July 30, 2010

Foggy, With a (110%) Chance of Nostalgia

On the drive to my grandparents' house I go by my old elementary school in Wooden Valley, just over the hill from Napa Valley. This week as a went past I noticed the fog was beautiful, as it often is on summer mornings, so I stopped to take a picture of the view from the playground looking west towards Napa (above). What you are witnessing here is Napa's automatic and natural air conditioning system; simply put, as hot air rises from the valley it creates a vacuum, pulling in cool coastal air (and fog). As kids we'd say that King Kong's bath tub was overflowing.
Here's the view a little more towards the north. If you continue around that golden hill and up a ways you get to my family's house. It's picturesque and a bit remote, but not nearly as remote as it might look.
And here is a shot of the schoolhouse (note the stickers to deter birds from flying into the windows). When I graduated there were four kids in my class, and twenty-eight in the entire school. That is pretty tiny for a public school, especially in California. Enrollment didn't increase much in the next ten years, in fact it decreased, and Wooden Valley Elementary flirted constantly with closure. With the State's fantastic financial woes, the end finally came this June. Even after all these years of anticipation, it seemed unreal to see the school stripped of its sign. [Edit: I've since learned the school district may not have been responsible for this removal. Vandals!].

Speaking of the (missing) sign, you can see it in this old photograph (below) I came across while sorting through a box of treasures from my dear late friend and mentor, Jean Hill, a talented artist and life-long resident of Wooden Valley. He taught art at the school for many years.

Perhaps it was these BB guns which were responsible for the dimples in the ornament at the top of the flag pole (below).
I also discovered this more recent photo (below) taken in April 1963, which shows just about the same view as my photo (second from top), only with orchards instead of vineyards. I suppose this is proof that things are always changing in the valley, but still the closure of the school seems a very sad end of an era. I am depressed it is over, but feel lucky to have been a part of it.


  1. I love this post, both the pictures and the sentiment.
    xx jane

  2. Thanks, Jane! Glad to see you over here!