Holy City

California Ghost Town

William E. Riker, who called himself “the only man who can save California from going plum to hell” began preaching his “Prefect Christian Divine Way” in San Francisco around 1915 after trying a palm reading act.

Riker purchased land on the Old Santa Cruz Highway and started a colony with 30 followers soon after naming the town Holy City. The men and women lived in separate dormitories and operated the town’s attractions. Riker preached white supremacy, segregation amongst the sexes and races and sobriety. This was in contrast to Riker himself being married and the town selling beer.

Holy City survived as a tourist stop attracting motorists coming to and from San Jose with billboards along the roadside. In town were fourteen pump gas stations, a comfort station, restaurant, “Mystery Hall”, auditorium, printing press and radio station, KFQU. A traveler could also pay to peep into miniature churches or use a telescope offering a glimpse into Heaven.

State Route 17 opened in 1940 and the town lost traffic. Holy City was sold to a Hollywood promoted in 1954, after which numerous arson attempts destroyed the colony.

(All photos Oakland Tribune, January 1929)


April 9, 1898 - January 23, 1976

Today is singer and activist Paul Robeson’s birthday. Despite a popular career as a stage and film actor, Robeson was blacklisted for his political views during the McCarthy era. 

To learn more about his life and his fight for civil fights, a viewing of PBS’ American Masters: Paul Robeson is recommended.

Previously unpublished February 3, 1958 photo taken by Oakland Tribune staff photographer Keith Dennison. Flyer for appearance at the Oakland Auditorium from the Tribune Archives.


Oakland, CA April 8, 1968 - A young boy wipes away tears as a Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party and Black Panther Party sponsored march heads east on 49th Street. Sign at left references the death of Martin Luther King Jr. (Russ Reed / Oakland Tribune Staff Archives)

Crowd at City Hall Plaza for a service in honor of MLK held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (Bill Crouch / Oakland Tribune Staff Archives)


California Quartermaster Repair Sub-Depot Laborers

Oakland, CA October 1944 - The Oakland Army Post Quartermaster repair sub-depot, located at 69th Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, supplied troops during World War II by repairing clothing and equipment. More than 2,000 civilian employees worked at the sub-depot, most of them women.

Mrs. Commye Griffin of Berkeley mended damaged tents. About 50 tents were mended each day. (photo 1)

Mrs. Evelyn Wofford of Oakland was a fork-lift operator while her husband was in the Seabees. (photo 2)

Mrs. Ruby Battenfeld and Mrs. Dorothy Elliott, both of Oakland, operated a hydraulic machine to smooth dented water canteens - up to 600 per day. (photo 3)

(All photos from the Oakland Tribune Staff Archives)