The first time I heard someone refer to the residents of our fair isle as Alamedians, I thought I had simply misheard. The second time, I figured they just talked funny. Then I heard City Councilman Doug deHaan use it at a public forum he attended. I began to wonder whether I was missing something.
“I guess it’s just in the pronunciation. The old guard, the Alamedians,” says George Gunn, curator of the Alameda Museum for the past 37 years and Alamedian. The old guard starts with the folks who settled here before the 1906 earthquake, when “Alamedan” and “Alamedian” were used interchangeably in the Oakland Tribune’s headlines. It does not include anyone whose tenure has yet to reach the half-century mark.
Still, even a cursory Google search shows that the term has gained some currency with the MySpace set, whose constituents have definitely not been on Alameda, or anywhere on this Earth, for 50 years – the scions of the old guard, perhaps?
“People in Alameda pronounce things differently than they are pronounced,” Gunn says. So Versailles is “Ver-sales.” Buena Vista, “Boona Vista.” The somewhat recently rechristened Alameda Towne Centre remains South Shore to many. “This whole generation will have to pass to the grave before it’s known as Towne Centre,” he says.
When I ask longtime residents about all this, they nod in assent. Even something that appears in written form as “Alamedans” is pronounced “Alamedians” (a la the “Old Alamedans” club).
“Alamedians don’t accept change easily,” says Gunn. “Maybe that’s why we’re still here.”