Thursday, January 8, 2015

Making Butter

When we were kids, an after-school job at our neighbor's house was to churn butter as we watched Rin-Tin-Tin or Sea Hunt on the old black & white TV.  We were mesmerized.

In those days, TVs were a luxury item, and there were only two to four channels—that often broadcasted snow, depending upon where you lived. Reception was bad in the deep pocket valleys of Arroyo Road. The Stones lived on the Lagunitas side of Barranca Creek. I lived at the end of the canyon on the Forest Knolls side.

I remember watching Les Stone hitching himself up to the top of the tallest tree, lugging up an aluminum arial, and armloads of copper wire. Elaborate arial setups laced to the tops of tall pines worked, until the next big storm. They were like weathervanes. Long flat arial lines from the top of the Douglas fir to the house had to be maintained. A crack in the plastic cable, during a storm, and the line would short out. No TV. Just loud snow. The sound of deep space hissing.

So it was pretty exciting to be able to even watch TV. Stephanie Stone and I were horse crazy so we were partial to Lassie Come Home and Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. Rin-Tin-Tin was OK, because he looked like Ky-dog the German Shepherd—even if there were no horses.

One afternoon, it was my turn to churn the butter. I churned and tumped and churned until it felt like my arms were going to fall off. I churned my way through Rin-Tin-Tin to the 6 O'Clock News. My aching muscles were afire.

Still no butter. When I peeked into the churn, it was clotted, like snow on the TV. A loud thundercrack overhead. Lightning arced and struck the arial. Buckets of rain. In this way I found out that butter won't churn during a thunderstorm. It came down to science. Much more mesmerizing than the TV.

Multnomah Falls

Michael Horodyski Icy Jewel 7176 
An old high school friend posted a winter photo of Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River Gorge. It was so gorgeous, it took my breath away. Just thinking about how cold it must be in winter, also took my breath away.

And when we hiked up to the top of Multnomah Falls last summer, I was breathless, too, but for another reason, as my knee wasn't fully healed from surgery, so I used an old ski pole as a walking stick. It was bequeathed to me by the ski lift operator on Crystal Ridge—where we spent a stellar afternoon gazing at Mt. Rainer.

Neil kept telling me I shouldn't be hiking up to the top, but I was determined. it was a personal best moment. I'd been flattened for nearly a year and a half with this knee injury.

With the orphan ski pole, I was able to poke and prod my way up to the top of the first falls. It was muggy. Dragonflies practiced arial rolls worthy of the Red Baron. A storm was brewing somewhere. We lingered, refreshed by the waterfall mist, and lulled by the roaring water. No need for words. We counted rainbows until we were drenched and chilled to the bone.

Coming downhill from the falls was excruciating. I resorted to an odd crab walk, pivoting around the ski pole on alternate steps. I tried hopping, I dragged my injured uphill leg and sashayed. At one point I thought about sitting down and just scooting down on my butt to the parking lot. If only I had some cardboard. But a mile of road rash was daunting. I thought I'd never make it back down to the parking lot to my icepack and pain killers.

I hadn't been to the falls since the early 70s, right after high school. But despite the distance of time, memory was served up correctly. I hadn't forgotten how marvelous Multnomah Falls really are—despite the thundering hordes of tourists seeking the ultimate selfie shots, midsummer. Magnificent Multnomah. Gorgeous gorge. Refreshing—a page out of memory, like the picture stenciled on the cans of Oly my grannie used to sip on hot summer days.

This post was inspired by Katelin Stuart, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, (via Facebook) and Michael Horodyski. I've asked Friends of the Columbia Gorge for permission to share the photo. Here are two links to Michael and his work.

Michael Horodyski, (He also took the iconic cantelevered fog enshrouded tree shot on the way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Icy Jewel 7176   Multnomah Falls is one of the Jewels of the Columbia River Gorge. It's not often that we get to see her covered in ice. We were headed towards Spirit Falls and it was raining/misting in the Gorge and all the falls were frozen. We decided to take some frozen "traditional" photos. It was kinda fun looking at the falls in all their frozen glory. Seeing things with new eyes and such. Both tiers of this falls make up the 600+ feet drop. For size comparison check out the person on the right side of the bridge in red.

Trying to remember to save first drafts...didn't quite succeed. I keep rewriting and rewriting, and a sentence becomes two, then a paragraph...

It's so gorgeous, it takes my breath away, it takes my breath away, when we hiked up to the top of Multnomah Falls last summer, I was breathless, for another reason, as my knee wasn't fully healed from surgery, so I used an old ski pole to poke and prod my way to the top. Coming downhill was excruciating. But I'd forgotten how marvelous the fall are. I hadn't been there since the early 70s. Memory served correctly. Magnificent.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Mother House at Dominican

During the summer of 1989 we held our 25th annual California Poets in the Schools conference in the Mother House at the Dominican Convent in San Rafael. It was a a big international event with guest poets from several Writers in the Schools programs, and poets from the USSR and Mexico.

