Thomas ‘Tom’ Towey – January 18th, 2010

I met with Tom at The Boonville Lodge in the heart of Anderson Valley, the bar/restaurant he has owned and operated for the past four years but which has now had to close due to the inflated rent demands by the landlord. We grabbed a couple of soft drinks (really) and sat down to chat…
Tom was born in Burbank, California in August 1962, the middle child of five born to Bob Towey and Carol Sales. The Sales are of German (Grandfather Harvey) and Irish (Grandmother Edith) heritage whilst Tom’s paternal grandparents had come over from County Mayo in Ireland and had settled in North Dakota and then Montana, where Tom’s grandfather, the first Thomas Towey, was a dentist. Bob Towey had attended Gonzaga University before serving in the Marine Corps and then returning to school at Loyola, Marymount. Carol had gone to U.C.L.A. where she met Bob before transferring to the University of Southern California (U.S.C.).
The five children were named Terese, Tamara, Tom (Thomas), Tracey, and Todd and one of Tom’s earliest memories of his parents was when they appeared on the television game show, ‘Let’s Make a Deal’. “My Dad chose the wrong curtain and they came home with a blender, a pencil sharpener, little stuff like that, when if he’d gone with the other one they would have won a car!”
Tom’s father was a legal specialist with an insurance company and later taught Business Law at U.C.L.A. Extension. “My Mother was a homemaker but also worked as a secretary and accountant. We grew up in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley and were raised Catholic, attending mass every Sunday as a family and taking communion and going to confession. I was a good kid but always seemed to get into some mischief. I remember as a very young boy being left alone in the kitchen with a screwdriver and taking all the cupboard doors off. Hey, I was four and I had a screwdriver!… I was an altar boy and one Christmas Eve the television personality Ed McMahon was at our church giving a speech. My job was to ring the bells at certain moments. I fell asleep and dropped them, making a terrible noise at the wrong moment… I went to Catholic school until 2nd Grade when we moved ‘uptown’ to Woodland Hills.”
Tom’s parents split up when he was in Junior High and his father took custody of all five of them, aged between nine and seventeen. “I was about fourteen and went a little wild for a few years.” He attended Taft High School (whose alumni also include A.V. residents Kirk Wilder and Brian Schriner) but his focus was not on academics as he put all his energy into doing what most of his fellow tanned and longhaired friends did – surfing and skateboarding. “I did play a little league baseball and our family went to many U.S.C. sports events but I liked to be with my buddies on the beach and in the water. Then I got a part-time job at the Woodland Hills Tennis and Racquetball Club, helping with the catering. I started to play racquetball and became good enough to get sponsorship, receiving free shoes, shirts, rackets, and traveling to tournaments. That took over my social life but whilst I therefore never played high school sports, I managed to always find time to surf. My life was simply racquetball and surfing for a while.”
“I was an average student, I guess, ‘B’ grades, and neither a jock nor a studious type. I just didn’t apply myself. My buddies and I were the ‘fun guys’ and always threw the best parties.” Tom graduated in 1980 and went to L.A. Pierce College with journalism as his major and he became sports editor on the college newspaper. However, after a couple of years he had become friends with two older students on the paper, both ex-military men. “They were very competent in everything they did. They were pro-military and spoke very highly of the benefits of the G.I. Bill and taking advantage of the opportunities it offered and the sense of pride they had gained from serving on a ‘team’. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a part-time job as a busboy, then a waiter, and I would go to a supermarket to stock shelves late at night. I was living in an apartment in Canoga Park with a crazy buddy, John Bender, and partying a lot. I was 20 years old and needed direction so in May 1982 I decided to join the Navy.”
Tom was under the impression that for every dollar he earned this would be matched by the government for later schooling. It turned out there was a limit of $8K. “My plan was to get about $30K and go to U.S.C. but then I found out the truth of what I had done. I thought, ‘Oh, shit – that’s not much money. I was not so naïve to think it would be easy but in boot camp there were some very tough non-commissioned officers in charge of us and there was plenty of ‘down and give me fifty, recruit!’.”
Following two months at boot camp in San Diego, Tom was sent to Operations Specialist School in Virginia, where he was trained to work on weapons, navigation, and radar systems. He graduated a year later and was assigned to the U.S.S. Callaghan, a guided missile destroyer. “It had been bought from the Shah of Iran and was completely retrofitted with all the latest equipment and technology. Later, in one of President Bush Jr.’s first acts, it was sold on to Taiwan.” Tom served for two years on that ship, most of the time on two western Pacific tours which included experiencing a severe typhoon that caused a lot of damage to the ship, and stops in Shanghai, China and Manila in the Philippines. He was then sent on an extended tour in the Sea of Japan searching for the black box from passenger flight KAL 007 that had been shot down by a Russian MIG fighter. ”We looked for that for several months during which time there was much posturing by the Russians and ourselves. It was very tense at times. We were often followed and they even came within 100 yards of us at one point and we knew they had locked on to us with their weapons. We did not really want to do anything because of the probable repercussions. We took evasive action and they turned away but not before shining very powerful lights right on to our bridge. The cold war was certainly still going on at that time and it was often a little hairy but ultimately I served in a peacetime navy.”
Tom was honorably discharged in 1985 with a rank of Petty Officer, 2nd Class. “I collected my $8K, not nearly enough to get to U.S.C. so I thought I’d travel a little. The family of a friend from the Navy owned a hotel in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and there was a job available for me so I set off in my Toyota with a camper attached and drove across the country. I was hired as a waiter and bartender at The Jared Coffin House hotel for the summer season, staying at my friend’s family’s home. It was party time as I lived the wild lifestyle of those in the bar/restaurant industry. I met a local girl, Barbara, who had to been her school President and we started to date. She had been voted ‘Girl most likely to Succeed’ – then she hooked up with me! I made many friends and got my own place with some of them. It was a sort of ‘Animal House’ I guess… Barbara and I were in love and life was wonderful and carefree that summer. We all live our young lives to the full, on the edge you might say. It was a magical time, a wild time – and I made a lot of money while also accumulating a great resume for any bartending restaurant jobs that may come along.”
At the end of the season, Tom headed back to California with Barbara, taking all their worldly possessions with them, including many new things they had bought with their newfound wealth. “It was a killer trip, a great time, and we pulled into Los Angeles a month later on Halloween. That night our vehicle and all our possessions were stolen. We never recovered them. Everything we had was gone and we were devastated. From then on everything felt different. Barbara was particularly rocked. She was from Nantucket where such things rarely happen. The whole move was a big thing for her and this event was a huge thing for her to get over. There was now a cloud over us; it seemed that the love of my life had been shattered.”
Tom found work for a time at Sid’s Seafood Restaurant but in the spring of 1986 they left L.A. and moved to Ocean Beach, San Diego where Tom found work as a 5-Star waiter for which he had to take a 32-page test. “I was at Harbor House Restaurant and we lived a few blocks from the beach. I moved from there to The Tickled Trout where Barbara was a manager but then she moved to Humphrey’s. We gradually grew apart; things were never the same as that summer in Nantucket. We split up in 1987.”
That fall, Tom was heading to Denver to spend Thanksgiving with a friend when he stopped in the ski-resort of Vail, Colorado. “It had snowed all day and night and the scenery was just beautiful. I said to myself. ‘I’m going to live here’ and for two and a half years I did.” The next day Tom had a job as a bar manager at a premier establishment called The Lancelot. “Once again I threw myself into the bartending ‘lifestyle’, skiing by day, working and partying at night. I went skiing 101 days that year and being the bartender at one of the main places in town I was in the perfect position to help buddies out with ski-passes and beer. ‘Are you the Mayor here? I remember buddies saying. Partying and living large was what I did, doing all the things as a way of life that most people get to do just for a short time.”
By 1990, Tom felt it was time to move on and he left Vail. “I moved to Denver and stayed with a friend. I found bartending work at an all-black bar called the M.V.P. Club and then became food and beverage manager at The Celebrity Sports Center – a place with bowling alley, swimming pool, and several restaurants. A few months later I moved to Denver’s #1 place, Josephina’s, which had been a well-known Denver establishment for many years, featuring live music and Italian food and any celebrities, sports figures, or actors/actresses who came into Denver would go there. I became bar manager. It was a very busy place, often five-deep at the bar, with crowds from all the Denver sports teams coming in before and after games. I always had courtside tickets for Nuggets’ games, great seats at the Red Rock auditorium for music concerts and shows, and received V.I.P. invitations for many Denver celebrity events. I was there for seven years and met many great people in what was a vibrant and quickly developing city during those years.”
