Wallen Summers – February 12th, 2010

I met with Wallen at his home on Vista Ranch Road to the east of Hwy 128, a beautiful spot up in the hills looking down over the Valley from way above and to the north of Breggo Cellars winery.
Following Doug Reid (Soviet Russia) and Kyllikki ‘Kay’ Clark (Finland), Wallen becomes our third guest from the Valley who was born outside the U.S. He ‘arrived’ in Shanghai, China, in 1932, the second child of Sarci Chen and his American wife, Ann Summers. “My father was a sophisticated, modern guy of the 1920’s who had been educated at Worcester Tech. in Massachusetts and upon his return to China he became an electrical engineer with his own business. My older sister and I grew up in a middle class household and we were very close. She is a retired psychiatrist in San Francisco who has hung on to her Chinese roots far more than I have. She even changed her name from June back to Mai Long and to this day continues to have very negative feelings towards the Japanese after our experiences in the Second World War, perhaps because she is four years older than me and was a teenager at that time.
During the thirties, Wallen’s father became increasingly involved in politics as an important figure in the opposition Nationalist party led by Chiang Kai-shek. The Japanese had made several incursions into Chinese territory and backed the Chinese puppet government of Wang Chin Wei. Apart from these two parties there were the Communists of Mao Tse Tung who at that time were still up in the hills, waiting to make their move.
“I grew up in the city of Shanghai, a very cosmopolitan city with a large international community, mainly dominated by the Brits and French. My parents were divorced in 1937 with my mother re-marrying a year or so later to a Dutchman, Jules Winkelmann, from a very well connected family. My mother was a great character, the heroine of my life, for reasons you shall hear about later. She was from an Austrian Jewish family who lived in New York City, a typical New York woman who was determined to make her mark. She taught dance in Shanghai at her own school. She was very talented and beautiful and when she married Jules it was a good match. His father was a General in the Dutch army who ran their government when the Queen of the Netherlands left at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.”
Jules Winkelmann ran a large company in the export/import business that had offices in many places in the Far East and elsewhere. China was growing rapidly in the mass production of cotton goods – socks, t-shirts, handkerchiefs, etc and he was a very successful businessman. “I still saw my father on every weekend during those years but Jules decided to move the family on and we left Shanghai in 1939. From then on I was out of touch with my father and would actually never see him again. Not long after we left he was kidnapped off the street in the city of Nanking by political rivals and was shot and killed by them in 1941… He was a guy whom everybody loved. He was very successful had been well educated in America and people saw this as a plus. The puppet government wanted him on their side but he refused to join them. I must have had some idea of his kidnapping and the fact that he was in great danger because I can vividly remember my mother saying, ‘It’s been confirmed – they have shot your Dad’ as if this was somewhat expected and I was prepared for it. My stepfather was a great admirer of my Dad and always told me good things about him; how decent, charming, and honest he was.”
Jules Winkelmann had a two-year plan to travel to various offices of his company starting in Hong Kong. From there the family were to go on to Hanoi in French Indo-China (Vietnam), and then on to spend time with Jules’ family in Holland, before heading to San Francisco where his business partner had an office. “We were delayed in Hong Kong because, as was explained to me at the time, the French authorities were discouraging people from going to Hanoi. Our visa applications were turned down several times and we ended up being there for quite some time. It had a very nice culture there, a very pleasant place with good schools. The Brits know how to run a nice colony and I am a big admirer of theirs. Of course there were some unpleasant things but their style of colonial government was pretty decent in its humanity. There was plenty of food and good healthcare and once they had ‘captured’ the residents’ hearts and minds, they pretty much let the local population run the every day life there.”
It was 1941 and the war in Europe was raging, with the British colonies of Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong getting increasingly involved with varying levels of support for the ‘mother’ country. “All the news we heard was about the war, obviously, as Hong King was British. My mother was very nervous about us being there. Then on Dec 8th, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (but just a few hours later because of the international dateline), the Japanese bombed Hong Kong. It was a Monday morning and I was on the way to school on a bus. The planes suddenly appeared without warning and dropped bombs everywhere, while strafing the ground with their machine guns. Their troops landed and we were cut off from the main town.” There were many atrocities committed against civilians; the Japanese were not taking prisoners at that point and they terrorized the local population, murdering many, raping thousands of women, and carrying out much looting. “Hong Kong was in chaos. We decided to try to get to town and on the way we saw the bodies of many dead British soldiers strewn everywhere. The Japanese decided to round up people so my mother, sister and I hid out with about fifteen other people in a small house. It was definitely a case of safety in numbers – they would not be so ready to rape and kill if you were in a group. There was a theory going round that they would be soft on children so my mother sent my sister and me back to our home to get some food. We were there when some Japanese soldiers arrived and started to tease and threaten my sister. I pleaded with them to leave her alone, tugging at them to stop touching her. They became distracted and we got away unharmed. I remember that so well, along with seeing all the bodies of the British soldiers, some of whom we knew.”
