River Rat Reunion
On August 20, 2011 I was privileged to attend a reunion of people who grew up along the Russian River in the 50’s.
It was back in the 40’s and 50’s when I lived in Guerneville, California on the Russian River.
Things were simpler in those days with no TV’s, Computers, or Cell phones. The town was quiet and it seemed like you knew almost everyone. There were no homeless folks living under the bridge or hanging out in town. My Grandfather Newton Lark opened the only Drugstore in town in 1910 and his oldest son Warne Lark bought it in the late 40’s. I along with my cousins worked in Larks Drugstore in the summers at various stages of our lives. I began working there the summer of 1949 after graduating from Guerneville Elementary School. At first I stocked shelves,dusted,blew up inflatable swim tubes for display and eventually became a clerk. I spent many hours swimming and fishing in the river when not working. I worked in my Uncles store while going to college through the summer of 1956. In those 8 years of summers I have wonderful memories of dancing to the music of Les Brown and his band renown at the Grove, hiking into Austin Creek above Armstrong Woods with my buddy Tom King, Parties at Goat Rock,Swimming at Reins Beach and dating a Bohemian Grove member’s daughter named Noreen Doyle.
There have been many changes in Guerneville since then. I remember that there was a small Bowling alley in Gori’s Tavern where today’s West America bank stands. We had a couple of skating rinks that are gone now and the “River Queen” used to cruise people from Johnson’s beach to the old Russian River Inn and back. If you were so inclined you could rent a horse in Guernewood park. The Shad and Steelhead fishing on the Russian River was legendary in those days but has declined since.
54 years have passed since I left Guerneville to pursue my life’s goals, sometimes struggle with relationships and the death of loved ones.
I never really left the river at heart and visited my mother many times while she lived there until 2008 when I had to place her in a Convalescent home in Santa Rosa.
On August 19 I returned again to play golf at my favorite and most beautiful golf course ”Northwood” with the River Rat Reunion contingency the day before our reunion.
The River Rats have had other reunions over the years but the last one I attended was 20 years earlier.
On this occasion most of us in our “Golden” aka “Rusted” years gathered at Cliff Eckert’s resort to once again celebrate old friendships and acquaintances, talk about old times or catch up on people who most of us have lost contact with.
Upon arrival I decided to document the event with my camera and spent most of the time doing so,but paused often to enjoy interactions with old friends and acquaintances and sitting down to eat with old friends Herb and Kathy Genelly.
The setting was perfect with towering Douglas Fir and Redwoods bordering and shading our celebration.
The smell of barbecued Chicken wafted in the air as we sipped “two buck Chuck” wine and listened to oldies music played by our MC Herb Genelly III.
Seeing people for the first time in over 50 years can be a reality check for some of us who refuse to admit we are old Codger’s.
Herb Genelly a friend for over 65 years still runs the Guerneville "Antiques aka "flea" Market.
Yes there have been changes in our faces and bodies but we are the same people who in most cases have evolved intellectually and spiritually as a result of life’s experiences.
I noticed some people with vision deterioration bending close to read name tags because physical changes and memory loss can be prevalent with those of us who have lived this long.
My cousin Ray Lark was there in his 1933 Ford Roadster which he built.
Ray has driven his roadster across country as far as Pennsylvania and florida for over 130 thousand miles often in pouring down rain with no top. No he's not crazy and say's "the rain just blows over my head unless I stop".
It’s been a good life and the memories and friendships will always be cherished.
To veiw all of the River Rat photos gohref="picasaweb.google.com/102217592620585974844/RiverRatsReunion">