Petaluma may be the third largest city in the famous Northern California wine country, literally next to Santa Rosa ( #1) and Napa, yet it has maintained its small town feel through low growth legislation. History buffs can delight in the many preserved buildings such as the McNear Building, used in a number of Hollywood films such as ‘Back to the Future’. And one will notice a lack of corporate and chain stores and more ‘mom and pop’ shops. No wonder this quaint town has been used as a backdrop for many movies.
Caldwell’s work is defined by accuracy and detail. Note, for example, how all the horses pulling vehicles, though individually crafted, are precisely the same dimensions with exacting horseshoes and other adornments. For the many animals he liked to work with, Caldwell would start with two blocks of wood, one for the body and one for the head, connecting them with dowells and such, mostly all wood, according to Solange Russek, museum collection manager who leads us on this video tour.5
After that rousing museum exhibit tour of William Caldwell’s carvings – thank you Solange and staff at the museum! – we couldn’t leave the area without backtracking to some of the sites we passed coming into town such as the Petaluma sign.
First, we will explore some of the downtown area all within walking distance of the museum…
Well, that will about do it for this episode of Bay Area Backroads and our brief tour of Petaluma. There is a lot we left out so you’ll need to come by for your own up close–in person experience of a town that has aged gracefully combining both the old and new.
I’ve long been a follower and active participant of BAY AREA BACKROADS. Following would entail watching, first, JERRY GRAHAM’s original presentation of Bay Area Backroads, going back to the ’70s or ’80s and the more recent Doug McConnell. Just like it’s name, the local broadcast on KPIX, channel 5 , explored the unusual and out of the way places in the nine county San Francisco Bay Area. When McConnell took over the show he branched out sometimes beyond the Bay Area. The program went off the air, surprisingly, some years ago. I’ve always enjoyed road trips and we live in one of the best places in the world for them, with Bay Area’s diverse topography and history. I’ve been told, for example, that our East Bay area has more parklands than anywhere it’s size in the U.S.
After ‘Backroads’ went off the air , there were limited programs like ‘Eye on the Bay,’ but nothing to compare. I would soon discover HUELL HOWSER and his CALIFORNIA’S GOLD, shown on KQED, locally and PBS stations throughout California. I liked Howser as much for his most unique, friendly and ‘down home’ personality as the places he would explore and talk about on the show. Sadly, Howser passed away in the prime of his life, late last year and I greatly miss him; Graham, 79, also passed away, recently.
I have already followed some of Howser’s trips-which I call the ‘Huell Hoswer Memorial Backroads Trips- most recently to California’s Delta, just one of many places I had no idea existed in such depth.
So, I have found much joy in the Bay Area (and California) Backroads, thanks especially to Howser. I miss all Backroads shows but especially Howsers’ originals; fortunately , old episodes continue to air (probably due to Howser’s popularity), though I find it a bit disconcerting to watch knowing Howser is no longer with us, though, I must remember he’s here in spirit and the show preserves his legacy with thousands of people still viewing it.
So, we will plan on sharing some of our favorite Backroads Trips in these pages – both as a chronicle or diary, of sorts, for memories (and reminders to take the trips again). Once we get going, we, too, will try to include some interviews with people we meet along the paths less travelled here the Bay Area
We hope you enjoy them, too, and please send along your