Wallen, his mother and sister were soon captured and put in the civilian internment camp, made up of the administration buildings and the grounds for what had been a British penal colony for the whole of the Far East. Over the next few months many truckloads of prisoners arrived with a total of around 3000 interned there by the end of the winter. “My mother decided to go with our Dutch family connection, as opposed to the American or Chinese ones we also had, figuring this would afford us the best opportunities for survival, so we were put in the Dutch Block. We thought we’d be out in a few months but remained there until the end of the war, almost four years later in August 1945.”
It was a very tough time in the camp with little food provided by the Japanese authorities, and it was of poor quality — frequently containing dust, mud, rat and cockroach excreta, cigarette ends, and sometimes dead rats. Wallen’s mother learned to grow things and the family lived partially on nasturtium leaves. “People were simply allowed to die, there was no food really and it was vital to avoid cuts that might get infected. Some starving teachers set up a school; they were real heroes. At one point my mother was given the choice to offer my sister and me to the Allies as part of an exchange for Japanese prisoners held by the Brits. She decided against it, as she did not trust what might happen with us, and we remained with her there – a very hard decision for her I’m sure… It was a time I shall never forget; you had to learn how to survive somehow. My mother was wonderful and I cannot imagine what she had to go through, having us two kids there with her and knowing what the Japanese were capable of.”
In late 1945 the Japanese surrendered, the guards disappeared, and soon afterwards ships arrived in the nearby harbor. “The first people we saw were Australians from a mine sweeper, the H.M.S. Canberra. They were the healthiest people I’d seen in my life! Strong, smiling people – it was an amazing day!”
Stepfather Jules showed up in the next couple of weeks and took the family briefly to Shanghai before taking a ship across the Pacific to Tacoma, Washington then a train to San Francisco in early 1946. “At first I attended Polytechnic High School by Golden Gate Park then George Washington High from where I graduated in 1949. Because of my experience in the camp I wanted to grow things and to be away from big crowds of people, in the wilderness and outdoors of Zane Grey novels, so I enrolled at the California College of Agriculture – now U.C. Davis. There were 1500 students of which 50 were co-eds – that was tough! That summer I got my first job – milking cows on a dairy farm and I loved it. I learned a lot about the connection between human survival and Mother Nature at college. I paid my way all the way through, getting a job with a tree pruning company at weekends. I was a hard worker and made my way up to the highest pay rate of $2.11 an hour. I was very proud of that. I enjoyed the social scene at college and was an above average student I guess. I dated a little but didn’t have a car so there was little ‘social life’ on the back of a motorcycle.”
A turning point in Wallen’s life happened in his third year at college – he signed up for the Reserve Officer Training Corps (R.O.T.C.), making him eligible for a commission upon graduation. “It was a big event in my life. It was a good fit for me and I loved it. I became a Distinguished Military Graduate and received a commission in the regular army, not the reserve. My family was not keen and my stepfather told me that if I wanted to be in the army I must take the ‘royal road’, in other words, West Point. I called his bluff, applied to the Military Academy, and three weeks after graduation I was there in West Point.”
By 1957, four years later, after “a damn good education” Wallen graduated with a degree in science with an emphasis on engineering, and became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry. For the next twenty-two years he served in the U.S. Army as Platoon Leader, Company Commander, Battalion Commander, Instructor at West Point, even a student at Harvard Graduate School where he received a Ph D in Economics. In 1979, he retired as a full Colonel from a career that had seen him do tours in Hawaii/Thailand/Vietnam (1963), Vietnam again in 1968, and Korea twice in the early seventies, where he and his company patrolled the D.M.Z. between North and South – “playing games”…”I had followed two muses during my time in the military – one getting my boots muddy with the troops, the other studying and being a military academic.”
Many years earlier, in 1947, Wallen and a friend had hitchhiked from the Bay Area to Dos Rios in Mendocino County. “I loved the wilderness and the deer hunting up this way. On one winter break from school I even found work on a ranch in Laytonville. So, as my retirement approached I began to think about where I could retire to and, of all the places I had been to, Mendocino County still stood out, even more so than Hawaii.”
He had bought a house in Santa Rosa and was commuting to S.F. on his final tour of duty at the Presidio in San Francisco. “I had a base from where to look into heaven on earth – Mendocino. I visited the town of Mendocino and instead of returning to the 101 corridor along Hwy 20, I decided to go back a different way, via Hwy 128 and Anderson Valley. I had never driven that way before and I was amazed at the beauty. Coming from the Far East where trees are scarce, this was stunning. I am a tree freak and between the coast and Yorkville the trees are truly beautiful. I thought ‘this is the most beautiful place in the world.’ Through a realtor I found a piece of property on Vista Ranch Road and bought the ninety-five acres in 1977 where we live today, adding six more a few years later.”
Wallen was divorced not long afterwards, a marriage that had seen he and his wife raise two daughters. Then when he retired in 1979 he moved up to the Valley full-time, living in a travel trailer. There was little work in the Valley so for a short time he worked as the Director of the Indian Health Center in Ukiah before joining a trucking company in San Pablo in the Bay Area as the Controller. It meant he was up here just at weekends but he took over the company in 1983, eventually selling it and creating his own trucking company in Santa Rosa – Reliable Liquid Transport, allowing him to spend more time here. “I am still on the payroll to this day but do very little on a regular basis. My daughters have run the company for many years now.”
