Happy Admissions Day!

The City of Oakland is closed today. If you want to go pay (or fight) a parking ticket, you can’t. If you want to check something out at the the Library, you can’t. If you want to go to KTOP and place an order for a DVD copy of last week’s Planning Commission meeting, well, too bad. Perhaps, you’re thinking this must be another one of those irritating city closure days where they shut down the city to save money. Wrong! That was yesterday.

Today the City is closed for a ridiculous holiday called Admissions Day.

The first time I learned the City was going to be closed for something called Admission Day, my immediate response was “What the hell is Admissions Day?” After it was explained to me, I must have promptly forgot about it, because the second time I learned the City was going to be closed for Admissions Day, a year later, my immediate response was “What the hell is Admissions Day?” I may have tempered my language a bit the second time, since I was talking to my boss, but I’m not entirely sure.

Perhaps those of you who grew up in California are already familiar with Admissions Day. Or perhaps you know about it because you remember me complaining about it last year (which I had actually forgotten about until I was bitching about Admissions Day to Becks and she was all “Didn’t you already write a blog about that?”). But for the transplants and new readers among you, here you go.

September 9th is California Admissions Day, the day we celebrate California being admitted to the United States as a State. Hooray. Here is some more background from the State Parks website:

In February of 1848, Mexico and the United States signed a treaty which ended the Mexican War and yielded a vast portion of the Southwest, including present day California, to the United States. Several days earlier, January 24, 1848, gold had been discovered on the American River near Sacramento, and the ensuing gold rush hastened California’s admittance to the Union.  With the Gold Rush came a huge increase in population and a pressing need for civil government.

In 1849, Californians sought statehood and, after heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union as a free, nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850.

California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The Golden State’s rich history has since been shaped by people of every ethnic background who traveled here seeking economic, social and educational opportunity, and a life of quality and breathtaking beauty.

I was interested to learn from the previously referenced Admissions Day website that our first State capital was in San Jose. And if I lived in Sacramento, maybe I would try to head over to the State Museum at some point for their Admissions Day Celebration. Note how somehow the State Museum manages to celebrate the anniversary of our Statehood without shutting down.

This is the stupidest holiday I have ever heard of. Admission Day is not a normal day to be closed. It’s not even kind of normal, like Armistice Day or something, where some people you know get the day off and even though you never have, you always kind of wished you could get one of those jobs that does. Or like Cesar Chavez Day, which I don’t think of it being a day things are closed for but then never feel that surpised when it is. (Except of course the one time when my office was closed on Cesar Chavez Day, and I was too thrilled about having the day off to think much about it, so I spent two hours on the BART to bus trek to San Jose so I could get some work done at the library there, only to discover upon arrival that the library was…you guessed it, closed for Cesar Chavez day. That sucked.)

But I understand those holidays, even if they are sometimes inconvenient. Admissions Day is not like that. I have never heard of anyone anywhere closing down work to celebrate such a thing. When I went to school in Texas, every day, after we finished the Pledge of Alliegance, we had to the turn to the Texas flag and all sing “Texas, Our Texas” (which includes such elegant lyrics as “Texas, our Texas/All hail the mighty state/Texas, our Texas/So wonderful, so great”). It would be a severe understatement to say that we love our State. But we did not get the day off to celebrate Texas Admissions Day. Hell, I don’t even have the faintest idea when Texas Admissions Day is and honestly, I don’t think anyone ever bothered to tell me. (Texas Independence Day, on the other hand, is March 2nd.)

Anyway, you’ve been warned. I hope you didn’t have any business you needed to take care of with the City today. It will all have to wait until tomorrow.

19 thoughts on “Happy Admissions Day!

  1. Izzy Ort

    “we did not get the day off to celebrate Texas Admissions Day”

    Texas is so big it was admitted twice.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Benicia was actually California’s third capital, after San Jose and Vallejo. From the website I linked to above:

    California situated its first capital in San Jose. The city did not have facilities ready for a proper capital, and the winter of 1850 – 1851 was unusually wet, causing the dirt roads to become muddy streams. The legislature was unsatisfied with the location, so former General and State Senator Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo donated land in the future city of Vallejo for a new capital; the legislature convened there for one week in 1852 and again for a month in 1853.

    Again, the facilities available were unsuitable to house a state government, and the capital was soon moved three miles away to the little town of Benicia, inland from the San Francisco Bay. The strait links San Pablo Bay to Grizzly and Suisun Bays deep in the interior. A lovely brick statehouse was built in old American style complete with white cupola. Although strategically sited between the Gold Rush territory of the Sierra Foothills and the financial port of San Francisco, the site was too small for expansion, and so the capital was moved further inland past the Sacramento River Delta to the riverside port of Sacramento in 1854.

