A Valley Golf Course Saved from the Bulldozer

The obituary for this Central Valley golf center was already written:  the land was purchased by Children’s Hospital of Central California for expansion.  But before the bulldozer, there was a reprieve.

 River Park Golf Course was a par-27 course below the cliff where Children’s Hospital Central California stands.  Photo by Steve Newvine

River Park Golf Course was a par-27 course below the cliff where Children’s Hospital Central California stands.  Photo by Steve Newvine

River Park Golf Course in southern Madera County was a neat executive course where a golfer could play nine holes in about an hour.  

The course and large driving range have lights so golfers could play until eight o’clock at night during the winter, and later during the rest of the year.

I played a few rounds there in the years since arriving in California back in 2004.  My first trip there was with visitors looking for something to do.  

We played the attached mini-golf course and had a good time.  That mini golf course closed shortly after our visit.

A few years later, I played the golf course for the first time.  Every hole was a par three, compelling me to put away my driver and rely only on my irons.  

The course was perfect for my irons.  I think I improved that part of my game thanks to the short distance holes there.

At that course, I perfected what I call “no-huddle golf”.  I would play nine holes in as short a period of time as possible.  No-huddle golf to me meant “don’t think about the shot, just hit it, and keep moving”.  

That style of play served me well on days when time was at a premium.

I read about the pending closure in the fall of 2017.  

I was not surprised.  In my time in California, I’ve read of at least four courses closing.  Some went out of business because the drought demanded too much of the precious water that kept the grass green.  

Some ceased operations because owners grew weary of chasing greens fees from golfers who had many choices including on-line deals and newspaper coupons.  

Some closed simply because the land was more valuable for development.

  The closest my ball ever got to the cup off a tee shot happened at River Park Golf Course in Madera.  Photo- Steve Newvine

 The closest my ball ever got to the cup off a tee shot happened at River Park Golf Course in Madera.  Photo- Steve Newvine

River Park was also the site of my greatest shot ever.  

I’ll never forget the day my swing from a six iron on a 135 yard par three took the ball just six inches from the cup.  There was hope that someday that evasive hole-in-one would happen.

With the announcement of the closing, I made peace with myself that a hole-in-one was not going to happen at River Park.

  River Park Golf Course ceased operations when the land was sold to Children’s Hospital of Central California.  The new name for the course is Valley Golf Center.  There’s new management, and a revision to the Hospital’s plan to use the land for expansion. Photo by Steve Newvine

 River Park Golf Course ceased operations when the land was sold to Children’s Hospital of Central California.  The new name for the course is Valley Golf Center.  There’s new management, and a revision to the Hospital’s plan to use the land for expansion. Photo by Steve Newvine

When I flew into Fresno Yosemite International Airport following a vacation, I gathered my luggage, loaded my car, and left the parking lot.  

Checking the time, I knew I could spare one additional hour before coming home to Merced.  So I headed to highway 41 North, got off at the Rio Mesa exit just over the Madera County line, and drove to River Park Golf Course.

While I could not be certain at the time, my instincts told me this would be my last round at this course.  I played a relaxing round of golf.  No-huddle golf would have to wait for some other time at some other course.  I shot a 35 on the 27 par layout.  

It was not my best round there, but not the worst either.  I walked into the pro shop, thanked the man at the register for several years of enjoyment, and headed on my way.  

It was my farewell.

 The new name for the former River Park Golf Course is Valley Golf Center.

The new name for the former River Park Golf Course is Valley Golf Center.

But then in late December, there was a surprise Christmas present for the hundreds of golfers who have used the course.

Children’s Hospital modified their plans, at least temporarily.  The course was saved.  

The new name is Valley Golf Center.  There’s new management, and a revision to the Hospital’s plan to use the land for medical offices.

A return to this newly named, old friend of a golf course in the first weeks of 2018 was a special time.  

I shot a 32, just five shots over par.  With a smile on my face, I went inside the pro shop to thank the new person behind the counter.

Saved from the bulldozer, this golf course has been revived.  

And a lot of golfers are happy about that.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book California Back Roads is available on Lulu.com

 

UC Merced Downtown Campus Center Open for Business

Watching the work crews add some final touches to the exterior of the new UC Merced Downtown Center, a life-long Merced resident looked at the sight, and with a degree of pride said, “I’ve been here all my life.  I feel like saying ‘where did this come from’?”

  School colors blue and gold adorn the entrance to the new UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo: Steve Newvine

School colors blue and gold adorn the entrance to the new UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo: Steve Newvine

The new thirty-three million dollar three-story  Campus Center officially opened with much fanfare on January 23.  The Center will be the workplace for three-hundred UC Merced non-academic employees. 

The building provides 67,400 square feet of office space.  It is state-of-the-art energy efficient, having earned a Gold designation from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the US Green Building Council.

  Open space will greet the visitor to the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo- Steve Newvine

Open space will greet the visitor to the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo- Steve Newvine

The new facility replaces leased space that has served the University well in the early years of operation.  With any rented office, the tenant usually modifies the existing space to fit the needs of a particular department.  

The new space was designed specifically for the departments that will use the offices.  Groups that frequently need to work together will now be down the hall, or up a level or two within the new building.

All of this gives the University greater flexibility in managing the growth of various departments.

  The meeting space in the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center was designed for the specific needs of each department using the building.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

The meeting space in the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center was designed for the specific needs of each department using the building.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

According to the UC Merced website, forty non-academic departments are being brought into the new Center.  

The departments will move according to a three-phase plan that begins immediately and ends by the summer of 2019.  

Resources from the University teaching, research, and public service departments will be integrated into the Downtown Center.  It is hoped this collaboration of University resources will help create and nurture partnerships throughout the community.

  The Downtown Campus Center is direct across the street from Merced City Hall.  Photo- Steve Newvine

The Downtown Campus Center is direct across the street from Merced City Hall.  Photo- Steve Newvine

The Center’s location is no accident.  Directly across the street from City Hall, the facility is symbolically linked to the future of the City of Merced.  

With three-hundred new workers soon to inhabit the downtown area, there are a lot of eyes watching to see how downtown will adapt and change with this new anchor employer in place.

Already, transitions are taking place in UC leased space at the Prominade, Mondo, Castle, and Venture Lab locations.

  Construction workers checking details as the final touches are being made to the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

Construction workers checking details as the final touches are being made to the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

The Downtown Campus Center drives home the point that the UC is a legitimate part of the downtown Merced community.  

It always has been that way since even before the Lake Road campus opened.  

But now, with permanent office space that many would agree is a centerpiece of downtown, UC Merced has made a mark on our city.

As that lifelong Merced resident said to me as we looked at the new building, “this is truly amazing.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He has written California Back Roads, Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine.

A Couple of Chipped Mugs

We tend to do a lot of cleaning up, throwing out, and organizing in the early days of a new year.  A few found items have me recalling some happy times.

  Coffee mug from the two years I spent as a television journalist at WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

Coffee mug from the two years I spent as a television journalist at WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

Take this coffee mug with a broken handle that’s been glued back on.  

The mug shows the logo for WAAY-TV where I worked as a television journalist for two years in the early 1980s.  

Everyone who worked there got a coffee mug.  The coffee maker was in the general manager’s office.  We were told it was his way of getting to know everyone.  

If we wanted caffeine, we had to go through him.  

Those of us in the newsroom were often so anxious to get coffee, the general manager’s secretary started making announcements over the station public address line.  “Attention, the coffee is ready.”  We’d make our way to the manager’s office, say hello, and fill our mugs.

The cup went with me when I left for greener pastures.  The handle likely broke during one of several moves to new cities and new jobs.  I held on to it all these years because of the memories it generates.

 My daughters got me this mug a few years ago, and I promptly dropped it creating a crack and making it useless for beverage holding.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

My daughters got me this mug a few years ago, and I promptly dropped it creating a crack and making it useless for beverage holding.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

Father’s might expect a number of tee shirts, coffee mugs, or hats for Father’s Day, birthdays, or Christmas.  

I had my share of specialized gifts from my two daughters over the years.  

But this coffee mug was special as it came to me later in my life.  My daughters got it for me a few years ago, but unfortunately, it would not last long as a holder of coffee.  

I dropped it within months, rendering it useless for beverages.  But as with other broken special mugs, I repurposed it to hold pencils and it sits on my dresser.

Over the years, I have collected coffee mugs from the many places I’ve worked, cities I have visited, or as gifts from friends or relatives.  

One of my going away gifts from New York State was a ceramic mug made by a clay artist who lived in the community where we lived at the time.  I used it for a while, but now it rests in a cabinet in our foyer; it’s a memory from a very special time in my life.

I just put away Christmas tree decorations and came across a special mug featuring a photograph of our daughters from a visit to Disneyworld back in the 1980s.  

We cherished the mug so much and never used it for beverages.  It remains part of our Christmas house decorations.

There’s a mug that plays to the characteristic of northern New York winters, a mug from the farewell party of a beloved priest friend (that one includes a prayer for vocations to the religious live), and many others.  

Each mug has a special meaning for me.

But the two with the greatest emotional attachment are those two cracked cups.  Each mug holds a special place in my heart.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He has written California Back Roads- Stories from the land of the Palm and the Pine, available on Lulu.com

A Top Ten of Blessings for 2017

 Four generations come together to celebrate three birthdays.  Photo-Newvine Personal Collection

Four generations come together to celebrate three birthdays.  Photo-Newvine Personal Collection

Looking back on the year, I find it helpful to reflect a handful of things that turned out rather well.

