Road Trip – Novato, Our Home Town

by Bob Sparrow

The Road Trip – Novato, Our Home Town

Spinnaker in Sausalito

I left Orange County mid-morning last Thursday, hoping to miss the L.A. traffic . . . NOT!  So, the three-hour drive to meet up with Jack in Santa Maria took four hours.  I spent Thursday night at Jack & Sharon’s where they invited Sharon’s daughter and son-in-law, Deb & Steve Rau over for dinner; a very fun evening.  Jack and I embarked on our road trip the next morning around 8:00, getting us to San Francisco in time for their commute traffic.  So, my first road trip accomplishment was to be stuck in both L.A. and San Francisco traffic within 24 hours.  Check.

Jack & I both enjoyed visiting San Francisco while we were growing up in Novato, however, we’d heard not-such-good things about it over the last several years, so we were afraid to see for ourselves what ‘The City’ looked like.  We took major streets through town, Van Ness and Lombard and we were very pleasantly surprised – we saw not one homeless person on the spotless streets and The City sparkled on this beautiful, sunny Friday morning.  We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and went into Sausalito where we had lunch at The Spinnaker, a restaurant right on the water.  The last time I was at The Spinnaker was for dinner before my high school senior prom, just a few years ago!  We had a window seat which offered us a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay and the many boats out sailing on this perfect spring day.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken a photo of a meal I was eating, but this one looked and tasted so good, that I just couldn’t help myself.

After lunch, we continued into Novato and to the home of Pete Ferrarese, a former high school classmate and football teammate of Jack.  He is living in the house his parents owned and that he grew up in.  He invited his brother, Paul, who was a classmate and teammate of mine in high school, over for dinner as well as semi-retired lawyer and classmate, football teammate, George Gnoss, who brought a very nice bottle of wine.  Needless to say, the before-dinner conversation in Pete’s beautifully flowered backyard, the dinner conversation over delicious barbequed steaks, and the post-dinner/wine conversation was filled with stories about, “Do you remember when . . .”  A most entertaining and fun evening!

Saturday morning, we met the family of a dear friend of both Jack and mine, Don Stutzman, who passed away several years ago.  We met, Gwenn, Don’s ex-wife and two of his three children, Susan and Mark.  This trip is just beginning, but having the two-and-a-half-hour breakfast with the Stutzman clan will unquestionably be one of the highlights.  The conversation never stopped about adventures that we had with Don.  Gwenn looked great at 84 and the kids were chips off the old block, very nice looking, delightful and totally entertaining.  After breakfast Mark invited us over to his house to see his ‘Man Cave’.  It is unbelievable!  A large room, separate from the house, with a full bar and filled with 49er memorabilia.  The stories continued as we had a cold beer and a toast to Don.

Jack, Paul, Bob, Pete, George

Pete’s garden with 70 foot redwood tree

The Stutzmans: Mark, Jack, Gwenn, Susan, me

Saturday afternoon we visited all the houses (4) that we lived in while growing up in Novato as well as cruised down the main drag of town, Grant Avenue, saying, “That’s where (fill in the blank) used to be”.  We also went by Novato High School and sadly watched part of a soccer game being played on the football field – where Novato no longer has a football team.  We then visited ‘our brick’ at Novato City Hall.   Pete, Jack & I hit a very good Mexican restaurant on Grant Avenue for dinner, then called it a night.

The ‘Brick’ at Novato City Hall

Next week, Suzanne will post her traditional ‘Memorial Day’ blog paying tribute to the Novato men who lost their lives in Viet Nam.  I will return the following week with the rest of the ‘Road Trip’.

Mark’s 49er Man Cave!

Jack & my first home – upstairs on Grant Ave.

The Brothers Sparrow Road Trip

by Bob Sparrow

The famous Alturas Railway station

This week, on Thursday, Brother Jack and I will embark on a road trip that was borne out of some nonsense that Jack uttered years ago.  He and I like to bet on football, both college and pro; when we’re in Vegas we make actual bets, but most of the time we just make imaginary bets – granted you don’t win much with those, but you don’t lose much either.  One Monday after a not-so-good imaginary weekend of football betting, I called Jack to discuss our poor results.  After my reporting all the bad news, he said, “Maybe we should just go to Alturas and open a turkey farm” He then asked me, “Do you know how to make Turkey Pot Pies?”  What?!!!  I didn’t know where that came from, I didn’t know where Alturas was and I sure as hell didn’t know how to make a Turkey Pot Pie.  Jack explained that Alturas was a small town in the northeast corner of California and that he had never been there, but it sounded like a nice little town.  And so, Alturas and the prospect of getting into the Turkey Pot Pie business remained the butt of many of our jokes in the ensuing years.

At the end of last year, we decided, since we’re both California natives, and neither of us had not only never been to Alturas, but we didn’t even know anybody who had ever been to that booming metropolis; so it screamed, “Road Trip!”  So, earlier this year, we planned a road trip that would include some of the places in the state that are near and dear to us while also checking off Alturas, a town that surely is on most people’s bucket list to visit.

So, here’s what we’ve learned, and I’m sure you’re dying to know, about Alturas:

Fisherman’s Wharf . . . or Sausalito?

Alturas is Spanish for “Heights”, as it is at an altitude of 4,370 feet above sea level With a population of about 2,700 people, albeit one of the largest cities in the region!  It is located at the confluence of the south and north forks of the Pit River.  I’m sure that helped you pinpoint it’s exact location!  We searched for the possibilities of Alturas having a fairly large turkey populations, but to no avail.  We’re not even sure the concept of a Turkey Pot Pie has ever been introduced to the fine people of Alturas!  We shall see!

The trip will start with me driving to meet Jack at his home in Santa Maria.  The next morning we’ll head north and decide while driving through San Francisco, if we want to stop.  It was such a wonerful city when we were growing up in Novato, and we have many fond memories of ‘The City’; but given what we’ve heard, we’re just not sure what we’ll find.  If we don’t stop at someplace like Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch, then we’d probably head over to Sausalito and grab a bite.  We’ll then continue up to Novato, the town where we were both born and raised.  We’ll do some drive-bys of the houses we used to live in and Novato High School, as well as cruise down the main drag, Grant Avenue, which, I’m sure, we’ll bring back lots of memories.  We’ll then head over to a classmate and football teammate of Jack’s, Pete Ferrarese, where he has offered us lodging for the night.  It’s the only night were we have secured accommodations, as we’re not sure how long we’ll stay in any one place.  We may even end up sleeping in the car!

Lake Almanor

We’ll then head up through the ‘Wine Country’, perhaps stop for a taste, then drive up to Willows, the small town that our father was born in.  We’ll keep heading north to Mt. Shasta, and then head east to Alturas.  Once we’ve looked for any turkey farms and quizzed the local barkeep about all there is to know about Alturas, (perhaps two drinks worth) we’ll hopefully find some adequate lodging.  We will then head south to Lake Almanor.  A lake that neither of us have ever been to.  We may connect with some friends of mine from Yorba Linda County Club, who summer in Lake Almanor, if so, we’ll stop and say ‘Hi’ and learn all about the lake.  We’ll continue heading south to the town of Quincy, where we spent a few summer vacations as kids.  We’ll then head to some familiar haunts of Lake Tahoe, where Jack lived for 14 years and owned a restaurant, and where I owned a cabin and where our family went every summer from 1952 to sometime in the ‘70s and beyond.  We’ll spend time at both the north and the south end of the lake possibly doing a bit of gaming at one of the casinos at the south end.  After a day or two at the lake we’ll connect to Highway 49 and visit California’s ‘Gold Country’.  We’ll visit one of the most famous towns there, Angel’s Camp, where, in 1865, Mark Twain wrote, ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’.  From there we will head home.

That’s the plan, but there will be much left to how we’re feeling at the time, so nothing is carved in stone.  But I can guarantee you this . . . we will get to Alturas!

 

 

THE CELEBRATION OF A LIFETIME

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Jack and Bob

Last weekend our family and a few friends gathered together in our home for a Celebration of Life for Alan.  Which meant a lot of celebrating occurred and I’m operating on little sleep and lots of emotions as I write this.  The invitation to the event included a photo of Alan teeing off on his favorite hole on his favorite course in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Relatives came from far and wide.  In fact, I’m not even sure I’m related to some of these people.  To get the party started we had a family BBQ on Friday night, which involved a lot of laughter, some good-natured ribbing, loud singing (mostly on key), and some tears.  It was also an opportunity to celebrate my niece Shelley’s milestone birthday. 

Shelley and family

 

I had decided more than a year ago that this might be a good birthday for me to pass down the family diamond to her.  The diamond was originally given to my great-grandmother in 1892 and has normally been passed down upon the death of the owner.  But I believe that it’s good to give things away while you’re still alive to see the person’s reaction to receiving it.  She was genuinely surprised, and seeing her reaction was a moment I would not have missed. I know she will wear the diamond in the tradition of strong women in our family.

          The cookie

Alan’s Celebration of Life party on Saturday was everything I could have wished for.  Usually after an event I’ve hosted I find some flaw – something I could have done better or differently.  But not this.  As I went to bed Saturday night, I honestly thought the night had gone perfectly; I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Even the weather cooperated as the predicted strong winds didn’t occur.  The flowers were phenomenal, the food was outstanding, and everyone enjoyed the special touches of napkins and cookies that reflected the theme of “Until We Tee It Up Again”.  Of course, what made the day most special were the wonderful tributes paid to Alan by his children, Colin and Wendy, son-in-law Steve, and my brothers, Jack and Bob.  Everyone depicted Alan accurately.  He was funny, a prankster, enjoyed music and the outdoors, and was a master cheater at board games.  But most importantly what came through in those tributes is their love for him and their knowledge that he returned that love in full measure.  I wrote a eulogy that touched on his humorous antics, his remarkable achievements, and the wonderful times we shared together.  The event was filled with love and laughter, and I know that is exactly what he wanted.

        The family

I have been asked why it took me so long to have this Celebration of Life.  After all, Alan died July 28th, so it’s been a long time as these things go. What I didn’t realize before I became a widow is that the loss of a spouse shakes the very foundation of your life.  Everything – absolutely everything – is changed, from the moment you awaken in the morning to the moment to go to sleep at night.  I’m sure I could have arranged a Celebration directly after his death, with a lot of help from family and friends.  But it wouldn’t have been the same.  All of us family members have now had eight months to reflect on him and his life.  All of us who spoke about him were able to do so with some humor – which was his hallmark trait – and that would not have been possible in the first days after he died.  Now, we are all able to put his life, and death, into some perspective.  I chose a date close to his birthday and actually enjoyed planning the event and thinking about what he would have liked, right down to having pineapple upside down cake, which was his favorite birthday cake.

So, to all the people who questioned why I waited so long I say this: good things come to those who wait.  Should you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of having to plan a Celebration of Life, do what YOU feel is best.  Throw tradition and what is “normally” done out the window, unless that fits with your desires.  I’m so glad I did, and I know that Alan is looking down, happy that his Celebration was such a fun – and funny – gathering. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.