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Stateside With Rosalea: Me And Tony Burg

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

Me And Tony Burg

I started a new job this week in what I thought was just an industrial wasteland at the southern end of San Francisco International Airport but which is, I am assured, a "tony burg." Burlingame is a one-hour BART ride away from home, and then a twenty-minute walk through said wasteland of convention hotels, airline food packing houses, shipping companies, car rental HQs, and sundry low-rise office buildings.

::Highway 101::

The downside of the walk is that it takes me on a bridge over Highway 101, one of the busiest highways in the Bay Area, so I get a lungful of traffic fumes, topped off with a soupcon of jet fuel fumes if a plane happens to be revving up for take-off at the end of the runway as I walk by.

US 101 is otherwise known as the Coast Highway. North of San Francisco it's known as the Redwood Highway because at one time its route followed the famous Avenue of Giants, passing by the tallest trees in the world in Redwood State Park and Redwood National Park. Between San Diego and San Francisco, 101 follows the route taken by the Spanish explorer Juan Gaspar de Portola in 1769. Portola's route later became known as El Camino Real--the King's Highway--and it connected the 21 missions of California. It is 101 that goes over the Golden Gate Bridge.


Burlingame--The City of Trees--has a population of about 29,000 and a toy museum, and was home to the owner of the famous racehorse, Seabiscuit. At the 2000 census, 7 Kiwis lived there, and a former Kiwi building contractor is one of the people running for a seat on the city council in November.

A website about the city of Burlingame states: "Once part of a Spanish land grant given by Governor Pio Rico to his secretary, Cayetano Arena; then the location of a San Francisco banker's vision of a "sacrosanct colony"; and later, the site of the first country club in California... this is the distinctive heritage of Burlingame, California."

The city is named after Anson Burlingame, who was President Lincoln's appointment as US Minister to China. Burlingame was invited to have a look at the site that one William Ralston -- a banker and investor in the Comstoke Lode -- had bought in hopes of establishing country homes for the good burghers of San Francisco.

Burlingame acquired "a villa site for himself of 1100 acres to be used after his retirement from the China mission" and the town-to-be was named after him. But Ralston's dream of an exclusive colony moved slowly until the 1906 earthquake and fire sent hundreds of people in search of a safe place to live.

Which brings us nicely back to reality and the present day. I wonder which communities on the Gulf Coast are going to boom after Hurricane Katrina, this century's opening disaster?


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