Frank “Laurie” Wood

Laurie Wood

Interviewers: Pat Alexander and Trisha Westbrook
Date of interview: 1/26/2005

Pat Alexander: Begin recording of Tape #1. This is Pat Alexander and I’m very pleased to welcome Mr. Laurie Wood whom I’m interviewing on behalf of the St. Helena Historical Society’s program, Voices of St. Helena. We are conducting this interview at about 1:25, make that 1:45 in the afternoon on January 26, 2005. We are at the office of Mr. Wood in Rutherford, CA. Welcome Mr. Wood. Can you please tell us how you first came to St. Helena?

Laurie Wood: Well, we have to go back almost 85 years. I was born June 5, 1920 in the little town of Napa, California, and I’ve lived my entire life in Napa Valley other than the three and a half to four years I was in the service. So, the first light of day was in a hospital down in Napa.

Pat Alexander: What was the name of the hospital?

Laurie Wood: I forget. I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t, the hospital’s no longer there, it’s been torn down. There’s of course the Queen of the Valley there now and prior to that was Victory Hospital and then this was the original hospital right on Napa Creek and Jefferson.

Pat Alexander: Really?

Laurie Wood: There was an older two- or three-story building there.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. Very interesting. And —

Laurie Wood: By the way, the given name, true name, is Frank Lawrence Wood, but I’ve gone by Laurie all my life. Just so there isn’t any confusion there.

Pat Alexander: Okay.

Laurie Wood: My dad’s name was Frank Wood. He had no middle name. I’ve never gone by Lawrence, but my mother I guess finally decided Lawrence was too long so, I’ve always gone by the nickname Laurie, although legally I do sign as Frank Lawrence Wood.

Pat Alexander: And, do you have any brothers and sisters?

Laurie Wood: I had two brothers. One accidentally was killed in an accident and the other one, yes, I do have a brother who’s now retired. He was in the service also during World War II.  Actually, the three Wood brothers were each in different branches of service.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. And, I saw on here you drove a large excavator truck or a —

Laurie Wood: Well, a big track-layer tractor. Being a farm boy, I’m used to farm tractors, yes. When I went in the service, we thought originally, we were going to the South Pacific, but you know the Army. We ended up in Canada and Alaska. And up there it was the biggest earth moving equipment in the world, these big Caterpillar D8 tractors with a big push blade on it. And our job was to follow the surveyors through these forests for hundreds of miles preparing this road called the Alaskan Highway from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Pat Alexander: That’s a long road. I kind of jumped ahead —

Laurie Wood: It’s all right.

Pat Alexander: — asking you that question. Where did you grow up? Where was your house?

Laurie Wood: Actually, my father was assistant farm advisor here in Napa Valley so he had a degree in agriculture and he met my mother who was up visiting and I actually grew up just about a half a mile away from this office.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: Believe it or not.

Pat Alexander: Right on this property?

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: So, your father had already established a home here?

Laurie Wood: He was an advisor employed by the University of California to go out and help other people —

Pat Alexander: Oh.

Laurie Wood: — farm, see, and that’s not uncommon. There are still farm advisors in Napa County today. But he met my mother and then, of course, they bought 30 acres and then they bought 54 acres and then they bought a one-acre piece and then they bought a three-acre piece so, all together I have about 88 acres here now.

Pat Alexander: Lovely. What’s your mother’s name? Her maiden name.

Laurie Wood: Elizabeth, Elizabeth Hulme, H-U-L-M-E.

Pat Alexander: H-U-L-M-E?

Laurie Wood: Uh-huh.

Pat Alexander: And was she also a native Napan?

Laurie Wood: No. She was a native of San Francisco and, as I was saying, was just up here visiting and happened to meet my father and that was it.

Pat Alexander: Oh. That’s all she wrote? So, you grew up here and where did you go to school?

Laurie Wood: Well, believe it or not, I don’t know if you know where Caymus Winery is, right over here at the intersection?

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: That used to be the old Liberty School. There was a one-room school house there.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: And my first six months I went to school at the Liberty School and then they decided to tear it down so, then my folks had to move closer to St. Helena where we could catch the bus to go to school.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: But all of my schooling was done in St. Helena.

Pat Alexander: At the St. Helena Elementary School?

Laurie Wood: Elementary, yeah.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And High School.

Pat Alexander: Who was your principal there? Do you remember?

Laurie Wood: At the elementary school?

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Well, let’s see, yes, one was Thomas Street, yeah, I remember that —

Pat Alexander: Thomas Street?

Laurie Wood: — and then at the High School was, I don’t know how familiar you are with the name Harry McPherson? His wife was quite an author here in Napa Valley.

Pat Alexander: The McPhersons?

Laurie Wood: McPherson and there’s a school in Napa named for Mr. McPherson.

Pat Alexander: Yes. There is. I didn’t know that.

Laurie Wood: Yes. He was superintendent of the schools up here for four or six years.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: Huh. So, you went to school. Could you kind of tell me what St. Helena looked like when you were in elementary school? What —

Laurie Wood: Well, it was certainly laid back because, as I say, that was close to 75 – 80 years ago and I guess the beauty about it was that most times things didn’t move quite as fast as they do nowadays and you could walk up and down Main Street and know practically everyone. But I do vividly remember the old electric car line that ran from Napa to Yountville, all the way through St. Helena, all the way to Calistoga. And that was the mode of transportation for a lot of people was to get on electric train and, not that we went to school that way, we did have buses.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. What kind of car did your dad drive? What’d you drive around in as a young man?

Laurie Wood: It was an old four-door Dodge —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — sedan, yeah, nothing fancy.

Pat Alexander: What year are we talking about? Let’s say —

Laurie Wood: Oh, I’d say we’re talking about 1927, 1928 —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — along in there, 1929, yeah.

Pat Alexander: Huh. Where was the gas station? Where would you fill up?

