Chris Smith: Who painted the words on the roof of Santa Rosa’s old Red Barn?
Sometimes my friend and mentor Gaye LeBaron engages readers in what the columnist and history author calls the old-older game.
So it’s with a nod and apologies to her that I suggest you are old if you remember when the barn-like structure on Mendocino Avenue across from Santa Rosa High School, home most recently to the Brotherhood Board Shop, housed the consecutive Mexican restaurants La Flama and El Sol.
And you are older if you recall the structure’s original tenant — the Red Barn restaurant, home of the “Big Barney” burger.
An aged PD clipping recounts the ribbon-cutting at the Red Barn on Dec. 3, 1968.
Coming on 51 years later, a fellow who’s giving the building a major makeover wonders who once spray-painted messages that were revealed when the roof’s old shingles and tarpaper were torn off.
Daniel Brown, who’s partnering with Matt Rivera in converting the structure into the Easy Breezy Wash Barn, a car wash, suspects the phrases on either side of the gambrel roof were composed as the building was going up in ‘68.
On the north side, the exposed plywood is emblazoned with an image of a hand holding a peace sign from which rises a stem and petal. Large block letters ask, “IF A MAN DIE, SHALL HE LIVE AGAIN?”
The question came verbatim from the Bible’s Job 14:14.
The declaration on the roof’s south side is quite different: “BULLETS ARE FOREVER.” How curious to read that as many Californians buy up ammo like there’s no tomorrow, just ahead of entirely reasonable new regulations.
Daniel Brown senses in the graffiti social and political unrest from the time of Vietnam and the King and Kennedy assassinations.
Brown poses, “These expressions may be considered a time capsule from that era.” In his mind, the revealed reflections on peace and death and bullets are five decades old but as contemporary as the 21st century roofing technology that will once again cover them over.
OMELETTE DIPLOMACY: Keeping to the old-older theme, you’ve been off Gerber for a while if you recall, as I do, when Railroad Square restaurateur Don Taylor went all-in to Santa Rosa’s sister city kinship with Jeju City, South Korea.
The Omelette Express owner carried a Snoopy statue to the island city, and he’s often played host to Korean kids and adults visiting here.
A year ago, Taylor and a key member of his staff, Julio Moyado, were in Jeju for the opening of an unusual diner.
Named Don Taylor Express to honor all the Santa Rosan has done for the Koreans, it’s run by a nonprofit and it employs young, single mothers while teaching them food service.
Days ago, six moms in the program came to Santa Rosa to learn more about omelettes and service at the mother ship.
During a neighborly dinner and gift exchange at the Omelette Express on Saturday, program founder Dr. AeDuck Im said that in Jeju people walk in frequently and ask one of two questions, or both:
“Who is Don Taylor?” And, “What sort of business is Don Taylor Express?”
There’s no quick way to convey to potential diners who Don Taylor is and why the charitable enterprise bears his name. But to clarify to passersby what the Don Taylor Express is, Im said, a new word is being added to the signs: Café.
You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and firstname.lastname@example.org.