Eva Holcomb – January 2nd, 2009

GEDC0002Eva Holcomb has lived in Anderson Valley since 1938 when she was four years old and her family decided to move here from the coastal town of Elk. Her maiden name is Pardini and that means she has a large extended family that has lived in the Valley for many generations and also that she knows people wherever she goes in these parts. Every time I see her, invariably with husband Bill, she is constantly greeted by virtually everyone who passes by, to whom she extends a beaming smile accompanied by the words, “Hi, honey!”…We sat down to talk at their lovely Ornbaun Road home last Friday morning, with Bill hovering around, stoking the fire and making coffee…
Eva was born in 1934, second child of Ernest Pardini and Annie
Bacci. She has a brother four years older, Donald, and one four years younger, Robert (known as Manchard by many old-timers). She also has a half-brother by the name of Dale. On the Pardini side, her father had come over to the U.S. from Italy as a small child whilst, on her mother’s side, Annie’s parents had arrived in the years before the First World War. It was Flavia Bacci, Eva’s maternal grandmother and the local midwife, who had delivered Eva despite the fact that she’d previously announced she would not deliver any of her own grandchildren. However, when the doctor turned up quite drunk on the day of Eva’s birth she felt she had to step in and the rest is, well, history!
Eva’s family moved to Navarro in 1938 where her paternal grandparents ran the Pardini Hotel, one of four such buildings in the town at that time but the only one still operating as a business. Navarro was a boomtown during the 40’s and 50’s with logging and fishing providing most of the hotel guests. The hotel had a fine restaurant and bar and Eva grew up in a very social environment, although her very strict Italian parents kept an eye on her and insisted that she had to do her work before she was allowed to play or go out – there was little time for the latter by the time she had finished all the chores. “I had to clean and do laundry and keep the house and hotel tidy. My parents were both very strict – almost too much perhaps. It made me want to sneak a bit – you know what I mean?!”…Eva attended the small Navarro School with a total of fourteen other children and it was here that she met teacher Georgina Macdonald, who was to become a lifelong friend, but who at that time taught all the kids, first through sixth grade. Georgina was also responsible for maintaining the upkeep of the school building, getting the stove going every morning before the kids arrived, and cleaning the building at the end of each day. Eva was at the school until she moved on to junior high, which meant being bussed into Boonville to attend the little red schoolhouse in what is now the A.V. Museum. Her mother did not like the idea of Eva being put on a bus every morning so the family moved to Boonville, to the Bradford Ranch, in 1947 when Eva was thirteen, moving to a house on Fitch Lane three years later.
Eva enjoyed school, played all the sports, and particularly loved dancing. She graduated from Anderson Valley High School in 1952 with two friends she still sees in the Valley – Pat Hulbert and Gloria Ross. She was involved in the 4-H program and had a small flock of Suffolk sheep, and horticulture was her favorite subject. Upon graduation, she attended Santa Rosa J.C. but did not like it at all, deciding to return to the Valley after just six months. “I wasn’t ready for college. I remember sitting in my bookkeeping class one day and watching other students in the garden pruning roses. I decided I’d much rather be outside doing that!” Many years later Eva was to take flower-arranging classes and has always harbored thoughts of owning her own flower shop.
On returning to Boonville, Eva started work at the Rossi Hardware Store for $1 an hour and it was whilst here that she met the owner of the service station just next door – Bill Holcomb. One day she offered to pick up some lunch for him and they’ve been together ever since, getting married in 1954, the first couple to ever do so at The Philo Catholic Church. Some people were upset that Eva dated an outsider – Bill was originally from Texas by way of California’s Central Valley – and one woman even asked Eva, “Why marry him, he’s not from round here, why not marry my son?”…They settled on Fitch Lane in a house behind Eva’s parents place and within a few years, they were the proud parents of Bill Jr. (now a sergeant in the C.H.P. in Lake County) and Palma, who with husband Dennis has presented Eva and Bill with grandchildren, John and Ben Toohey…Eva and Bill eventually moved to their present home after Highway 128 had been moved east from what is now Anderson Valley Way, resulting in Fitch Lane being split in two and the traffic being right at their door. One day Eva had accompanied Bill to what was to become their current home when he was hauling water to the house – one of his many sideline jobs! She immediately knew she wanted to live there and told him so. She assured him he should not worry about the water situation as, being a “water witch” or dowser, she had divined that there was plenty in the ground so they’d be fine. He wasn’t about to argue with her on this and she turned out to be right – they’ve always had plenty of water for both their needs, and for Eva’s wonderful garden of course!
In the early fifties the Valley was a very lively place indeed and it wasn’t always in a good way. Initially it was hard to get people to come here to such an isolated place so wages were made higher than in other areas. Bill doubled his wages when he came here from Tulare down by Bakersfield. “People would come into Rossi’s and pay their bills on a Friday and then go out and party all weekend long” she says. The influx of settlers from Arkansas and Oklahoma, here to work in the booming logging industry, saw more than thirty mills in operation and lots of bars and therefore lots of drinking. “There were five bars in the Valley – three in Boonville – The Boonville Lodge, Wiese’s Valley Inn, and The Track Inn, The Last Resort in Philo, and the bar at The Pardini Hotel in Navarro. There were also quite a few ‘beer bars’ – no hard liquor but still selling lots of alcohol. Some people amongst the old Valley families were not thrilled with changes around here or with all the new arrivals – the ‘Okies’ and ‘Arkies’. There were lots of fights – just like in later years when the hippies arrived and then later still as the Mexican community grew. It has calmed down now and people seem to get along much better but it was pretty wild here for a time.”
