Alice Fashauer – September 20th, 2009

P1000728I 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.”

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Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ross Murray – September 12th, 2009

101_0016Ross Murray will turn 91 on Wednesday, September 16th and he graciously agreed to meet at his home for a chat about his life both before moving to the Valley nearly thirty years ago and since.
Ross was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1918 to Harry and Sydelle, both of Russian descent, whose families had lived in the States for a few generations. His father was a children’s clothes designer who throughout Ross’s childhood and teenage years remained “an irresponsible ladies man” embarking on many affairs. “As a result, my sister Shelley (seven years younger) and I had a very insecure childhood, never knowing if Dad was going to be at home – he’d disappear for a week or more at a time. On top of this we were always moving with his job. I attended six different elementary and grammar schools and five different High Schools. I had to make friends very quickly and learned to adapt quite well as we moved from New York, to Virginia, and on to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and back to New York again where I graduated from High School in the Bronx in 1935.”
Ross entered Temple University to study pre-med and during his time there he fell and broke his right elbow which never healed correctly, something that was to be of significance a few years later. After two years at college, Ross decided he had to get away and in 1937 moved with his mother and sister to southern California where they stayed with his mother’s cousin in Los Angeles. “It was the end of my college career as I felt I had to get a job and support my mother and sister. I had a couple of friends in the rapidly expanding movie business and, even though I had no formal training, I had been in the dancing club at school as a kid, so I signed up for Central Casting – the agency that supplied all the studios with extras.”
Not only was Ross at just the right age to play a military man in the many “soldier pics” being made as war loomed, he also had many of the required skills – “I could dance, ride a horse, ice skate, and had fenced on the college team. Things were slow at first but I found a job as an usher at a cinema/theatre in Beverly Hills and one day a customer came up to me and told me to call her at 5am to see what movie extra work might be available. She was a casting director and took a liking to me, and immediately found me steady work. I made some money from appearing in war movies but mostly from dancing in the chorus lines behind the likes of Fred Astaire, Betty Hutton, Shirley Temple, Eleanor Powell, Olympic ice skater Sonja Henie, and also the Andrews Sisters – many years before my wife Joyce was to join them, but a strange coincidence all the same.”
In the late thirties the draft was instituted but Ross was designated as 2A – the sole supporter of a family. It meant he would not have to go to war. “I remember seeing Ronald Reagan often in his military uniform around the studios at that time and he was always talking about wanting to go and ‘kill some Japs.’ It was all talk and he spent the entire war working at Hal Roach Studios.”
In December 1941, the U.S. declared war on Japan and just two weeks later Ross was going through a physical at the Naval Air Corps. “I wanted to do my bit. I had been interested in planes since a child and had flown with friends many times. However, even though they failed to notice my bad right arm – I cannot straighten it without using my left hand – I had a deviated septum in my nose and was turned down. I had this fixed but when I went back I was now 23 and told I was too old – they wanted 19 and 20 year olds, like George Bush Sr.”
“I fussed and fumed for a month or more before going to Santa Ana to the Army Air Corps. They also failed to spot my bad elbow and I passed the physical, one major telling me that the Navy’s loss was the Army’s gain. By late 1942 I was Private Ross Murray and in March 1943 I began my aviator training. Because of my elbow, one maneuver was difficult for me and I thought I would get rejected but it turned out that in multi-engine planes your right arm is for the throttle only, you flew with your left so I was fine. I graduated at the end of the year at Roswell Army Base in New Mexico and became the pilot for bombardier students who were learning how to drop bombs, became a training officer soon after.”
“In 1944 the B17 bombers arrived and around that time I became the Operations Officer of the base, organizing the training program and so, despite constantly looking to get overseas, I was now tied to the base on the new bombers… Then at the end of the year the new B29’s arrived, much bigger bombers, and my Colonel allowed me to go and train on these at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, so that I might finally get a chance to go overseas. He had fought at the Battle of Midway and said I was a ‘dumb son of a bitch’ for wanting to go and fight. I completed my training just a few days before they dropped the atomic bombs and the war came to an end. I had busted my ass trying to help in some way and was a very, very frustrated young man. It was something that bothered me for years, not really going away until after meeting Joyce and she explained that ‘A’ for effort was fine.”
In 1944, while in the Army Air Corps and on leave, Ross had married a girl he had known in show business – “she probably wanted to collect on my life insurance, a lot of that went on” – and it had lasted three days. Then a year later he got married again, to a woman who sang with the Ted Lewis Orchestra and whom he had booked to perform for the troops at the Air Base. ‘We were together for over twenty years but there were many difficulties. We had three kids and I got custody when we divorced.”
“I thought about staying in the service at the end of the war but I had met a writer and he said I had talent and offered me a job. I left the military and returned to civilian life only to be told that the job was no longer there for me. I was very upset indeed and returned to the picture business, becoming the stand-in for Peter Lawford (later of Rat Pack fame) for two years.”
Ross looked for and found a change of direction in 1949 when he began work for C.B.S. Radio as a sounds effect editor on dramatic shows/plays, while on the side he started to write mysteries for radio broadcasts. “Writing was something I’d always wanted to do but initially my work was heard only on regional broadcasts. Everyone can do one story but can they do a second? I did and sold it to network radio for airing around the country and for the next eight years I wrote at least four shows a year – mysteries, comedies, and romance, featuring such names as Ronald Reagan and Broderick Crawford.”
“Old men tend to be history revisionists as nobody can correct them, particularly if they get to be ninety-one years old! Here are my plays – I am not making this stuff up.” Ross then proceeded to show me a number of the scripts for his plays, each in its original binder with the title and date of airing.
As for his regular job, in 1954 Ross was moved from radio to a 6am television show in a move he did not want. “I did not understand it but a friend told me that the Engineering Head did not like the fact that I was meeting producers and directors through my writing. This was show business and I had come to understand the frequent jealousies of ‘small’ people. I nearly left C.B.S. to concentrate on writing but I had responsibilities and needed the steady job so I stayed and the opportunity passed me by. Besides, I had a good job and enjoyed what I was doing.”
Radio began to ‘die’ in the late fifties and Ross stopped his play writing in 1958, concentrating on starting and developing the videotape-editing department for C.B.S. television in Television City with three others. “We worked on many different projects and went on to win Emmy’s for our efforts on the 1960 Winter Olympics and Play House 90 (a ninety-minute television drama), but by 1962 I figured I’d done what I could in that department and thought it was time to ‘go upstairs’ – where ‘show business’ was happening!”