Dominican Convent, San Rafael, California, circa 1908 [postcard‘ Marin County Free Library 
The Convent, dedicated on July 21, 1889 in San Rafael, California, was originally the home for nine Dominican Sisters, four postulants and one novice. The same building housed a girls' school plus high school. The Sisters also taught children at St. Raphael's School at Fifth and A Streets. The college was increased to a four-year institution and the first class of Dominican College graduated in 1922. The elementary school and high school moved to San Domenico in San Anselmo in 1965. In 1971, the College became coed, and in April 2000 Dominican changed its name to Dominican University. The Convent burned in 1990, and the Sisters elected to replace the remains with a new, more modern building.

The Mother House was an intricate and ornate four-storey affair, built of solid redwood. A grand Victorian dame replete with cupolas, bell towers and widow walks. There was gorgeous turned woodwork, hidden nooks, lace-curtained vaulted windows and Greco-Roman touches worthy of any fin de siècle grand hotel. Massive grand staircases, fine tongue and groove, intricate tile-work, wall panels of black walnut, oak and rich mahogany patterned veneers.

The Mother House was a living museum. I was attracted to the early California plein-air pastoral paintings worthy of the Hudson Impressionist School, probably hung on the walls when they were still wet. There was a rumor of a Rembrandt. It also contained the usual array of religious iconography, stained glass, and wooden shields, heavy antique claw-footed furniture, and vast carpets of Persian rugs blossoming everywhere.

I gave a presentation in the foyer on my poetry and art exchange program in the USSR. It was an uncomfortable time for me as my ex, John Oliver Simon was also there, so I was a loose cannon. As it was, I had run off to Russia to escape John, his poetry program, and my past.  But you can't escape the past. It stays with you like a shadow. (Later, I would be a modern day Conchita—Doña Maria Concepción Argüello, California's first postulant, was a star-crossed lover who grew tired of waiting for Count Rezanov to return from the dead. But that's another story...)

John and I went to great lengths to avoid each other, like wary cats, and of course, then we'd run into each other, chest-thumping on sharp turns of empty stairwells. Face to face, filled with awkward dités, punctuated with profound silence. That weekend, fate had its way with us, rubbing our noses in our own excrement at every corner. The University’s motto, Veritas fax ardens, means “Truth Is a Flaming Torch.” Dirty laundry aside, I was on fire.

At the party we shared a slow dance, Goodbye, Sweetheart, an unchained melody, for old time's sake. A temporary truce, within the sanctuary of nuns. Everyone was hoping we'd get back together. Kathy Evans teared up and said, Are you sure it's over? You fit so perfect together. But I was one mass of raw scar tissue, unfit for any man (or woman).

At one point, in order to avoid John, I ran off to join a poetry caucus encamped on the front lawn. Tobey Kaplan laughed, and said, What are you doing here, this a GAY caucus! Sure enough, Francisco Alarcón, Fernando Castro, Patrice Veccione and others were there. But I wasn't about to leave. I needed mothering. I said, You're all poets, aren't you? And so they made room for me on the nurse-log.

The Dominican shield for the year of my birth, was a purple heart, Caritas Omnia Superat, Love Surpasses all Things. Yeah, right. I deserved a purple heart just for surviving the relationship. But I had to learn the hard way that anorexia was not a workaround for betrayal. For John's year, it was Pax Copia et Sapientia, Peace, Abundance, and Wisdom. Neither of us could find peace, and wisdom was hoarded in a future that will never come. Our cross to bear.

After the big evening poetry reading, Jorge Argueta, Celia Woloch and I sat on the wide verandah, after curfew, drinking aguaguardiente, telling ghost stories under a full moon. I thought for sure we were all going to go to hell. But the ground held. It held. The word Dominican, (domini canes) means "Hounds of the Lord." I sure didn't want them hounding me throughout all eternity.

The Dominican Mother House turned a hundred years old that summer, and it was redolent with ghosts of the past. Some of them were my relatives. I'm sure when the nuns, hard up for income, opened up the convent to educational groups, that wild poets dancing in the foyer, and drinking whiskey on the porches was not exactly what they envisioned. On the other hand, the nuns were conscripted to educate the children of the wild 49ers, a rough and ready bunch of outlaws.

The history of Dominican University of California in traces back to 1850 when Joseph Alemany was appointed Bishop of Monterey.
As Bishop Alemany was returning [from Italy] to his new post in [Monterey] California, he stopped in Paris and expressed a desire to have a few Dominican sisters join him to teach the children of the forty-niners. Within three years, nine women (three American, one Mexican, and five Spanish) joined Sister Mary to form the Congregation of the Most Holy Name. In 1854, the Dominicans moved to Benicia.
History of Dominican University
Conchita, or Sister Dominica, was the lone Mexican sister in that congregation, she lies in a graveyard in Benicia, and someone brought dirt from Rezanov's grave so they could share the same earth as they eternally slept. California's saddest love story of unrequited love fired the imagination of Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky who wrote Juno & Avos, it inspired Bret Harte who wrote of
"the love at ne'er grows old," and Gertrude Atherton wrote a novel about the love affair. It was mentioned in many histories of California, including the works of Hubert Bancroft, and an 1885 history by Theodore Hittell. —SF Gate

We all slept in shocking random configurations in the old St. Thomas dormitories. There was a covered walkway that connected the dorms. Like stepping back in time. The buildings stank of old linseed oil, the contractors must've already been working on restoring the buildings during 1989. Someone wrote on Facebook that the convent fire began on the top floor, from an unattended air blow torch (used to blister paint). The painting contractor got the job because of his sister, who was a nun. No one was injured. Some of the Aubusson rugs, antique furniture and fine art was salvaged. But much more was lost in the fire.

So sad that the Mother House burned down the following July. We were planning on having our next annual statewide conference there in 1990, and we had no place to go. The Ann Hathaway cottage was far too small. I don't remember where we wound up holding our conference. I don't think Walker Creek was a conference center yet.

I had a relative at Dominican. Yes, a Dominican nun. She eventually became Mother Superior—but not there (I think). She died recently, at the age of 97. I don't recall her spiritual name but she was my grandfather's sister, Anna Reilly. She left the order, went back to Ireland, and then claimed several Irish holdings that should've come to our family. Not a very nice woman in the end. 

Several of my mother's cousins and relations attended Dominican during the early 1960s. Many teachers I knew got their teaching credentials at Dominican, it was the first college in California to grant BA degrees to women. It wasn't even coeducational until 1971.

In 1854, the Dominicans moved from Monterey to Benicia (following the state capitols, as it were). An Irish woman, Mother Louis O'Donnell (1887-1929) was responsible for moving the school, and novitiate from Benicia to San Rafael in 1889. Conchita, or Sister Dominica did not make that final journey from Benicia but she was there in the Mother House, in spirit. Irish women (Mother Jones) were instrumental in establishing public schools across America. During WWI, the convent school expanded to include the purchase of Meadowlands, the summer home of the illustrious de Young family, as well as holdings of the Buck family.

My cousin got her BA ca. 2010 from Dominican so we got to see lots of old building interiors, not all of it was destroyed, just the mothership. The Mother House was like a big ornate wedding cake to God and the sky. Sadly it's not the first Victorian that's succumbed to careless contractors with blow torches. Helluva birthday party, burning down the house like that. 

And only now, 25 years later, am I able to write about it. 

As usual, this began as a tiny Lost Marin Facebook post that grew and grew. I never think a Facebook post will morph into a blog, and I also never think to save the first simple iteration. Only after extensive revision, once I have a vested interest in it. The original post went something like this:

I had a relative at Dominican. why yes she was a Dominican nun. She eventually became Mother Superior—but not there (I thnk). She died recently, at the age of 97I don't recall her nun's name but she was my grandfather's sister, Anna Reilly. Hey Barbara Dillon Reilly! In the summer of 1989 we had a big international California Poets in the Schools conference in the Mother House. There was early California art on the walls, and incredible rugs everywhere. I gave a presentation there on my travels to the USSR. We sat on the verandah and told ghost stories. The building was then a hundred years old. We slept in the old St. Thomas? dormitories. Pretty cool. So sad that it burned down soon afterwards. We were planning on having our next annual statewide conference there in 1990, but it burned down and we had no place to go. My cousin got her BA ca. 2010 from Dominican so we got to see lots of old building interiors, not all of it was destroyed, just the mothership. It was like a big ornate wedding cake to God. Sadly it's not the first Victorian that's succumbed to careless contractors with blow torches

here's the Facebook link to the post.

BACKSTORY: I was able to glean this from an online newspaper search—the OCR was loaded with typos and stray articles. The information, so hard to glean is too good to pass up. And besides, Conchita figures heavily into my USSR writings. I would've given my eye teeth to find this article during 1990, as it was damned hard to come by, and I found out about it accidentally when the Leningrad Rok Opera came to Fort Ross to sing Juno & Avos. That's where I met pop singer Valerie (Valera) Stupachenko standing in line for dinner at the fort, we bonded over borscht and salmon. He was part of the group that got stranded on the research vessel, the Akademik Shirshov, during the putscht. Then I later ran off to live with him in Leningrad. Wild times.

According to an article in the Daily Independent Journal, the Dominican Sisters sent two nuns to take charge of St. Vincent's Orphanage in 1868. When my grandmother's house in Forest Knolls was remodeled during the 1950s, all the windows came from that orphanage. The connections run deep. 

Daily Independent Journal, Page 62,  March 25, 1961
San Rafael, California Dominican Sisters Brought College To Marin 
Donvent and gardens—This building was the first one to be erected on the Dominican campus in i889. Solid redwood was used in the building that is when the Marin Convent was rimmed by a wide hedge and wooden gates. Later metal gates replaced the original.Today both the gates and hedge are gone. 

Twenty-one years after the Dominican Sisters sent two nuns to take charge of St. Vincent's Orphanage in 1868. the mother provincial received permission to move the order's mother house from Benicia to San Rafael. Since then the Dominican Sisters have developed a small girls’ school into one of the outstanding woman's educational centers in the West. 

The sisters arrived in California in 1850, part of a small band who had crossed the Atlantic from Paris to New York by schooner and the Isthmus of Panama on muleback reaching Monterey where they opened a school and novitiate named Santa Catalina. The following year the order received its first postulant. Concepción Arguello, daughter of Don Jose Arguello. once governor of Alia California and later of Baja California. 

Concepcion was born in 1791 at the San Francisco Presidio where her father was comrnandante. When still a very young girl, Concepcion met Count Nicolai Rezanov, chamberlain and personal representative of the Czar of Russia, Rezanov tiad traveled to California on a diplomatic mission in the early part of the 19th century. The Russian nobleman fell deeply in love with the dark-eyed California girl and asked her to become his wife. 

THE ENGAGEMENT was announced and Rezanov left for Russia to make his report before returning to California to claim his bride. But Rezanov never came back. Many years later, long after Concepcion herself was dead it was learned the Russian nobleman's ship might have been lost at sea. 

Concepcion became interested in caring for the poor and sick and when the Dominican Sisters arrived in Monterey she asked to be admitted to the order. She was accepted the following year and took the name Sister Mary Dominica. 

The Domincan Sisters moved their school and novitiate to Benicia 150 miles north to the Carquinez Straits in 1854. Benicia was the state capital. Daughters of California families were sent to complete their education at St. Catherine’s in Benicia until 1889 when the school was moved to Marin.

 In 1862. the Sisters opened a school in San Francisco. St. Rose of Lima that today is a junior and high school at Pine and Pierce Streets, and in 1870 another school, St. Vincent's in Vallejo that is still operating. 

WHEN THE CAPITAL was moved to Sacramento, Benicia fell into de- cline. and the mother house of St. Catherine's was beginning *o worry about survival. The Sisters received a loan to start in San Rafael. Land was purchased from William T. Coleman. Coleman donated half the parcel valued at $20.000. 

In 1901 Dominican became accredited to the University of California and 14 years later Dominican Junior College conferred its first bachelor of arts certificate. In 1920 with the aid of the University of California. Dominican became a fully accredited four-year college. 

IN 1924, the college was empowered by the State Board of Education to grant certificates for teaching in the public high schools and grade schools of California, and two years later Dominican was placed on the approved list of the Assn. of American Universities. 

Today the college is a member of the Western College Assn. The college has promoted a number of firsts over the years including founding of the Marin Branch of the American Assn. of University Women in 1931. In 1932, Dominican was made the Pacific Coast branch of the Catholic University of America. To celebrate the Dominican Sisters centennial in California in 1850 the college initiated a graduate schooL


Epic love in old California: Concha and the czar's courtier / How a 15-year-old Spanish beauty fell for Russian sea captain, 42, and waited forever
Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer, February 18, 2006

Russian Rock Opera? Epic Love Story Hits Bay Area


Christian Burkhardt: Almost Amish

While weeding through an old suitcase full of my grandmother's yellowed newspaper clippings, I found an article on an old friend, a neighbor I used to know a long time ago. A dark clipping of Christian Burkhardt & his horse Brandy pulling a custom racing cart along the backroads of the San Geronimo Valley—a familiar sight during the 1970s.

Christian and I used to go on long trail rides over rough  fire roads starting out from Forest Knolls. One time we went all the way to Mt. Tamalpais along the San Geronimo Ridge, to Alpine Dam, via the the Meadow Club, in his two-wheeled racing sulky prototype made from a bicycle, wire mesh, and aluminum strips drilled out with big holes (to keep the cart light).

Or sometimes we'd go up the Lagunitas fire roads near Kent Lake along Bolinas Ridge, to Bolinas Mesa, and onto what is now called the Palomarin Trail. We'd trot past Double Point, Bass Lake, Olema, etc. The miles flew by, the open air stung our cheeks, we'd pack a lunch and take off down the open road, not knowing where we'd end up.

I taught Christian the English names of plants. I pointed out a primitive fern, Equus, I'd say, horsetail fern. He'd reply in German: wassercandlen. His father was a botanist, they were born in Germany, so it made sense that Christian would know the German names of plants. English was his second language.

Christian was super smart and had many odd notions. He was part eccentric, part geek, and almost Amish. He wanted to harken back to a simpler time that never was. He was somewhat steampunk'd decades before it was reinvented. But then the entire family was most original in thought and manner. The saying, They broke the mold when....applied to the Burkhardts—all of them. Like the Amish people he admired, Christian wanted to be simple, he wanted to be plain. In fact, he did eventually apprentice with the Pennsylvania Amish community.

Christian lived with his parents and grannie on a house on a knoll that his father Hans had designed, made of river stone, cement, and floors with radiant heat. Hans loved the trees, and managed to build his house around them without resorting to scorched earth practices. Christian built an elaborate treehouse in a Douglas fir, with cathedral windows, electricity, a record player and a telescope (much to the dismay of Stephanie Stone's parents). That gave Christian quite a reputation. The Stones invested in bedroom curtains.

I don't know what part of Germany the Burkhardts hailed from, but Christian's grannie didn't speak a word of English and she too was pretty eccentric. I remember being shocked when Christian told me that when she was a young girl, his grannie was an ardent fan of Hitler; when he came to their village, she broke her arm falling off a chair cheering for him. It probably saved her life. 

When I was a teenager, I'd found a Nazi dagger up our hill, buried in the dirt above our spring. Our neighbor, German Consul, Old Man Latendorf must've been hiding refugee Germans in the woods. The story goes, when things got too hot, and he too went into hiding, my Irish grandfather stepped in as acting German Consul. First, my high school math teacher, Archie Williams, shook Hitler's hand after he won the Olympics gold medal with Jesse Owens, and now Grannie Burkhardt?

When we were cleaning out my grandmother's house last month, my uncle found the old Nazi dagger, but it was so rusted, he threw it out. I should've saved it, the little black and white enamel swastica was still recognizable, but I didn't have the heart to keep it. It was tainted with too much history. I wasn't expecting it to resurrect and intersect itself here in this blog. But I digress...

View from Mt. Barnabe looking west toward Camp Taylor. we grew up on the other side. —Wiki

Back to our backroad explorations. Christian Burkhardt and I discovered that we could cover amazing distances in the racing sulky, much farther than if we were riding astride our own horses. Brandy, a dark mahogany bay Morgan with black points, a white sock, and a star on his forehead, could trot for hours. My horse had died a few years before, so I was truly horseless, no longer riding for Rafter L Ranches, and I welcomed the chance to travel my favorite ridges again.

On the way home from the Mt. Tam ride, we bit off way more than we could chew: we were late leaving Mt. Tam, it was so glorious at the top. A friend of mine, Dale Walsh, was working at the fire lookout, he invited us up and we spent the afternoon gazing out over the ridges of the Bay Area.

Coming back around Alpine Lake to the Meadow Club, we crossed the Fairfax-Bolinas Road, to pick up our fire road home, but took a wrong turn, and ended up on the top of Pine Mountain at sunset. Fantastic views of Mt. Wittenberg, Elephant Mountain, Big Rock RIdge. But we were on the wrong ridge that divided the middle arm of Kent Lake like a peninsula.

I told Christian we needed to veer to the right, and take what looked like a chaparral-lined goat track, but he wanted to stick to the main fire road. He said it made more sense. There was no arguing with him. He held the reins, we trotted to the west. Then towards the south. Wrong way. I threw a fit and got us to turn back towards San Geronimo. But we discovered that there was a fence in the way. We lost valuable time searching for a way back though the fence as we didn't want to backtrack all the way to the Meadow Club. We were also running out of daylight.

We needed to get onto the right fire road that followed the crest of San Geronimo Ridge paralleling Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad bed). I found a portugee gate of sorts, a mend in the fence; we were able to lift the sulky over the barbed wire, and sneak Brandy through a gap in the fence. I laid my vest over the lower wires so he could see in order to step over the treacherous wire. Good thing it was a full harvest moon to light our way. Otherwise we would've had to spend the entire night on the ridge.

After the second summit, I was never so glad to see the first sure landmark, the pygmy sargent cypress forest, and the ghostly serpentine outcroppings. (The San Geronimo Ridge was either Marin Municipal Water District watershed, or privately held ranch lands in those days, now the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve is accessible via the Bay Area Ridge Trail. See photos at the Bay Area Hiker's blog. A recent post is on Trailhiker's blog.)

To download this PDF of San Geronimo Ridge, go to MCPOS
I can't remember where we came down off the ridge, but I think it was by De La Montanya's place—we called it the deer camp road (there was an old deer camp on the ridge overlooking the lake, it ran into East Sylvestris fire road and dead ended at Meadow Way in San Geronimo. Of course none of us ever knew that the names of fire roads, or that they even had names. Google hindsight is a wondrous thing.

It was far too dark to follow the ridge to Forest Knolls even under a full moon. To come down off the ridge down Tamarack, or by the Nielsen's place on Resaca Road would have been positively suicidal in the dark. By the time we reached Arroyo Road, it was well after midnight. I was so cold, I wanted to trot alongside the sulky, but I had such painful chillblains, I could barely walk. I was never so glad to get home.

We didn't know it at the time, but when we didn't return home by darkfall, the families began to worry. Christian's father, Hans had sent the sheriff out looking for us, we were gone so long. Even my grandmother was worried, and she never worried much about me coming home after dark. The horse always brought me home. Christian caught hell for being out so late—they thought we'd been injured or killed. No cellphones or GPS back in those days, let alone, access to topo maps, we really were miles from civilization.

Poor Christian was socially gauche (as most adolescent boys are). He was always the little kid who lived down the road. He used to tag along after us when we went out riding. About the only thing we had in common was a love of horses.

I used to give him rides to SF State when we were attending college there during 1974-75. He helped to pay for gas and bridge fare so I was glad for his company as it was a long commute from Forest Knolls to Stonestown.

Christian didn't know his own strength. One time he twisted the door handle right off my old '58 Volvo panel van, not realizing it was locked. But he was also a mechanical genius, so he welded on a new shank and fixed it, not quite as good as new. But close. The handle drooped a bit. I offered to teach him to drive but he steadfastly refused. He didn't want to have anything to do with combustion engines whereas I was always under the hood trying to keep the damned car running.

Christian's father Hans, a botanist, was a pioneer in the process of cloning orchids. He'd hybridize and divide the orchid buds with a scalpel and put them in test tubes filled with coconut water. The orchid clones had to be constantly agitated in order to grow. There was a riot of rare orchids blooming all throughout their house. Christian's mother, Hannah, a quiet dark-haired woman of otherworldly charm, was his lab assistant. She was probably a doctor as well. There was much I didn't know about the Burkhardts.

The Burkhardts left the San Geronimo Valley and moved to a remote valley along the Noyo River during the late 1970s or early 80s. Their nearest address was Sanctuary Station, an unscheduled freight stop on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad freight line, now California Western Railroad line. The Skunk Train took them 20 miles to Willits or to Fort Bragg for provisions, but they were self-sufficient. The fire road into Sanctuary Station and Camp Nine was impassable during the wet season. I visited Christian a few times, as an activist poet friend of mine, Mary Norbert Korte, a former Dominican nun, was their nearest neighbor, and we held several rather wild California Poets in the Schools conferences at Mary's place.


Dr. Hans Burkhardt was an environmental analyst for Mendocino County, which was in the midst of clearcutting wars, disastrous for the Noyo River canyon. Hans' efforts led to the formation of the Mendocino County Forest Advisory Committee. He wrote a booklet, “Maximizing Forest Productivity” that outlined sound forest practices to sustain a healthy vibrant industry, but corporate forest owners branded him an extremist, along with marbled murrelets, northern spotted owls, EarthFirsters and Judi Bari.


When I was visiting the Burkhardts, poor Hans was nearly felled by a redtail hawk who mistook his shiny bald pate for dinner. Hans managed to live to a ripe old age of 75, fighting the good fight against big lumber. He's been gone ten years now. The Mendocino woods have lost a champion.

I heard that Brandy was killed by a car...but I'm not sure if that's true or not. I imagine it happened while Christian was driving one of his custom buggies. It would've utterly devastated Christian as he absolutely doted on that horse. I envision Christian living on that homestead deep in the Noyo forest, inventing all sorts of useful and harebrained contraptions. But our madcap buggy rides was surely the stuff of dreams.

I Googled Christian and Hans, and decided to post the links all in one place, especially as the short piece I wrote has suddenly morphed out of control. This is the extended revised version of the original post, and it seems to want a life of its own.)

Who remembers seeing Christian Burkhardt & Brandy tooling through the San Geronimo in the 1970s? We used to go on crazy long trail rides on the fire roads from Forest Knolls to Mt. Tamalpais along the San Geronimo Ridge, and up Kent Lake along Bolinas Ridge, to Bolinas, to the Palomarin Trail, Double Point, Bass Lake, Olema, etc., in his two-wheeled racing sulky prototype made from a bicycle and drilled strips of aluminum (to keep it light). Christian marched to his own drum, was super smart and had many odd notions, he was part eccentric and almost Amish. On the Mt. Tam ride we bit off way more than we could chew coming back around Alpine Lake, we took a wrong turn somewhere near the pygmy forest and got stuck on the top of Pine Hill at midnight looking for a way though the fence to get to the fireroad that ran along the crest of the San Geronimo Ridge. I found a portugee gate of sorts in the barbed wire fence, and we were able to lift the sulky over the fence, and sneak Brandy through the gap. Good thing it was a full harvest moon. The sheriff was out looking for us, we were gone so long.

You Fine-Haired Sons of Bitches
By Bruce Anderson - Anderson Valley Advertiser, January 31, 1990.
(Bruce and I worked together at the West Sonoma County Paper. We knew Judi Bari, of course. Earth First! was in the news and we were covering the stories.)

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1Indeed, whenever somebody did try to do their job, it was usually the result of pressure from Earth First! and other radicals that made this possible. On May 14, 1990, Mendocino County’s Forest Advisory Committee, by a vote of 11 to 6, resolved to send a series of emergency recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. [63] The FAC was an idea conceived of by Hans Burkhardt (among others) who was one of the first Mendocino County resident to identify the problems associated with the depletion of local timberlands. Burkhardt and others  approached the County Supervisors with the idea of establishing the committee, and the latter agreed, most likely because they saw it as a way to pass the buck. Evidently they had never expected the FAC to actually function. The persistent attendance and advocacy of local residents, such as Naomi Wagner and David Drell, helped push the FAC to take such a proactive stance...

Orchid lovers might recognize Hans Burkhardt's name

Re: The Orchid Hothouse - for Orchid lovers and those who appreciate them.
Post by: A**** on May 14, 2007, 10:17:22 AM

Hans Burkardt lived along the skunk railroad west of Willits, CA.  He did a lot of Paph hybridizing and had the pet project of trying to create tetraploids of every Paph species.  For several years we collaborated(?) on making P. sanderianum crosses with a very small plant that I bloomed several years (from Ray Rands, $600!).  Hans did have other sources of sanderianum pollen but the cost of trades for it was I imagine quite high.  At one time I was creating a traveling multi-media Paph show and wanted a picture of the latest and greatest which was the P. Kevin Porter (micranthum x bellatulum).  I asked him if I could name it after myself and he agreed!  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Gallo Girl

Bottom front page of Jane Friendly's Food Section, July 1, 1954, San Francisco Chronicle.

Found among my grandmother's papers: Aunt Jane Reilly was the first model for the Gallo wine girl commercial (it's a chalk rendering, she said the artist had to make her look Italian). Beginning in 1954, various permutations of this Vino Paisano di Gallo ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including in Times Square.

This ad was an image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the Sunday funnies. Reading them after church was a family tradition. I loved The Phantom, Little Orphan Annie, Prince ValiantBlondie, and Peanuts... The anti-Irish sentiment in Bringing Up Father was over my head. But I remember my grandmother muttering over it. I used to save Prince Valiant, and The Phantom cartoon strips in a scrapbook—because of the horses, I guess.
During World War II, because of paper shortages, the size of Sunday strips began to shrink… to save the expense of printing color pages. —Wiki
Sometime after the Korean war, William Randolph Hearst's  San Francisco Examiner and the de Young's  San Francisco Chronicle, rival newspapers, merged and created a splashy fat Sunday Paper in living color. 

During the week, my grandmother read San Francisco News Call Bulletin which had different funnies, and no ads featuring Aunt Jane. When the Call Bulletin foundered in 1965, my grannie mourned. My grannie had no use for Hearst or The Examiner, but she loved to clip Kenneth Rexroth's columns. She had no use for the Chronicle either. Called them all a bunch of yellow journalists. Which was the equivalent of being a red commie. But the Sunday paper merger brought images of my aunt's likeness to the coffee table weekly.

I guess the likeness is close enough. When my Uncle John came home from Korea, and saw the ad blazoned in Times Square, he said, "Hey that's my sister! What's she doing up there?" to his army buddies. They said, "Yeah, right," not believing a word. But when they got home to San Francisco, she was an overnight sensation. Because of this ad, I imagine an entire generation of good Italian boys were looking for their Gallo Girl in all the wrong places.

I still haven't found the color version of the ad. I assume it was when Ernest and Julio Gallo changed the name of Vino Paisano di Gallo. I wonder if Gallo went to full color when it was on the back page of the Sunday Funnies.

Full color printing is a misnomer. The ad is red and green, the overlapping colors makes the brown bottle color. Color was a pricy prospect in the newspaper publishing business. Only front and back pages merited any color splashes. So when the Sunday Funnies were printed in full color (yellow, cyan, magenta), it was a very big deal.

This half-page ad on the front page in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, is dated July 1, 1954. It took quite some time cleaning it up in Photoshop. Check out the price for a bottle of good dago red. I think the wine later morphed into Carlo Rossi. Gallo was up and running, turning suburbanites onto to cheap wine, buying out wineries from Sonoma to Stanislaus, and expanding their Modesto cooperative winery plant, including making the bottles. They helped build the industry. How many of you still have those old Gallo gallon jugs with the thumbhook, laying around?

I remember Grandma getting her Gallo wine jugs filled at the source. She favored Carlo Rossi. Her Italian neighbors, the Bianchis, the Schivos, Berinis, and the Tanzis made pilgrimages to the Italian-Swiss colony watering hole in Asti in Sonoma County for refills. Apparently, Tim Tanzi's grandmother bought it by the crateload, as getting to Asti was an arduous affair in those days. No Highway 101. I know the Gallo plant is in Modesto, so this must've been in the family. Younger brother Joseph Gallo had the Cheese Factory in the town of Sonoma. The Gallo brothers also bought wine from winery cooperatives in Sonoma and Napa too.

I found that the Vino Paisano di Gallo trademark of E & J Gallo Winery patent was filed June 8 1953, they opened for business in early 1954, so this is really the first ever Paisano ad; there were also television ads as well. I would dearly love to find the full color version of the ad from the late 50s. I've looked for it online. No joy. It was as if my mind were playing tricks on me, until I found the ads. This may be the first time that these Vino Paisano ads have appeared in print (on the internet), since the 1950s. Salud!

Full page ad, page 5, Sunday Pictorial Review, San Francisco Examiner, 1955


Old and Sold Antiques Digest  California wineries, Escalon, Modesto, 1955
E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto  (this is truncated, for full version, please go to Old and Sold Antiques Digest)
On a spring day of the last year of Prohibition, two youthful brothers, Ernest and Julio R. Gallo, visualized the coming rebirth of the California wine industry, dormant during the dry years. They thought of creating a modern winery and imagined that someday in the future homes throughout the nation would proudly serve wines from shiny bottles bearing their family name. Wine also had not had the chance to catch up with the progress of modern American marketing ways and this was the ideal time to do something about it.
Ernest was twenty-four and Julio a year younger. They had been brought up in the tradition of good wine, born as they were in the third generation of a California winegrowing family, whose forebears had cultivated vineyards and made wine in Italy's famed province of Piedmont. 
Ernest and Julio Gallo borrowed and scraped enough dollars together to rent a warehouse in Modesto to house a few casks and a grape crusher and to serve as a winery until they could build a cellar of their own.  In the old warehouse the first Gallo vintage was crushed and fermented that same year, I933.
A few months later they built a small wine cellar on the outskirts of Modesto. It was built and ready for use in 1935.
At first the Gallos made only red and white table wines, selling them in bulk to wholesale bottlers. In 1937 they began to produce port, sherry, and muscatel in addition to their table wines.
In the Gallo vineyards at Modesto, new varieties were grafted onto old rootstocks. Additional vines were planted to grow the choicer varieties suited to local soil and climatic conditions including Petite Sirah, Palomino, Mission, and Salvador. 
The brothers realized that, while in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties a wide assortment of choice grapes for all wine types was grown, Napa and Sonoma in the north coast counties provided the best grapes for dry table wines. Accordingly they selected grapes from each of these several regions to complete the assortment of varieties grown on their own vines.
It took seven years before the Gallo brothers felt that they were producing wines of the quality they wanted to market in bottles under the Gallo family label; it was 1940 when they first appeared on the market. A following of consumers soon developed and Gallo advertising began.
The company concentrated on trying to please the consumer. The Gallo brothers and their staffs interviewed buyers of their wines to learn the exact qualities of wine flavor, of dryness or sweetness, and of color that pleased house holders. 
 In recent years a light and mellow wine of the "vino rosso" type was developed with success, the Gallo "Vino Paisano," and in 1953 a Rose was marketed with promising results, made from Grenache grapes grown in the Gallo family vineyards.
The Gallos entered into long-term arrangements with other wineries, beginning with the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery of St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County, owned by some 150 growers. The brothers also provided an outlet for grapes and wines produced by their neighboring growers; in 1953 the Gallo winery began to receive the entire vintage of the Modesto Cooperative Winery. Similar arrangements were made with the Del Rey Cooperative Winery Association of Fresno, owned by eighty-five growers; with Frei Brothers of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County; with Vella Brothers Winery of Salida, Stanislaus County; with the St. Helena Cooperative Winery, Napa County growers. In all the Gallos provide an outlet for a thousand California wine-grapegrowing farmers.
In 1954 the Gallo brothers decided to eliminate the hundred-mile transportation of grapes from the southern San Joaquin Valley to Modesto. They acquired the historic Las Palmas winery, near Clovis, Fresno County, and initiated a remodeling program to bring the winery buildings and equipment up to modern standards.
By 1954, the Gallo production and marketing principles had proved their value and the brothers had come a long way since that day in 1933 when they first formulated their farsighted plans.
Much credit is due to the Gallo brothers, to bring sound winesmostly of the generic types-to the American public at a very reasonable cost and creating thereby many new customers for the wine industry. 