By 1997 Tom had made enough connections, saved enough money, and had gained more than enough experience to open his own place. In May of that year he opened The Stogie Club with a partner whom he bought out a year later. “It was in a restored 1914 house. We had a beautiful bar, leather furnishings, a wood-walled games room, chess, darts, cards, backgammon, and a walk-in humidor for our cigars. I lived downstairs and had my office there. I basically drank, smoked cigars, and played cards for five years. I’d smoke twenty cigars a day at one point”
In 2000, Tom had taken a vacation in Costa Rica and fell in love with then place. “On my return I could not stop thinking about the possibilities in Costa Rica. Then the dentist next to The Club wanted to buy me out and we entered a contract. I had paid $91K and he was offering $265K. However, negotiations got bogged down and when he broke the contract in July 2001 we began an extended court battle. It dragged on and on for nearly a year until July 2002 during which time I had closed the club for a time. It had all gone sour and even though I eventually won a settlement and he got the Club I owed the lawyers over $100K and my Costa Rico dream was in ruins. I bought a motor home and left town.”
Tom traveled all over the States for a year, finally arriving at his brother’s home in Novato, north of the S.F. Bay Area in California in late 2003. “I stuck around for a time and built a nice fence for my brother. A friend of his, Jack Tuller, saw this and asked if I could do a similar thing at his property in Boonville, Anderson Valley. He told me it was an area full of good wine, weed, and beer. I moved on to his property at the north end of Boonville in early 2004 and became the handyman on his property… I planned on being here just a short time. I drank in the Buckhorn Saloon and met owner Diana Charles and bartender Todd Capuzelo. I was spending my savings so I took on extra work as handyman at The Boonville Hotel. When I arrived in Boonville I did not tell anyone about all my experiences in the bar/restaurant business. I didn’t want to do it at that time. Being a handyman was fine; I just told people I could fix things. Then I took a part-time position as bartender at The Buckhorn. Yes, as you may have gathered, my whole working life has been around bars and restaurants.”
“I liked the feel of the Valley and that people say ‘hi’ to each other on the street. I was thinking about staying a little longer and then I heard that Carroll Pratt wanted a handyman to work on his property up above Indian Creek, just south of Philo. Carroll offered me the job and a trailer to live in. I moved in and parked my motor home there too – that was in the spring of 2005. The Buckhorn closed shortly afterwards and I took a bartending job at The Boonville Lodge. The owners there, John and Candy, had expressed a desire to sell and Carroll came to me one day and said, ‘We have to keep the bar here, it feels like a duty to me. Let’s buy it.’ It was his desire to keep it here and I tried to show him the reality of running a business but we decided to take the leap and with our main motivation being to keep the Lodge going in the Valley, Carroll and I bought them out in March 2006.”
At first there was the bar with the Lumberjack Pizza attached but that did not work. “They were hardly ever open it seemed. Their lease expired in December 2006 and they were gone. I don’t think anyone missed them. We re-opened that part of the space with a classic American grill in the summer of 2007… We had issues with some people in the early days, just a handful really, but gradually everybody came on board with what we were trying to create and it has become a great place, enjoyed by many different people who live in the Valley. I am very sad to leave. This has been a passion for me and now it’s gone. I think that people appreciate what we did here and that is rewarding in itself. I hope that one day Boonville will get the bar it deserves and that our loss is not a loss to the community for any extended period of time. I plan to be here and as I said earlier, I have to have a bar to go to. There are many reasons why I am in Boonville, the biggest being my partnership with Carroll Pratt and I will stay here and hopefully do something else with him down the road.”
I asked Tom for his thoughts on the pros and cons of the Valley. “My favorite thing is the people – they are very giving and supportive, and generally open-minded. However, they can sometimes not be very accepting of change, even if that change can be good. On the one hand we have many in our community who come together and are very supportive of each other, but on the other there are those who are divisive and very negative. Perhaps they are jealous of the success of those who have achieved things by working hard. It is not just a Valley thing – it is something I see in society as a whole. Some people probably wanted me to fail; many wanted me to succeed.”
I asked Tom for his brief responses to various Valley issues… The
Wineries? – “They were just the next big step in the changes that were inevitable, but there must be some regulation on how many vines can be planted here. And they must give something back to the community. Some do of course and it was good to see Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn from Navarro Winery helping out at the Senior Center Crab Feed the other evening. If people want their wineries to be here they must be prepared to contribute to our community and its way of life. Despite what some people tell us I don’t believe they all do and there are some winery owners who I never see in the Valley. That’s too bad”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I like it. I didn’t read it much during the few years that it was run by David Severn. It felt like it was run by a person who didn’t want to do the job. These days I think it’s good and I like the fact that it boldly states that a newspaper should not have any friends. It’s a good read”…
The High School system? – “The administration means well I’m sure but sometimes the decisions made seem to be over-reactionary instead of being clear-sighted. I speak Spanish but like my employees to speak English and encourage them to do so. It is to their benefit surely. It cannot be a one-way street and I think political correctness has gone too far on this issue particularly. The English/Spanish graduation ceremonies at the school are counter-productive. Fresh ideas are needed at the school and we all need to work together on this”… Law and Order in the Valley? – “We were lucky around here that a lot of bad things did not happen when we had only one deputy in the Valley, following Deputy Nordin’s death. We need two deputies here and we were left with one for far too long. Deputy Walker deserves huge credit for his efforts so far.”
I asked Tom who he thought should be Mayor if such a position were to be created with the power to change things for the better. “You! Steve Sparks – who else?” (I think he was serious!)
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few questions to Tom 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? – I like to say ‘Good job’ but what I find myself saying often is ‘That’s unbelievable!’ “
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “People saying ‘I can’t’ or even worse ‘good enough’. It often isn’t. It too often means ‘just o.k.’ and it isn’t good enough at all.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Running an efficient ‘team’ at a restaurant or bar. When everything is going smoothly and it all comes together with everyone giving their best. I just love that.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Negative attitudes.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “Silence… And the roaring ocean and wind blowing.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “Yapping dogs.”
What is your favorite curse word? – “I like to say ‘F*** you’s’, in an Italian accent for extra effect.”
Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “Hunter Thomson’s ‘Great Shark Hunt’ – it was a new style of journalism that was cutting-edge when it came out…The music of Tom Petty influenced me with its depiction of where I grew up – Ventura Boulevard, Mulholland Drive… The movie ‘Patton’ has always stayed with me. It showed the greatness of the man and the performance by George C Scott was incredible.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “Golf is my main one; and cooking is my passion.”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “An actor – not necessarily in porn films. Living where I did growing up we often saw the stars and celebrities. I think I would have liked to be one at that time. The fame and fortune would have been fun – maybe.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “A lawyer. Too often is seems that principles are ignored and money is all-important. It seems a very unprincipled profession.”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “When my sister Tracey was wheeled out of her successful heart transplant surgery.”
What was the saddest? – “The day my Dad died. He was in good health but had a heart attack at 68. He was an awesome man, a very kind and generous man; well-liked by everyone.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I am a patient person and that I try hard to be a good man… I also have a great ass and lovely eyes if any women around here would like to act on that!”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I think he’d say ‘We need to talk’ but then I’d like him to add ‘…and then we can play 18.’… That’s it? The interview is done? Oh, well, we can get to all my gun stories etc next time!!”