In 1981, whilst attending labor meetings between the trucking companies and the Teamsters Union in Reno, Wallen found himself having a drink after a long day of negotiations. “This fantastic blonde woman bought me my glass of Chardonnay. Her name was Elizabeth and we got on really well. I found out she was teacher getting her credentials and working as a waitress while she did so. Like myself she had two kids from a previous marriage, but unlike me she was planning to soon get married again. It was like two ships in the night and we parted.” Over the next few years Wallen continued in the trucking business, coming to the Valley for weekends. Between 1990-93, the house was built and he gradually made more social contacts in the Valley. “Then, around 1994-95, I happened to be in Reno again and I decided to see if Elizabeth was still in town. I called her, she was now a teacher in nearby Sparks, and so we met up. We were now both single – she had not remarried – and one thing led to another and after a long-term relationship lasting several years we were married in 2002.”
As for Valley life, Wallen was one of the founders of the A.V. Wine Growers Association and drew up the original A.V. Appellation map with Hans Kobler formerly of Lazy Creek Vineyard. He remains an associate member and now leases out his own 2 ½ acre vineyard. Elizabeth is more social than Wallen and he readily admits that his social life has taken off since her arrival. Their children and several grandkids are a big part of their lives, although none of them live here in the Valley.
“I love that we actually have a community that exists here. If there is a need to do something around here then it seems that this community can and will do it. I have put my roots down here – a beautiful place… I am not a great social guy but when I started to raise sheep here I really enjoyed that the community as a whole, through Floyd Johnson at the Johnson Ranch, would sell its lambs as a community. People like Floyd made me realize what a community is; he made sure I was involved in the decision-making. Who was I? – A newcomer, and yet he always included me. There are lots of community-minded people here like Floyd… However, I am concerned about the increasing population here – I see a lot more lights in the hills these days, and there is a glow in the distance over Yorkville – yes, Yorkville! But I have to ask if I have a right to criticize this… The other thing that concerns me is growing old in a rural valley like this. Many folks live up in the hills, somewhat isolated. What happens when they can no longer do the necessary chores etc? Many do not want to leave the Valley to go and live in Ukiah or wherever, so I hope the Elder Home is able to take this into account and expand if it possibly can.”
I asked Wallen for his views on some current Valley issues… The wineries? – “Making the land productive is a positive thing, I believe. Of course, putting in vines has externalities, to use an army economic term. It affects those not concerned in the process of making wine. Some of these externalities can and have caused problems and unrest. I was a sheep guy but that saw no income so I too planted some vines. The wineries have certainly changed the Valley and will continue to do so. Many of the wineries come in and do everything they can to mitigate the effects of their imprints here and bring something positive to the Valley. Roederer Winery for example. The family of the headman there, Arnaud Weyrich, is a credit to the community, a part of the community. Roederer is obviously a big business but I don’t mind them being here because they have made efforts to do it right as a winery and to get involved on a personal level”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I cannot say that I like it. I used to think that owner and editor Bruce Anderson was a bit of a bully. I hear he has changed these days and Elizabeth sometimes reads the paper and tells me some of the news”… The tourists and changes in the Valley? – “The changes are inevitable and as for the tourists, they have a low impact overall and, per dollar spent against the costs, I think that they are beneficial.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Wallen 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? – “When I look out of the window across the Valley I often murmur, ‘Aahhh’ with great satisfaction.”
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “May be ‘profitability’ – so much is excused by the use of that word.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Trees.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Waste.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “I don’t have one.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “An animal in pain.”
What is your favorite curse word? – “Like many others probably – ‘oh, shit’.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “Growing vegetables.”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “Livestock rancher.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “Penitentiary guard.”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “There have been so many… I known that the day I married Elizabeth I had never been that happy before.”
What was the saddest? – “I’m not sure if it is the saddest but I always remember the day when my Great Dane dog died in 1964.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “I like to think that I am able to consider myself as being not selfish.”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “As I get older I have become so disenchanted with everything I’ve seen to do with organized religions that I am agnostic. Therefore, I imagine he’d say ‘Surprise!’…”

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Comments (5)  

Fred Wooley – February 6th, 2010

As Fred lives at one end of the Valley and I reside at the other, and with no obvious quiet spot in town to meet, we decided to ‘risk’ The Redwood Drive-In on a Friday morning and sat down there with some breakfast and a cup of coffee each. I was concerned about too many interruptions as I sat with the well-known Sunday afternoon radio show host but it actually worked out very well…
Fred Osborne Wooley was born in December 1946 at a hospital in Bronxville, a suburb of New York City, but his family lived in Manasquan on the New Jersey shore and that’s where he grew up. He had three younger sisters, Sarah a couple of years younger, then Anne five years after that, and finally Susan two years later still. “My father, also Fred, was a captain on a merchant ship, as was my great grandfather, and my Dad was at sea when I was born. He had grown up in New Jersey of English descent while my mother, Margaret White, was originally from Vermont but she grew up in the N.Y.C. suburb of New Rochelle. Again she was English and her descendants had come over in the 1760’s. I knew my grandparents quite well because we had them all on each side of our house as neighbors until I was eight years old!”
