Voices from the Past

Grace Abbott, sitting on the boxcar steps
Grace Abbott, sitting on the boxcar steps at the West County Museum, taken the day we recorded her oral history in 1992.

The Western Sonoma County Historical Society partnered with California Revealed, a State Library initiative to help California’s public libraries to digitize, preserve, and to provide access to the audio recordings of our local citizens, called oral histories, which provides online access to everyone.

ORAL HISTORIES – Recorded interviews of a person who had personal experience or knowledge of historical significance of events or people. 

Our project with the California State Library and California Revealed provides a valuable experience that entertains and educates the listener.

Here is a list of interviewees with the subject of discussion and a link to hear their voices at California Revealed.

Oral Histories

Grace AbbottListen to Grace Abbott

Grace Abbott speaks about her family and how they came to be in the Sebastopol area.  Family names are Winkler and Duer.  She talks of the Civil War, life in Graton 1912-1929, the 1906 earthquake, Marshall, Oak Grove and Analy Schools, WWI and the P&SR railway.

Erma AlfauListen to Erma Alfau
Alfau is interviewed about the Trenton area.  Her grandfather arrives in 1868, her recollections of this small area formerly known as Wolsey, Fulton, then Trenton.  She mentions many neighboring families.

Tom BarlowListen to Tom Barlow

1998 oral history audio recording of Tom Barlow.  Mr. Barlow’s family operated canneries in the Sebastopol area. Note the conversation begins mid-sentence.

Marie BartlettListen to Marie Bartlett

Marie Bartlett talks about the Green Valley School and the history of the fire that burned it down, and mentions some of the students and the Kauffman Ranch across the street.

Owen BartlettListen to Owen Bartlett

Owen Bartlett is interviewed at the Green Valley Days. The interview regarding the school, its teachers and students during his time. Life style of the residents of the time in ranching and farming.

Barbara BertoliListen to Barbara Bertoli

Frank Baumgardner talks with Ms. Barbara Bertoli.  She is the daughter of Mr. Tom Wright who was the first and foremost employee in Sebastopol of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway.  He worked his way up all the way up from one point as a brakeman and a trolley pop, I think he referred to himself as the guy who changed the trolley who make sure the trolley was in line for the next line.  He served in every capacity of the railway and I’m sure his daughter will have many views and will help us with insight in the electric runway.

Fred BollingerListen to Fred Bollinger

Video interview of Fred and Alice Bollinger who recall their early days in Sebastopol

William BorbaListen to William Borba

Paul Borba, nephew of William S. Borba and his widow Willow Borba and their daughter Regina Borba, have gifted the recorded interview of William S. Borba.  Subjects of the recording include wineries, the Hunt Bros., the apple and berry industry, and the China Town in the Bloomfield area.  Recollections of the rerouting of the electric railroad so it did not cross the tracks three times, resulting in the battle of 1906.  Fruit and vegetable picking.   The end of Lake Jonive in 1904. The origins of the Gravenstein apple via Mr. Pepper of Petaluma who graphed from the Russian apple trees.  The largest apple tree in Green Valley at the Mel Coffman Ranch.

Ruth BranscombListen to Ruth Branscomb

Ruth Branscomb tells of her early life (1910).  She became a successful artist and designer of clothing.  She had a personal connection with Luther Burbank and made a bust of him, which she had bronzed and entered in the SoCo Fair and won 2nd place.

John BregerListen to John Breger

John Breger who worked with Luther Burbank is interviewed.  After Burbank passed he moved into the Burbank cottage from 1927-1929 and began working for the Stark Bros. who purchased Burbanks products.  Mr. Berger is a certified Orchard Consultant.  He worked on recording all of Burbank’s creations.

Richard and Dorothy BridgefordListen to Richard and Dorothy Bridgeford

Jim Nagy interviews Dorothy Showalter Birdgeford and Richard Bridgeford.  Richard’s father, John Bridgeford, owned and operated the Bridgeford Planing Mill in Sebastopol.

David Burbank BurgessListen to David Burbank Burgess

David Burbank Burgess is a direct family member of Luther Burbank.  He tells some of the history of the Experiment Farm. This adds to the back ground of Burbank and the history of the garden.

Gene Buvelot Listen to Gene Buvelot

Gene Buvelot on the Coastal Miwok Smith family and the Pomo’s of Marin.  Areas of the Pomo groups are described.  1852 Indian census.

Earl CarrilloListen to Earl Carrillo

The interview of Earl Carrillo at age 93.  Mr. Carrillo recalls the railway used as transportation and freight.  Also the 1906 earthquake, local business’ and people of the area.

