairy farm in Chowchilla. Their 1910 house still stands. Like many towns back then, Chowchilla had racist housing covenants that kept certain groups of people out. But just a couple of miles from town was a place where Black people could actually buy property. At one point, the Black settlement of Fairmead had the largest single dairy in the state. We find out more about Fairmead’s past and what it can teach us today.
Episode 5: Origins
People come to work in the San Joaquin Valley for many reasons: as refugees, as migrants and as immigrants. And as you’ll see in this episode, they don’t all come to work the land. At the beginning of The Other California podcast, Host Alice Daniel told you about why and how she came to the San Joaquin Valley, specifically Fresno. A lot of listeners related to it and told her their own stories of how they got here. The KVPR news team is emblematic of so many of those histories, plus as you’ll see, they’re great storytellers. So, get comfortable. Sit back, and take a listen. You’ve heard or will hear their reporting on the podcast. Now hear the personal stories of Soreath Hok, Madi Bolanos, Kathleen Schock and Kerry Klein.
Episode 6: Huron
All mayors of small towns need a day job. In Huron, Mayor Rey León, a community organizer since college, runs a non-profit that focuses on making the lives of farm workers better. This episode features his most recent projects including an innovative ride-sharing program called the Green Raiteros. The nationally recognized program uses electric vehicles and primarily benefits elderly farm workers who need to travel to nearby cities for medical care. And an 85-year-old retired school teacher tells us she’s still trying to get a high school in Huron. Right now, students have to take a bus to Coalinga 20 miles away.
Incredibly informative information that I a native Californian knew nothing about. Thank you for this podcast.
A good thing
California Gold did the Valley some justice. I'm glad that there are those in the Bay Area who want to see the valley with curiosity and delight rather than arrogance, judgment and derision.
The valley is alive with Heart & Soul
Having grown up in Fresno & the Central Valley, listening to these stories is an act of discovery & satisfaction that has me re-imagining the life there.
Alice Daniel is up to some very good and much-needed mischief as a storyteller, story-gatherer, and history preserver of this Great Valley.