Keith Larson’s drawing of William Neish, The Story Tailor, included in “Life in Pacific Grove.”
William Neish, The Story Tailor, was so excited about writing stories for our community book, he engaged several friends and new acquaintances to tell him their stories and work with him to perfect. Here are a few excepts from those stories, from the more than 400 personal stories in “Life in Pacific Grove, California.” I’ve included a few of Keith Larson’s delightful drawings that are in the book. Now on Amazon.com and for sale at the official book launch Oct 7, 2017 at Chautauqua Hall in Pacific Grove. This article first appeared Sept 29, 2017 in our column, “Keepers of Our Culture,” in the Cedar Street Times.
The Story Tailor at Work
I was very excited when asked to contribute to the book Life in Pacific Grove, on sale October 7th at the library and Chautauqua Hall, at Bookworks, and on Amazon. It’s a tapestry of local memories, with residents discussing everything from our creaky old houses to our crazy blue law traditions, and even our surprisingly plentiful ghosts! What true Pagrovian doesn’t want to read about all that?
Because I love our shared history so much, I lured my friends into submitting entries, as well. Below are excerpts from some of their thrilling tales.
The Journey Home
Margaret McHugh, a new resident, stumbles upon the home of John Steinbeck’s sister, mistakenly thinking the house is for rent. “I knocked on the door, which an elderly woman of small stature answered. She looked surprised, as if not expecting anyone. When I explained my purpose, she got a worried look on her face and said her house was not for rent. I noticed a large photograph of a man just above the hall table. “Oh,” I said excitedly. “John Steinbeck!” A long silence followed as she stood next to me, and I felt like I had said something wrong. Finally, she said, “He is my brother and … I do not want to talk about him, if you don’t mind. I miss him terribly.”
The Witchy Houses of PG
By Scared, Scarred, and Anonymous: A traumatic grade school party in the 60s drives a Carmel Valley resident from our town forever. “PG looked like a city … a little witch city. The houses all looked old and creaky and too close together. I didn’t know they were Victorians at the time, they just looked like they each probably had at least one caldron inside and no electricity. I didn’t even want to go to this party; my mom made me. She wanted me to make friends, but I didn’t want to make any witch friends.”
Our Victorian Structures
Rick Steres, a celebrated PG architect, details the history and characteristics of our oldest buildings. “The Victorians’ essence is verticality more than anything else. John Ruskin was a very influential art and architecture critic of the 1800s and he pointed out that Victorian homes are tall and narrow, and that’s true even if they’re only one story. They have steeply sloped roofs … literally like arrowheads pointing upward toward God. The buildings are a metaphor in that way, suggesting the upright posture of man, a striving for morality, a heavenly orientation.”
The Coat that Led Me Here
In which our heroine, Patricia Purwin, follows a gorgeous black velvet coat from an L.A. consignment shop to our little hamlet. “Upon arrival in Pacific Grove I was instantly enchanted, as it was during the holidays and twinkling fairy lights illuminated my way down Lighthouse Avenue to the Butterfly Trees Lodge. I maneuvered my way through an ethereal assault of monarch butterflies who had filled the air like confetti, dancing in the gently filtered December sunlight.”
The Snows of Pacific Grove
Clackett House star, Barbara Rose Shuler, remembers the day it snowed in PG, and recounts the haunts of her childhood. “I picnicked in the parks and at Lovers Point, played on Asilomar Beach and went folk dancing with new friends. I explored old Cannery Row with its colorful characters, like Kalisa of the famed bohemian coffee house, La Ida Café. I remember balance-walking the train-track rails where a bike path now curves along the shore. I did homework perched in cypress trees by the kelp-covered sea, studied tide pools, gazed at the sea floor from glass-bottom boats at Lovers Point, and bought cookies after school at Hector De Smet’s Bakery. Once at Lighthouse Elementary School, I won a writing contest that gave my class free ice cream for a day with a full week for me. I do not remember the topic but it may have had to do with butterflies.”
A Tale of Two Sister Cities
By Madeleine Griffith. Steinbeck’s landscape, and how it came to be linked to Glastonbury, England. “Set on the green and pleasant coast of California, where granite outcrops meet the sea at Lovers of Jesus Point, our town of Pacific Grove stretches a bit on its flats and then climbs its way up to Huckleberry Hill. There it shares a street with New Monterey, then ambles along a coastline carpeted with blooming, purply-pink colored succulents to Spanish Bay, where Sunset Drive traces a southern boundary into the piney woods of Pebble Beach. In all, you could say Pacific Grove faces northwest, a direction which Taoists believe points to the Gates of Heaven.”
Butterfly drawing by Emiko Case, ESL student, also with stories in the book.
Join in Butterfly Days Fun
William’s and others’ works in their entirety are unveiled October 7 in Life in Pacific Grove, California, and I believe it’s a great collection, detailing the rich and varied history and current days of our special town.
Mayor Bill Kampe and State Senator Bill Monning will present “Life in Pacific Grove” at 11:30 a.m. in Chautauqua Hall. The public and all book contributors (more than 400) are invited to attend and be recognized. This book was created entirely by our community working together.
Please join us for the launch and the PG Potluck Picnic immediately following in Jewell Park, with live entertainment in the Gazebo by Joyce and Peter Meuse. Bring finger food to share, buy a book, and have it book autographed by contributors—as you enjoy the camaraderie, the food and music!
UPDATE: This just in after William received his book:
“I love it!
It’s much more detailed than I expected it to be, but more importantly, once you see it in your hands and imagine it on a library shelf or on a coffee table or something, you really grasp how vital it is to pool a community’s memories. Once we’re gone, all that stuff is gone!
I think you really created something important.”