I returned to sound effects and began work on the Danny Kaye Show, for which I was to receive my third Emmy. I was there for four years and for about a year of that Joyce appeared with the Andrews Sisters on the show but I was so involved in my work that I didn’t even get to meet her. I was obsessed with my job and helped on the Red Skelton Show too, staying on there when the Danny Kaye Show came to an end…Life at home was not particularly happy and we were divorced in 1968 and I received custody of our three teenage boys – David, Timothy, and Fred.”
In 1969 Ross became the sound effects editor on the Carol Burnett Show and would remain there until the show came off the air in 1978. “In 1970 I became the Head of the Sound Effects Department for C.B.S. Television but still got to stay with the Burnett show. I had met Joyce in 1971 and we were married in 1973. Life was very good and working on that show was an absolute delight. Carol was wonderful; very, very nice and easy to get along with, and her husband (and the Show’s producer), Joe Hamilton, was a great guy. The whole cast was so much fun, such good people, and we spent many great years in the company of the likes of Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicky Lawrence etc – it was a very close group and always very professional. During that time I remember going to the home of Joyce’s friend, Maxine Andrews of the Andrews Sisters and she showed me an old picture of me dancing with the Sisters many years before, as I mentioned earlier. It was before Joyce had joined them and I now have that photograph on the wall.”
Ross stuck around at C.B.S. for a couple of years after the end of the Burnett Show but by 1980 he and Joyce were ready to leave Los Angeles and “the rat race it had become.” An old screenwriting friend, Michael Kraike, had retired to Elk on the Mendocino coast in northern California and Ross and Joyce visited him and “fell in love with the area.” Local realtor, Mike Shapiro started to show them properties and they bought forty acres a couple of miles outside Boonville in the hills and woods on Mountain View Road. Ross designed and helped to build the house. “During that summer of 1980 we were living in a mini van with a stove and small fridge and had the garage built first which became our bedroom for about four months while the house was being built by contractor Joe Cave, Michael’s son-in-law. Two of the first local people we met were Bill and Nancy Charles who one evening came to welcome us with a bottle of champagne as we sat reading our books by lantern light in the garage. It was very touching to be welcomed like that and we have remained close friends ever since.”
Ross felt that on retirement people should try if they can to bring something to a community – “for a while, why you still can” – so he joined the Chamber of Commerce, later becoming its President. He also joined the Mendocino Development Association; was on the Grand Jury, later its foreman for a year; became Commander of the American Legion; and soon became good friends with many local people such as Margaret Charles, Ray and Kathryn Ewbanks, Lee Sidwell, Post Mistress Peggy Bates, and Art and ‘Barky’ Korpella. Ross also continued his interest in flying at the Boonville Airport (he still has his flying license) through which he and Joyce later met another circle of friends – The Airport Crowd as they are affectionately known today, and who meet most Friday evenings at alternating houses.
Sometime around 1999, Carroll Pratt, board member of the local public radio station, KZYX & Z, suggested Ross do a radio show. “Carroll and I knew of each other from our film and television days in southern California, and we had both flown bombers, so I listened to what he had to say and began a one hour a month show in which I just talked about politics and current affairs – that was it. It ran from 2000 to 2004 before I decided it was too much and since then I have continued to produce my five-minute commentary once a week at 6.30pm on Thursdays (repeated on Monday mornings at 8am). I just tell you what is happening, what you might not hear elsewhere; it is not an opinion show in the strict sense. I enjoy it very much and I’ll continue to do it as long as I can… I have noticed a big difference in my energy levels over the past couple of years – no more chain saw work for me – and there is a huge difference between being 71 and 91. It is annoying but I’m here and that’s all I care about – here with Joyce.”
“Thank you” said Joyce from across the room. “You betchya, babe,” Ross replied with a big smile.
I asked Ross for his brief responses to some of the issues confronting Valley people at this time… The Wineries? – “Look, life is a continually changing landscape – literally in this case. This Valley used to be an apple valley, now it is grapes. Fifty years from now, who knows? Overall I am positive about the wineries – they supply jobs and are relatively clean – we hope. The water is a problem here but it’s a huge problem worldwide thanks to global warming. We must use our intellect to figure out efficient ways to use ocean water at some point. Water doesn’t go away, it just goes to different places”… The Radio Station? – “I have to always give it an ‘A’ for effort. The recession has hit it badly and the people there are doing their best under the circumstances”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “Like the radio station it is people giving their time for the good of the community. It takes a certain kind of person to do this and they do the best they can; some do better than others”… Marijuana production? – “It should be legalized. At the end of prohibition, which I remember, they said legalizing alcohol would encourage everyone to get drunk – I distinctly remember that being said. Well it didn’t. Social security was said to be the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the U.S. public – I heard that on a newsreel in 1936. How wrong people can be. It’s the same with marijuana. Everyone’s going to smoke it? – Give me a break.”
I asked Ross for his choice for the Mayor of Anderson Valley, if such a position was created with the power to make a difference. “Me!… No, not really, although some people wanted me to run for Supervisor in the eighties but Joyce said that if I did run for any sort of public office I’d win, and then she’d have to divorce me.”
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few questions to Ross, most of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and were featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “I don’t think I really have just one. I am not a creature of habit to use just one word or phrase that often.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “You’re ninety-one years old!”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Anything I can see beauty in – writing, scenery, women, many things.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Narrow-mindedness.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “The wind in the trees – we get that a lot up here.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Helicopters.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “Bullshit!”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “Well a book that I have always remembered is ‘The Life and Work of Leonardo DaVinci’ – he did everything. As for films, anything with Ingrid Bergman in it. I worked with her several times and in ‘Joan of Arc’ I was the stand-in for Jose Ferrer, playing opposite her. She was very special, but vulnerable.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Writing.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “Well I went to college to be a doctor but circumstances changed things. As Joyce knows I’m still an amateur doctor.” (They both laughed)

