In the 1940s, a local ranch hand picked up a load of middle eastern deer at the San Francisco zoo and delivered them to his employer’s ranch. This was Ambrose Gondola, and the deer he drove to Marin that day eventually went feral and made a lasting mark on the landscape, where they became known as the “ghost” or “white” deer. These animals became iconic of the Point Reyes area, where they were beloved by many and hated by some.
Join us in the Story Shed as Ambrose describes picking the deer up that day, and how the controversy that followed them through the years started almost immediately: when the biggest buck was poached by a local hunter. He also tells stories of creeks full of salmon, coves full of abalone, and what it was like to grow up as a ranch boy in Tomales and Olema.
Also, if you missed it, you can hear more from Ambrose in our previous episode, where he talks with his wife Edith (who he has known for 80 years) about their life together and her Italian family’s history.
In this show, 89-year-old Edith Gondola talks about her family and childhood with her husband Ambrose–who she has known for 80 years and been married to for 67 years. They are joined in conversation by Ken Eichstadt. Tune in to hear how Edith’s father made a good living harvesting sacks of compost from woodrat nests, and gathering wild fern fronds to sell to florists in San Francisco. Eventually he and Edith’s mother, Rose, opened a bar and gas station in the crossroads town of Olema.
Nip assisting with branding Macappin ranch in north western Sonoma county
In this show, 97-year-old Arnold “Nip” Rasmason talks about his hardscrabble childhood, growing up poor on a remote ranch in the steep ridge country of northern Sonoma County. Nip describes a lifestyle few people can imagine today—a time of travelling peddlers, hunting, trapping, and—on cold, frosty mornings—standing in fresh cow pies in the pasture to get his bare feet warm. Join us as Nip describes meals of roasted robin with polenta, and catching live deer by hand. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.
95-year-old Barbara Mercedes Black grew up in the Sonoma County hills near the historic Russian outpost, Fort Ross. Black is a lifelong rancher, horsewoman, historian and active part of the community she grew up in. In this episode of the Story Shed, she vividly recalls her own life and the stories passed down to her by her family. Her paternal grandparents George & Elizabeth Charles homesteaded on the South Fork of the Gualala River, where they raised sheep. Her maternal grandparents George & Mercedes Call met when George was living in Chile, working as a burlap bag merchant after a vivid career putting on bear and bull fight shows with Grizzly Adams, and moved to Sonoma County after they purchased Fort Ross and the surrounding land.
Join us as Barbara shares tales of late-night dances, community picnics, and church camps held by traveling preachers. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.
Young Herbert Archer (HA) Richardson arrived in San Francisco in the late 1860s with his new wife Aletha at his side and $2 in his pocket, recounts their grandson Harold. He landed a job at a sawmill in northern Sonoma County, and she got a job at a hotel in a nearby town. From those humble beginnings HA went on to build up a profitable timber business in Stewart’s Point, where he literally owned the small seaside town. He also had several merchant sailing ships in the era when all goods moved by ship. In the 1920s, he got the contract to build 40 miles of Highway One–a job his son Font did with a small crew of men using pickaxes, dynamite, and a primitive tractor.
Today, Harold Richardson is 93 years old and the Richardson family still owns the Stewart’s Point store and logs the surrounding forest. Join us in the Story Shed as he shares tales of what life was like back when a coon skin was worth $4 and the only ice in town arrived by boat.
The young men of Croatia–and other European countries–often first came to the United States as hands on merchant marine ships in the early 1900s, says 91-year-old Anna Konatich, whose father and stepfather did exactly that. When their ship arrived at an appealing harbor, the men would hop off with no belongings but what they carried in their pockets. The lucky ones were met by more established emigrants from their homeland, who helped them get a start and send money back to their families. Anna grew up in the Dalmatian Islands of Croatia while her father worked in Pennsylvania building bridges. Thanks to him, and others like him, their village on the isle of Iz had amenities like electricity and paved streets.
Anna came to the United States as a young woman, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after first living in Seattle. On the shores of Tomales Bay, she and her new husband helped his father to start Tony’s Seafood restaurant, bought in part from the proceeds of shark fishing. The restaurant still exists today, perched on pilings above the pristine waters of Tomales Bay, and still serves some seafood that is caught fresh by Anna’s sons.
Join us in the Story Shed to hear Anna talk with her son John about the family’s past, and making a living off the sea. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.
In 1892 a scrappy 17-year-old boy left Switzerland, hoping to find his fortune. Young Dominic Grossi did indeed find fortune–as a result of hard work as a dairy farmer in California. He also found a wife, and raised 10 children, making sure each was set up with a ranch of their own. Today that dreaming teenager has well over 100 descendents, most of whom still live within 50 miles of his original ranch.
Join us in the Story Shed as we listen to Ed and Ralph Grossi talk about their grandfather’s life and legacy, and their own experiences growing up on a ranch. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.
Dina Angress went to high school with Anne Frank in Amsterdam, and came to California as a 19-year-old bride just a few years after surviving the German invasion of World War II. In 1948 her husband Herb – also known as Hans – got a job working for Bill Straus, founder of the now-renowned Straus Family Creamery. The two soon became business partners, and Dina and Herb spent two decades living, working, and raising their family on the shores of Tomales Bay, an hour north of San Francisco in the small country town of Marshall. It was a world away from Dina’s cosmopolitan childhood in Amsterdam, and from the year and a half she spent cut off from her family, in hiding from German soldiers during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
In this episode of the Story Shed, we join Dina and her daughter Ingrid Noyes as they talk about Dina’s childhood in the Netherlands, and life raising six kids on a Marin County dairy. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here. Learn more about Ingrid’s music camp here.
Ruth Rathbun is the granddaughter of aspiring gold miner William Wallace Wilkins, who came to California in 1849. After failing to find his fortune in gold, Wilkins turned to timber and then dairy ranching. He married at age 55, sent two daughters to college at Stanford in the early 1900s, and periodically got so drunk enough at the local bar that his horse had to find the way home for both of them.
Now 90 years old, Ruth spent her childhood summers on the family’s ranch on the edge of the Bolinas Lagoon, just north of San Francisco. In this episode of the Story Shed, we hear Ruth and her son Dan share family stories, childhood memories of the ranch, and how she returned there with her own family in the 1970s. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.
Eileen, Bill and Anna Jensen at the family’s ranch
Highway 101 was a little two-lane road when 81-year-old Anna Jensen was growing up in Ignacio, located just north of the Golden Gate. In this month’s program, we’ll hear her talk with her son Bill about growing up there in the 1930s and 40s, when the restaurant down the road ran a bootlegging operation, and Hamilton Field was a thriving military post during WWII. The soldiers bought eggs and turkeys from her family’s ranch, before the military took it over; Tomales Bay was also used for bombing practice during those years. Anna also describes what it was like to move to the remote town of Tomales as a 19-year-old bride, where she helped her husband drive cattle trucks. The Jensen family, formerly the Irvin family, was one of the first to settle the town. Today Bill runs sheep and cattle on the ranch that has been in his family since 1856.