Fred Wooley Sr. quit the merchant marines in 1952 and joined the Coast Guard. “He was gone virtually the whole time, getting just a couple of weeks off a year but he took a pay cut with the Guard to spend more time with his young family. He also had to take a demotion as the Coast Guard is regarded as military whereas the Merchant Marines are not and therefore he began at the bottom of the officer ranks, although he eventually did become a Captain in the Guard too.”
The new job would mean having to move the family every three years. “You had to be ready to do this, so although we started off in Staten Island, New York, in 1954 he was transferred to Long Beach, Orange County, southern California. It was a shock to me. I was in 2nd Grade. We lived on a housing development, in a tract home, in an area that was very conservative – John Birch country in fact. It was the time of the McCarthy ‘witch-hunts’ for Communists and I have quite vivid memories of people talking about this. My parents were Republican but far from extreme. They became good friends with a neighbor across the street, an old-time Democrat, and they began to think a little differently about things. I remember my 9th Grade teacher at high school being targeted by right-wing wackos who accused him of being a Communist. He was very popular with the kids but they tried to get him fired for his political beliefs. My parents were friends of his and it got a little ugly. It was the first time I realized that there was a vicious struggle going on here in this country – there still is. The events made a big impression on me. My Dad ended up doing back-to-back tours in that area so we ended up staying there for over six years, until the end of my freshman year at high school.”
In the summer of 1961, the Wooley family had to move again with Fred Sr’s job calling for him to be stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana. “ I was fifteen years old, just learning to be ‘Joe Surfer’ in southern California and attending a very big school of 2300 kids. Suddenly I was in the outskirts of New Orleans in Covington, LA, attending a school a quarter of the size. All I’d ever heard about the South was bad – the Ku Klux Klan, snakes, the oppressive weather. I was really bummed out about the move at first and was treated as the weird kid from California. It was very tough for me to fit in and although I did get good grades it was still like I’d gone somewhere in a time-machine.”
Growing up, Fred had often been taken on board ships by his father and had long known that was what he wanted to do for a living so he didn’t apply for a job anywhere else or for college when he graduated from high school in 1964. “Then I failed the physical because I had a mild case of scoliosis – a deformity of the spine. I had put all my eggs in one basket but fortunately just being a graduate of a Louisiana school meant I could go to Louisiana State University (L.S.U.) in Baton Rouge so I applied and got in there. At that time my family were moved on again with Dad’s job – which this time meant going back to southern New Jersey and they lived in nearby Philadelphia.”
Fred says he was never a dedicated student and he really only went to college because the Vietnam War was building up and it was basically school or the army. “I thought I’d better go to college but then I flunked out after the second semester. I got a job in the summer of 1965 working on oil tankers up and down the east coast and in the Gulf and liked it so much I stayed on for six months and saved a lot of money. I eventually returned to college in January 1966 although I always returned to work on the tankers every summer until I graduated with an English major in 1970 – then I signed up for the Merchant Marines full-time.”
It was whilst at college that Fred really began to get into music. “In 1964 I heard this guy called Bob Dylan for the first time. I thought this was the coolest stuff I’d ever heard. “The times they are a-changing’” was a song that really influenced me. I wanted to be Bob Dylan! I sort of became Bob Dylan in that I bought a guitar and harmonica and learned his music and then played his stuff live at bars around the college and in the local town. He was not a big name at that point but underground left-wing college kids would know about him and he had a solid following. Of course it was a time of lots of student anti-war protests and I played at various rallies opposing the war. My Dad did not approve but by 1967 he had taken the family to Germany for his next tour.”
Fred had signed up for the Merchant Marines and worked for Esso (later called Exxon) “because they had the best deal of eighty days on and then forty days off, more time off than other companies. I enjoyed the job but always looked forward to the time off and to the music scene I was in. In the end, in 1973, I quit the tankers and decided to give music a go full-time.”
Fred rented a home in Baton Rouge, painted houses by day, and played music at night. “We had our moments, I guess. It was a very embryonic band and I never made any real money. We played country/hippy stuff, progressive country, and I was a hippy I guess but I was never able to take their ‘vow of poverty’ very well. I had many great times but eventually I got tired of being broke all the time.”
Fred returned to the Merchant Marines in 1977 with the firm idea of becoming an officer. “My Dad was very pleased when I became a 3rd Mate in 1979. I still had my hippy friends but unlike most of them I had a good job too. We continued to play music and I put out two albums, in 1980 and 1984. Meanwhile I gained lots of sea-time experience and was a 2nd Mate for most of my twenty-three years. I did become a 1st Mate towards the end of my time and ultimately a Master, although I never sailed as one. I still lived in Baton Rouge but most of my ships were anchored in San Francisco and sailed up and down to the Alaska oil pipeline, stopping in Seattle, S.F. and Los Angeles. I would make about four or five trips on each tour which once I was an officer was sixty days on and then sixty off at a time.”