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 2:29 am  Comments (2)  

Bob Nimmons – January 9th, 2010

I met Bob at his home on Ornbaun Road in Boonville and as we sat down to talk, his wife Sandra offered us some delicious cookies and a nice hot drink – tea brought from China by their daughter, Dana.
Bob was born in Great Falls, Montana, in August 1931, the only child of Wilma Webb and David Nimmons. Both sides of his family trace their roots back to England but have been in this country for several generations and whilst his father’s side also has some German/Italian heritage, Bob has no firm information on this. David was a contractor by day and a musician by night, his mother a homemaker, but when Bob was just two months old his parents were divorced. “I was to see my father just one time after that – when I was 21, home from the Korean War, and he had finally decided to get in touch. He started to tell me what I should do with my life and I basically said, ‘see ya.’ I did not see him ever again.”
Bob’s maternal grandparents were in San Francisco so his mother brought him to the City by the Bay at the end of 1931, and she re-married a couple of years later. “She married five times in all and as a child I never knew who my father would be when I came home from school! She was quite a force to reckon with – I think I might have killed her if had been one of her husbands. As the saying goes, ‘If I’d have shot you when I first thought about it, I’d be out by now!’ I was never that close to any of my stepfathers and my mother was not with any of them for more than ten years.”
Bob attended Glen Park Grammar School in S.F. and whilst there he clearly remembers the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into World War 2. “There was quite a panic in San Francisco at the time. People really were convinced that the Japanese were going to cross the ocean and appear at the Golden Gate Bridge. There were constant patrols and lookouts were manned round the clock. The entire City felt under threat and many gun emplacements were built along the coast facing to the west.” Bob went on to attend a couple of City Junior Highs – James Denman J.H. and James Lick J.H., which another Valley resident, Walt Valen, also attended in later years. “I didn’t like school although we did have a lot of fun there. Most of the men were in the service at that time so I went for a job as a bus boy at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in the City. I had been a paper delivery boy for the S.F. Examiner but I got this new job. I was only 13 years old. San Francisco was a big port and so very busy during the war and consequently the Hotel was always full, mostly with officers in the dining room. There were no waiters, only waitresses – an interesting group of people. I was virtually the only male – had I been a couple of years older I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven!”
“On the home front everyone had jobs to help the war effort. My mother was working in a factory that made parts for hair dryers but in the war she made parts for airplanes. My stepfather was at Hunters Point shipyard working as an electrician on the ships. Everyone had income but during the war many items were rationed – gas, sugar, meats, etc, and so there was little to buy. Then when the war ended in 1945, following V.J. Day in August, everyone seemed to be spending like crazy.”
During those years, Bob would catch the ferry to Oakland and then the train to visit his grandparents who had moved to Sacramento where his grandfather worked at McClellan Air Force Base. He found summer work at a bowling alley there. “I was a pin setter for ten cents a game – that was hard work.”
“San Francisco was a great place to live in those days; I wouldn’t give you two cents for it now. There were very few street people in those days – winos we’d call them.” When the war ended, Bob’s mother and her second husband moved to Fortuna in northern California, taking Bob with them for his high school years. “What a contrast! I loved S.F. but life up there was great. Fishing for salmon on the Eel River in Humboldt County was phenomenal. Summers up there were wonderful. We’d go to Redway near Garberville and swim in the river and sleep on the beach. Swimming from morning to night – a great time. We had not been there that long when my mother divorced, got out of the dress shop she had started just six months earlier, and remarried – this time to the local hotelier and we lived in the hotel. I had to help around the place, mainly with janitorial duties such as unplugging the toilets – even pin setting was better than that.”
Bob quickly made lots of new friends at his new school but he was constantly is trouble for various mischievous things; nothing too serious but drinking beer was frowned upon and with his parents on the local Chamber of Commerce, “I probably threatened their prestige with my antics… I remember once at a basketball game in Willits we got into trouble when I ran on to the court and stole the ball during the game. They wanted to ban me from the school but thanks to my parents position in the community the local businesses would not let the school do it – even though, looking back, the school had every right.”
Bob graduated in 1949 and immediately joined the Marine Corps. “I had no plans for further education and, with the Korean War on the horizon, a friend and I thought we’d like to do our bit together. Initially we were sent to Japan on occupation duty – U.S. troops were still there at that point. We were sent to the southern tip of Japan and then ordered to pack our gear and get on what was a converted Japanese luxury liner. Although there were no chairs and we had to eat and sleep on the deck and it was a nice ship. We were then moved to duty on Landing Ship, Tanks – L.S.T.’s – ‘low, slow targets’ as my friend here in the Valley, Kirk Wilder, calls them. They were used to land tanks and troops onto beaches. We had outstanding food I remember, but then it was a case of ‘oh, we have something to tell you – you are going to Korea.’ We knew the North had invaded the South but did not know we were going to be a part of this war until in 1950 President Truman announced it and said we were going to kick the asses of the communists.”
“If you are a marine, whatever job you may have been assigned, when it comes down to it, essentially you are an infantryman, a mud marine. We were part of the Inchon Invasion of September 1950 and I was in the war for a year… War is war, a terrible thing. Korea was the coldest place in the entire world, I felt. We were stationed at the Hwachon Reservoir with the job of keeping the supply route open. It was so cold you could hear the ice expand as it was freezing hard. We were supposed to break this up but it was four feet thick – explosions, torpedoes, nothing really worked. Morale was good despite the cold and the suffering. It was miserable over there, just terrible conditions. You can’t believe how cold it could get, 50 below. Our equipment would not work and every fifteen minutes you had to make a conscious effort to wiggle your fingers and toes to make sure they were not frostbitten – a cause of many casualties. I have many vivid memories of my time there and wouldn’t wish those conditions on anyone.”
“We suffered lots of casualties, over 45,000 dead and over 90,000 wounded and yet it has become known as America’s ‘Forgotten War’ – that’s too bad. I was lucky. I had lost three cousins in World War 2 – two twins and their brother – all killed within twelve hours of each other. They were my Mother’s sister’s kids and were close to my Mother. They were the Hollister’s and a destroyer, the U.S.S. Hollister, was named after them. This, together with the tragedies of the five brothers from the Sullivan family who were also killed, resulted in the law preventing siblings fighting alongside each other being introduced.”
After his year in Korea, Bob returned to the States and was sent to Camp Pendleton near to San Diego and then on to El Toro Air Base in Santa Ana. “I was there until being discharged in 1953 but then they tried hard to get me to re-enlist. I absolutely did not want to and went home to Fortuna but there I would receive phone calls from the Corps offering me promotion to join up again. I was not interested. If I had re-enlisted I would in all likelihood have ended up in Vietnam a decade later.”
Bob was done with the military and using the G.I. Bill he went back to school, attending S.F. State in the fall of 1953 to study accounting. Whilst he was there he met a very attractive student from U.C. Berkeley at a football game. Her name was Sandra and after dating for a few years they married in 1957, daughter Dana being born a year later. They initially lived in San Francisco but with the birth of Dana their apartment was too small and they could not afford anything bigger in the City so they moved to Oakland. Bob found work as an outside auditor for Crocker-Anglo Bank earning $350 a month and, although he was based at his office on Van Ness Avenue in S.F., he would be gone at various places all over the State during the week. “I would audit anyone wishing to borrow more than half a million and it was not bad for a time but with a new wife and newborn baby all that traveling got old fast. Still, I stuck it out for five years or so.”
