One of the gifts of the trip to the Western Literature Association (and there were many gifts) was the GRS Saunter. Cheryll Glotfelty, who encouraged my attendance at the WLA, also suggested that we do some kind of a field trip to sites both literarily and academically connected with George R. Stewart. I sent out an email to people who might be interested in such a trip, and had a good response. Baiba Strads, Bancroft Librarian, enthusiastically agreed to coordinate the campus sections. John and Angela Lucia helped with the Berkeley part of the trip.
So after staying a couple of days with John and Angela at their beautiful Sacramento home, and accompanied by John, I drove the aging Chinook to the Berkeley Hills, to Indian Rock Ave, and to what (I thought) was Indian Rock Park, to meet Cheryll, Ross and Charlene Wilson Bogert, Willie Stewart and his mother Sallie, and GRS Scholar/Interpreter Alan Kaplan. The plan was to do some readings from Earth Abides (which is largely set in that area) and have a small ceremony honoring the gathering. And then to head to the campus, where Baiba had arranged a special showing of archival materials from the George Rippy Stewart Papers.
Well. The Chinook had a few problems – couldn’t get up the Marin Street hill (which we, as college students, used to zip down in our mid-20th century cars). I got lost. And then, when we finally found the park no one showed up. After a half hour, John and I walked around the Rock – found the name of that park – Mortar Rock Park – and realized we were in the wrong place. John ran to INDIAN Rock Park, where everyone was waiting. I was very apologetic. But they didn’t mind. They’d had a great time talking and enjoying each others company.
We read from Earth Abides, about the carving of “The Year I” in the rock, and the naming of that year. Then poured some fine Laphroaig (a scotch founded appropriately by descendants of Clan Donald) on the rock in honor of The Year LXIV – which I hope could be named “The Year The Years Began Again,” since we discussed an annual gathering there in honor of Ish and Em.
Here’s another photo of Ish’s Country. The fellow in the foreground is Donald M. Scott, author of blogs and biographies. Photo by John Lucia.
We sauntered to the Bancroft, where Dee Lapachet Barney – Poet, an editor of the GRS biography, former student, and friend – joined us. Baiba had arranged for the display of some remarkable manuscript items – GRS’s uncle’s Civil War Journal (written under fire), a hilarious sketch of the GRS – Theodosia wedding by one of Ross Bogert’s ancestors, a letter from Walt Disney to GRS praising his work, a 19th century family photo of the Wilsons, and a page from the manuscript of Earth Abides which showed Stewart’s corrections and re-writing. There were a few other items. We also showed the historic 1929 film of GRS, his parents, and the Wilsons, so kindly donated by Ross Bogert Wilson.
Dee and Cheryll had to leave after the Bancroft session. The rest of us went to the Faculty Club – designed by Bernard Maybeck in the Arts and Crafts style and a model for National Park Service buildings – where we had a fine dinner, some of the Club’s labelled wine, and a wonderful conversation. It was the perfect end to a Grand Saunter.
I said farewell to the group, then headed to my motel. The Golden Bear, on old US 40, was built in 1946. It’s an icon of the U.S. Highway era and the golden era of motels. Our family passed it on our adventurous 1949 trip from California to McConnellsville, Ohio. Perhaps more important – Ish would have passed it many times after the plague; and it’s likely that the dying Ish was carried past it on his last trip, heading west, across the Bay Bridge.
Thus ended the Saunter. Unless, of course, this becomes an annual event.