Sunday, December 03, 2006
Richvale history, family memories told in sumptuous book and companion photo CD
By DAN BARNETT
"Richvale," writes Dennis Lindberg, "is often referred to as the birthplace of the California rice industry. Formerly known as Selby Switch, a railroad siding, the new town was named in 1909 by the Richvale Land Company developers, who were implying that the land was rich and would grow anything."
That turned out not to be the case. The soil was good only for growing rice, but the process was not exactly easy. Lindberg, the chair of the Richvale Writing Group, notes that "this difficult, backbreaking venture required dedication and perseverance from those who came, primarily from Midwestern states, and stayed to overcome the obstacles they found at every turn in the road." The Writing Group, with more than 40 members over the last half decade, was determined to preserve the memories of Richvale in its early years. Facilitated by Butte College writing instructor Teresa Ward, the group has produced a fitting tribute to their families and has given the wider reading public an extraordinary compendium of life as it was.
"Richvale: A Legacy of Courage, Dedication, and Perseverance" ($65 in hardcover) is available at the Butte County Rice Growers Association in Richvale; in Gridley at Ace Hardware and the Gridley Museum; the Bookworm and the Butte County Historical Society in Oroville; as well as Made in Chico.
Lyon Books in Chico is presenting a special program featuring the book, and some of its contributors, at 3 p.m. Sunday. The public is invited, as a news release says, to meet "some very lively octogenarians; readers will include Norman Lofgren, Dennis Lindberg, Mervin Parsons, Vivian Potter and the youngster of the group Susan Rystrom Stone."
There is also a companion photo CD ($10), which features 364 pictures from the book along with 617 additional images, from family photos to pictures of harvesting equipment.
The first half of the book includes almost 100 articles telling stories of the California Rice Industry, telephone party lines and the history of Richvale's not-so-hidden vices (think snuff, ballroom dancing and cigarette smoking). The last half presents the stories of some 90 Richvale families, including the founders of the Lundberg Family Farms.
Vivian Fagerstone Potter writes of the first two-car accident in Richvale, in 1930 "at the intersection of Eucalyptus and Lofgren." Potter was 8 and she should know. She was the driver, "seated behind the huge, wooden steering wheel of our spiffy, black, Model T Ford. ... My father, Oscar, was sitting on the passenger seat beside me. ... As we were slowly headed south on Eucalyptus Road, nearing the intersection, I saw the other vehicle, an open-style Model T, approaching from the left, headed west. I stared very wide-eyed and could clearly see my friend Magnus ('Maggi') Nataas Jr., age 11, seated behind the driver's wheel, with a terrified wide-eyed look on his face as the two cars, ever so slowly, slowly, rolled toward the intersection." The two cars met and, writes Potter "went 'crunch, crunch?' There was almost a question mark in the slight noise, as if the T's didn't know what an accident was."
The book is dedicated to Luella Lofgren (1916-2005), the daughter of a Richvale farm family, who added her contributions to the book and encouraged the other writers as well.
For those with ties to Rich-vale this book is a must. For those who treasure the lively memories of an earlier era, "Richvale" is a work of heart.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.