Laurie Wood: Well, there was Anderson Brothers just as you go into St. Helena, right on your right was Anderson Brothers and that’s where all the gas was purchased.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. My goodness.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: Well, when you were a little guy, did you know what you wanted to do? Did you have any —

Laurie Wood: No. not really but at the early age, shall we say, of eight or nine, boy, the valley in those days was basically 60% into prune production —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — I’d say maybe 25% walnuts and then we had peaches and we had apricots, we had cherries, there were just a very, and pears, there was just a lot of things. So, naturally with three young sons, well, my father kept us busy —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — working in the fields.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And it was an education, it really was.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Yup.

Pat Alexander: You learned it from the ground up.

Laurie Wood: Yup.

Pat Alexander: So, you’re getting older here and tell me about 4H and —

Laurie Wood: Well, at about the age of 14 or 15, I got interested in chickens —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — and a good friend of mine, two or three years older, had a chicken ranch. So, I worked for him for a couple of months during the summers, but then I talked to my dad and he loaned me the money and I started my own business of raising chickens primarily for a nursery in Napa. It was a breeding flock and by the time I graduated from high school at about the age of 18 or 19, why I was up to 3,000 Rhode Island Reds or New Hampshire Red females and about —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: — 500 happy roosters out there. And twice a week why my friend would come by and we would package the eggs and we’d take them down to the nursery in Napa and 21 days later out came the chicks.

Pat Alexander: You did all of this by yourself or did you have, aside from your friend, you just did all —

Laurie Wood: No. We each did our own little business, yeah. It wasn’t that demanding because other than feeding and taking care of them, there isn’t a great deal you could do. But I also, as a sideline, raised a lot of young roosters and I prepped them for sale in the local homes in St. Helena. So, I’d take orders for so many fryers and then every Thursday or so, or Friday, I’d start dressing them. I might take 15, 20 or 25 chickens and drive around town to various houses and sell them.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. So, where was this? Was it here on your property?

Laurie Wood: No. This was all over on the west side of the valley, As I say, we had to move over there near the highway there, Inglewood Avenue, just because the bus went up and down the main highway. So, we had a little five-acre ranch back up against the foothills there and plenty of room for chickens.

Pat Alexander: Is the house still there?

Laurie Wood: Yes. Yes, I actually, and it’s rather ornate right now. It’s a big two-story, an old Victorian house which has since been turned into a B & B and —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: — added on several times.

Pat Alexander: Really? What’s the name of it now?

Laurie Wood: I don’t know, I forget the woman’s name.

Pat Alexander: Oh.

Laurie Wood: It’s on Inglewood Avenue.

Pat Alexander: Oh, lovely, lovely. So, you’re —

Laurie Wood: So, being introduced into the poultry end of it, why I guess agriculture was just a natural to come into eventually but then after about three and a half years, the day I turned 21, got my draft notice and they gave me four or five months to sell my business and report for duty.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: Yup.

Pat Alexander: So, looking here at your, you went, where did you do your training? Where was your Basic?

Laurie Wood: Well, Basic was down actually at the Presidio, Monterey and I just happened to be there December 1 of 1941 and, on that Sunday, I was visiting some local people that had a home down there. The sirens went off about 11:00 in the morning and all troops report back to your base —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: — that’s when they had hit Pearl Harbor of course.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: But from there we went back to Missouri for training and then back to Fort Ord —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — and then down to Camp Roberts in San Luis Obispo and then back to Fort Ord —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — and then got our orders, supposedly to go overseas to the Pacific. But low and behold, we ended up in Canada. This little town called Dawson Creek —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. That’s, I know that your mother and your family were really happy to have you be stationed there. How did you feel about that?

Laurie Wood: Well, I was a little surprised and disappointed in a way because I thought naturally going into the service we’re going to see action —

Pat Alexander: Right.

Laurie Wood: — but we were actually out there almost a year and a half. And it just wasn’t our company or our regiment, there were over 15,000 people on that 1,500-mile highway working for this inland passage road from Canada to Fairbanks. Because of the Japanese threat, they wanted an inland passage and once we got the road open, there were thousands of trucks moving supplies up to Fairbanks every day.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. What kind of livestock or, no, what kind of wildlife did you see? I mean that was —

Laurie Wood: Oh, a lot, grizzly bear, I mean, elk, moose. One of our lieutenants happened to be a fisherman and he was out there every day trout fishing during his time.

Pat Alexander: So, does that mean at meal times were you allowed to hunt, or did you have MREs?

Laurie Wood: No. You couldn’t hunt at all and actually for the first four or five months we literally lived on, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term K-rations?

Pat Alexander: I am.

Laurie Wood: We barely had any —

Pat Alexander: I’m sorry.

Laurie Wood: — fresh food at all.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: It was all shipped in to us. But after that, boy, then once the highway was finished, well, they decided to bring us back to the United States.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. Did that, was that sort of the end of your —

Laurie Wood: No, no. Then, no, we went directly to North Carolina.

Pat Alexander: Oh, whereabouts?

Laurie Wood: Oh, what was the name? I forget now.

Pat Alexander: Was it Fort Bragg or any of those?

Laurie Wood: No. It was one…I forget

Pat Alexander: Was it Army?

Laurie Wood: It was an Army camp, yeah.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Sutton? Is that it? No, it wasn’t Sutton. Yes, Camp Sutton, North Carolina.

Pat Alexander: Okay.

Laurie Wood: And we trained there for three months and then we were shipped up to New York on a transport, and it took eleven days from New York to England —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my gosh.

Laurie Wood: — on this big convoy, a Naval convoy, and we landed in the little town of Cardiff, Wales and then went on from there to all over.  Told them we were combat engineers so, that’s what we did all our training for.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: But because of the ranch connections and everything, why I mean we just did about everything. But it was basically mines, mine work, laying the mines, the demolition of mines and then also road construction and more than anything, the building of huge portable bridges across streams whether it be the pontoon way or the big steel structures. They had a pre-fab bridge called a Bailey Bridge which we’d pre-assemble it and move it across the stream. So, we were lucky, we didn’t go in until D3. We were three days late on the invasion there at Omaha.

