Lives & Times Of Valley Folk

by Steve Sparks, October 21, 2010

This week I had a couple of postponements in my interview schedule and therefore decided to take a little break. So, instead of an interview, and in response to the many of you who have asked, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share with you the list of all those who have to this point been so kind as to share with you their life stories/experiences along with their views of various Valley issues and, of course, partake in the end-of-interview questionnaire that I do each week. These can be read at the website listed below.

I started conducting these interviews almost exactly two years ago, in early November of 2008, when I found myself with some extra time on my hands following the end of the high school soccer season. As coach with Tom Smith on that program (and since Tom’s tragic passing I am now the head coach), I write the soccer reports for this newspaper and so at the end of that 2008 soccer sea­son there was some space in the newspaper and some free time in my schedule.

I suggested to the editor/publisher the idea of a weekly column featuring people’s oral histo­ries/biographies and their opinions about the Valley. This was originally going to be about those who had lived here all of their lives but over time it became apparent that many other of the residents in this unique Valley also had interesting histories and stories to tell so it became a series of interviews featuring just about any­one who lived here. I believe everyone has a story and each is as important and valid as the next.

Bruce Anderson welcomed the idea and, while the initial few interviews were limited in the space given to them (and probably should be revisited and re-done to get their full stories at some point), the series has been very successful and very well received by the readership based on the positive comments so many of you made in support of this venture.

From old Valley families, some of whom settled here in the late 1800s, to those who arrived in the Okie/Arkie immigration of the post-war years, to the ‘Back-to-the-Landers’ of the 60’s and 70’s, to our Mexican commu­nity, most of whom have arrived in the last 30 years, to the Bright Lighters who finally had their fill of the crazi­ness of the real world and came up here in the last 20 years or so, I have tried very hard to get a flavor of the current Valley scene by asking people from all of the Valley’s various ‘walks of life’ and have been quite suc­cessful in achieving this mix. I have also tried to get as many women as men, although currently it stands at 58 men to 40 women. Come on ladies, don’t be bashful! I have generally interviewed people over 50 years of age believing that they will have had more life experiences to share, although I think there have been maybe half a dozen who have been younger than that and have had just as much to offer as anyone else.

To me this is a labor of love. I am a student of social history and find this Valley fascinating with its variety of residents and their many different backgrounds. I am indebted to the ‘powers-that-be’ at the AVA for letting my weekly word count get as high as it has for these col­umns and for the many ideas for ‘subjects’ to interview. I am also very appreciative of the many, many positive comments I have received over the past two years from you, the readers, both in e-mails and personally. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my very under­standing and supportive wife, Patty Liddy, who has seen me spend almost as much time with relative strangers as her in this time. She probably quite likes that!

And finally, most important of all, I thank all 97 of you who to date have chosen to be interviewed and have shared your life stories with our community and beyond. Thanks to your participation, I believe we, as a commu­nity and as individuals, have perhaps learned a little more about others. These insights may not have surfaced otherwise, so the interviews in many cases have provided an introduction to each as it were. Many of you have expressed how you had no idea that a friend or acquain­tance of yours had lived in some place, or had been in a certain career, or whatever it may be. Surely that is a good thing and a positive experience that adds some­thing, no matter how small, to all of our Anderson Val­ley lives.

Here’s the up-to-date list of interviewees in the chronological order they were conducted. All of these interviews appear in their entirety on-line at www.avalleylife.wordpress.com.

Next week the guest interviewee from the Valley will be well-known AVA contributor and author Bruce ‘Pat’ Patterson.

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