What profession would you not like to do? – “Probably a bookkeeper,”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “Meeting and marrying Joyce was the highlight of my life. We have had thirty-eight wonderful years together – I get choked up just thinking about it. I am just so grateful we managed to finally meet.”

What was the saddest? – “I have had quite a lot of sadness in my life from time to time…I guess disappointment rather than sadness was from not getting that writing job that was promised to me at the end of the war. It still bugs me, I left the military for that.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “My adaptability. I have always been able to adapt to various circumstances, situations, and disappointments because of what happened to me in my childhood. I have learned to ride out the negatives.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well if God is a man then perhaps he is looking for a buddy and so “I’ve been waiting for you” would be good. If God is a woman, “Welcome aboard” would work – being God, she’d know I was married to Joyce so I couldn’t really be her buddy, could I?”

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Mary O’Brien – September 10th, 2009

101_0014A couple of Fridays ago, I visited Mary O’Brien at her home a couple of miles south of Navarro. She had made some delicious iced tea and kept my glass full throughout the interview, and then added a beer near the end!
Mary was born of English/German/Welsh/Belgian descent, in the town of Appleton, Wisconsin in 1948. “We lived in nearby rural Chilton but my parents knew the doctor in town as a friend. No sooner was I born than my father was off to accept a residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. My mother followed on the train with me in a size 13 D Florsheim shoe box – that’s true!” Mary was later joined by two younger brothers, Creighton and Dan.
Mary’s father, Dr. Creighton Hardin, had been a captain in the Army Medical Corps during World War 2 and her mother, Helen Tank, was at the University of Wisconsin as a personal assistant/secretary to the famous historian and novelist, Wallace Stegner. “My father was Episcopalian and my Mom a Catholic. We were raised Catholic and I attended Mass every Sunday until I was about sixteen.”
Her father was a plastic surgeon in Kansas City on the Kansas side of the border with Missouri. “After first being in a city apartment we moved to a very nice house in the suburbs, a family neighborhood called Prairie Village. It was a little like ‘Leave it to Beaver’ but not quite as white-washed as that. They were conservative times, particularly in Kansas, and most people in our environment were Republican, although my Mother was a closet Democrat. I was probably more conservative as a teenager than at any time since.”
Mary was a very social and out-going child and thoroughly enjoyed Junior High and High School where she was a good student, particularly in English, History, and Languages. “I enjoyed learning and was involved with the school drama society, student government, and the Pep Club”…Mary’s high school had 2400 students – virtually all white, no black. “It never registered with me at the time… Despite being comfortably off, during the summers I would get jobs – the work ethic was ingrained in us. I worked in a gift shop at the hospital one year, and after graduation I was a lifeguard at the lake for the summer – I loved swimming. My parents made sure I found work and if I couldn’t they found it for me. One summer, when I was sixteen, my mother gave me ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and announced that I would be cooking the family dinners for a month. I had to plan them, buy the food, prepare the dinner, and serve it. I’ve actually always liked cooking ever since.”
Mary graduated in 1966 and in the following fall she entered Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago. “This was amazing to me – it was the first time I had come into contact with people from a variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities. I immediately became involved in many aspects of University life, planning the Freshman Carnival, showing parents around the University campus, and signing up for the Student Drama productions. This was the mid-sixties and sororities were huge at that time and I joined one – Pi Beta Phi. I had done acting at school, plus was involved in the wardrobe, the set design, etc and now I did more of this and less on stage stuff… The drama bug had been with me since I was a little kid when I’d boss other little kids around – I once convinced my brother Dan that he could fly for our neighborhood production of ‘Peter Pan’ – he tried it and fell off a roof, chipping his teeth, for which I have never been forgiven!”
During the summer of 1968 Mary worked as a waitress in Chicago (ultimately being fired for dropping too many things), and was very aware of events going on downtown at the famously tumultuous Democratic Convention of that year, although she was not directly involved herself. Then during her senior year, with the Vietnam War raging, she was involved in a strike at the University following the institution’s investments in South East Asia. “We organized sit-ins and demonstrations and finally, after two weeks, the University announced it was pulling its investments out and so we returned to school. My father had told me that this was hurting my education but my focus was changing and I had gone from being an English major to one in Political Science. I was seeing things very differently; I was pissed off with a lot of things, particularly world politics but also my parents. However, I did take my father’s advice at this time to have a back-up vocation, adding a teaching credential to my other studies…I was also enjoying a very full social life, with different boyfriends and drinking voluminously with the other girls – we had found an old bar predominantly full of older black guys and we’d drink there, play their jukebox, and dance around. Who knows what they made of ten white sorority girls?”
“I was always very comfortable in the Sorority lifestyle and made lifelong friends there, twelve of us still get together annually to this day. However, upon graduating I knew that I would not follow the traditional pattern of marrying a frat boy just starting in his new profession and having his kids. When I graduated in 1970, five other sorority girls and I went to Europe for the summer. We rented two small Renault cars, driving stick shifts for the first time, and traveled all around, driving by night and partying by day in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. In Portugal I met a local fisherman who proposed to me after two days – I said no and broke his heart.”
Upon her return from Europe in the fall of 1970, Mary and her best friend each borrowed $500 from their parents. “We had no plans, we just knew we wanted to escape from the Midwest so we put the names of five places in a hat and drew one out to see where we’d go. It was San Francisco, which is where I was hoping for, and we upper middle class girls got on a plane and came out to California.”
Initially they stayed in a residential hotel on Union Square, where they felt the need to take a baseball bat for protection whenever they went to the communal bathroom at night. “Once again I had arrived in a place where there was nobody within my frame of reference from previous experiences. San Francisco seemed to be full of prostitutes and pimps. I had led such a conservative, sheltered, and naïve life to this point – it was mind-blowing to me.”
Mary found a job as a clerk in the Blue Shield Insurance Claims Department where one day she was on the elevator when she met a certain Ron O’Brien, a long-haired, wire-rimmed glasses-wearing hippy who was working for the phone company. “He looked like he should have been in the Youngbloods! (A folk rock band of the 60’s). I pretty much forced myself on him and though he had a girlfriend I was so persistent that he asked me out.” She then found a job through a temping agency at an Advertising Agency in Fisherman’s Wharf and soon found herself in the Creative Department where she stayed for a couple of years.
“Ron and I went through an on again/off again relationship for a couple of years but by 1972 we were living together in the Richmond District near to Golden Gate Park. In 1973, the sorority girl from Wisconsin and the blue-collar phone guy originally from Minnesota got married with Ron’s seven year old son, Aaron, also living with us.”
“I loved the City – its music scene, the coffee shops, the gay community, the art galleries, the theatre. I started a baby-sitting business out of our home on Clement Street in the Richmond. We then had a daughter, Molly, in 1974, and I think we felt we’d be there for some time. However, other older kids on the public courts were repeatedly bullying Aaron, who was a basketball star in the making. They stole his bike, his baseball mitt, and they’d hit him. It was terrible. I was getting tired of the baby-sitting, our apartment was too small for the four of us – it was a combination of factors but we were ripe to move. We began to think about where to go and considered the Sunset District and thought about moving out of the City completely – Half Moon Bay was considered. Then we thought about an even more extreme move.”
