Gaye LeBaron: You’re an old Sonoma County resident if you remember Santa Rosa’s First Night parties
There’s nothing like the start of a new decade, with all the hopefulness and uncertainty it presents. When we have built up a stockpile of decades it can be surprising what we remember about the path that has led us this far.
Aha! An Old Older game is afoot!
“You’re not going to play that stupid game again are you?” said Sam the Shark.
Sam, who likes to drop around just before deadline and tell me what to write, likes to think of himself as “au courant” and scorns my affinity for an occasional stroll down memory lane. Nostalgia is not his long suit.
“C’mon,” I said. It’s Sonoma County 2020. Are you going to just peel off the past?”
He didn’t bother to answer. He knows that I know that he’s not a fan. He says he remembers too much — more all the time — and he doesn’t like to be called old, let alone older. I don’t know whether he has considered the alternative.
The Old Older game, for the uninitiated, is a silly bit of business that, you might say, came in on the train.
In the 1970s being Old meant having nostalgia for the Grace Brothers brewery whistle or coming home to visit family and asking, “What the hell happened to the courthouse?”
Older was reserved for the good old boys who loved to talk about the swimming hole on Santa Rosa Creek where the train from Sonoma Valley passed over the bridge, heading for the station on North Street. Today we call those “tracks” Montgomery Drive.
Sadly, none of the good ol’ skinny dippers are around anymore. And the brewery whistle crowd is thinning. And the world keeps turning. So, you get the drift? Old and Older are relative terms.
It was accidental — or at least unintentional. In 1975 I wrote about the railroads that came and went in three directions from Santa Rosa 50 years earlier saying: “You’re an old-timer, If you remember when there was passenger service to Eureka.” And then I added, as an afterthought that Old Older was a kind of game that anyone can play.”
It was a throwaway line, but the game was on. People wrote to tell me what they remember. Some got a little huffy at the notion of being Old. The Olders, generally, don’t mind.
But if I had taken out a full-page ad, I couldn’t have had more response. So, not everyone agrees with cranky Sam. I have fat files filled with bits and shards of many people’s memories as testimony
So, yes, Sam. The game is on!
Old if, when the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve you had a moment of nostalgia for First Night, the short-lived New Year’s Eve party of the ’90s that filled the whole downtown — from Railroad Square to City Hall and the library, with music and food vendors and performances. Several thousand people loved it, but the second year it rained and well … you know how it goes.
Older if you had been part of the cultured crowd at the Tower Theater (next door to the library on Fourth Street) when it showed foreign films, and the audiences got all dressed up and sipped champagne at intermission.