Today's column is a happy birthday tribute to Jack and Julia.
Jack London and Julia Morgan are two of Oakland's best-known personages. Both have January birthdays and both achieved widespread fame during their lifetimes: London as an author and Morgan as the first female licensed architect in America.
London, the younger of the two, was born Jan. 12, 1876, in San Francisco to a single mother in impoverished circumstances. He was an only child.
Also born in San Francisco was Julia Morgan -- the second of five siblings -- on Jan. 20, 1872. Her family was well-off and considered upper-middle class.
As youngsters, both came with their families to Oakland, where they grew up and went to school. Morgan was surrounded by comforts and special lessons; London had the hardscrabble childhood that he described so well later on in his novels and stories.
Julia Morgan graduated from Oakland High School in 1890, when the campus was located on Market and 12th streets. She attended UC Berkeley location from 1890-94, majoring in civil engineering.
London's formal education ended after the eighth grade (he was a student at Cole School in West Oakland), records show. His teenage years were filled with adventures and scrapes that he later wrote about, but his thirst for learning was strong; he would enroll at Oakland High School in 1893, working as the night janitor to pay for books and submitting essays to the school paper.
He worked hard and successfully applied to UC Berkeley in 1896, at the age of 20. London, however, only remained at Berkeley for a short time, before dropping out for financial reasons and heading to the gold fields of the Yukon in the summer of 1897.
Meanwhile, Morgan, too, was aspiring to reach "above her station in life" by moving to Paris and applying to the male-only bastion the Ecole des Beaux-Arts to study architecture. In 1896, after three attempts, she was finally admitted. Subsequently, she immersed herself in the challenging curriculum, obtaining her degree just short of her 30th birthday.
The years 1902-03 were turning points for both London and Morgan. Both had returned to the Bay Area. He published and was paid for his first piece of writing, and she began her professional career as an architect. During the next decade, both achieved great success and critical acclaim in their respective fields.
London's years of hard living caught up with him, and he died in 1916, when he was 40, at his beloved ranch in Glen Ellen. The property is now known as Jack London State Historic Park.
Morgan, who never married, lived to 85. She passed away in 1957. Morgan is interred in the family plot at Mountain View Cemetery (free monthly walks of the cemetery are offered by volunteers, www.mountainviewcemetery.org). London's ashes were scattered at the ranch. To learn more, go to www.jacklondonpark.com.