Travels with Professor Dad

Submitted to the Sacramento Bee Travel Section, June 19, 2005

Bill Chambers

My dad was a popular history teacher at American River College. He specialized in California History - the gold rush, Coloma, Sutter's Fort, California missions, the Donner Party, etc. I remember lots of travels around Northern California - my brother, sister and mom and I comfortably packed into our station wagon. Invariably on our travels we'd pass a sign saying "Historical Marker 500 feet ahead." As if being pulled by a magnet, our station wagon would veer straight for the marker. As kids we hadn't developed the "appreciation" my dad had for historical things. We would listen, somewhat impatiently, to an abbreviated lecture on history wherever we stopped. Our sighs and rolling eyes concealed any interest we actually had - we were more interested in the playgrounds or ice cream shops nearby. But as the years passed, we gained, albeit somewhat unwillingly, not only an education but an appreciation for the rich and exciting history of our state.

I'm fortunate to be able to still travel with my dad, although these days the car is more likely to veer off at a golf course rather than a historical marker. Our last trip together, to Phoenix in March, allowed us to continue enjoying our shared interests in baseball and golf. Today, car trips around the state might take us to the north coast or the foothills for wine tasting, but now, every time I pass a historical marker, I smile remembering those wonderful shared family times traveling with Professor Dad.

Submitted by his daughter
Kris (Chambers) Backus
Sacramento, CA

Coloma, October 1971
Dad at Coloma Gold Discovery Site sign
Kris, Dad and Mike on the Marshall Monument

Coloma and Angels Camp, February 1972

Old Coloma Schoolhouse (Dad, Kris and Mike)
Kris, Kathe and Mike at the school outhouse
Mike and Kris climbing on Mark Twain's statue in Angels Camp

The family finally "consents" to stopping at the Donner Memorial in Truckee, July 1973

Dad and Mike at the Donner Memorial
Kathe, Mike and Kris on one of the Donner Family memorials

Link to Bee feature article