In 1963 Bob moved to a job with General Motors in their truck and coach division at the Oakland Truck Center. “At first I was a sales engineer but eventually ended up back in accounting for most of my time there. At one point they wanted to move me to the head offices in Detroit. I told them ‘I’ve never left anything in Detroit so I have no reason to go there’ – I would have resigned if they had insisted. I ended up moving to the zone office in San Leandro in the East Bay. I did attend many conferences and meetings in Detroit though and I found it an interesting town.”
In 1987, at the age of fifty-five, Bob was offered early retirement. “They suggested I talk it over with my wife. I did not have to do that. Once they had satisfied my demands I was out of there. I got my tax license and went to work for H & R Block, first at a franchise office then for the corporation where I eventually ended up teaching taxes to prospective accountants. I managed the Martinez office until quitting in 2000.”
During their years in the East Bay, Bob and Sandra had bought a house in Martinez and became avid Oakland Raider fans. “We rarely missed seeing a game.” For many of those years Sandra was an office manager and progressed so far that she was recruited by a headhunter and became the Commercial Manager for Lucky Stores, N. California. She retired in 1999. “We had thought for some time that there were too many people where we lived. We had often come up this way to camp at Van Damme State Park in Little River so when I asked Sandra where she wanted to retire to she answered ‘Boonville’ without hesitation. ‘Are you out of your mind?’ I said. Although we had often driven through the Valley we had never even stopped in town. I was thinking somewhere on the coast but we realized that there was little sun out there – to hell with that. We contacted Mike Shapiro and he found us these 3 ½ acres with a lovely house and after selling our home in Martinez, we moved up. We did not know a soul here but we threw a ‘get-to-know-you’ party and soon we knew quite a lot of folks.”
Since their move they rarely get back to the Bay Area. “We sometimes go to a play or the opera. Our friends and family come and visit us here. Our daughter is in the East Bay with her husband, Massood, and we have two grandkids. Dana is a Certified Public Accountant, our granddaughter Ladan, who graduated from Cal, is also a C.PA. and our grandson Farhad will graduate from San Diego State this summer and he wants to be, guess what, a C.P.A. too… I am very comfortable living here; I wouldn’t go back to the City for anything. I work in Ukiah during the tax season for H & R Block and teach ‘Finance’ at the adult education center here in Boonville, helping people with credit card issues, taxes, and reconciling bank accounts.”
When not working, Bob has been the Commander of the American Legion Post in town on three occasions and he is currently a member of the Mendocino Sheriff’s Department of Search and Rescue. He originally rode a motorcycle around town but Joe Fox said, ‘Get rid of that, you’ll kill yourself. Airplanes are a lot safer.’ So Bob learned to fly and bought an airplane, spending many social hours with the group fondly known as ‘The Airport Crowd.’ “We put on the Hangar Party each year and this gives many people in the community the chance to fly over the Valley for nothing. We gave 147 rides last year. I also like to attend the various fly-ins around the state with other friends in the Airport Crowd. They are a lot of fun with everyone standing around telling lies to each other – that’s the best part.”
Other than these activities, Bob and Sandra are also in charge of the docents who work at the A.V. Museum and they are both on the Museum Board. “I feel this is a very important part of Anderson Valley – it is a big issue for us. We rely completely on grants and donations. Ken Allen at the Brewery always gives us a substantial amount from his annual Beer Fest.”
“I love the small-town flavor of this Valley. The people have been great and we have made many friends here. Sandra is also very busy with her pottery classes, her roles as Chairwoman of the Independent Career Women and President of the American Legion Auxiliary, and her exercise class ‘Young at Heart’ twice a week under the wonderful guidance of Linda Boudoures. Actually we are kept busier than hell.”
I now turned to Bob’s responses to some Valley issues that are frequently discussed around these parts… The wineries and their impact? – “Well I am an Associate Member of the A.V. Winegrowers Association and some of our winery owners are wonderful people. I love visiting the wineries. However, I do believe we have too many at this point and the industry is in trouble. The water is a big problem in the Valley. Putting water into ponds is getting too much – there are no fish left; they cannot live on wine. Napa has become one huge vineyard and we can’t have that here”… The A.V.A. Newspaper? – “I have always liked it and we subscribe. I enjoy the local stuff and Mark Scaramella does a hell of a job with his reports on the Board of Supervisors – keeping them honest!”… The School System? – “Well the upcoming bond issue is not a good thing. Asking for $12 ½ million at this time is asking a lot. This should have been dealt with over a period of time, not all at once. Hindsight is 20/20 I know but the problems should have been addressed earlier and they weren’t.”
I asked Bob what changes he would introduce if he were the Mayor of The Valley and had some political power to make a difference. “I pretty much like the Valley the way it is. Besides, I don’t think it is susceptible to too much change. We recently received a letter from the C.S.D. (Community Services District) asking for suggestions for the increased safety and beautification of Boonville – pedestrian crosswalks, wheelchair access, murals, flower displays, etc. They want us to offer time and/or money. I don’t think many people got the letter – why us? I don’t know. Anyway, the first thing I would do would be to get rid of that eyesore at the south end of town – the Ricard building. I’d get a match, set fire to it, and then call Fire Chief Wilson.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Bob 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? – “I guess ‘I love you’ would be the one.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “May be ‘I don’t like you’ would be it.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Just staying alive is something I am glad to do every day. Then of course the views in this Valley are a turn-on and I never get tired of them.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “I don’t like anger. I do get upset by a few things but not substantially.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “The noise of an airplane…Classical music. I love to play it when I drive to Ukiah which is an even more beautiful drive with some Beethoven or Mozart playing.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “The honking of car horns and boom boxes.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “That would be “Oh, shit” – it’s universal.”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “When Sandra and I were first together ‘The Twelfth of Never’ by Johnnie Mathis was part of our romance. It started the whole ‘thing.’ Fifty-two years later I don’t particularly like the song but I still love Sandra.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “I used to cut bottles in half and make planters out of them. I also did macramé for a time – a form of textile art that uses knotting techniques instead of weaving or knitting. That was many years ago and then when I was with G.M. I love to mess around with trucks.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I would have liked to go back to school to study mechanical engineering. I never really knew what I did want to do, even when I was in college. I just sort of fell into my job – my counselor at college had a Ph. D. in Accounting so I guess that influenced me.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “When I was at High School in Fortuna I had a summer job at a mill pulling green chain (taking wood off the conveyor belt). I remember the older guy next to me saying, ‘Bob, get out of this job because it will soon make an old man of you.’ It was very tough and I’m glad I didn’t have to do that for the rest of my working life.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “When I met Sandra.”