“Ron’s family had moved to California to work in the shipyards in the war and had settled in a place called Anderson Valley in 1947 when the shipyards closed. His family had originally bought about fifty acres with a large chicken farm near to Gschwend Road in Philo/Navarro and this had been split up. There was a trailer on about six acres available so, after five years in the City, Ron and I, with the two kids, moved to the Valley in June of 1975 – to the location where we’ve lived ever since.”
Not for the first time Mary underwent major culture shock. “This was very different from anywhere I’d been before. We stayed in that trailer for sixteen years! I knew only my in-laws, who were delightful in there own way but were not going to be my friends. Ron had to work in Santa Rosa as the phone company would not give him a transfer to the Valley, and was gone all week. Then I gave birth to our son Sam in November of that year. It was a lot to take on. I knew how to start a fire and how to cook but had no other country experience to refer to. I almost left the day his parents asked me to help with the chicken cull and I found myself with my hand up inside a chicken!”
However, Mary stayed and slowly joined the community, starting with the Catholic Church where she played the organ (she had played for three years as a child) and met friends such as Joyce Schriner and then Kathy Cox, with whom she taught catechism at the church for a few years and who also had kids of the same age. For three years she volunteered at the school and for the first time realized that she actually enjoyed working with kids. She particularly liked teaching drama and in the summer gave swimming lessons along with Barbara Goodell. “I must have taught a couple of hundred kids how to swim in the eight years or more that we did that – I am very proud of that accomplishment.” Apart from these activities, there were always kids being dropped of at various other homes and she became friends with the other mothers.
From 1978-79, Mary decided to get her credential in Special Ed and this involved traveling to U.C. Davis every other weekend, four and a half hours away. During this time she became one of the founding board members of the Peachland School where for two years she taught fifteen hours a week whilst also teaching as a speech aid at the Elementary School. Then from 1981-82 she worked at the Valley’s Bachmann Hill School for court-placed kids from the Bay Area until she finally began teaching at the High School in 1983 in Special Ed. However, this did not work out as well as she expected – “too much paperwork; not enough teaching and learning” – and in 1986 Superintendent J.R. Collins offered her the Junior High teaching job which she did full-time for nearly twenty years, mainly teaching English, American History, and Drama.
“Since 2005 I have been part-time but I am still involved with much of the administration, coordinating the Special Ed Department, and supporting new teachers. I continue to look forward to it every day. I always have, and on reflection perhaps my commitment meant that at times I was not a good parent for my own kids, particularly during their teenage years. I guess that comes with the territory as I was too aware of them, too controlling, too clingy may be. There were some tough times but we get along well now. We have two grandchildren – Molly’s Emma who is nearly two and Aaron’s Julia, who is seven. Aaron coaches basketball and is a high school teacher in Oakland, Molly is in the Sacramento area with a C.P.A. background, and Sam is a teacher in Reno, and also an actor and stand-up comedian.”
“With tenure I am in a decent situation although obviously the education cutbacks are affecting us all at the school. Meanwhile I continue to have a social life here in the Valley through various activities. I am a member of a wonderful Book Club, a conglomerate of about fourteen, fifty to eighty year olds; I am in the I.C.W. (Independent Career Women) and work on their scholarship committee; I am a member of the Grange, and help with their Variety Show when I can, although I rarely go to meetings now; I have done various things for the Food Bank, particularly during their Xmas Exchange; I was involved with the Recreation Committee planning summer activities for kids; and for three years I organized the Black and White Ball.”
In 2005, Mary was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and took a year off but feels she has built herself up to good health now. “I feel blessed to be able to do what I want to do. Linda Brennan and I started a Cancer Support Group in the Valley and we have meetings once a month, usually the 2nd Monday or Tuesday, people can call either of us for information.”
As usual I asked my guest for their responses to various issues that Valley folk often find themselves discussing… With Mary being a teacher for so many years what better topic to start with – The School System? – “The High School was ‘under siege’ for many years in the seventies, run into the ground and with administrative changes often occurring. That situation has greatly improved. The High School has gone from 5% Hispanic to nearly 70% since those days and that requires a different way of teaching for the staff as a whole to adopt. However I believe we have done a good job. The children who have been pulled out and sent to Mendocino or Ukiah have said that the educational experience at A.V. compared well to these others. I believe the crux to the kids leaving has been the limited social life available in the Valley life compared to those other places. I would argue that many kids have done better here academically than if they had gone elsewhere… Having said that I question whether the academic program is not adequate for all groups of kids. Some are held back by the academic vocabulary that they are unfamiliar with. We are working on this issue. The good teachers realize that some kids struggle whilst others are dying to learn more and that sometimes you are teaching two classes in one. Therefore designing the classes is critical and time must be spent in doing this, not just in the planning of classes, getting the materials needed, and organizing it… We have a firm but fair, ‘family’ situation at the school. It is the heart of the community and has been for years. I do wonder about the future though. I am pleased overall with the new teachers but there are not enough of them and there is a core of teachers who will be retiring in the next few years. The Valley has changed so much in the last 30 years but the school has continued to serve the students well. I wonder where the next generation of leadership and teachers will come from. I’d love to see our graduates come back to teach here. We have just had the first Hispanic graduate do that – Ester Soto – and hopefully many more will follow her…Meanwhile I think it would behoove the School District to consider people from outside the Valley for future leadership positions. At least consider it – there is nothing wrong with that. I am a part of the very same group that has been here for a long time and perhaps a shake-up might be good.”…
KZYX & Z, the local public radio station? – “I witnessed its birth twenty years ago and Ron was the chief engineer and then had a show on the air. It plays a very important part in Valley life and in community building. I am a big fan”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I think it was good that Bruce Anderson went away and came back ‘kinder and gentler.’ I do read it quite often but do not subscribe as I used to”… The wineries? – “I like wine and worked for Navarro for a time to earn some extra money to get the kids through college. However, like many others I am concerned about the water issue and have spoken at length with the four women who have been pushing the Alternative General Plan for the Valley’s future. How do we regulate the usage of water? What are they spraying and what are the effects? I do know that an unusually large number of women seem to have suffered from breast and ovarian cancer here. It’s something to think about and investigate further.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Mary 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? – “ ‘You’re kidding me!’ That works well with kids.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I don’t like to hear the word ‘fuck’. I used to swear a lot but not now.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Reading and being able to talk about what I’ve read with people I care about. Being in the Book Club has greatly broadened my repertoire.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “That I sometimes get to into myself and seem unable to see, feel, think. That I get too self-absorbed at times but fortunately these days I can normally get myself out of this.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “I love to wake up in the summertime and hear the birds singing.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Loud rap music with misogynist lyrics and bad words.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “As I said I’ve reigned that in and now it would be ‘damn’ or ‘shitty’ “

