There are people who stroll the great vendors’ mart at the Sonoma County Fair these days and say, “Whoa! Where’s the sewing-machine dude?”

There’s been a prominent Bernina booth inside Grace Pavilion every summer since before the Earth cooled, and Jim Wyllie manned it for more than 30 unbroken years.

Starting in 1981, Wyllie arose early every day of the fair and scooted to his and his wife Annemarie’s Parkside Sewing Centre. He’d do some work, then arrive at his sales post at the fairgrounds before 10 a.m.

He’d invite passersby to check out his sewing machines until closing time, 10 p.m., then hurry back to his shop to tend whatever needed tending do.

The routine, while great fun, wore him out — and those were the days when the fair ran 13 days and encompassed two weekends. In 2011, it grew to 17 days, three weekends.

“Honestly, at end of those three weeks, I was draggin’,” Wyllie said. He frazzled himself at the 2012 and ’13 fairs, admitting to himself this year that nearly three weeks is just too long to be away from his shop, and takes too much out of him.

Quoting Kenny Rogers, the Sewing Machine Man, now 73, said, “You’ve got to know ... when to fold ’em.”

Of course, he and Annemarie visited the fair this year. He was sorry to see there seemed to be fewer people and, most disconcertingly, fewer families there.

“Why wouldn’t you bring your family to the fair?” Wyllie said. Though it isn’t cheap, he has always thought it’s a terrific deal, considering all there is to is to see and do.

But 12 hours a day for 17 days, that got to be too much of a good thing.


GROW, SCOOBY, GROW... Smiling on Page 1 of the Arizona Daily Star on Monday was Philip “Scooby” Wright. Awesome on Cardinal Newman’s football team, he’s now heading into his second year at University of Arizona.

The story tells how the former Redwood Empire Defensive Player of the Year has muscled up and is keen to do even better as a Wildcat linebacker this year than last, when he shone as a freshman.

He’s 16 pounds heavier than last year, now 6-foot-1 and 246 pounds.

But to us in his Sonoma County family, he’ll always be our little Scooby.


ASK NOLAN STIMPLE what he’s done this summer and the Piner alum and member of SRJC’s one state championship swim team may not mention the life he saved.

On break from studying and swimming at Concordia U in Irvine, he was home in Santa Rosa days ago when he heard a kid screaming for help. He hustled next door and saw this:

A boy of about 10 howled as his mother bloodied her hands trying to pry open or smash the sunroof of her Volvo. The neck of her older son, 13 or 14, was stuck in it; he was asphyxiating.

Nolan, 22, leaped up onto the car, braced himself with his feet and yanked and pulled on the glass sunroof. The teen, just his head showing from inside the car, sputtered helplessly.

At last, the sunroof slid back. The boy collapsed into the car seat, gulping air as his frantic mother and kid brother helped him from the car.

The woman later wrote Nolan the nicest letter. She said he truly saved her son’s life “and, in turn, saved mine and our family’s lives.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@press democrat.com.