The Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society:
Holly Hoods and the Volunteers
If you've got a job to do and need to stay directly on course, you
might avoid the downstairs of the Healdsburg Museum. Because you'll get
sidetracked. Holly Hoods, Research Curator, and Charlotte Anderson,
Volunteer Association Chair, are self-proclaimed co-presidents of the
"Sidetrack Association." But they'll give you a warning if they know
you're coming. Boxes, files, microfilm, photos, stories and storytellers
are waiting. Lots of education and lots of laughs.
In an attempt to actually initiate our interview, I ask Charlotte
how long she's been working at the museum.
"I don't know..." she begins. "When I retired from teaching, June
Jones suggested I become a receptionist here for two and a half hours a
month. But my real love is writing... I wanted to research Fitch
Mountain and now I've accumulated a huge Fitch Mountain folder, and it's
purple because when I'm old I'll wear purple. And right now I'm
searching for the 'H' in Fitch Mountain."
"Every year the Senior Class would erect a giant 'H' on Fitch
Mountain, and now Charlotte is on the quest," Holly adds, in response to
my very puzzled look.
"There used to be a register on the mountain for people to sign,"
Charlotte continues. And she's off in search of old editions of the
Russian River Recorder, handing me an article she wrote entitled "Road
to the Top of Fitch Mountain" in the Winter 2002 publication. But, hold
on. Now I'm getting sidetracked.
"It took years for me to write 'Floozies, Fistfights and Flames,'
Holly now mentions.
"While researching for a visitor, I found an article about a woman named
Lucinda Walker being fined for using vulgar language. And I thought,
'That's interesting... I'd better start a file on her. Once I started a
prostitution file, I began seeing trends. I'd see the words 'suspicious
fire,' for example, and my mind went right to 'Walker stable.' "
Now Charlotte points out that we're sidetracking again. So I ask
Holly to tell me what they do here.
"People come in looking for a picture of their house--hoping to find
the perfect photo with a history already done by someone else. But
usually what they get is the fun of the find. Usually they must begin
with ownership history and then they find fascinating things along the
way," Holly explains.
"Nicole from Oakville Grocery came to find information on a house
she'd rented in which she'd had some disturbing, possibly ghostly,
things happen. She'd actually seen something. So I said, 'Okay, let's
find out who owned that house.' We learned that Ole Johnson, an
Evangelist from the early 1900s, had built the house on North Street. We
couldn't find any photos of him in the 'J' binder. So I got out the
(Oh, oh. She accidentally produces a photo of Pete Foppiano as a
"Embrace the sidetrack!" Holly instructs me, continuing: "Nicole
went through the churches binder and stopped at an unidentified group
photo from the Methodist Episcopal church, circa 1900. 'There. That's
the guy!' Nicole pointed. I can't prove that's Ole Johnson, but Nicole
sure recognized that face," Holly concludes.
Unexpected delights such as these are daily occurrences with the
Sidetrack Association because Holly is a virtual magnet for the
Today, for example, Victoria Raffetto calls because she's found
an old bottle from the Sanitary Dairy in her yard and is looking for
photos of the dairy truck. Having interviewed Lois and Marian Hoy,
whose dad owned the dairy, I'm excited because I've actually seen a
photo of that truck. About an hour later, who happens to walk in with an
original Smith Robinson article? Marian Hoy Jones. Holly makes a date
for Marian to meet Victoria Raffetto and I make a date to interview
Marian for the Smith Robinson Project.
And then volunteer Fran Schierenbeck stops by. Fran helps with
research and architectural history for the walking tour. "I love looking
up houses for people," she tells me. "I'd been researching Barbara
Tuscany's house which was one of three similar houses, the middle one
having been moved. One day, while I was flipping through the archives, I
found a photo with the three houses intact in their original location on
And then who walks in? Barbara Tuscany. Out comes the archival photo
of the three houses. Plus Holly's prostitution file which is about two
Fern Naber drops by. She's the one who writes thank you notes to
folks who donate money. Charlotte mentions that Fern comes in to see
what work to do, but then takes the work home so she won't get
And all this is happening while Mel Amato's buzzing around working
on the Instant Wine Cellar, the museum's biggest fundraiser.
"Mel's very solution oriented," Holly tells me. "He actually changes
things. He began doing research on the Chambaud Building, and next thing
he's hooked and donating a microfilm reader/printer."
"I won the big prize in 2001," Mel fills me in. "I was critical of
there being only one prize and one winner so I was told to take it over,
which I have."
Now Barbara Baxter checks in. She's in charge of the Flashbacks
section in the Tribune. "I always keep the '100 years ago' part for
myself. Here's an example of one I'd use," she says, pulling out a 1906
Tribune. Under the title "New Firm in Healdsburg" reads, "G.R. Harrison
purchased a half-interest in a furniture and undertaking business..."
"I look for information from old council meetings, local names and
grocery store ads--like this one which reads 'Tonsorial Prices: Shops
closed all day Sunday. The man who neglects his face on Saturday will
have to carry a sprouting beard to church... haircut 35¢, tonic 10¢,
neck shave 5¢.'"
At one point Darla Budworth is searching through microfilm, Mel's
making copies, Judy Johnson and Jim Marcolina are working together on
the photo preservation project, Holly is helping Jane and Jim Wood find
photos of Josefa and Henry Fitch, Barbara Baxter and George Clough are
in and out, Marian is showing Victoria photos of her dad's Sanitary
Dairy truck while Charlotte is showing me a photo of herself playing the
guitar in bare feet at the all town party for Smitty. I meet many more
volunteers and will introduce them next time when I focus more on Dan
Murley, museum curator.
For now, I've saved the best for last. Holly, the "Queen of
Serendipity" has her own special story, which I can only briefly
"When I was a child, a teacher got us kids interested in Vietnam
POWs. And I had a POW bracelet that I wore every day and every night for
many years with the name Tom Kobashigawa on it. I tried and tried to
locate him, but finally had to put that thought aside and leave the
bracelet in my jewelry box. Then on Veteran's Day 2003, Dan Murley was
putting up a Veteran's display and I offered my bracelet. Once again I
was inspired to search for Tom. This time I googled him, finding him
"I wanted to write to him about how I was affected by wearing that
bracelet, but I didn't want to intrude or retraumatize him. Then one day
while at work here, I heard this man out in the hall talking about the
famous Adopted Battalion. It was Fred Weyand, the commander of Smith
Robinson's Adopted First Infantry Battalion, here visiting from
'"Are you Fred Weyand?' I asked, jumping up and down, telling him it
was my very favorite story in Healdsburg history. Then I told him that I
had someone I'd never forgotten--POW Tom Kobashigawa. And Fred offered
to find Tom in Honolulu! Fred then arranged an unforgettable meeting in
which I presented Tom with the POW bracelet with his name on it that I'd
had since I was a child."