Eva stayed at Rossi’s for a couple of years and then devoted her time to raising her own family whilst looking after numerous relatives whose health was not good. She also took care of “my good, good friend” Georgina Macdonald, the teacher who had befriended her as a child and who had made Eva’s birthday cake every year from her 4th to her 21st Birthday. Her father and sister-in-law, Donna, suffered ill health and Eva spent much of her time when not with her kids, being a caregiver to these loved ones. “In those days you kept family and looked after them – you didn’t ‘farm’ them out…Then when my father passed my mother made sure we kids were right there for her until she passed in 2007 at the age of ninety-two…To this day I often have brief feelings of anxiety that I must get home to look after her, only to realize that I no longer have to do that – Mother is not there…You learn a lot when you take care of people. Some are in the here and now – like my mother who just said she wanted to be bathed, sit in her favorite chair, and go to sleep. I bathed her and then got her all gussied up. She went to sleep at 11pm. I was concerned when she did not wake so I nudged her to see if she was o.k. She seemed to be annoyed and kept saying, “sleep, Eva, sleep”. She died the next day at 4pm…Then there are others, like my father, who in his virtual comatose state was speaking to those already dead. He seemed to be on the other side before he actually passed”…Talking of such events led Eva to share that she has always had “the strange yet powerful ability to sense things that will happen in the future. It was unsettling and used to worry me but it doesn’t happen anymore – perhaps I have learned to control it. It has occurred many times and one occasion I remember vividly was when young Billy was in sixth grade his teacher was this well-dressed and handsome man called Jim Jones – yes, that Jim Jones of People’s Temple fame! When I met him and he talked about Billy having ‘leadership qualities’ the hairs on the back of my neck went up and I was convinced this man was no good. I told Bill and we took Billy out of that class. People said I was overreacting. A few years later they changed their mind.”…
Over the years Eva has always enjoyed the Valley’s social scene and has been involved with the County Fair for a long time, particularly in the organizing of the Horticultural Building. There used to be two dances at The Fair each year – a western dance on the Saturday night and then a ‘suit and tie’ dance on the Sunday evening. She and Bill always attended both, plus the regular Saturday night dances at The Grange and The Apple Hall, and they have been involved with many of the events put on by the Lions’ Club. She has continues to maintain an active lifestyle throughout her retirement age. “I just love this place. It has been the perfect place to raise children and a family and we love meeting up with friends wherever we go in the Valley. Although I’ve lived in Boonville for over sixty years I will always have a special place in my heart for Navarro where I spent some wonderful years as a child”…She particularly likes to go to the school’s sporting events – grandson John was the school football coach during this past very successful season and she and Bill went to all his games. They can also be seen at the live music events at The Navarro Store on most Saturday nights during the summer. “Some people have asked ‘why do you go to Navarro, aren’t there lots of people smoking pot down there?’ I say, ‘yeh, there are, but I don’t have to!’ ”…She looks forward to the County Fair every year and the Barn Sale every month but her favorite hangout in the Valley is her very own back yard and garden.
There is nothing she doesn’t like about life here and comments, “it has changed so much but even this has been fine with me. The hippies arrived and whilst I didn’t like the drug taking, I did like their energy and even some of the music. The Mexican community has also added much to our Valley and they are slowly blending in, particularly at our church…It is expensive to shop locally but we try to do so as we want to support local businesses but sometimes we do go to Ft. Bragg or Ukiah…I’ve never thought about living anywhere else – it’s all here”…
I next asked Eva, as I tend to do with most guests, about her feelings towards various local entities or organizations…The wineries? – “I like ‘em” she answered immediately. “In many ways they have made the Valley look even more beautiful. They fixed the fences, they cleaned up a lot of old farm stuff that was rusty and useless, and I don’t have a problem with them”…The A.V.A.? – “Well, we always get it to finds out what’s happening. It’s o.k. – I enjoy it. There was a time when there was bad stuff written in it but it has changed and I think Bruce is a softie underneath”…The School system? – “I support our school in so many ways. Bill and I have given lots of time and money to the school but something is not right when so many people have moved, or are talking about moving, their kids to other schools or to home-schooling.”…
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “Oh, jiminy!”
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “The ‘F’-word – definitely.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Music – jazzy, bluesy stuff, or the big band sounds of the old days.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “People not having respect for others.”
”What sound or noise do you love? – “Hearing a train whistle – I don’t know why but I’ve always loved that sound. May be it’s since the trains ran from Navarro to the coast.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “The high-pitched, bumble bee-like whine of a small motor bike.”
What is your favorite curse word or phrase? – “Oh, shit”
What is your favorite hobby? – “Gardening…Flower-arranging, cooking, working at The old Barn.”
What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted? – “As I said earlier I have always loved flowers and so to have owned a flower shop would have been wonderful.”
Do you have any words to live by? – “I have always tried to live my life by treating others in a way I would like them to treat me – it is not always easy!”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Hi, Eva – welcome. There are lots of people here waiting to see you!”…

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Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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