Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stage Coaches, Station Wagons, Flipping Cups and Loss

By Bob Ferris

One of my earlier trips in a station wagon with my
mother about 1954.
I was feeling a little nostalgic today because I had heard that the sign from the Nut Tree Restaurant was being taken down to be placed in a museum.  Wow. The Nut Tree was a place where we used to stop for nourishment of a sort on our way from the Bay Area to Lake Tahoe or Dodge Ridge (back in the days when that little ski area had snow).  It put me in mind of old station wagons, pajamas used as long underwear and mittens scrapped and scarred by rampaging rope tows.  

The Milk Farm host to bus loads on their way to ski in the Sierra.
This news made me think of the Milk Farm which was also a regular stop and I found it had been closed as well with its sign preserved. All of this threw me into a mild panic.  What about Casa de Fruta near Hollister where I used to go after working on my deer project at Hollister Hills?  I remembered watching (and hearing) Eugene Zanger flip cups there while I and my helpers checked ourselves for deer ticks and other ecto-parasites as we sat in the leatherette booths.  I was happy to see that it was still around even though Eugene appeared to have called it quits after 30 years in 1999 (see below video from 1987).

And what about the legendary milkshake stand near the wildlife refuge in Los Banos?  I cannot remember the name of that roadside attraction but I know from my field journal that I had a milkshake there on April 17, 1983.  I also remember there were always lines of people waiting for their signature offering.  Was it peach, blue berry or prickly pear?  I cannot seem to remember.

Excerpt from April 17, 1983 field journal.

All of these places and others were in a real sense waystations—those places of refuge on long trips or the first foothold into civilization after visits to wild places.  They were in many instances the evolutionary response to our movement from stagecoaches to station wagons.  They were in a sense oases.  They were comfort.

Time passes and changes happen.  It is the natural order of things.  But I cannot help but feel enriched by knowing these places as they were then and a little bereft by their losses now.  It is not so much that I miss the Nut Tree’s funky colored sugar crystals or the sharp and stinging clink of coffee cups but rather the people and places that led me to where the tables rang with expectations and recollections.  

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