What was the saddest? – “I had a very close friend, a girl friend, in High School. She was a friend of our family too. When she died many years later it really affected me.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I don’t like to find fault in others. I am not saying I don’t do this sometimes, but I really don’t like to.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I’d say, ‘I would have called you earlier but I didn’t have the courage’, and he’d probably reply ‘get out of here!’ ”

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Judy Long – January 2nd, 2010

I drove into the Rancho Navarro sub-division north of Navarro and turned into the driveway of the home of Judy and Garth Long – the one with the fire truck parked outside. I was met by Judy and the three dogs, including the very excited new Labrador puppy, Tanner, and we sat down to chat.
Judy was born in Fresno, California in 1943, the fourth of five children (two boys and three girls) born to Lawrence Crawford and Virginia Ginn. “My father was originally from Layton, California, basically just an intersection between two roads, the nearest town of any note being Riverdale, and my mother, who was born in 1907, came here to California with her family from Kansas when she was four years old.”
Judy’s father was a carpenter, her mother a homemaker, and they had a ranch on which they had small numbers of sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs. “We lived in that area until my sophomore year of high school when we moved to Morro Bay. I guess I was an average student, anything less than a ‘C’ would have meant being hammered by my parents. I didn’t like history but didn’t really have any favorite subject. Mom and Dad were strict with all of us regarding our education and our chores on the ranch – I had to milk cows before and after school and feed the chickens. We kids all had names beginning with the letter ‘J’ – Jim, Jeanine, Joanie, Jerel, and myself – so my parents would send out Christmas cards signed ‘from Lawrence, Virginia, and the Five J’s’. We were spread out in age; my oldest brother was in the Korean War when I was just eight years old so I barely knew him. My sister Joanie and I were close and both liked the outdoors so we did the jobs around the farm and when she left to join the Air Force my little brother and I were left to do them. However, when we moved to Morro Bay it was like the ‘city’ and there were no cows so our chores were downsized!”
For her final two years, Judy attended school at San Luis Obispo High, a bus ride away, where she excelled in sports, particularly baseball and basketball. “My Dad had been a semi-pro baseball player and it was my favorite sport too. We lived in a prefab home for a time while my Dad built our new home – I helped him on that project on the weekends. My parents had bought the property many years earlier – two lots for $500 each – in preparation for retirement. We had our home on one and a huge garden on the other. Life was good and I loved being near the ocean where we often went clam-digging.”
“I was very happy to move there. In Riverdale I was known as a mischievous teenager. My Dad had helped to build the school so he knew the Principal of the school well. I remember on one occasion, my Mom and Dad, who was a keen duck hunter, had the Principal and his wife over for duck dinner. I was terrified, he knew all about me, every little bad thing I’d done – missing classes, smoking, etc. Fortunately he didn’t say anything to Dad but still, I was glad to get away from that school. Ironically, that side of my behavior I got from my Dad and at my new school I would still miss many classes. My friend and I would catch the bus to school and then just not go in. We’d spend the day in the town and then catch the school bus home.”
“We weren’t that bad, although I remember I borrowed a car from a friend who used to pick oysters with and my girlfriend and I hung out all day scanning the boys at Cal Poly. Then a college cop gave me a ticket for running a ‘Stop’ sign and I had to go to court. I was only 17 so I had to attend with a parent – fortunately I went with my Mother, the lesser of two ‘evils’. I didn’t have a license and was sentenced to six weeks driving school at the end of which I got my license so it worked out quite well. On top of that my parents did not put two and two together that I should have been at school at the time of my ticket!”
Judy graduated in 1961. “For our graduation we were all locked in the local bowling alley for the night so we couldn’t get into too much trouble. Then they let us out at 8am and I went home, packed my bags and caught the bus to San Jose, where I could stay with my oldest sister, Jeannie, whose two-kids I baby-sat. I had wanted to be a dental assistant but was fed up with school and didn’t want to do anymore studying. Besides, the more I thought about it, I realized that delving into people’s mouths might not be that good a job after all… I found work as a carhop at Rip’s Drive-In; you know, taking the burgers out on trays and hooking them on to the car windows. I earned $125 a month doing that and I wasn’t on roller skates.”
While working at the Drive-In, a regular customer was Garth Long. “He would come in with his cronies from his job as a truck driver. He had a brand new Ford hot rod, black with lots of cool accessories. One day I wrote on the fine dust on the hood ‘Judy was here’ and he freaked out. I started to tease him after that and soon we started dating. We were married in 1963 when I was 19 and lived in a duplex in Campbell near San Jose. We have been together ever since.”
On leaving the Drive-In job, Judy found work as a typist at Bud Curtis Architects office where her typing skills learned at school came in very handy. She stayed there for three years or so during which time she had a baby son, Kevin and then she became a secretary at American Standard in Mountain View, at their Space Division and department of advanced technology. She was there for about three years or so before, along with many others, she was hired by a consulting firm that had a contract with N.A.S.A. “I was a secretary, which was a very cool job – I was there until being hired by N.A.S.A. proper in 1974, working in the wind tunnel department and then in the simulator section working on the shuttle landings. Eventually I became a secretary in the ‘Head Shed’ – working for the executives, including the Deputy Director of N.A.S.A.-Ames in Mountain View. That was Steve Hawley, the astronaut who had deployed the Hubble Telescope in space. Ultimately I became the secretary to the Director and was with him from 1985 until I retired in 1994… I worked long hours, often 4am to 6pm – I had to be at work early in the morning as there was a constant need to contact the east coast and they are obviously three hours ahead. During all of those years we lived at the same house we’d bought in Martinez and Garth drove his trucks.”
In the late sixties Garth and Judy had become good friends with Dave and Nancy Gowan after Judy had worked with Dave at the consulting firm with the N.A.S.A. contract. Dave’s family was here in Anderson Valley and when his father died he and Nancy would come to the Valley to work on the ranch, frequently with Judy and Garth – “to help pick apples and drink beer.” They would stay on the property next to where the Dave and Nancy’s A.V. Farm Supply business is today. “We loved it and made plans to retire here.” Meanwhile, back in the ‘city’, Dave, Nancy, and Garth were in a theater group in Campbell called The Gaslight Theater. “I was never on stage with those guys. I was the ‘bar wench’ there, taking out pitchers of beer and popcorn. The whole scene was a lot of fun.”
Judy and Garth bought 13 acres in Rancho Navarro in 1989, eventually moving here in 1994 when she retired from N.A.S.A. “We came up every other weekend until we moved here permanently, often arriving Friday evening and leaving on Monday evening. Garth retired a couple of years before I did and he would often come up for a week at a time by himself and work on various projects. When we moved I found a part-time job as Innkeeper at The Boonville Hotel on Sundays, serving a continental breakfast, not anything substantial. Then Garth joined the Volunteer Fire Department and after listening to his stories and being left here alone so often I did too, in 1996. We were encouraged to do so by Gene and Richard Herr and Al and Lynn Roman… At one point I signed up for the Community Services District, responsible for the Fire Department, the Recreation Department, the Airport, and the street lighting. I ended up being the chairperson for eight years… Then Gene, Lynn, and I took the E.M.T. class – just because we wanted to get behind the wheel of an ambulance! It was three months of hard work, very intense but worth it. Quite a few people do both fire and ambulance – there are about forty in the Fire Department and may be 15 with the Ambulance.” I mentioned the recent award of ‘Firefighter of the Year 2009’ that Judy had received. “It came as a complete shock but very, very nice.”
Judy’s other main community service has been her ten years in the Lions’ Club. “My Dad was a Lion so it’s in the blood I guess, but originally Jan Wasson-Smith ‘conned’ me into joining and I’ve been a member for the last ten years. I do like doing the fund-raising and we do many functions here in the Valley in terms of providing the beer and wine and a bbq. I am service orientated and like to make money for good causes. Now I’m the Vice-President and get to go to funerals! My sister Joanie (Clark) moved here in the late nineties and she is the secretary. We are close and she has been a great help with all of our dog/sheep/house sitting when we go on vacation. That’s how the Lions Club works – you join and you invite your families to join too.”
“I love the Valley scenery and knowing so many people in a community. I’m a pretty easygoing person and don’t have anything to complain about in living here, although it’s not perfect of course. We also love to go out to Navarro River Beach with the dogs but I hate the fact that there is now officially a leash law in effect. I cannot see us ever leaving here although we do like to hook up our trailer and travel to various places – British Columbia; Las Vegas; and soon we are off to Mesquite, Nevada; and I go to Mexico with the Lions Club on our annual eye clinic trip, providing spectacles for people who cannot get them otherwise.”
As I do most weeks, I now turned to various Valley ‘issues’ and asked Judy for her responses… The wineries? – “I think they have taken it to excess at this point. It is such a beautiful place here but greed seems to be taking over the beauty and there are too many vines. Our water supplies must be adversely affected by now. The wines are very good, the wineries are often good neighbors, but they are taking too much out at this point and it seems a never-ending story of new vines going in. You used to see lots of little frogs in the Valley on the roads and in the hills – you see very few these days. The Board of Supervisors should be paying attention to this and checking to see if spraying limitations are being enforced. It’s difficult though – lots of stuff happens at night around here. May be more taxes should be paid by the wineries; they make enough money, I’m sure. The absentee winery owners who live elsewhere don’t care about our water or any other serious effects they may be having on our health”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I read it every week – it’s always fun when there is something controversial going on and I’m glad Bruce Anderson came back”… KZYX & Z public radio? – “I listen to it for ‘Trading Times’ but that’s about it. Some of the programming is not very good in my opinion”… Law and Order in the Valley? – I think we do a good job with this. Craig Walker, the new Deputy, is an excellent addition, and Keith Squires just knows so much about the heartbeat of the Valley after all his years here. I really like Keith, and he has a great sense of humor – just don’t get him out of bed in the middle of the night!”… The Fire and Ambulance Departments? – “We do a terrific job I have to say. The Fire Department under Colin Wilson has grown so much and greatly expanded our areas of expertise.”
I asked Judy what she would do around here if she were the Mayor and had some political power to change things. “Well, the water issues concern me. We need some sort of sewage plant. We simply cannot keep flushing toilets into the system that ends up as drinking water at some point.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Judy 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? – “I like to hear and say, ‘great job’.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “Volunteers mean well but when they repeatedly say ‘How do I do this?’ it annoys me. Can’t they just think it through?

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – ‘I like being around my pets and animals in general. It inspires me when I foster a newborn kitten or revive a ‘dead’ lamb.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “People who dump off animals/pets; and bad drivers in general, of which there are many who come through this Valley.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “Birds singing – we have a very strange collection around here. They are very vocal and seem to be talking to us and each other.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “The fire or ambulance pager in the middle of the night – that’s an easy one!”

What is your favorite curse word? – “Rat bastard.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Gardening, I guess.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “A doctor or vet, although I’m not sure if I could have dealt with being either.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Pumping out port-a-potties.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “I am basically a very happy person and do not have one day or event. I know that when our son Kevin graduated from college it was a very happy day.”

What was the saddest? – “When my Dad died. He was best friend. He had been really tough in the early years but when he found out I could go out and do it on my own he and I got very close and our relationship was very special. He was my buddy.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “ My disposition – I always try to be happy and positive. Anger comes and goes very quickly with me, it’s not something I dwell on and that’s a good thing I believe.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well, I’m not sure this would be the case but ‘Come on in, Judy’ would be nice. Just as long as I’m surrounded by my friends it wouldn’t matter to me where I was.”

