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The Last Days of the Redwood Record

I was hanging around The Redwood Record in Garberville, California toward the end in 1995 and that place was a zoo: stoners, neurotics, alcoholics, and freaks — I guess I fit right in. There was the main reporter, Manny, who waddled around town on a perpetual coffee break, a weird-looking character cadging stray tokes behind the church but he always got his story. Then you had the ad-sales gal, this very tall woman, a frustrated actress likely to be talking calmly one moment then screaming in your face the next. 

Let’s just say that the staff photographer would tell you a story half an hour after she told you the same exact one. There was another reporter who was kind of a professional victim, likely to be unhappy no matter what podunk paper she was working for. The guy who came down from the main office in Fortuna always seemed to have a few warm beers in his butt pack as he carried on an affair with The Editor who seemed to be holding some mysterious grudge with the universe. Meanwhile the object of my affections, the front office lady with the big smile in the window, said everything was “fine” as the paper and all of our lives went to hell.

And of course there was Ray Oakes, Captain Freak himself, star of the local low-budget eighties epic “Marijuana Man” movie, banging away on the computer for his weekly column with a crush on every chick in the place. He was more hard drinking and partying than kids thirty years his junior. Ray’s the guy you should hide the car keys from for when the party’s over he refuses to sleep on the couch. No matter what time it is there’s always another scene for Ray to search out and somehow he always makes it home in one piece. (He's still writing a weekly column at the Humboldt Independent at eighty-four.)

Into this harmonic maelstrom, this rag from hell, I thrust myself for romantic reasons, working in the back with the archives, culling back-to-the-land and weed stories from the last twenty-five years of the hippie invasion before the whole mess was shipped up to Fortuna. 

And then I found the smoking gun: the infamous Anti-Hippie Petition of 1969

I reviewed every issue from 1967-1984, decorating the morgue copies with hundreds of post-its, when the project finally faltered then dropped to the ink-stained floor:

It was a Saturday morning and I was culling through the year 1984 in the back while the front office lady was making copies of cogent articles on the photo copy machine up front for me. We took a break and I suggested that we have a seat on the couch in the privacy of  The Editor’s office. She said she didn’t think that was a good idea. C’mon, I said, it’s Saturday and no one’s here. 

On the couch I kissed her, ran my hand up her leg, and heard a click in the door.  A moment later The Editor walked in catching us on her cheap plastic couch.

“Who said you could come in here!” she screamed.

“God,” I replied.

“God?! Get outta here,” she bellowed. “Go smoke another joint!”

“Hey, I haven’t smoked one in nine months. From what I hear you're the pothead!”

And that was the end of the Great Garberville Archival Heist of 1995. The research project was history, the Redwood Record died, and the employees wandered on to their next adventures.

* * *

The Anti-Hippie Petition of 1969

Petition to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Oct 16, 1969.

Honorable Sirs,

Enclosed are names of many of our residents, many we did not contact. We are very concerned in this Southern Humboldt area over the mass infiltration of Hippies. 

Many residents have come upon them bathing in the nude and having intercourse on the beaches of our rivers and ocean. We are concerned with their utter lack of regard for the moral, health, and sanitary codes.

The local residents and out local law enforcement bodies are very unhappy with our local judge and the lack of sentences he imposes on the hippies when brought into court on dope charges and other charges.

How many of them are on the welfare rolls? According to our store clerks, girls who work in the local hospital and the druggists, their number is many.

Many shacks and dwellings are going up in the brush around Whitethorn and other areas without any building codes or permits or sanitary regulations. We feel they should abide by the same laws, rules, and regulations we the tax payer do.

We don’t know what you can do to help us but felt you should become aware of our problem and our sentiments on the subject.

Thank You

Mrs Ralph French

Florence French, Redway

* * *

To the Editor, (Redwood Record, October 9, 1969)

Please help me inform the people who think “It cannot happen here!” that it IS happening in Southern Humboldt.

On the 5th of July my mother took my fiance and me to picnic with some family friends at Needle Rock beach. We were chased from that area by a group of ten nude persons who made it very apparent they did not wish their cavorting and lovemaking to be interrupted by picnicking area residents.

This is not an isolated incident, for, from what I hear, things of this type are going on more and more in places closer to Garberville and Redway. It makes me sick to think that the respectable neighborhoods where I have grown up, the river and ocean beaches where I have enjoyed family outings through the years, might become hippie havens, and be no longer safe or desirable places to be with family and friends.

Isn’t there something that can be done to discourage and stop such a thing happening?

Hoping so, I am yours sincerely,

Miss Nancy Williams, Garberville 

* * *

To the Editor, (Redwood Record, October 16, 1969)

The concern shown by a local young lady's letter to your paper last week is felt by many residents in Southern Humboldt. The recent hippie increase in this area is noticed by even the most casual observer.

We, the undersigned, concur that the activities and mannerisms of the “back to nature” “flower children” are a deterrent to the aesthetic serenity and cultural aspirations we desire for our homeland.

Particularly in our area, tourism is being promoted to the hilt; people, families who will come and stay a while to awe at the beauty of out forest and ocean shores. How can we justify out earnest desire to hold them when on the other hand we permit the opposite of our aspirations to clutter the backgrounds. 

We in Humboldt County feel that we cannot financially afford the loss being suffered by their presence.

(Signed by 111 people)

The Supervisors took no action on the petition.


  1. Douglas Coulter September 18, 2021

    This sounds like modern letters focused on the homeless.
    Not in my back yard! So the police chase them from every camp until some start lighting fires along the dry rivers.

  2. Mark Wilkinson Laszlo September 18, 2021

    Let’s chase all the squares out of the Emerald Triangle now!

    • paul modic September 18, 2021

      too late, the censorious snowflakes are running everything…

  3. Bruce McEwen September 18, 2021

    I applied for work at The Redwood Record, and was told I could go cover the city council meetings, should I care to. This luscious carrot, a cub reporter’s beat, dangled before me, tempting me away from the employ of Pam Hansen at the Rosewood, and briefly, I considered it, although I would have preferred a weekly editorial column like the fellow who had a drawing of his hair and beard swathed visage to enhance his weekly column. I had the temerity to imagine I could write a more topically pertinent and entertaining column than this Garberville celebrity. Wrongheaded and determined, I climbed the stairs to The Independent {independent of what, I never learned — since both papers carried the same identical stories, practically written verbatim, and both free, so you could get doubles on the coupons for the local merchants. Wrong again, and my services were spurned, so I returned to the Mighty AVA, where, like the guy who got on the MTA w/out a dime in the Kingston Trio song, “and my fate is still unlearned…” Still, I hoped to see you today at the museum in Willits, and was disappointed that I didn’t.

    • Paul Modic September 18, 2021

      It’s amazing that Ray still puts out weekly but years ago I couldn’t read him and his rambling tangents inspired me to make this one-liner about his style: “I go home and masturbate, Ray does it in public.” (I did tell him the joke—he’s fearless and lets me write anything I want about him.)
      Then for the last year or so he was good again, loved his stories of old LA, but recently the old guy is back on the ramble, spending weeks on the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1921 or so. But hey, he’s entitled—he can write whatever he wants.
      Yes, you could’ve done it and still can!
      (The drawing of Ray is by Frank Cieciorka, creator of the protest fist—he got an obit in the NYTimes. Who else in Garberville will have that distinction? Daryl Cherney? Ed Denson?)

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