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Ever in search of a peg on which to hang some history, today I seize upon a Press Democrat news story from earlier this month about the closure of a roadside business known in recent years as the Bodega Country Store.

But for folks who know something of the past 150 years of Bodega’s history — that building, that store is and always will be McCaughey Bros.

It was a general merchandise establishment but also, it was something akin to the Capitol of the Sonoma Coast. And nobody, not even an outsider passing through, would have thought to call it a country store. Nor would they have called Bodega a “tiny hamlet,” as it was described in the recent news.

“Hamlet,” as you know, is a word that means either a Danish prince suffering from chronic depression and suicidal tendencies or a very small “settlement.”

So it does seem a bit dismissive for a town that was once more populous and more important than Santa Rosa.

In 1853, the name was changed from Smith’s Ranch to Bodega Corners because three roads met there and the community now had, in addition to the first steam-powered sawmill in the region, a saloon, a store, a blacksmith, a livery stable and a hotel.

That year, in what would become Santa Rosa, stood merely a trading post in the Carrillo adobe and a few rudimentary businesses in a tiny settlement (hamlet?) called Franklin, right about where the Flamingo is today. Bodega Corners/Smith’s Ranch on the other hand had been a significant settlement for 40 years — first as a Russian farm and a then as pioneer lumber mill town.

McCaughey’s was in the building the Rossiter brothers built in the late 1850s. James McCaughey bought the building shortly after he arrived from his native Canada in 1864.

When James died, his Bodega-born sons, Walter and Howard, inherited the business, added a “Bros.” to the name and created a landmark.

It was Howard, really. Brother Walter, older, was a San Francisco lawyer, valuable to the business for his commercial connections. But Howard was the storekeeper, the purveyor of everything from nuts and to groceries. He was, like his father before him, the postmaster, which brought everyone from miles around into his store every working day.

He was also the go-to guy for everyday advice, the gadfly who hounded the county road department about mud and potholes, the acknowledged leader of the political and social life of the coast and, most surely, keeper of the history.

Howard died in 1960, after his nephew, Milton Cunninghame had taken over the everyday store duties. But some of us still rely on him in matters regarding his territory.

Which brings us to Howard’s daughter, Ruth Burke, inheritor of her father’s s vigilant watch over the place he called “Bodega Country.” That would be everything from the Marin County line to the Russian River and east to Sebastopol.

When Ruth died at her Bodega home seven years ago at the age of 93, she left for us everything her father knew about the area.

The last 25 years or more of her life were spent sifting through papers — 70 years of news clippings, regional stories (both absolute truth and folklore), letters, and even poetry. The resulting compilation is the legacy of her rather remarkable father. Howard McCaughey recorded, collected and stored everything he’d ever read or heard about his home turf.

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Ruth’s book was published by the Tomales Regional History Center in 2007. “An Intimate History of Bodega Country and the McCaughey Family” is a daunting two-volume work, 1,260 pages with, thankfully, eight pages of index.

It is everything you ever wanted to know about Bodega and the Sonoma Coast from Native Americans to the 21st century, as filtered through the fertile minds of one perceptive man and his admiring daughter.

So, knowing all this, you’ll have to excuse coast-dwellers of a certain age who have been doing business in Bodega all their lives for having some regrets about change.

The town had McCaughey Bros. until 1985 when then-owner Ned Mantua from Bodega Bay moved the business and the name to the west side of Bodega Bay, across from Spud Point Marina. Mantua closed up shop in 2000 and the name went away.

Those locals who have never really taken to the new commerce didn’t see much reason to shop in the Bodega Country Store in recent years. The post office was long gone — moved across the highway. And the last tenants of the present owners, the Bonfigli family, had turned it into — well, I guess we could call it a Birds’ sanctuary. (Sorry about that.)

We can argue all day about when present times become history. Certainly one can regard the arrival of Alfred Hitchcock and his film company as a historic event. And we can all agree that the movie has put Bodega and Bodega Bay — which were cleverly morphed into one place in the schoolhouse scene of that movie — on the road trip radar.

And it put old Bodega Corners and its bayside counterpart on the list of “must see” Northern California tourist stops — right up there with the Trees of Mystery.

The stories people want to hear now are very different from the old Bodega lore about grizzlies and squatters’ wars. They want to hear what kind of car Hitchcock arrived in, how many cages of birds there were — and, above all, everything there is to tell about Tippi Hedren.

To some it seems as kitschy as the T-shirts and stuffed crows and autographed pictures they sold in the now-defunct Country Store. The one with the odd statue of Hitchcock in front.

I can only imagine what Howard McCaughey would have said about that.

I had a nice visit with Evelyn Casini last week. Evie is a true link to Bodega’s past.

Evie is the owner of The Casino, an old-fashioned bar and restaurant that has been in the same family, across the highway from the store, for 100 years. It opened as a general store — one suspects with an Italian flavor — run by Evie’s late husband Arthur Casini’s family.

Art, born next door in a house that is still there, joined his brother in the business after it became a saloon in the 1930s.

It’s still a saloon but one that is regarded as a landmark. It is where the day begins when neighbors come for their morning coffee and biscotti and ends when Highway 1 traffic slows and the pool crowd disperses. On weekend evenings there is a surprising gourmet menu offered by chef Mark Malicki.

The Casino is the center of the community now, a latter-day McCaughey Bros. that constitutes a de facto city hall — a kind of rural “Cheers” where everybody knows your name.

Most certainly Evie does. Born Evelyn Piazza 90 years ago at the family home on Bay Hill Road, she has been running the business since Art died and she’s not about to stop.

She’s watched the changes in the historic old building across the road with interest as The Birds have taken over. She remembers the 1960 movie adventure vividly, recalling “all that paraphernalia,” hauled in to make movie magic. She may even have a papier-mache bird or two around somewhere.

But she suggests, with some hesitation, that the whole event and what has come of it may have taken Bodega in the wrong direction. “It’s getting very touristy,” she says. “People come through and just go from one store to another, looking for just things.” She shakes her head.

But when I asked her what was the best thing about living her whole 90 years in Bodega, she never hesitated, and stayed totally in the present tense.

“The people,” she said. “Most of them are wonderful.”

I’m sure Howard McCaughey would agree. And he would tell you a tale of the old days as a bonus. Evie might do that too.

So, you see, it isn’t all for “The Birds” after all.

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