 A top ten list helps focus some of the most important things that happened in my life in the year.  In no particular order, here is my top ten.

1.  In March, four generations came together at our home in Merced to celebrate three birthdays.  The birthdays were for my oldest daughter, my father-in-law who turned ninety, and my sixtieth.

2.  Due to a change in a living situation that brought my in-laws under our roof as permanent residents, my wife and I did a staycation week in July.  We did a series of day trips in Merced and surrounding counties.  We saw San Luis Reservoir, San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, and Oakdale Cheese while exploring the countryside.

3.  I played at least one 9-hole round of golf every week throughout the year.

4.  California Back Roads – Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine became my eleventh published book.

 Country Music Singer and Songwriter Bill Anderson met my wife and me prior to his October show at the Gallo Center in Modesto.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

Country Music Singer and Songwriter Bill Anderson met my wife and me prior to his October show at the Gallo Center in Modesto.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

 

5.  I met one of my country music heroes, the legendary Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, before his performance at the Gallo Center in Modesto.

6.  The presentation of my lecture of Soft Skills for Hard Times was done for both the spring and fall sessions of Love Plus, a life skills training program of Love INC Merced.

  My trustworthy Chevy Cruze purchased new in Merced six years ago, turned over the 100,000 mile mark.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

 My trustworthy Chevy Cruze purchased new in Merced six years ago, turned over the 100,000 mile mark.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

 

7.  My car turned over to 100,000 miles after six years of service on the main highways and back roads of California.  This is the second car purchased new in California that has made that six-figure milestone over the past thirteen years.

8.  My grandson, who will be three in January, visited California for the first time in 2016.  I saw him again when I flew to Colorado for Thanksgiving.

 5 K runs, like this one at UC Merced, helped keep me healthy in 2017.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

5 K runs, like this one at UC Merced, helped keep me healthy in 2017.  Photo- Newvine Personal Collection

9.  I woke up every day to reasonably good health.  I owe a big thanks to my doctors, my wife, and daily runs through the trail network in my neighborhood.

10.  A great neighborhood makes a lot of difference and we have that here in our cul de sac in Merced.  Whether it was a Fourth of July picnic, the gift of strawberry preserves or something from a garden, or just knowing we could pick up the phone and ask a favor, we’ve got the best of everything in our little corner of the world.

My best wishes to you for this holiday season and 2018.  

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

He’s published California Back Roads, available in paper and e-book editions at Lulu.com .  

Steve will be the lead guest on the December 23rd edition of Community Conversations at 6:05 a.m. on radio station KYOS 1480 AM

First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo-Remembered in Merced County

Behind the name of anything that honors an individual is a story.  Here is the story of a soldier’s sacrifice and a memorial to that life.  

 First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo.  Photo from Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund  http://www.vvmf.org

First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo.  Photo from Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund http://www.vvmf.org

Often, that story is told briefly on a dedication plaque.  Sometimes, it is up to others to tell a little bit more.

This is about the life of Peter Gallo whose sacrifice on the battlefields of Vietnam is remembered now with the veterans’ center recently named in his honor.

The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center is located on the Merced College campus.

The Gallo Memorial Foundation worked with the College to provide a gift of eighty-thousand dollars to help remodel the existing Veterans Resource Center and to name it for the soldier who lost his life in the Vietnam War.

 Plaque behind the entrance sign at the First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center at Merced College.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Plaque behind the entrance sign at the First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center at Merced College.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A brief story about First Lieutenant Peter Gallo is told on the back of the sign in front of the Resource Center.  

It reads in part that he was born in 1946, attended Livingston High School, Merced College, and Cal Poly.  

He enlisted in 1966, graduated from Officer Candidate School, and became an armor instructor at Fort Lewis, Washington.

The plaque goes on to read:

“Gallo began his tour of duty in Vietnam on December 9, 1967. On March 30, 1968, at the age of22, and while serving with Troop C, 3rd Squadron,5th U.S. Cavalry, 9th Infantry division, 1st Lt. Peter Joseph Gallo was killed in action during Operation Kilo in Quang Tri Province.”

There’s more information on that bronze plaque.  

First Lieutenant Gallo was posthumously awarded a number of medals and honors.  He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The plaque does not mention that Peter was the son of Joseph Gallo, founder of Joseph Farms of Livingston in Merced County, one of California’s largest dairy farms.  

Joseph passed away in 2007 and his obituary mentions that Peter was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

Fast forward from the 1960s when Peter served in the Army, on through the early part of this century when his father passed, and now to the present time when veterans services are near the top of our awareness.

Merced College was already providing services to students who served in the military.  But there was a need to improve the physical location where those services were based.

It was that need to upgrade the facilities, coupled with a desire to honor the sacrifice of Peter Gallo that led the Gallo Foundation to fund the Merced College Veterans Resource Center remodel project.

Thanks to that gift and the vision to enhance the facilities for those who served and those who continue to serve, Merced College veterans now have a special place.  

It is a spot where they can relax, get help with problems unique to this category of student, and know that they are not alone in their higher education journey.  

Counselors are available.  

New friendships with other veterans can be fostered.  Dependents have a more visible resource.

 The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center is part of student life at Merced College.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center is part of student life at Merced College.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The idea behind the remodeled Veterans Resource Center was to give Merced College’s veterans a better place on campus.

Whether they needed someone to talk to or just a quiet space to be alone with their thoughts, the hope was to provide a little bit of everything.

 The Gallo Veterans Resource Center serves approximately one-hundred, fifty veterans, active reserve, and their dependents.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Gallo Veterans Resource Center serves approximately one-hundred, fifty veterans, active reserve, and their dependents.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Vice President of Student Services Michael McCandless says the Center is now a meeting place as well as a resource center.  

“We wanted a space that veterans could use inside and outside,” he says.   “(The Center is) an anchor to attract them to a place where they have the resources to be successful.”

More than one-hundred fifty veterans and their families are served through the Center.  

In addition to meeting space and counselors, other services include a lending library, computers, and printing services.

“The faculty and staff of the Center work hard to function as liaisons between student veterans and the campus community,”

Michael McCandless says.   

“They serve as advocates, spearhead fundraising opportunities, and work with student veterans in regard to access to educational and community resources.”

Some of the student veterans are on active reserve. That status frequently requires modifications in the way instruction is delivered.  Center staff often needs to intervene with instructors to help accommodate the student schedule. 

“This is a pro-active group,”

Michael McCandless says.   

”The Center has allowed the faculty and staff to interact closely with students and best learn how to serve and encourage success.”

That success is measured in many ways, from improvements in academic behaviors as well as in enhancement of support systems for these veterans. 

 The legacy of Peter Gallo’s service lives on at the Veterans Resource Center named for him at Merced College.  Photo from Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund  http://www.vvmf.org

The legacy of Peter Gallo’s service lives on at the Veterans Resource Center named for him at Merced College.  Photo from Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund http://www.vvmf.org

Thanks to the website Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund ( http://www.vvmf.org) , visitors can learn even more about Peter Gallo and others from that era who lost their lives in the war.  

Peter was born on January 29, 1946 and was killed in action on March 30, 1968.  

His war record, including honors received and the battles he fought are listed on the page dedicated to him.  

Beyond these facts, the website has a feature where people who knew a soldier as well as those who may not have known the soldier but wish to express their feelings can do so.  

Some of the testimonials help fill in a few more details about the kind of soldier First Lieutenant Gallo was.

John Mandrano of Greensboro, North Carolina was so moved by Peter’s service, he posted on the website:

“My heart aches by their loss of life and the loss by their friends and family. I'm deeply saddened. I will try to honor them by living a good and helpful life to others. Thank you for the posting by Peter's classmate about how they have not forgotten him. We are now connected by them....from the West Coast to the East Coast.... We are Americans. “

 Peter J. Gallo served two years in the US Army.   Photo from FindADeath.com

Peter J. Gallo served two years in the US Army.   Photo from FindADeath.com

In another post, Vernon Cole recalled his high school classmate.  

“Peter, it's been 45 years and your high school classmates still talk fondly of you... You will never be forgotten. “

The First Lieutenant Peter Joseph Gallo Veterans Resource Center was completed in the early summer.  

A dedication was held in August.

Peter Gallo served his country, gave his life, and left many memories among family and friends.  His name is now linked forever with a Resource Center that helps other veterans, active military, and their families.  

It is a legacy that makes all of us proud.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book, California Back Roads- People and places among the palms and pines of Central California will be published in December

Off the Beaten Path- James Dean Memorial in Cholame, California

When I first saw the sculpture honoring movie star James Dean, I found it unusual.  I’m not a big fan of markers for tragic events. 

  James Dean Memorial in Cholame, San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

James Dean Memorial in Cholame, San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

In this particular tribute, I found it odd that a memorial for the man killed in a car accident was steel wrapped around a tree.

Dean’s car accident in 1955 at the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 in San Luis Obispo County marked the end to a promising movie career. 

His death was the result of a collision of his sports car with another vehicle that authorities believed pulled out in front of Dean.

At that time, investigators believed speed was not a factor, but rather an apparent lack of visibility by the other driver.  Highway Patrol investigators believe the driver of the other vehicle likely did not see Dean’s car heading west on Highway 46. 

