Cheryl Schrader – May 10th, 2010

I met with Cheryl on a wet and windy morning at Mosswood Market in the heart of Boonville and with several customers sitting around we sat down with a coffee and began our chat in hushed tones…
Cheryl was born in San Francisco in 1946, the middle child of Edgar Chatham and Doris Green, who also had the older Sandra and son Steven… On her father’s side the family were English and they had settled in the South in the mid-1800’s. They were wealthy but the family ostracized Cheryl’s great-grandfather following some trouble with the law and he moved to Texas, and then on to migrant work in southern California where he settled. Cheryl’s grandfather was born and raised there, eventually having a family of his own – eight children, including Edgar. The mother of these children, Cheryl’s paternal grandmother, was from Germany and had been sold to a cattle rancher in Texas when the family came over from Europe. She too eventually moved to California and worked on the farms where she met Cheryl’s grandfather and they had Edgar in 1905. “I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for farm workers”… On her mother’s side, the Green’s were descendants of the Graves’ family who had come to California as part of the ill-fated Donner Party that was stranded in the Sierras in the winter of 1846-47, leading to the death of over half of the ninety adults and children making the journey. Cheryl’s great, great grandmother was one of the survivors and eventually settled in the Sacramento area where, a few generations later in the 1930’s, Doris met Edgar Chatham and they were wed.
“I had a wonderful childhood; I don’t think I could have had a better one. I am very fortunate. We settled in Oakland and my mother ran a pre-school out of the house and Dad worked as a civilian for the Navy at Hunter’s Point in the San Francisco Bay. From 1947 on, we took a family vacation to Tahoe every summer and my parents bought two lakefront lots on Donner Lake not far from there for $25K with $5 down and $25 a month. It was fantastic and I have many great memories of running all over the mountains with friends who would stay with us. We camped for a few years but eventually cabins were built and it was a great place, not really discovered until the 1970’s.”
Cheryl went to schools in Oakland and while she was not a particularly good student overall she enjoyed her school experience. It was during these years that she started to take in stray cats, often hiding them in her bedroom, sometimes ending up with several at a time. “My parents always found out but they let me keep them as far as I can remember, despite the fact that my sister was allergic to them. It’s all a bit vague now but I do know we always had cats around.”
Cheryl was in her junior year at Skyline High School when she started to ice skate at the rink in Berkeley. “I had my driver’s license and would drive there for a two hour practice practically every day before school. We were let out of P.E. by the school because of this activity and I really began to take it seriously and entered competition in ice dance – both in singles and pairs. I was paired up with Allan Schrader and we did very well together, often winning the Bay Area competitions before being eliminated at the State level – we never made it to Nationals.”
After graduation in 1964, Cheryl had no intention of going to college. “It never entered my head. My parents hadn’t finished high school and most of my girlfriends didn’t consider it either. It just wasn’t the done thing for most people I knew. I was a ‘C’ student anyway and with algebra conflicting with my home economics and typing classes at school I never got the necessary math, even though I did like it… Skating dominated my life and as we entered more and more competitions, Allan and I got closer and fell in love. We were married in 1966 and thanks to his inheritance from his grandfather’s trust we were able to buy a house in the Oakland Hills and a duplex that we rented out. He worked at United Airlines at San Francisco airport and I found a job as a typist for an insurance company in their claims department. However, when we applied for the mortgage my income was not considered – I might get pregnant was the way things were viewed – but we had $10K from the trust which was a lot of money in those days and with more added every year this enabled us to make the down payments on the house and duplex, and over the next few years another duplex, an apartment, and eventually a 12-unit building.”
Although Cheryl was living in the East Bay during the time of the Vietnam War, the many anti-war protests in nearby Berkeley did not affect her. “Allan was too old to serve, nine years older than me, and by throwing ourselves into the world of competitive skating we seemed to miss so much of what was going on in the real world. The whole hippy/peace movement did not reach me. It seems strange now but that whole movement came right to where I lived but it remained off my radar.”
Over the years Cheryl and Allan worked on the upgrading and maintenance of their properties and slowly backed off from the competitions but did maintain recreational skating and most of their social life involved friends from that scene. Neither of them were into drinking, smoking, or drugs – “I was possibly the only kid in Berkeley in the sixties who never smoked pot, although I had no problem with those that did, I still don’t. My aunt had died of tuberculosis and my parents looked after her so seeing her struggling to breathe stuck with me and I had decided nothing was going to go in my lungs which might lead me to breathe like that. It killed her.”