Over the years Fred became very fond of San Francisco and enjoyed many a shore-leave in the City by the Bay. “I had many great times in the City, it had always been a great sailor’s town. I also made friends with one of the Bay’s ship pilots, Russ Nyborg, and he invited me up to his home in Talmadge by Ukiah for dinner with him and his wife Annie. I loved the area up this way and heard the name ‘Boonville’ and thought that was a cool sounding name. I rented a car on one of my visits to the Nyborg’s and drove over to the Valley. It struck me immediately as a very tolerant place. I had bought horses in Louisiana in 1983 and had learned to ride and take care of them and I had decided I wanted to live in the country where I could have my horses. I had become burnt out in Baton Rouge so I contacted Bob Mathias at Rancheria Realty and he took me to a forty-acre parcel on the Yorkville Ranch. I had been making good money as an officer and something just grabbed me about the Valley. It seemed like a place I could fit in. I guess every sailor has a plan for a place in the country. I bought the property in 1986 and started to spend all my vacation time here. I contacted a contractor, Bill Charles, and we built a house with a workshop and horse stalls and I moved here full-time in 1988.”
“I didn’t know anyone up here but heard about a group of older hippy-types that would get together and play a version of volleyball they called Jungle Ball. This group included Rainbow, Steve Derwinski, Buckhorn Bob, Lady Rainbow and Henry Hill, Doug Read – the kind of crowd I was into… I worked on the house for four years, during every vacation I had on my 60/60 schedule. I enjoyed my job but was always happy to come home to the Valley. Most of the people I worked with on the tankers were great people and I loved being responsible for the navigation of the ship, charting the course while taking weather and distances into account, and being responsible for the equipment and corrections in the ship’s charts. I would do my twelve-hour days for sixty days at a time then come to Anderson Valley for two months.”
By 1989 Fred knew that this was a place he could make his permanent home and so he brought his horses to the property. “Prior to that I did not have a very optimistic feeling about how humanity was going. Country life appealed to me and the Valley seemed to be a place where I felt I could fit in. I was three-and-a-half miles off Hwy 128 up a dirt road, with no power or phone but soon I got a solar system in and finally ran a ‘farmer’s’ phone line up to my house about fifteen years ago… I love it here and was married to Kim Howland, an artists, in 2006 when I was fifty-nine years old. I have built her a studio on the property. It’s nearly finished – like lots of the jobs many of us living up here seem to have!… One of the downsides of living up here in this beautiful remote place is that everything involves driving, a trip down a mountain for many. I accept this now but at first driving up here was like driving to the end of the earth. However, I do like being off the grid – it’s one more step towards complete freedom.”
Fred has also ‘done his bit’ for the community by serving as a volunteer fire fighter for the past thirteen years and, since 1990, he has either had his own show or been a fill-in on the local public radio station, KZYX & Z. He has now had his own show, The Audible Feast’ for fourteen years. “I was a big fan of public radio in my Baton Rouge days. In those days I loved the program, ‘Music from the Heart of Space’, an N.P.R. show featuring mostly ambient music; very peaceful, dreamlike music and I would often record the show… I love turning people on to music and I have always made tapes for friends. I talked to Pilar Duran and Johnnie Bazano at the station and they showed me how to work the equipment. Initially I shared a show with Joe Petelle on Saturday at 9am called the ‘Wage Slave Wake-Up’. Joe tired of doing the show so Teresa Simon, the station manager at the time, put Jimmy Humble in the slot and I shared another show (I was still on the ship half the time) with Long John before eventually I got my own slot on Sunday at noon, taking over a show from Charlie Hochberg and Steve Ruben but keeping the ‘Audible Feast’ name.”
“I love the Valley’s sense of community, people pulling together. As I said, I wish I could do less driving but that’s o.k., given the plus points of life here. Being involved in the fire department and on the radio gives me a great sense of community. Both are lots of fun and volunteering is a great thing, being a participant and not just an inhabitant… However, I do think about growing old here and it could be difficult where I live. The day will come when I am too old for ranch work and will probably move to town at that point, hopefully a town in the Valley, but we’ll see.”
I asked Fred for his views on a few of the issues that Valley folks discuss on a regular basis… The wineries and their impact? – “I have lots of friends in the business and I love wine. It is an important part of the local economy and provides jobs for many people. Of course the use of water is central to this issue and I wonder if we should have any more vines here. I don’t like outside outfits coming here with outside workers, and the use of pesticides is a concern too. Organic grape growers can succeed, I’m sure – they just have to learn to live with the bugs. I know it’s a very emotional issue, like logging was for years. Too much timberland was bought up by corporations and quickly turned into money and then they left. Will the wineries do the same?”
KZYX & Z public radio? – “I am a big fan – public radio is a beacon of light in the darkness. It’s not perfect by any means but it is a huge help in informing people of what is going on. News reporting is so incomplete on commercial radio… I like the N.P.R. programming, ‘This American Life’ is very creative and just grabs you, the Celtic music show, and Jimmy Humble’s show”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I like the A.V.A., although in the past there has been some made-up stuff. I do love these interviews – they help us understand each other better. They are a great addition to the paper.” (I gave Fred a $20 bill at this point!)
