CLAYTON, CA — The world’s oldest known library was founded in the 7th century B.C. in Nineveh (in modern-day Iraq). It housed a trove of some 30,000 clay cuneiform tablets, organized according to subject matter.
The new Curry Canyon Library can’t boast cuneiform tablets, but it is the pride of the residents of a Morgan Territory trailer park who recently created the library in a 100 sq. ft. cinder block building that had been boarded up for decades.
Earlier this year, trailer park resident Delrecia Roy asked her landlord’s business manager if she and her neighbors could reclaim the old bathroom and turn it into a library. He readily agreed, and over the next few months, a dedicated cadre of folks smashed commodes, shoveled out a foot of squirrel-stashed acorns, cleaned, hammered, sawed and painted the tiny space.
After installing donated hardwood floors and solar lighting, they created not only a charming, well-stocked and organized free lending library, but a newfound sense of community as well.
One resident credited pandemic isolation, noting that a reclusive mix of retirees, contractors, artists, tradespeople and out-and-out hermits came together to build something wonderful.
People donated bookcases and hundreds of books while also producing signage and shelving labels. A picnic table and other outdoor seating appeared one morning. Artist Iris Moore painted a Steller’s jay on the side of the building to the delight of the few passersby on the private road that runs through the canyon.
Lush, scenic setting
The building had once been a three-stall public bathroom in Curry Creek Picnic Park. A family recreation destination from 1925 to 1979, it featured swimming, sports, camping, a pinball arcade, snack bar and even a dance floor.
The popular park was on the eastern slope of Mount Diablo’s North Peak in Curry Canyon, a lush riparian corridor of blue oak, coastal live oak, bay laurel and sycamore along Curry Creek, which flows into the Marsh Creek watershed. The picturesque canyon has been the site of community gatherings, celebrations and recreation since the Volvon people, a Bay Miwok tribe, lived there centuries ago.
After buying 1,430 acres in 1895, the Olofson family owned the extensive canyon property. Sold off in pieces, the canyon is now home to a dog boarding kennel, several private homes, the vast Curry Canyon Ranch now owned by Save Mount Diablo and the 35-acre Curry Creek Trailer Park.
Could bocce be next?
Residents say the library is quietly becoming a focal point for community gatherings. The first event, the Curry Canyon Library Grand Opening Potluck over Memorial Day weekend, brought out neighbors rarely seen.
Property manager Craig Schwab bought Skipolini’s pizza for the group and there was talk of a new undertaking – building a bocce court on a flat section of creekside land near the library.
To the long list of library builders, from Ptolemy to Ben Franklin, please add the determined folks of Curry Canyon.
Pamela Michael is an author and communications specialist who has lived in Curry Canyon for 20 years. Look for more from her in future issues of the Pioneer.