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

James Monroe ‘Bo’ Hiatt – December 26th, 2009

I drove to the south end of Boonville on Hwy 128 and turned into a driveway before the Brewery to the home of Bo and Bobbie Hiatt. Bobbie and dog Sammy the Chihuahua greeted me and I sat down to talk with Bo at the kitchen table where I was later given some delicious soup and cookies with a cup of coffee. I asked Bo where the name came from and he explained that his sister Edith could not say ‘Monroe’ – it came out like ‘Bo’ – and it has stuck his whole life. He then added with a grin, “We should have done this interview 25 years ago, we’d have had a chance of remembering things!… I hope this talk doesn’t get me into any trouble. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.”
The Hiatt’s originally came to the New World in 1690 along with many other Quakers who were being persecuted in England at that time. They settled in the Shenandoah Valley in the Virginia’s. Many years later in the 1830’s they began to gradually move westward with stops in Kentucky, where Bo’s great grandfather, Elijah Monroe Hiatt, was born in 1931. The family went on to Missouri in 1836, where they lived for a few years before moving on to Susanville, California by wagon train in 1854. There Elijah sold his cattle and mined gold for three years before settling in Woodland, Yolo County and opening a mercantile store along with a money-lending business that was very successful. However, his health was not so good and he went to a health spa at Bartlett Springs where he heard of a ranch for sale in Anderson Valley. He bought it in 1860 and moved to the Valley where he was married in 1861 and started a family – son Charles (Bo’s grandfather) being born in 1863. Elijah had 6000 head of sheep on the 1560 acres and he built a hotel on the property that became an important stop for the stage that came through the Valley at that time. He had bought the property from a Mr. York and the story goes that the two of them then played cards all night long with the winner getting the right to name the ‘town’. Mr. York won and so ‘Hiattville’ never happened!
Elmer Charles Hiatt, Bo’s father, was born in 1890 and later married Sydney Rose who died of pneumonia in 1922, leaving Elmer a widower with their two daughters to take care of. Ethel Ford was a divorcee with a son from her failed marriage to Charles Pulliam. She became a nanny to Elmer’s two girls, bringing her son with her and in 1923 she and Elmer fell in love and were married. They lived in Yorkville at the family ranch beside Hwy 128 at the property known as the ‘Y’ Ranch… Bo was born James Monroe Hiatt in October, 1929 at the ranch in Yorkville, the fourth of five children born to Elmer and 2nd wife, Ethel, whose family were originally from Illinois by way of Le Grand, Oregon. His siblings were Jack, Frank, Kay, and Edith, and half-brother Charles, and half-sisters, Vivienne and Kathleen.
Bo’s father was a foreman for the County Road Maintenance Department while his mother was a homemaker and also post woman for the homes on Fish Rock Road as far along as the Zeni Ranch. Bo attended school in Boonville at what is now the Veterans Building. “My Dad and his friends hauled the schoolhouse where my brothers and Austin Hulbert had gone, and which was next to our house in Yorkville, on his Model-T truck all the way to Boonville and added it to the side of the original building there and that’s where I went to school.” He later went to Con Creek schoolhouse for his 7th and 8th grades in the Little Red Schoolhouse (now the A.V. Museum) before going to the High School on the land that now faces the Elementary school on Anderson Valley Way.
“I was at school with people such as Donald Pardini, Floyd Johnson, John and Hoyt Ross, and Wes Smoot. I was always into lots of hanky panky when I wasn’t fishing or hunting. I didn’t have much time for school – I probably skipped more days than I went and most of all I went because I enjoyed playing sports, baseball was my favorite. I also liked to collect old cars and fix ‘em up. I was a good mechanic at an early age. Many, many years later, around 1989, I even built my own logging truck – something I had always wanted to do.”
“My mother baked everything in a wood stove – bread, hotcakes, biscuits. We did not get electricity until 1946 and before then had kerosene lights. My father would kill animals and we’d eat everything he killed. He illegally shot a deer once – to feed the family – and the local game warden, Harley Groves, came to the house on a tip-off. He knew father had done it but could not find the deer anywhere on the property. He even peered into the bedroom where mother was pretending to be ill in bed, but he did not go in. Which was good because she had the dead deer in bed with here under the covers! Groves left and we got away with it!…Back then I had my chores at home but I was always trying to make money in various ways, such as raising rabbits to sell. I’d kill ‘em after school, skin them, and the stage would pick them up from the ranch and take them to Cloverdale to the Cavallo Store the next morning and then I’d get my pay from the previous day’s kills.”
While at school Bo had his eye on a pretty girl called Bobbie Marshall who had moved from Cloverdale to Boonville and they began courting in their senior year. Bobbie remembers, “In Cloverdale we had heard all about them rough boys in Boonville who sat around on their back porches cleaning their guns and how it was a place where they did horrible things. I cried and cried when we moved there in the summer of 1946… I had a couple of jobs that summer before I started my senior year. One was at Weiss’s Restaurant in Boonville working my butt off for 50 cents an hour and the other was picking apples at what was later the Tin Man Orchard on Anderson Valley Way. One day there was this truck that kept passing with a guy waving at me. I just waved back from the tree I was working on. This happened for a few days and then one day a Model-A convertible drove up with two boys and a girl who I knew sitting in the rumble seat. She told me that my boyfriend at the time had been hurt in the woods and was in hospital. She assumed I knew Bo Hiatt who was driving, but I said I didn’t and she told me I must know him because I had been waving to him for the past week! They were planning to go the Ukiah Fair and with my boyfriend now in hospital they asked if I wanted to go with them. My mother had said I needed to make new friends in the Valley and said I should go with these kids. So when Bo asked me again a few days later I said ‘yes’. Then he ended up just taking me in his car and not the others – he was a real ‘Sneaky Pete.’ We got married a year later in 1948 and have been together ever since!”
After graduating in 1947, Bo went straight to work for Bert Rowley, a truck driver hauling logs (even though he did not have a license), but soon afterwards he went to work for his brother Kay, who was also in the logging industry that was booming at that time. Many people were arriving in the Valley from Arkansas and Oklahoma and there were sawmills everywhere. In 1951, Bo got his first diesel truck and Kay Hiatt Logging had great success. ‘I was a truck driver hauling logs for my brother for many years and then I started my own trucking company. The logging industry really got going in the early fifties and there were twenty-seven mills between Yorkville and the coast. I would have to drive over the hill to Ukiah too – it was all dirt road in those days and would take me nearly two hours to get to Calpella, just the other side of Ukiah, a little over twenty miles away. Some of the road was one-way, it was tough on the trucks and we’d always have to stop for more radiator water on the way.”
