Tahoe Family Tribute

by Bob Sparrow

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Dad’s Martini and Mom’s Gin Ricky

Part of our annual ritual is to bring cocktails to Mom and Dad. The drinks sit on the rock that their ashes surround. The drink on the left is for Dad, a great Martini lover (processed olives compliments of Don Spradling), the drink on the right is for Mom, who loved a Gin Ricky.

Jack and Barbara Sparrow lived in interesting times. They were born at the start of and at the end of WWI respectively, lived through the Roaring 20’s, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Psychedelic 60’s, the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War (Gosh we’ve been involved in a lot of wars!), the ‘dot.com’ boom, a new millennium and 17 presidents. They fortunately have not had to endure the election process of our next president! Throughout the majority of their married years, they were a harbinger of future married couples to come, as they both worked outside the home.  When they bought the Novato Advance in 1940 they were the youngest (26 and 21) newspaper publishers in California.  After they sold the paper Dad started his own commercial printing business and Mom became the executive secretary for the superintendent of school.  They were alway very active in a variety of charities in Novato and throughout Marin County – AND they managed scan0105 to raise three pretty good kids, even if I do say so myself. OK, two out of three!

Our annual Tahoe tribute trip in October, which unfortunately Suzanne and Al were unable to make this year due to their travel schedule, is a time to visit North Lake Tahoe when most of the tourists have gone home; it’s a time to revel in the beautiful fall days and cool, crisp evenings and it’s a time to enjoy family in a place that has so much history for us. It is also a time to reflect on our Mom and Dad as we pay tribute to them at their final resting place with such a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe. Dad’s ashes have been there since 2001, Mom joined him in 2014.

 

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The ‘Rat Pack’ at CalNeva

The connection to Lake Tahoe came from Dad’s best friend, Dick Schieck, a life-long bachelor, who adopted our family as his own and who was like a combination of another father and older brother to us. He bought a cabin at the north end of the lake in 1951 for $4,600 that became our primary summer and winter vacation destination for the next 20 years. In the early days the trip from Novato to Lake Tahoe on a two-lane road took about 6 hours, longer if you got behind a P.I.E. truck going over Donner Summit. It was when the gambling resort, CalNeva, where Frank Sinatra was once a part owner, drew the top entertainment in the land. But the classiest place at the north end of the lake was The North Shore Club where Dad and Dick would dress in coat and tie (minimum dress standard; tuxedos were not uncommon) and Mom in a formal cocktail dress on a Saturday night and go there for a night of gambling, dining and dancing to a live band.

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Classic Chris Craft in front of Sunnyside

Our parents introduced us to what is now a trendy destination for haut cuisine and designer martinis, Sunnyside Resort & Restaurant, but was just a house with a liquor store and a bait shop attached to it when we first started going there as kids to fish off the pier with a drop line. We were also introduced to Squaw Valley, when it had only one chair lift, several years before it was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic. Dad and Dick also introduced us to the best way to get rid of a hangover (a malady we were introduced to later in life) – go jump in that ice-cold lake!

To continue the legacy, over the years we have introduced ‘the Lake’ to our kids and grand kids and I’m sure have bored them with endless stories about ‘the good old days’. The Lake, while a lot more populated, is still beautiful and the memories we have of it going from a remote mountain get-away to the popular summer and winter destination are simply magical. Thank you Mom and Dad . . . and Dick.

How Long Can We Do This?

by Bob Sparrow

masthead_4_copy.png   While Suzanne was enjoying the cooler environs of Nipomo and I was trying to sneak into Russia, this past August marked a small blog milestone – our 4-year anniversary. Those of you who have been with us for the entire ride may remember that our blog started in August 2011 – we certainly don’t remember back that far! Initially it was a way to use social media to drive visitors to our ill-fated tribute poem writing business, Red Posey. The blog was then entitled Morning News in Verse and we would follow a USA Today newspaper format by writing four rhyming stanzas about topical news – one stanza each about Headlines, Business, Sports and Entertainment. Suzanne and I would alternate publishing a poem EVERYDAY!   That everyday thing lasted for about two months, when we realized that it was occupying way too much of our life – like all of it; so we cut back to twice a week. Every once in a while we would deviate from the poetic format, as deviates are wont to do, and write prose about various subjects. An example of this occurred in September of 2011, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, when Suzanne wrote a moving piece entitled, Small Moments – A 9/11 Tribute, World Trade Center 9/11/01which received a large number of hits and many great comments – it is still to this day, probably the most visited blog in our archives. We eventually noticed that our number of blog hits and comments would increase when we scrapped the iambic pentameter and just wrote prose, not like pros, but prose nonetheless. While we immediately noticed the increase in interest when we scraped the poetry format, it took us until March of the next year to officially change our content and format to what it is currently. And since we weren’t rhyming any more we changed our name – not to Morning News Without Verse, but to ‘From A Bird’s Eye View’, a name borrowed from a newspaper column our mother wrote for the Novato Advance back when our dad was owner, editor and publisher of that paper in the 1940 and 50s.