Pat Alexander: Oh. Ooooh.

Laurie Wood: But we went in to Omaha and then on up to Cherbourg because they had big Naval stations there, supply troops were coming in and then we went through Saint-Lô and Avranches, France, and then all the way over to Verdun. We went right by Paris, we went to Verdun, went to Metz and Nancy.

Pat Alexander: I’m so curious, is the, during war time, did you, were you in convoys? Did you fly? What, how did you get around?

Laurie Wood: It was all ground transportation.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. And did you see action going all around you?

Laurie Wood: Oh, yeah. Yup. Yeah. Because quite often, the engineers, if there was a bridge blown out, “Oops. Stop!”  I mean, we’ve got the troops, we’ve got the tanks, we’ve got to get across the streams. We have to go up and build a bridge —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — or find another way around. And of course, God bless my dear English teacher in high school, I had three and a half years of French from her. Boy, I was the man sought after [indiscernible] the Battle of the Bulge, at nighttime when we had to go up and I had to talk to the Frenchmen.  I had a smattering of German but it was a big, big plus to have those three years, I’m telling you.

Pat Alexander: Who was your teacher?

Laurie Wood: Huh?

Pat Alexander: Who was your teacher?

Laurie Wood: Betsy T. Lull, L-U-L-L. She was about six feet tall, I guess, weighed about 160 and talk about a disciplinarian. Boy, she was. But, I think it was one of the big pluses about her, I mean. And then, as I say, I was fortunate to go up to Luxembourg and Belgium. And then we finally ended up in Frankfurt, Germany, which is right across, or no, Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, which is right across from Frankfurt on the Rhine. Then we left from there after the war was over, came back to New York, went up to Sacramento, and I got home July 3, 1945.

Pat Alexander: Yay. While you were abroad, did you stay in touch with people in St. Helena at all? I’m curious what was going on here at that time and how are —

Laurie Wood: They were under a heavy rationing. Most people don’t realize it. But I remember the day I came home, even in July I had to hitchhike. The Army gave us a bus ticket to Sacramento and we had to hitchhike home and the man that picked me up was coming up [indiscernible] and he said “Mr. Wood, how far? Where do you live?” and I said St. Helena. He said, “Well, I don’t have enough gas, but maybe I do.” But, no, they were under, I don’t think a lot of people realize it, pretty strict food rationing and gas rationing. No question about it. But by golly he brought me all the way home. He wasn’t about to have me out there because it was a hot afternoon, about 103˚ and I was hitchhiking. And he had known my father casually and I’ll never forget my folks were expecting me somewhat, but as he got ready to leave, dropped me off, and my dad said, “Oh, wait a minute, Bill.” He came out and my dad went back and got a two-gallon can of gas and came out and poured it in his car to make sure he’d get home. So, that was the Army life.

Pat Alexander: So sweet. Huh.

Laurie Wood: I could go on and on and on about stories, particularly in Canada and Alaska. 40, 50, 60 degrees below zero.

Pat Alexander: Well, tell us one. How do you ever keep warm when something is 60 below zero?

Laurie Wood: We would have parkas, I mean, and you dressed warm and, I mean, the only thing showing were almost just your eyelashes part, but your face was completely covered, felt gloves like you wouldn’t believe. And even as low as 30 degrees below, we were out sleeping in tents but they had big potbellied coal stoves and every two hours a man would come through at nighttime and put more coal in the stove to keep us warm.

Pat Alexander: Did you write home to your mother during those times? Or to family?

Laurie Wood: Yes, I got home once. Fortunately, in the spring of ‘42 (actually the spring of ’43), just because the thaw was about to come along, along the rivers, why we all got to come home for about 10 days. But then the spring thaw came and all the bridges that we built across the streams, the ice came along of course and knocked them all out. I think the nicest thing the Army did was when we were discharged, they gave us a book and it’s a synopsis of about 150 pages of photos that they and individuals took, of the highway and the equipment and everything. We got that free, and then when we came back from Europe, we got another book that was thick with all the European pictures, the bridges, the tanks and buildings and country. They’re just fabulous.

Pat Alexander: Yeah, that’s kind of a family heirloom then isn’t it?

Laurie Wood: Yup. Yes, it is.

Pat Alexander: Oh, see.

Laurie Wood: Well, I think that covers the war years but —

Pat Alexander: I think so too.

Laurie Wood: — they were quite thrilling in a way.

Pat Alexander: I bet they were.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: So, you came back home and —

Laurie Wood: Came back home not knowing what to do, so I drove a gas truck for one of the local distributors for about 4 months.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: I worked up here on Conn Dam because I knew I would drive a big Caterpillar tractor and they were building the dam here for Lake Hennessey. But then finally my dad induced me to come back and start really getting into agriculture in a big way, and he had formed this little company called Frank Wood & Sons, which was a management company —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — So, we went from about 45 acres and, along with my brother Bob who also graduated from Davis, in 10 years we were up to about 800 acres that we were managing here in the valley. But it was all basically prunes and walnuts, as I say, and pears and things like that although we did have some grapes. We had, I remember, we were one of the first in the valley to plant Sauvignon Blanc for Robert Mondavi. But we had the old varieties like, the reds were Carignan and Early Burgundy and Tokay, and the whites, Sauvignon Vert, and Berger and some of those which don’t even hardly exist nowadays.

Pat Alexander: What year was this when you first —

Laurie Wood: This was basically the late ‘40s early ‘50s but then the prune industry in this valley was just going to pot so everyone moved out and that’s really when the valley started to take over and go into the viticulture. Because I know by 19, late ‘50s we had at least half of the properties we were managing into grapes.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm. Now, did you, you said that your brother went to Davis. Who all went to Davis for the agricultural?

