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Happy (and some not so happy) anniversaries in Auburn

Auburn, Placer County communities mark several milestones in 2012
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Stoic, picturesque and turning a century old, Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge leads the local list of milestone birthdays in 2012. Now a popular site for photographers, hikers, horse riders and runners, the span over the American River was initially constructed by the Pacific Portland Cement Co. to help transport limestone from a Cool mining operation for use in making concrete. When it was constructed, it was the longest concrete-arch bridge in the world. Today, it’s perhaps best known as the symbolic start of the final leg of both the Western States 100 Endurance Run and Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance horse ride. Another 100-year anniversary for the Auburn-area will take place in November, marking the centennial of Auburn writer Clark Ashton Smith’s first book, “The Star Treader and Other Poems.” Smith would be dubbed the “Junior Poet of the Sierras” in 1912 because of his rich use of the English language, but would go on to lasting fame for his science fiction and fantasy writing. Auburn can even boast some 160th anniversaries as 2012 dawns. 1852 marked the initial publication of the Placer Herald in Auburn. Now based in Rocklin, the paper is part of the Gold Country Media cluster of publications. The Auburn Journal was founded 20 years later and is celebrating 140 years in print. Also blowing out 160 candles this year are the Auburn Oddfellows Lodge, Old Town’s Station A post office and the Auburn Hook & Ladder Company. May will mark the 130th anniversary of the death of Claude Chana, the expatriate native of France who first discovered gold in Auburn. He died May 24, 1882 at age 71 in Wheatland. Fire protection in Auburn had a big advancement in 1922. Fire alarm boxes were installed for the first time, doing away with the fire bell that had rung ominously since the mid-1850s. On the 80th anniversary front, Martin Park was dedicated the week of July 14, 1932, in honor of the deputy shot and killed in a gun battle with Richard “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter. There was also a taxpayer revolt that year after Placer County supervisors came in with a proposed $1.1 million annual budget. The result was formation of a taxpayers association, which appointed itself to act as an unofficial grand jury on county spending. The Earl Crabbe Gymnasium at Placer High School was completed in May 1937 and marks 75 years of packed stands and exciting games. A Works Progress Administration project, the gym cost $85,000. If you were in Auburn in 1962, perhaps you would remember a small but monumental technological advancement. In January of that year, workers installed a sign at Central Federal Savings and Loan at the top of Lincoln Way that displayed both the time and temperature in lights. By the end of the year, Auburn residents were also getting natural gas for heat for the first time. Forty years ago, Placer County took over the sprawling DeWitt State Mental Hospital in North Auburn from the state. And in June, ground was broken on the new Chana High School building. Thirty years ago in March, Auburn youngsters had a new entertainment option. Auburn Skateland roller skating rink on Nevada Street opened. The building now is occupied by the Placer County Office of Education after the rink closed in the 1990s. It’s also a 30th anniversary for the recently revived Auburn Funkbox Derby. The late Bob Jetter was a major force in the first soapbox derby in August 1982, which was a fundraiser for the Historic Auburn Post Office. Twenty years ago, Alta Vista and Placer High grad Jeff Hamilton won a bronze medal in speed skiing at the Albertville, France Winter Olympics. His high-speed runs in 1992 would eventually lead to the moniker “World’s Fastest Skier” and a place on the cover of the Guinness Book of World Records CD-ROM edition. It is also 20 years since the devastating Fawn Hill fire southwest of Auburn. It destroyed 11 homes and caused $4 million in property damage.