Earl Carrillo Listen to Earl Carrillo

The interview of Earl Carrillo at age 94.  Mr. Carrillo recalls his impressions of the local railway and its purpose, which included passenger service and freight.  Businesses depended on it for distribution of their fruits.  He also recalls the 1906 earthquake.

Gloria Chaney-KitchelListen to Gloria Chaney-Kitchel

Gloria Chaney-Kitchel talks about her family in town.  Her father operated Chaney’s in 1936.  She worked there through high school.  Mention of town businesses and their locations; Skaggs, Safeway, Flemings, Jordan’s, Spooners.  She worked at Tompson Costa Cleaners for 12 years and Superior French Laundry for 14 years.  Her husband’s name was Stanley Kitchel.  American Legion hall was next to the Analy theater.  The Midway dance hall was a place to go and many local businesses are mentioned

Sarah & Hank DavisListen to Sarah & Hank Davis

Sarah and Hank Davis address the schools in the area and their affiliation with the educational community since arriving in Sebastopol.  Some history of Native American crafts.

Susan DavisListen to Susan Davis

Susan Davis is interviewed at the Green Valley School History Day.  Graduating in 1954, she recalls teachers and fellow students.

Ed DeSilvaListen to Ed DeSilva

Ed DeSilva provides information on the Portuguese and the Holy Ghost Society.

Georgetta Drago-MylerListen to Georgetta Drago-Myler

1997 Georgetta Drago Myler recalls the Occidental School she attended, and the large family and ranch they operated.  There is background noise.

Thelma Bonnie DuerListen to Thelma Bonnie Duer

Pat Salter interviews Bonnie Tate Duer.  Grandparents on my mother’s side was Reid.  Her mother and two brothers came to Sebastopol in 1939 and lived on Blackney Road.  Worked in Apples.  She went to school in Petaluma and worked in the egg plants.  She met George Duer in high school.

Helen EstabrooksListen to Helen Estabrooks
Helen Estabrooks relates family information. She is directly related to the Gregson’s, one of the oldest families in the Green Valley area.

Louise Fletcher-SolariListen to Louise Fletcher-Solari

Recollections of the Green Valley School, class of 1942.  Many school mates are named.

Jack ForeListen to Jack Fore

Jack Fore is one of Sebastopol’s brightest historian’s recalling many businesses, people and events.  Born in Sebastopol in 1917, he was a local Banker.

Beryl FrazerListen to Beryl Frazer

Beryl Frazer talks about the Boswell and Frazer family history, George Frazer’s banking career in Sonoma County, Portuguese Community and the depression era in Sebastopol.

Laurie HornListen to Laurie Horn

An interview with Laurie Carr Horn whose family arrived in Guerneville about 1870.  She recalls schools and jobs her family had in Fort Ross, Guerneville, Cazadero and Sebastopol.

Sam HuckListen to Sam Huck

Oral History of Sam Huck, speaks about the original Sebastopol Airport, the Laguna, the Chinese and Japanese citizens. Sam Huck was an early pilot utilizing the Cnopius Airfield in Sebastopol.  A very informative recollection of many businesses and their owners.

Louise JohnstonListen to Louise Johnston

2002 – Louise Johnston, a former Sebastopol Librarian, talks about her library position and her father, Arthur Swain, who was a banker at the Analy Savings Bank.  Her family settled in Sebastopol in 1904. Her family experienced the 1906 earthquake.

Gertrude KeilListen to Gertrude Keil

Elizabeth Keil Clarke and Gertrude Keil.  Elizabeth is the daughter of Joseph Keil, who was hired by the Stark Brothers to work at the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm in Sebastopol.  He later worked at the Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa.

Richard KeilListen to Richard Keil
An interview with Gertrude Keil and her son Richard and their recollections of Luther Burbank, Joseph Keil and the Burbank Gardens. The condition and recollections of the Burbank Cottage at the Burbank Experiment Farm are remembered.  Richard Keil was 13 at the time his father, Joseph Keil, was hired by the Stark Bros who purchased the Farm in 1927.  Richard remembers the many different types of trees and plants that were on the Farm.Joseph worked for the Start Brothers who purchased the Sebastopol Burbank Experiment Farm.

Dorian KimballListen to Dorian Kimball

Dorian Kimball’s grandfather was George Strout, builder of many homes in Sebastopol.  Strout owned the Analy Planing Mill, which he sold in 1915 to Bridgeford and became the Bridgeford Planing Mill.  During the depression her father, Kimball, lost all his money so went to work for the Corp of Engineers, working under the WPA as a surveyor for bridge construction.

