The Old Packing Shed

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Five Generations

Picture this: the sun is setting behind Pisgah Peak in Oak Glen.  The pear and box elder leaves are holding the golden light and shaking it all around in the breeze for show.  The chicken and the Tri-tip are being turned on the grill, with brush paint strokes of deep burgundy dripping into the fire.  The fiddler and the bass player are testing their sound.  The big doors of the 1880s Packing Shed roll open and young people adorn the dinner tables with salt shakers and linen.  The ladies wear gingham dresses, white aprons and the young men thick cotton shirts, denim overalls, boots, a slouch hat here and there.   The guests will soon be here, and you can feel a kind of pleasant urgency, a spice in the air that says, “the feast is about to begin.”

Why does the very thought of that old place, the 1880s Packing Shed, why — writing this right now — am I gritting my teeth and fighting back emotion?  Well, partly, because that’s me. I’m an easy mark.  Partly because I married my wife in that building, saw my children dancing in it, playing music in it, clearing tables, stacking wood, locking it up for the night.  One of my sons, Samuel, always had the gift of conversation and we discovered him one evening, at eight years old, telling stories to the guests.  My daughter Lizzy learned how to feed thousands of people, how to get a kitchen ready for work, when she was ten years old there.  My brother Dennis’s grandchildren grew up in the old Packing Shed, pressing cider between home school lessons.

So, yes, all of us Rileys have a history with that building.

But it’s a lot older than we are.  The Wilshire family built it, in the late 19th century, and added on to in the 1920s.  It’s hard for us to even imagine the scale of the Oak Glen apple harvest  in the first half of the 20th Century, or the amount of work it required, getting that crop to market.  If you look at aerial photographs of Oak Glen in the 1930s, you see almost nothing but apple trees.  The Old Wilshire Apple Packing Shed, and others like it, have seen a least five full generations of workers and guests — and I always have the sense you can feel history in a place that’s been the site of so much living.  When I’m sitting on that porch, and the music starts, the clumsy, but accurate word I have for the feeling is “magic.”

But the other night, given the events in the world right now — big city mayors barking about masks and vaccines, churches abandoned, small children enduring story hour with drag queens — I looked at the young people getting ready to greet the guests and I thought, “no, this isn’t just magic.  It’s good.”

It is very good.  That’s why people cry when they leave the place, just like old Jim Riley

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This post was written by Jim Riley


  • Lea Hargis says:

    I love that story and I love Riley’s Farm. I was just there this week with my sister, granddaughter and great granddaughter. We gathered raspberries after a delicious lunch. There is a peaceful easy feeling on the farm. Thanks for sharing your farm with us.

  • Gregory Corrigan says:

    Jim, My daughter Katie had her wedding reception there in 2012 and we will never forget it. Keep up the good fight.

  • Kimberly Baxter says:

    I went to Red Riding hood on Saturday and it was fantastic. It is so much good fun that you really can’t find anywhere else. I come to as many events as I can convince my friends to join me in. Thank you!

  • Esther says:

    Your beautiful farm is one of the few things I miss from California. Keep fighting for what is good, true and beautiful Mr. Riley, The good Lord is on our side.

  • Nancy Lopez says:

    I loved this reflection of history on the packing shed. It is more than magical…even more than good…it’s VERY GOOD! My husband and I always look forward to our time at Riley’s Farm. We love the beauty, the serenity, the plays, the food, the entertainment but especially the Christian environment . God bless you and the Riley family. I pray you continue the tradition until the Lord calls us home.

  • Cindy Kraft says:

    I believe our Almighty Father will protect the children from the evil in this current world. We all have a responsibility too stand up for our kids and our faith. Thank you Jim ( and the entire Riley clan) for caring and doing all possible to honor God in this difficult time.

  • D T says:

    James….you have a way with words!!
    In an America going so wrong…your words state the facts!

    Best of luck,
    Hope to see you all soon,

    D T

  • Bill lavamaki says:

    Dear Mr Riley
    My wife and I were finally able to visit your beautiful location 7/16/21 on our way up to Big Bear to celebrate her birthday. I told her we NEEDED to stop and have some chicken pot pie and just relax in beautiful surroundings. Though it was on a Friday an few people were there, I visualized when you have your special events and the place swarming with visitors. I’ve been following your site since last year on your special events and reading how good the food is and people having so much fun ( which as been missing for awhile ) that we are thankful we stopped by to visit and will definitely be coming again. Thank you for providing a wonderful place to go back in time, and thank you also for being a patriot.

  • Marti Norris says:

    I Love your Farm! I lOve going to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and can’t wait til you can bring that back! My sister just took me there last thursday for my birthday and we walked all around and just forgot about what was happening in the world today. For an hour we were transformed back to a simpler time….

  • Kimberly Morrison says:

    Riley’s Farm and the Packing Shed will forever have a special place in our hearts. While we’ve been attending Riley’s events for years, during this last year in particular, spending time at the farm with family and friends was one of the few things that kept us sane. Whether we were there to simply enjoy a Gold Rush experience, try our hand at U-pick apples and berries, take in a Chicken Pot Pie and green beans for lunch, or spend an evening with Ichabod and Katrina, Riley’s was our go-to place. We’ve recently relocated to TN, but are eternally grateful for the memories we made there and will never forget how much your farm meant to our family. Thank you for all that you do to keep history alive.