Laurie Wood: I had never had the opportunity, unfortunately, when I got out of the service, but yeah, my brother Bob went to Davis, University of California Davis, in viticulture —

Pat Alexander: Oh, okay.

Laurie Wood: — for four years, but then he came back and worked for about ten years with my dad and I. But then he said there’s got to be an easier way to make a living. So, his wife inherited a small amount of money and they went up and with five other people started the Heavenly Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness. That was a smart little move.

Laurie Wood: That was a move. The [indiscernible] about it was though, after being up there about a year, he called me up and said, “Come on up, you got to dowse. We’re building what we call a pioneer hut which is about half way up the tram on the south shore there at Heavenly, and we need water.” So, we went up and I dowsed, and they drilled and got a good supply of water for the restaurant and then we got lifetime passes at the ski lift. We were really spoiled.

Pat Alexander: You know, I’m so curious about that, you brought up dowsing. Can we talk a little bit about that and —

Laurie Wood: Surely.

Pat Alexander: — what it is?

Laurie Wood: I honestly don’t know that I call it really, a high state of, shall we say, mental concentration. You’ve got to block everything else out when you’re out dowsing or witching, whatever anyone wants to call it.  But through practice I guess… And I just accidentally happened upon these two gentlemen that were pretty well respected as dowsers here in the valley and they said, “Well here.” One day they said, “Here, you try it.” And by golly, I begin to get some action. I used to use the forked willow but all that would do was just sort of flip over.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Now, with these brass rods, I think I’ve got the capabilities of pre-determining on a piece of property that there may be three or four spots that look good. But you have to have some way to check and get some results as to which is the best. We’re going to spend thousands of dollars. So, I think now I’ve got the capability of going out and pre-determining how many gallons we’re going to get out of the ground and how deep the driller is going to have to drill to get that water.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: Now, I’m not perfect. I’m only right about 80% of the time but still the law of averages, why people seem to think it’s worthwhile.

Pat Alexander: Are you teaching anyone else to do it?

Laurie Wood: No. Fortunately, my wife unbeknownst to me had some of the capabilities. And then with the four children, none of them except one daughter and the daughter picked this up. Well, actually that’s Sally who has the grape vine wreath company right out here, —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — the little store. And gee, she’s a whiz at it, but she’s got her job out here —

Pat Alexander: Interesting.

Laurie Wood: No. I don’t know of anyone else in the valley that actually goes out anymore and does it, say, on a commercial basis. But I’m probably out at least two or three times every week, yes.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: Those books there, those contain probably over a thousand wells that I have dowsed either in Napa, Mendocino, Marin or Sonoma County.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: So, when you say that you, it’s a mental concentration, what do you mean by that and —

Laurie Wood: Well, first of all, you have to literally think water and try and separate the surroundings, particularly if people in the background are talking. Something like that and I think, I honestly think too because I use the brass rods, I’m picking up an electric pulse of some kind. There’s a magnetic attraction I think to the rods and it’s very difficult to explain, but those who do it and use the metal rods think it’s far superior to the old forked willow stick that we used to use.

Pat Alexander: Hmm. So, you’re kind of like a conduit almost or?

Laurie Wood: Yes. That’s it exactly. That’s as good a word as any.

Pat Alexander: Hmm.

Laurie Wood: And just because I’m trying to help the community, well, I’ve never charged for my fees but right now, what are they up to? They’re up to $200 an hour —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: — and then for every gallon I get them, I charge them $10. If I get a 30-gallon-a-minute well – $300 plus my hourly fee of $200. And then I’ve had my attorney revise my invoice stating that no services were made but I’m asking the individual to make a donation to my mother’s scholarship fund.

Pat Alexander: Oh, that’s nice of you.

Laurie Wood: So, last year we generated about $70,000 into the scholarship fund —

Pat Alexander: Oh, wow.

Laurie Wood: — at dear old St. Helena High School.

Pat Alexander: That’s great. You know, that leads me sort of into my next question. I was reading that your mother has an endowment or a scholarship. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Laurie Wood: Well, it’s basically for graduating seniors and not necessarily even graduating individuals who probably could use a few extra dollars either to go on to a college education or, and not necessarily full-term college, a junior college or any schools, nursing, mechanical schools, and I sit on the board and each year why we, it hasn’t been that good lately, we don’t touch the principal at all, we use the interest only. Right now, as I say, we’ve probably got over a third of a million dollars in that scholarship fund. So, the interest each year is $15, $20, $30 thousand and maybe 10 or 12 students get a $2,000 gift —

Pat Alexander: That’s wonderful.

Laurie Wood: — but right now the market is lousy, though, as far as investment.

Pat Alexander: And did you begin that or who put that in –?

Laurie Wood: Actually, my dad began it when my mom passed away and along with his brother who was a doctor in St. Helena, I remember they each put in $1000 and I had recently married so I could only put in $100 but since then I’ve put every cent into it.

Pat Alexander: Wow. This is a good a place as any and I’d love to hear about it. Tell me about your wife… when you met her and when you got married.

Laurie Wood: Well, as I say, after I got out of the service, I was 25 and sort of free and wanted to see the world and everything so, I love to travel to begin with, but I didn’t get married until I was 31.

Pat Alexander: Oh, great age.

Laurie Wood: And my wife said, “Well, I don’t want you to forget our wedding anniversary,” so, I got married, we got married on my birthday which just happened to be a Saturday.

Pat Alexander: Okay, so that was June —

Laurie Wood: And my brother, my brother up at Lake Tahoe, he was the one that pushed me, I shouldn’t say pushed me, invited me. He said, “Hey,” he called up and said, “There’s a beautiful blonde down here at the beach, you better come on up.” That’s where we met and a year later, we were married.

Pat Alexander: Oh, wow. That’s wonderful. So, she’s a native of the —

Laurie Wood: She grew up on a cattle ranch in Nevada and was very hesitant about coming down to California and the big cities but a big sigh of relief when she saw Napa Valley. And she’s loved it ever since.

