How Do You Say,”Thank You So Much” to a Whole Town?

Winning an Award Is Not All About The Winners

Woodlake Awards Banquet
2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet BTW, that was my expression when Tony told me I had to get off the stage or be carried off!

Seriously!

Award ceremonies honor the organization or community that gives them. If newspapers come to cover the event the organization or city gets some free publicity. People come to celebrate. They meet and greet make new friends and hug old ones. Excitement fills the room and spills outside as guests enter and leave. Normally I take pictures of it. This year I did not.

The Awards Ceremony elevates the award giver.

Suppose for a second that no one gave awards. Do you think the movie industry would be so noticed if it did not honor its own? People would go to movies – maybe. But they might not choose La La Land. Now they might! 🙂 Awards matter to the organizations that give them.

It thrilled me to see local papers cover the Woodlake Award’s Ceremony. One of the reporters said that it was the best ceremony in the area. Why? There’s a real family feeling in the community.

Go Woodlake! Go Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Lady Lions, Chamber, Homegrown, Woodlake Schools, Woodlake Businesses!

A community that pulls an awards event together elevates everyone, the City of Woodlake and all the community organizations that work so hard together to make it a great place to live and work.

The awardees walk a narrow line.

Woodlake honored me. Wow! I am humbled. Honorees walk a thin line between confidence and humility. Shy awardees suffer embarrassment from the attention. Even confident winners may have moments of awkwardness. (when they talk too long) For those who will be honored in the future, remember…

2017 Woodlake Awards Ceremony
Did I forget my Award? Where was my mom when I needed her, anyway?

Award ceremonies are not just for the awardees. Organizations that do not honor their own do themselves a disservice. To downplay the recognition of the award dishonors the community that honors them Receiving an award validates the winner for a period of hard work and sacrifice. Someone noticed.

Of course, this brings up another issue!

What if there wasn’t anyone to award?

I wouldn’t want to live there, would you? Or what if the community was too lazy to find someone who worked hard among them. What if no one appreciated anyone who worked hard?

What if no organization would take on all the work of gathering all the certificates from commissioners, mayors, senators, assembly members, ordering the awards, raising money for the food, preparing the food and decorating for the event? Much more goes into event planning that the larger community realizes.

Next Year It Could Be You!

This is what happens to the awardees so you can be prepared next year when the nominating committee calls you.

When Sally Pace called me to tell me I was chosen as the Woodlake 2016 Woman of the Year, my first thought, was, “How in the world am I going to fill the tables?”

“Also, I need 24 pictures and you need to fill out all this information about yourself.”

There is an expectation that the awardees will fill the room with guests. Everyone brings his or her family to celebrate. My family consists of my husband Vince and his sister in our area. Vince’s son Jason lives five hours away, and my brother lives in Portland, OR, about 15 hours away.

I put out a call for help on Facebook! Come be my family! I bought tickets to fill two tables. Then a third. I worried that they might go vacant. I told all my close friends out of town, even called my brother. He couldn’t come.

The night came, the tables filled. My rock star friend, Elane Geller, a child Holocaust Survivor came from Los Angeles and our close friend, Andria Jacobs came from Las Vegas, NV to make sure I treated Elane well. (I’m kidding, Andria!) The whispers started among the guests, “Is that Elane Geller?”

2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet
Marsha and Elane Geller (I’m on the left with my name tag on so I don’t forget who I am.)

They rushed over to greet her. They wanted pictures of her and themselves. Some of them included me, too. Tony Casares recognized her from the platform before the ceremony started. She received an ovation. Don’t ask me if they stood, I think my head had fuzzed shut by that time, but not from drinking. It just does that on me when I know I have to get in front of people.

My dear friend, Margaret Morris came from the coast. My step-son came. People came from TCOE where I worked for years including a former boss, Olga Cortez, a close colleague, Connie Smith, and two former support staff, (my pretend kids) Ivette Lopez and Paula Terrill, all of whom I love dearly.

My neighbors came. People who helped me with the Woodlake book came so I could talk about them in front of their faces instead of behind their backs. I worried about how to seat people. I didn’t need to.

No one edited my paperwork, I’m sure. They read the WHOLE thing! When will I ever learn? When I’m home alone with my computer, I think it’s a diary. Before I even reached the stage, I’d already been going on too long.

I wanted to tell the story about Robert Edmiston dusting me off after I fell out of the car when he showed me around Elderwood. The emcee, Tony Casares chased me off the stage before I could.

I wanted to thank my husband for supporting me so much while I’ve been busy doing all the stuff I love to do. He got up and left the room before I spoke. I forgot! Then I saw him standing in the back. Tony kept swooshing his hands to get me off the stage.

“No! Go! Go!”

Vince got an apology look across a crowded room. I think he understood.

Someone told Linda LaFleur, Kiwanis President, that the only bad thing about the ceremony was that some of the awardees spoke too long. Anyone know where there’s a good hole?

After the Event

2017 Woodlake Awards Banquet
More publicity! Thanks, Reggie!

Did you think it would end that night? Not at all. A couple of reporters called me. One gave me homework. One took a great picture of me and put it on the front page of his newspaper. I finally changed my three-year-old Facebook profile picture.

My former boss, Jim Vidak sent me a letter of congratulations with lots of personal marks on it. Go TCOE! My friend, Monica Pizura collected papers for me and brought me cute gifts. Connie brought me wine, and Connie doesn’t drink wine.

Last year’s awardee donated all the meat for this year’s banquet. She’s shy and I don’t think she wanted that information told. Yes, shy people get awards!

Get prepared, Woodlake Chamber Member, General Food Store, I’m going to need to buy a lot of meat next year. And the rest of you be thinking of who to nominate next year! 🙂

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How Focus on Doing Something Well Leads to Success

Focus, Train, and Succeed

Kiwanis Club International focuses on “changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.”Kiwanis focus on catering

Over the years Kiwanis Club of Woodlake has learned how to modify the world by focusing on doing something well. This active service club of around twenty members runs a tight serving ship. Kiwanis members have helped caterers for the public, service organizations, and private parties.

Kiwanis focus on cateringServing at weddings and events like the Awards Dinner involves much more energy and hands than the Kiwanians can provide. So they partner with their sponsored youth groups, Key and Builders’ Club, the high school, and middle school service clubs.  As a result, students work hand in hand with experts in the field. Each time the students serve, their organization earns money which goes towards scholarships.

Opportunities for Students to Succeed

Kiwanis focus on catering
Figuring out the logistics of the appetizer table

Through their combined expertise in serving, Kiwanis of Woodlake has developed awesome opportunities for individual and groups of students.

Students benefit in many ways.

Professional Training Provided

Kiwanis focus on catering
CEO of Tulare-Kings Hispanic Chamber, Armondo Apodaca, trains Key Club and Kiwanis members about formal etiquette.

This year about twenty students from 6th-12th grades attended a training session with a former restaurant manager, CEO of Tulare-Kings Hispanic Chamber, Armondo Apodaca. After instruction in table setting, students divided into groups to put their learning into practice. Each group served one portion of a five-course meal. When they were not serving, they engaged their table mates, which included adults in dinner conversation.

Kiwanis focus on catering
Each group had to set their table first.

After the training, the service club members had multiple opportunities to serve at various events. In a short time, these students established a name for themselves. Working tirelessly for as many hours as the adults, they provided polite and excellent service with a smile.

Each Event Is On-the-Job Training

Kiwanis focus on cateringFor the most part, the events at which Key and Builders’ Club students serve and the adults who supervise them are the community leaders. Besides earning community service hours, which they need to graduate, students learn essential skills that will guarantee their success as productive citizens.

  • Kiwanis focus on cateringMore than contributing to a general Kiwanis scholarship fund, each student learns a valuable trade, social management, problem-solving and communication skills advancing them far beyond their peers.
  • They have time to observe and learn how their friends work with deadlines. They act as a team. It is almost like a coeducational sports team.
  • They are busy. Because students are busy doing adult work, they have no time or inclination to get into trouble. Most of these students end up with hundreds of hours more community service work than they need for graduation.Kiwanis focus on catering
  • Adults rely on students’ problem-solving skills. When you provide service for caterers, all kinds of detail issues arise. Adults may not have the best answers. What happens when there are no water pitchers, or the food service providers are late? What happens when there are too many or few appetizers for the table space, or you can’t find them. The person who solves the problem is the hero for the minute.Kiwanis focus on catering
  •  Tight management is essential. Although there is an adult in charge of every event, students learn to manage each other as well. Given an overall task, the Key and Builders’ Club students subdivide so that no logistics fall through the cracks.
  • Politeness is essential. When one adult orders a student to do a task followed by a second command by a different adult, students are taught stop and explain to the second or third adult what they are doing and who gave the instruction and not to be confused and jump on every command.
  • Adults learn their names and the capabilities of each student. Many of these same adults make scholarship decisions, interview students to go to leadership conferences, or grade graduation portfolios.
  • Students have real work experience to add to their resumes for scholarships and employment.Kiwanis focus on catering
  • They develop relationships with influential people who can give them honest recommendations.
  • Many of the students in Woodlake come from farm labor families. They work very hard and see their parents and grandparents working long hours for minimum wages. Numerous other employment opportunities could open for Key and Builders’ Club students who work with professional and volunteer servers.Kiwanis focus on catering
  • Although few of these students will go into the catering business, many of them may work their way through college as servers. Most of them go to college. Their home backgrounds and work in providing service for caterers has prepared them for hard work, getting along with all kinds of people, solving real-world problems, and has earned money for the Kiwanis scholarships.
  • Most of all, serving at parties and events is fun for kids.
    Kiwanis catering focus
    Kiwanis serves events of all sizes.

    They are treated as adults as they work with peers they enjoy.

About Kiwanis

Although Kiwanis of Woodlake is part of the International Club serving children, it is unique. Woodlake’s Club participates in District, Regional, and National Campaigns, such as Miracle Mile of Quarters, Read Around the World, Key Leader, Special Olympics, and Bowl-a-Thon. Kiwanis puts on the Pancake Breakfast during Rodeo Week, sponsors a Run for Hunger to benefit the Woodlake Food Pantry, the July 3rd Blast to entertain the community as we all celebrate Independence Day, and many other single events.

I am proud to be a Kiwanis member. But I have a request. Kiwanis of Woodlake needs adult volunteers who want to serve the community as members. You are welcome to join our weekly meetings at 6:30 am at the Presbyterian Church on Naranjo. Three out of four weeks a month we invite a community member to speak to the group. If you are interested in joining, please fill out the contact form, and someone from the club will meet with you in person or over the phone to give you more information.

How Old Were You When You Started Driving?

#noblopomo Day 12, WordPress Photo Challenge: Tiny

Most men started driving when they were tiny.

Maybe women do too, but in my world cars were a way to get somewhere, not the destination. Not in my husband’s world. Cars were the destination.

A few of my husband's tiny cars
A few of my husband’s tiny cars. In the background he poses with Chip Foose when his big car won an award, and he won the door prize. Wahoo! 

In Woodlake kids drive tiny cars on the street one day a year. The Kiwanis Club hosts a Soap Box Derby during Rodeo Week in May.

A tiny car for a tiny person to drive.
A tiny car for a tiny person to drive.

Kiwanis checkers insist that drivers are 8 years old, but we know that some tiny racers have slipped by with their parents’ permission.

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A crowd gathers to watch the tiny drivers race. Even the golf cart looks big in comparison.

Runners race chase the tiny cars as they speed.
Runners chase walk after the tiny cars as they are pulled to the starting line.

How it works first time up:

Hold on for dear life!
Hold on for dear life!
  • Kids and parents check in.
  • A Kiwanian asks for the child’s driver’s license, and the kids stare back without a smile. Parents grin sometimes.
  • Elementary teachers and parents conflict over verify their grade level.
  • The child puts on their safety helmet.
  • They trudge up the ramp and step into the car.
  • The Kiwanis pusher holds the car until the race begins.

So Far So Good!

Tiny drivers hang on!
Tiny drivers hang on!

Gravity does the rest of the work.

Go! Go! Go!
Go! Go! Go!

The kids soon learn that one car goes faster. They do not get to choose which car they drive.

The next time they race, they are brave. The race lasts about an hour depending on how many kids show up.

Let's do this!
Let’s do this!

The Kiwanismotto is “Serving the Children of the World.” This is one of many fun ways that Kiwanis of Woodlake serves the children of our community.

Other activities include:

  • Toys for Joy – making sure that all children have a present for Christmas.
  • Dictionaries for all third graders. (Kiwanis and Rotary)
  • Special Olympics Bowl-A-Thon
  • Miracle Mile of Quarters – to raise money for the Children’s Hospital
  • HOBY Conference Scholarships
  • College Scholarships
  • Outdoor Environmental Education Scholarships
  • and much more

If you would like to help us or join Kiwanis, please contact me tchistorygal@gmail.com.

Kiwanis is a tiny club in a tiny town of ranchers, farmers and farm workers. At last count I think there were 19 members working tons of volunteer hours each month.

If you would like to help Kiwanis to spread the word about what they do for the community of Woodlake, CA, please share this post with your friends and groups.

For more thoughts about tiny, click here.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

Who Opens A New Business in Woodlake on Veteran’s Day?

#WoodlakeChamber, #Veterans, #AMVETS, #TulareKingsHispanicChamber

Veteran’s Goin’ Postal, Of Course!

These two brave vets, Angelica Cabrera & Angel Gomez, came back to Woodlake to start their new franchise business, Goin’ Postal.

New Owner Angel Gomez
New owner Angel Gomez and Angie Cabrera

Today they cut the ribbon, and made the grand opening official.

The office is beautiful and clean inside, and they will offer a variety of useful services. Since Woodlake is 20 miles from the larger town, Visalia, it will save residents a lot of time if they want to use Fed X or other services.

Angie chats with a friend at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Angie chats with a friend at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The new business will also have computers available for people to use, if they need a place to do business.

Local residents and service club members helped paint and remodel.
Local residents and service club members helped paint and remodel the store.

Angie and Angel offer notary and immigration services as well.

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With support of two Chambers of Commerce Angie and Angel hope business will be booming for the holiday season.

Woodlake chamber President, Rudy Garcia and Treasurer, Pauline Federico welcome Goin Postal.
Woodlake Chamber President, Rudy Garcia and Treasurer, Pauline Federico welcome Goin Postal.
Chambers of Commerce welcome the new business.

 

Chambers unite to wish Goin Postal a huge success.
Two Chambers unite to wish Goin Postal a huge success.

And finally, they cut the ribbon. Goin Postal has gone public.

You can Google them already!

Goin’ Postal Woodlake
Address: 250 E. Antelope Ave.

Owners: Angelica Cabrera & Angel Gomez

Woodlake, CA 93286
Suite F
Phone: 559-769-7788
Fax: 559-769-8559
Email: woodlake@goinpostal.com
Hours: 9-6 Mon-Fri
9-2 Saturday

Services Available
UPS, FedEx, DHL, Stamps, Notary, Faxing, Packaging, Gifts, Packaging Supplies, Office Supplies, and Passport Photos

goin-postal108
250 E. Antelope Ave.

goin-postal109

Help these veterans grow their new business by sharing this post.

Successful Family Business Celebrates 55 Years This Month

Cee’s fun Photo Challenge #NaBloPoMo

The Gongs bought Haury's Market, the Liquor Store and the Theatre in the 1960s and created the General Food Store.
The Gongs bought Haury’s Market, the Liquor Store and the Theatre in the 1960s and created the General Food Store.

My neighbor’s grandfather, Mr. Haury, started the “modern” market in the “resort” town of Woodlake, CA in the early 1900s. In 1961 the Gongs were looking for a business they could manage with their family helping. They bought the market and the theater and hired contractors to begin the remodel.

General Food Store 55 years after it started.
General Food Store 55 years after it started.

Another of my neighbors reported that he used to swim in the basement of the theater, so it probably had some structural issues. The senior Gongs removed the deteriorating theater and turned that area into a much-needed parking lot.

Along the front of Woodlake's main street, Valencia.
Along the front of Woodlake’s main street, Valencia.

What makes this photo fun is that the bench looks at the blank wall rather than at the street.

Gene Gong told me, “We are a neighborhood store.” The Woodlake Chamber of Commerce recognized Gene and Ray Gong, sons of the original owners, who now manage the store for their longevity serving this community with this full-service market and their community service.

CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.

Congratulations on your successful business, Ray and Gene Gong.

Streaming Thoughts Featured on Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Nov. 8, 2016
Streaming Thoughts Featured on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Nov. 8, 2016

Local Artist Renews Chamber of Commerce Membership

#blogboost #Woodlakevalleychamber Day 26 Ultimate Blog Challenge

Do you belong to your Chamber of Commerce?

Local artist, Linda Hengst, joined the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce in September 2015 and renewed this September.

So what?

The “so what” is that the Chambers of Commerce exist to get the word out about community businesses and support the community to make it better.

So today I’m going to brag about my friend, neighbor, Kiwanian, and Chamber member, Linda Hengst who paints and photographs this beautiful area in which we live. She gave me permission to share some of her work.

art-by-linda101
Art by Linda #1 Kaweah River

Linda’s art brags about our beautiful the foothill communities near the Sequoia National Park.

The Hengsts farm in the Woodlake area. Citrus and stone fruits grow well in this area. These are the views I drive by every day.
Art by Linda #2 Sierra Nevada & Foothills

The Hengsts farm in the Woodlake area. Citrus and stone fruits grow well in this area. These are the views I drive by every day. She works primarily in oil pallet knife paintings as well as water colors, and pen and ink.

Linda's Kaweah3
Art by Linda #3 Kaweah River on a Misty Day

This looks like the drive my husband and I took up the Kaweah River. It looks calm here, but with a little snow and rain…

Flowers inspire Linda.
Art by Linda #4 Red Rose

I don’t know where Linda found this rose, but it could be one of the beautiful 217 varieties of roses in the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Linda likes boats.
Art by Linda #5 Mandy Three

She paints when she travels as well.

Linda's mountain
Art by Linda #6 Linda’s Mountain

Linda’s husband, Robert Hengst, has lived in this area for generations. They often go to a cabin in the mountains and hike where she can paint her favorite views.

Linda's Kaweah
Art by Linda #7 Kaweah Winds Down from the Sierra Nevada

Kaweah Lake sometimes fills with life-giving water, and at other times you see the high water lines and the trees that grow under the water. Linda shares local stories as well as pictures of the area.

This is my personal favorite. I love the colors of the boats dancing on the water.
Art by Linda #8 Tethered Boats Dance in the Water

Most of the time when I visit Linda, I come away with something. Look what I found this time.

Marsha's must buy!
#9 Art by Linda Marsha’s Must Buy!

If you are interested in purchasing any of these (except #9), let me know. tchistorygal@gmail.com

Vote for your favorite.

Want to learn about other businesses in the Woodlake area?

Come to the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce Mixer on Thursday evening, October 28th at 6:00 at the Woodlake Museum 140 N. Magnolia, Woodlake.

wvcc-general-food-store130

Help us welcome new and returning members, and honor the owners of the General Food Store, operated continuously by the Gong family since 1961.

Related Posts About Woodlake

 

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake?

Woodlake Chamber Member “Woodlake Pride”

#blogboost #Woodlake Chamber

Garden Reception, October 8, 2016
Garden Reception, October 8, 2016

Gayla Event Scheduled

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!
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake

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.

Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens

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.

Manuel Jiminez hard at work on his visionary project
Manuel Jimenez hard at work on his visionary project

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.

Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden
Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden

“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.

Woodlake Botanical Gardens
Woodlake Botanical Gardens

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.

Manuel and Olga Jimenez
Manuel and Olga Jimenez.

“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.

Tulare County Treasures Project.

What a beautiful world Manuel and Olga Jimenez created.

Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.
Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.

So if you want a ticket for the Woodlake Pride dinner, see Rudy Garcia at the Valley Business Bank.

Rudy Garcia on the left
Rudy Garcia on the left

For more information about Woodlake Botanical Garden click here.

See you on Saturday night.

Related articles about Woodlake Botanical Gardens:

 

Shopping Like an Expert at General Food Store

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.

Gene Gong
Gene Gong

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!

Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.
Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.

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.

wvcc-general-food-store101

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.

wvcc-general-food-store124
Mmmmm that fresh bread smells heavenly!

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!

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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.

wvcc-general-food-store117

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!

Not here.

wvcc-general-food-store104

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.

wvcc-general-food-store120

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.

wvcc-general-food-store119

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.

wvcc-general-food-store121

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.

wvcc-general-food-store118

“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.”

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Apparently many customers like baby-back ribs. My husband does.

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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?

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My shopping habits are going to change!

 

7 Cherry on the Sundae Moments in 2016 – So Far!

#WP Photo Challenge

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.

Definitely red
Definitely red

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.

a very cute parade rider with a cherry on top
a very cute parade rider with a 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.

Intent on history, his and 275 others' enjoyment of the new Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum was the cherry on top of the entire effort.
Intent on history, his and 275 others’ enjoyment of the new Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum was the cherry on top of the entire effort.

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.

Carl Peden, so vibrant at the Museum VIP opening, passed away two days later on President's Day. We all mourn his passing.
Carl Peden, so vibrant at the Museum VIP opening.

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!

Woodlake Museum iPhone photos

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.

Tulare County is one of the agricultural capitals of the world.
Tulare County is one of the agricultural capitals of the world.

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.

a festive find at the botanical gardens
a festive find at the botanical gardens

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!

Gelato anyone?
Gelato anyone?

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!

Cherry of a life time!
Cherry vacation of a lifetime!

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.

The guys made it too!
The guys made it too!

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!

Mr. ET enjoyed whale watching.
Mr. ET enjoyed whale watching. I love this picture of his enthusiasm!
We had fun trying to fit into a selfie. Where's V?
We had fun trying to fit into a selfie. Where’s V? Can you see him next to me?

We all look a little wind-blown. Make-up? Forget about it! Fun? You bet!

We climbed hundreds of stairs to take this picture at the top of Iao State Park.
We climbed hundreds of stairs to take this picture at the top of Iao State Park.

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?

I lost my cherry bonnet in the shade, and wore my sarong in a most appealing way, don't you think?
I lost my cherry bonnet in the shade, and wore my sarong in a most appealing way, don’t you think?

Near the end of the week, and we are still smiling, but I’m sad inside because it will end soon.

Are cherries more valuable because they are so tiny compared to the rest of life?
Are cherries more valuable because they are so tiny compared to the rest of life?

One week out of our lives, such a small chunk, but it leaves lasting memories as bright as cherries on a chocolate soda.

And eventually the sun set on the cherry experience.
And eventually, the sun set on the cherry experience.

For more cherries, click the icon.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

If you enjoyed this, be the cherry on my sundae and please share it. 🙂

 

Three Reasons for Entering Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Why I love Cee’s Oddball Challenge

  1. Because there is no theme other than odd ball, it is easy to choose pictures ahead of time.
  2. Since there’s no theme but odd, it’s easy to write and schedule this challenge.
  3. 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?

Odd picture
Odd picture

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.”

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Odd thinking

 

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?

Cee's OddBall

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.

In case you missed them, click here.

How to Enjoy a Car Show Like a Car Guy

#Classiccars

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.
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Nuestropride car group came from Porterville.
  • 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.

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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.

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Winners for each category

 

 

 

Want to Visit a Drive Inn with Old Fashioned Hospitality?

#photochallenge #helping hands

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.

Ali Mohamed poses outside the popular Drive-In
Ali Mohamed poses outside the popular Drive Inn

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.

Her favorite food is chicken fingers. Mine, too.
Her favorite food is chicken fingers. Mine, too.

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!

Long lines did not mean a long wait.
Long lines did not mean a long wait.

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.

Menu
Menu

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.

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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.

I forgot and took a bite of chicken before I took the picture. Sorry!
I forgot and took a bite of chicken before I took the picture. mmmmmmm Sorry!

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.

Ali tells me his story.
Ali tells me his story.

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.

https://goo.gl/maps/7XVQuEyXuVM2

 

But Michigan is a long way from California.

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.”

Woodlake Drive-In in 1961.
Woodlake Drive Inn in 1961.

“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 camera would not click fast enough to catch the 55 Chevy.
My camera would not click fast enough to catch the 55 Chevy.

“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.”

The south side of the building.
The south side of the building.

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.

South Side sign mmm
South Side sign mmm – American 1950s comfort food

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.

He had no idea that I used to eat soft-serve and french fries every day for lunch in high school. mmm Yes, I was skinny.
He had no idea that I used to eat soft-serve and french fries every day for lunch in high school. mmm Yes, I was skinny.

Are you proud of my self-control? I may go back tomorrow, but I’m not telling.

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I can’t resist tempting you.

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.

"He does pretty good!"
“He does pretty good!”

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.

Y'all come back, now!
Y’all come back, now!

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.

 

 

 

 

8 Reasons to Shop the Local Hardware Store

Woodlake True Value Hardware Store Celebrating 100 Years of Continuous Service in 2017.

Woodlake True Value Hardware
Woodlake True Value Hardware

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.

Russ Howard, Co-Manager, Andrew Durais, Manager
Co-managers, Russ Howard and Andrew Dorais, didn’t mind the heat.

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.

Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Car Show Poster for July 16, 2016
Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Car Show Poster for July 16, 2016

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.

Leeann Jones and Cindy Dorais designed and created the beautiful counter out of found goods at the store: old siding which they painted rusty red, a wagon wheel, and a glass top. They have orders for more.
Leeann Jones and Cindy Dorais, pictured in front, designed and created the beautiful counter out of found goods at the store: old siding which they painted rusty-red, a wagon wheel, and a glass top. They have orders for more.

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.

If I can't find what I need, someone will help me, but everything is labeled.
If I can’t find what I need, someone will help me, but they also have  everything labeled.

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.

ATV - All Terrain Vehicles great for foothill ranches and trail riding. WH also stocks gun safes.
ATV – All Terrain Vehicles great for foothill ranches and trail riding. WH also stocks gun safes.
I thought the tire treads looked like airplanes taking off over the ocean full of naval ships.
I thought the tire treads looked like airplanes taking off over the ocean full of naval ships.

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.

I think this is Andrew's favorite department in the store.
I think this is Andrew’s favorite department in the store. I’ve never driven one, but Russ let me get on and pretend the last time I came. It’s like being a kid again. I like this place!
  1.  They have what I need in the store for building, decorating, and fixing things around the home.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

    "I"m so pretty, oh so pretty. I'm so pretty and witty and bright."
    “I”m so pretty, oh so pretty. I’m so pretty and witty and bright.”
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
I just love this table.
I just love this table made from scraps of stuff lying around in the back.

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!”

New lighting, new merchandise, all organized. It's a hardware guy's dream.
New lighting, new merchandise, all organized. It’s a hardware guy’s dream.

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.

My favorite section was the outdoor furniture and gardening area.
My favorite section was the outdoor furniture and gardening area.

Before I had finished taking pictures one display reached out and grabbed me.

"Buy me, buy me, buy me," said the folding chairs.
“Buy me, buy me, buy me,” said the folding chairs.

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!

These butterflies might like to try scaring the birds off my peaches.
These butterflies might like to try scaring the birds off my peaches.

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.

My great-grandmother had one of these, and I remember sticking my arm through the rollers.
My great-grandmother had one of these, and I remember sticking my arm through the rollers.

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.

Not everyone gets and ATV. I watched as four-year old Laila on her pink bike raced her big brother driving his ATV down their hill in Elderwood. I'll let you guess who won, but everyone had fun.
Not everyone gets and ATV. I watched as four-year-old Laila on her pink bike raced her big brother driving his ATV down their hill in Elderwood. I’ll let you guess who won, but everyone had fun.

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.

Everything grows in California's Central Valley. We are Within the Magic Circle.
Everything grows in California’s Central Valley. We are Within the Magic Circle.

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! 🙂

WordPress Photo Challenge: Landscape

“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

Spring at Running PRanch
Spring at Running P Ranch

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.

Spring at Running P Ranch
Moving around the tree searching for the perfect angle.

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.

Sunset in Woodlake Valley
Sunset in Woodlake Valley

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.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

My Plate Is Full: My Heart Sings

My friend Linda and her daughter
My friend, Kiwanis President,  Linda LaFleur and her daughter enjoy the new Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum

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.

