It happened in Vacaville in 1976…

I start today with this:

vaca winnowers

“Because like a princess she lay there,

The moonlight dances on her hair,

She woke up and took me by the hand,

She’s gonna like me in my Chevy pickup truck and that’s fine with me.

— Excerpt from “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns

Tony Wade, Back in the Day

Who knew there was a group of recreational vehicle enthusiasts called winnowers who rose to popularity in 1976? Super vans have cost their owners thousands of dollars by turning them into exotic works of art – literally rooms on four wheels.

Van clubs have sprung up across the country, including the Solano County Van Brotherhood (BOV). The BOV started with just six members in August 1975 and six months later had nearly 50. They were part of a larger organization, the Northern California Van Council, which helped coordinate van activities in upstate.

In January 1976, more than 2,000 vans converged on Disneyland for a one-day event, and their customized vehicles covered about a quarter of the huge parking lot.

The exteriors of the vans were flake metal and beaded, striped, candy coated, flame painted, lace, swirls, feathers and geometric patterns, among other decorations. Many featured creative murals on the sides, such as those based on science fiction, then-popular bicentennial themes, nautical scenes, and horror/comedy scenes, among others.

The interiors featured waterbeds; floor, wall and ceiling mats; televisions; stained glass; stereos and tape recorders; refrigerators; portholes; sofa beds; and more.

The BOV participated in civic projects and delivered 600 new toys to needy children in Solano County in December 1975.

When traveling to events, like truckers, winnowers kept in touch using Citizens Band (CB) radios and traveled in convoys. It sometimes turned out that they became traveling troubleshooters. Once, a BOV member spotted a running horse on Interstate 80, rounded it up with his pickup truck, and radioed police for help.

bust jfk

After the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, he was honored from coast to coast. New York changed the name of its airport from Idlewild to Kennedy International, Cape Canaveral became Cape Kennedy, and countless parks and municipal buildings were renamed.

In 1964, 16-year-old Vacaville High student Edward Spurr led a campaign to erect a memorial to the late president locally. He tried to raise funds himself and failed, but eventually handed it over to Post 7244 Foreign Wars Veterans, who happily took over the effort.

On the first anniversary of JFK’s death, November 22, 1964, a ceremony attended by 400 people was held in Andrews Park to commemorate the occasion and unveil a bust of the slain world leader. It was larger than life and made of steel, concrete and sculptmetal (90% aluminum). The artist was Gus Bouquet, then an inmate at the California Medical Facility.

Speaking at the ceremony, led by California Department of Veterans Affairs of Foreign Wars Commandant Edward Spurr and Dusolina Libonati, whose son, Second Lieutenant Michael Lawrence Libonati Jr., died in World War II world, laid two wreaths at the foot of the statue. For years after that day, groups of Vacaville veterans marked Memorial Day by gathering and laying wreaths at this location.

Unfortunately, 12 years later, the bust had been so badly vandalized that it had to be removed. An editorial cartoon by a local artist showed the statue vandalized by a cross-eyed idiot with a hole in his head wearing a diaper, identifying him as a vandal and the caption reading a word: “Why?”

impossible to cook cookbook

Janet Radford, a kindergarten teacher at Ulatis School, has created a cookbook every year with her young students. Each year, the children taught Radford how to make certain recipes, and she copied their instructions verbatim, typed them into a booklet, and gave them to the children’s parents.

They were primarily meant to be read and not used, which soon becomes apparent.

Turkey, by Timmy Dunn

Put water in a saucepan and put the stuffing in the turkey. You put it in the oven and cook it for 13 minutes. Then when all these guys come in, they eat it until it’s gone.

BBQ Chicken, by Patricia Williams

Take some red stuff and paint the chicken. Put it in the pan and put it in the oven. Cook for about three to 15 hours. Then you take it out and put it on a plate and eat it.

Bacon and eggs, by Stefi Tyler

Take a saucepan and put the bacon in it. The bacon cooks for a few hours, then you come back and take it out. Put it right next to the coffee. Now you cook the eggs and you stand there and wait a while and get the thing that flips them. Then you take them out and put them on the plate and put them on the table. People wash their hands and eat them.

Spaghetti, by Tammy Lewellen

Put in the cranberry sauce and pepper and salt and garlic. Cook the spaghetti in the lower part of the stove. Put the bananas.

It’s funny to put bananas, but I like bananas.

Freelance Fairfield humor columnist and local accidental historian Tony Wade writes two weekly columns: “The Last Laugh” on Mondays and “Back in the Day” on Fridays. Wade is also the author of The History Press book “Growing Up In Fairfield, California”.

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