  • Ericka says:

    I can’t wait to come back up! Miss seeing you on Facebook. What’s your next event?

  • Sarah says:

    Multiplied blessings on you and all your family for preserving and protecting and perpetuating this piece of history!

  • Jacqueline Melville says:

    I think that good memories have two purposes, they may help us through the rough spots of our lives, if only for a moment and nostalgic tears of those good memories create a cleanse during the rough spots of our lives. All good! Cathartic! Tears of gratitude.

    Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

    • Jacqueline Melville says:

      I think that good memories have two purposes, they may help us through the rough spots of our lives, if only for a moment and nostalgic tears of those good memories create a cleanse during the rough spots of our lives. All good! Cathartic! Tears of gratitude.

      Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

  • Jacqueline Melville says:

    I think that good memories have two purposes, they may help us through the rough spots, if only for a moment and nostalgic tears of those good memories create a cleanse. All good! Cathartic! Tears of gratitude.

    Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

  • Ericka Sampsel says:

    Reading this brings tears to my eyes because the simple beauty in its truth. I’m 36 years old have a daughter 15 and son 14, my first trip up there I was so young I dont remember it (mom says I was 3) but the pictures, as I grew older we have never missed a year of coming up multiple time through out the yeae, but always always in the fall as well
    I have kept this tradition going with my children and pray they will continue it with theirs one day (in the very far future). Many prayers and blessings gs to you amd your family.

  • Audrey Van Vliet says:

    Thank you hardly seems like enough to express my gratefulness and gratitude for all you have done for our family, just by “simply” being there.
    I’m turning 66 on Thursday and this birthday will be like none before. Very quiet, as my daughters, sons in law, and 4 grandchildren have moved out of California. For many reasons I need not mention here. I miss them terribly. Visiting Riley’s Farm has been a tradition in our family of two generations. My father who began bringing our family to Oak Glen decades ago has been gone for 10 years. The days of me bringing my children, then grandchildren is over. I will be following them, with my 89 year old mother to Texas because there is little reason left for me to stay.
    I can’t begin to express how much I will miss Riley’s Farm. Tears fill my eyes as I write. I’m hoping to visit once or twice, if possible before we leave. You, and the memories you have blessed my family with over the years will be cherished always. You are loved like family.
    Thank you, hardly seems like enough. God bless you, your family, and staff for your devotion, faithfulness, and yes, courage, as you continue to share your passion and love of country with so many.

  • Verna Adams says:

    Is there anyway to find out about events happening at Riley’s? I seem to see the events pop up in
    My email a few days before they are happening. I’d love to attend more!! Thank you.

  • Cynthia Habicht says:

    Yes! “Good” is right in describing your feelings.

    A dear cousin once said she always capitalized the “g”in Good. The word in spelling and meaning is close to God.

    A Godly Presence and a Good feeling, indeed!

  • Melissa says:

    Hi Jim – we met you at the Father’s Day event and have been to the farm other times for lunch and strawberry picking. The farm is indeed a magical place and you get a sense of “good”, but also feels safe. I feel there I can breathe and relax and that it is a safe place to bring my children without worrying about what they’re seeing or what negative influences or messaging is there. Thank you for providing that to people and stay strong!

  • Judy Shaw says:

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories and your life adventures and emotions. It brings back memories of our farm in England. Life was so simple back then and you are helping to maintain that life. We need it, the children need it.
    It is wonderful to be with nature and animals. Thank you and Mary for all you do.

  • Heidi Ondich says:

    Yes! Riley’s is synonyms with a good/ wholesome feeling! I sent my kids to your Summer camps for years with 2 of their best friends (Molly, Sadie, Aidan and Nadia). Our kids have the best memories of playing, and bonding over things like catching toads and archery. I have worked hard to give my children an actual childhood and Riley’s has been part of our team or village so to speak. Also worth sharing- our kids have made scrap books filled with Riley’s Farm memories- that’s how special you all are to us.

  • Barbara Mathews says:

    Hi Jim, tears were filling my eyes as I was reading your commentary on the packing and its history. It brought to mind a time long ago when my husband Andy, family and friends would hike over the hill from the Los Rios rendezvous to the packing shed for an evening of fun and dancing. Your brother Dennis would call the dances, and even my husband, who swore he had 5 left feet, would be dancing around the room. This was the beginning a a very long relationship with Riley’s Farm- in many capacities! I love that place and how it has evolved over the years – but still keeping that special and simple charm. Keep up the GOOD work! God bless you and all your family!

  • Mark Kirsnis says:

    You’re a great man, James Patrick Riley! Can’t wait to get to the farm again, and was there so recently, I’m still finishing off the five pound apple pie I bought. But you know this, you sat with us.

  • Queencie says:

    Love this! Thank you. This page opens my heart.

  • Patrick Brooksher says:

    This will be our families 3rd consecutive trip to Sleepy Hollow. My wife and I absolutley love the whole farm.We are hoping to try the Christmas dinner for the first time. Thanks for everything you guys do. It really does bring you back to a glimpse of what was.

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