Notes from Napa

Saturday, February 06, 2010

 

FIVE YEAR WONDERS

This is the much maligned and misquoted article on the "Five Year Wonders."

The Column said verbatim, "In St. Helena we get a constant influx of new folks. We call them 5 year wonders. We were once one of them. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a 5YW. There are good-un's and bad-un's. It's how one acts after arriving that counts. Many new folks provide the energy which make this town hum…..New ideas from new folks and enthusiasm are a blessing. New negativity and bullying--not….We were in no way to act like the white man coming in and destroying the traditions and the values of those who were here first.

I too was mad at the board, but love the schools and the town more. Their sins don't merit a recall. Nothing wrong with disagreeing. How you disagree is what matters….Remember: What counts is how you spend your time here--not how much time you've spent here." (Full text read below).


Weekly St. Helena Star Column
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The story is told of the newcomer asking a farmer on the outskirts of town, “What kind of folks live here?”

Farmer: “What were the folks like back home?"

“Well, they was mostly dishonest, thievin’ varmints.”

Farmer: “Most likely you’ll find the same here.”

A second traveler comes along and asks the farmer, “What kind of folks live here?”

Farmer: “What were the folks like back home?”

“They was mostly honest, decent hard workin’ folks.”

Farmer: “Most likely, you’ll find the same here.”

Small towns tell you more about yourself than vice versa.

In St. Helena we get a constant influx of new folks. We call them 5 year wonders, We were once one of them.

(Not being a Brignoli or Wood Baby, I’ll never be the real deal).

It was the 50’s. We were from the city. My horse injured a hoof. Dr. Talcott came up and treated her. The hoof got worse. A new 5 year wonder, Jim Pop wrote a nasty letter to Dr. Talcott. He’d show ‘em!

Later, Jim Pop and Maggie were “nominated” for Square Dance at the Lodi Farm Center. It was the only game in town. They were a tight group.

Both Mondavi families belonged, as well as Carpy’s, Kornells, Daniels ,Harts etc. One ding—-and you were out. Dr. Talcott could have told everyone what a jerk Jim Pop was. My parents would have been ostracized for life.

He was kind. What a lesson! Our families became fast friends and we learned quickly how fragile social relations are in a small town.

Our first year we knew it all. We knew nothing. But thanks to Dr. Talcott we became good learners. Jim Pop laid down the law. We were to adapt. We were to honor and respect the traditions of the town. We were in no way to act like the white man coming in and destroying the traditions and the values of those who were here first.

We learned that unlike cities, small towns are like families. We are constantly in close proximity to one another. One must act accordingly.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a 5YW. There are good-un’s and bad-un’s. It’s how one acts after arriving that counts. Many new folks provide the energy which make this town hum. Look at Todd White (ok a 10 year wonder) and “Cheers”.

New ideas from new folks and enthusiasm are a blessing. New negativity and bullying--not.

(n.b. there are some fine longtime families who have expressed concerns about the schools. When they speak, I listen—-you should too—-particularly to Special Ed parents). Alas, you also have disgruntled ex-employees—-the anti-Boys & Girls Clubbers—-the anti-new football field crowd—-the parents denied Inter-district transfers—-parents who have sued the district and lost--to say nothing of my favorite: Parents who blame their own failures on the schools.

No one has been more critical of the School board than moi. (Full disclosure: One member turns me over when I snore).

I wanted a search. I HATE his salary. But I have learned. Superintendents in our “peer” districts get paid the same. “Buyouts” (for teachers and administrators) will actually save $1,200,000 over 5 years.

Certain 5YW’s will not be denied. They are all answers—-no questions.
As one 5YW said, “The Just Imagine Auction has been run by ‘country bumpkins.’ This year we are going to do it right.” Gee.

Theses 5YW’S are easy to spot. Unlike ours, their kids are “gifted. “ They begin each sentence with “When I was at…” or “As an attorney, I…” or “When I lived in Texas we…” Generously, they’re willing to share their wisdom with us Country bumpkins.

Mostly, they are angry. Once they were “somebody.” Now they’re just like thee and me. Ironically, rather than raise money for kids, they’re quite willing to raise money for a recall.

“Watch out.”I was warned. “These people are movers and shakers.”

Trouble is, they move. How often do they enter with a 7th grader, raise hell for five years, then leave? Guess who cleans up the mess?

They’re insensitive to the peculiarities of small towns. Subjecting neighbors to 9 months of bitterness and nasty letters means nothing to them.

They’re willing to pit teachers against parents--neighbor against neighbor. Who wants to turn her grocery cart around in Sunshine to avoid “the other side?”

I too was mad at the board, but love the schools and the town more. Their sins don’t merit a recall. Nothing wrong with disagreeing. How you disagree is what matters.

Remember: What counts is how you spend your time here--not how much time you’ve spent here.