According to accounts at the time, neither that driver nor Dean's passenger were seriously injured.

  Fans still bring flowers or drop coins at the James Dean Memorial.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Fans still bring flowers or drop coins at the James Dean Memorial.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The memorial is a piece of steel that wraps around a tree in the parking lot of the Jack Ranch Café, less than a mile away from the actual crash site.  

Bronze plaques explain the tribute and touch briefly on Dean’s career.  

  This sign was placed at the junction of highways forty-six and forty-one in Cholame, San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

This sign was placed at the junction of highways forty-six and forty-one in Cholame, San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Even more interesting to me is the green highway sign at the intersection of highways 46 and 41.  That sign looks no different from other markers dedicating sections of roadways after police officers, first responders, or political leaders. 

This sign does not dedicate anything.  It says “James Dean Memorial Junction”.

Hopping out of my car to take a photograph of the sign, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like on that night in 1955.  James Dean, fresh from finishing the filming of the motion picture Giant, had returned to Hollywood from his location shoot in Texas.  

Having received a speeding ticket in Bakersfield earlier in the day, he might have considered flooring the gas pedal on this somewhat desolate highway. 

Investigators ruled out speed as a factor, so we can only presume he was just focused on his final destination. 

His death forever froze an impression on the minds of the generation that produced such stars as Natalie Wood and Dennis Hopper. Hopper had a small role in Giant.  

Natalie Wood worked with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.  

 Jack Ranch Café on Highway 46 in San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Jack Ranch Café on Highway 46 in San Luis Obispo County, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

That era marked by James Dean’s death is celebrated at the Jack Ranch Café, a diner where the metal Memorial is maintained in the parking lot. 

The walls inside the Café are covered with photographs, paintings, and souvenirs of Dean.  Among the tee shirts, coffee mugs, and postcards, I spotted a photograph of Clint Eastwood with the operators of the Café. 

On another wall, there’s an enlargement of the speeding ticket Dean got near the intersection of highways forty-six and ninety-nine in Bakersfield. 

Some might say it’s over the top.  Some might ask why we still care.   

 Clint Eastwood posed with the operators of the Jack Ranch Café when he visited the James Dean Memorial.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Clint Eastwood posed with the operators of the Jack Ranch Café when he visited the James Dean Memorial.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Every year, the Dean Memorial and the Jack Ranch Café are seen by tens of thousands of drivers passing by this lonely stretch of highway that connects Highway 101 to Interstate 5. 

Whether it is just a place to satisfy a curiosity, or a desire to visit a spot to recall the promise that James Dean's life held, the crash site and the accompanying memorial continue to fascinate visitors who take the time to go off the beaten path.

 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  His new book on California will be published in December.

Bill Anderson, Classic Country in the Central Valley

In the circles of country music, Bill Anderson has been known as a singer and songwriter for nearly sixty years.  He has gold records, a house full of awards, and the affection of his peers not to mention his fans.

 Country Music Singer and Songwriter Bill Anderson. Photo from Bill Anderson.com

Country Music Singer and Songwriter Bill Anderson. Photo from Bill Anderson.com

He performs October first at the Gallo Performing Arts Center in Modesto.  He’s performed in the Central Valley before, but this will be his first time playing at the Gallo.  

“We’ve been in Fresno once, Sacramento once, and we played the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield several years back,” Bill told me in a phone interview.

The Crystal Palace was owned by the late Buck Owens who lived in Bakersfield.  Buck passed away in 2005.

“I didn’t know him well, but one time we were seated together on a flight from Los Angeles to Nashville,” he recalled.  “We talked about songwriting and performing.  We agreed on some things, disagreed on some things, but I certainly enjoyed the conversation.”

Bill remembers the night he heard another Central Californian, Merle Haggard, perform a new song called Okie from Muskogee.  “It was the first time he performed the song on stage,” Bill recalled.  “I talked to him about it after the show.  Merle told me he wasn’t sure how audiences would accept the song given it had patriotic overtones.  I told him not to worry, “I think you have a hit.”

Okie from Muskogee, written by Merle Haggard and Roy Edward Burns, was a number one hit for Merle in 1969.  

Years later, Bill interviewed Merle for his satellite radio program.  Bill told Merle he was his favorite singer.  “A tear fell from his eye,” Bill told me.  “I made Merle Haggard cry.”

He also knew the Maddox Brothers and Rose, a popular family hillbilly band who settled in Modesto in the 1950s.  “I knew Rose rather well and was acquainted with Fred.  Rose ran a nightclub in Ocean City that I performed at back in the sixties.”

While Bill is looking forward to performing in the Central Valley, he wishes he could have traveled throughout the western states more back when he lived in LA in the 1970s.  “We could never bundle enough dates together to make it work,” he says.  

But this time around, he’s able to play the Gallo Center and the newly renovated performing arts center in Red Bluff.  The singer/songwriter plays about forty dates a year in addition to his regular performances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

“There are some songs I do all the time during a live road performance,” Bill says.  “I can’t get off the stage unless I do Still.”

Still was a number one song written and sung by Bill in 1963.  It’s about a man lamenting a lost love and how he carries a torch after many years.  

Other songs in his catalog include Po Folks, about growing up in a household short on money but full of love; I Love You Drops about missing someone to the point of tears, and the iconic Tips of My Fingers which recalls the same lost love theme.  

Tips of My Fingers has been recorded by a number of country and pop artists including Roy Clark, Eddie Arnold, and even Dean Martin.

In recent years, he has collaborated with other songwriters on tunes that have blossomed into big hits.  Give it Away was co-authored by Bill with Jamie Johnson and Buddy Cannon.  It was a big hit for George Strait in 2006.  Whiskey Lullaby, a sad song about alcoholism, was written by Bill along with Jon Randall.  It was a duet hit for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.

Bill hopes his fans leave his performances feeling satisfied and entertained.  He wants to be remembered as a good singer, and hopefully as an enduring songwriter.

As for his legacy, he says, “I don’t think much about a legacy, but I hope if I am remembered for anything, it will be for my songs.”

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book on California will be published in December.

Linden California’s Pride and Joy - Aaron Judge’s Hometown

 Aaron Judge’s official Major League Baseball photo.  Photo from MLB.com

Aaron Judge’s official Major League Baseball photo.  Photo from MLB.com

Anyone with a passing interest in baseball likely knows Aaron Judge is the New York Yankees outfielder who has had an incredible rookie season in 2017.  

He is Linden, California’s pride and joy.

Aaron played his college ball at Fresno State University and his high school ball at Linden High. In high school, he played football and basketball in addition to baseball.

He set school records for football and was recruited by such schools as UCLA, Notre Dame and Stanford for football.  

But baseball was his favorite sport.  So he headed just a couple hours south from Linden down the road to play for Fresno State.    

The Yankees drafted him in the 2013 draft and he spent the next three years in the minors.  He hit a home run in his first Major League Baseball at bat and had his first grand slam just a few weeks later.

 The downtown area in Linden, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The downtown area in Linden, California.  Photo by Steve Newvine

In his hometown in Linden, there are few signs that this baseball superstar grew up, played baseball, or even has made it to the major leagues.  

On a visit in the late summer, one could find signs protesting a plan to locate a Dollar General Store in the community, a banner at Linden High generating interest in the start of football season, and a poster promoting an upcoming church dinner.  

Recently, small signs noting Linden as the home of Aaron Judge have been put up at the city limits.

While there may be few outward signs of this hometown star, many who live and work in Linden have not forgotten Aaron.  On the streets downtown, a merchant told me there’s a lot of interest in Judge and he’s often asked by visitors about the Yankee star’s connection to Linden.

 A mural covers the upper interior walls of the mailbox section of the Linden Post Office.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A mural covers the upper interior walls of the mailbox section of the Linden Post Office.  Photo by Steve Newvine

At the local post office, there’s a special mural commemorating the history of this farming community.  There’s nothing on the mural yet about the Yankee outfielder, but there’s hope that someday Aaron’s likeness will be on display prominently in Linden.

Eric Weber is the athletic director at Linden High.  While Eric was not the athletic director when Aaron went to high school, he is proud of all the success this sports star has achieved in such a short period of time.

 Linden High School is proud of their alumnus Aaron Judge.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Linden High School is proud of their alumnus Aaron Judge.  Photo by Steve Newvine

“We’re very happy about his accomplishments,” Eric said.  “He is a humble person, respectful of his roots, and has an excellent work ethic.”

Those accomplishments include hitting thirty home-runs by the all-star break in 2017.  That achievement beats a record set by Joe DiMaggio.

Aaron has been a tremendous addition to the Yankees, and he’s brought a lot of positive attention to Linden.

 The baseball field at Linden High School where Aaron Judge played.  He was also a star football player at Linden High.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The baseball field at Linden High School where Aaron Judge played.  He was also a star football player at Linden High.  Photo by Steve Newvine

It’s really exciting for this young man, from a small town, to create so much attention. You wouldn’t believe all the media who have been calling us.
— Eric Weber

That media includes the national sports magazines, television networks, and sports radio.  All are following Aaron Judge’s remarkable year.

And the community of Linden, as well as the entire Central Valley, is sharing in some of that spotlight.

 

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His new book about California will be published in December.