Changes in the Valley in recent times? – “They are inevitable. Even this little Shangri-La has to learn to adapt to change and live with that. Life in the U.S. has been too good for too long and we’re going to have to learn to change. The U.S. as a whole doesn’t want to hear that and we continue to have a shitty attitude as a nation that we project around the world. We are not entitled to have stuff others can’t have. We must learn to compromise if the world’s problems are to be solved. We need to check religion at the door and work it out together. However, as gloomy as it looks sometimes, I do see lots of signs of hope.”
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few questions to Fred 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 the phrase, ‘We deserve what we put up with’ – it can be applied to all walks of life… I also like a line from a Clint Eastwood movie where he plays a marine drill instructor and repeats over and over to the recruits, ‘Improvise, adapt, overcome’ – that’s very good advice.”
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I can’t”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “To play a good song well – I get a lot of satisfaction from that. Also from photography, paintings, images.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Bone headed people; narrow-mindedness; an inability to look at the big picture. Most people are pretty decent if they get good reliable information but too often they get their ‘facts’ from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “Music of all kinds; a cat purring is a great sound too.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “Television playing in the background or in another room, particularly singing commercials – it’s like fingernails on the blackboard to me.”
What is your favorite curse word? – “F*** – everyone’s favorite I would think. It is just a part of a sailor’s language – where profanity is required, although it can be picturesque sometimes if used correctly.”
Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I am a movie guy rather than a reader but I did love ‘All the Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy and have probably read just about all his books…’The Man who would be King’ with Sean Connery and Michael Caine is a great movie and I often think about it… As for a song it has to be “The times they are a-changing’ by Dylan – it said it all for me and a generation and it’s just as true today.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “Woodworking, photography.”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “An actor. I am a big movie fan and for me the character actors, the smaller parts in a movie, are the real heroes… Or may be an English teacher at a high school.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “A salesman”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “When I got my Master’s license in the Merchant Marines – it was the ‘biggest’ piece of paper I could get in my profession and meant I could be a Master of any size ship.”
What was the saddest? – “When my mother died last year at the age of ninety. She was an amazing woman.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I am not afraid to try something. Sometimes this has got me into things I should have had help with. It comes from being on a ship for so many years where it’s important to make things work. It is amazing what you can do when you are up against the wall so to speak,”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Steady as she goes” – it’s an old sailor’s term for ‘keep on going the way you’re going’.”

Published in: on February 18, 2010 at 3:22 am  Comments (2)  

Andrea LaCampagne – January 29th, 2010

At the request of the guest interviewee, this post has been removed.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Jill Derwinski – January 23rd, 2010

I met Jill a couple of weeks ago and as befits the manager at Brutacao Cellars we sat down to chat with some delicious wines – Chardonnay for her and Pinot for myself. Perfect.
Jill was born in 1951 in Chico, California, the oldest of four children born to Ray Johnson and Peggy Kepple, and she grew up in the nearby town of Paradise. Her paternal heritage is Swedish whilst on her mother’s side there are German and French roots, although both sides have been here in the States for several generations. Her siblings all had the same letter at the beginning of their first names – a trend in the fifties that I have found to be not uncommon in interviewing people born during that period. The Johnson kids are: Jill, John, Judy, and Jana.
Jill’s mother was a homemaker and her father was a car salesman in Chico, a rural town in those days with nearby Paradise not even having streetlights. “It was definitely the countryside; not unlike Anderson Valley and, like here, the crops were mainly apples in those days. I found school quite easy but much preferred being outside in the woods. I was a country girl at that point. We always had dogs and cats and I loved horses too. We didn’t have any but I did get to ride our neighbor’s”
In 1967, Jill’s father moved with his job to Alameda in the East Bay and Jill found herself in a new school for her sophomore year at high school. “I was suddenly in a huge school, Alameda was the big city to me and at that time the whole hippy and counter-culture movement was going on. I begged to stay with my grandmother in Paradise and managed to persuade my parents to let me do that for a semester but then I had to join the rest of the family in the January. I cried until May. I hated it. I missed the countryside and the woods and to this day I remember the smell of oil that seemed to be everywhere I went in Alameda. On top of that I had a boyfriend back there – the love of my life at that point. Every weekend I would catch the train at Jack London Square in Oakland and go to Oroville and stay at my boyfriend’s family’s house – our family and his were good friends. I am still in touch with him by e-mail, and a few other friends too from those days in Paradise.”
Jill had always managed to get good grades at her previous school but now she started to cut classes and fell behind. “I did slowly make some friends but my schooling was suffering until one day my counselor told me I would not graduate unless I got A’s in four of my finals. I was told, ‘you are smarter than this.’ Well, I finally started to try again and worked hard and got the grades I needed so that I graduated on time in 1969.”
Jill had grown up cutting her friends’ hair and she thought she might want to do it professionally. Therefore, during her final two years of high school, she had attended Alameda Beauty College at weekends, sometimes after school, and also during the summers. As a result, when she graduated high school she had more experience than many others. However, it was also while at school that she had taken on a part-time job for a shoe company that leased out the shoe department at the Mervyn’s Store. This job was good money whereas the beauty school was just for tips so when the shoe company offered her a full-time position after leaving school she accepted.
