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Learn about city of Stockton's street names, and how it went on for 60 years with no street signs.
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Stockton California Street Names
Jack: As you can see, Stockton’s street signs have obviously come a long way since the city was founded in 1849. Stockton was sort of a late-comer to the sign-making business. The funny thing is, Stockton went for more than 60 years before they had their first street sign.
I look back at the Stockton record in 1904, it shows most people had no clue where they were going and visitors had it even worse. Some street signs were attached to buildings but that wasn’t always the case. Over the years, they either fell down or painted over or just weren’t there at all. In 1910, street signs were finally installed, giving residents a visual marker of the streets they’re city founder had put in place.
The City of Stockton got its start when a Spanish land-grant was awarded to Captain Charles M. Weber. The street in his name cuts right though downtown. But the modest Weber didn’t name the town after himself; instead he gave the honor to Commodore Robert F. Stockton, making Stockton the first community in California to have an American name.
After the town was laid out, the street names soon followed and many of the originals can still be found today. Weber named several streets after trees and plants; so Vine, Magnolia, Poplar and Acacia can be found in the north while Civil War generals like Grant and Taylor can be found invading the south. In the west part of the city was streets like Otter and Raccoon but public ridicule led the founders to consider a more presidential theme.
Today, with development flourishing, streets names in Stockton cover the gamut, from the silver screen there’s Brando, Garbo and Mansfield then of course, there’s the cute requirement, with Honey Bear, Gentle Ben and Smoky. They cover the divine to the full of grace and sideburns. But there’s another group of Stockton streets that honor local legends and one of those stories starts right here.
Terry O’Neal: Confidence, strength and intelligence are just a few of many of your endless qualities. To be respected by all to touch many souls, to grow old and be know as phenomenal.
Jack: Phenomenal is a word that fits Vivian Baxter well. Though, not a household name like her daughter, the famous poet Maya Angelou, Vivian left an indelible impression on the community of Stockton and the people there who knew her well.
Rolleen McIlwrath: She never criticized or was judgmental about anything that you did. She was always very gentle about suggestion on for example how to raise your kids; she helped me a lot with my kids.
Jack: Dr. Angelou has written extensively about her mother in many of her books and poems and anyone who has read her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” knows she wasn’t always a model parent but there’s no question she was devoted to and proud of her daughter.
Rolleen McIlwrath: She always gave her a leg up on everything that she did so that she always had somebody back there pushing her forward.
Jack: That same devotion Vivian had for her children, she had for her community. Vivian was an active member of the women’s democratic club. She also served as the founder and president of the Black Women for Humanity which helped to provide services to students that were in need.
Rolleen McIlwrath: She called it her “Vivian Baxter Robe Charity” and what she would do is she would find out which kids couldn’t afford to have robes when they graduated from high school and she would buy them one so that when they graduated, they had robes just like everybody else.
Jack: Vivian was as determined as she was compassionate, a trailblazer who refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. One of her signature sayings was, “Life is going to give you just what you put into it, so put your whole heart into everything you do.” And Vivian put her heart into being a mother, a nurse, a card dealer, a singer, a poet, an activist and even a Merchant Marine.
Rolleen McIlwrath: She became a Merchant Seaman when they told her that she could never become one because she was a woman. The way she tells it, she put her foot in the door and then finally, she got her hip through and her elbow and she was in.
Jack: Reverend Bob Hailey of Unity Southern Baptist Church knew Vivian well and says her impact on the community can still be felt today. The park named after her, Baxter Park, is an honor well-deserved.
Bob Hailey: You put up a person name that you know it really meant something. She cared about her community. She loved people and to have her name up there, there is nothing greater than that. You leave something to remember you by and that is a great contribution to her.
Loralee McGaughey: She truly was a wonderful woman. She was beautiful. She kept herself in really great shape. She helped everybody; it didn’t matter, black, white, pink. Some of us join something so that our name is in the membership book. Some of us join to work and get things done and that was Vivian Baxter.
Jack: Some people spend their lives telling stories while others live lives that are stories to be told. Vivian Baxter spent her life trying to teach people to want more out of life, that the only door closed to you is the one that you haven’t yet opened. It’s a legacy that continues to inspire young activists and poets today.
Terry O’Neal: Our lives are so hectic, so busy; we don’t take the time out to look at the little things like a street signs. Take a street sign that and look at it, write it down and find out where it came from, where the name came from because there’s a story. Behind everything, there’s a story. I hope one day to have a street after myself.