What Happened to the "Golden State?"

(I doubt the situation in California is this idyllic now.)

A Native

As some of you may know, I'm a native Californian. I was born and raised in the "Golden State," went to grammar school there, enlisted in the military there, and was fortunate enough to return home there after two Vietnam combat tours ('66 and '68).

In terms of my undergraduate college education, I'm a product of California's junior college and (as unlikely as it may seem) the left-leaning University of California systems. My grandparents on both sides are buried in California, as are my mother, father, brother, uncles, aunts, and a great grandmother as well.

Great Pride

I used to take great pride in the fact I was a native Californian and not some wise-cracking East Coast transplant or naive Midwesterner looking to hit it big or "find" themselves in the "Golden State's" cultural and economic melting pot. I was home grown and proud of it.

At one time I truly loved my home state. I grew up in the shadows of the Sierra Nevadas with the southern end of the Motherlode gold region a scant hour's drive away. My home town in the San Joaquin Valley was small, divided mostly along economic and religious lines, and filled with hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people who grew the most abundant harvest ever known to man...peaches, apricots, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, walnuts, pecans, almonds, cotton, and alfalfa, to name but a few. I also cut my gold mining teeth in the streams and deserts of the "Golden State."

Writing on the Wall

Like many others, I'm an expatriate Californian now as is my wife who is also a native. I saw the writing on the wall in the "Golden State" twenty one years ago when I moved my budding little family to Northern New Mexico to escape what I considered a downward spiral that would only worsen with time. In this regard I was absolutely correct.

One of the great strengths of California early on was its openness...not only the largess of its people but of the land itself...from oceans to deserts, to mountains, to redwood forests, to the richest gold-bearing region ever discovered or mined. California was open to all comers...a land of opportunity and dreams. Therein lies the state's true malaise.

Orchards Picked Clean

Open lands have disappeared in California at an exponential rate over the past 30 years, only to be replaced by over-priced condos, housing tracts, and apartment complexes as more and more "rats" crowded into California's gilded cage and purchased overinflated properties that are now on the chopping block. Untrammeled immigration (mostly illegal) has taxed every public service system to the limit, including the education, health care, and welfare rolls. Metaphorically speaking, the once bountiful California orchards have been picked clean.

Self-serving politicians and the well-organized special interest groups who prop them up have ensured that their (not the people's) agendas are carried forward, no matter the cost in dollars or in human heartache. The live-and-let-live ambiance of California that typified the "Golden State" since the days of the Gold Rush has degenerated into an aggressive selfishness where every aspect of social and sexual deviancy are proud banners to be waved, if not flaunted, in the faces of California's taxpaying working and middle classes.

Turning Over in Their Graves

To say I am greatly saddened by the current condition of my home state is an understatement. Real gold never tarnishes or decays...the same cannot be said for the once-"Golden State" however. It has fallen prey to overcrowding, mismanagement, a "me first" mentality, and social, political, and economic idiocy.

I bet the '49ers who rushed in 163 years ago to create a new, independent republic under the bear flag are turning over in their graves. They could never have envisioned such richness used so poorly and then tossed away like so much gutter trash.

(Californians...please feel free to pass this post along to your friends, relatives, acquaintances or anyone else it may register with.)

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. JR, WOW! Very well said. California at one time was paradice. Now it is infested with people, and "civilized".My way of thinking is that the word "civilized" is the same as "ruined". As a 2 year old kid, I lived there too, my sister was born there, I don't tell too many folks that. Californians around here have a bad name,Some with good reason, others are good people. Folks are folks, theres good ones and theres bad ones. Dosn't matter were you are from or what color you are, it's your actions that matter. It's realy too bad that a paradice like California has become what it is. This new "green religion" has taken over common sence. California is the only state in the nation that has border guards from the rest of the United States.That alone prooves it has become a communist country in my book. It's sad realy.....what's worse is that it's just the start. Someday I think the whole United States will become "Civilized"...I hope I don't live long enough to see it.

    1. It's sad state of affairs in California these days Gary...and perhaps a microcosm of the ills that infect the United States as a whole these days. Thanks for commenting my friend. J.R.

  2. Yep, I'm a roofing contractor in Calaveras county...heartof the motherload. If it wasn't for hiking,fishing and prospecting the canyons and creeks around here,Is be gone too. Try going in a McDonald's anywhere south of Modesto in the valley ,and everything is in Spanish. I have to compete against Mexican roofing company's,lol. Stockton ,a city of about 250k just went bankrupt,and has like 36 murders so far this year. The state is dead broke,Moonbeam wants to raise taxes too pay for their mismanagement, and we can't dredge. BUT, when my son and I are hiking the North fork of the American, or the Mokolumne,catching bruiser browns and bows,finding a nice picker or two,I'm just not ready to leave...yet. Ray Schulze

  3. Ray, I feel the same way when I head to the N. Yuba River (where I have a claim)...there are unspoiled areas still left in California. But I wonder how long it will be before those too are gone or placed off limits. Thanks for commenting and my best to you. J.R.

  4. JR, while it is true that there are many problems in California. I want you to remember that California was not founded by the 49er's or "rush settlers", but instead founded by the people of Mexico, and was infact part of Mexico until the saps sold it to us.

  5. Your point (and historical fact) are well taken. Yep, the Spanish (via Mexico) had ranches and settlements all through California long before the '49ers showed up. J.R.

  6. Very well said sir. I will be encouraging others to read what you have written. I just discovered your site and am sorry it is ending.

    As a native (first born west of the Rockies) I almost cry daily over what our State has become. As a second generation Land Surveyor I should have followed my Fathers lead and remained in Idaho when he left California in '77.

    Good luck in your endeavors.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words of support my friend. Stopping publishing was not an easy thing for me..."Bedrock Dreams" was my first love. I wish you well out there and thanks again! J.R.


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