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I like romantic movies, screenplays by Nora Ephron, Frank Capra movies such as ‘It happened one night’ or ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. As for a book, one that has stuck with me is ‘Suite Francaise’ by Irene Nemirovsky, about a French Jewish woman in World War 2 Paris.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Reading, cooking, swimming, clothes and jewelry, talking with friends.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I think I would have been a good private detective as I am very observant and detailed. Plus I like the idea of working in a trench coat and hat pulled down low.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Working on septic systems…or a dietician.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The birth of my children.”

What was the saddest? – ‘ The death of my father in 2003 at the age of 84. My mother died many years ago at 57 in 1975.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “I appreciate my sense of humor and am thankful for it getting me through sixty-one years so far. I enjoy people and hope I am a loyal friend and helpmate.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I think he’\s likely to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hayes Brennan – August 20th, 2009

101_0012A couple of Thursdays ago, I met with Hayes Brennan at his home on Gschwend Road in between Philo and Navarro. Hayes suffered from a stroke nearly three years ago and his speech, whilst improving every day, can be difficult to understand at times so wife Linda sat in with us and also provided a much-needed glass of iced tea as we sat down to talk.
Hayes was born on February 15th, 1941 in Evanston, Illinois, the middle of five children (two younger brothers and two older sisters) born to Raymond Brennan and Genevieve Hayes, both first generation Americans of Irish descent. Hayes’ paternal Grandfather had been a State Representative for Chicago in the Illinois Legislature whilst on his mother’s side his Grandfather had been a newspaper editor. His father was an inventor and designed the reflectors that appear on road signs making them visible at night. His mother was a teacher. “My grandparents helped set up my parents in a wealthy suburb and I attended an all-boys Catholic School, St George’s, of about 300 kids, going to Mass every day from 6th- grade all through High School. I was not a good student at all but I did excel at sports – football, basketball, baseball, and particularly track where I was a mile runner, once timed at 4 minutes and 31 seconds, and was all-state.”
“I was all-state at High School too”, I commented, “But my best was 4 minutes, 34 seconds”….”So I would have beaten you then!” Hayes quickly replied with a big grin on his face.
For his junior year in High School Hayes moved to the Evanston High public school. He didn’t really settle at this “Protestant” school but it was here that he met Linda Peterson. “She was a year younger and she knew I would be getting my driving license soon, on my 16th Birthday, so she agreed to go out with me!”… Before his senior year Hayes decided he wanted to be a priest and his family, particularly his mother, were very pleased, although they did not push him into this. “In my early teens I had been getting into trouble, stealing cars and other bad stuff, but meeting Linda straightened me out and then I moved to Boston to attend The Divine Word Seminary. I cried all the way there. I was leaving home and Linda and I had parted, but it was something I wanted to do.”
Hayes enjoyed his new environment and hearing the stories that the priests/nuns shared with the students about their missionary work in New Guinea. “It started my lifelong interest in history and exploration and everything was good for a time. I also enjoyed that if the University of Notre Dame won its football game on Saturday the nuns would cancel school on the following Monday! However, after two years I seriously began to lose my faith and question the Church and its doctrines. I told a priest and he told me do extra prayers for a few days. The next day I hitch-hiked all the way back to Evanston.”
Hayes was twenty years old. He had no high school diploma so getting into a college was not easy and for a time he found a job as a City bus driver at night on the very rough south side of Chicago. Linda and he had taken a break in their relationship and she was studying in Vienna, Austria. He did not care where he went and was accepted by tiny Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin and took fifteen credits in his first year to catch up. “I actually studied seriously for the first time in my life and got straight A’s before entering the University of Illinois in Champagne where I was a History major. I was a bit of an oddball, I guess, and they couldn’t figure me out. It was a school that required students to take a R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officer Training Corps) course, which I did not want to do. I’d not wear shoes, carry my rifle upside down and was generally disruptive. There were others like me and we were kicked out of the R.O.T.C. and some dismissed from the school altogether, but for some reason I was allowed to stay. I guess I was making a passivist statement; it was 1963 and war in Vietnam was on the horizon. Linda joined me in Champagne and after her father had said she had to finish college before we could get married, she graduated at noon and on the same day we were married at 3pm!”
Whilst at University Hayes was quite politically active, particularly in his opposition to Mayor Daly of Chicago, and also in his involvement with the N.A.A.C.P. and S.N.C.C. (‘SNICC’ – Student Non-Violent Co-coordinating Committee), plus he attended many anti-war demonstrations. However, upon graduation in 1964, he and Linda really wanted to move away from the mid-west and try somewhere completely new and different for them so they looked for graduate schools out west. They did not know a single person who had even been to Oregon so it fitted their requirement and Hayes enrolled at the University of Oregon in Eugene to study American history, specializing in post civil war and the late nineteenth century. “Kira was born soon after our arrival and being a married student with a child resulted in me being well down any draft list.”
