Took a trip to Willows, let me tell you about it

18 Feb

Well I have done nothing about the trash tax – have you? Seriously, I’m going to go before council at some point and call them on the carpet about it. Just trying to screw up the nerve to go to a night time meeting. But I will, you betcha, by golly.

In the meantime, it’s Spring, so my husband and I have been trying to get out there and enjoy the mellow temperatures and the surprises other towns have to offer. I told you I went to Willows. It’s a nice trip, with plenty of sights to see out there in Rice Country. I was born in Willows, at Glenn General, and in my entire life I have never lived very far from the Sacramento River. My grandparents are buried at the cemetery, and my mom lived in Willows until she died. So it’s good to get back out there now and then, see what’s going on in Honker Territory.

Willows, like Chico, has had it’s economic ups and downs. Looks like they’re on the Ups right now. The Sierra Nevada cheese manufacturing facility there on the Bayliss/Blue Gum highway has expanded across the road, and now they have a little storefront. It’s worth writing home about so I’ll tell you – they have reeeaaally good cheese – including goat cheese – for honest working man prices. And other products, like local goat yogurt, honey, jams and olives.

We drove on into Willows to see things that remained unchanged since my childhood. Some of the buildings had different businesses in them. I’m always surprised to see The Last Stand still operating – when I was a kid, it was called “Culps” after the family that owned it. Way back in the 60’s they served food and beer at an outside counter built onto the building. Right on the main drag, it was a big deal to sit out there with a beer in your hand and hoot and holler to your friends driving by. It’s somewhat the same – but less remarkable since everybody has outdoor dining these days.

We went to see my mom’s old house, but we found the school had expanded and they’d shut down streets for new buildings. The high school stadium look great – my mom was in the Honker marching band, so I always like to drive by the high school. We found my mom’s house, still the tiniest, oldest house among the subdivision houses that have grown up around it.

We drove around town to find Willows Hardware still doing a brisk business – my mom was a regular customer there, and when she died I’ll never forget how nice they were about the $11 she still had on the books – “don’t worry about it Hon...” We paid it anyway because people expect you to pay your way unless your butt poor and then they make fun of you. I’m just sayin’, Glenn County made me honest, cause everybody knows you and your family generations back.

My mom worked at Nancy’s Cafe when it was located in town. It was considered the nicest restaurant in town at one time, before it moved to the airport. My husband and I were surprised to find a trendy little restaurant in the building that used to house my grandma’s bank. With panini’s! Sheesh, you would have got made fun of for eating anything but a “sandwich” when I was a kid, but there it was. We got a panini and a very nice kale salad, with candied walnuts(!), and ate our meal at a neat little table on the sidewalk. No, it wasn’t a “parklet,” and it didn’t impeded the sidewalk in any way, because the streets and sidewalks in Willows have always been wide and well-maintained.

I wish Chico could take a lesson there, instead they narrow the streets in commercial sectors and completely ignore residential streets in older neighborhoods. A lot of the neat old buildings that colored my memories are still standing, in fact, the old Benamati place is getting another facelift. And there’s art – I wish I had pictures – they have old farm equipment mounted proudly on the corners of sidewalks, one old rake “repurposed” as a bike rack.

And they even have launched a “Shop Local” campaign – I wonder how much it cost them to print banners and hang them from lamp posts, featuring various tourist attractions like the museum and the Llano Seco bird viewing platforms. It was a sales pitch, to be sure, but well done. And effective as far as I’m concerned, my husband and I are planning to go back and see the museum.

Next time, remind me to tell you about our day trip to Redding. Wow!

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