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Media Life: Closer look reveals Auburn’s hidden gems

By: Gus Thomson/Media Life
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The devil’s in the details and for Auburn – with a rich legacy that stretches back to the Gold Rush and beyond – there is plenty to appreciate for anyone willing to take the time and examine things a little more closely. Here’s a sampling of gems – some more hidden than others – that provide some texture and richness to life in the Auburn area: - The shrine to comic Red Skelton that covers much of the interior not filled with shoes of The Footpath in Downtown Auburn. Some would say it’s more like a museum. A real treasure, especially for fans of the comedian. - The tombstone for an honest-to-badness outlaw. Richard “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter died after a shootout in 1859 with a posse. He’s remembered with a marker in the shaded eastern corner of the Old Auburn Cemetery off Fulweiler Avenue. He left a note saying that if he’d shot the sheriff he died a satisfied man. He didn’t. Instead, he fatally shot the deputy tax collector, George Martin, who is buried nearby. Martin has the bigger and more ornate marker. - The display at the Union Bank of California of artifacts from the short, unhappy life of quadruple murderer Adolph Weber. Take a walk into the Lincoln Way bank and a display case tells the tale. There’s a pistol and fake beard used by Weber in a robbery at the bank, newspaper accounts of the killing of four members of his family, and a piece of the noose used to hang him Sept. 27, 1906. for their murder. The 2-inch lengths of rope used that day were said to have been sold off at the time for $1.50 apiece. - Walking across the Foresthill Bridge and taking in the view from 730 feet above is a breathtaking experience but to get a different viewpoint, travel to the confluence and look up – way up. The bridge was built to allow traffic to flow above a huge Auburn dam reservoir that has yet to materialize. The borderline between the concrete pillars and the steel superstructure would have been the high waterline for an Auburn dam reservoir. Try the lower confluence viewpoint for a different perspective on how things might have been. - Moviemaking in Auburn reached its zenith in 1995 when “Phenomenon” filmed in the city for much of the fall. Old Town Auburn was the filming focal point and stars John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall and Kyra Sedgwick all were part of the shoot. A small commemorative marker was placed in the road near the Station A post office a couple of years ago. It’s the spot where Travolta’s character George Malley was knocked over by … well, Media Life doesn’t want to spoil the plot. - Stagecoach Trail, a cycling and pedestrian connection between Auburn and the American River confluence, is a route back in history that travels the road that connected the foothills with mountain mining communities like Foresthill and Michigan Bluff. About halfway down, the observant can find a couple of hard-to-find “relics” from that time. On the ground are some well-worn ruts in the rock from stagecoach wheels. And on a flat section of rock about eye-level is a hand-painted campaign sign for a sheriff’s candidate back around the turn of the last century. - Lou La Bonte’s restaurant has been a fixture in Auburn for more than half a century and so has a curious sign above the eatery. The sign comes with a side story that takes viewers back to those times. A Heckyl & Jeckyl crow is pictured on skis carrying a bottle of “XX” alcohol. The sign – up since 1955 – pays tribute to Bobbie, the mynah bird. He was the restaurant’s mascot and unofficial greeter. The bird was trained to wolf-whistle at any female entering the establishment and cry out “Take a jug along” as people left. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at (530) 852-0232 or at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.