Bo says he always got along with the Arkies and Okies when they arrived although there were quite a few old-timers who did not like them being here and the changes they brought. ‘There were many bars and often bar fights in those days but we got along with most of them. Bobbie wasn’t so keen on the hippies when they came along in the sixties. She thought they were scary and there were some bad ‘uns – the Manson Gang, Tree Frog Johnson, Jim Jones… The Boonville, Lodge, The Track Inn, and Weiss’s were the hangouts in Boonville. Our entertainment on a Saturday night was watching the bar fights – you seemed to see someone come flying out the door most weekends. By the time the next generation was in the bars the old families and the Okies and Arkies had got together and began to pick on the hippies – they certainly banged a few of those guys’ heads, but a few years later the hippies ended up running the town for a few years, or so it seemed. The Valley has changed so much over my lifetime here and I may not like some of the changes but I guess I learned to flow along with them – what else can I do?””
Bo and Bobbie stayed out in Yorkville from their marriage in 1948 until 1956 when they moved into Boonville across from the Mountain View Road junction with Hwy 128. After staying there for a few years, in 1962 they moved into the house alongside the County Yard in central Boonville, where they lived for 45 years until 2007. For the last two years they have lived on the property owned by Bo’s deceased sister and his brother-in-law, Jack Brunwell. During much of that time Bo worked fifteen-hour days and when he was not driving he was working on the trucks. However, he and Bobbie started a family with Linda born in 1951 and Terry in 1963. In later years, Linda had a son Stevie and a daughter Jenelle, who in turn had twin girls. Terry married Steve Rhodes and they have two boys – Justin and Nick, and “we are very proud of all of them.”
For a time Bo was a partner of his brother Kay before he branched out on his own to form James Hiatt Trucking. He did all the driving and Bobbie was “the gopher” – ordering supplies and parts, doing the books, as well as taking care of the family, attending sports at the school, and maintaining the garden. Over the years all of Bo’s siblings have passed, including brother Kay who was killed by a falling log, although Bo continued to do lots of work with his nephews, Kay’s boys – Charlie and Wayne. With Bobbie constantly asking Bo to stop working – “Will you please get rid of them damn trucks and quit?!” – he finally did retire in 2003 at the age of 74. His health had not been good and he has had two open-heart operations and two colon surgeries. ‘I felt so bad at one point that I was about ready to kill myself if nothing could be done. The last operation had been a success thanks to the wonderful people at St. Helena Hospital but then I was transferred to another hospital in Marin and had a tracheotomy that nearly killed me. I really thought I wouldn’t make it. My daughter Terry and son-in-law Steve insisted that I was released and I started feeling better not long after I was back home. I am so much better now and am putting some weight back on. I feel great although I do miss working.”
In the late 70’s he and Bobbie bought a motor home and did some traveling at various times for a few years, which saw them go down to Mexico (with Norman and Joanne Charles and John and Meda Hanes), to Vancouver, Canada, and to visit Bobbie’s family in Washington State. Bo used to like hunting and would go on trips to Wyoming and Colorado but after killing a large buck in 1965 he never went again – “I just didn’t want to do that anymore – I am an animal lover and have given away all my guns to various family members”… These days Bo meets old friends at the Redwood Drive-In in downtown Boonville most mornings at around 6am. “It is the same guys every day – My nephews Charlie and Wayne Hiatt, Wes Smoot, Donald and Manchard Pardini, Uncle Donn, Craig Titus, Ed Slotte. I then come home at about 9am with a cup of coffee for Bobbie and start my housework! I do the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, make the bed, Bobbie says I’d make a great housewife someday!”
He and Bobbie like to attend some of the Valley events such as the Crab Feed and the County Fair. “We used to love the Fair but most of our friends that we used to sit with and watch everything going on are all dead now. It’s depressing sometimes. We do like to go to Libby’s in Philo for dinner sometimes and we used to do a lot more family things but they have got less and less. We do see our daughter Terry often, and her kids too, and they do little jobs for us around here but overall we don’t do much these days. Bobbie did so much for so many years that now she says ‘to hell with it’ and I don’t mind doing stuff around the house.”
I asked Bo for his brief thoughts on some of the issues that Valley folk seem to discuss these days… The wineries impact on the Valley? – “I think it’s o.k. really. They bring in money and keep people working. They look nice. When the logging boom came they said the same things about that and that was worse in some ways – there was so much dust in the air you couldn’t see the sky or put your washing out on a line. Before that there were some beautiful apple orchards and most of them have gone now. It’s too bad but what are you gonna do?”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “ I like it – the local stuff mainly. Bobbie and I like Valley People, Turkey Vulture, and Bruce Patterson’s stuff”… KZYX & Z public radio? – “Don’t listen to it. We watch television mainly; I like to watch baseball”… The school system? – “It’s not bad – the kids we know seem to be doing well.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Bo 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 probably be ‘sweetheart’ – sometimes I say it to Bobbie but most times to the cat!”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “Well it is not a swear word – I can keep up with the best of them there. May be it’s ‘you’re wrong, Bo.’ I don’t like to be told that, even though I sometimes am.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Going over to Ukiah with my grandchildren.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “When people say things that I know to be a damn lie.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “ The cat purring right next to me in bed. The cat, Zorro, and the dog, Sam, are great friends to us.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “ Motorcycles revving their engines and, even worse, the goddamn misuse of Jake brakes by some of the truck drivers around here. They use them on the flat just up the road here by the brewery. Those brakes are for going downhill – it’s a bunch of bullshit!”