In 1966 Hayes was offered a National Teaching Fellowship, a program introduced by President Johnson for graduate students to teach in black colleges, and took a leave of absence from university to teach History and Anthropology at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. “Linda, Kira, and I moved into a rented rooms in a house that was not available to blacks. There were ‘no coloreds’ and ‘colored entrance’ signs all over town. I remember that on several occasions a friend and I went out at night and took as many of these out by driving into them in our car… Wiley had a marvelous library and white students from the nearby East Texas Baptist college would use this facility, However, they would not sit down there, reading standing up rather than sit down in a black college… I remember that I had to drive across the close-by Louisiana border to watch Notre Dame football games, not available in Texas, and on one occasion I watched a game in a bar that went quiet when I walked in. They asked me if I was a ‘freedom rider’ (civil rights’ activist). I said ‘I guess I am.’ I heard someone say ‘let’s kill the mother f***er’ as I stood staring at the television, not daring to look around the bar. They left me alone but it was a horrible experience I’ll never forget… I once went to the doctor’s office and went into the ‘colored’s entrance’ and walked down a corridor and sat in a gloomy little room to wait. It turned out it was the broom closet but it never occurred to me that it might not be the black waiting room.”
During their time in Texas a second daughter, Mari, was born but in the fall of 1967 Hayes returned to his studies in Oregon, living in married student housing for $42 a month rent and this time adding a teaching credential to his qualifications. Upon graduation in 1968, the family left many good friends they are still in touch with today and moved to the Los Angeles area for a year, which turned out to be three, teaching at Torrance High School and living in nearby Manhattan Beach. Son Eamon was born there and Kira attended a Nursery School co-operative along with the kids of several people who were later to move to Anderson Valley in the form of the Cheesecake Consortium. They never really settled in southern California, despite Hayes’ involvement in setting up a charter school down there, and would spend many weekends driving their Volkswagen bus up and down the coast looking for jobs or visiting friends back up in Oregon. They also made the time to pay many visits to Mexico during these years.
Eventually, in 1972, Hayes found work at a Junior High School in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, and met several people involved with communal living in the hills of Woodside. “We visited there at weekends at first but in January 1973 we decided to move into the commune and learned how to be country hippies. It was a talented group and we all lived in an abandoned lumber mill and various outbuildings. They would have been red-tagged and torn down if the authorities knew about them but they were well back in the woods, and are still there today – empty at this point. We stayed there for three years and remain good friends with many people from that time too.”
In 1975 Hayes was offered the chance to work in the U.K. and moved to live in Crawley near to Winchester and, thanks to a friend who worked at The American School, Hayes got a job as a substitute teacher at the school in London. During the school holidays Hayes went off alone to visit Wales and Ireland, the latter where he stayed for a month – “but only one night at a hotel, the rest at homes of people I met in the pubs. The people there are so hospitable and they can go on for days with their stories. We had bought a car with left-hand drive in Europe before getting to the U.K. so we had to drive on the ‘wrong side’ (the left) in the ‘wrong car.’ It was strange… During the summer we visited Linda’s roommate from her days at the University of Vienna and we lived in a house in the woods on the border of Austria and Hungary and I worked as a logger for a time but then a log fell on me and broke my foot and we returned to the States.”
It was September 1976 and Hayes saw there was a job opening for the Mendocino County Schools in Ukiah. On turning up for the job he was told that the vacancy had been filled but the very next day he was offered a job teaching Special Ed. Classes at the Bachmann School for runaways run by Simon Ashiku across Hwy 128 from The Grange. Among the teachers there at the time were Bill Cook, Kathy Borst, Wendy Patterson, and Pat Erickson. The Brennans had arrived in Anderson Valley and have been here ever since. Hayes taught History, English, and special needs reading. “The kids could be very tough and there were lots of counselors there but I enjoyed it very much.”
They moved into a house in Navarro owned by Betty Zanoni, who also owned the Navarro Store and they soon got into the unique ‘Deep End’ scene. “It was great down there, we loved it. For a couple of years I was the unofficial Navarro ‘Water Commissioner’ and had to check on the water source up in the hills above the town which came from three caves each a hundred feet or so deep, built by Chinese mill workers many years previously… Betty and her friends hung out at the store and there were always a few guys around The Drunk Tree, where they drank and pee’d, the result of which, according to local legend, led to it being a very rare redwood seed tree… At one point there was a rumor that a donkey had been killed and made into sausages and when visitors came to the store locals would advise them to order a special ‘salami’ sandwich. That donkey meat story lasted for years… Then every year there would be a big fire and all the furniture that had been used to sit on around the Drunk Tree, and which had been soaked over the rainy season, was burnt. I think we were in the third wave of ‘hippies’ to settle in the Valley so the locals accepted us by that time.”