Spirit of Woodlake Award Winner, Tony Casares and Miss Woodlake, Sonni Hacobian.
Spirit of Woodlake Award Winner, Tony Casares and Miss Woodlake, Sonni Hacobian.

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.

Dr. Michelle Herczog, Los Angeles County Office of Education
Dr. Michelle Herczog, Los Angeles County Office of Education

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 generations of History Consultants for Tulare County Office of Education
Three generations of History Consultants for Tulare County Office of Education

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.

Jim Lloyd had many good words to say about Marvin, and some barbs about taking over a very packed office after Marvin retired.
Jim Lloyd had many good words to say about Marvin, and some barbs about taking over a very packed office after Marvin retired.

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.

Special homemade treat at the Grand Opening.
Special homemade treat at the Grand Opening.

How has your life been recently?

Grand Opening for a New Museum

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.

I love Ben Reynoso's hat. He monitored everything at the VIP opening.
I love Ben Reynoso’s hat. He monitored everything at the VIP opening.

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.

Marcy Miller explains to the donors the work involved. They will soon understand why it took two years to open the museum.
Marcy Miller explains to the donors the work involved. They will soon understand why it took two years to open the museum.

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.

Each case represents hours of thought and work.
Each case represents hours of thought and work.

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.

Where did they ever skate in Woodlake?
Where did they ever skate in Woodlake?

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.

Rudy Garcia could hardly contain his excitement. His enthusiasm is so contageous.
Rudy Garcia could hardly contain his excitement. His enthusiasm is so contagious.

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.

Cool cars admired the beautiful new Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum.
Cool cars admired the beautiful new Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum.

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 and his wife admire the inside of the museum too.
Andrew Glazier and his wife admire the inside of the museum too.

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.

Carl Peden, so vibrant at the Museum VIP opening, passed away two days later on President's Day. We all mourn his passing.
Carl Peden, so vibrant at the Museum VIP opening, passed away two days later on President’s Day. We all mourn his passing.

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.

Carl Peden talks to John Wood, the builder of the Museum.
Carl Peden talks to John Wood, the builder of the Museum.

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.

Native basket weaving won't become a lost art. Jennifer will be teaching classes to preserve it.
Native basket weaving won’t become a lost art. Jennifer will be teaching classes to preserve it.

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.

Everyone crowds around the basket room door to play Marie Wilcox's dice game.
Everyone crowds around the basket room door to play Marie Wilcox’s dice game.

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.

It looks heavenly, doesn't it?
It looks heavenly, doesn’t it?

Our Grand Opening is today. I can’t wait to see who will come.

 

Things that are Rough

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!

By this time, I had learned to bring folks where I want them, not take a snapshot! I learn SO slowly! :)
Marvin, Father of History Day in CA, presents the Marvin Awbrey award to a student in Tulare County.

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.

Stupid
This is difficult for me, Marvin.

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.”

Marvin Awbrey
Marvin Awbrey

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.

My last picture of Marvin
My last picture of Marvin

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.

Marvin's last email

On the 23rd of January he sent his last email along with a personal message.

train of life
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.

For more things that are rough, Click here.

CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
CFFC runs weekly challenge starting every Tuesday.
  • Things that are Wet

The Next Series 

  • Locks, Keys, Knobs and Handles
  • Indoor Seating
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Alleys, Driveways, Parking Lots, Dirt Roads
  • Freeways, Expressway, Highways

Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum Has First Event

# WoodlakeValleyCulturalMuseum

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.
Woodlake Museum 2

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.

Lupercios

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.

2015-2017 Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Board
2015-2017 Volunteer Woodlake Chamber of Commerce Board  minus three members.

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.

Maria & Debby

We are all astounded that Marcy, Debby and Jennifer could put together a beautiful museum with no museum experience, and not much help.

Museum 4

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.

Delbert Davis Blessing

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.

Woodlake Museum 3For 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.

Woodlake Museum iPhone photos
Carl Peden

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.

Wood's Award
Marcy Miller, Rudy Garcia, John Wood, and Bertha Hernandez watching on.

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.

Plaque

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 tchistorygal@gmail.com if you’d like to make an appointment.

Maui-Donation Ticket-Proof

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.