 

Labor Day Memories with Jerry Lewis

Labor Day and Jerry Lewis.  For most of my life, that weekend and that person were practically one-in-the-same. 

 Jerry Lewis in Rochester, NY in the mid-1990s. Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

Jerry Lewis in Rochester, NY in the mid-1990s. Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

I remember watching the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in my family living room.  Jerry Lewis was very funny, but would frequently turn serious as he reminded everyone why it was important to call in a pledge. 

His appearances on television outside of Labor Day weekend were confined mainly to talk shows, where the likes of Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Johnny Carson would have him on frequently promoting a movie or an upcoming appearance in Las Vegas. 

There’s a show business legend that recalls one night in the early 1970s when all three late night talk shows (Carson, Griffin, and Dick Cavett) taped their shows in New York City.  

Jerry appeared on all three shows on the same night.  He made an appearance as a regular guest on one and then did quick cameos on the other two.

The movies had their moments.  

The films with Dean Martin were funny.  None of Jerry’s performances as a solo movie actor stood out for me. I enjoyed the Disorderly Orderly where he runs amuck in a hospital setting.  

As a teen watching the annual telethon growing up in the 1970s, I hoped that one day I would have a chance to be part of that tradition.  

 Participating in fund raising antics for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

Participating in fund raising antics for the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

I got my chance as one of the hosts from the Binghamton, New York affiliate of the Telethon’s “Love Network”.  For two years, I donned the tuxedo and supported the primary host Mark Williams as we broadcast local segments from the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City. 

I hosted some of the early morning segments while Mark got some rest.  It was fun doing that form of live television.  I left the station after two years, and even though my career would take me onward to four other television stations, none of them carried the Labor Day Telethon. 

It was a dream-come-true for me to be part of that incredible display of emotion and endurance on Labor Day.

 Hosting the Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

Hosting the Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon at WICZ-TV in Binghamton, NY.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

Nearly two decades later, Jerry Lewis was appearing in Rochester, New York with the Broadway show Damn Yankees. 

A coworker told me Jerry would be accepting an award from the County of Monroe at a ceremony taking place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Rochester.  I called a friend at one of the television stations where I had worked and asked if I could accompany him to the ceremony. 

 Jerry Lewis in Rochester, NY.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Jerry Lewis in Rochester, NY.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Jerry accepted the award, and then took questions from the local media.  He mentioned how he was writing a book on his recollections from the Martin and Lewis partnership. 

I asked him whether it was difficult to go back and recall that period of time.  He looked at me, smiled and said something to the effect:

“Not really, it was a very special time in my life, in both our lives.  I didn’t want to lose those memories with time.” 

The book became Dean and Me, and was co-written by James Kaplan.  

Mr. Kaplan was interviewed shortly after the news broke that Jerry had passed away at his home in Las Vegas.  The interviewer, pressed for time, wrapped up a five-minute live interview by asking him to describe Jerry in one word. 

Without giving it an extra second to think, Mr. Kaplan answered “genius”.

Jerry’s son Chris spoke at a meeting of Fresno Rotary I attended several years ago. 

Chris was raising money on behalf of the non-profit organization providing wheel chairs for people living in third world countries. 

While not mentioning his dad’s name directly, it was clear he wanted to keep the legacy of Jerry Lewis as a champion of the handicapped moving forward.

There’s no desire within me to explore the complications of Jerry Lewis.   

He was a gifted entertainer who used his life to help others. 

It was a life with purpose. 

Fortunately for many of us who remember those twenty-hour fund raising efforts on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy, Labor Day and Jerry Lewis will forever be entwined.

He made me laugh.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His book on travels in California will be published later this year.

Pretty in Pink for Merced

Local Church School will Flock with Flamingos to Raise Money for Camp.

Think about your front lawn.  You make sure it gets enough water.   You time the mowing schedule so the grass will look nice for the weekend.  You take great satisfaction to add just the right amount of shrubbery to give the perfect look.

 A north Merced home gets “flocked” with flamingos for charity.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A north Merced home gets “flocked” with flamingos for charity.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Now imagine that lawn covered with dozens of plastic pink flamingos.  If you’ve seen a lawn with this pink overload in recent weeks, you are witnessing a flamingo-flocking. 

For thirty-five dollars, parents and students in the fifth grade class of St. Paul Lutheran School will cover a typical Merced lawn with up to forty flaming pink plastic flamingos. 

School admissions director Mary Ann Daughdrill says this is a fundraiser that has been going on for the past six years.  “We hope to cover the cost for the fifth-grade class to go to Hume Lake Christian Camp in the Sierra Mountains.”

Typically, a relative or neighbor will pay the School a suggested thirty-five dollar donation.  Volunteers will come to the lawn shortly after sunset and do their gentle redecoration.  The flamingos stay on the lawn for twenty-four hours. 

Plastic flamingo season in Merced usually gets started in August and runs through October when the fifth graders head off to Hume Lake.  Some weeks are very active with two or three lawns getting the pink treatment every night.

One year, the fund raiser was so successful, all of the dozen or more campers had their entire Hume Lake trip costs covered by proceeds from the flamingo flocking. 

There was even money left over to purchase in-house planters for the school and make a donation to the local animal shelter.  The class gets involved with ideas for donating excess funds.

Flamingo decorating is one of the several outside-the-box ideas local schools and non-profits are trying to raise awareness and money. 

Playhouse Merced produces a Broadway themed revue in the summer. 

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) stages an evening of video horse racing in the spring. 

Just about every other non-profit uses some variation of the dinner-followed-by- auction format to make money their cause. 

And who can forget the summer of 2015 bucket challenge to raise funds for continued research into Lou Gehrig's Disease?  

 A small sign in the front left of this lawn tells the family living there and others that this decorating was done to raise money for the St. Paul Lutheran Fifth Grade.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A small sign in the front left of this lawn tells the family living there and others that this decorating was done to raise money for the St. Paul Lutheran Fifth Grade.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The idea of strangers taking over the front lawn with over three dozen plastic flamingos can bring some risk. Families, their neighbors and the curious wonder what’s happening in their cul de sacs.

Usually, all it takes is a quick explanation of what is going on and why it’s all for a good cause.

“One time, the children of one family were playing in the front yard when we arrived,” Mary Ann says.  “We waited for a while, and then just asked the children to go inside and look outside for a surprise in a few minutes.”

 Steve Newvine lives in Merced

San Luis Reservoir-Looking Good at Fifty

2017 Marks the Golden Anniversary of the Completion of the Reservoir

People have used the San Luis Reservoir in western Merced County, California as a barometer of just how bad the drought was, or how intense the flow of melting snow pack from the Sierra Nevada Mountains has been.

 The San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos, Merced County.  Photo by Steve Newvine

I’ve always been impressed by this massive lake in the Pacheco Pass between Los Banos and Gilroy.  The visitor center at the Romero Outlook always made for a convenient and safe rest stops on trips to and from the coast.  

The Vista is impressive.

This spring and summer, friends and family who passed through the Reservoir along State Route 152 told us that the water level was at an all-time high. My wife and I made a visit there early in July to see for ourselves.

 An up close look at the water in the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

An up close look at the water in the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

 Display inside the center.  photo by steve Newvine

Display inside the center.  photo by steve Newvine

To a passing visitor not familiar with the Reservoir, it’s easy to lose perspective of just how high the current water table is.  

During the drought years, it was relatively easy to see little or no water down below from the observation point.  Now with water covering the Reservoir bed, it is clear that conditions have changed.

But to what magnitude that change has been felt, I had to ask the visitor center staff.

A staff person told us that at the peak of the California drought last summer, the Reservoir was at less than three percent capacity.  At the time we visited in early July of 2017, we were told that the water level was just over ninety-eight percent of capacity.

There’s no apparent danger that this Reservoir will exceed capacity as the water is controlled coming in through the California Aqueduct from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.  

The water is held by the San Luis Dam or the B F Sisk Dam.  

Water from the reservoir irrigates over sixty-thousand acres in the Santa Clara Valley.  Electricity is generated as a result of all this water moving through the Reservoir.

 The Visitor Center at the Romero Outlook of the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The Visitor Center at the Romero Outlook of the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The visitor center has a number of photographs and historical artifacts from its five-decade history.   

President John F. Kennedy visited the area early in his presidency when construction of the project began.  You can see that speech on You Tube.  

 

In his speech at the dedication ceremonies on August 18, 1962, the President greeted the crowd humorously by saying,

It is a pleasure for me to come out here and help plow up this valley in the cause of progress.
— President John F. Kennedy

The fifty-fifth anniversary of that visit is August 18, 2017.

One section of the visitor center features Ronald Reagan, who visited the project during his term as California Governor.   

Photographs of the two Presidents take up space along the walls of the visitor center.  

 Then Governor Ronald Reagan’s image covers part of a wall at the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Then Governor Ronald Reagan’s image covers part of a wall at the San Luis Reservoir.  Photo by Steve Newvine

There’s a room with chairs and a loop of video that explains other details of this man-made wonder.  The Reservoir is now moving into the sixth decade of operation to provide water and hydropower.

There’s a lot of history of how this western Merced County’s engineering and construction marvel was conceived, built, and maintained.  It’s worth an extended visit the next time your travels take you through Pacheco Pass.

The vista of the Reservoir footprint is impressive.  At times, it has taken my breath away. It may do the same for you.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  He’s planning on releasing a new book about California in the coming months.

