Life in Kerman, California, USA

by Robert Knowles

Bob(left) & Evelyn (right)

I have been asked to make another contribution to Tohei's Home Page. So I thought I would give you a little thumbnail sketch of what life is like here in My Town.

My Town, Kerman

Kerman is a small (less than 7000 population) rural community. It is centered in a farming area that produces mostly grapes (for raisins, wine and table), almonds, cotton and alfalfa hay (cattle feed). There are also many other crops produced in lesser quantities, peaches, apples, beans, vegetables, etc.

Geographical Center of California

Kerman is located in what can be defined as nearly the geographical center of California, just 15 miles west of Fresno (population - 400,000), in the large, flat, San Joaquin (a Spanish word pronounced waakeen) Valley. We are bordered on the east by the Sierra Nevada mountains (which gives the valley, through its large annual snow pack, the water to support its huge agricultural production), and the coastal range on the west. Nearby (90 miles) is the famous natural wonder, Yosemite National Park to the north-east and to the east is Sequoia National Park, home to the largest of the giant redwoods. Three and a half hours away to the north-west is San Francisco, and four hours away to the south-south-east is Los Angeles.

Yosemite National Park

Here and there, scattered in all directions are many other attractions, such as the world famous Monterey Aquarium and Carmel with its golf courses about two and a half hours due west and the California Gold country to the north-north-east. All of these along with the ocean, skiing, boating and water sports, fishing and hunting can be reached in well under a half day. Golf is readily available and cheap. Some greens fees run as little as $12 (less for seniors). And these are nice courses. The course where I played before my illness cut me off, had one hole rated among the top ones in California, and I played for $5 a round plus $10 per month (as a senior).

City Government

We have a typical small city government, consisting of five elected officials (four council members and a mayor, sitting together as a council to perform the necessary duties of representative government. The council hires a full time city manager to oversee the day to day responsibilities of government, a police chief to direct police work (we have 13 officers), a public works director to oversee water, sewer, roads, etc., a financial officer to take care of city finances and a city clerk who is responsible for keeping official city records, recording council meetings.

This is not a perfect system, but it does seem to work pretty well. Council meetings are all open to the public who are allowed to make any input they desire. The law in California does not allow secret meetings except in certain very narrowly defined areas. Consequently government is very open here.

Short History

Kerman has a relatively short history, being little more than 100 years old as a community. The only thing of any significance to happen here was at its very beginning. In the old west there were many train robberies, with bandits stopping trains to rob them. The last of these great train robberies occurred right here in Kerman just about the time it was becoming a community. Joaquin Murrietta, a notorious California bandit of the late 1800s was known to pass through here often on his way to his "hide-out" in the western hills.

Kerman actually started out as a train watering stop and a place where a wealthy oil magnate kept his private railroad car. This man owned all the land between Fresno and Kerman and it is said that he, himself, planted all the trees along the 15 mile road (which was his private drive) between the two cities. His mansion and large estate grounds of about 160 acres, located about half way along this road, is now Kearney Park, named for him.

When my family moved here 39 years ago, there were less than 2500 people living here. Most of the growth, as shown by the current population noted above, has occurred in the last 15 years. Twelve years ago we had only about 3500 residents. It was incorporated as a city in 1946 with about 1200 residents.

Weather and Outdoor Living

Kerman summers are very hot and dry. I have experienced temperatures as high as 45 degrees C. But normally it does not get over 41 or 42 (which is quite hot enough). It will often times go 10 or more days with daytime highs over 38 degrees (100 degrees F). There are two things which make this bearable. Humidity is very low (usually less than 25%) and it generally cools off at night so that it is very comfortable for outdoor living in the evenings. Night-time lows are rarely over 21 degrees.

Winter is the least pleasant of our seasons. We are generally plagued with very unpleasant and often dangerous fog. Unless we have storms moving through to stir up the air, which don't usually come often, this fog can settle in for days and sometimes even weeks at a time. This makes for very cold and unpleasant weather.

On the other hand, our spring and fall are usually quite beautiful. Spring, starting in about mid February with the lovely bloom of the almond trees, is mostly very pleasant and worth the wait. By mid March almost everything is beginning to bloom and the gardens of Kerman turn into a riot of colors. Fall is also quite nice, with little rain and the fall colors beginning to appear in October, until the fog begins to show up around the middle of November.

Outdoor living is an important part of our culture here in Kerman. We have Bar-B-Qs six months out of the year along with swimming, boating, water skiing, picnicking, garden parties.

Ethnic Diversity and the American Dream

Greater Kerman is a very ethnically mixed. We have a very large percentage (now over 1/2) of Hispanics (mostly Mexican), a large population of Punjabis, plus Portuguese, Russians, Swedes, Italians, and a few blacks, Chinese and Japanese, as well as other Europeans. This makes for a wide diversity of thinking and values. For instance, the Punjabis have come to Kerman only in the last 20 years. Although they are outnumbered by the Hispanic population by probably six to one, they own more homes. Most of the Hispanics are more mobile, moving from place to place because of the kind of work they do. The Punjabis work together saving their money to buy businesses and homes to become permanently settled. They do this more than anyone I have ever seen.

Family Portrait

I am sure there are many exceptions, but I believe the "American Dream" for most Kerman citizens is the same as for Americans in general. I believe they want to live comfortably in a home they own, with a nice car and a pick-up truck, with maybe a boat or recreational vehicle and a business or job they like that earns enough money to do the things they want to do.


As a former high school agricultural mechanics teacher, retired the past 14 years, I believe we have some real problems in our schools. And they are not of the schools making. The teachers have lost control of the students because of laws and court actions which have gone overboard protecting their 'rights'. In addition, the parents have looked to the schools more and more to do the jobs that they themselves should be doing. Then they complain bitterly about the poor job the schools are doing raising their children.

Considering these circumstances, plus the ethnic diversity and mobility of a large part of our population, I believe the Kerman schools are doing a very good job. They maintain a fairly calm and collected atmosphere and do very well in various inter-school academic competitions. Our community has reason to be proud of the job being done. Unfortunately, there is a large vocal group who are unaware of these accomplishments and take every opportunity to complain about the poor job being done. I would find it very hard to be a teacher today.


In conclusion I think Kerman is a very nice place to live. It has the lowest cost of living of most anyplace in California, with housing, food and other necessities being relatively inexpensive, all kinds of recreational opportunities nearby, and perhaps most of all, friendly people.