“I was ready to move out of home as soon as turned 18 in May 1969 and was in my own place before I graduated. My mother nearly had a heart attack when I told her not only I wasn’t going to beauty school, but that I was moving out of home and starting a job for the shoe company in Oakland. I ended up being in that job for twelve years and the shoe departments we had in Mervyn’s went from four to sixty-five in that time. My job was mainly involved with buying the sports shoes, an area of shoe wear that was taking off at that time with the introduction and early days of Nike, Adidas, etc. I was in the right job at the right time.”
Jill married at nineteen and that lasted six months. She married again at twenty-three – “he was a great guy and I still talk ton his Mom. However, about a month before the marriage my mother was in an accident that left her in a vegetative state. My father was had turned to alcohol and I felt responsible for the welfare of my three younger siblings. We were a very young couple dealing withy a lot and we split up… Then in 1974 I met and married Warren Malnick who was to become the father of my two children – Julianne and Jeffrey. We were together for nearly twenty years and I was the token shiksa (non-Jewish) in the Jewish family that owned the well-known women’s clothes stores, ‘J. Melnick’s’ in Oakland. I ran the shoe departments there and that’s how I met Warren.”
During those years Jill, who had grown up around dogs and who had always had dogs, started to help friends train their dogs. “I decided to start a little business on the side, part-time, but it grew very quickly. Originally I trained the dogs for free but realized I could do this really well and so I asked people for their comments and built up a portfolio. I also studied some books but most of what I know comes from simply growing up with dogs. I trained all different breeds with all kinds of problems. At one point I was also writing a pet advice column for the Alameda Journal called ‘Dog Training with Jill’… For a time I would take on large groups of fifteen dogs or more and work at the Harbor Bay Club but I found that the owners wouldn’t listen or concentrate so I went back to small groups of five and lots of individual sessions at people’s homes.”
In 1979, when she first became pregnant, Jill quit working in the shoe business and for several years concentrated on raising a family whilst still doing her dog training part-time. Then in 1989, a pet store in Lafayette in the East Bay went up for sale. Jill was offered part-time work there to see if she would like it. “I loved it of course and bought the store, ‘The Pet Grocery’, in January 1990. It was mainly food and supplies and I did some dog training out of there although by that time most of my other training work was cut back.” She and Warren split up in 1991 and then the shop next door to hers became available so she bought that too – an exotic bird store. “I had always been interested in birds and over the next few years I had an awesome time, and the business was financially successful too.”
During those years she met Drew Crane, who was a consultant to pet stores. “We fell madly in love and used to come up this way for romantic getaway weekends. We’d drive through Anderson Valley on our way to the coast and loved coming through here although we rarely stopped. Then in December 1997, New Year’s Eve in fact, we stayed at The Griffin House in Elk and the next day we both couldn’t stop thinking how we could live up here. We had no idea what we could do but had discussed the possibility of running a bed and breakfast. My grandfather Paul Kepple, who had been the Butte County Supervisor, had owned a hotel but I have no real memories of that. Anyway, we checked out the realty situation and saw that The Philo Pottery Inn in Anderson Valley was for sale so we stopped by there on our way back through town and met with the owners. Then on the way home to the Bay Area we fantasized about the possibilities. Shortly afterwards, in February 1998, we made the owners, Sue and Barry Chiverton, an offer and in May we took it over. My friends in the City used to ask me what I did up here and wondered whether I got bored. I told them there always seemed so many things going on with one group of people or another – it is such a vibrant community.”
Jill kept the stores in Lafayette and initially she and Drew would come up to the Valley on Thursday evenings and stay until Monday morning but it wasn’t long before Drew moved up to here full-time and he soon got to know quite a few people, even joining the Chamber of Commerce. “We loved it here and had moved for the lifestyle, not for any money-making ideas. After a year or so I finally sold the stores and moved here full-time in September 1999. Then in March of the next year, Drew got very sick. He was diagnosed with colon cancer that was in its advanced stages and he died just a few weeks later on April 27th, 2000.”
It was a very tough time but Jill said to herself, “I can do this, but I do need someone to help with some of it.” Manuel Soto came and helped with all the yard work and handyman chores while Sheena Walker, a high school student at the time, would come to help with the turnover of rooms on Sundays. Jill also cut back from the full breakfast to a small continental style meal. She became close friends with Leslie Hummel of the Boonville store, ‘All that Good Stuff’, “Leslie offered to help me whenever she could and basically ‘took care’ of me in those days, always being there for dinner or a game of cribbage.”
After a year or so it became too much to handle and in June 2001 Jill sold the business to Monica and Beverley who still own the property today, although the Inn has now closed for that purpose. Jill’s sister lived in Cottonwood and Jill bought a house in Redding, not far away. “I hated leaving and once again was very tearful. I had enjoyed my time here and had made several friends. I was with one of them, Tom Cronquist, on Hwy 128 near to Boont Berry Store – he and I used to walk together – when he introduced me to Steve Derwinski who was passing. We had met before and I said, ‘we have met before but you won’t remember me.’ He replied, ‘Oh, I do, it’s Jill.’ He was nice but I wasn’t interested in meeting a man. I was having a tough time, my life had been so hectic over the past few years – the new B & B, the long commute from Lafayette a couple of times a week, and then of course Drew’s passing, and my struggle to keep the Inn going. Anyway, Steve offered to help me move by packing my van and then when he turned up and found three other guys helping I think he was put off. Some time later during my move I went to his house for lunch which we had sitting on his boat that was in the driveway. On that occasion he showed me his steel drum and I expressed an interest in learning how to play so we started to communicate about this after I had moved and he arranged for a friend of his to make me a steel drum.”