We continued to post a blog twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, until July 2012. Then, either sensing that we were running out of ideas or audience, or both, we switched to our current schedule of every Monday morning. Whether the deadline was everyday, twice a week or once a week, I am happy to report that we have not missed a scheduled posting since starting this back in August 2011; I guess that’s due in part to our father’s newspaper blood coursing through our veins, where missing a deadline just isn’t an option.

Novato Advance

Dad & Mom in front of the Novato Advance

Over these past four years we have published over 300 blogs, which have generated over 25,000 ‘views’ and nearly 1,000 comments (A special thank you to those who comment and let us know that our words don’t just fly off into cyber space). Our biggest day came last December when 388 people clicked on Suzanne’s ‘A TRIBUTE TO MY FIRST BEST FRIEND’ about her friend Leslie Sherman.  And if you Google ‘From a Bird’s Eye View blog’, you will find about 530 results over 12 pages – we are fortunate enough to be found . . . on the first page!!!

I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of remarkable places and meet a number of interesting people; and I am thankful for staying awake in English class long enough to understand how to put a sentence together without dangling a modifier . . . most of the time. But the best part of all this is working with my sister, Suzanne. While our styles are a bit different, we enjoy reading and editing each other’s posts prior to publishing (OK, she edits mine a whole lot more than I edit hers!), discussing subject matter, travel schedules and just plain catching up with each other on a much more regular basis than before we started writing together.

So as we try to avoid breaking our arms from patting ourselves on the back, we’d mostly like to thank you loyal ‘bird watchers’ for tuning in. As you know, we have written about everything from the ridiculous to the sublime (mostly me the ridiculous and Suzanne the sublime), so thank you for tolerating the expression of our thoughts, opinions and experiences.

How long can we do this? As long as you keep reading, we’ll keep writing.

Suz-Bob

Thank you!!

 

FULL CIRCLE

by Suzanne Sparrow Watson and Bob Sparrow

Barbara Sparrow

We are not able to write our usual blog this week.  We won’t be able to start your day with a chuckle, either laughing with – or at – our writing.  Last Tuesday, our mother passed away as a result of a fall that broke five of her ribs and …well, simply being 94 years old.  In a twist that makes you believe in fate, she was transferred from the community hospital in Sonoma to Marin County General.  When I heard that news I thought that maybe her life was coming full circle.  It was in Marin County that she grew up, met and married our dad, and then raised us three kids.  So it was only fitting that Marin County is where she would spend her final days.  And in another twist of fate, she died just one day shy of the anniversary of our dad’s death.  They were both huge 49er fans and we are now comforted in knowing that they were together to watch their favorite team play in the Super Bowl.

In tribute to her we are posting her obituary:

Barbara Whitman Sparrow, resident of Sonoma, California, passed away on January 29, 2013, just two weeks shy of her 94th birthday.

Barbara was raised in San Anselmo, California and graduated in 1936 from San Rafael High School.  Barbara attended secretarial school in San Francisco after graduation and over the years made good use of her education.

Barbara met her future husband, Jack Sparrow, at San Rafael High and they were married in 1937.  They moved to Novato in 1939 and in 1940 they bought the Novato Advance newspaperAt the time it made them the youngest newspaper publishers in California.  Together they performed all of the jobs necessary to write, print and distribute the Advance.  Barbara learned to use a linotype machine to help out, but her greatest contribution was her reporting of the town’s social events in her columns “A Little Bird Told Me” which was subsequently re-titled “A Bird’s Eye View”.

After Barbara and Jack sold the paper, Jack went into business for himself and Barbara pursued her own career.  She held positions at Crocker National Bank and the Novato Unified School District.

Barbara was very active in Novato civic organizations.  She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Novato Community Players, and in 1950 was a co-founder of the Novato chapter of the Sunny Hills Guild.  She was a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, serving as the Northern California President for two years.  In addition she led Boy Scout troops and volunteered at Novato General Hospital.

In 1977 Barbara and Jack retired in Sonoma.  But retirement was not in the cards for Barbara.  She took a part-time job at Vineyard Jewelers and worked there well into her 80’s.  Barbara was active in Sonoma activities, joining the Sonoma Valley Women’s Association and the Sonoma Swingers golf group.  She was also a member of the  United Methodist Church in Sonoma.

Barbara is survived by her son Jack Jr. and his wife Sharon of Santa Maria, son Bob and his wife Linda of Orange County, and her daughter Suzanne and her husband Alan Watson, of Scottsdale, Arizona.  She is also survived by her five grandchildren Shelley Watson and Matt Sparrow of Tucson, Arizona, Stephanie Shomer of Glendale, Dana Borelli of Monrovia, Jeff Sparrow of Orange County. step-grandson Colin Watson of Walnut Creek and step-grandaughter Wendy Watson Topalian of Leawood, Kansas.  Additionally she was blessed to have great grandchildren Katie and Abby Watson of Tucson, AZ., Jackson and Madelyn Sparrow of Tucson, Dylan and Emma Shomer of Glendale, and step-greatgrandsons Matthew and Jake Topalian of Leawood.  Barbara is also survived by her brother Neill of Sonoma and sister Geraldine of Sun City, Florida.

Private services will be held by the family.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Sunny Hills Children’s Garden, 300 Sunny Hills Drive, San Anselmo, CA. 94960.

Welcome to ‘A Bird’s Eye View’

     Yes, you’re in the right place; you don’t have a virus; well, maybe you do, but that’s a whole different subject.  This is Morning News in Verse and you are either receiving this in your email (thank you subscribers, we love you) or are getting it through Facebook (we love you too, but it’s more like a puppy love).  Due to an increasingly diminishing number of requests, we’ve made a decision to change our format from mostly verse and some prose to mostly prose and some verse.  Our number of ‘hits’ tell us that it’s what you would prefer as well.

     We’ll still make fun of the Headlines, Money, Sports and Life, but only occasionally; rather, we’ll proffer samples of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ of life-observations.  Sometimes our observations will be from the road, usually the one less traveled, and sometimes they will be from just around the corner.  Sometimes we’ll write about insignificant, Andy Rooney-kinds of things and other times we’ll offer observations on this process of growing older, but not necessarily up.

So let’s start with our new name, ‘A Bird’s Eye View’; it is, of course, a play on words of the name Sparrow, but it also has some family history to it.  In 1940 our parents moved to Novato, a small, northern California town, where our father, Jack (yes, Jack Sparrow, but no relation to Johnny Depp) bought the Novato Advance, a local, weekly newspaper, and at 26 became the youngest newspaper publisher in California.  It was truly a ‘Mom and Pop’ business – our dad hand-set the type and operated the printing presses while our mom, who could also operate a pretty mean linotype machine, attended the town meetings to gather the local gossip, or news as she called it.  She also spiced up the paper by chronicling the comings and goings of Novato’s social elite, such as they were.  Those familiar with small town newspapers know what we’re talking about.  Jim and Mabel Cranston were visited on Sunday by Mabel’s sister, Iris from Ukiah; she brought an apple pie – Jim had seconds.  Our mother originally called her column, A Little Bird Told Me and later changed it to A Bird’s Eye View.  When we recently asked her about why she changed the name, she first said, “Who are you two?”  At 93, we forgave her for not remembering the details of a newspaper column from nearly 70 years ago.  Our theory is this: etymologically speaking, ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ sounds like second-hand information, like we’re not sure if this is true, but we heard from someone that yadda, yadda, yadda. ‘A Bird’s Eye View’, on the other hand, seems to suggest more of a first-hand, optimum perspective of things.  Our mother could neither confirm nor deny our theory.

However the name came about, we’ve decided that it’s ours and we’re bringing it out of retirement.  We hope you enjoy our new direction.