Linda found work in the vineyards picking grapes for Edmeades’ winery at $3 an hour and later as a part-timer for Masonite planting seeds in their reforestation program. In 1980 they bought three acres and a house built in 1955 on Gschwend Road for $60,000. “We’ve been working on it and fixing it up ever since and in 1987 bought a further thirty-seven acres for another $60,000 alongside the original three.”
In 1990 Bachmann Hill closed and Hayes took a job in San Francisco where he taught at both Mission and Balboa High Schools over the following year or so. He’d stay in the City from Monday to Friday, returning to the Valley for weekends. Then in 1992, with the kids all gone from home, Hayes and Linda decided on a complete change of scenery and took teaching jobs at The International School in Bandung on the island of Java in Indonesia. ‘Mari was in Thailand, Kira was teaching English in Taiwan, and Eamon was traveling the world. We were all able to hook up over there. We visited many places during our stay there and really loved our time overseas. It was supposed to be for one year but I persuaded Linda to stay for an extra one, and would have stayed even longer myself, but the kids had settled back over here and Linda wanted to come back so her voice of reason prevailed.”
For the following four years, until his retirement in 1998, Hayes returned to work in San Francisco both at Mission High and then at the juvenile hall. “It was a powerful experience and in teaching those kids to read I generally got a very good response. In fact I had more trouble from the very mean guards.”
On retiring and returning to the Valley, Hayes became involved in a project that saw an orphanage being built in Kenya, which he has visited on three occasions. On one of these he ensured that a local teacher was able to get her credentials to teach the kids. He is no longer involved but the school continues and hopes to expand…Amongst his many contributions to the local community Hayes has been a volunteer driver for the A.V. Ambulance service, served on the Elder Home Board for ten years; was on the Health Center Board, and was a docent at the A.V. Museum and a board member of the A.V. Historical Society. “My work on the Elder Home Board was frequently frustrating but after many disappointments we finally bought the house and continue to raise money for future projects. On the topic of housing in the Valley it is obvious that we are not well set up for people to own property here unless they have been here a long time or have a chunk of money. It is not possible for multiple housing units to be built here. Our kids no longer live around here. Kira lost her teaching job at the school in the latest round of cuts and is now fishing in Alaska with her husband; Mari, her husband, and their two kids live in Portland; and Eamon is a builder in Portland. Ideally, I’d like to live here for a few months a year and then Portland and some place warm for the rest of the year. We shall see.”
Hayes had a seriously debilitating stroke in October 2006 and it has been a long process as he strives for recovery. His mind is good, his speech is improving every day, and he hopes to eliminate his walking cane in a couple of months. He feels great in himself and is in good health otherwise. Meanwhile, whilst he no longer can have his beer as he watches sports on television he still follows the football and basketball particularly and of course he loves to read his history books. He and Linda continue to travel although with Linda’s parents not in good health back in Michigan they have visited there quite frequently over the past year or so, tying this in with trips to Wisconsin to see one of Hayes’ brothers.
“I imagine I will never leave Anderson Valley permanently at this point. The people here are wonderful – they make the Valley the special place that it is. There’s nothing I don’t like about it.”
I asked Hayes for his brief responses to various ‘hot-button’ issues that Valley folks are continually discussing…The Wineries? – “I am not too happy about the way that has gone. A few locally owned wineries was enough. The increase in outside ownership has gone too far at this time.”… KZYX&Z, the local public radio station? – “I do listen to some of the programming and was not pleased with the recent firing of news reporter Christine Aanestad. I thought it was unjustified. Overall though I am pleased with the station.”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “For a small town publication it is good. It has immensely improved and is whilst it was not very palatable a few years ago it is now. We buy it and read it every week. If some of the reports are not completely accurate then as long as they are not about Anderson Valley, about Ft. Bragg for example, then that’s o.k.”… The school system? – “The teachers do a great job here. That’s all I have to say.”… The modernization of the Valley? – “I can see why some people say we are becoming ‘Napafied’ because of all the wineries. It’s not like Napa but in some senses it is going that way. I’d like to think we can preserve some of the old ways and that people can come here and still see and enjoy a small town set amongst the redwoods with sheep, apples, small local businesses, and a fascinating history.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Hayes many of which are from a list originally devised by 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? – “I love you”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I really do not like the f-word, although I accept it can be kind of useful to use sometimes. It is more often than not a word of disruption and hatred.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Reading”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Negativity… People who criticize things in the environment that I like and those who are positive about things that I believe are bad… Books that are anti-intellectual.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “Singing and music of all kinds but particularly Irish music and folk songs.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Screaming”

