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Musings: Dan Ruggles Plaza merchant

The number of residents doing their Christmas shopping locally was already in decline when I returned to Sonoma in 1969 following my service with the Navy in Vietnam. While some took it for granted that this exodus of local shoppers was inevitable, one local merchant was determined to not let it happen without a fight. That man was Dan Ruggles.

Musings of a Sonoma son: 50th anniversary of Springs fire

In the fall of 1964, a wind-blown spark from a power line ignited some tinder-dry brush on Nelligan Road between Glen Ellen and Kenwood. Then hot Santa-Ana type winds caused that little spark to explode into a raging brush, timber and grass fire that consumed 19 homes and 10,000 acres from Glen Ellen to Boyes Hot Springs over the next two days.

The eight candidates for the three seats on the Sonoma City Council faced off again Wednesday night, Oct 8, at the Lodge at Sonoma. From left are Andrew Sawicki, Jack Wagner, Lynda Corrado, Madolyn Agrimonti, Gary Edwards, Ken Brown, Rachel Hundley and Cameron Stuckey. Photos of the individuals are presented in the order in which they spoke. (Photos by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Editorial: Love and hate in Sonoma

While retirement has changed me and allowed me to appreciate life in Sonoma more than when I was working full time, I’m not immune to personal bias and critical observations. I can be a curmudgeon with the best of them.


Editorial: Counting Sonoma’s blessings

The best thing about politics in Sonoma Valley is that virtually all of our elected officials are volunteers. It is not a career. Whatever compensation there is is very small or nonexistent.


Editorial: 137 and still serving Sonoma Valley

Would you believe that the Sonoma Index-Tribune is 137 years old? It was founded in 1878 and changed owners and editors many times before my great-grandfather, Harry Granice, bought it in 1884.

Hunting and fishing: The Upper Sac secret

A hundred years ago, folks from Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area found their way to the wild, unspoiled canyon through which the snowmelt of Mt. Shasta created one of the best fisheries for wild salmon and steelhead on the Pacific Coast. It eventually enters the Sacramento Valley, flows into San Francisco Bay and then to the Pacific Ocean.

Carmela Vella Benedetto

Carmela Vella Benedetto

Carmela Vella Benedetto, lifelong resident of Sonoma Valley, widow of the late Rocco (Rock) Benedetto and former proprietor of Vella’s Creamery (now Burgers and Vine), passed away Friday, September 19.

MANY OF SONOMA’S most prominent citizens participated in the historic pageants of the Vintage Festivals of the 1940s and ’50s. The girls on the left are Claudia Clerici and Mary Ann Sebastiani (Cuneo). In the center are the late James McTaggart (father of Ken McTaggart) and Shirley Gardner Churchill. The boys on the right are Robert and Freddie Eberhardt. Robert Lynch Collection file photo

Musings of a Sonoma son: Vintage Festival is old Sonoma

Before television and before our community calendar was filled with weekend-after-weekend of fundraising events, auctions and community parties, there was the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival. As celebrations go, it is Sonoma’s oldest by far.

Musings of a Sonoma son: Friday night Dragon lights

That glow in the sky to the north of Sonoma’s Plaza on Friday nights this month is probably from Arnold Field, where the Sonoma Valley High School Dragons are hosting a game with a rival from elsewhere in the county.


Musings: Jack London State Park’s Transcendent survival

While Dottie and I sat under the stars at Jack London State Park recently, enjoying the incredibly talented and effervescent cast of the Transcendence Theater Company perform song and dance numbers from our favorite (and in some cases, our parents’ favorite) Broadway musicals, I recalled my first ever visit to what was then Jack London’s Beauty Ranch, years before it became a state park.

Al Mazza

Remembering Al Mazza

I saw a poster this week announcing the 5th annual Al Mazza Memorial Best Ball Golf Tournament, set for Friday, May 30, at Oakmont. The event, sponsored by the Sonoma Valley Firefighters Association, is a way to honor the memory of a great Sonoman who not only served our community as a firefighter and fire… Continue Reading >>

MIKE DELONG was honored at the Sonoma Valley High School 1987 graduation for his 35 years of teaching here. Index-Tribune file photo courtesy of Elizabeth DeLong

Mike DeLong, great teacher and great guy

When students, staff and visitors to Sonoma Valley High School exit their cars and enter the school campus from the main south parking lot, the first thing they see is the Myron E. DeLong Library. As each year goes by, there are fewer staff members at the school who knew Myron DeLong (known as Mike… Continue Reading >>

Sebastiani Theatre memories

This month marks the 80th anniversary of the Sebastiani Theatre. I have been attending movies there for the better part of 70 of those years. Whenever I need to connect with my childhood in Sonoma, I persuade Dottie to join me for a movie at Sebastiani Theatre. Usually, the movies are good, even great, but… Continue Reading >>

My Uncle Henri loved Sonoma

Many Sonoma residents have heard of the Maysonnave House, located on First Street East directly south of Depot Park. It is now the home of the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation. In November, the Index-Tribune carried a story about plans to turn the small cottage behind the house into a vacation rental. Part of this… Continue Reading >>

Before there were Giants

You might have read in the Index-Tribune recently that Sonoma Valley might have its own professional baseball team, The Sonoma Stompers, playing games at Arnold Field this year.

Main Street Sonoma is long gone

When I was a boy growing up in Sonoma, there seemed to be at least two or three bars on every block of the Plaza, more if you counted the ones that were part of a hotel or restaurant (Union Hotel, Swiss Hotel and El Dorado, for example).

The Cheese Factory siege of 1973

In 1969, when I got back from Vietnam and went to work for the family business, it had a very small staff. I was the sports editor and also covered the school board, the police, fire and sheriff’s beats. One early December morning, I got a phone call from the Sonoma police dispatcher that there… Continue Reading >>

A FAMILIAR SCENE in front of Sonoma City Hall until 1990, the life-sized créche was sometimes missing a figure or two, including the baby Jesus. Miraculously, the figures always reappeared after a day or two. Index-Tribune archive photo

The ‘Miracles’ of the Plaza Créche

For many decades, up until 1990, a life-sized crèche was a prominent feature of Sonoma’s Christmas decorations. It was placed in front of City Hall at the front-most part of the Plaza horseshoe facing the intersection of Broadway and Napa Street.

THE MURPHYS’ DINING ROOM, filled with antiques, was the setting for many of our family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Index-Tribune archive photo

Holidays at the Barracks

My earliest childhood memories of holidays in Sonoma were centered in the Sonoma Barracks, which was the home of my grand-aunt and uncle, Celeste and Walter Murphy, until their passing in 1962.


Barracks memories

My grand-aunt Celeste and uncle Walter Murphy owned and lived in the historic Sonoma barracks, on the Plaza. They sold it to the state in the 1950s but lived there until their deaths, just months apart, in 1962. Aunt Celie was the daughter of Harry Granice (my great grandfather), editor and publisher of The Sonoma… Continue Reading >>