Sylvia Crawford shares the latest news from Glen Ellen

News from Up Valley courtesy of Sylvia Crawford|

The name rings a bell

In my last column I shared a short thanks to the Watkins couple, who represented all of the bell-ringers collecting money for FISH at Christmas. Within days, a call arrived from Barney Watkins to clarify some misinformation. I am grateful to Barney for setting me straight and happy to share what I learned from him. 

First, Barney’s sweetheart is Mary. I misstated her name, which I won’t repeat here (furthering everyone’s confusion). Second, he and Mary wanted to make sure that folks knew more about the work that our local Rotary Club of Glen Ellen and Kenwood is doing. 

The good news is that is the local Rotary has been coordinating the bell-ringing for FISH for the past five years, and it is mostly Rotarians who serve. Glad to know that, and I appreciate them all. 

Food for learning

Barney had more good news about Rotary’s efforts locally. The Glen Ellen and Kenwood group has instituted two great programs at Dunbar School. One is delivering food to students attending the Boys and Girls Club after-school program. Every Friday, Barney and other Rotarians go to the food bank in Santa Rosa, pick up donations, and then fill bags so that 31 children receive food for their families for the weekend. Along with the Food Bank, Whole Foods has been helping Rotary with this project. Barney figures they have provided about 5,000 meals a year for needy families. Huzzah!

The Glen Ellen and Kenwood Rotary also tested a pilot program at Dunbar during the past three years that has now been adopted by the district for other schools in the coming year. Barney tells me it is a learning program using DreamBox (for math) and Lexia (for reading) to help students work independently at their own speed. Rotary aided this project by providing iPads and computers.  

Native Americans, adventurers and tourists

On Jan. 9, Arthur Dawson, awesome Glen Ellen historical expert, spoke at the Sonoma Community Center as a guest of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society. His topic was a brief history of Glen Ellen from the Ice Age onward.

Sweetie and I took a forward row seat to see and hear all that Arthur had to offer, from the beginnings of our village with the Native American tribes who made their homes here (including the Wappos, Coast Miwok and the Pomos) to the present day. From the earliest Europeans (mostly Spanish), to the Mission Era (with its veil of sadness for the native peoples), to the time of land grants and ranchos, through the regime-changing Californios, Arthur shared stories of Glen Ellen’s early occupants and visitors. He told us about the first vineyardists (featuring prominent women winemakers Kate Warfield, Eliza Hood and Ellen Stuart), the tourist era of the railroads (when Glen Ellen sported eight hotels and a dozen bars), Dr. O’Donnell’s brick yard, and then, after the railroads, the Golden Gate Bridge and still more tourists, now in their cars. 

Arthur ended his talk with a few personal reminiscences of some of the major players he has been able to interview. 

Arthur is a gentle and compelling speaker who brings the past alive with his stories and his enthusiasm for his home town. If you missed Arthur’s last talk, I urge you to be alert for his next, and plan to attend. 

Unheard but fully felt chuckle 

As good luck would have it, Sweetie and I chose forward seats at Arthur’s lecture just before my pal Newton Dal Poggetto walked in. He seated himself behind us, and instantly on his arrival, hearing his cheerful and booming voice, I turned to greet him. 

Dal always brings the gift of joyful talk and engaging stories wherever he goes. His voice conveys a sort of unheard but fully felt chuckle, like a creek after a welcome rain. The effect is uplifting. 

Listening to Dal that day, I promised myself to try to cultivate in my voice that same pleasure in greeting and conversation, especially as I age. 

I thank both Dal and Arthur for a well-spent Saturday afternoon. 

Paintings and civic spaces

The Sonoma Valley Historical Society is also currently featuring an exhibit at their Depot Park Museum called “A Brush with the Past.” Among the artful offerings in that show is Tilden Dakin’s beautiful view of Sonoma Creek in Glen Ellen. Long one of my favorite historical paintings, I bet posters of that piece would sell wildly in our town. (Hint: Think about it Historical folks and see if you can get permission from the owner.)

I also read in the SVHS’s recent newsletter that a grand Glen Ellen fellow is honored by the society for his volunteer work at Sonoma’s Mountain Cemetery. That would be young Jameson Reeves, a talented young fellow that we remember well from middle school. According to the newsletter, Jameson is now in Spain teaching English. Read more about his work in city planning programs in his blog: I perused all seven “pages” of his blog, entertained with Jameson’s reflections on places as varied as Kyoto, to Porto, and back to Shanghai. Fascinating. It’s fun keeping up with the amazing “kids” of Glen Ellen. Thanks to SVHS, and thanks especially to Jameson!

Best possible home town

Last Saturday afternoon, it was dear Jim Berkland who held court at Mayflower Hall, sharing his own experiences of growing up in this village, leaving town for a college education, followed by work as a young adult, and then returning late in his career. 

Jim enthusiastically painted a portrait of the best possible home town, with fishing holes and hills to hike, populated with true friends and thoughtful, caring adults. Jim made us laugh with the tale of Milo Shepard’s “Ole Yeller” pine, and then we cried a few tears over the sad fate of Jim’s bobcat Cecil. We all regaled at Jim’s account of pet turkey vultures, ball games in the old brick yard circle, and eighth grade graduation from Dunbar School at Mayflower Hall. His words were illustrated with projected photographs.

Jim’s talk was enhanced by his two dear friends, Jim Shere and Angela Morgan, who sat adjacent to him and served as muses, evoking philosophical thoughts, scientific observations and recollections childhood friends and fun. 

Local treasures

Both Jim Shere and Angela are also among the Glen Ellen treasures, as are Jim Berkland and Arthur Dawson. As the executive director of the Glen Ellen Historical Society, Jim Shere keeps a thoughtful and far-reaching view of history which gives us a focus to consider our own place in time. As for Angela, she fosters our connection with the world beyond our Valley, introducing speakers and letting us know how remarkable they are, both as a member of the historical society and as a volunteer coordinator of speakers at the Bouverie Preserve. I am always moved by Angela’s introductions, how she gets to the heart of the people she brings to us and deepens our experience with them.

Again, yes, what a marvelous place our little home town is, with fascinating characters of the past and present enriching our lives in unexpected ways.  

Contact Sylvia at 996-5995, write P.O. Box 518, GE 95442, or email

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