I met with Dick at his home in the Elder Home complex just south of downtown Boonville. He made me a cup of coffee and then settled in his large comfortable reclining chair in the living room and we began to chat…
Dick was born in Augusta, Maine in 1935 to a Swedish mother and Scottish/English father who was a baker/cook initially before training to become a machinist for Standard Brands, moving quickly up the company to Department Head. This meant he was in great demand and the family moved away from the rural environment which Dick loved so much to the cities of Boston, Mass. and then Hoboken, New Jersey. “The company then brought out these new machines to mechanically fill tea bags, which had always been done by hand previously, and my Dad knew everything there was to know about them so when the company introduced them to their subsidiaries out in California he went too. A year later in 1942, with the country at war, my mother and I took a train to join him in the Bay Area. We lived in Millbrae on the peninsular south of San Francisco.”
A little time later Dick’s mother was in a serious car accident with a drunk driver in which her hips were both crushed. Whilst in hospital she contracted tuberculosis. Dick remembers, “She never walked again and the T.B. killed her two years later when she was still in her thirties. Not long afterwards Dad took up with a woman he worked with – a very pretty Italian woman called Toni. Due to the T.B. scare I was put in a sanitarium and when this was closed for refurbishment he sent me up to Anderson Valley to stay with another woman he had worked with, who’d retired to the Valley with her husband and bought a ranchette home on Anderson Valley Way. It was where Bruce Anderson later had his Fort Despair – the headquarters for the A.V.A. That was 1944 and with Toni not wanting me to be part of their new life I was sent back to the Valley the following summer too. At that point Toni gave an ultimatum to my Dad – if he wanted to marry her he would have to send me away permanently and start a new family with her. My Dad chose to have me legally adopted by the couple in the Valley – Evelyn and Walter Sand. I was ten years old and had always thought the sun rose and set with my father. He took me everywhere with him in the earlier years and he was my hero. I was devastated.”…Dick’s father married Toni and started a new family in the Bay Area although he did visit Dick three or four times a year but Dick couldn’t face him and never called him ‘Dad’ again…Four years later his father and Toni had had a change of heart and wanted Dick to move back with them down in the City. Dick refused – he had found his home.
When he moved permanently to Anderson Valley in the summer of 1945, Dick’s first friend was an Indian guy by the name of Arthur Knight. His godfather was the Chief of the Pomo tribe based in Hopland and they remain friends to this day. He also hung out with the children of Judge Harwood June – Delmer and the elder Jack – who lived nearby, and when not in school he worked for the June’s both in construction and on their ranch. He learned to drive a tractor and was even allowed to drive an old Dodge pick-up home after work. It was the years of great migration to the Valley from the dustbowl states of Oklahoma and Arkansas and the timber industry was booming. There were fifty-four mills in the Valley and Jack June became a surveyor of land and timber. He enlisted Dick’s help on many occasions and Dick has many fond memories of working back in the woods during those times.
At fifteen Dick was working for other ranches and one job saw him driving a truck carrying six tons of pairs from the Valley to the railhead in Hopland from where they would be taken to the Bay Area. He had no driving license and hadn’t even taken a test – “that was the way it often was in those days.”…Dick liked school but mainly for the sports – he was o.k. academically but didn’t like it. “I never did any homework – I had to work after school every day. I was washing dishes at The Boonville Lodge in the evening and each morning I was at Weiss’s Bar in Boonville cleaning up – ‘swabbing up’ we called it. Because of the boom time in the logging industry the bars were all packed every night, customers three or four deep at the bar, even in the middle of the week – there were no bar stools then – there wasn’t any room! It was a crazy scene…I was very fit and strong and one guy, Bud Van Houston, used to get me to stop my dishwashing and come and arm-wrestle the loggers on the shuffleboard that was in The Lodge. With Bud betting on the outcome, I won most of my duels and he would then pay me in cocktails – that was when my liking for alcohol began.”
Dick half-jokingly thinks he may be related to many Valley folk in one-way or another – “there was a lot of fence jumping in those days” he says with a mischievous grin…For a couple of years at A.V. High School, he himself had been dating Lovella Canavera, whose parents had come over to the States from Italy. He had seen her as a freshman and had said to himself, “I’m gonna marry that girl.’ So when he graduated high school on a Friday afternoon, the very next day, June 11th, 1954, he and Lovella were married in the Old Apple Hall in Boonville and they moved into a home in Yorkville. He got a job with Don Ford on a road-building crew with Lovella working in an office in Cloverdale before they had two children – Michelle, born in November 1956 and Michael in December 1957.
Over the next several years Dick had a variety of jobs. He worked for Kay Hiatt in the woods, peeling logs on the landing; he drove a forklift truck in Cloverdale; and he was at Asti Winery in the Alexander Valley. For some time he had wanted to get a job running equipment with The Department of Transportation (later Cal Tran) and this finally happened in June 1965. “The winery had been making cutbacks and I had been laid of on the Friday but I started my new job with Cal Tran on the following Wednesday. At first it was temporary, both in Hopland and then Manchester, before becoming a permanent position up in Orleans, California, near to Eureka. I was away from the family but it was a good job…I was then transferred to Ft. Bragg but they had a rule that you had to live closer than thirty minutes or thirty miles to work if you wanted to go home every day. Living in Yorkville, I was further than that so once again I could only go home at weekends…Finally in 1974 I ended up at The Boonville Yard and was there until retirement, twenty eight years later in 1992.”…
With Lovella quitting her school secretary job at the same time to look after her sick mother, Dick took a part-time job at Caroline Short’s gas station in Boonville. “Her husband Jeff had died and the staff quit. I said I’d help out and it ended up being nine-hour days, seven days a week.”…In 1997Lovella, who was the Chairperson of the Seniors’ Board, told Dick that the bus driving job for the Seniors had become available. With Lovella taking no part in the decision-making process, he interviewed for the job. They said they’d let him know and then called him in for a second interview. At this point Dick told them, “Look – you know me. I am going to be me. If you can live with that then this will work out fine.” They gave him the job and he has being doing it ever since…”It’s strange. I have had all these jobs and Lovella worked too, yet we always spent it as quickly as we earned it. I never really got ahead financially – I guess some people do and some don’t.”
Dick has also earned some extra ‘pocket money’ from his job of making the coffin-shells which go around the coffins when they are placed into the ground. He worked for George Gowan doing this in the Valley and then more recently the Eversole Mortuary, which also covers Hopland, Round Valley, Potter Valley, and Covelo, has also asked Dick for his services. “It pays well but the trouble is everyone is getting cremated these days.”…
Dick has always been involved in the social scene of the Valley and continues to attend as many events as possible. In the fifties and sixties there were regular dances at The Grange and Fairgrounds and for many years he was involved with The Boontown Players who put on a sort of variety show featuring plays, skits, and music. Lovella would sing and Dick was in the band playing drums and harmonica. He also played drums with the Ed Laughton Band all around the county at various dance clubs and many weddings. He has been involved with the Lions Club for many years and would like to continue to help out at their charity events; he coached basketball to the younger kids at the school for a long time; he has raised money for the school on many occasions; and, as mentioned above, still keeps the seniors on their toes in his important role as their reliable and humorous bus driver.
Until the last few years he also did a lot of work for with the Catholic Church in the Valley. “Lovella and I were very much involved with the church events. The Barn Sale, the bbq’s, and I did lots of repair work over the years. I put in the kitchen there and Lovella did the bookkeeping and dealt with all the grant applications when necessary. We were a big part of the scene… Then one day, sometime in 2004 I think, we received a letter from them thanking us for all our work and then adding that they were terminating our service to the church. It came as a big shock. I asked those concerned but nobody would give us a straight answer. To this day I’ve no idea why.”
The death, from cancer, of his beloved Lovella hit Dick very hard indeed. She passed away on November 27th, 2006, having been ill for eight years, dealing with radiation treatment and chemotherapy on a regular basis. “Our life together was on hold during that time and then when she died my life ended. We were together for fifty-two years and I felt I had nothing left to live for. I wanted to go too. I still don’t want to go on at times when the grieving and despondency become overwhelming. However, a lot of people have helped me get through this and I do feel it’s getting better. There has been Wendy Read, Mike Shapiro, Jerry Huey, David Jones and Robin Quirk – a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Being there for everyone on the bus each day was tough for a while but, as I say, I feel better overall and try to keep busy. Having the dog, Noelle, certainly helps – she’s my best friend. I got her from Animal Rescue in Ukiah, just days before she was due to be euthanized. It was December 22nd 2005 and she was a Christmas gift for Lovella. They fell in love and she often said that Noelle was “the best present you ever got me.” I now call the dog Novella – a combination of my best friends’ names”…
“I love this Valley – the whole Valley is my favorite place. Let me tell you a story…We had been married at The Apple Hall, and had our 50th wedding anniversary there, and so when Lovella died it was the place to hold the memorial service. I wrote a eulogy for her – I had woken up the day before and had felt compelled to do so. Willie Roberts was going to do it but I decided I wanted to. When I finished there was a silence and I thanked those in attendance for everything they had done for us, for all their support, and for allowing us to live amongst them so happily. I said I was privileged to live here…A few days later I got a call from Rick Eversole at the funeral home. The bill for the funeral had been $6500 and I had agreed to pay it off in installments. He told me that the bill was now just $150 – people from Anderson Valley had contributed the rest – in all his years he had never seen such an outpouring of love for someone before. Then the guy who made the headstone donated it and his time for the engraving…There is what I call a ‘Code of the Valley.’ If you do something nice for someone here they will do something similar for somebody else, not necessarily back to me. However, I believe that eventually this good turn does work its way back to you in some way and even the new arrivals here over the years have picked up on this…I thank God every day for this Valley and the people in it.”
I next asked Dick for his responses to some of the ‘hot-button’ issue that are frequently discussed in the Valley…The Wineries – “Personally, I don’t have much use for them. Many are owned by out-of-towners and of course there are the water issues. Their presence has changed the Valley and whilst some say they have bought lots of money here I’m not so sure it’s been a good thing.”…KZYX & Z local public radio? – “I like it – it’s an asset to the Valley. I listen to some of the music regularly – ‘Lunch on the Back Porch’ and ‘Humble Pie”. I use the ‘Trading Time’ program to sell my stuff and we always listen to it on the bus.”…The school system? – “I was involved in coaching the junior Panthers basketball for thirty five years – teaching fundamentals to both the boys and girls and I also helped with the booster club to raise money for the school. I am no longer involved there and completely disagreed with the decision a few years ago to change the school colors. We have always been brown and gold and now it’s black and white gold. This was a slap in the face to the alumni and many are not happy about it. It is important, it’s part of the school’s tradition and heritage. It’s good to see Danny Kuny’s Panther Cubs, although not directly involved with the school, wearing brown and gold and I have heard that Ben Anderson has his High School baseball team playing in brown and gold too. Let’s hope the other teams follow suit.”…Law and Order? – “Keith Squires does a good job but he’s not hot on the traffic and driving. Walker and Miller do more of that and that should be enough. We have too many C.H.P. around who seem to upset many locals – this happens from time to time and it will pass, I’m sure.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Dick, many of which are 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? – “It would be ‘Bahl’ – that’s Boontling, our local dialect, for ‘that’s as good as it gets’. I use it all the time”
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “Call me old fashioned but I really cannot stand it when people use the ‘f-word’ in front of women.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Music – all kinds of music and of course I still like performing with the Jug Band…Being around people also turns me on – my bus-driving job gives me that.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “People who I do not trust. I cannot like people I don’t trust.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “The sounds of the countryside – birds, etc…I really like the sound of the ocean waves – I went out to the coast a few weeks ago and recorded it – Lovella used to love that too.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “The sound of traffic – it is pretty constant here on Hwy 128.”
What is your favorite curse word? – “I have so many, I’m afraid to say. ‘Goddam it’ is probably the one I use the most.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “Restoring wheelbarrows and then giving them away – it’s been my ‘thing’ for over thirty years.”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I think I would have liked to have been a lawyer. I like to argue and negotiate. Perhaps a realtor would have been an interesting profession too.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “I can’t think of one but I know I hated part of my own job – setting chokers/chains in the woods.”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “That’s tough – there have been so many. In recent times perhaps it’s been meeting Robin Quirk. She has been very good for me – making me feel thirty years younger.”
What was the saddest? – “Lovella’s passing.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “I have never found out what I am good at. Many would say I’m good at bullshitting!…I guess my sense of humor would be the best answer to that question.”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Welcome Dick – I have a place for you over here beside your wife Lovella”…I remember Lovella asked me a few times ‘Why me? Why am I dying?’ I would tell her that God needed help with his bookkeeping and she was the best person he could get for that important job…I miss her so much every day.”