 

A Fitness Finish Line

Crossing the finish line at a five-K race meant more than a successful end to a run.  It put a meaningful exclamation point on a three-month effort to improve my health.

 Crossing the finish line at the UC Merced Journey 5-K in September 2016.  Photo from the Newvine Personal Collection

Crossing the finish line at the UC Merced Journey 5-K in September 2016.  Photo from the Newvine Personal Collection

The spring of 2016 was a rough time for my health.  

Symptoms included shortness of breath, an inability to take a deep breath without coughing, fatigue, and frustration.  

Something was wrong and there was a feeling that nothing could be done about it.

My wife made it her challenge to help find some answers.  She would accompany me to doctor visits and trips to see specialists. I had lab work, breathing tests, and a plan of attack to keep the condition under control.  

At the end of all these visits and tests was the conclusion that asthma and bronchitis were now part of my life.  

Medicines were prescribed, and a recommendation was made to exercise more.

I planned to start running daily beginning the day after Independence Day.  Two days prior to the execution of that plan, my back was stained.  

My start to better fitness was delayed another week.

On July 11th, I took the first step toward daily exercise.   I walked a pathway near my home.  Later in the week, I would begin running part of that path.  By the end of week two, I was running approximately a mile-and-a-half daily.  The distance was increased until the desired exertion level was achieved.  

Running was now part of the new normal.

Running got the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing.  The time outside was good for the lungs and great for the attitude.  

The little annoyances from work and life did not seem to matter much anymore.  A new way to deal with the frustrations of life was discovered.  It seemed as though the running trail was my new sounding board.

 Enjoying the accomplishment of a 5-K run at UC Merced.  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

Enjoying the accomplishment of a 5-K run at UC Merced.  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

By late summer, I had a routine that included a half-hour run followed by a fifteen-minute stretching exercise ritual.  I was feeling better.  Improved health had returned.  

Follow up visits to the doctors and specialists confirmed that the action plan worked.  The medicine took care of the symptoms; the exercise took care of me.

Just for kicks, I entered the UC Merced 5K Run in mid-September.  5K was about twice the length of my daily run.  It was for charity, and to make the past three months of daily exercise mean something.

Crossing that finish line was a proud moment that day on the UC Merced campus.  I removed my timing band, was handed a medal along with the other five hundred participants and promised to return next year.

 Eight months after the UC Merced 5K, another finish line.  This time, the venue was the Mercy Medical Stroke Awareness 5K.  Photo from the Newvine Personal Collection

Eight months after the UC Merced 5K, another finish line.  This time, the venue was the Mercy Medical Stroke Awareness 5K.  Photo from the Newvine Personal Collection

In May, I entered the Merced Medical Center Stoke Awareness 5K.  I did it for the same reason as the UC Merced Run.  I wanted to raise a little money for charity and prove that all this running had a deeper meaning.

 9 From 99 w/new afterword

9 From 99 w/new afterword

I ran in thanksgiving for the benefits from daily exercise.  Thanks to the proper medicine, the care of several health professionals, and my wife’s gentle but firm reminders, I feel great.  

Aside from a brief period with some aching joints, the routine continues.  The benefits accrue.

I have crossed the finish line, and am ready for the next race.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced     

American Pie Memories in Florida

Among the many memories, I cherish from growing up in the 1970s was the annual winter trips to Florida to stay with my grandparents who had a winter residence there. 

  I took this picture of my family in front of the Florida Welcome Station in the early 1970s.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

 I took this picture of my family in front of the Florida Welcome Station in the early 1970s.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

Those trips were novelties in my teen years as my family discovered a whole new part of the country. 

The drive itself was an adventure.  It started with a very early wake-up call as we climbed into a car that had been packed the night before.   

When the weather cooperated, we'd zip through the Eastern Seaboard states.  It felt just a little bit warmer at each rest stop.  Our day ended at a motel where the whole family of five shared one room with two double beds and a roll-away bed.

 The next morning there would be another early start.

When we crossed the Florida line, we'd stop for orange juice at the state visitor center.

The days in Florida were filled with trips to the tourist venues, including Cypress Gardens or the newly opened Disney World. 

There were also many activities that were less travel-intensive.  Some days included a visit to a distant relative or a trip to the nearest shopping center to pick up souvenirs.  

Every year, my grandmother would treat us to the novelty of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  

Back in the 1970s, KFC wasn’t known by its initials. It was Kentucky Fried Chicken, it was indeed finger lickin’ good, and whoever was staying with Grandma and Grandpa that week was getting a real treat.

Just about every night, we could count on a game of cards.

  The family dressed up for Sunday dinner at a buffet-style restaurant during one of our trips to visit my grandparents in Florida.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

 The family dressed up for Sunday dinner at a buffet-style restaurant during one of our trips to visit my grandparents in Florida.  Photo:  Newvine Personal Collection

I remember a warm Central Florida winter night in 1972.  Six kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen were enjoying the spring break by playing cards and listening to one particular song on the radio.

The kids were my siblings and the similarly-aged kids of my parents’ friends. The card game was racehorse pitch, the preferred card game of that era. 

The song on the radio was American Pie.

 Bye bye

 Miss American Pie

 Drove my Chevy to the levy,

 But the levy was dry

 And good ole boys drinking whiskey and rye

 Singing, this will be the day that I die

 This will be the day that I die.

That song was the big rock-and-roll hit in early 1972.  It seemed like it was being played every half-hour on the Tampa rock-and-roll station.

I was fifteen years old.  The symbolism did not yet resonate with me.  It was the way the words worked together that caught my attention.  I had little or no appreciation of poetry, but these lyrics were beyond catchy.

 Did you write the book of love

 Or do you have faith in God above

Stanza after stanza, the poem of American Pie fascinated me.  It would be years before I fully understood what singer/writer Don McLean was trying to say.   

To this day McLean doesn't talk much about the deeper meaning of the words he composed. 

He doesn't have to.  This is a work of art that stands just as that.

 I can't remember if I cried
 When I read about his widowed bride

Madonna recorded a cover version several years ago, and it's an interesting interpretation.  The Brady Bunch kids recorded a version that isn't interesting or even an interpretation. It's just bad.

In American Pie, Don McLean is recalling a specific point in his lifetime. Whenever I hear that song, I think of a specific point in time too.  I zero in on the opening words:

 A long long time ago
 I can still remember how
 That music used to make me smile

While McLean was referring to the day Buddy Holly was killed in an airplane crash, I go back to a much happier time.  

I return to a warm Florida evening in February 1972, surrounded by family and friends.

We were creating a memory that has lasted nearly five decades.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His first book, Growing Up, Upstate is now available for a reduced price at Lulu.com

Remembered on Memorial Day, Corporal Chester T. Dean

The brief life of a soldier killed in action during World War II

He is one of many who has served in our military and paid the ultimate price in defending our nation.  

 

  The Honor Roll honoring those who served in my hometown and surrounding area in Port Leyden, New York.  My great uncle Chester Dean’s name is on this Honor Roll.  Photo by Gerald Schaffner

 The Honor Roll honoring those who served in my hometown and surrounding area in Port Leyden, New York.  My great uncle Chester Dean’s name is on this Honor Roll.  Photo by Gerald Schaffner

Like many of our brave men and women who died while wearing the uniform of our armed forces, Chet Dean’s story remains frozen in time.  Growing up, I recall occasional cemetery visits, especially on Memorial Day.  

Also while growing up, a family member might recall a story involving Chet as a boy, adolescent, or young adult.  But as the years pile on, the memories faded.

But I will recall his life and his sacrifice again on this Memorial Day.

Here’s what I know about my great uncle Chester Dean.  

Born in 1922, he was the brother of my grandmother, Vera.  In addition to Vera, he had four other sisters:  Mary, Vaughn, Myrtle, and Viola (known in the family as Peachy).  

Chester had two brothers:  Charlie, who was serving in the Army Air Corps in Italy at the time of Chet’s death, and Harry who was living in upstate New York.  

The Dean children were a big part of my growing up experience.  

Harry passed away before I reached school age, but the other Dean adult children were truly part of our family.  My family was always spending time with the Deans playing cards, dropping in for coffee, or helping out on a house project.     

You name it and we were all part of it.

 The newspaper article in the Lowville Journal and Republican reporting the death of Corporal Chester T. Dean

The newspaper article in the Lowville Journal and Republican reporting the death of Corporal Chester T. Dean

Unfortunately, no one in my generation would know Chet.  He went into the armed forces in 1942, did his basic training at Camp Rucker, Alabama and was then transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky before being sent on for desert training in Arizona.  

He was sent to Wales in April 1944.  

While soldiers were dying every hour during World War II, it’s reasonable to assume Chet was doing his duty and looking forward to life with his new wife once the war was over.  

Little did he know of the events that were about to happen.  

In just two more months, the landing at Normandy would take place off the coast of France.  Chet, now Corporal Dean, remained in Wales for training that would likely lead to action on the field of battle.

Just two days after D-Day, he was training in Wales on June 8, 1944 when an explosion occurred. Chet suffered concussion and shrapnel injuries.  

These injures would prove fatal.  

His wife Shirley got the news in the form of a telegram.  According to an account of Chet’s death in the Lowville (NY) Journal and Republican newspaper, the telegram was very brief.  

