Local Historian uncovers rich history of Pinedale

FRESNO, Calif.

David Rodriquez said preserving the history of Pinedale is his passion.

"I don't think you're going to find any other community in the Valley here that has as much and as diverse history as Pinedale," he said.

A passion, he explained, that began 15 years ago when he retired from the military and returned to his hometown to care for his parents.

"It started over a cup of coffee with my mother, and then I began looking into my family's genealogy," he said. "I did all the tasks that my mother and father wanted around the house so now I needed something to keep me busy, because I knew I would go crazy," he said.

So he picked up some books at the local library and began pouring through the pages. He also browsed the internet and talked with family and friends. What he discovered was history gold. He's now sharing his knowledge with children at Pinedale Elementary.

"What a great thing to bring into our school because it's so important for our kids to know the history of Pinedale. These are the types of things they will not get out of textbook," said Principal Debbie Bolls. "It's so important for them to have a sense of pride and knowing what has originated from right here in their own backyard."

The kids learned about the Sugar Pine Railroad which used to carry lumber to and from the area near Nees and Highway 41; the Valley's largest lumber mill that went by the same name back in 1923; as well as the Japanese internment camp which replaced it during World War II and later became a training ground for the Air Force known as "Camp Pinedale."

Rodriguez also told the students about some of the prominent people who came from Pinedale, including the first Latino Ambassador of the United States, 84 year old Phillip Sanchez.

"The message I want to send them is that he came through the same school, all the way through the Clovis Unified School District and he made something of himself," he said. "So if he can do it, they can do it."

Students said they enjoyed looking at old photographs of the first schoolhouse in Pinedale, which sat where a new cafeteria is currently under construction at the elementary school. They also enjoyed hearing about the Pinedale water tower and how a member of the community saved it from demolition.

"It was cool to learn the history like stuff I never knew and now I can tell people and pass it on," said Analeia Paquiz.

"I liked how he told us about the (air force) training camp. I didn't know we had a training camp in Pinedale and I liked how he told us about the four heroes that died in wars," said student Jacob Haros.

New knowledge, they said, makes them proud of where they came from and that they'll keep with them for life.

"It's pretty amazing about all that history that I never knew and now it's all come back," said Brandon Ortiz.

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