Pat Alexander: So, that’s Roberta? And her maiden name is Chichester?

Laurie Wood: Chichester, yes.

Pat Alexander: Aww.

Laurie Wood: English as they come.

Pat Alexander: I guess so.

Laurie Wood: And that also was true of my parents and great grandparents, I mean, they all came from England. They were coal miners and they came over to Canada and then migrated to North Dakota. Then my grandfather moved to California and both my dad and my brother and his (my dad’s) brother went to University of California at Berkley.

Pat Alexander: Hmm. Do you remember your grandfather? Yeah, of course, you knew your grandfather.

Laurie Wood: Grandfather George Wood.

Pat Alexander: George Wood?

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. So, your brother then was George Wood II or the III?

Laurie Wood: The III, III.

Pat Alexander: I see.

Laurie Wood: Right.

Pat Alexander: Because your father is?

Laurie Wood: Well, he’s Frank. Now, he didn’t have any, (George) that was my uncle, George Wood.

Pat Alexander: Oh, I see.

Laurie Wood: Yeah, my father for some… never had a, for some reason never had a middle name. It was just Frank Wood.

Pat Alexander: Huh. So, if you all came down from Canada, is, did you get some French maybe? Is there a little French?

Laurie Wood: Oh, yeah. There’s French blood in there I’m sure.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. So, you kind of gravitated toward it.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: So, you met this beautiful woman —

Laurie Wood: Uh-huh.

Pat Alexander: — and you married her, and you have four beautiful children —

Laurie Wood: Right. One of them is a school teacher, retired and lives in Kentucky. Her husband is also a school teacher and they both retired from Sacramento a couple of years ago and wanted to get out of Sac —

Pat Alexander: Hmm.

Laurie Wood: — and then Sally, of course, has this little Napa Valley Grapevine Wreath Company. My son Jim lives in the house up here as you came in off the road.

Pat Alexander: Oh, that’s who directed me up here.

Laurie Wood: And my youngest daughter, Peggy, lives in Sunnyvale. She’s quite involved with the technical world down there. Her husband’s an attorney and she does a lot of research but they have two children, a boy and a girl, and they’re quite busy.

Pat Alexander: I’ll bet they are.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: Who were some of your friends when you first got married and when you’re living here and, you know, in the established part of your life? Who were some of your buddies?

Laurie Wood: Well, I think one, I hope this chair doesn’t bother you, I think one thing and I threatened to make a list, really what intrigued me was, you know, eventually after growing grapes, I thought, boy, there’s got to be maybe another way to make a living so, Chuck (Carpy) is one of my best friends, and we started Freemark Abbey Winery in 1967. But I think the thing that really turned me on was, as I say, the people basically in the same profession at that time. I’ve, well, Andre Tchelistcheff,  I could just go on and on and on —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Fortunately, Andre sort of took me under his wing because I wasn’t that well versed in viticulture and he would phone me and say, “Wood, get over here at 10 o’clock. We got to go out and look at such and such vineyard.” So, out we would go. But just the exposure to all the different people in the valley and not necessarily directly related to viticulture but, well, I’ve got a list here of just a few individuals.

Pat Alexander: I’d be curious.

Laurie Wood: Once we started Freemark Abbey, then we had the Vintners Association —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — so, once a month we‘d to the Miramonte Hotel on Railroad Avenue and have a luncheon. And I just sort of listened at the time, memory going way, way back the Bartolucci brothers who were down in Oakville. Going further back, Charlie Forni who worked as winemaker at which is now called Hall Winery just south of St. Helena. We’ve always known it as the big Co-op.

Pat Alexander: Oh, yeah,

Laurie Wood: And then another wine maker, Al Huntsinger, André Tchelistcheff, John Daniels at Niebaum Coppola, Louis Stralla who had 100 or 150 acres out where Lake Berryessa is now. The whole valley there at Berryessa at one time was famous for its grapes, its pears, its orchards. Now of course it’s a big lake. And then Louis Martini, the Martini family just lived up the road from us on Inglewood Avenue so I knew both Senior and Junior. Another individual too, August Pirio who was a wine maker at Christian Brothers which is now CIA (Culinary Institute of America). And then, of course, the two brothers came into the valley, you know, Robert Mondavi and Peter Mondavi.  And then there were the Ballentines, they were into vineyard, the Navone family, Steve Navone was wine maker at what we now call Markham winery. But just having the opportunity of sitting down and listening to these people. And then of course, from there it just went on and on as my wife and I’ve raised our children, the people who we’ve met and mingled with is just tremendous. To me it was just a beautiful rural atmosphere —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — we always had big dinners, square dancing. We had square dance twice a month.

Pat Alexander: Where did you do that?

Laurie Wood: The first Saturday night, there were two groups, the first Saturday night and the third Saturday night of each month up at what we call Lodi Farm Center which is now a little building on Lodi Lane turned into a business office. But the Mondavis and, I mean, you’d have people like that, you’d have the banker up there, Andy Johnson. And it was pot luck (duty) once a year, usually two or three couples took care of the meals and we‘d start at about six and have our wine and cocktails and then square dance for three or four hours —

Pat Alexander: Fun.

Laurie Wood: — and my wife and I were so enthused with it that we belonged to both clubs so, we were doing it twice a month.

Pat Alexander: See now, back in the olden days, people danced. Now they do exercise and go to the gym.

Laurie Wood: Right.

Pat Alexander: Square dancing and calling —

Laurie Wood: Oh, yeah. We had callers.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness. How fun. Those were the days. So, I think it’s funny when you say that because really, you’re kind of a forefather. I don’t think you think of yourself that way, but when I hear your name and when I hear the names that you’ve mentioned here, it’s created a history and it’s remarkable to hear you talk about that. And I was kind of wondering about your impressions on what you all have created here and where it’s going.