It stated that he died on June 8, 1944.  The telegram concludes with the words:  Letter follows.

Chet’s widow Shirley wanted more information about her husband’s death.  She wrote to the war department on July 10 asking for confirmation and more details.  

On July 27, 1944, just seven weeks after the training accident that would claim Chet Dean’s life, Shirley got a letter with the additional details:

"Dear Mrs. Dean

I have your letter of July 10 and want to thank you for writing me concerning your husband, Cpl Chester T. Dean. It is true, Mrs. Dean, that your husband is dead. The war department did not make a mistake.

I buried him with the ceremony appropriate to military funerals and then in addition to that, we had a memorial service in the company for him. The entire company was present, together with others from the battalion. The battalion commander was present. There were some beautiful tributes paid to your husband.

I only wish I had them recorded to you could hear what they said. But, knowing him to be the man that he was, you do not need them, do you? We held you and other loved ones before the Throne of God in prayer. And Chester's good life and devotion to God has been an inspiration to many others since that service to a closer walk with God. He was always in my services as often as duty would permit.

It was an unfortunate accident that caused his death. More than that I cannot say. But it was very encouraging to hear the company commander say that he was one of his very best men and that he wished he had a whole company of men like him. We all felt the same way.

His last hours were not spent in suffering. He died an easy death. We did all we could for him."

Chet Dean was born in northern New York, died in Wales, was married, served in the military, and paid the ultimate price. His brother and sisters kept his memory alive by tending to his gravesite in my hometown of Port Leyden.  

My father and my uncle see to it that his grave marker is kept clean and place flowers on that grave as well as many other graves of family members every year, especially on Memorial Day.

I never got a chance to know this man.  But I will take comfort from the words the company commander used that were included in the letter Chet’s widow received:  “he wished he had a whole company of men like him.”  

By knowing Chet’s surviving siblings, my family did have a group of people just like him.  Vera, Mary, Vaughn, Myrtle, Peachy, and Charlie were caring people who loved their families, and who enjoyed a good hearty sense of humor.  

That’s a pretty good legacy.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His book Finding Bill, is about his uncle who served in the US Army during the Vietnam War.  

He is indebted to the website http://russpickett.com/history/nylewis.htm for providing many of the details in this column.  Research was also done on the archives of the Lowville Leader and Lowville Journal and Republican newspapers through nyshistoricnewspapers.org

Fifty-three Years of Community Journalism in Merced County

John Derby never gave up on his dream

  Merced County Times Publisher John Derby.  Photo by Steve Newvine

 Merced County Times Publisher John Derby.  Photo by Steve Newvine

Six months after starting the Winton Times weekly newspaper in the early 1960s, publisher John Derby was ready to call it quits.

John worked countless hours gathering news, writing copy, selling advertising, and doing all the other things a small business owner needs to do.  

It was too much.  

He decided to end his dream of publishing a newspaper that focused on the positive aspects of life in Winton and the surrounding area.

Fortunately, a supermarket owner from Delhi asked him to start a similar weekly paper in that community.  John told him he was too late, his mind was already made up.  The store owner, who also was heading up the local chamber of commerce, promised to advertise in the paper every week if John started one in Delhi.  

With a one-year advertising contract signed by that store owner, John pressed on.  

He started that paper in Delhi and his small newspaper operation became a two- newspaper business.  

That decision not to give up would lead to what is now a five-paper chain in Merced and Stanislaus Counties.  

The weekly papers of Mid-Valley Publications are the only newspapers that are physically published in Merced County.  Mid-Valley Publications is an employee-owned company where twenty full time and ten part time workers apply their craft week after week.

  The slogan for all Mid-Valley Publications as stated on the front page:  The Power of Positive People.

 The slogan for all Mid-Valley Publications as stated on the front page:  The Power of Positive People.

The guiding principle for the Merced County Times family of papers is embodied in its marketing slogan: the power of positive people.  

The concept is frequently referred to as community journalism.  Crime and political reports are not emphasized as much as telling stories about good things happening in the cities and unincorporated areas of the County.

At a time when some newspapers across the country are struggling to hold onto readers who have many other options for receiving news, the County Times is making it work.  

“Some people say newspapers are a bad investment,” John told me.  “I think bad newspapers are bad investments.  Sure, we’ve had some rough spots, especially during the recession.  A lot of businesses went belly up, but we got through that. “

 In addition to his publishing duties, John Derby writes a weekly column for the Merced County Times.

In addition to his publishing duties, John Derby writes a weekly column for the Merced County Times.

John is originally from New York.  

As a young man, he moved to California and went to college at Fresno State.  He worked at the Merced Sun Star for four years before starting that first paper in Winton.

Counting his time with the Sun Star, John has been gathering news in Merced County for six decades.  He has put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  But he’s quick to remind anyone that his staff is critically important to the success of Mid-Valley Publications.

“I have a top rate staff.  We are an employee-owned company and we have great people.”

 (front page of the newspaper-  Merced County Times.

(front page of the newspaper-  Merced County Times.

Over the years, John has had a front row seat at the major events and the big issues of the community. He says the significant stories he has reported on include the closing of Castle Air Force Base in the 1990s, followed by years of searching for the best use of the land at the Base, and the arrival of UC Merced a little over a decade ago.  

The biggest issue, from his publisher’s perspective, has been and will continue to be agriculture.

“Agriculture is so important to our area economy,” he says.  “And policies over water use and allocations are absolutely critical.”

John Derby has come a long way from those humble beginnings in 1964.  Those rough times during the first six months of his newspaper found him living with his first wife and two children in a mobile home trying to make ends meet.  

Thanks to that business owner from Delhi who committed to a year-long advertising contract, Mid-Valley Publications has endured through good times and bad.

“I’m a hard copy newspaper man,” he says as he responds to a question about the changing face of journalism.  “We’re a positive press, but that also means we stress fairness and recognize there is another side to the story.”

When the paper started in the fall of 1964, the nation was looking at the prospect of a Lyndon Johnson defeat over Barry Goldwater for president.  California Governor Edmund Brown was midway through his second term.  

The City of Merced had a population of around twenty thousand.  Gathering local information has not changed much (while on the phone or at a news event he takes notes with pen and paper), the way that news makes its way to the printed page has evolved.  

“I did a lot of writing in those early years on a Remington Noiseless typewriter my father gave me,” John told me with a laugh.  “That typewriter was anything but noiseless.”

A computer keyboard has reduced the noise, but John’s commitment to sharing the power of a positive people has only increased with time.

Making a Journey of a Lifetime Possible

Los Banos Future Farmers of America raises $20,000 to help send veterans to Washington, DC

  Los Banos FFA leaders and other current and former citizens from the City prior to the start of the April 14 Fresno State/Air Force Baseball Game.   Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

Los Banos FFA leaders and other current and former citizens from the City prior to the start of the April 14 Fresno State/Air Force Baseball Game.   Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

This is about two Central Valley organizations doing a lot of good in our community.  

Central Valley Honor Flight has made it possible for dozens of area veterans to see the memorials in Washington, DC that recognize their service to our country.  

By arranging these cross country trips, Honor Flight mobilizes hundreds of volunteers to send the veterans off at the beginning of their special journey, and to welcome them back upon their return.

The Los Banos Chapter of Future Farmers of America, like many FFA organizations, nurture the passion young people have for agriculture and leadership.  

We see them in their blue jackets with gold embroidery at the Merced County Springtime Fair and at other events.

In the fall of 2016, chapter members and their adult leadership were in Washington for a conference.  At the same time, Central Valley Honor Flight was there taking veterans to various military venues.  

Chapter leaders changed their schedule so they could meet up with the veterans.  The Chapter paid for a wreath that was laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to Paul Loeffler who works with Central Valley Honor Flight and is the radio host of Hometown Heroes, a program where many veterans share their stories,

“The kids were really moved by meeting our vets.”

That DC connection between the teens from the Central Valley and the veterans would change a lot of hearts, and motivate many volunteers to raise money for future Honor Flights.

“Watching those kids meet up with the veterans really moved us,” FFA adult leader Jim Orr told me.   

After hearing a volunteer talk about how Honor Flight would continue providing trips as long as it could afford to, Jim and others came to a realization.  

 “Getting back on the bus that day, we thought about what that volunteer said.  That’s when we decided we had to do something.”  

 Members of the Los Banos FFA, area veterans, & Central Valley Honor Flight representatives at the Fresno State/Air Force baseball game where the $20,000 donation was presented.  Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

Members of the Los Banos FFA, area veterans, & Central Valley Honor Flight representatives at the Fresno State/Air Force baseball game where the $20,000 donation was presented.  Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

Working with the area Veterans of Foreign Wars post, the local American Legion post, and other community volunteers, the FFA helped sell eighteen-hundred tickets at ten dollars apiece for a drive-through pasta dinner held in February.  

With one-hundred percent of the dinner expenses donated by local businesses and community members, coupled with some cash donations, the dinner pulled the community together to raise twenty-thousand dollars for Central Valley Honor Flight.  

Jim says it was great to see everyone pulling together.  

“Veterans, high school ag kids, teachers, and parents were all working in one direction.”

The money will be used to help pay for the next mission to take a jet full of area veterans and their volunteer “buddies” to see the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War memorials.  When time permits, other venues fill out their time in DC.  

