I should inform readers that each of these interviews will have initially appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser which is published every Wednesday with a subtitle of 'America's Last Newspaper.' You can also check out this unique newspaper at www. theava. com
Anderson Valley is situated in Mendocino County about three hours drive north of San Francisco. The hub of the Valley is Boonville, with communities also found in the towns of Yorkville, Philo, and Navarro, with a total population of about 3,000, depending on who and when you ask, which is spread along about 25 miles of Hwy 128 West.
I am from the English city of Birmingham but moved to the U.S. in 1983, spending most of the last twenty years in San Francisco where I owned a pub/restaurant. I first bought property in 'The Valley' in 1992 and finally moved here from ‘The City’ full-time in 2002, attracted by the scenic beauty, the unusually wide spectrum of people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and a deep desire to ‘get away from the craziness.’ Over the ensuing few years I found myself increasingly involved in various walks of Valley life as I threw myself into activities such as shepherding, soccer coaching at the high school, writing for the local newspaper, and working part-time at wineries and local bars. As a result I heard stories from those in every sub-community here in the Valley and this, coupled with my long-held interest in local histories, led me to conduct this continuing series of interviews with folks from these different, yet frequently overlapping communities. These interviews basically cover the life histories of current Valley residents, whether they have lived here all of their life or came here as recently as ten to fifteen years ago, and also include my guest's views on various Valley issues and each 'conversation' ends with an unusual sort of questionnaire that hopefully gives a little further insight to each of them.
The guest interviewees featured here are from all walks of Valley life, including the old-timers whose families settled here between 1850 and the 1930’s; the Arkies and Oakies who came to work in the booming timber industry of the post-war years; the hippies and back-to-the-land’ers of the sixties and seventies; the winery crowd that came as part of the huge upturn in that industry during the eighties, along with the Mexican community that has seen a dramatic increase in size hand-in-hand with the wine industry’s rapid expansion; and finally a few ‘Brightlighters’ - former city dwellers like myself who had decided to head for the hills before it was too late!
I view this project as the gathering of valuable oral histories of this unique place and of those who reside here, and I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading the interviews as I did in conducting them...
Kind regards, Steve Sparks