Cheryl and Allan started a family with Jennifer, who was born in April 1972 and then Eric, born in May 1974. Despite earning very good wages, Allan was unhappy at his job with United Airlines where he worked on propeller engines, and wanted to move out of the urban environment. They started to look for some country property and found fifty-five acres in the Yorkville area, which they bought in 1974 for $25K – where Fire Chief Colin Wilson and his wife Patty now live. “We bought the property but were not ready to move up at that time. We stuck it out in the Bay Area for a few years until life in Oakland became just too difficult to deal with and in1978 we moved up. There was nowhere to live on our land so we lived in the house on the opposite side of Hwy 128 and had plans to build on our place. We had three kids by this time, Brian was born in September 1978, and we soon came to realize we would have to find some work. We sold the 12-unit building and used that money to buy the Redwood Drive-In in Boonville and a house on Anderson Valley, where I live today. In those days the Drive-In was much smaller, just a restaurant, although having no restaurant experience at all meant that it was going to be tough no matter how small it was. How did I survive? Hard, hard work… Moving up here was not my dream, Allan really wanted to and I didn’t object. I had a hard time adjusting to country life for some time and it was not an easy transition. Allan loved it right from the off. There was no going back, the die had been cast.”
“At that time, in 1980, there were really just us and the Horn of Zeese Restaurant in Boonville. The Hotel was temporarily shut down – it was a wreck and undergoing renovation although I do remember Mike Shapiro, the realtor, running The Sundown Café for the hippies and back-to-the-landers out of there at one point. What is now Lauren’s was a Mexican bar and, err, well brothel, I guess you’d have to call it… My place and the Horn of Zeese catered to the old Valley families and I worked many hours to make it a success. I was there at 4am to let the loggers in for breakfast and coffee. We were often packed by 5am. There were still lots of logging trucks coming through here in the early eighties. Over time I hired a staff as I became more involved with the kids’ activities at school and Allan became more reclusive. He was getting out less and less, hiding in his garden and working on the remodel of the house on A.V Way. He was hermit-like and looking back he was probably sick at the time and I didn’t realize it.”
Over the years when the three children were in school Allan was known for his Blue Van as he and Cheryl transported their kids and many others around the Valley and often way beyond. “We were into bribing kids with trips to A’s games or skiing trips to the Sierra’s if they got good grades. We helped with the senior trips and thinking back we always seemed to be driving kids somewhere for many years… At the Drive-In we had opened the gas pumps in 1982, added the mini-mart, and by 1998 the new regulations came in and we had to install new pumps. This would be a major expense. The Drive-In was almost paid off at that time and to this day I’m not sure if it was the best thing to do. I felt like I had a gun to my head. If we didn’t add the new pumps we would have gone out of business like the Chevron Station down the street had to. The government would give us half the $400K that it would cost but that was still a lot of money on our part. I didn’t think doing just the restaurant was an option so we added the new pumps…. Business was good for a time but following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the tourist trade dropped off dramatically. People just stopped coming to the Valley in the same numbers.”
In 1999, Cheryl was driving through Boonville when she saw some puppies running lose at the side of the road by the Mannix Building property next to the firehouse. “Apparently they had been running loose for a few days, crossing the roads to the Fairgrounds and back with nobody aware of their owners. I wasn’t sure what to do. There were three of them and I collected them in my truck and called the Animal Care and Control in Ukiah. The officer came over the hill and told me he’d taken them away and said that in all likelihood they’d be killed in a week. It was a 100% kill rate at that time at the AC & C. It’s about 17% now. Anyway, on hearing this, I refused to hand them over to him. I knew nothing about animals really, other than that I had always had compassion for them. In fact I knew as much about looking after them as I had about the restaurant business when I started that. However, it turned out to be the start of the A.V. Rescue.”
Cheryl spayed and neutered the pups and found homes for them but not before two more dogs were handed in to her at the Drive-In. She has never been without homeless dogs since. During the days of the expansion at the Drive-In she had to be around the jobsite so her staff had coped very well with the restaurant side of things. She found herself not wanting to return there after the construction was finished but needed justification for this – starting Animal Rescue provided this.