The veterans are thanked for their service.  For many, this is the only period in their lives that anyone took the time to show appreciation for the sacrifices made to defend our nation.

 Prior to the start of the Fresno State/Air Force baseball game, players from both teams welcomed the veterans and FFA members.  Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

Prior to the start of the Fresno State/Air Force baseball game, players from both teams welcomed the veterans and FFA members.  Photo provided by Los Banos FFA

Raising twenty-thousand dollars was a monumental task for the Los Banos FFA chapter.  

But like the many challenges in farming, group members broke down the over-arching goal to manageable smaller tasks.  

Little by little, this volunteer effort did the job and knocked the goal out of the park.

Honor Flight continues to draw more attention to the sense of gratitude many are trying to install when it comes to our military.  

Recently, an episode of the popular CBS television series NCIS focused on an Honor Flight participant.  The episode ended with information on how a viewer can support the national organization.

Central Valley Honor Flight focuses on regional veterans.  The April 2017 trip features six Merced County veterans.  Three are from Merced, two are from Livingston, and one is from Los Banos.   

$20,000.00  is a lot of money.

But it takes a lot of money to fly these veterans across the nation.  

A medical professional accompanies the group.  Hotels, ground transportation, and meals all add up.  The cost is about two-thousand dollars per person.  

While each veteran is accompanied by a “buddy” who devotes his or her time exclusively on a particular veteran, the buddy is expected to raise enough money to cover his or her own trip costs.

The Los Banos chapter of Future Farmers of America takes their pride for these veterans seriously.  Plans are already underway for the 2018 dinner.  

These young men and women have a real appreciation for farming.  But they also have a true desire to help others.

And that’s exactly what they did by helping Central Valley Honor Flight.

Hometown Heroes is a weekly radio show honoring veterans.  

You can search their interview website at www.HometownHeroesRadio.com

For more information on Central Valley Honor Flight, visit http://cvhonorflight.org/

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His book Finding Bill shares his search to better understand the military service of his uncle who served in Vietnam.

 

 

My Love of this Game

It’s now abundantly clear who in their right mind would take up golf.  

  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

The first time I swung a golf club on a course I missed the ball, tore up the grass, and wondered why anyone would want to play this game.

The second time on a golf course was not much better.  I hit the ball, but it went out-of-bounds.  I was convinced this game was not for me.

Now, nearly forty years later, I can’t wait to get on a tee box and start another round.  How I got from “why” to “can’t wait” is the story of my life in golf.

In the 1980s, a friend suggested we try to learn the game together.  For a few years, we’d try to get out once every other month for nine holes.  I refer to that time as the “score doesn’t matter era.”

By the 1990s, I began a new career as a chamber of commerce executive.  Part of what a chamber of commerce person did back in those days played in charity tournaments.  Most of these tournaments were played as scrambles, meaning only the best shot among the four team members was used.  

This speeded up the game, and with over one-hundred golfers on the course for a charity tournament, the game had to move fast.  

Suddenly, it didn’t matter how poorly I played as our team could win based on the best shots among the members.  

Playing scrambles did give me a chance to observe better golfers.  

  The score card from my one and only round at Oak Hill Country Club. Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

The score card from my one and only round at Oak Hill Country Club. Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

One Saturday evening, a friend called to invite me to join his foursome on Monday morning at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.  Oak Hill was one of the finest golf courses in the United States.  

I quickly accepted the invitation.  It was a memorable round for two reasons.  The first reason was made clear as soon as our group finished the first hole and the caddy said, “Gentlemen, from this point forward, we will play in the scramble format.”  The caddy’s job was to help keep the golfers moving.

The second reason why this round was memorable was our host.  An elderly man, he took only one swing of a driver and putt just one hole.  The rest of the time he remained on his cart and enjoyed watching his much younger friends play.  

At the end of the round, he bought us lunch in the clubhouse and took us to the pro shop where we were instructed to pick out a golf cap to remember the day.    

Years later when I about to leave the area to come to California, I called my friend and invited him out to lunch on me.  He declined, offering instead to treat my wife and me for lunch one final time at Oak Hill.

I’m not sure whether it was that special place or some other time, but I would like to think that was the day I began to love the game of golf.

Like a lot of weekend duffers, I would use the occasion of being on the golf course to smoke a cigar.  In the year 2000, my family learned of my mother’s cancer diagnosis.  

There wasn’t much I could do to help my mom as she endured chemotherapy that summer, but I could change my health habits.  

I stopped smoking cigars on the golf course and any other place right then and there.  My mom lost her battle with the disease, but my pledge to myself to stop smoking even those few times I was on a golf course has made me proud.

I started watching golf on television in 2004.  I had already moved to California but was going back to upstate New York occasionally where my wife was busy selling our home.  It was Easter weekend, and I didn’t want to go anywhere.  

After church and our Easter dinner, my family and I sat in our living room and watched Phil Mickelson win the green jacket at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.  Most Sundays in golf season, you’ll find me watching that week’s big tournament.  You can probably guess who my favorite pro golfer is.

   Steve and his friend and golf buddy, the late Jim North.  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

 Steve and his friend and golf buddy, the late Jim North.  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

In more recent years, there was the time when I played a round with my friend Jim.  

We played as Rancho Del Rey in Atwater, California.  I was down to the last golf ball in my bag, a monogrammed bill making my fiftieth birthday.  

I hesitated to tee up that ball, but I had no choice.  I started to tell Jim about the ball, and how an East coast friend had a dozen monogrammed for my birthday.  Jim was patient, but quiet as I rambled on about how special this ball was.  

  Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

Picture from the Newvine Personal Collection

I then teed up the ball, made my swing, and saw the ball plop into the water hazard.  Without missing a beat, Jim looked at me and said, “Well, happy birthday I guess.”

So now you know why I love this game so much.  It has nothing to do with how well or how poorly I play.  It has everything to do with connecting me to friends, special moments, and enduring memories.   

It’s now abundantly clear to me why someone would take up this game.


Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

His book Friend Through the End is a collection of columns and book excerpts about family, friends, and golf buddies.

A Place of Reverence- San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery

It is a quiet place.  It is a place of reverence, respect, and remembering.

 San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, Santa Nella, CA.  Photo by Steve Newvine

San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, Santa Nella, CA.  Photo by Steve Newvine

There are people who have a soft spot in their heart for cemeteries.  Growing up, I remember my grandparents and parents were always making sure we paid our respects to family members who had passed.  

Gravesites were well maintained.  Flowers and plants were placed around the markers all the time.  When visiting the places where close family members were laid to rest, we often took the time to say a short silent prayer.

I thought my family was a little different from others in regard to their feelings about these hallowed grounds.  

That was until I talked to other adults over the years.   

One friend told me that she would take a bag lunch to the family cemetery and spend an extended period of time there.  

When the Merced Cemetery Association asks for volunteers every Memorial Day weekend to help place crosses on graves, they are overwhelmed with people wanting to do something to help make our local cemetery look nice.

Merced County can claim some truly sacred ground in the over three-hundred acres that form the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella.  

 The highest peak in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery offers a wide vista of the Valley.  Picture: Steve Newvine

The highest peak in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery offers a wide vista of the Valley.  Picture: Steve Newvine

If you haven’t been there, you should consider going.  If you have been there, you will likely never forget the experience.

Two friends of my wife and I are buried there.  

For well over a year, we had been meaning to take the ride out from our home in Merced to the Cemetery.  It finally happened for me on a sunny late winter day.

From the north or south, signs on Interstate 5 let you know that the Cemetery is off the Santa Nella exit, and smaller signs take you from the exit ramp to the road that leads there.   

You think twice when you see there are another three miles to go, but as you pass a massive solar panel array and come upon the grounds, you instantly realize these extra miles off the beaten path of I-5 is worth the effort.

The Administrative Office is the main structure on the property.  Inside during business hours, a staff person can assist by telling you exactly where the grave you are looking for is located on the grounds.  

But there’s much more going on at this Cemetery than the over thirty-thousand graves.

 From the Observation point at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

From the Observation point at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.  Photo:  Steve Newvine

The highest point on the grounds is the observation point.  From here, you can see the entire Cemetery with the added bonus of an incredible vista of the San Joaquin Valley.  

The land for this final resting place was donated by a ranch company in 1989.  Agricultural land and a solar farm surround the Cemetery footprint.

 The Californian Korean War Memorial lists the name of every soldier from California who served in that war.  Picture:  Steve Newvine

The Californian Korean War Memorial lists the name of every soldier from California who served in that war.  Picture:  Steve Newvine

Closer to the Administration Building, there’s the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  The circular stone tableau lists the names of twenty-five hundred soldiers: every soldier from California who served in the Korean War.  

Like many of the memorials on the grounds, funds were raised by veterans groups, clubs, corporations, and individual donations.

 A memorial to sixty-five submarines lost in battle by the US during World War II.  The trees line the road median coming into the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.  Picture:  Steve Newvine

A memorial to sixty-five submarines lost in battle by the US during World War II.  The trees line the road median coming into the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.  Picture:  Steve Newvine

Dividing the roadway heading to and from the Administration building is a line of trees.  This line of sixty-five trees represents the United States Veterans World War II Memorial.  

Each tree represents a submarine lost in action during World War II.

Across from the Administration Building, there’s a statue representing the Airborne Soldier.  The brass base of the statue reminds the visitor of the “unsurpassed courage” of these soldiers.

