Sun 8 Mar 2009
When the lot beside Tomales Town Hall came up for sale a while back, the Town Hall board took advantage of the opportunity to acquire yard space that came with an ancient shade tree. Having now paid off well over $100,000 of the note and needing only $20,000 more, the Town Hall on Saturday held a fundraising pig roast, barbecue, and silent action.
Two bands played, one in the yard and one in the hall. Performing here is the band Blue Holstein with (from left) Charlie Morgan on guitar, Vic Marcotte on drums, Don Armstrong on guitar (seen here as lead singer on a Bob Dylan reprise), and Cheshire Mahoney on sax. A former West Marin resident, Cheshire now lives in Ashland.
The roasted pig, which was carved next to Highway 1 outside the Town Hall, was a hit with townspeople, and the line waiting to get in on the feast ran the length of the hall and out the front door.
Meanwhile a couple of blocks away, cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux was holding a moving sale. The sale will resume from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday, March 8, at 31 Carrie St.
Why is she moving? In his day job, her husband Don Armstrong of Blue Holstein is now superintendent of Fort Bragg Unified School District, having previously been a teacher in Bolinas and later a superintendent in Petaluma. Kathryn told me the couple is tired of maintaining two homes and having to live apart much of the time, so they’re going to live in Westport (north of Fort Bragg) and rent out their home in Tomales until he retires.
For 11 years during the time I owned The Point Reyes Light, Kathryn drew the comic strip Feral West for the newspaper, and she now draws it for The West Marin Citizen. The move will bring an end to the strip, she said.
Kathryn is also one of six women who 10 years ago started the cartoon Six Chix, which is syndicated by King Features and appears locally in The Marin Independent Journal. Each cartoonist draws one strip a week and takes turns drawing the Sunday cartoon. Kathryn told me her last Six Chix strip will be published Friday.
Frustrated by the “hard work” of producing on deadline while her earnings from newspapers shrink because of changes in the industry, Kathryn said she will give up cartooning to concentrate on her oil painting.
I happened to run into Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evans at Kathryn’s moving sale, and he was fascinated by some of the non-artwork she was also selling. “Where else can you buy a possum skull?” he asked me.
Along with an original Feral West cartoon from 2004, I myself picked up a 1960 issue of The Baywood Press, as The Light was called until September 1966. A Page 1 story in the issue reported that sheriff’s deputies were looking for an arsonist who used a blanket soaked with kerosine to set fire to the house immediately north of West Marin School. Assistant fire chief Louis Bloom estimated that $250 worth of damage was done to the home, which belonged to Robert Worthington and his family. They were on a two-week trip to the Central Valley when the fire broke out around midnight.
Another Page 1 story reported that dogs from homes along Highway 1 had killed seven sheep belonging to now-deceased Elmer Martinelli, father Point Reyes Station’s Patricia, Stan, and Leroy Martinelli.
Nor were Kathryn’s sale and the Town Hall pig roast the only fun around Tomales. On the Tomales-Petaluma Road, a succession of motorists kept stopping to photograph Veanna Silva’s camel grazing with a couple of cows. Two-humped Bactrian camels are native to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China.
Also intriguing motorists along the Tomales-Petaluma Road is this sign outside the former Aurora School (built in 1873), which is now the home of Jerry and Leslie Swallow. What the sign really signifies, townspeople told me, is that the Swallows’ driveway has a blind turnout onto the the road — and that the Swallows have a sense of humor.
Here are a few other intriguing facets of Tomales, as reported by City-Data.com. The town as of July 2007 had 210 residents whose median age was 46.1 years old. The estimated median household income was $61,107 compared with $59,948 statewide.
Some 94.3 percent of townspeople are non-Hispanic white, 2.4 percent are Hispanic, 1 percent are Japanese, and 1 percent are American Indian. The average household size is 2.4 people compared with 2.9 statewide. Some 56.2 percent of these are “family households” compared with 68.9 percent statewide.
As of a year and a half ago, 11 percent of the households consisted of unmarried partners compared with 5.9 percent statewide. Another 1.4 percent of Tomales’ households reported being lesbian, and 1.4 percent reported being gay men.
City-Data.com calls the cost of living in Tomales “very high.” On the national cost-of-living index, 100 represents the US average, and Tomales comes in at a whopping 168.6.
But here’s what I find to be the most surprising statistics reported by City-Data.com. Back in 2007 before the recession hit, the proportion of Tomales residents with incomes below the poverty level (14.3 percent) was virtually the same as the state average (14.2 percent) while the proportion of residents with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level (9.5 percent) was far worse than the state as a whole (6.3 percent).
That one in seven townspeople have incomes below the poverty level is all the more surprising given that Tomales is one of the better educated towns anywhere. Nine out of 10 residents 25 and older have completed high school, and 43.3 percent have completed college. More than one in five residents (21 percent) hold graduate or professional degrees.
The only thing I can think of that might explain this disparity between high education and low income could be the ascetic lifestyles of the 30 or so people living at the Blue Mountain Meditation Center off the Tomales-Petaluma Road.
But it’s incongruities such as this that make Tomales so interesting: from a pig roast to finance real estate for the Town Hall, to a camel and a “blind driver” along the Tomales-Petaluma Road, to possum, deer, and horse skulls plus artwork, antiques, and artifacts for sale in a cartoonist’s studio. It’s a great town, and — by the way — it’s going to miss you while you’re gone, Don and Kathryn.