Lives & Times of Valley Folks: Judy Long

by Steve Sparks, January 14, 2010

I drove into the Rancho Navarro subdivision north of Navarro and turned into the driveway of the home of Judy and Garth Long, the one with the new fire truck parked outside. I was met by Judy and the three dogs, including the very excited new Labrador puppy, Tanner, and we sat down to chat.

Judy was born in Fresno, California in 1943, the fourth of five children (two boys and three girls) born to Lawrence Crawford and Virginia Ginn. “My father was originally from Layton, California, basically just an intersection between two roads, the nearest town of any note being Riverdale, and my mother, who was born in 1907, came here to California with her family from Kansas when she was four years old.”

Judy’s father was a carpenter, her mother a homemaker, and they had a ranch on which they had small numbers of sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs. “We lived in that area until my sophomore year of high school when we moved to Morro Bay. I guess I was an average student, anything less than a ‘C’ would have meant being hammered by my parents. I didn’t like history but didn’t really have any favorite subject. Mom and Dad were strict with all of us regarding our education and our chores on the ranch. I had to milk cows before and after school and feed the chickens. We kids all had names beginning with the letter ‘J’ – Jim, Jeanine, Joanie, Jerel, and myself – so my parents would send out Christmas cards signed ‘from Lawrence, Virginia, and the Five J’s.’ We were spread out in age; my oldest brother was in the Korean War when I was just eight years old so I barely knew him. My sister Joanie and I were close and both liked the outdoors so we did the jobs around the farm and when she left to join the Air Force my little brother and I were left to do them. However, when we moved to Morro Bay it was like the ‘city’ and there were no cows so our chores were downsized!”

For her final two years, Judy attended school at San Luis Obispo High, a bus ride away, where she excelled in sports, particularly baseball and basketball. “My Dad had been a semi-pro baseball player and it was my favorite sport too. We lived in a prefab home for a time while my Dad built our new home. I helped him on that project on the weekends. My parents had bought the property many years earlier — two lots for $500 each — in preparation for retirement. We had our home on one and a huge garden on the other. Life was good and I loved being near the ocean where we often went clam-digging.”

“I was very happy to move there. In Riverdale I was known as a mischievous teenager. My Dad had helped to build the school so he knew the Principal of the school well. I remember on one occasion, my Mom and Dad, who was a keen duck hunter, had the Principal and his wife over for duck dinner. I was terrified, he knew all about me, every little bad thing I’d done — missing classes, smoking, etc. Fortunately he didn’t say anything to Dad but still, I was glad to get away from that school. Ironically, that side of my behavior I got from my Dad and at my new school I would still miss many classes. My friend and I would catch the bus to school and then just not go in. We’d spend the day in the town and then catch the school bus home.”

“We weren’t that bad, although I remember I borrowed a car from a friend who used to pick oysters with me and my girlfriend and I hung out all day scanning the boys at Cal Poly. Then a college cop gave me a ticket for running a Stop sign and I had to go to court. I was only 17 so I had to attend with a parent — fortunately I went with my Mother, the lesser of two evils. I didn’t have a license and was sentenced to six weeks driving school at the end of which I got my license so it worked out quite well. On top of that my parents did not put two and two together that I should have been at school at the time of my ticket!”

Judy graduated in 1961. “For our graduation we were all locked in the local bowling alley for the night so we couldn’t get into too much trouble. Then they let us out at 8am and I went home, packed my bags and caught the bus to San Jose, where I could stay with my oldest sister, Jeannie, whose two kids I babysat. I had wanted to be a dental assistant but was fed up with school and didn’t want to do anymore studying. Besides, the more I thought about it, I realized that delving into people’s mouths might not be that good a job after all. I found work as a carhop at Rip’s Drive-In; you know, taking the burgers out on trays and hooking them on to the car windows. I earned $125 a month doing that and I wasn’t on roller skates.”