The Gallo brand wines available include the following:
Table wines: RED: Burgundy, Chianti, Claret, Zinfandel, and Barberone;
WHITE: Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Rhine, Chablis, Light Dry Muscat;
ROSE: Grenache Rose (an outstanding wine of its type);
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry, Cocktail Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry, and Cream Sherry; Port, Tawny Port, and Ruby Port; Marsala, Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica; Dry and Sweet Vermouth;
Berry and Fruit wines: Blackberry, Loganberry, and American Concord Grape Wine (from grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest).
A featured wine, and one of the best of its kind, is the popular "Vino Paisano di Gallo," an "old country style" table wine of the "vino rosso" type.
A Life of Winemaking at Wineries of Gallo... wine Spectator California Wine Oral History Series UC Berkeley, page 26

Life Magazine, has a mention of Vino Paisano, E. & J. Gallo, page 34, October 9m 1962. Pretty cool, the entire magazine, including ads, is scanned under Google Books, but it's slow searching. 

After I posted the ad on Facebook, my cousin sent me a YouTube link to a 1986 commercial  for Gallo Wines. The theme music, "Hymne" is by Vangelis. Something their Fresno Stag and Thistle pipe band plays on the bagpipes. So the Celtic crossover continues.

An aside: In 1986, the Gallo brothers sued their younger brother Joseph for selling cheese in the town of Sonoma branded with the Joseph Gallo Farms name. We loved his rich creamy jack cheeses, and it was always a treat to visit the store off the town square near the mission. Nothing like a free sample of aged jack cheese, or pepper jack from Joseph behind the counter. It was a big scandal, Joseph crowed that he got screwed out of his inheritance, but Ernest and Julio were powerful cocks-o-the-walk by the 1980s, and poor Joseph lost the lawsuit. He was allowed to use only his first name to market his cheese, under the label of Joseph Farms. 

Gallo is derived from rooster (gallus in Latin), but I think that's too easy a translation. It could be derived from Gallilei (from the Greek) which refers to someone from Galilee, or the Italian-Swiss Galli (derived from Gallo). The Gallo family hails from Piedmont—the foothills of the alps, near the Po Valley.

The Gallo/Galli patronym probably comes from the Cis-Alpine Gauls, a name for the Helvetii and Tauriscii (and the Boi, Cenomani, Venetii) Celts of Gallia-Cisapina. Tribes who settled the plains of the Po River Valley, in Northern Italy—you know, those warriors who crossed the alps with Hannibal in 218 BC? Yep. Po, from Bodinicus, probably from the Boii tribe.

The Italians conveniently don't like to remember that part of history. They'd like you to think Italy was settled solely by, well, the Italians. That old Caesar adage, wipe out all the Celts. Didn't happen. The Galli fought on both sides of that battle. Yeah, the Celts sacked rome and the Italians never forgave them for it. But the legacy of the red-blond haired, grey-eyed Celts remains. 

We won't mention the Medieval Irish monks who overran Italy, setting up monasteries and brewing potent medicinal herbal liquors and fortified wines for whatever ailed you. They were not celibate, mind you. Went agains their religious beliefs, to the apoplexy of Rome.


History of the Sunday comics

I found this link Prince Valiant, Sunday Pictorial Review, tying it to the San Francisco Examiner, 1954. No Paisano ad, though. Apparently people collect this stuff!

By right, this post straddles two years. It started out as a small paragraph on Facebook. On Jan 1, 2015, I extensively revised it.

Found in my grandmother's papers: my aunt Jane was the first model for the Gallo wine girl (they had to make her look Italian)l, and various permutations of this ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including Times Square. An image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the funnies. Still haven't found the full color version of the ad when they changed the name from Paisano to Gallo. This is a half page front section ad in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1954. Check the price of the wine.
The Paisano trademark of E. & J. GALLO WINERY patent was filed June 8 (1953), they opened for business in 1954, so this is really the first ever ad; there were also television ads as well.