Laurie Wood: Yeah. Well, I think the big thing was it was really a completely new industry to the valley and, of course, you’ve got to go ahead on the premise that well, we’re doing a good job today but maybe we’ve got to do a better job tomorrow. So, what I’ve found so interesting about it was this challenge all the time, I mean, I had the good fortune, I don’t know if you… Well, you must recognize the name Dr. Bernard Rhodes —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — he was a doctor in charge of Kaiser Hospital in Oakland and he came into the valley in the middle ‘50s. He and his wife came up on weekends whenever they could and he hired me to run, he leased or rented a couple of ranches. And then in 1959, he bought the property down there by Yountville which has turned out to be Martha’s Vineyard which was quite the thing because we both were somewhat novices from a technical standpoint. “So, what variety do we plant?” And I said, “Cabernet, it’s that new one coming on line. That’s going to be the one to plant.” “Well, where do we get the vines, the budwood?” Well, we were able to get the vines but then the budwood, the clone, which is really just as important as the round or the root stock, I went across the ditch. There’s a little ditch next to Martha’s Vineyard and the federal government had an experimental station there so, for two years, and he got permission, Barney did, for me to walk through their Cabernet block. I would actually flag vines that showed excellent growth, excellent color in the leaves, the bunches were uniform, and I flagged vines maybe three or four times a year. And then in the following spring we went out and cut the wood from those vines and actually grafted onto Barney’s vineyard and that became the famous Martha’s Vineyard of California. Joe Heitz had always raved about it. He said it’s those eucalyptus trees. But he said the ground and everything else, it’s all a big package. But you know as well as I, nowadays the big challenge is the threat of these infestations because of man and airplanes and cars and buses and trucks. Boy, we could lose it all in just a short time unless we keep on top of it.

Pat Alexander: And when you say, keep on top of it?

Laurie Wood: Well, the different diseases or infections, I mean, Pierce Disease has been of course, really hit us 15 years ago. We didn’t have resistant root stocks so, literally the valley had to almost completely replant the whole valley again. But now the big emphasis is on different clones and particularly the French clones where we can actually bring in wood from France and again bud or graft on to our vines and get the true French clone. So, it’s just an ongoing thing. The big problem today is, I say again, is man because of the mass transportation and everything, the airplanes, and the buses and the trains, insects can move so freely.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: When you look at the Ag Commissioner down here in Napa who used to have three or four employees and today, he has 22 or 24 full time employees —

Pat Alexander: Wow. Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: — and they are inspecting trucks and shipments every day almost of the week.

Pat Alexander: So, when you want to stay one step ahead, I’m curious, Laurie, how do you stay one step ahead? And as an engineer and as a man of the future who kind of thinks about “Gee, how are we going to…?”

Laurie Wood: Well, I think you have to be somewhat innovative. I did a couple of crazy things. Temperatures, you know, are very important when it comes to maturing grapes and I thought, gee, is there some way we can warm things up a little bit. Well, I won’t get into the frost protection system because that’s a whole other project but by having everything under water, frost control, we’ve got absolute protection in the spring of the year. We’re never going to get frozen as long as we have water but back in the early ‘50s and ‘60s, I was trying to come up with some way to warm things up and get the grapes to ripen faster. So, we did some experiments that people have never heard of.  I happen to manage a ranch up by the hospital north of St. Helena and it’s called Diamond Mountain and it’s, our client there, obsidian. The ground is just pure black mixed in with dirt. So, one year I had about 500 ton excavated and brought to the rock crusher in St. Helena. They ran it through the rock crusher and I’ve got four rows out here in my vineyard that are completely black, completely covered with obsidian.

Pat Alexander: Interesting.

Laurie Wood: We then put thermometers down in the soil at the one-foot mark, and the two-foot mark and the three-foot mark and by golly, it made a difference. The ground was actually warmer. We absorbed more heat, but it wasn’t that much of a difference unfortunately. The other experiment I did was after we finish cultivating and the grounds all smoothed out and everything, we went in with a sprayer and used lamp black and sprayed the ground totally black. That made a bigger difference, but still again not enough difference to make the vine produce grapes any faster. So, as I say, I think you just have to be receptive to these way-out ideas.

Pat Alexander: So, I guess that’s where kind of being an ag man comes in too. You’re not afraid to experiment and try things and “Well, let’s try this.”

Laurie Wood: Yeah. That’s… right.

Pat Alexander: We’re just about at the end here so I’m going to go ahead and turn over to side B.

Pat Alexander: All right. This is side B of our interview with Mr. Laurie Wood. It is January 26, 2005.

Laurie Wood: I think the big challenges were back as I say in the ‘60s when really viticulture started to take hold here in the valley. And fortunately, we were approached, I was, along with my partner in Freemark, Chuck Carpy and another one of the individuals here in the valley… with this whole new concept of frost protection via water. This was a new, innovative thing put out by Rainbird Sprinkler company of Los Angeles. Now we have what we call a solid set sprinkler system throughout the whole vineyard and —

Pat Alexander: An over spray?

Laurie Wood: Overhead spray, and on a frost morning we’ve got thermometers out in the field and we program the thermometer at 34˚ or 36˚, it’ll ring a bell in my son’s house. He’ll get up, he’ll go out and check thermometers, and then he wakes up the other people who go out to the various ranches and either turn the pump system on for water or the wind machines. Wind machines are almost a thing of the past because they’ll only take care of a two- or three-degree range of temperature.

Pat Alexander: Oh, really?

Laurie Wood: Yeah, they aren’t really that good. They’re just reaching up, taking a little warmer air up above and bringing it down and mixing it.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: Now, we used to use heaters and we still have a few diesel heaters, but I’d dread the day when we ever have to turn them on because, talk about air polluting.

Pat Alexander: Oh, yeah.

Laurie Wood: But I remember in 1970, the month of April, we had 26 days or 26 nights that we were up, not frost protecting all the time, but we had to be up checking the fields all the time and, in those days, we worked with bales of hay, we worked lumber —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my gosh.