Raford LeggettListen to Raford Leggett

1987 KSRO Radio interview of Radford Leggett, who recalls Santa Rosa in the early 1900’s.  He lived on Wright Road near the railroad lines.  He was taken on a the train men’s helper.  His family operated a large hop field. (1987)

Raford LeggettListen to Raford Leggett

Oral History transcription of Radford Leggett and his recollections of the Railway and Luther Burbank. (1979)

Raford LeggettListen to Raford Leggett

Oral History of Radford Leggett who speaks of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. (1988)

Frances LittleListen to Frances Little

Overview of many of the families in the Sebastopol area including O’Leary the mortician, Tom Worth owner of the Worth’s Drug store, the Huntley’s who owned the Starland movie theater, and the Donner’s.

Ted LorenzenListen to Ted Lorenzen

Ted Lorenzen worked for the Kist Bottling Company in Sebastopol

Grace Martinson-FinnListen to Grace Martinson-Finn

Grace Martinson Finn tells about how they came over from Denmark, one child at a time.  Eventually they came to Sebastopol.  She attended Gold Ridge Grammar school and Analy High School.  As a child she and her sister walked from Cooper Rd. area to the Sebastopol cemetery and met Luther Burbank.  He gave her some purple potatoes and told her to boil them and they will turn white.

Minoru MatsudaListen to Minoru Matsuda

Two audio recordings of Minoru Matsuda.  He lives on Matsuda Lane off of Sparkes Road.  He tells about the Enmanji Budist Temple’s history and how they lived during WWII as a Japanese American.  He explains what the internment camp was like in Colorado.

Ethel McCay-DubeaultListen to Ethel McCay-Dubeault

An interview with Ethel McCay Dubeault.  The McCay’s were the largest chicken producers in Northern California, delivering 4-5 thousand chickens a day to San Francisco (to the California Poultry Co.) by truck.  The family arrived in 1907 from Nebraska.  Many local family names that were in the poultry business.

Clarence MillerListen to Clarence Miller
Oral History of Clarence Miller who talks about his family, the Methodist Church and other businesses in town. Two sides of the tape.

Jim NagyListen to Jim Nagy

Jim of Nagy discusses his family, Chinatown , and the apple industry.  He recalls how the town has changed, what was here that isn’t now.

Harold PelliniListen to Harold Pellini

Mr. Pellini’s grandmother Bessie Pellini (1880) worked at the Rudolph Sawmill In Green Valley.  His father began the Chevrolet car dealership in Sebastopol around 1932.  He continued operating this business until it closed.  The dealership was located in what was called Old Chinatown.  The new Chinatown was by Diamond Lumber on Depot Street.  A great many recollections of various topics.

Irene PolleyListen to Irene Polley

Irene Polley tells of how the family settled here from Washington and how they went into the real estate business and the many changes in the town.

Sally PrivetteListen to Sally Privette

Sally Privette learned and mastered the art of Indian basket making from Mable McCay.  She was also a teacher at Pine Crest and Hill Crest Schools.

George RamondoListen to George Ramondo

Side B only – A recording as George Ramondo walks through the Burbank Farm and recalls where plants and trees were and what is now missing.   He arrived in 1940 to work at the Experiment Farm.

Don RobertsListen to Don Roberts

Don Roberts is asked about the cooperatives and labor in the apple industry, WWII and on through the 1980’s.  He tells of the changes made to the process of drying apples and the competition from foreign markets.  He recalls the Sebastopol Apple Growers Union, Vacu Dry, Sebastopol Coop Cannery, and many apple growers.

Alyce ScheideckerListen to Alyce Scheidecker

Alyce Scheidecker’s grandparents surname was Griffith’s.  Nell Griffith was a local poet.  Scheidecker had the first commercial nursery in Sonoma County with most plants coming from Luther Burbank.  Scheidecker planted the palm trees that lined the road to the Palm Drive Hospital.

Barry SchmidtListen to Barry Schmidt

Barry Schmidt was born in 1937.  His father worked at Safeway in Sebastopol from 1930’s to 1946.  His father was manager of the store when it was located at the corner of Main and Wilton Ave.  He recalls Bill Borba’s stationery store; and Hillside Hospital on Main St.  He and his father built a house on Wilton Avenue.  Returning to the area after some time, he recalls many changes.  Hayden St. has been changed to McFarlane.  He recalls the City dump was next to the Laguna, and changes at the Analy High School.

Frank ScottListen to Frank Scott

The family of Frank Scott had an apple ranch on Hwy. 116 at Apple Blossom Lane.  A nephew, Dave Hale now operates the property.  The train tracks were in front of their property, the station was called Dundee Station.

Roy ShawListen to Roy Shaw

Roy Shaw was a brakeman on the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway in early 1910-930.  He recalls the type of freight hauled, station stops and other employees.

