CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY'S HISTORY PROJECT: Willie Bradford
Celebrating Culture & Community is putting together interviews
of 25 El Cerrito residents, a project aimed at showing the diverse communities
that have contributed to the city's history.
The interviews have been made possible largely through support from
the California Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National
Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information about Celebrating Culture & Community , contact
Eve Ma at 236-3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Following is one of the interviews:
Interview with Willie Bradford,11/1/1999
Interviewer: Robin DeLugan
Willie Bradford has lived in the vicinity of El Cerrito since 1946. After
joining the service he left the area and he returned in 1958 and has been
a permanent resident ever since.
Mr. Bradford retired three years ago from the Alameda County Probation
Dept. where he served as a deputy probation officer.
Willie is a resident of western El Cerrito. He has been an active member
of the Western El Cerrito Neighborhood Council, and an active participant
in civic and community affairs. Willie has a degree in social welfare
and in history, and has completed graduate work in clinical psychology.
Willie Bradford's observations about El Cerrito reflect his commitment
to community, unity and to a better future.
Willie remembers that in the early 1960's El Cerrito was a small city
where neighbors frequently got together to discuss community affairs.
He remembers experiencing fellowship. The area had many services and conveniences
for the community such as a co-op chain grocery stores. This co-op had
a community center where people could meet, organize and participate in
local issues. In 1965 the El Cerrito Plaza was built. This was beneficial
to El Cerrito residents and to the economy of El Cerrito.
Some of the people who Willie remembers are people who were very active
in community politics and organizations. He remembers--
Milton and Edna Combs (They were actually residents of Richmond but lived
very close to the city line, just two houses from the El Cerrito border.
Like other people in that area, they were very active in the community
by virtue of living so close to El Cerrito.)
El Cerrito is an "old little city" because many residents bought
their homes years ago and have continued to reside in these homes. By
virtue of this, there are lots of seniors. The large number of seniors
living on a fixed, retirement income (particularly in the western El Cerrito
section of the city) contributes to Willie's observation of El Cerrito
as being a low-middle income class city. The average resident of western
El Cerrito is over 60, and a homeowner.
El Cerrito has changed principally in that it no longer offers the same
level of services to residents as it did in the 1960's. For this reason
El Cerrito has somewhat lost its some of its attractiveness. In the past
people would come to El Cerrito and avail themselves of the services,
businesses, etc. of El Cerrito. Although the services have diminished,
he nevertheless feels that El Cerrito residents continue to shop at the
stores that still are available. For relaxation, however, Willie heads
off to Berkeley, San Francisco and especially to Yoshi's at Jack London
Square, for he loves jazz.
Two important community events in the city of El Cerrito are the celebration
of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, and the Earth Day Celebration. To
Willie, these marvelous events are ones that brings out the participation
of the whole city.
There is not a place in the area that makes Willie feel he hasn't the
right to go to or be. However, he said that people have attitudes and
that sometimes those attitudes can influence a person's choice as to where
he should or should not be.
At the present in western El Cerrito, we have an ethnically mixed community
of blacks, Asians and Hispanics, and some (but very few) whites. Back
in the 1960s when there were the Barrett and Crescent Park homes in Richmond
right next to the El Cerrito city line and western El Cerrito, you had
a more inclusive community, with a large number of whites as well as blacks,
Japanese and other ethnic groups. Even earlier, there were wartime housing
projects in the area, but they were torn down in 1954-55 and the Barrett
and Crescent Park homes, followed by Laurel Park, were built where these
wartime projects had been. In addition, individual homes were built on
unoccupied land. Stege School was already there, and had been a service
to the people living in that school boundary, including in the housing
projects. After the Barrett and Crescent Park homes were built, some people
began to move out of the area, especially whites, in part due to issues
that arose about the schools and other matters. By them leaving, that
left the surrounding area including Western El Cerrito with a larger minority
Recalling important and interesting people from his community, Willie
mentions the Neighborhood Council of which he is a member. St. Peter's
CME Church has opened its doors for all neighborhood council meetings.
Willie names a few of the initial people who guided the neighborhood before
the neighborhood council started in 1983. He also remembers others who
gave their time and energy and vision to western El Cerrito and helped
western El Cerrito to be heard, and people who helped get the issues affecting
the neighborhood addressed by the El Cerrito City Council. These people
were as follows:
Charlene Bradford and Ophelia Christian
Patricia and Eddie Durham
James & Lucille Hardy
Mrs. H. Murray
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
There are many more people (Chuck Lewis, ex-mayor of El Cerrito; Norma
Jellison, ex-councilmember and mayor; and Jean Siri, ex-mayor, and Judge
Charles Wilson)—these people were always willing to listen, and to follow
up on any issues that were a concern to the citizens here in western El
When the western El Cerrito Neighborhood Council began, it would have
40-50 people at its meetings but now, because the population of the area
is aging, many people no longer have the good health necessary to allow
them to attend. However, it should be noted that their lack of attendance
does indicate any lack of support for the issues that the neighborhood
council addresses and takes a position on.
If Willie had a magic wand he would change general attitudes--his wish
is that people would learn to recognize and respect others. In addition,
he would give El Cerrito citizens better choices for available services,
etc. such as improving our schools. He would also like to see the city
make better use of its tax base.
CELEBRATING CULTURE & COMMUNITY (CC&C)
1900 International MarketPlace, San Pablo, CA., 94806
(510) 236-3255; fax (510) 236-3068
Run dates: 2000-01-01 - 2000-02-01