Laurie Wood: — we even, I hate to use the dirty word, burnt tires, I mean, just anything to get heat. But anyway, we were approached by this company so, my partner and I and one of the Roy Raymond’s, we formed this company and went out on a commercial basis and made these installations for all the people here in the valley. And it’s a good, clean way because now where with my 80 acres here, you apply the water at 50 gallons per minute, per acre, we are pumping 4,000 gallons per minute of water out of my big reservoir here.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: But it’s a clean, efficient way to do it. Absolutely wonderful.

Pat Alexander: Without getting too technical, can you explain how it is that you’re keeping your heat in with water?

Laurie Wood: We’re actually building up a coat of ice and we have icicles sometimes three, four and five inches long and it can only get down to about 31° inside this coat of ice —

Pat Alexander: Huh.

Laurie Wood: — so, the ice actually acts as an insulator.

Pat Alexander: Well, that’s innovative.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: That’s truly creative.

Laurie Wood: And today, as I say, anyone who has an adequate water supply, that’s the way they go for frost protection. That’s really too where I sort of got involved because a lot of people wanted water and somewhere, places, you know, here in the valley it’s unbelievable the amount that we can pump out of the underground. Now, we’ve got to start conserving it because our water table is dropping. And I have one client in Oakville and we pumped 3,000 gallons a minute there and we pump that out of just two wells. One well pumps out over a thousand gallons of water a minute —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my gosh.

Laurie Wood: — Yeah.  But along with that, and again innovation, the helicopter service. I don’t know if you want to get into that but —

Pat Alexander: I’m so curious, please tell us how you began that.

Laurie Wood: Well, back again early ‘70s I heard about these people that were in the valley… Stockton… that were spraying and fertilizing and they’re using helicopters. So, I called them up and I got a hold of two or three vineyardists here and yeah, we’ll go in. So, they came over and started the aerial applications here in the valley either in, most of it was dust, sulfur dust, just for mildew control. But we also did wetable sprays, we did fertilizers, either granular or wet, either way. And the big problem though that we soon ran into was to try and tell a pilot where to go, which ranch… when all these vineyards look exactly the same. So, what we had to do is, and we always started early in the morning when it was quiet because we didn’t want any drift… so, we worked from about 5:00 to 8:30 or 9:00. And then I would take a pilot and we’d get in the pickup and go out and introduce ourselves to the grower and he’d show us the boundaries. Well, that was so time consuming to get up at 4:00, 4:30 every morning and then spend the rest of the day showing the pilot. So, what I did just as an example, I said there’s got to be a better way. So, I went ahead on my own and hired a company. We privately flew the whole valley and then one winter, I sat down and color coded these photograph maps of the entire Napa Valley from Calistoga down to Napa. And then on a morning, I would show this to the pilot and say, “Go out and do ranch 28.” And he would look at it and he’d pick out certain landmarks and he’d go out and do the whole thing in 15 – 20 minutes.

Pat Alexander: Innovation.

Laurie Wood: Yeah. Innovation again. Yeah. But I’ve got about 40 maps, now, they’re not that all concentrated because this was basically from Calistoga all the way down to Napa, up to Mt. Veeder, the valley proper. There wasn’t hardly anything in the Pope Valley. We did do some work over in Sonoma County too. But basically, Napa Valley but, oh, it just speeded up the whole operation tremendously —

Pat Alexander: I’ll bet.

Laurie Wood: — 10,000-fold. Some mornings one helicopter could do 600 or 800 acres easily in the morning.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm.

Laurie Wood: But eventually, man again; too many homes built, too many ranches and we were always conscious of the drift, you know, spray or anything so, it finally just faded into the sunset but we did that for about 15 years.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm.

Laurie Wood: Yup. And then of course too —

Pat Alexander: When was that? What 15 years was that?

Laurie Wood: ‘70s.

Pat Alexander: ‘70s?

Laurie Wood: I would say the ‘70s up to the early ‘80s. Yeah. Of course, there again, it’s a highly skilled business and there are accidents and it’s unfortunate. We had one man, who flew in Vietnam, who had 5,000 hours and he was working for this company which I was in charge of. And he was down at Napa for BV and he was putting dusting sulfur on and he took off and worked for about an hour. He came back, we filled him up, he took off up about 100 feet and the tail rotor of the helicopter, that’s the little one that goes around, a bolt broke mechanically and of course he just came down and —

Pat Alexander: Oh, wow.

Laurie Wood: — with heat, exhaust, hot exhaust, and sulfur … just one big explosion.

Pat Alexander: Oh, wow.

Laurie Wood: There’s actually a photo (helicopter spraying in Napa Valley) in there if you want to turn to look on the wall —

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, we’ll take a look at that.

Laurie Wood: Yeah. But for a while it was really the way to apply materials and as I say, so fast and so economical too. I mean, we could go in and do 100 acres and it was big money in those days. We were charging, I could get $2 or $3 an acre, but in ten or fifteen minutes we’d make $300, you know, just like that.

Pat Alexander: Wow, yeah. Hmmm.

Laurie Wood: But again, innovation, it served its purpose.

Pat Alexander: Well, now, Laurie, up until this time, so, now you’ve got your family and life is good, you’ve got these great businesses here and you are kind of feeling the bounty of your life,  I was wondering if we could talk a little bit about some of your role models or some of where you are in terms of your spiritual values and what was going on about age, you know, 45, something like that. Where are you at your kind of the pinnacle, not the pinnacle but you’re really established wells?

Laurie Wood: Well, I think I’ve hit the pinnacle and I’m sort of fading into the sunset [indiscernible] just because of, oh, darn that thing. Yeah, I think we better turn it off.