I thought I’d spend ten minutes on the grounds.  I would pay my respects to the two friends whose bodies are buried there and then head back on the road.  

I stayed for about a half hour and promised myself to spend more time on a future visit.

Among the memorials at the Cemetery, there’s a piece of granite with the words of a poem that honors those who have passed.  

Part of it reads:

"Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not here.  I do not sleep.

I am the thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow."

Cemeteries can have a calming effect on us.  

They are peaceful, quiet, and at times even prayerful.  

At a visit to Arlington National Cemetery a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the sense of pride I felt for the way we honor those who served in the military.  

The San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery matches that same feeling.  

As we honor those who paid the ultimate price in protecting our freedoms later this spring, consider spending part of a day at this very special place.

It is a place where you can listen to your heart.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.  

In the spring of 2017, he is once again presenting classes on soft skills to participants in the Love Plus skills and mentoring program sponsored by Love INC of Greater Merced.  The classes are based on his book Soft Skills for Hard Times.

An Important Place, A Special Person

Two institutions are celebrating significant milestones in 2017.

  Herkimer College, Herkimer, NY

Herkimer College, Herkimer, NY

My junior college, Herkimer College (formerly known as Herkimer County Community College) is marking its fiftieth year. 

I graduated from that college many years ago and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse University. 

I met my future wife at Herkimer. 

It was an important place for me.  The College is marking the year with activities focused on fifty years of commitment to serving the educational needs of the Mohawk Valley region of upstate New York.

  Dave Trautlein from the early 1970s when he served as Dean of the College, at Herkimer County Community College, now known as Herkimer College.  Photo from Factory 70 (Herkimer College yearbook)

Dave Trautlein from the early 1970s when he served as Dean of the College, at Herkimer County Community College, now known as Herkimer College.  Photo from Factory 70 (Herkimer College yearbook)

The other institution reaching a milestone is my father-in-law Dr. H. David Trautlein, Dean of the College Emeritus, Herkimer College.   

Dave marks his ninetieth birthday in March.  He'll celebrate his birthday with his wife (my mother-in-law Angie) and his family in California. 

The couple gave up their Central New York snow shovels and moved to the Golden State last year.  His birthday celebration will unite four generations of family sharing reflections.

I have my own reflections. 

The memory I hold closest happened more than three decades ago. 

I’ll never forget the wide eyes and big smile.

There I was in Huntsville Hospital in the early 1980s, holding my newborn daughter.  She came into this world about six weeks early and required neonatal care. 

She was going to be all right, or at least that’s what the doctors and nurses kept telling me.  It was hard to see normalcy at the end of an image of tubes and wires that kept my little girl alive during these critical first days of life.

When my in-laws arrived from upstate New York, they wanted to see their first grandchild.  I took them to the hospital.  I went inside the neonatal unit where I scrubbed, put on my surgical gown, and sat down as the nurse placed my little girl in my arms. 

I looked at her for at least a minute before realizing that her grandparents were on the other side of the window looking in. 

That’s where I saw the big smile on the face of my father-in-law.

At that moment, I knew everything was going to be all right.  And it was.  My daughter celebrates her thirty-fifth birthday in March alongside her grandfather and me.

I was so taken by that simple act of a genuine smile that I wrote about it in my book Soft Skills for Hard Times:

That look of sheer joy on the faces of my in-laws told me everything was going to be all right.
  Dave Trautlein is third from the left in the top row of this picture.  He served in the US Navy in the closing days of World War II

Dave Trautlein is third from the left in the top row of this picture.  He served in the US Navy in the closing days of World War II

Born as the Great Depression was winding down, Dave was the youngest in a family with four boys and two girls. 

He went into the Navy in the final years of World War II and was ready for action when the Japanese surrender was signed.  He then left the service, went to college on the GI Bill, and began building a life for himself.

He married Angie in the 1955 and they had three children.  He taught English in a western New York high school before accepting a post with Alfred Agricultural and Technical College in New York State. 

In the mid-1960s, he took a sabbatical leave and moved the family to Florida for one year as he pursued courses for a doctoral degree. 

He received his PhD from Florida State University shortly after accepting a new post as Dean of that new community college in Central New York.

I came into his picture a few years later.  As a student at Herkimer College, I met and fell in love with his oldest daughter.  We married in 1980.

   In retirement Dave enjoyed a number of activities including an annual fishing trip with his friends.  Photo from Dave Trautlein

 In retirement Dave enjoyed a number of activities including an annual fishing trip with his friends.  Photo from Dave Trautlein

Dave served Herkimer County Community College, until his retirement in the mid-1980s.  Retirement was spent traveling, visiting his grandchildren (there would be four in total), camping, fishing, reading books (as well as the Sunday New York Times), writing two books, and listening to jazz.

I’ve learned a lot from this man over the years.  He’s been a great audience to my occasional outbreaks of laughter. 

I found out the best way to fold a cardboard box, why one should buy the best cut of steak for an outdoor barbecue, and learned why luggage expands to fit the size of the car trunk. 

And I saw by his steady attendance at the annual reunion, that family really matters.  

I hope I learned a lot by following his example. 

Dave wrote a history of Herkimer College's first twenty years.  He was recognized as one of the institution’s torchbearers in 2004. 

A scholarship endowment created by his oldest daughter’s family bears his name and embodies his core beliefs of what a community college should be. 

This year, the endowment will award its tenth scholarship to a deserving student.

His family will gather to honor him when he celebrates his birthday.  A lot of memories will be shared.

But for me, only one memory matters.  It's that image of a proud grandfather looking at his new grandchild for the first time.  That’s an image that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced. 

He is one of several volunteer presenters at the Love Plus life skills program organized by Love INC of Greater Merced.  In the Love Plus program, he uses his book Soft Skills for Hard Times to offer ideas on increasing people's value at work and in their lives. 

The Soundtrack of our Future on the UC Merced Campus

Construction Project is Well Underway

On any weekday at the University of California at Merced Campus, there’s a distinct sound in the background.  It’s the noise from construction equipment moving earth and creating the long awaited 20/20 building project.

  The 20/20 Construction Project at the UC Merced campus.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The 20/20 Construction Project at the UC Merced campus.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The sound is what you might expect from any construction site.  It can be the “beep-beep” of a heavy-duty truck backing up.   Or it could be the grinding of earthmovers as they carve into this one-time farmland.   

Way off in the distance, you might hear construction workers shouting directions as they guide the machines to the right places.

These are the sounds of an active construction site.  But for the students and staff at the UC campus, it is just another day.

“We hardly notice,” one student told me when I asked whether the noise bothered her.  Another student responded, “Until you mentioned it, I wasn’t even aware of it.”  

  From the third floor of the UC Merced Engineering Building, the vastness of the 20/20 project becomes very real.  Photo by Steve Newvine

From the third floor of the UC Merced Engineering Building, the vastness of the 20/20 project becomes very real.  Photo by Steve Newvine

The 20/20 Project was approved by the local governments shortly after land use, annexation, and tax sharing agreements were agreed upon.  

As the sign along the walkway to the main campus spells out, the project will encompass one-point-two million square feet, include three new research laboratory buildings, seventeen-hundred new beds of student housing, fifteen-hundred parking spaces, a conference center, wellness facility, recreation field, and a new entrance at Bellevue Road at Lake Road.  

The buildings will be built to one of the highest energy efficient construction standards.

  A construction fence keeps debris and dust from a busy walkway on the UC Merced campus.  Photo by Steve Newvine

A construction fence keeps debris and dust from a busy walkway on the UC Merced campus.  Photo by Steve Newvine

 

The project cost is one-point-three billion dollars.  The first phase is slated to be opened in the fall of 2018.  The second and third phases will open in succeeding years.

From the perspective of the students attending UC Merced, the timeline could look like this:  a freshman entering next fall (2017) could possibly go to a class in one of the new structures by the time he or she becomes a sophomore.

That same student will enjoy the results of most of the full three phases of this project before he or she graduates in 2021.

   The pastoral landscape off Lake Road will continue to change as the 20/20 project moves along.  Photo by Steve Newvine

 The pastoral landscape off Lake Road will continue to change as the 20/20 project moves along.  Photo by Steve Newvine

In addition to the work on the Lake Road main campus, downtown Merced is experiencing one of the largest construction projects in its history.  

UC Merced’s new Downtown Center is adding nearly seventy-thousand gross square feet of office space to the area across the street from City Hall.  

The three-story building is slated to open later this year.  

It will consolidate leased office space from around the community under one roof.  Conference and seminar rooms are part of that building plan.

Back on the main campus, the magnitude of the 20/20 project is stunning.  On a recent visit to UC Merced, I was taken aback by the sheer size of the construction footprint.  

It looks as though a second campus of the same size as the current one is being created before the eyes of everyone who takes in the view.  I was not in the community when the original campus was under construction, but this new project can give one the idea of what it must have looked like as machines ruled over the land and the buildings and infrastructure were constructed.  

 Steve Newvine

Steve Newvine

It’s much like it must have been back when the campus was new- only this time there are thousands of students and hundreds of staff members around to see and hear it.  

And that takes you back to the sound:  the din of graders, bulldozers, and backhoes making progress at our UC Merced.  

Some would call it the sound of progress. Others might call it the soundtrack of our future.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced