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Donald Dukes: The First “City Kid,” Part 2

My earlier report on the childhood of Donald Dukes, Bob Glover’s step-son, described his migration from a Kentucky coal camp to industrial Hammond, Indiana, to Bob’s ancestral Guntly Ranch all by the age of ten. This episode will describe Don’s further migration out of The Valley to live a classic peripatetic white collar executive life around the United States while still maintaining loyalty to his roots in Anderson Valley.

Last week I interrupted Don’s restoration work on Bob and Ava’s Christine Woods home to sit on the back deck with him taking notes on his anecdotes about his post-Valley life. Don’s last two years of high school were for him a busy time. He was partially living at home, partially staying with Boonville friends to attend school, and working weekends at the new Hendy Woods State Park as a “park aide,” which in fact mostly meant wielding a McLeod hoe to build the walking trails so important to the park visitor experience. Hourly wage: peanuts!

After high school graduation Don attended Santa Rosa JC and San Francisco State University, graduating from the latter with a bachelor’s degree in business and the law in 1968. The 4 1/2 year voyage to the degree was the consequence of his need to also be employed part time in the city and at home in Anderson Valley in order to meet tuition and living expenses. For a couple of years he lived a rather lonely life in a campus dorm, urban college life with the relative city “sophisticates,” boys and girls, running around in Bermuda shorts and striped shirts wasn’t familiar social terrain for him. Then in 1967, he married his wife Kathleen, also a SFSU student born in Twin Falls, Idaho, and migrated with family to San Francisco in the early 1950s. Fellow students Don and Kathleen met not on campus, but while he was a sales clerk at the wonderful Tro Harper text and general literature bookstore down on Market Street. Don was charmed by the way Kathleen always critically appraised the merits of whatever books he proposed that she purchase, and they began dating. Their first three months of marriage were spent living down at Dimmick State Park in the Highway 128 redwoods living in a 21-foot trailer and doing his “park aide” duties.

After that romantic summer down at Dimmick, Don and Kathleen moved into a modest flat on Dolores Street, near the Mission Dolores while they both continued coursework at SFSU. It turns out we discovered in our discussion that Don and I were both on campus and participated in the “uprising” at SFSU in 1968 and 9 protesting the Vietnam War and the unconstitutional anti-free-speech reaction of the University President, S.I. Hayakawa to student political activities. I was at SF State back then as a part-time adjunct teacher in the history department offering a major’s course in American immigrant history. And it turns out both he and I knew one of the key campus protest organizers and ringleaders, Prof. Anatole Anton, a kindly, mild-mannered Stanford P h D in mathematics and philosophy (sic!), a round, chubby Jewish boy from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, who turned into a street-fighting field captain at each protest event. Did Anatole pioneer in the use of steel ball bearings at our demonstrations to take down the city policemen mounted on horses with shields and batons? I am not sure. When not on campus Anatole and I sat in our neighborhood Bernal Heights bar, the Ribeltad Worden, drinking beer and discussing Marx, left student politics and the current political “struggle” all over the US (way off course here).; Don didn’t hang out with the Anatole kind).

After graduation from SFSU Don began his business career working first in San Francisco for retail businesses like J C Penny and for the US Post Office. Over the next ten years he worked for Fry’s Electronics, and Mervyn’s, a smaller piece of the Dayton/Hudson, now Target, retail store chain. While he was working at Mervyn’s, Dayton/Hudson decided to close or sell some of this brand’s stores. Don’s financial analytic skills caught the eye of the liquidation activity firm Dayton/Hudson had hired to assist it with the divestments, and he began work for this company, Great American Asset Management. His work at Great American also led him to taking extension courses at UC Berkeley in forensic asset analysis accounting.

And during this migratory business career from one company to another Don and Kathleen were always on the move to new homes including Modesto, South San Francisco, Benecia, Miami, Florida, Fremont in 1988, where they did settle down and still live. But, Don firmly tells me, “I always think of Anderson Valley as home.” More specifically Don recalls beginning right away in the 1970s, no matter how far from home, he and family came back to The Valley to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other occasions bi-monthly, sometimes more frequently they stayed with Ava and Bob at the Christine home. Don insisted on maintaining contact with his high school friends who included Anna Avery, Sam and Marguerite’s beautiful daughter on whom he’d had a high school crush, James Holcomb, Bill’s nephew, Cecil Gowan, Tony Summit, others.