What is your favorite curse word? – “F*** you.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “I use to love making large model airplanes – some with eight-foot wingspans. Sometimes I’d build all night long. You need a lot of room so I stopped when we moved here a couple of years ago. I’ve always liked to work on things like that, and cars and trucks. I fixed up my father’s Model T once, completely restored it and then drove it in the parade at the Fair.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “Bobbie would say ‘housekeeping’ but I have never thought of anything I’d like to do other than what I did – trucks and trucking has been my life and I have loved it all… Maybe restoring Model-T’s would have been a good job for me… I did do some gardening and we had some good lemons, cucumbers, and tomatoes but, goddammit, Bobbie complained that they were overgrown and she couldn’t find them very easily. Then I had what were supposed to be green bell peppers which turned out to be hot jalapenos so we took them to the school and the kids loved them.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Anything that means I am indoors – an office job.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “I have some awful good times. Many very happy times with Bobbie – she’d know that if she’d shut up and listened to me sometimes! Our sixty-one years together have been wonderful, and not just because I was on the road a lot!”

What was the saddest? – “May be when I retired finally. I really miss my work, my truck-driving… And then, after all those thousands and thousands of miles without a single ticket, I got one last month by the brewery on Hwy 253 for doing 45 mph – too slow! I told that CHP fella – ‘Mister, I’ll see you in court – go ahead and take me to jail.’ I guess I do have a temper but after all those thousands of miles……”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “Nothing really… I was always a good, hard, honest worker – I never missed a day. It meant I wasn’t around the kids a lot but Bobbie did a great job there.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “ I guess ‘Welcome, Bo’ – that would be about the best I could expect. If I’d got to heaven, what the hell else could I want?”

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 2:09 am  Leave a Comment