  3. Robert Kidd

    Ah, yes, Admission Day: an evocation of our hardy pioneer forebears; images of happy 49’ers, covered wagons and gingham bonnets.
    The actual story of California’s admission to the Union in 1850 – largely untold — is more troubling.
    I would suggest that on Admission Day 2009, we take the opportunity to inquire: what was the price of California’s admission to the Union, and who paid that price?
    The answers to these questions may be found in the terms of the Compromise of 1850, the great compromise between the “slave” states of the South and the “free” states of the North that is mentioned in the State of California website cited in your blog.
    That website fails to describe that the key element of the great Compromise was Congress’s enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The enactment of that federal statute was the primary quid pro quo for California’s admission to the Union.
    Under that statute, former slaves who had escaped to “free” states of the North could be taken into custody and summarily returned to their former owners. It is written that the enactment of this law created a “reign of terror” within the African American communities of the North, causing thousands – both free and fugitives – to migrate from the North to Canada.
    Surely it must be acknowledged that it was those African Americans – both those who were sent South and those who fled to Canada as a consequence of the Fugitive Slave Act – who paid the price of California’s admission to the Union. On Admission Day 2009, Californians might well honor them by remembering the price they paid.

  4. Pamela Drake

    Schools take Admissions Day off but on another day when they can tack it onto another holiday for a long weekend so it means nothing whatsoever. But your important point about Californians coming here from all over the US and other countries for greater opportunity is well taken. In 1850 California instituted adult education as the right of Californians to remake themselves with free basic schooling. Programs like preparing for a GED, high school diploma-as an adult- or studying English as a Second Language have been available for those wanting to improve themselves. Very low cost classes have also been available such as computer training and other career enhancing courses in addition to more costly coursework like art or foreign language classes.
    Last February the Cal Legislature eliminated categorical funding for adult ed after all these years. Each school district may provide adult ed, charge fees for classes, or abolish it as the district sees fit. Many districts, facing severe cutbacks, have reduced the classes and some will surely eliminate them as the red ink continues to flow. In Oakland we had almost no classes this summer and have had to turn away students this fall. We have a severe dropout rate here and we are upping the grad requirements so that more students will need the help of adult ed.
    Given the number of students being turned away from our universities, our community colleges, and now even our adult schools, maybe we should call it “No Admissions Day.”

  5. Art

    Hah, I grew up in Texas and was in elementary school the first time the sesquicentennial was celebrated, which basically meant they took an entire year to sing songs about Texas and color in pictures of Santa Anna and Sam Houston. (There was apparently another party ten years later to mark the 150th anniversary of the annexation to the U.S., too.) To this day I *still* know all the words to Texas Our Texas (and also to The Yellow Rose of Texas, Cotton-Eyed Joe, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Beautiful Beautiful Texas, and The Old Chisholm Trail).


  6. Carlos Plazola

    About 6 years ago, the Oakland City unions voted on whether or not to swap Admissions Day Holiday for Cesar Chavez Day Holiday, to be consistent with OUSD. Local 21 voted yes. Local 790 (Now 1021) voted no. So, now we’re stuck with Admissions Day Holiday.

  7. Patrick

    I was born in Texas but escaped before the brainwashing took hold.

    “V’s the sweetest little rosebud, that Texas ever knew!…” Have you ever read the original lyrics? Yikes.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    Monterey was the capital too. It all depends on when you start your story.

    Maybe we should change the function of Admissions day, as long as we seem to be resigning ourselves to it, and everybody admit something.

    I admit that I have no idea if California has a state song nor what it sounds like or what the words are, and doubt that I have ever heard it if it exists. Even though I have lived here longer than imaginable, for a nonnative.

  9. Steve Lowe

    I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all;
    I love you California, summer, winter spring and fall…

    I forget the rest, but it’s pretty tedious, especially when your only motivation to learn lyrics straight from hell is a glaring 4th grade teacher whose sole purpose in life is to make every single day as grim as her miserable salary must have been way back in the late 40′s.

    I really like Robert’s comments about the real reasons we ascended unto statehood and would only add that something also needs to be said about the indian tribes and the regular hunting of them for sport by creative land developers. (Not to say that same thing isn’t still going on nowadays in a somewhat different guise as this entrepreneur or that chases down what teensy vestige might still be left of a once populous tribe so that building yet another casino adjacent to a povery-plagued community can be justified.)

    The greatest state of all!

    – S

  10. Born in Oakland

    I think there is enough collective guilt for whatever group you want to identify. Do we then re-write our fair State’s history or move on? Anyone who has ever been an undergraduate or an avid reader (“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”) already knows this stuff. Preaching to the choir in our Bay Area bubble gets tiresome and is an exercise in pedantry. I do agree, however, Admission Day is a joke. The City does not need to shut down while our streets remain filthy and our underserved residents have to go to work.

  11. SF2OAK

    Well you sure as h*ll can get a ticket.

    I get it State / city workers will take a holiday but won’t give you the taxpayer a holiday.

  12. Andrew

    All you people writing “AdmissionS Day” are making me grind my teeth off.

    If California were independent, and the world’s eighth-biggest economy, Admission Day would be our Fourth of July, and we’d have more money too.

  13. Quercki M. Singer

    In Nevada, Admission Day is October 31. It gives everyone a whole day to dress in their Halloween finery!