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Bob ‘Chipmunk’ Glover: Electro-Engineering Entrepreneur

Where did Bob Glover’s nickname come from? “Chipmunk” had been his identifier all over The Valley long before my wife and I moved here and had nothing to do with his small stature. Bob was about five feet four inches tall, and of modest body proportions, but the source of Bob’s acronym was his replication of chipmunk behavior, gathering and storing of its foodstuff. His exploring for, harvesting and storing was of a more interesting substance than simply acorns.

Since his youth “Chipmunk” had reconnoitereded much of The Valley’s abandoned villages, logging camps and mill sites, homesteads, barns, old and current dumpsites, with patrician disregard for No Trespassing signs, and had over the decades mined a beautiful collection of the glass bottles, jars and beakers, the food, drink and medication storage receptacles of the pre-plastic and wax-coated cardboard era after World War II. When I first visited his Highway 128 home at Gschwend Road, there was at the back of his large living room and to the left of the picture window looking down into Christine Woods an alcove whose shelves were crammed with his glass collection aggregated over the decades. There were Ball and Mason brand canning jars of all sizes, pint and quart milk bottles with embossed dairy names, elaborately engraved beer and wine bottles, thick-walled, narrow necked tiny glass receptacles of blues, browns, reds, oranges, once containing various medicines, patented and generic, a beer mug or two, and on and on. Many items were simply tumbled in a heap on the floor under the shelves.

Even though I visited him episodically until the end of his life, it was Bob’s Gschwend Ranch neighbor Kathy Bailey who recently informed me that he realized at one point the collection required a new home, and that he constructed in his back yard a building to store and display his wonderful archive of frontier domestic life artifacts from the era before mass production homeware products, today mostly plastic. Bob also attended glass jar shows all over the US, where he traded with collectors he met there. His museum was a one story fabricated tin structure about 30 feet long with a roller door vehicle entrance, another door for visitors and a window.

Back to Bob the electronic technician. Sometime back in the nineteen fifties, I believe, Bob brought the television age and medium to Anderson Valley. Prior to his achievement, our location and geography, a hundred miles north of the Bay Area and down in our narrow river canyon, meant that network TV broadcast waves from the Bay Area did not reach us here. I’ve never had a home television, but I used to watch the 49er games with Michael Nissenberg on Greenwood Road halfway to Elk. From that 1500 foot elevation Michael actually got a strong signal direct from a network signal coming from Eureka, not penetrable to downtown Philo. 

So what Bob assembled and installed was a signal redistribution apparatus called a translator, which from an elevation of 2,500 feet at the back of the Floyd Johnson ranch converted four, I believe, Bay Area network channels to a different short range frequency and redirected this signal north down the Valley. By the way, my claim above never to have had a TV, I confess isn’t true. On my fortieth birthday, my mother gave me a small black and white 13”screen receiver which I installed in my unheated attic and used solely to watch the World Series and 49er games. Chilly up there in December, but with Glovervision 20 miles away I got a very strong, clear signal via a small receiving antenna posted on my home’s south-facing roof. From my front deck below I had a completely unblocked direct line of site to the translator, which I discovered when the translator had its typical wintertime equipment failure and shut down, I could see, even in daytime, a brilliant white light on the storage shack’s roof.

Moreover, for residents deep in the Deep End, Navarro village, all four or five senior citizens possessing TVs, Bob jury-rigged, free of extra charge, another reception arrangement. He placed a receiving antenna on the hill at the top of Salmela Ranch and installed wires from there down to each of Betty Zanoni’s, Osana Pardini’s, Bill Witherell’s and Susie’s House tenants’ homes. I don’t remember how he got the reception wires across Highway 128. 

I should mention Bob’s network was a subscription service, a monthly charge for each customer’s usage (I forget what the amount per month was). The whole electric/pump and Glovervision business, including his parts inventory warehouse, he ran out of his Gschwend Road home. He was also the local agent for the sale of Zenith televisions.

Testimony to the community’s loyalty to and gratification for Glovervision was our voluntary assistance with the translator’s maintenance and repair. Service breakdowns typically occurred during the winter, often as the consequence of a busy storm, when the wind at the back of Johnson Ranch could achieve hurricane velocity. Bob had to undertake those service restoration repairs, though if he needed physical help with them, he knew who in The Valley to call for labor support. However, there was another kind of service that was entirely the volunteered responsibility of Bob’s customers, installation maintenance twice a year, early spring and just before winter’s arrival.

One May day in the early 1980s I went on one of the spring maintenance expeditions up to the Translator. The crew were mostly local craftsmen, and we met, 10:00 AM at the Johnson Ranch highway gate at the top of the Boonville-Ukiah road, milepost 7.00. Walter “Shine” Tuttle, local homebuilder, was in charge of the crew. John Burroughs and Michael Reevers were also in attendance, and one or two others. I and my Navarro friend Buzz Barrett were the technically untrained day laborers.

The drive into the Translator sight was about five miles across Johnson’s dirt ranch road and overlooking some of the most thrilling landscape I have ever enjoyed in Mendocino County. Our three pick-up convoy route, was at first at grade through open pasture, sheep grazing here and there in small bands, but gradually as we began to climb gently, we also began navigating the edge of an overlook on our left that opened broadly into the McNab Ranch bottom near Hopland, then across it southeast to the Mayacama Range all the way to Mount St. Helena in Calistoga. And when we arrived at the Translator, five hundred feet higher in elevation, we found its shelter perched on the edge of the deep canyon that connects the back of Y Ranch in Yorkville to McNab. It was I am guessing about 1500 feet straight down into the Beebe Creek headwater of Rancheria Creek. ( I have century-old formal geological research reports that this deep gorge that once was the original Navarro canyon for a river that actually began east of Cloverdale at the Geysers, but was captured by the Russian River during the geologic uplift of the ridge north of Squaw Rock, near Hopland. Another story.)

