Grandma Gerberding’s Story

Excerpted from a booklet titled “Fourth of July Story” by Uncle Al (Gerberding) presented as a birthday gift for Beryl’s 20th birthday on September 19, 1890.  Note:  This story described a time when there were no laws against exploding fireworks in Port Hueneme.  Thomas and Molly Bard raised eight children at Berylwood, a property which included 40 acres of orchard, dairy farm and forest.

“It was the morning of the Fourth, as you know, and all the fireworks lay on the closet shelf taking over the great preparations that had been made,” began Grandma Gerberding.

“Today is a grand day for us.  We’re the most important things in the whole world,” said a Roman candle to its neighbor, a slender skyrocket,”of course it will be the end of us, but we can show these children what wonders we were made for.”

“There’s one thing,” remarked a stumpy little firecracker to a torpedo, “when I die, there’ll be a bigger explosion than when you do.”

“But I shall die in the parlor and you’ll die out of doors,” answered the other.

Forgotten over in the corner a Chinese bomb hugged itself in silence as it thought how it could make more noise than both together.

“I shall make a whirr and such a pretty flower of light,” said the pinwheel with satisfaction.

“What are you giggling about?”she snapped sharply at a jolly little pack of firecrackers what was chuckling to itself.

“They may look at you for a moment, but I shall be their playmate.  Now I shall make them run,” he exclaimed.

Don’t quarrel,” said the rocket so severely that his stick quivered.  “Remember this is nearly our last hour.  How I shall mount to the sky and blaze like a star.”

“Yes, for an instant’ then you’ll come down a burnt stick,” said the pinwheel, spitefully.

“I should think your approaching end would alter your disposition to say unpleasant things to people,” said the Roman candle, “You’re always saying mean and unkind things.”

“I’m a great deal older than you,” said a volcano, “for I’m a leftover from last  year, and have been lying for a whole year in a dusty store.  You don’t know how pleasant it is to fuel clean and to look through that window into that lovely garden.  It was horribly lonely in the attic and the spiders were so familiar, spinning their webs all over me, when I know that just one touch of a lighted match and I could blow them all to pieces.  Once in awhile, the storekeeper came up with a candle to look for something and I nearly burst with excitement when he brought it near my fuse.  You can imagine how glad I was to be taken down and dusted off and brought to this pleasant house.  Just look and see those children having a ride in that dirtcart (wheelbarrow).  Well, this morning one of the little girls took me out to visit the corral and the pigpen.  Then her sister walked off by herself and they said she was sulking, but I don’t believe she’d be that.  I think she was just wondering what were were made of . . . ‘

“Gunpowder and lots of things,” cried the bengola.

“Be still,” said the pinwheel. “It is so rude to interrupt a person who is telling a story.”  And she thought to herself “I mean to tell one myself when he has finished and I’ll just let them know now that I don’t wish to be interrupted.”

“That’s about all” said the Volcano continuing, “except the grand luncheon they had spread under the trees with the table so beautifully decorated.  The little girl put me right down beside her plate and I saw it all.”

“I saw them taking pictures on the lawn,” began the Roman candle, “and one was the most loving one you ever saw of those children’s mother and father.  Then there was one of . . .”

“Oh, dear,” thought the pinwheel impatiently, “now she’s going to talk for an hour, when I can say and do a great deal finer things than any of them.”

“There was one picture,” continue the Roman candle, “of the grandmother holding Anna’s hand, and one of the cute little baby in a red, white and blue cap.  Then the children’s uncle took a picture of them in a group.  He is a very distinguished personage, you don’t know what an elegant walk he has, but he don’t mind being undignified when he is with the children, and keeps all this grand manners for common people who own banks.”

“Quite right, quite right,”nodded the rocket, “the common people have to be kept in place,” and he looked meaningly towards the pinwheel.

“At last I can speak,” said the latter. But just then the door opened and in rushed the children.

“Hoopla.  Hurrah for the Fourth of July.  Now we can shoot off the fireworks,” they cried.

“Oh Grandma, you’re just making it up.  Rockets and Roman candles can’t talk,” cried Beryl.

But her grandmother only smiled.  Then all the children fired off the crackers.  They banged away in grand style little Tom was frightened and cried, while all the other Chinnies (siblings) laughed.

The dog did not think them at all funny, but seemed to have a lively fear that they would burn his home.  The spiteful little pinwheel met with an inglorious end, for by mistake she was set off in the daytime and so no one could see her pretty rose of fire, and she sputtered herself out in a rage.

Everybody dressed up in flags and looked patriotic and happy.  One of the children said she wondered whether the birds like the noise or not; so they listened to such a chirping and twittering that was going on in the tippiest top of the trees.

Monterey Cypress Event

The Port Hueneme Historical Society Museum Grandpawill unveil a plaque commemorating “Grandpa,” Port Hueneme’s beloved Monterey Cypress tree on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 11:00 AM on the museum grounds behind 220 Market Street.  

As a part of the celebration, Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Sharkey will be sharing his personal memories of August 4, 1997, when a steady stream of Port Hueneme residents filed past “Grandpa” to reminisce, mourn, and pay their last respects to the “Friendly City by the Sea’s” oldest citizen. The event also included a candlelight vigil at sunset, members of the Chumash tribe giving thanks while burning sage, and the reading of a poem especially composed for the occasion.

The plaque explains that the Monterey Cypress once stood over 100 feet tall and boasted a trunk with a diameter in excess of six feet. A 12-ft portion of the trunk weighed a staggering 17,500 lbs.

While the actual age of the tree has always inspired lively debate, arborists claim that “Grandpa” reached the ripe old age of 375 years, and at its demise, was acknowledged as the “second oldest Cypress in California.”

Monterey Cypress Poem

“Commemoration of the Second Oldest Monterey Cypress Tree in California” by Jonathan Sharkey (Port Hueneme 1997)

Who was it that slept
beneath your canopy?
Who first lingered
in your shade?
On which day 
was that first shoot seen?
Which bird was it 
dropped that seed
when passing on the fly?
How many more have there been
that sprouted, grew, and died?
Which children climbed 
in your branches?
Did their children’s 
children too?
How many passing
by the way
Would stop to look at you?
The Spaniard passed this way
— seems only an hour ago —
Horses — then wagons —
driven by.
How many thought to know
your branches 
reaching o’er the road?
Did any pause
on summer days
enjoy your shade, 
then go?
In winter wind
with dripping Mac, 
did the teamster shelter there, 
bang out the rain 
from his storm-soaked hat, 
water streaking off his hair?
Sailors and sinners, 
preachers and saints, 
pass by in this long parade.
A car, a truck, a bicycle –
buildings rise and fall.
Lights come on at twilight, 
go off again at dawn.
The ship that was here yesterday 
is now out to sea and gone.
Passing by — the Chumash lad.
Passing by — the farmer.
Passing by each step, each day, 
in dust and time each step away
from where they lived in their today 
to someplace even farther
on. Yet constant you remain.
How do we measure such a life?
Seedling, tree, and rotten branch?
In our brief passage on this road
what is it we can say 
but, “Yes, I stopped
beneath its shade
and waited for a while,
but I had other things to do
and so went on
as will you too.”
Yet glancing once or twice around
we catch a glimpse 
through clouded eye
of all those walking down this road,
Grandpaof all our fellow passersby.

Welcome to the Port Hueneme Historical Society Museum


The Port Hueneme Historical Museum is located in Port Hueneme, a small beach town in Ventura County. The name “Hueneme” derives from the Spanish spelling of the Chumash wene me, meaning “Resting Place.” Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo explored the Hueneme area and the adjacent Channel Islands in October 1542. The town’s name was officially changed to Port Hueneme in 1939 and the municipality was incorporated March 24, 1948.

Thomas Bard learned of a submarine canyon at Point Hueneme and took advantage of the canyon depth to construct the Hueneme Wharf in 1871.  Both the Port of Hueneme and Naval Base Ventura County lie within city limits.

The Port Hueneme Historical Museum is located at 220 Market Street. The 1925 building, which was declared a Ventura County Landmark in 1976, served as the third home (previous structures burned down) of the Bank of Hueneme, a financial institution which first opened its doors on August 6, 1889 and was founded by Thomas Bard.

Two years after Security First National Bank purchased the Hueneme Bank building in 1950, the Bank of Hueneme was dissolved. The city later purchased the property and the diminutive building served as City Hall from 1960 to 1973.

The distinctive neoclassical structure, which became the official residence of the Port Hueneme Historical Museum in 1973, now houses artifacts, memorabilia, furniture, clothing, black and white photo exhibits and other information about the history of the Hueneme area.

Highlights at the museum include the 3,000-piece collection of salt and pepper shakers, a barbed-wire collection that dates from 1891, a set of china and silver tea service that once belonged to Thomas Bard, and the original anchor and bell of a World War II ship. A plaque marks the spot where a 375-year-old Monterey Cypress once stood, the second oldest cypress in California.

Architect Myron Hunt, who designed the building, was also responsible for designing the Bard Mansion, Huntington Library, Occidental College and the Ambassador Hotel.

Tours of the museum can be arranged by appointment. Call (805) 488-2023. Displays are maintained by the Department of Recreation and Community Services as well as the Historical Commission.

In 1976, a five-member Historical Museum Commission was appointed by the City Council to preserve Hueneme’s history and oversee operation of the museum. The current commission members include: Larry Downing, Rose Boog, Joseph Morris, Cindy O’Brien and Jeannette Moranda. The Commission meets the first Wednesday of the month at 1:00PM in the Museum.

To contact the Museum, please see page entitled “Contact Info.”