Mark your calendars for October 8th for an entertaining Woodlake Pride evening at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Starting at 4:00 pm.
That sounds fun!
Woodlake is a foothill town of about 7,000 nestled in the center a circle of foothills on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bravo Lake occupies a large chunk of the heart of the town. In 1912 when Gilbert Stevenson purchased the acres to build the city, he envisioned a beautiful tourist town. BUT Stevenson built a levee around the town’s primary landmark, obscuring it from view.
Whaaaa?? Was he shortsighted or something?
Maybe, but Olga and Manuel Jimenez had some great ideas to beautify the levees.
And the City of Woodlake agreed to it?
You bet. They bought the land.
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
Worse than that, the area around it was vacant or worse – a weed haven. Manuel and Olga Jimenez change blight into bright and created Woodlake Pride, a service organization to perpetuate the beautiful park setting they created.
A student narrates the story of Manuel Jimenez’s vision for a student community service organization which he called Woodlake Pride in the video Woodlake Pride’s Wonderful World.
The real plan that Olga had was to “grow kids by planting gardens.” They started planting gardens in 1989, but eventually the city purchased 13 acres to turn into the beautiful gardens that we see today. The 1,700 rose bushes alone make this a wonderful world.
“It’s not like Disneyland,” Manuel Jimenez states.
Although it does not feature the number of varieties of roses found in famous gardens like the Boston Rose Garden, everyone marvels at the many varieties of plant life the Woodlake Botanical Garden on the way to the Sequoia National Park. It has become a major draw for sight-seeing.
It is that inspiring tale of what one person, or in this case a couple, can do in a community if they put their heart and soul into it.
“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.
Thursday’s 80-degree temperature in Woodlake could not have been more beautiful. My mood matched the weather as I drove downtown to General Food Store to meet with Gene Gong, one of the two directors.
Mr. Gene Gong works twelve-hour days, so it’s been hard to schedule a time to interview him. On this perfect day in Woodlake, he was waiting and ready to answer my questions about General Food Store and the grocery business.
What do you want us to know about General Food Store?
“We are a local store,” Gene Gong replied immediately
Next to Woodlake Hardware, General Food Store has been active in Woodlake in the same location longer than any other store. Congratulations to Woodlake Chamber members, directors Gene and Ray Gong, on celebrating the 55th year anniversary of their family-owned and operated General Food Store!
We met in their front office, which is actually open to the public at the front of the store. I work best in private quarters away from distractions. Not these two! They are right out front, nodding to merchants as they come and go, speaking to customers, answering questions – always accessible.
As a small town, Woodlake is fortunate to have two well-stocked grocery stores. Gene likened their store to a corner mom and pop operation. Yes, they know most of their customers, but I remember most corner markets as being dim, dusty, and cramped. General Food Store is none of these.
Shoppers today have lots of options when it comes to shopping, especially for groceries. It seems that everyone is in the grocery business – national grocery chain stores, gas stations, outdoor fruit stands, discount stores, trendy, and bulk stores. There might be an occasional corner market in a large city like the one my first husband’s parents owned in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA.
What does the small-town main street market sell most?
General Food sells time.And time is money! How many people in Woodlake have too much of either of those commodities? I don’t. But I act like I do.
It takes me 20-25 minutes at the most to drive into Woodlake and pick up grocery items and get back home. It takes me 25 minutes to drive to the nearest Save Mart in Visalia, and five minutes to find a parking place and walk into the store. I love Costco, but it takes about 30 minutes to drive there and 25 minutes to find a parking place and a vacant grocery cart, not to mention going through a line to get into and out of the store. Then I have to shop and get back home – 90 minutes at least!
Additional Amenities of Shopping at General Food Store
Wal-Mart sells cheap merchandise but has long lines, a dirty store, filthy parking lot, and crowded rows. Who knows, we might end up being featured on the People of Wal-Mart website, or be standing next to someone who is. Yikes!
Look how spotless everything is at General Food Store in Woodlake. Do you see the reflection of the meat department in the floor? There is plenty of room to push a full-sized cart around without having to pick it up and squeeze past another customer. Yet, there was a steady stream of customers while I was in the store.
It is so simple to shop here. Park right next to the door. Customers walk in, get a friendly greeting, pick up their cart and find things they need. There is no long check-out line. General Food Store customers are back home after shopping and visiting with neighbors in less time than it would take them to drive to Visalia and park their car.
So what if I save $2.00 on a bag of chips at the $300 store?
Items are easy to find.
I’m not a huge drinker, but I enjoy a glass of sweet wine with my husband once in a while. My favorite brand is Barefoot. It’s inexpensive and tastes delicious to me. When I pick up a bottle in Visalia, I have to walk up and down two aisles to find my brand. There it is in the red wines, and again in the white and pink wine areas.
Time elapsed? Five minutes!
All my favorites are together, and they are on special for the same price as I can get them in Visalia. How much time did I just save? About 60 minutes, on one item.
I love to shop for fresh vegetables. There are only two of us at home. Neither of us eats huge amounts of anything. You would not think that to look at my shopping habits.
In Visalia, I go to Costco, walk into that freezing cold room, practically run my cart around the perimeter, and grab a big plastic container of lettuce, one bag of broccoli and one of carrots. The lettuce sits in my refrigerator until half or more of it rots. Ewwwww!
When three-quarters of the bag of broccoli turns yellow, I throw it out. The peeled baby carrots get slimy before we can eat them all. I wash them off, but feel guilty because I don’t want to serve slimy carrots, so I throw them out. Then if I’m fixing dinner for company, I don’t have any carrots to serve. I either have to grab a can of something or send Vince to Woodlake to pick up some fresh vegetables at the last minute.
Vince hates the way I shop. I think I am saving so much money. What do you think?
Mr. Gong said that he stocks things people in Woodlake buy. Customers might not find the newest craze here. Yet, he keeps up on the newest nutrition and food buying trends.
“About six years ago people started using plain yogurt to make fruit smoothies. Woodlake people did not pick up on it right away.”
“Do you stock plain yogurt now? I started eating it about six years ago because a doctor recommended it to help me with weight loss.”
“Yes, now customers are buying enough of it to pay stocking it. But kale is in now, and you might not find that here.”
I bought a huge bag of cut kale from Save Mart in my refrigerator. After talking to Mr. Gong, guilt overwhelmed me and I ate a bowl of kale for breakfast this morning. I fixed it three days ago and stuck the leftovers in the refrigerator because I don’t like to be wasteful. I still have a half bag of uncooked kale in the refrigerator. It is about 2 weeks old. I think I need to rethink my shopping habits.
My husband drinks Lactaid. We go through a lot of it, most of the time. Then we don’t. I won’t tell you what happens to some of our milk. More often we just run out – just before Vince has breakfast at 4:30 am. We did not want to run into Visalia to get a half-gallon of Lactaid. After what Mr. Gong said about trends, I did not think they would have Lactaid, but I was WRONG!
I admit that we eat like gringos. I fix burritos and other Mexican dishes, but I do it the gringa way. However, 80 percent of our town is Hispanic. True Mexicans cook with spices that I have never heard of. My Mexican friends would be ashamed to eat my monster quesadillas. Vince goes to Super Taco if he wants authentic Mexican food. But the Gongs stock for their customers. I could buy eucalyptus leaves if I wanted them. Does anyone have a recipe for them?
Speaking of tacos, unless you are vegetarian, meat is the most expensive item on the grocery list. I eat chicken, chicken and, oh yes, chicken with an occasional filet of salmon and hamburger thrown in. I fix Italian meatballs for my Italian husband, and I do it the Italian way. I forgot to check out the sausage situation at General Food Store. There aren’t many Italians in Woodlake.
There are lots of fresh meat choices. Packages do not come in $30.00 sizes, which reminds me, I need to put my hamburger I bought at Costco in the freezer today or I’ll have to throw it out.
Apparently many customers like baby-back ribs. My husband does.
I believe in supporting Woodlake Chamber members. Mr. Gong has not been a member for several years and he renewed his membership during our visit. He is the first Woodlake grocery store to do so. You all know what this means, don’t you?
Cherries, sweet goodness, the joys and best of life
If the cherry is on top, all’s well that ends well, right? Life is a bowl of cherries. That is this week’s photo challenge, “cherry on top.” I tried to cherry pick the best photos from my 2016 collection that fit that description.
It was hot July 3rd in the Central Valley. As appointed photographer for the Kiwanis July 3rd Blast, I sought out interesting shots. Sure enough, here was the cherry on top.
She probably did not need to be coaxed to ride in the parade. In a few years, she will probably be Miss Woodlake.
At the Grand Opening of the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, we experience double-vision with this cherry-red cap. Maybe he is reading about the founding members of the Woodlake Lions.
The VIP opening of the Museum was a cherry topping experience for me. Here’s why.
My phone rang. I was about to step back into my tour bus in Hawaii. It was Carl Peden. We had never met, but he donated lots of artifacts to the museum from his time serving the White House as the pilot of Air Force One. On a whim, I asked him if he would be one of the speakers at the VIP opening. To my surprise, he agreed.
At the end of his speech he took off his jacket and handed it to our President, Rudy Garcia, for the Museum. What an electrifying end to his speech!
He proudly pointed out his name on the donor list to his relatives.
On President’s Day, two days later, he passed away. I think this event might have been the last cherry on his cake. We loved having him.
The Tulare County Agricultural Fair is the cherry of all ag festivals. Thousands of ag professionals come from all over the world to see cherries like the one pictured. They probably know what this machine does, too! I just think it’s pretty and red.
Cacti don’t bloom that often, but when they do, they give us a magnificent show. This cherry-picked this photo emerged out of hundreds during the Woodlake Botanical Gardens Berry Festival this May. Beware, do not try to eat it, though!
Las Vegas is hot year round compared to most places. Gelato seemed like the best option for dinner after hubby played a rousing hand of poker all day. Nourishing? Not really. A delicious end to a fun day? Definitely!
Though not overly thrilled with being the cherry in this picture, I was on cloud nine the week we were in Hawaii with my friends Carol, the Eternal Traveler from Australia, and Connie, my friend from TCOE, and their husbands.
You never know how it is going to work out when you put six people who have never traveled together on a week’s vacation, let alone six people, most of whom have never met in person. This Hawaiian trip was more than the icing on the cake. It was definitely the cherry on top!
We all look a little wind-blown. Make-up? Forget about it! Fun? You bet!
Huff, huff, huff! We made it to the top! My cherry-colored hat protected my face from frying in the sun, but held in the heat. Yes, I’m still smiling, but let’s sit down and have a nice cool drink, what do you think?
Near the end of the week, and we are still smiling, but I’m sad inside because it will end soon.
One week out of our lives, such a small chunk, but it leaves lasting memories as bright as cherries on a chocolate soda.
For more cherries, click the icon.
If you enjoyed this, be the cherry on my sundae and please share it.🙂
Because there is no theme other than odd ball, it is easy to choose pictures ahead of time.
Since there’s no theme but odd, it’s easy to write and schedule this challenge.
Even though Cee makes all her challenges easy because she announces the themes weeks in advance, this one is easy to choose pictures. That earns me hours away from the computer!
Yesterday I went through about a third of my pictures and pulled out 40 that I thought would work. Some of them I took on purpose because they were odd when I saw them. Others are odd because I took them and wondered why!
Even odder, why did I keep them?
Odd Pictures or Odd Thinking?
Now the only decision I need to make is to share the odd pictures or my odd thinking. Which would you prefer?
I’ll do one of each and see which one you like best, how’s that?
This was in my Hawaii pictures from January when we visited with Mr. & Ms. Eternal Traveler, and, of course, Justin Beaver. Maybe Carol knows what this is. Since it was with other shopping pictures we took of the ritzy shops in Wailea on Maui, she might even have a post about it.
By the way, Carol is a famous guest poster, and I just found this published article of hers on Google in the Hiker’s Handbook. Way to go, Carol!
All the explanation you are going to get from me is, “I just think it’s cool.”
Since reputation for having the ability to think is at stake here, I’d better explain myself.
Actually, this picture is unique and well-composed according to my daddy’s teaching. It’s framed with a pretty weed on the left. The gold and brown colors coordinate. And it has a bright rusty contrast.
I’m so defensive…
My reasoning for taking and keeping this
The real reason I took this picture was to help collect donations.
The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce found out this year that they own the sign that sits on CA State Highway 198, the main highway that goes from the coast to the Sequoia National Park. The sign alerts travelers that there is a cute, friendly, cowboy town north of the freeway a few miles with the best fries in the state.
Believe me you don’t want to go to the coast on Highway 198 with a motor home!
Or to the park either, for that matter, the hairpin turns are narrow and mountainous. That means wind and scary drop-offs. We did it at night one time, and I thought my husband would have a heart attack.
Back to the sign.
The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce is NOT wealthy! And suddenly it owns a sign that is falling down, and now we know it’s our responsibility to fix it. We could ask businesses and other clubs to donate, and we will probably do that because signs are expensive.
But now we are fundraising by selling donation tickets to win a trip to Maui – my husband and my favorite vacation spot.
So this is one of the photographs I took to document the need to replace it – as if the fading picture is not enough reason!
So now you have enough evidence to choose.
Which do you like better, odd picture or odd thinking?
If you liked this post, PLEASE share it with your friends.
If you thought it was stupid, share it with your enemies. JK, don’t do that. Just ignore them. Maybe they will go away.
This post has all the clickable links to get back to Cee and see other odd pictures or enter for yourself.
Car shows are still the rage in Central California. They attract car guys and gals with everything from new Mustangs to old beaten-up trucks decorated with suitcases. This was one of my personal favorites.
The Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Car Show is one of the last shows of the season in the valley where temperatures soar into the 100s by mid-summer.
As participants drove into the western touristy looking town, new downtown sidewalks, streetlights, flags, and a round-about leading into the town welcomed them.
Unlike most shows, this venue is in the middle of the city park right on the grass not on the hot asphalt street. The shopping center across the street from the park provided parking for all the non-exhibiting guests, so streets were clear for registration, which ended at 10:00.
Such a family friendly atmosphere! Everything in the park has been upgraded and is beautifully maintained.
Here are a few tips to make your day more fun that I gathered as I made my way around the park visiting with all the car guys and gals.
Pre-register. The pre-registration line went faster and because it was about 10 cars shorter. Woodlake Valley Chamber volunteers had bags of goodies packed with names ready to go.
Show up early! The best spots under the large trees in Miller Brown Park go fast! On-site registration officially opened at 7:00, but they let us in as soon as they got set up.
Bring a shade canopy, comfy chairs, cooler, and a spray bottle. One woman misted herself as I walked by her trying to grab a corner of her shady spot. Other guests offered me cold water. It was such a friendly crowd.
Don’t forget cash! The Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce had a 50/50 drawing and this year a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Maui, HI. Donations go for a good cause. The Chamber is raising money to rebuild the sign on Highway 198 that points the way to Woodlake and the many activities sponsored by other service organizations during the year. They also sponsor the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum which opened in February of 2016.
Come with your friends. Groups can park together at the Woodlake Car Show and not by category if they want. Car entries came from Bakersfield, Fresno, Visalia, Porterville, Tulare and many of the small towns in Tulare County. The youngest participant I talked to was a seventeen-year-old cyclist from Woodville.
Leave your pit bulls at home. We did not seem many dog strollers and no doggie messes in the park. The Woodlake Chamber allowed small carry-on dogs in the park.
There were so many prizes. Not only were there about 28 categories of vehicles with three winners in each one. In addition, Miss Woodlake picked her top three winners, and so the did the Chamber of Commerce.
Guy Fieri made diners and dives famous across the United States but does he know about the Woodlake Drive Inn? It’s thriving in the tiny town of Woodlake, CA.
How is that possible? What’s the secret of their success?
Ali credits his success to extending a helping hand and giving back 200% to the community.
Owner, Ali Mohamed impressed me with his devotion to Woodlake.
“Whatever you do for the community, it comes back. If you’re stingy it doesn’t work.”
It was about a half hour before our scheduled interview when I drove down Valencia Boulevard in Woodlake, CA. Hungry from my morning workout, and not able to cook while our kitchen is being remodeled, I looked forward to this interview for more than one reason.
Chicken Strips & Fries!
It was about 12:15 when I arrived, and there was a long line in front of me. I knew from experience it would go fast. However, I was not counting on Ali coming out to greet me. He asked what I wanted and put my order in for me. While I waited for my food, I took pictures for my blog and talked to customers. Everyone in one family liked the same thing I did – chicken.
Out of over 100 items, that was not the consensus. Other top ranking meals were #8, the BIG MEAL, the hamburger special, the pastrami sandwich, grilled cheese, and, of course, sodas.
Waiting on a constant stream of walk-up customers and answering the phone kept the window clerk busy. Several men bustled in the back filling the orders. Guests sat down under the cover of an awning visiting with each other across picnic tables while they waited for their food.
Just like any fast food, it came in a styrofoam container, but it was hot! The fries may be the tastiest I’ve ever had, with just the right amount of seasoning and the perfect crispness. The woman in blue informed me before my meal arrived, that Woodlake DriveInn has the best fries. They visit frequently, and she was right.
When I finished eating, Ali came out to join me at the table.
Curiosity bubbled out of me. “How did you end up in Woodlake, CA of all places?”
Twenty years ago Ali and his brother moved from Yemen to Dearborn, MI and went to work in a factory in Angola, IN, 20 miles south of Dearborn. In their spare time, they worked in restaurants as they picked up English.
Ali’s cousin, Sam, had moved from Fresno to Farmersville and told the brothers that CA was the land of opportunity. They bought the Drive Inn from an Arabian in 2001 and settled in with a plan to succeed.
“This country is amazing. You can be who you are in a free country. In the United States, if you believe you will succeed, you will.”
“We just noticed what people liked and that’s what we served. People order lots of sodas and soft-serve ice cream. And we were friendly. We came out and shook hands with everyone that came.”
The Drive Inn was old in 1961 when it was Floyd’s Drive Inn. He did not know the history of the business, but Ali told me that he had an 80-year-old customer who had worked at the Drive Inn when she was in high school.
When we started, it was just my brother and I and one girl. We worked hard. Now we have six or seven employees.
“My brother wanted to enclose the font, and air-condition a seating area. I wanted to keep it old-fashioned. The community needs something original. We added the awning.”
One customer said, Ali is very friendly. He’s got a great personality.
Her husband added, “And the food is GOOD.”
Ali believes in being generous. A Chamber of Commerce member, he donated a large amount to the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, run by the Chamber. His generosity reaches to other organizations as well. He has a soft spot in his heart for lending a helping hand, especially for the schools. He doesn’t always know why the kids are collecting money, though.
“You can never go wrong giving. It always comes back to you.”
It pays off. A few years ago I did a civics exercise in a high school class. Kids had to list ten things they liked about Woodlake, and ten things they would change. Woodlake Drive Inn was always at the top of their list of things they like about their town.
Ali paid for my lunch and then offered me some soft-serve ice cream for desert. It was so tempting. Even the pictures looked good.
Are you proud of my self-control? I may go back tomorrow, but I’m not telling.
Woodlake is friendly. Woodlake Drive Inn is the place to network.
Yesterday I made a new Facebook friend while I waited for my food.
Today Vince insisted on trying Woodlake Drive Inn after I told him about the food. A cool breeze blew through the shaded area. A couple sat down across from me at the picnic table while we waited for our lunch. They looked vaguely familiar. After talking to figure out why we knew each other, she gave me her card.
Ali left me with this quote before he got back to work.
“If I didn’t work here. I’d still live here. I walk down the street and people don’t turn away. They say hi. I love Woodlake.”
So next time you come to Woodlake head for the old-fashioned burger shack, Woodlake Drive Inn. Guy Fieri would be proud.
What is the favorite local restaurant in your town?
If you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media or email it to a friend who might enjoy visiting Woodlake Drive Inn.
Woodlake True Value Hardware Store Celebrating 100 Years of Continuous Service in 2017.
The day had turned out to be a typical Central Valley day, 104 degrees in the shade, and there was no shade. At 1:40 p.m. I rushed out of my car parked four feet from the new True Value Woodlake Hardware Store entrance for my 1:30 interview with Andrew Dorais and Russ Howard, the co-managers of the store.
A traffic accident on the freeway from Visalia, 20 miles west of town, had slowed me for an hour, so YES, I was late when I got there.
One of our Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Car Show posters had front and center position on the front door.
Yeah! Good advertisement!
The door opened and air-conditioning already started to cool me down and settle my driving nerves. Leanne Jones greeted me with a smile, and Andrew and Russ came out to usher me back to the hardware office for our scheduled appointment.
The City of Woodlake commissioned me to write several articles about the different businesses in Woodlake for their magazine, and Andrew met me on the street the on Thursday, June 30 and immediately set an appointment for the next day.
Both Andrew and Russ have talked to me in the past, so I began by asking them how they were doing with the lofty goals they had set when they began working November 1st. Unlike me and my goals, they have achieved all of them and thank the community of Woodlake for the show of support.
8 Reasons to Shop Local
Woodlake is a bedroom community of Visalia. It isn’t far, but it is. It’s twenty miles, and even farther to the hardware stores in town. Some people might even go to Fresno which is about 45 miles away or Bakersfield – 60 miles away.
NOT ME! I think I’ll stay in Woodlake.
Together Russ and Andrew explained eight reasons to shop local rather than going to Visalia or Fresno for hardware and building needs.
They have what I need in the store for building, decorating, and fixing things around the home.
If they don’t have what I need in the store, I can order online through the True Value online website and it comes at no charge. That’s a big bonus for those of us who live even farther out in the country.
Andrew and Russ brought in a huge selection of off-road vehicles. For farmers and laborers who work ranches that range from 7 to over several thousands of acres, nothing could be more practical. Even kids can help their parents run errands driving these around the ranch.
After remodeling and redecorating, the next major step towards creating a new Woodlake Hardware was restocking and reorganizing merchandise. The isles sparkle with new hardware items, garden supplies, toys and items for the home.
The layout has changed since November. It is brighter with new lights and ceiling. I wandered into the garden section taking pictures. Almost immediately I found the outdoor furniture section. Even the lawn mowers looked pretty, and I hate mowing.
Customer service goes without saying at any business, but it usually goes without saying. Many times I’ve walked into a hardware store, and not even seen a clerk who could help me. Unfortunately, I need a lot of help when my husband sends me to the store for some item I’ve never even seen or heard of before. It’s not a problem here. They all know my name! It’s like going into Cheers. OK, maybe you’re too young to remember that.
They wanted to have a mechanics repair shop for small engines, and now they do. I should have asked more about the kinds of small engines they were talking about.
Finally, the quality of the merchandise brings customers back. As Andrew pointed out, and I have experienced shopping for lumber with hubby, it can take rummaging through a few boards before we find the ones that are undamaged and usable. At Woodlake Hardware we can trust them to have just the best pieces. They stay competitive in price as well, and if we have a large order, they have it drop shipped to our building site.
That’s cool. I bet my husband is regretting the trips to Fresno to pick up flooring during our remodel already. He wanted to save the shipping fee, so he DROVE to Fresno, paid a friend’s grandson to help him, and he tweaked his back unloading the 50-pound boxes. What a bargain!
I bet he’s hitting his forehead and saying, “I could have shopped in Woodlake!”
So if you are thinking of driving to Fresno or Visalia to shop for lumber or hardware needs, outdoor furniture, off-road vehicles, bikes for the kids, STOP. Take a short drive to Woodlake, and check out what is here. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Before I had finished taking pictures one display reached out and grabbed me.
I had looked in Visalia for a couple of fold-up portable chairs for the park. They cost $34.00 at one of the stores, so I passed them up. Woodlake True Value Hardware had them on sale for $10.99. I bought two, and told everyone I saw at the July 3rd Blast to go get one before they all sold out!
Below you can listen to our interview on my first podcast. It is not the best quality recording because I don’t have a microphone, so I recorded this with my cell phone and used Audacity to “Normalize” the volume. You can tell it is not very normal.
It was fairly boring with just voices, (sorry Andrew, Russ and Marsha) so I found this great podcast music and purchased 2.5 minutes of “Cowboy Tears” and cut it into little pieces, and pasted it into Podcast #1.
Anyway, it only took two days to normalize and take out all the “uhms.”
Hope you love it. Don’t worry if you don’t. It’s not all that easy to do, and I’ll get better.
All I need now is a lot more knowledge, better recording set-up, and a deep-voiced announcer saying “Another Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Podcast,” or something creative.
So, if you like this article, please share it with your friends. If not, share it with someone you don’t like. (JUST KIDDING)
If you do not live in Woodlake, feel free to share about your favorite local shop. You can be your own local Chamber of Commerce. It’s fun!🙂
“If one tries to think about history, it seems to me – it’s like looking at a range of mountains. And the first time you see them, they look one way. But then time changes, the pattern of light shifts. Maybe you’ve moved slightly, your perspective has changed. The mountains are the same, but they look very different.” Robert Harris
Living in the Woodlake Valley could not be better in the spring. Colors of blossoms contrasted against snowy mountains that are crisp and clear, not obscured by dusty air make spring my favorite season here.
I drove home from Visalia on this day admiring the view of the mountains and the red buds along the road. I could not stop on the freeway and shoot a picture, but luckily my friend Sally had both the tree and the view right in her front yard. I stalked around her yard changing angles trying to get just the right spot to capture both the mountain and the tree before I even announced my presence. Both of these pictures pleased me, so I hope you enjoy them, too.
A couple of weeks later, from a mile north I stood at the edge of an orange grove overwhelmed by both the smell of orange blossoms and the beauty of the sunset bouncing off of snowy Saw Tooth Mountain. This time my cell phone couldn’t catch the contrast of the landscape as clearly. Even less fortunate, my cell phone could not transmit the fragrance.
Wish you were here. We’d go for a walk in our beautiful landscape. Click the link below to see other landscapes.
Two things I enjoy more than anything in the world, maybe three. Being with old friends and/or making new friends, and learning new skills. These past few weeks have been full of both. It started with opening our new museum in Woodlake and having two grand openings that drew hundreds of people together to have fun and celebrate Woodlake’s history. Even the opening days where only two or three at a time came to the museum, there’s something exciting about a new project that gets me going, and keeps me busy and excited.
A week ago Friday night we had a big celebration of award giving in Woodlake, and as a Chamber Secretary, I got to be part of that program, and meet tons of new people. The next morning I drove with a new friend to Costa Mesa to speak at the California Council for the Social Studies Awards Ceremony. I’ve worked the last six years or so with that organization, and it was good to see so many friends.
National History Day, Tulare County took place on Tuesday, and again I saw many old friends, including my former boss, Superintendent Jim Vidak, and the newest history consultant who took my place, and met some very talented students from our county.
Friday I drove to Fresno to attend a Civic Education Conference for pre-teachers at Fresno State to hear my friend Michelle Herczog, the keynote speaker. After the opening address, she helped facilitate a breakout session, and many people I have known well throughout the region attended.
Three of us, all who have been history consultants for Tulare County attended and had our picture taken together. Joy Soares has been a dear friend for nearly 15 years, when she started coaching History Day, and I began working as the County Coordinator. Then she moved into my position. Now my new friend Gay Atmajian holds down the fort.
Today was a gathering of a different kind. I helped a friend who organized a celebration for our friend Marvin Awbrey who passed away February 2. He would have loved it, and I actually did love meeting so many of his friends old and new and hearing wonderful stories about Marvin.
In the process of taking part in all these celebrations, I’ve had a part to play and learned some new skills. Today I learned how to turn a Powerpoint presentation into a movie – which isn’t difficult unless you have added music, which I did. Even then it is not difficult, but I had to head to Google to see what steps I left out because I the first time I tried it there wasn’t any music. I finally figured it out this afternoon, and posted it on YouTube.
Just as I finished publishing the video, in walks Taliah, my almost nine year old neighbor. She watched my video, then together we and made a quick video out of some pictures I had taken of her about five years ago. She chose the pictures and the captions, and I negotiated the software. Her mother loved it even though I covered up some of the captions on the first attempt. This is my second attempt.
I know most of this might not be exciting to everyone, but I feel so blessed that I’m about to explode. Between enjoying the excitement of all these events, emailing and chatting with special friends online whom I love to bits and pieces, creating flyers, postcards, presentations and movies to use for these events, I feel so fortunate. My plate is full.
I stepped out of the museum yesterday with Mr. Tom Sweeney, a Woodlaker whose family has been in Woodlake since the 1870s, who had come in so I could record his oral interview for any future books and for the museum archives. We struggled to get the chain strung across the new driveway.
A stranger drove by, rolled down his window, and asked, “Are you ever going to open the museum.”
“Tomorrow,” I told him, “is our grand opening from 12:00-4:00.”
“It’s a date!” he called back smiling as he waved then rolled his window back up.
Few people have any idea how much time it takes to gather artifacts and pictures, sort them into some kind of an order so that together they tell a story, and then arrange them in the space provided.
Trust me it is a momentous task. Marcy Miller, almost single-handedly, set out to do this work to honor her parents and the other families that had come to Woodlake to make this a community. She had the help of one friend,Debbie Eckenfel. I went in to help once or twice, but I was clumsy, and was just in the way more than I helped. They were precise, and my eyes prevent me from doing anything exact – even with glasses.
They trimmed pictures, mounted them, put them in frames, arranged tables, brought in the big displays, went to Woodlake Hardware and picked up more antiques that had hung on the walls for probably fifty years.
Morris Bennett, owner of the store for over fifty years, retired from Woodlake Hardware at age 92 and donated them to the museum. Marcy and Debbie rearranged them on large display boards. They set a pair of skates on a pupil’s wooden desk from the same time period. They stacked and separated, stood back and examined, and rearranged. They recorded each item in a spreadsheet, first writing each entry by hand as they handled it.
It has taken two years after the museum building was completed before it was ready to open. People got impatient. They wanted to see inside. Marcy and Debbie kept working. Rudy Garcia, President of the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce, added some farm equipment he had received from folks in Red Banks. Agriculture is the major industry of our county, but in Woodlake, “We R Agriculture,” my own new name of us. We grow oranges and raise cattle. Our major claim to fame is the Woodlake Rodeo, which is famous nation-wide. Slowly people donated money to build the building and items to display inside.
Monrovia Nursery donated all the plants outside the building. There was no fence around the building and kids skate boarded over the plants destroying all of them. Cruz-ta-Welding donated a beautiful fence around the building so kids couldn’t do that anymore.
Andrew Glazier doesn’t have a lot of money, but he loves Woodlake. He is a local landscaper who believes in using native materials. He donated all the materials to redo the landscaping. He comes when no one is looking and puts in more bark, and evens out the land. He sweeps the new parking lot so not a single piece of bark remains, then he locks the chain so cars can’t drive and leave dirty marks on the new cement. He gets everything ready for the Grand Opening.
The museum was not alarmed. Some people, like me, were afraid to bring items of value to put in the building. Now the building is safe and alarmed. Mr. Peden donated the jacket he wore to pilot Air Force #1. Took it off right after he spoke at the VIP donor opening event.
Marcy and Debbie want everything to look just right for the Grand Opening. They come and mop all the floors and dust all the displays.
Jennifer Malone comes with her family to lovingly place baskets, valuable as collectables, into the glass cases so the public can see the amazing designs from the Yokuts Indians who lived in Woodlake for centuries before American and Mexican people ever saw it. I heard laughing across the hall coming from the basket room. After most of the guests had gone, I had to go investigate to see what had been so much fun.
Jennifer’s mother, Marie Wilcox, brings her walnut dice with sparkly shells embedded in the center so we can play Wukchumni games. If you roll five with the center up, you get two sticks. If you roll seven, you luck has changed and you have to give up sticks. When all the sticks are gone, you take your opponents sticks, and they take yours. It’s a do or die game. I won! I jumped up and down and cheered. Everyone looked happy for me. No one brushed all the sticks and walnuts off the table. We laughed and laughed and hugged and hugged.
Our Grand Opening is today. I can’t wait to see who will come.
My friend Marvin Awbrey died. I loved him dearly. He was such a close friend that I could criticize him when we disagreed, but don’t you dare unless you loved him too!
He was my mentor. He taught me how to be a history consultant. He dedicated himself to all educational organizations especially history. He sent me tons and tons of picture and story emails that I was supposed to pass on. I seldom did, but they showed me that I was on his list. He loved me and thought about me every time someone sent him a chain email.
Marvin’s last few years were rough, but he did not complain.
His good friend and sometimes caretaker, Linda Boaen, said,
“It is a testament to my best friend Marvin Awbrey what a great person he was. We can all take lessons from his dignity. He let those he loved know it. He never ever complained through kidney transplant. Three bouts of cancer and all the treatments that go with it. Massive surgeries that would devastate most. He kept extremely busy with causes he believed in. He gave to all charities. And he forgave those who trespassed against him. He loved my children, David and my pets. He was a kind caring human that most will never encounter. I hope he knows how much we miss him.”
I will miss Marvin a great deal. We always went out for his birthday. He turned 78 on January 14th. I emailed him asking when we could go out for his birthday. He didn’t return the email. Sometimes people don’t. I emailed him about something else, and he didn’t respond to that either. Sometimes people don’t. I rarely called him. Cancer took his voice box. I called him and left a message. He didn’t call back. Sometimes people don’t.
He sent me and six others an email on January 13th. I finally emailed him back 22 hours before I heard that he was gone. It was about going to the doctor.
On the 23rd of January he sent his last email along with a personal message.
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents,
and we believe they will always travel on our side.
However, at some station
our parents will step down from the train,
leaving us on this journey alone.
As time goes by,
other people will board the train;
and they will be significant
i.e. our siblings, friends, children,
and even the love of your life.
Many will step down
and leave a permanent vacuum.
Others will go so unnoticed
sothat we don’t realize
they vacated their seats.
This train ride will be full of joy,
sorrow, fantasy, expectations,
hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship
with all passengers
requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station
we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way,
love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do
this because when the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty
we should leave behind beautiful memories
for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.
Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly, thank God for the journey.
Lastly, I thank you
for being one of the passengers on my train.
(By the way, I am not planning to get off the train anytime soon
but if I do, just remember I am glad you were part of my journey.)
“Marsha happy new year dear friend! Can you forward the particulars for the SJCCSS Alcatraz visit? Can it be done in one day? I could use the minutes from the Reedley meeting, too. When is out meeting this month and where is it? I am feeling unconnected to SJVCSS and I don’t like that. Thanks, Marvin”
I replied back 11 hours later, and he didn’t write back. Sometimes people don’t. That’s rough!
I am blessed to have been his friend. I will miss him. I had fun with Marvin. This is rough.
February thirteenth dawned as beautiful and gentle as a kitten sleeping on a satin pillow, promising a perfect VIP ribbon cutting ceremony for the new museum in Woodlake, CA.
A major project, nearly three years in the making, Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, opened to VIP donors on February 13, 2016. Woodlake, a town of nearly 8,000, now has its first museum. Until now people have kept their memorabilia to themselves, some with lots of valuable documents, photos and artifacts from the last 150 years, and some with just a few. Now those treasures are out where the public can enjoy them and remember. It brought tears to my eyes as I watched the slideshow of the pictures imported from my camera. I love seeing the expressions on each face as they saw the exhibits for the first time. I thought Ramona’s was particularly endearing.
Rudy Garcia, the Chamber of Commerce President made sure that the event was well planned. Chamber Board members took on various jobs to make sure that all the details ran smoothly.
Marie and Debbie prepare for registration check in. Debbie did much of the design work in the museum. Do you know how much she charged us? Probably about -$1,500 considering all the materials she threw in, which doesn’t account for her hours.
We are all astounded that Marcy, Debby and Jennifer could put together a beautiful museum with no museum experience, and not much help.
We sailed through the day as Rudy planned. For the first half hour while people arrived the Four Directions Native-American drumming quartet, the Four Directions played and sang.
Woodlake Chamber Board member, Jennifer Malone introduced another member of her tribe, Delbert Davis, to invoke a blessing on the museum. I wish I had video taped it for you, but I was in the wrong place, and it was a solemn occasion, and you’ve already experienced my skill as a videographer.
The 2015-2016 Miss Woodlake Court, Briana Marie Holt, Sonni Hacobian, and Erica Diaz Rodriguez kept busy escorting VIPs to their seats and taking pictures. Most of these pictures are Briana’s, standing above her name.
For me, one of the highlights was the presentation by Carl Peden. Carl graduated in 1947 from Woodlake High School. He went on to become a pilot. Little did his teachers dream that one day he would pilot several United States’ presidents and their families around the world in Air Force One.
You made it through that without getting dizzy, I hope. My video skills aren’t improving much, but in my defense, you are seeing a raw unedited amateur recording.
Some asked me what Air Force One had to do with Woodlake, and had Carl Peden not been the pilot I could have answered, “nothing.” But this man showed me that Woodlake, small agricultural town in the rural outskirts of the San Joaquin Valley, reaches and influences far beyond Woodlake.
At the end of his speech, he took off his jacket and handed it to Rudy Garcia to put in the museum. His action inspired many others to come forward with ideas of things they could donate to the museum which will keep it fresh for many years to come. Carl stands in front of the list of the many community members who joined to make this project a possibility. I thank each one.
Rudy Garcia recruited these generous contributors to follow the dream of building a museum in Woodlake. One man, John Wood, fell in head over heels in love with the vision, and gave it his all, building the edifice to house the dream. He reminded me in many ways of my former boss, Jim Vidak. Very shy, not bringing attention to himself, he worked for reasons other than bringing honor to himself. Nonetheless Rudy wanted everyone to know how grateful the Chamber is for his hard work.
Finally, no building would be complete without a plaque. This one was ordered and had not arrived by Thursday before the big ceremony on Saturday. My nails would be bitten to the quick, but Rudy remained calm and collected. He made the phone call and Phil drove it up from Tulare on Friday. Soon it will hang on by the front door, next to my new office.
I will be in the office for the next two Fridays recording oral interviews of Woodlakers who want to share their memories. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to make an appointment.
I’ll also be selling donation tickets to anyone who wants to win a trip for two to Hawaii February 10-17, 2017. The trip features a beachfront resort suite at Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, HI. This suite includes one bedroom, one bath, a full kitchen, living room, dining room, lanai, and laundry. Included in the trip is a stipend for round trip tickets for two from LA to Maui, and car rental. The package is valued at $4,000. Suggested donation is $10.00 per ticket. The drawing will be held at the Chamber of Commerce meeting on October 11, 2016.
In Portland or Paris where the clouds often reach down to embrace the earth in their cool grasp, flowers that reflect the damp hues of blue and purple seem as natural as growing grass. Here in California’s San Joaquin Valley where skies glow hot white and dusty fields paint a hazy glaze over the sun, it seems that blue and purple flowers should evaporate by mid-morning.But they do not have to. These beauties poked through the rich soil nurtured by an iris farmer in Porterville. I attended the Porterville Iris Festival a few years ago with my master gardener friend, Sally Pace, and the gates opened to reveal these beauties.The Porterville Chamber of Commerce and the Tulare County Master Gardeners plan the Iris Festival for late April each year.
If you enjoyed these pictures of purple flowers, visit Cee’s Fun Foto Contest to see other entries. A new theme begins every Tuesday.
It’s 4:03 in the morning. I slept all day yesterday after minor surgery, so I’m relatively bright-eyed and drug free. How are all of you?
It’s been so long since I’ve written anything besides letters, emails, figured budgets, and fixed computer problems that, I’ve forgotten how to write blogs! So I guess I’ll write you all a letter. I remember getting letters from my grandmother, and every one of them told us about someone we didn’t know or remember who had died. So I wanted you to know that at least I didn’t die, and I’m going to tell some of you about a bunch of people you don’t know.
I got a call to be a REAL photographer last week by a friend, Lauri Polly, who IS a real photographer and editor of our Kiwanis Magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”
I’m sure you can imagine, if you don’t already know from experience, how much work it is to plan and execute a day of activities for several hundred students. First you have to line up volunteers to present, which means you have to know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff, AND are good with kids! Then you have to con your last-minute volunteers (teachers and librarians to stand in for those who couldn’t make it.)
Then you plan the weather. It should be sunny, with a light breeze, not too hot.
Then you invite other students to join you, so there’s a little more pressure on you as a planner, but adrenaline helps because the event is exciting, after all. I’m sure Courtney slept well that night.
Finally you plan a grand finale. And what could be grander than shooting off a Civil War canon?
And that’s how you send off the year of studying eighth grade history in Woodlake, CA with a big bang.
There’s not much information in here about the Civil War. I can’t with so many of my friends who are experts in the subject – I’d embarrass myself! I have all the pictures with some notes from the event posted on my Facebook Page.
It’s four in the morning here in California as I write to you for the first time in weeks. I have a good reason – for not writing, that is.
“Really? What possible reason could be good enough for not writing to your friends?” asks the little voice in my head.
One thing I learned about writing good dialogue – and writing in general is that you leave the boring parts out.
“So what made you think you should even write anything?”
What a pesky little voice you are. there are maybe five or ten people in the world that are still interested in even the boring little details of my life. Maybe they miss me.
“Well get on with it then, and write what you’re going to say, and quit talking to me.”
OK OK, the truth is that I have a new job, and I was sort of waiting until the Board President announced to the public before I wrote about it, and I’ve been extremely busy doing exciting things like filing and trying to balance the books. I am the new Executive Director of the California Council for the Social Studies, and it’s not entirely clear what that job will be, but for me it starts with filing and organizing.
Maybe, but necessary. Today I will attend the Executive Planning Meeting in Los Angeles, so I stayed the night in the hotel where our conference will be next March, and took a tour of the facilities.
Most important to me is establishing face to face contact. I met Deb, Ryan, Tim and Carmita. Ryan will be our main contact person as we prepare for our biggest event, a conference for about 700-800 social studies teachers, professors, and administrators in California.
Seeing the rooms gives our planning committee and me an idea of which rooms will be best for the presentations, and where the exhibits and ticketed meals and social events will be. You can see about one-third of what will be the exhibit hall in this picture above.
Session rooms are huge, but they can be divided into thirds. Left open they seat almost 200 guests. The hotel has recently been remodeled, and is quite lovely. Most importantly it has good internet access for everyone – in public places and in the rooms, and I will soon learn the cost to make it available during sessions.
I can visualize two history teachers networking here with computers open and a cup of coffee, discussing how they will use what they learned in a session in their class .
I expressed surprise over how pretty the tables looked, and Ryan told me that the facility is linenless. That’s a new term for me. Normally when you see tables at a hotel without their linens on, they are rough pieces of wood, that sneaks up and snags your nylons when you cross your legs under the table.
“No one wears nylons anymore.”
Be quiet. I do sometimes. It’s cold in hotels.
“That’s not why YOU wear them.”
There’s a perfect little office right outside the registration area where we can set up shop so everything will be close by. It is linenless, too. I never realized how pervasive linen was.
This is a small part of the foyer outside the exhibit hall. One year we had Mexican folklorico dancers in the foyer it was so big. Another year we had extra exhibits. Our conference planners will have all kinds of decisions to make about the space, but at least now I know how the space looks, so I can picture it when they ask me questions.
A beachy place wouldn’t be complete without swallows. It was nice to have the time to enjoy the scenery. I’m sure I’ll be very busy the next time I see this place.🙂
Now you know I haven’t disappeared or died. In fact I just renewed my domain, so I’m here for another year, starting my fourth year of blogging. Thanks for reading and chatting, and being my friend.
Arcadia Publishing has specific requirements for the photos in your Images book. You receive a written guideline and an editor that answers questions promptly. Your success is practically guaranteed – once your get the photos!
Images of America books are not family history books, so even if you grew up in a community, you must gather pictures. Multiple family’s pictures in the book are essential to telling the story.
In the case of a small community, probably the library will not have enough images to fill your book. You might have a small museum or historical society that stores pictures. Even though our museum is not open, one woman has pictures in her home. Here are the ways I started from 0 and gathered the 200+ pictures I needed for publication in 6 months.
Our local Kiwanis magazine put in a free ad for me. – 1 direct call and one referral from her
I walked the streets of Woodlake and talked to business owners, City Hall and Woodlake Police. – 2 donors
Talking to friends in the grocery store – 1 prospect
Following referrals from friends – 30 donors
Cold calls to businesses – 1 potential donor who googled me to make sure I didn’t have a criminal record or wasn’t a sex offender before he called me too late for publication.
Following referrals from referrals – 3 donors
Organizing was important, and took quite a bit of time as I processed the photos. These are my steps.
As I started scanning photos, I put the PDFs into files in my document folder labeled by donor’s names.
Next I created a “Woodlake PDF” and put in all of the donor folders.
Each photograph sent to Arcadia was a TIFF file, so I processed all most files, and put them into a separate file with the donor’s name inside a large folder that said, “Woodlake TIFF.”
I didn’t write about every picture. In order to write, I used an unpublished blog account, because importing each picture to a Word file made Word crash. It is hard to write about a picture when you can’t look at it as you write, so the blog was perfect.
However, that created another step. TIFF files are huge, so I resized each photo I used (or thought I might use) in the book and saved it as a JPEG, and created another Donor file and put it inside – you guessed it – the “Woodlake JPEG” file. Then I could upload those files easily to my blog, and the ones I didn’t use in the book I could post to FB or in my blog.
Then I made files for the chapter titles and copied only the TIFFS into those files, numbering them for the book.
Finally I copied the entire folder, “Arcadia,” onto an external hard drive. I started to copy all of it to the cloud, but it was very time consuming.
After I submitted the manuscript and pictures, I began copying the JPEG files only to Picasa. I’m still not finished, and I hope it is worth the effort! I have them organized by subject rather than chapter, and I have one folder for all the images used in the book along with the caption, so that if I do another book, I will use different pictures, or be sure to credit the book as well as the donor.
That’s it. That’s how I gathered and organized hundreds of pictures in six months.
Nothing is not the right answer. Blogging is not it either. I wish it were.
Do you get roped into things? Do you sometimes feel like you’ve been branded as the girl who says yes to too many things at once?
Sometimes I feel like I’ve kicked up so much dust, that a can of worms might be a good thing in comparison. Today I talked to our CPA and learned about 501(c)(3), and I hope we’ve filed all out paperwork. I created a program for our Western Regional Breakfast that’s happening at the NCSS Conference in Boston next month. I found out about awards for the program. I learned about the Woodlake Rodeo. I did laundry, made lunch and dinner, cleaned the kitchen, took a walk, went to the post office and mailed a letter to a 10-year-old P.O. Box and I hope to find the person who owns the bottom picture to get her permission to use it, so promise me that you won’t steal it.
I posted important stuff on Facebook for CCSS. So the truth is that today, I’ve done a lot, but can I remember it when my husband comes home and asks me what I’ve done? I do, but that was the wrong question. Does he really want to listen to me list it all? I think you know that answer. That’s why I’m telling YOU – and guess what? He’ll end up reading about it on Facebook tomorrow. hehehe :)
Right this second I’m feeling a little light headed (yes, I did get my hair cut, but only about 2-3 people even missed the 5-6 inches I’ve chopped off) But that’s not why I’m light headed. I’m dizzy with excitement because I’m almost finished with my book, Images of America Woodlake – 15,894 words out of a total possible of 8,000 to 18,000, and 192 pictures out of a possible 200. What I’ve learned cannot even come close to a limit of 18,000 words. That has been the hardest part. Collecting pictures from those whose names I get from friends, and of those, the ones who return my call or email. Those are the ones whose minute pieces of the story get in the book. Some people have given me hundreds of photos. Some only one. I have to leave out so much, and someone’s feelings are bound to get hurt when the book is published. There is SOOOOO much more to tell. But, that is not my story – at least not for this book.
So what did you do today? Do you need someone to listen to your list? Write it in the comment section. There, doesn’t that feel better? You really did do something today!