Jill used to visit the Valley quite frequently over the next few months and usually stayed at the Anderson Creek Inn. “On one occasion Steve showed up there with the drum his friend had made and announced that he was going to ‘Burning Man’ in the Nevada desert and would be coming back to Anderson Valley via Hayfork, not far from where I lived. I said he could stay for a night at my house if he wished. Well, he showed up a day early and a week later we were both in tears as he was leaving to return here to the Valley. We had a great time together. Boom! He asked me to marry him a few weeks later and I moved back here in December 2001. We were married in January 2002 at his house off Anderson Valley Way, had a big party in town at Lauren’s Restaurant three weeks after that, and we’ve been together ever since.”
During the quiet times at the Inn, Jill had picked up some part-time work on weekdays at Brutacao Cellars winery on Hwy 128. Soon after her return to the Valley and resuming her job there, she was made manager and still is.
Since her return, she occasionally will do some dog training for friends in the Valley and Steve has taught her to play the steel drum, performing with Steve and Fred Wooley as The Trio Stevo. She has also done yoga with Melissa, been in a women’s manifestation group with Audrey, and these days is really into the rowing boat Steve made her for their anniversary. “His called his boat ‘Jilly D’ so I got to name mine FUP, after a duck character in a favorite book of Steve’s that we read together… I love living here – the people are a big reason why. At Drew’s memorial that we held at the Inn I could not believe how many people showed up. We were relative newcomers but the support I received was incredible. It is shown time after time here, people coming together to help each other… I do like to visit Hawaii every year and go with Leslie – I could live there part-time but I have no desire to travel that much and certainly have no plans to ever live there permanently. We are quite social and love to go to parties in the Valley and have our own big event for many friends on New Year’s Day here at home. The scenery is spectacular too – it’s a little piece of heaven and we are so fortunate to live here.”
As I always do, I now asked my guest for her brief responses to various Valley issues that seem to be on people’s minds these days… The wineries? – “Well that’s a question kind of hard to answer. The wineries provide a whole lot of jobs in an economy where there are not a lot and they certainly make the Valley look very pretty. I know a big peeve amongst folks is the amount of water used but wouldn’t this still be a problem if other things were planted here instead? Actually it is more than a peeve of course – water is going to be the next oil”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I don’t read it that often but may be I should!”… KZYX & Z local public radio? – “Since Steve quit his show I don’t really listen that much. I appreciate public broadcasting but find myself listening more to KGO”… The changes in the Valley? – “I like most of them and we are never going to be a Napa as some people suggest. We are too isolated and the drive on Hwy 128 puts many people off – that is fine with me”… The school system? – “I don’t have first hand experience with this but hearsay suggests that there is too much ‘white flight’ in recent times and my concern would be in keeping the kids of those families here in the Valley. Are the standards being maintained at our school? Why are people leaving and putting their kids in other schools? Having said that it is ultimately up to the parents to push their kids through and parents and teachers should talk this through and come up with the best option for each kid. I do see parents being afraid to say ‘No’ to their kids; they want to be their child’s friend. In some ways it is just like training dogs – you need to have boundaries and be consistent in maintaining them.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Jill 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 ‘Hi, sweetie’ – I use that phrase a lot.”
What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “May be ‘I don’t like him, or her’. Any sort of complaining.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “These days it’s rowing my boat. I also love to walk early in the morning or to be hiking in the woods.”
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Politicians talking nonsense. People not using plain old common sense.”
What sound or noise do you love? – “The sound of the river or birds singing.”
What sound or noise do you hate? – “Cell phones ringing – I don’t have one.”
What is your favorite curse word? – Don’t write this but it’s ‘F***’. Isn’t it everybody’s?”
Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “My favorite and one that made such an impression is ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and from that is my favorite song – ‘Over the Rainbow’ I just love that cheesy song… The book ‘Les Miserables’ also made a big impact on me – there is everything in that book, all manner of the human experience.”
What is your favorite hobby? – “These days my job is my hobby… I also love to knit and to read – novels and autobiographies mainly.”
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “A veterinarian was a dream of mine but I never thought I was smart enough but may be I was. My mother told me I had to be better at math because to be a vet you had to know lots of math. I never doubted her at the time and never tried to become one as a result. She meant well but it put me off.”
What profession would you not like to do? – “A roto-rooter person or a plumber.”
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The days my kids were born.”
What was the saddest? – “When Drew died.”
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “I am a loyal friend – kind of like a dog, you know. I like and accept all sorts of people and personalities.”
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “That would be something like, ‘All your friends are here, the German Shepherds are out back, and all the wild animals in the woods are your friends’.”

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 1:10 am  Comments (1)