Hazel Singmaster-JensListen to Hazel Singmaster-Jens

Hazel Singmaster grew up in Graton, CA in 1918 and attended Oak Grove School.  She was a long time member of the Graton Community Club.  Her father built the first commercial dryer in Graton.

Geoffrey Skinner Listen to Geoffrey Skinner

Geoffrey Skinner recalls his early college years working for Bob Walker packing apples and jars of apple sauce.  The apple ranch was located off of Graton Road.

Alice StreetListen to Alice Street

Oral history audio recording of Alice Street, recorded at the spring 1996 Apple Industry & Festival Exhibit.  She was married twice before to a Mr. Orchard, and then Mr. Baker.  She tells about the three apple driers she worked at, Pleasant Hill Dryer, Molino Dryer and the Green Valley Drier.

Stanley Strout Listen to Stanley Strout

Stanley Allan Strout’s father owned a planing mills in Sebastopol.  He built boats for people to use on Lake Jonive (now the Laguna De Santa Rosa).  He recalls the trains and locations of buildings in 1906.  Speaks also of Indians in town.

Virginia SustarichListen to Virginia Sustarich

Virginia Sustarich graduated from Analy High and right away went to work at Speas vinegar plant as a secretary.  Details of the vinegar and transition to make apple concentrate and then apple brandy are talked about.  Virginia was there when the plant was closed down.

Hyla Tough & Elayne McDonnellListen to Hyla Tough & Elayne McDonnell

Daughters of John Tough, 86 yrs old Hyla and Elayne Touch Matheny who are 70’ish.  Halverston relations was the reason they came to California from Minnesota.  Her father with brother operated Tough Brother’s Garage on the corner of Petaluma Ave. and Burnett St.  Hyla worked for many years at the local theaters, Sprouts Reis Store and Carlson’s Department Store.  Before that, as many youth did, they picked apples.  They recall the original location of the Sebastopol Congregational Church on So. Main St.  They recall skating around the old train depot on the tiled floors, and the original Analy school gym.

Mary TrigeiroListen to Mary Trigeiro

Mary Trigeiro tells of the Portuguese people of the area and the development of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad line. Significant to this history of the depot and importance to our area.  She worked for Dr. Vieira and then at the Hillside Hospital in 1942.  She ran a high class dress and hat shop in Sebastopol.  Her family grew Gravenstein apples.

Iris TwiggListen to Iris Twigg

Iris Twig was hired as the first teacher for Head Start program at Green Valley School.

Glenn UngewitterListen to Glenn Ungewitter

Glenn Ungewitter talks about his father, George Ungewitter, who was in partnership with George Ragle at Ragle Ranch from 1920 – 1930.  

Lee & Shirley WalkerListen to Lee & Shirley Walker

Lee and Shirley Walker recall many apple growers, when the migrant workers first arrived, and the camps where they lived.  Also the plight of the apple crops.  They tried introducing odd variety apples to add to the competitive market.  Mr. Walker talks about the Rosebrook Gravenstein which was hybrid of the local Gravenstein, he says that’s all they grow now.

Lee & Shirley WalkerListen to Lee & Shirley Walker

Lee and Shirley Walker tell of the Walker family and the local lands they owned and streets named after them. Shirley’s family name was Cheney. Mention of Cheney’s Grocery on So Main St. and many other business’. Mr. Walker played baseball professionally.

Theresa WetchListen to Theresa Wetch

Theresa Wetch was employed at the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber dealt with businesses, apple producers, the Apple Blossom Fair and the Gala Days.  The Chamber also was on call 24/7 for the local ambulance emergency calls.

Harry WhiteListen to Harry White

Harry White’s father was an early railway trainmaster.  He recalls riding the railway as a child, the power house for the trains, and his first job at the Royal Theater.

Robert WhitingListen to Robert Whiting

John Hughes and Jane Micheletti interview Robert Whiting on his recollections of Luther Burbank.

Madaleine Vaughn WyattListen to Madaleine Vaughn Wyatt

Madaleine Wyatt Vaughn’s uncle was James P. Miller, a well known doctor in Sebastopol (1890’s).  Many recollections and connections to the Sebastopol area.  Her husband founded Wyatt’s Tires

Ross YeagerListen to Ross Yeager

Oral history transcription of Ross Yeager and his recollections of the P&SR Railway.  Talk about the importance of the rail line for transportation and produce distribution.

Marvin Zimpher Listen to Marvin Zimpher

Marvin Zimpher speaks about the local airports, Army Air Corp airport, and Analy High School teachers.  He worked at the Speas Vinegar Works in Sebastopol.  Recalls the Starland Theater and El Rey Theater, and the Analy Theater. Remembers Sebastopol before signal lights.