“At the beginning it was all my own money that supported the cause. I had lots of help from our bookkeeper at the Drive-In, Kay Jablonski – it could never have been done without her. We started by getting our employees’ pets spayed and neutered and word spread very fast. If you found an unwanted pet or stray, it was a case of ‘call Cheryl’. The number of cats and kittens was overwhelming in those early days. I would take between 25-30 of them from the Valley to the S.P.C.A. in Kelseyville every month to be spayed or neutered. It was an all day job – The Spay Run. Their owners would drop them off the previous evening and I’d have them all inn baskets/crates in my truck, take them over there, and bring them back for pick-up in the late afternoon. It was nearly all cats – it still is.”
“A few months later I was outside Leslie’s ‘All that Good Stuff’ store in Boonville with some kittens up for adoption. A woman came up and wrote me a check for $100 to show her support. I was shocked. I passed it on to Kay who was even more surprised – it was actually for $1,000! I called the lady, Katherine Evanson, who lived in Yorkville. She told me she would give more if we were a non-profit and offered to help me set that up. We set up a board of myself, Katherine, Gina Barron, and Linda Martz, then wrote the bye-laws and sent a check to the I.R.S. for $800 and in 2001 became a Non-Profit.”
With Cheryl the driving force behind the organization, the A.V Animal Rescue grew quickly. “Gina knew dogs better than I did and taught me a lot, and she knew many people in the Valley which was also a huge benefit. Katherine helped when she could and she continued as a huge benefactor, giving us $1,000 every month… By 2003 we knew we had to set up some sort of adoption agency and I approached Petco in Santa Rosa to see if they would allow me to set up with pets for adoption outside their store on Saturdays. They agreed and from may be five cats and one dog in those days I have now have a regular crew that goes every week and takes may be as many as twenty cats and seven dogs.”
There have had many dog walkers over the years and Cheryl wanted to mention Dan and Harumi, Gina of course, Joel, Bridget, Sheriza, and of course Jim who is big part of Animal Rescue today. “I can’t remember them all now, I’m sorry.” Once again Katherine came through with funds when they put in the pens behind the Drive-In and Petco still donates $10,000 a year. The A.V. beer Festival has also given very generously since the beginning, as have many local organizations, such as the Lions Club and the A.V. Film Festival.
Gina Barron died from a brain tumor in 2005 and this was a real blow to the dog side of the operation. Cheryl found it very difficult to carry on Animal Rescue without Gina and the ups and downs of running such an operation continue to this day. “However, from 2004/05 I started to go to the A.C. & C in Ukiah and take dogs out for adoption. Because we were Non-profit and the new Hayden Bill that had passed I could now do this. I did it in memory of Gina – ‘we’re gonna save more dogs’ was my motto in memory of her. It was almost out of anger at her loss; I was going to stop them killing dogs… I was in the A.C. & C office one day and a dog owner was handing over their pet to have it killed. I told the officers I’d take it. They wouldn’t let me have it. A big scene developed that ended when they forcibly took the dog out of my arms and took it out back and killed it. I was furious. I went to see Supervisor Colfax and two others and wrote a letter to the Ukiah Journal with a photo that had been taken during the struggle. Things changed after that and also following the arrival of John Morley as the new boss at the A.C. & C. Now the officers cannot euthanize the animals; it has to be done by a vet… Add to this the addition of Sage Mountainfire as Adoption Coordinator for Animal Services and the relationship between Animal Services and us had never been better. She and I are in constant contact and she does a great job. Her efforts have saved many dogs lives.”
“Why do I do it? Well I have compassion for animals that drives me on; I simply don’t want to see them die. That’s what keeps me going. I do get tired but I have to be tough. I accept the fact that no one person or organization can save them all. At this point I am so happy we are very close to no-kill with the cats. In 2009 approximately 350 were killed in the County – far too many, but ten years ago it was about 10,000 – all because of the work of A.V. Rescue. We have fought with the County on many issues and now, with Bliss Fisher as Director of Animal Services the future is looking as bright as it ever has. She will do everything she can to ensure cats are not killed.”
In May of 2007 Allan, who had suffered from severe diabetes but did not really accept his condition and change his habits, passed away following a heart attack. Then in 2007, Katherine died and left her entire estate to A.V. Animal Rescue. This has allowed the website to be expanded and Internet adoptions are now possible. It also led to the free spay and neuter program that was introduced between November 2009 and April 2010 during which time 1100 animals were seen. “Our goal is to become the first No-Kill County in the State. That is a little overwhelming but we’re going to give it a go.”
In 2008 Cheryl sold the Drive-In and bought a house in Grass Valley about three-and-a-half hours away. “I need a place where I can be when I get older and have family nearby – my daughter lives up that way. However, this has meant the loss of the pens behind the gas station and so dogs found in the Valley have to go over the hill to the A.C. & C. in Ukiah – not as bad as it used to be and I am involved in decisions regarding their future. This is not ideal and we would love to find someone who could donate a small space in the Valley for some pens. I would pay for the installment obviously – help anyone?? The A.V. Rescue is not going to go away, although it might have to be more centered in Ukiah if we don’t find a space for the pens over here. The Petco connection is covered by my crew and for a time yet I will have my house on A.V. Way as my base and of course the 895-3785 number is still in effect.”
I turned to other Valley issues and asked Cheryl for her brief responses… The wineries and their impact? – “Well, like many others my biggest concern is with the water. I used to have plenty at my house but not now, and the quality of the water may be an even bigger problem. I could drink mine but now I can’t – it makes me sick. I wonder. Vineyard workers don’t get paid as much as the loggers did, so with the wine industry taking over it means that the divide between the working people of the Valley and the landowners has become greater”… The School System? – “My kids all went to the A.V. schools and did well. I think the school is good but at least 50%b of the children’s education has to be the responsibility of parents. I think we all need to support the schools. The demographics have changed a lot and it seems to be human nature that once a group has been in the majority they find it hard to be seen as a minority but we all must adjust”… The A.V.A. Newspaper? – “I like the A.V.A.; I like Bruce’s style of writing – a telling-it-like-it-is-with-tongue-in-cheek kind of writing”… Marijuana? – “It should be legalized”… Supervisor Colfax? – “He’s always been a supporter of the A.V. Rescue and I like him. I’ve no idea who I will vote for this time.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to my guest. Some of these are from a questionnaire featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton” and some I came up with myself many months ago. I have also recently added a few more new questions and hopefully you will find Cheryl’s answers interesting and illuminating…
What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing creatively, spiritually, emotionally? – “Seeing my grandson… Seeing an animal who has been in ‘jail’ getting a good home… Walking the dogs on a beautiful day in the Valley”…
What annoys you; brings you down; turns you off creatively, spiritually, emotionally? – “The attitude of some animal control officers towards animals… The fact that humans think we own the planet – we need to allow space for others even if it is a little inconvenient… We need to be more tolerant of each other too”…
What sound or noise do you love? – “Wildlife noises… The music of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart”…
What sound or noise do you hate? – “All the dogs barking at the same time… Motorcycles… Guns – more often than not it means something is dying… May be I’m a weird old lady?”
What is your favorite food or meal? Your ‘last meal’ shall we say? – “Anything sweet… A last meal – some really good bread and butter, a great Danish, some delicious coffee, and some ice cream – simple”…
If you could meet one person dead or alive, one on one for a conversation, who would that be? – “The founders of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. They do it themselves and have done so much to help the welfare of animals”…
If you were to be left completely alone indefinitely on an isolated island in the ocean, what three possessions would you like to have with you? – “A good book; a soft mattress; and a dog – you’ve got to let me have a dog.” It does break the rules but for Cheryl I made an exception.
Do you have a favorite film/song/book or one that has influenced you? – “I like the Star Trek films – I like the hope they offer… And any music by Beethoven”…
What is your favorite hobby? – “It used to be hiking and I’d love to do that again up in the Sierras when I get some time”…
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt if you were given the chance to do anything? Your fantasy job, perhaps? – “A marine biologist – studying the ocean”…
What profession would you not like to do or are glad never to have done? – “A cook in a restaurant – never, ever again”…
What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “The births of my children…Our family trips up in the mountains when I was a kid”…
What was the saddest day or period of your life? – “Many with animals obviously but overall I’ve not had a lot of sorrow in my life… Gina’s death when she was in her thirties was very upsetting”…
What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically / mentally / spiritually? – “My compassion, my ability to work hard – that I just keep going”…
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Assuming that when I get there my parents and a whole lot of dogs and cats are there too, I ‘d like to sit around with them and hear him say, “You can take a break now, find a cloud, sit down, and enjoy your family and friends”…

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Published in: on May 20, 2010 at 12:03 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice article Steve. I work with AVAnimal Rescue and didn’t know some of the things written.

  2. Hello Cheryl, this your almost son-In-law Patrick Gabriel, Just was looking around the web looking for old friends, and found this story you are an amazing woman.


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