While working at the Drive-In, a regular customer was Garth Long. “He would come in with his cronies from his job as a truck driver. He had a brand new Ford hot rod, black with lots of cool accessories. One day I wrote on the fine dust on the hood ‘Judy was here’ and he freaked out. I started to tease him after that and soon we started dating. We were married in 1963 when I was 19 and lived in a duplex in Campbell near San Jose. We have been together ever since.”

On leaving the Drive-In job, Judy found work as a typist at Bud Curtis Architect’s office where her typing skills learned at school came in very handy. She stayed there for three years or so during which time she had a baby son, Kevin and then she became a secretary at American Standard in Mountain View, at their Space Division and department of advanced technology. She was there for about three years or so before, along with many others, she was hired by a consulting firm that had a contract with NASA. “I was a secretary, which was a very cool job. I was there until being hired by NASA proper in 1974, working in the wind tunnel department and then in the simulator section working on the shuttle landings. Eventually I became a secretary in the ‘Head Shed,’ working for the executives, including the Deputy Director of NASA-Ames in Mountain View. That was Steve Hawley, the astronaut who had deployed the Hubble Telescope in space. Ultimately I became the secretary to the Director and was with him from 1985 until I retired in 1994. I worked long hours, often 4am to 6pm — I had to be at work early in the morning as there was a constant need to contact the east coast and they are obviously three hours ahead. During all of those years we lived at the same house we’d bought in Martinez and Garth drove his trucks.”

In the late 60s Garth and Judy had become good friends with Dave and Nancy Gowan after Judy had worked with Dave at the consulting firm with the NASA contract. Dave’s family was here in Anderson Valley and when his father died he and Nancy would come to the Valley to work on the ranch, frequently with Judy and Garth — “to help pick apples and drink beer.” They would stay on the property next to where the Dave and Nancy’s AV Farm Supply business is today. “We loved it and made plans to retire here.” Meanwhile, back in The City, Dave, Nancy, and Garth were in a theater group in Campbell called The Gaslight Theater. “I was never on stage with those guys. I was the ‘bar wench’ there, taking out pitchers of beer and popcorn. The whole scene was a lot of fun.”

Judy and Garth bought 13 acres in Rancho Navarro in 1989, eventually moving here in 1994 when she retired from NASA. “We came up every other weekend until we moved here permanently, often arriving Friday evening and leaving on Monday evening. Garth retired a couple of years before I did and he would often come up for a week at a time by himself and work on various projects. When we moved I found a part-time job as Innkeeper at The Boonville Hotel on Sundays, serving a continental breakfast, not anything substantial. Then Garth joined the Volunteer Fire Department and after listening to his stories and being left here alone so often I did too, in 1996. We were encouraged to do so by Gene and Richard Herr and Al and Lynn Roman. At one point I signed up for the Community Services District, responsible for the Fire Department, the Recreation Department, the Airport, and the street lighting. I ended up being the chairperson for eight years. Then Gene, Lynn, and I took the EMT class, just because we wanted to get behind the wheel of an ambulance! It was three months of hard work, very intense but worth it. Quite a few people do both fire and ambulance — there are about 40 volunteers in the Fire Department and maybe 15 with the Ambulance.” I mentioned the recent award of ‘Firefighter of the Year 2009’ that Judy had received. “It came as a complete shock but very, very nice.”

Judy’s other main community service has been her ten years in the Lions’ Club. “My Dad was a Lion so it’s in the blood I guess, but originally Jan Wasson-Smith ‘conned’ me into joining and I’ve been a member for the last ten years. I do like doing the fund-raising and we do many functions here in the Valley in terms of providing the beer and wine and a bbq. I am service orientated and like to make money for good causes. Now I’m the Vice-President and get to go to funerals! My sister Joanie (Clark) moved here in the late 90s and she is the secretary. We are close and she has been a great help with all of our dog/sheep/house sitting when we go on vacation. That’s how the Lions Club works: you join and you invite your families to join too.”

“I love the Valley scenery and knowing so many people in a community. I’m a pretty easygoing person and don’t have anything to complain about in living here, although it’s not perfect of course. We also love to go out to Navarro River Beach with the dogs but I hate the fact that there is now officially a leash law in effect. I cannot see us ever leaving here although we do like to hook up our trailer and travel to various places — British Columbia, Las Vegas, and soon we are off to Mesquite, Nevada. I go to Mexico with the Lions Club on our annual eyeglass clinic trip, providing spectacles for people who cannot get them otherwise.”

I asked Judy for her responses to some Valley issues.

The wineries? “I think they have taken it to excess at this point. It is such a beautiful place here but greed seems to be taking over the beauty and there are too many vines. Our water supplies must be adversely affected by now. The wines are very good, the wineries are often good neighbors, but they are taking too much out at this point and it seems a never-ending story of new vines going in. You used to see lots of little frogs in the Valley on the roads and in the hills. You see very few these days. The Board of Supervisors should be paying attention to this and checking to see if spraying limitations are being enforced. It’s difficult though. Lots of stuff happens at night around here. Maybe more taxes should be paid by the wineries; they make enough money, I’m sure. The absentee winery owners who live elsewhere don’t care about our water or any other serious effects they may be having on our health.”

The AVA newspaper? “I read it every week. It’s always fun when there is something controversial going on and I’m glad Bruce Anderson came back.”

KZYX radio? “I listen to it for ‘Trading Time’ but that’s about it. Some of the programming is not very good in my opinion.”

Law and Order in the Valley? “I think we do a good job with this. Craig Walker, the new Deputy, is an excellent addition, and Keith Squires just knows so much about the heartbeat of the Valley after all his years here. I really like Keith, and he has a great sense of humor. Just don’t get him out of bed in the middle of the night!”

The Fire and Ambulance Departments? “We do a terrific job I have to say. The Fire Department under Colin Wilson has grown so much and greatly expanded our areas of expertise.”

I asked Judy what she would do around here if she were the Mayor and had some political power to change things. “Well, the water issues concern me. We need some sort of sewage plant. We simply cannot keep flushing toilets into the system that ends up as drinking water at some point.”

I posed a few questions to Judy from a list devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert,” Bernard Pivot, featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton.”

Favorite word or phrase? “I like to hear and say, ‘Great job’.”

Least favorite word or phrase? “Volunteers mean well but when they repeatedly say ‘How do I do this?’ it annoys me. Can’t they just think it through?”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? ‘I like being around my pets and animals in general. It inspires me when I foster a newborn kitten or revive a ‘dead’ lamb.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? “People who dump off animals/pets, and bad drivers in general, of which there are many who come through this Valley.”

Sound or noise you love? “Birds singing. We have a very strange collection around here. They are very vocal and seem to be talking to us and each other.”

Sound or noise you hate? “The fire or ambulance pager in the middle of the night. That’s an easy one!”

Favorite curse word? “Rat bastard.”

Favorite hobby? “Gardening, I guess.”

Profession other than your own you’d like to attempt? “A doctor or vet, although I’m not sure if I could have dealt with being either.”

Profession you’d not like to do? “Pumping out port-a-potties.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? “I am basically a very happy person and do not have one day or event. I know that when our son Kevin graduated from college it was a very happy day.”

The saddest? “When my Dad died. He was my best friend. He had been really tough in the early years but when he found out I could go out and do it on my own he and I got very close and our relationship was very special. He was my buddy.”

Favorite thing about yourself, physically/mentally/spiritually? “My disposition. I always try to be happy and positive. Anger comes and goes very quickly with me, it’s not something I dwell on and that’s a good thing I believe.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Well, I’m not sure this would be the case but ‘Come on in, Judy’ would be nice. Just as long as I’m surrounded by my friends it wouldn’t matter to me where I was.”

To read the stories of other Valley Folk, visit the archives at www.avalleylife.wordpress.com. Next week the guest interviewee will be Bob Nimmons.

One Response to Lives & Times of Valley Folks: Judy Long

  1. Kevin Long Reply

    January 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Way to go, Mom!

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