An Oak Glen Celebration Remembered

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Oak Glen’s “Colorful Characters”

These days, the young couples moving into Oak Glen clearly recognize the deliriously beautiful nature of this place. It seems to call for a celebration. It’s something like, “hey, we grow apples up here. Shouldn’t we stop to dance and sing about that every few months?”

(Just to be clear, there was no dancing or singing at this Oak Glen neighborhood potluck, but I’m fairly certain some people were doing a kind of apple cider hula dance in their hearts.)

Take for example, Kent Colby.  For several decades, Kent was the hands-on owner/manager of Law’s Coffee shop and he manned the grill, serving up the kind of Denver omelet you still remember 10 years later.  You know the kind where you peel off the melted cheddar and grilled onions and scrape the last of the caramelized breakfast bliss off your plate, before it can be taken away?  That kind of “sleepy time” omelet, where you have to go back home and nap it away?  That kind. Kent is also a history lover, and he brought old newspaper articles of Oak Glen, along with transcribed pioneer versions of the homesteading history.  One of the old Oak Glen ranches called itself the “Sleepy Hollow” orchard. Who knew we were second on the block there?

From here on out in my blog, I’m going to slightly disguise the names and the bios, because this is the “unauthorized” Oak Glen potluck biography. You have to be careful writing about your friends and neighbors.  They could kill you, or worse, block you on social media.

The Joy Couple:  These two have a thriving hospitality business down the hill.  I think they want to start a winery in Oak Glen.  We have a history with them.  “Wifey” lived on the farm for several years, dated one of our relatives, and worked in our bakery while she was getting her degree.  “Hubby” is the son of a very successful extended immigrant family – heavy on selling emeralds and diamonds and sapphires. These two people are so fun to be with that when I’m feeling blue, I ask Mary: “can we invite the aspirin couple over tonight.  I need some pain relief!”

The Beautiful, Worried Blonde:  this woman runs one of the biggest intergenerational businesses in Oak Glen.  We console each other about slow summer times, and public walk-in business. She’s utterly real about her business struggles, in a way that makes you want to strategize, instead of compete, with her. Her grandfather was a big league athlete. One of her former employees played an old west marshal for us years ago.  I enjoy talking with her because, like me, she’s a worrier, but she’s very entertaining about it.

The “No Filters” homesteader:  this woman rents an RV up here and she finds a market for goats and sheep and cattle.  She wants to build a business based on selling real beef to real people. And, she’s “real,” let me tell you.  She has actually defended indefensible Jim Riley at local school board meetings.  Her husband knows how to grade and dig and build flood-protecting culverts. They want to grow their own food.  Oak Glen types?  EXACTLY.  These two play in the creek at midnight.

The Wine Merchant: A very friendly young man who hands me new versions of the Pinot Gris or the Chardonnay he makes locally.  How cool is that?  Years ago, lots of us were fretting about how impossible it would be to open a hard cidery or a winery.  Now people are just doing it.

Angel Woman:  there is something so beatific and gentle about this woman’s smile, that I call her “angel woman.”  I don’t know her well enough to confirm her holiness, but I have no reason to doubt it.  Calling this “counter-to-type” might reveal my old school male chauvinism, but she’s got a pretty big corporate power job that seems weirdly at odds with the sweet way she offers you pastries.

I can’t go into as many details as I want to, but there was an undeniable sense of love and good will at this neighborhood gathering, and for those of you who don’t live in a “rural attraction” community, you might wonder:  “why is that so difficult to imagine?”

Well it’s because Oak Glen has suffered from parochial competition over the years.  Market competition is a good thing, but “shut your neighbor down for the hell of it” is not.  There have a been a few of these stories over the years: neighbors who didn’t want a B&B next door, gift shop owners looking over each other’s product line.  Two Oak Glen matrons had it out one year over who had the right to sell a certain line of porcelain figurines. A stern old timer resented temporary vendors one year:  “they’re just milkin’ it.”

Maybe that old spell is being broken?  Maybe a monthly gathering might make us something like Napa or Emerald City?


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This post was written by Jim Riley


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