What is your favorite curse word? – “Oh shit!”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “A book about the Haitian revolution called Lydia Bailey by Kenneth Roberts. It was the first history book I read and I made our kids read it when they were old enough… I like International films and the films by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. His1975 film, ‘Dersu Uzala’, about a friendship between and an explorer and a hunter is my favorite. It won the foreign film Oscar and really stuck with me.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Reading is my favorite and I like watching sports too. My favorite books are normally biographies and books on big topics with a wide spectrum, particularly on the Far East, Native Americans, or the history of countries told from original sources.”

What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted? – “A lawyer…Or may be a successful sports figure.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “A job other than teaching. I always wanted to teach, to work alone with a classroom of kids – it’s all I ever wanted to do.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The births of my three children. Meeting Linda and being able to enjoy her smile.”

What was the saddest? – “The death of my mother.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I am involved in my environment and choose to be active in things that interest and affect me.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I don’t believe in Heaven but if there was such a place I’d like to hear him say, “Hello, Hayes, come on in!”

If you would like to read the ‘stories’ of other Valley Folk, visit the archives at http://www.avalleylife.wordpress.com…
Next week the guest interviewee will be
Barbara Lamb, former Psychologist and current KZYX & Z Radio Programmer and Thespian with the A.V. Theatre Guild.

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment