I drove a few miles up the Philo-Greenwood Road to meet with Alice Fashauer at the lovely home that she shares with daughter Anne. After being greeted by the dogs – Maggie the rat terrier/Chihuahua mix, Rosie the sheep dog, and Lucy the fox terrier, I sat down with a glass of iced tea and we began to chat. Mattilda the cat was nowhere to be seen.
Alice was born in 1933 in Colton, San Bernardino County, in southern California and spent her first couple of years in Fawnskin near to Big Bear Lake. She is the oldest of five children, three boys and two girls (her sister is now deceased), born to Herluff Pedersen (of Danish descent) who worked as a cement finisher and his wife Ruth Bonita ‘Bonnie’ Dickson “from a family of Yankees”.
At the age of two the family moved to Berkeley in the Bay Area, living on University Avenue for a couple of years before settling in Windsor in Sonoma County in 1938. “I attended grammar school in Windsor and then Healdsburg High School. Windsor was rural then and we had a few cows for milk and butter, some chickens and rabbits. My father was in the Lutheran Church and we would go to Sunday Service every week in Santa Rosa after which I would then attend Sunday School in West Windsor. I was quite a shy child but did well at school and enjoyed my time there. My father was strict and I always felt I had to do something good and set an example for my younger siblings. Being the oldest can be tough and I’m sure my brothers would tell of a ‘mean big sister’!”
During the War Alice’s father was an airplane spotter for the coast guar on the lookout for the Japanese. “After December 1941 there was fear of an invasion by the Japanese and we had to put blankets over our windows at night to hide the lights. There was also rationing of things like gas, sugar, and meats and I heard that there was even a Prisoner-of-War camp in Windsor.”
While still in High School, Alice ran away to Reno and got married to a serviceman and then when she graduated from high school in 1951she moved to Alabama where his families were from. “My husband was away in the service and I found work first at an attorney’s office and then in the quartermaster store at Fort McClellan in Aniston, Alabama. It was all very strange to me having come from California. Segregation was everywhere with different entrances for the ‘coloreds’, and different places for them to sit or fountains from which to drink. It was frowned on if you spoke to them. My husband’s family was not friendly to me always seemed to be keeping an eye on me. Then when my husband got out of the military it just wasn’t working out so I left. I had met another servicemen and we went to live with his family in Holyoke, Massachusetts where we got married…I hope this article doesn’t get read in those places – I wouldn’t want them to contact me!”
Alice found work as a bookkeeper for a printing firm earning $1 an hour. While in Alabama she had decided to join the Army Reserve as an inactive member but now that she was in Massachusetts she became active and attended training weekends, which included going back to Fort McClellan which was home base for the Women’s Army Corps. Although her marriage did not last very long, she stayed in Holyoke for about thirteen years during which she lost touch with most of her family and her parents were divorced, but she did keep in touch with her father. “In the mid-sixties I decided it was time to come home and in 1965 drove across the country in my VW Beetle with my cat. My father had remarried so I stayed with my brother in Windsor.”
Alice worked as a bookkeeper for a trailer rental company and also ran the office. Her sister had moved to live at the Elk end of the Philo-Greenwood Road and after visiting her a few times Alice began to do the books for Bobby Beacon’s logging company in Elk. While staying with her sister, the neighbor, Francis Fashauer found her ‘trespassing’ on his 800-acre property one day. “With his brother Anthony, the Fashauers had a sheep ranch about seven miles from the coast and did some logging. A short time after he caught me on his land Francis and I began to date, eventually marrying, when he was 63 years old, in 1966 at the house on the ranch and we lived there as one of the three families on the property.”
“Anne was born in 1967 and Tim came along in 1971. I guess we were quite strict parents. We were firm but friends sometimes, although not too much. We always had our kids with us and never got baby-sitters. We were old-fashioned parents and having been brought up in the post-Depression era I kept everything and was very careful with things we accumulated. Anne still can’t understand it!… Francis worked on the ranch and I was a mother and homemaker. I also loved to crochet and do embroidery and have always liked to read. In recent years I have a new hobby – wool-spinning. I am kicking myself as we used to have so many sheep before I started doing this.”
I asked Alice about why Greenwood/Elk was known as the ‘town with two names’. “Well it was Greenwood but when a post office was built it was discovered that another Greenwood existed in California. The story goes that Elk were spotted in the hills and so they gave their name to the new post office and therefore the town. It is generally called Elk amongst the younger generations but the old-timers still call it Greenwood.” Over the years many friendships were made up on the Greenwood Ridge with people such as the Berry’s, the Valenti’s, the Liljeberg’s – Amy Bloyd’s mother, Ruth Liljeberg drove the school bus, and the Sandkulla’s, who had been big friends of the Fashauer’s for many years. Alice also made friends through various voluntary efforts and her part-time position as a teacher’s aid at the Greenwood School. Her actual job was in the accounts payable department at Mendocino Middle School. This required her to drive to Mendocino for eighteen years from 1987 until her retirement in 2005, and for a year or so after that she worked part-time, one day a week, for the Taylor Roberts architectural design firm in Philo.
“Tim was an apprentice carpenter and later went into logging – with the decline of this industry he has had a tough time of late, and Anne went to university at U.S.F. and then got her Master’s in Theology at U.C. Berkeley. Theology and religion have always played an important part in my life – never more so than today. I had always wondered in my mind about there being ‘something else.’ Marrying into the Fashauers meant that I became a Catholic and even taught catechism in Elk, but over the years I questioned that religion more and more, particularly the 4th Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. The seventh day is Saturday and yet Sunday is their holy day. There was lots about Catholicism that I didn’t like or agree with – some of the rituals and confessing your sins to another human for instance, but of course they have every right to their beliefs, as does everyone.”
“I continued to think about this and about twelve years ago I became involved in the Seventh Day Adventists. I attended their church in Ukiah and really liked it. These days I go every Saturday early in the morning and stay for most of the day. I am the Church Librarian and the Sabbath School Secretary. I also do lots of Bible Study at home – I wish I could do more, and feel very comfortable with the religion I have found. I believe in the State of the Dead – you do not go to Heaven or Purgatory – you are asleep in the grave until Jesus returns. I plan to wait for the Lord to return. He is coming – soon I believe. Anne is not in agreement with me about any of this but I pray for her often.”
In the early seventies the Ranch was sold and Francis and Alice retired to 12 acres nearby while Anthony and Leitha Fashauer buying a Christmas Tree Ranch on the Philo-Greenwood Road by Signal Ridge. Francis passed away at the age of 83, about twenty years ago, and when Anthony and Leitha died a short time later Anne inherited the 200-acre ranch from them. Alice then rented out her former home and moved on to the Ranch. Anne followed a year or so later, moving back to the Valley from San Francisco and settling in with her dogs, cats, and horses… These days, at the age of 76, Alice continues to be very involved with her church and also volunteers for half-a-day a week on the computer for Terry Rhodes at the A.V. High School cafeteria, plus on three days a week she baby-sits her grandson Anthony and step grandson Zachery for Tim and his wife Letitia.
As is my custom I asked Alice for her responses to some of the issues on the minds of many people in the community…The Wineries? – “Well the vineyards are certainly pretty but there are too many of them now. It used to be sheep and apples and the sheep would still be here if it wasn’t for the coyotes killing them and being protected. In Windsor it used to be prunes and now it’s grapes. Here it’s the apples that have been replaced by grapes and there are an awful lot now. At least it has not been construction sites and houses – vegetation and crops are preferable to that and the wineries have kept people working. As for the slow down in logging, I’m sorry about that – sheep and logging were my families livelihood for many years”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “Anne subscribes and I get to read it after her. Bruce Anderson has changed – I did not used to like him in the old days but I like his writing now; Mark Scaramella too.”… KZYX & Z public radio? – “I listen to ‘The Coast’ more often – it gives me more of what I want and enjoy”… Marijuana production? – “They need to either legalize it and tax it or do a better job at getting rid of it. I have never used it. I do think that the Federal government making laws for local people is not fair”… The School System? – “I think the school does the best it can with the money they have. These are trying times but I must say that the kids are given many more opportunities than we got in my day. I do feel jealous sometimes of all the things offered to them.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Alice 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? – “That would be ‘Praise the Lord’ or ‘Amen’.“
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I do not like any cursing, especially by women. I think it is belittling.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “My handicrafts …The Bible excites me when I find something that I haven’t seen before – it happens a lot. I wish I had more time to read it.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “I try not to let things get me down. I have had depression and work hard at trying to remain upbeat. I don’t like negativity and try not to be too critical of myself, nor of others, nor of the world, but it is hard with so much war and strife, children being abused, etc. Life on earth is not heaven for sure.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “The wind in the trees, gentle wind chimes, birds singing, children laughing and playing.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “People screaming and yelling angrily at each other; dogs barking too much.”
What is your favorite curse word? – “I don’t curse really. I growl or at the most say ‘Oh foot’ or ‘Oh darn’ or ‘That was a dumb thing to do’. I used to curse in the past but no longer.”
Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I am not a movie go’er although I do like to watch some of the old westerns with Gene Autry, Roy Rodgers, and John Wayne… I have always been a ‘Seeker’ and the Bible is the only book that has really meant anything to me, ever since reading it as a child. Although I did not understand a lot then I did love hearing the Bible stories at Sunday School.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “My handiwork. I enter my things in the County Fair. This year it is two doilies and some canned goods – tomatoes and a pizza sauce. I like making pretty things for people to see, and they keep giving me Blue Ribbons for doing it!”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I always thought I’d like to own a business of my own, perhaps something connected with my crafts such as a yarn shop.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “A housecleaner or a janitor.”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The birth of my children…And when my grandson Anthony was born – I couldn’t wait to get home to see him. I was in Denmark at the time – the only time I managed to travel there to explore my heritage. I never thought I’d get to go there but it was very exciting for me and I hope to go again.”
What was the saddest? – “When Francis passed away. It took me quite a few years to get over it.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “I realize that at twenty you think you know everything and at seventy you are not so sure about things. I like that I am comfortable accepting that… I like to help people if I can and it makes me happy to do so and hopefully them too.”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “My child is home – I’m glad you made it.”