The Labor Day weekend issues, and especially the Friday Sept. 2, 1966 issue, of the Napa Register were filled with a diverse cross-section of local stories. Many of these local accounts from 50 years ago detailed life-altering and unforgettable events experienced by Napa County residents.
Before delving into those stories. there were other Sept. 2, 1966 news briefs that merit notation. For example, the Register reported the train-themed Napa City-County Library summer reading program had been successful, and the awards would be announced following the schools’ Sept. 12 opening day.
The Register also announced the “Charlatans,” a rock ‘n’ roll band described as having “a semi-ragtime sound”—were scheduled to perform at the Vichy Springs Resort, which was located near Silverado Country Club.
Another Register article said, “Wine Industry Day” at the State Fair would be held on Tuesday Sept. 6, 1966. It featured a luncheon, tasting of the 1966 Fair award winning wines and crowning of the National Wine Queen. The Register added, “the state’s vintners...produce about 80-percent of America’s wines.”
As for the main Sept. 2, 1966 stories, the first article reported a blood drive on behalf of a local young woman, 19-year-old Robin Berg, was an incredible success.
The newspaper added, “It was the largest collection for one person in the history of the local blood bank. A total of 139 units were donated.” Also according the Register, the donors were primarily the business associates of Richard Berg, a local realtor and Robin’s father.
In addition to expressing his family’s gratitude in the article, Richard stated they were now confident Robin’s open-heart surgery would go well because of those donations. Robin’s Sept. 23 surgery at Stanford was needed to correct her congenital heart defect. The Register also mentioned that Robin planned to marry a Kenneth Kelly following her recovery.
The next 50-year-old event would have caused considerable alteration to the local environment. The Register reported, “Congressional approval of a dam in Knights Valley, which would supply water to Napa Valley, may be attempted again this year.”
Apparently, a similar bill in 1965 had stalled because California agencies failed to get their comments to Congress on time. The 1966 attempt was dependent upon the introduction of a Congressional omnibus bill.
Regarding the proposed dam, the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation studies determined it would have been “the best long-range source...of water for Napa Valley,” said the Register, with a potential capacity of 1.5-million acre feet of water.
Transporting that water to local customers would have profoundly altered Sonoma County’s Knights Valley and Napa Valley. The project proposed excavating a tunnel through the hills separating the two valleys and a canal along the Napa Valley’s west side. For whatever reason, the bill eventually died or failed.
As those governmental gears slowly ground along, a Napa family, the Timmons, became global humanitarians. The Sept. 2, 1966 Register reported that three months earlier, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Timmons had moved to Sudan as part of his new job with the Agency for International Development. Although the details of his job were not mentioned, the newspaper did say this major change was inspired by their son, William, “Bill,” Timmons.
According to the 50-year-old article, Bill, a former Napa High School student, was “a member of the Peace Corps stationed in Niger, one of the newest African nations.” His duties included managing a big game preserve lodge and recording animal movements and population changes “involving long trips in the preserve.”
In a letter to one of his former Napa High teachers, Bill wrote that lion poachers were a big problem causing the population of the lions’ favorite prey, antelopes, to explode. He added, “If someone doesn’t start taking wildlife conservation seriously, wild animals will become a thing of the past in this part of Africa.” Bill also said during his second year of service, he hoped to persuade Nigerians to consider the wildlife as national, not personal, resources.
The half-century old Register also mentioned that Bill taught French and English. It said, “His star English pupil is the president of Niger.” Bill added, “We worked together every night for three months, and he is doing very well!”
The final Sept. 2, 1966 Register article was about the Napa Boys Club sponsored summer camps. This program featured day trips to regional events and attractions “that interest boys from 7 to 18 years of age.” The boys “paid $4 total for four days of events. They would leave by Boys Club bus in the morning, eat bag lunches while away and return in the afternoon.”
They visited the state Capitol, Golden Gate Park, ranches and dairies, Travis Air Force Base and Mt. George Resort’s swimming pool. While the boys enjoyed those excursions, the seven trips to watch the Giants play baseball at Candlestick Park were the most popular.
During one trip, the boys watched “the Giants hand Cincinnati a 5-2 defeat,” but that trip’s highlight was meeting Giants outfielder Len Gabrielson and catcher Tom Haller. The latter gave autographed baseballs to the boys.
The week prior, the Giants excursion was even more unforgettable for the local boys. The Register reported, they “saw the game where Willie Mays became the greatest right-handed home run hitter of all times by belting the 535th of his career. For dozens of Napa boys, the summer of 1966 will be cherished for a long time to come.”
These are just a handful of local stories that ran in the Napa Register 50 years ago. Although, they do provided a good perspective of Napa Valley lives and living dating way back to Sept. 2, 1966.