Once at the Translator and under Shine’s direction, we all went to work. The principle objective was to survey its wooden chicken shed shelter to see what repairs it needed after the winter storm cycle. That meant checking the security of roofing metal and tie-downs, then all air vents for leaks, the siding integrity, finally foundation condition, and all wiring between the external receiving antennae and the internal translating devices. Buzz and I were assigned to removing all potentially invasive grass and vine growth around the Translator building’s foundation and mowing a fire break around the building about thirty feet in all directions.

Altogether the maintenance job that day took about three hours, including half an hour lounging in the grass overlooking McNab and Y Ranches and enjoying a gossip-filled picnic lunch. We were closing the ranch gate back on Highway 253 by 3 PM, another great Anderson Valley community ritual in support of Glovervision.

Another feature of the Bob Glover personality, his easy affability and grace of engagement with the whole Anderson Valley community, whether “oldtimers” or “newcomers,” I have endless stories to recall. The “hippie” immigration of the late 1960s was for the AV “oldtimers” a somewhat daunting community demographic change. But not for Bob. Back in 1972, the local Judicial Court judgeship came up for actual election. AV Advertiser owner/editor Homer Mannix was contested by Richard Kossow, a pedigreed lawyer living with his wife at a commune inhabiting the abandoned resort at Bear Wallow, Mountain View Road.

Richard was a Minnesota-born mid-western progressive civil rights attorney who had arrived in The Valley a couple of years prior to Bear Wallow and had a small law practice around the County. 1972, some of us remember, was a politically dramatic year both nationally and locally. Nationally it was the “socialist” Senator George McGovern contesting incumbent Richard Nixon for president. Locally to have a “hippie” daring to run against the establishment incumbent judge the same year the Valley was divisively engaged in two other major land use controversies was of high drama and entertainment for us all, Oldtimers and Newcomers, including Bob Glover.

That year local timber forest owner Masonite Corporation filed with the County and began promoting around The Valley, an 800 unit second home subdivision along the Navarro north of Hendy Woods. Water source and sewage disposal to be along the river. Simultaneously, a state-proposed and funded Navarro River water storage project, budgetarily moribund for years, reemerged, as a local development issue. The plan was for a dam across Rancheria Creek south of Burger Ranch that would have stored about 100,000 acre feet of water and I guestimated today when I drove down to Santa Rosa would have backed up a recreational lake for over two miles or all the way to Shearing Creek at the Herreid Ranch. Altogether these three issues potentially shaping the future of Anderson Valley brought political dialogue into most Valley homes, generally with the “Old-timer” community supporting development, the “New-comers” wanting to “keep The Valley the way it is.” 

By Justice Court election eve Bob had become friends with enough of the Bear Wallow denizens that he received an invitation to the “victory” potluck dinner it threw at the commune that night. During the pre-election summer and fall as he made his professional way around the Valley, when local politics was on the table, Bob always inferred to the “hippies” and other Newcomers he supported Richard for judge, and to the Old-timer friends, the same with Homer. I never asked Bob retrospectively what he thought about all the “dope” aromas I knew would be in the air that Bear Wallow election evening, but he did say he enjoyed a bit of the cheap wine and mostly vegetarian fare his hosts served up. And after pleasant hours up at the commune, Bob drove back down into Boonville and stopped by Homer and Bea’s to gossip a bit with them about the election’s likely outcome and what it was like hanging out with the Bear Wallow hippies. 

Homer won that election by the same margin Nixon beat McGovern, 58 to 42%. Later in the decade Richard was elected Justice Court judge by default when the County Attorney’s office cited state statutes to disbar Homer on the basis he held two elective positions, Judge and Chairman of the Anderson Valley Fair Board. Richard ran for the judgeship unopposed in November, 1973, though Homer did receive a number of write-in votes.

Another touching side of the complex Bob Glover persona was his kindness to the stray cat population part of Anderson Valley society half a century ago. As we know, cats were an important part of farm life, useful tools for the suppression of predatory mouse activity around the house and barn. And cats beget cats, and abandoned buildings become cat refuges as they beget and wax in population. At my place episodically over the years there’s been a stray cat arrive to hang around the yard looking pathetically starving. Three times I have converted these visitors to outdoor-living mousecats of considerable skill and for as long as a decade.

And Bob did that too, but with a pathos that was touching. His stray cat welfare program was so generous it also begat cats. When my wife and I first knew him, he would put out on the back deck each evening a generous bowl of cheap dry food that when I first noticed, was attended by, say, three cats. By the early eighties, if I remember right, he was subsidizing over twenty cats, possibly more of these bony, scabrous, battle-scarred creatures. One year down in Navarro town the cat virus struck the homes of a couple of friends. The animals would lose all appetite, languish drowsing in a corner of the house or yard day and night losing tufts of hair, then near life end their heads would swell to twice normal size and they hemorrhaged and died.

So as we were exploring virus remedies around the town one day, someone at Betty Zanoni’s store suggested we go see Bob Glover and find out what anti-virus antidotes he and his welfare program had uncovered over the years. Buzz Barrett and I went to visit Bob one afternoon, and there were zero cats hanging around the back door when our mission gained us Bob’s living room. When we asked, Bob very calmly said, “Oh the cat plague came through here six weeks ago; they’re all dead; happens all over the Valley every ten years or so.” 

Submit to destiny, yes, but a year later Bob was feeding at least three recently arrived stray cats.

(Next Week: Bob Glover, Valley roots history, local culture and mushrooms.)

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