Published in the May 2015 edition of Bakersfield Life Magazine.
They call me the dot connector in my office. I enjoy connecting the who, why, how and the with whom of today and yesterday. In my business (economic development), that can come in pretty handy. The best part for me, personally, is the vibrant tapestry those connections create.
The people of Bakersfield are a tight-knit bunch; I experience it and I hear people talk about it all the time. These relationships and the community character they form are the very reason I love Bakersfield and Kern County so much!
Lately, I’ve been studying my family’s history and writing down some of their memories. We already had the basic family tree information; I was in search of the backstory. Interviewing family members and learning what it was like for them in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s has helped me better understand my family, but it has also highlighted what makes this area special.
Like so many others in Bakersfield, my family came west from Oklahoma. My great grandfather, William Cunningham, was born in Bakersfield in 1878 and he died in Bakersfield in 1965. To clarify, he was born in Bakersfield, Missouri, and died in Bakersfield, California!
He and his wife came here via Eufaula, Oklahoma, to plant a church in the early 1940s. Their daughter and her husband (my grandparents) followed suit in 1946 with four children in tow. Back then, people came here for lots of different reasons. My grandparents brought their children here because their young daughter needed the care of a heart specialist in Los Angeles.
One of the most interesting discoveries during my research is the lifelong friendships developed from the moment these folks came to Kern County. For example, the man who helped my dad through the recent loss of my mother is the same man who served as best man in their wedding nearly 54 years ago — the same person who used to hot rod with him through local streets in the 1950s; the same person who, as a child, lived at the same farm labor camp in Lamont.
Fast-forward to my life, and I’ve got my own special, lifelong friendships! I grew up in rural Kern County, but one of my best high school friends lives one block from me here in Bakersfield, and many others are just a couple miles away. Some of us play bunco together every month, along with a host of “newer” friends who are now intricately woven into our lives. Of course, it’s not all about the fun and games. Living in a caring community means friends, old and new, will be there when you need them. I can attest to that.
Natives and new residents alike know it’s not just the childhood friendships that bloom into long-lasting bonds. Not here in Bakersfield. We welcome newcomers and new friends with a smile and a warm embrace. It doesn’t take long for a friendship to grow deep roots here in our community. That’s what I think is best about Bakersfield.