Don retired from his professional career in 2018, by which time he was employed by a consultant firm hired by tech industry stars like Hewlett-Packard and Juniper networks to write agreement contracts with independent software development firms big tech firms were dependent on for product development. Part of his Anderson Valley visit agenda was attendance without fail at the annual County Fair in Boonville. The actual start of his renovation work on Ava and Bob’s home began back in the 1980s, simply doing the needed repairs his socialite step-father neglected due to his long days doing electrical and well-pump installation over ten and twelve hour days around The Valley, much of which time was gossiping and story-telling with clients. I remember my own delightful experience with the professional Bob. He installed pump and power in my shallow house well, a complicated site a quarter of a mile from my home. It took him three days of visits to get the job done, and me a year to get billed for the work. Nevertheless, Bob was pretty clear in his recollection of how he used his time on site and only charged me four hours for his labor, a generous estimate I argue.

Don also almost always made his way back home each autumn once rain began to fall. Like Bob he was a fanatic mushroom gatherer and spent hours while here roaming the hills looking for the beloved species. He also set up a photo development lab in the home garage and began exploring for old bottles and gemstones with Bob. Search for the latter, rare stones like Onyx, Opel and Quartz Crystals meant trips to the Sierra foothills to camp out and hike in places like Colusa and Amador Counties, certainly a romantic form of recreation. The bottles and gems he found are today housed with Bob’s collection in the tin shed down the hill from the house, waiting to be turned into an important local museum.

Don has regularly contributed his community services to the Anderson Valley Historical Society since its founding in 1982. At first it was simply in the form of offering his self-taught electrician’s skills rewiring the Con Creek School part of the Society site with a safe number of circuits and breakers, and doing other maintenance needs of the organization. Around five years ago he joined the Society Board. After I wrote the first “City Kid” article about him back in May, I received an invitation to be a guest speaker at the Historical Society’s annual luncheon meeting in early June. It was a great Anderson Valley community event, a perfect, not-too-warm June Sunday, the program included a light lunch, music by a string duet, and tons of old-timers on site to hear my “talk” about Don and his life here. I even met an “old-timer” older than I, an Ingram whose ancestors had farmed my place between 1920 and 1960.

I had thought out my presentation script in advance of the event, had brought to the gathering ten copies of the Advertiser carrying my “City Kid” article, handed them out to guests and encouraged them to read as much of it as they could in order to ask Don questions about his life back East or here in The Valley. This plan limited my participation in the actual presentation. I simply stood up in front of the forty or so attendees, wine glass in hand, thanked the members for my invitation, then proceeded to congratulate the Society for its artifacts and program development achievements the past forty years. I also couldn’t restrain myself from lecturing the committed about the importance of local history, personal memoir and family biography and its archival preservation for understanding who we are as Americans, an incredibly diverse society. More on that topic another time.

Then after a brief recital of Don’s odyssey from coal camp to Guntly Ranch, I turned the meeting over to questions and comments, all directed at Don. An hour and more passed as in a few minutes. Even while we were in full dialogue with Don the Chair Shari Hansen blew the two minute warning by reminding us that Raymond Gowan was also making a presentation about how the old Valley apple dryers actually worked, complete with pictures of ten of the most iconic of those beautiful factories around The Valley. What a great afternoon at the Historical Society.

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CODA: Was Don really the first “City Kid” to migrate to Anderson Valley. I don’t know how important that question really is. What’s more important is to recognize how lucky he believes he has been to have travelled at age ten with Bob and Ava across America in the family Studebaker convertible from steel mill and oil refinery Hammond on the shores of Lake Michigan to Guntly Ranch. And I would argue he has been lucky, and skilled, in both appreciating the childhood life on the ranch and growing up in in the Valley community, then to leave The Valley to explore and thrive in the larger urban/suburban world, while still maintaining his roots in and connections with us his whole life. And he promises he’ll finish the restoration work on the family home in Christine later this year.

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