Pat Alexander: So, we’re getting —

Laurie Wood: Well, to answer your question, as I say, I think that little article that Emily Burger did on me explains more than anything else. Attitude and my position as far as the day-to-day things and how to look at things in the future, as she so adequately stated that I just take one day at a time —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — think positive and of course, I’m always out there too thinking well, how can we do things maybe slightly different that might better things for all mankind. And it isn’t just agriculture either.

Pat Alexander: And where did you —

Laurie Wood: Fortunately, I’ve, health wise, knock on wood, uh-oh, there I go again.

Pat Alexander: Laurie just knocked on his head.

Laurie Wood: I’ve never had any medical problems; I’ve never had any surgery other than tonsils and I had that when I was 3 years old. —

Pat Alexander: Huge.

Laurie Wood: — so, as I say I’ve been able to travel and see things and I guess that’s what turns me on is the challenge of seeing different things all the time and the lifestyles of people. My wife and I were very, very, very fortunate. We had some good friends here that lived in Hawaii and they came and visited their son one day and said, “Well, gee, you’ve got to come over. We built a new little beach house.” Every year for 16 years after harvest, we would go to Kailua Kona and stay in their beach house. And then we had opportunities again. We took the kids on camping trips, we didn’t have that much money, but camping was always an economical way to go. The western United States, up into Canada a little bit. My wife and I were lucky, along with Hawaii, we went to Pape’ete, the French Polynesian Islands and the Samoan Islands. What’s his name, the author in Monterey? I knew I was going to forget that.

Pat Alexander: Is it Steinbeck?

Laurie Wood: Steinbeck. In Pape’ete, we went into the water and sat down in this chair with Steinbeck himself.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Trisha Westbrook: Where do you think you got that positive, energetic —

Laurie Wood: Energetic?

Pat Alexander: — resourceful attitude?

Laurie Wood: Well, my wife says sometimes you’re too much on the go but then also I can sit back and listen to some good music for two or three hours and I love to read. As I say, just fortunately, I think my health and everything has contributed a lot to my outlook on life.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And again, getting back to the valley here, I bet I know Napa County better than any man alive because I’ve been back into every nook and cranny in this whole valley looking for water.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And again, the exposure to all these different people of different attitudes and financial wealth and everything, I mean, it’s just opened my eyes in a way.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh. What kind of music do you like?

Laurie Wood: I used to play the clarinet in high school, believe it or not, for four or five years so it’s pretty much on the jazzy side —

Pat Alexander: Yes.

Laurie Wood: — there’s some deep instrumental. Pavarotti too, I just love to listen to him, I mean, I could, but, as I say, just the lifestyle and everything that I think it’s just, I’ve been blessed.

Pat Alexander: Yeah.

Laurie Wood: I really have.

Pat Alexander: It is. This family seems to have a real blessing to it that —

Laurie Wood: Well, I think it does. I hope it doesn’t, the pendulum starting to swing the other way, I hate to say it but, well I won’t say it because —

Pat Alexander: Okay. Fine, well, then let’s [indiscernible]. I spoke to Larry earlier and he, as a matter of fact, was so pleased and felt so honored that you sat down with us and he had a couple of questions.

Laurie Wood: All right.

Pat Alexander: As we know, the St. Helena library was an endowment from Dr. George Wood?

Laurie Wood: Dr. George Wood, my uncle, yes.

Pat Alexander: Your uncle?

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: I was just wondering if we could devote a couple of minutes to some questions about Dr. Wood. Some of the questions that Larry was wondering was if we could ask you for your recollections for, how is it that Dr. Wood endowed the library, and what about him caused him to love libraries and want to create a library?

Laurie Wood: Well, I don’t know. Because actually he was my uncle, I knew him fairly well. I remember he came to the valley here in 1926 or 1927 —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — because he’d just graduated from Berkeley Medical School, and there was only one other doctor in St. Helena at the time. And my dear uncle practically starved for two years. No business, so he came to our house every night for supper. But he met his wife (who was a nurse) up in a nursing home in St. Helena and they were married probably 35 to 40 years anyway. They never had any children, but I think it was his exposure, shall I say, to the youth of St. Helena and the valley and the higher education possibly that he made up his mind, well, if there was some way he could help the community, it would be either through the library or some other means of scholarships. And of course, there again, I was executor of his estate when he passed on and he endowed, he was very well fixed, I mean, with his profession and everything, he endowed a couple of million to University of California in San Francisco —

Pat Alexander: Yeah.

Laurie Wood: — if you go up on the third floor of the new building, there’s a big painting, about 4’ x 10’ of Dr. Wood.

Pat Alexander: Oh, really? I didn’t know that.

Laurie Wood: Yeah. But he thought quite a bit of the library up here and it was having problems, you know, over there where the old library is now, it’s a little two-room building so, he was one of the leaders really that got the library concept going —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — and financially made quite an endowment to it. I remember, I must have been 17 or 18, one winter we had a bad flu epidemic and of course he was just being run ragged. By then, he actually had another doctor.  He was then at his own practice. But he would come by the house at 5:00 in the evening, eat supper and then I had just gotten my driver’s license and I would drive him from patient to patient to patient, all over the valley and in between he would go to sleep. He could go to sleep instantly. So, I would drive him from one patient to the other. But I think, as I say, he just took the position, well, my wife and I didn’t have any children, so I want to help just as many as I possibly can.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And it’s just been, to me, I just can’t express how he just hit the right button because boy, he’s helped a tremendous amount of people here.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: There’s also a, he has a scholarship fund too and it’s very well endowed for future generations. So, I think his position to the community in particular was, you know, we … What was it on his 90th birthday or 95th?  We had a Dr. Wood day —

Pat Alexander: Oh, yeah, that’s right.

Laurie Wood: — I’m sure you’ve seen photos of that.

Pat Alexander: I did. Up in Larry’s [indiscernible].

Laurie Wood: Larry’s



Pat Alexander: Yes.

Laurie Wood: I was a little embarrassed because here are our four children marching down the street with a big placard, “free delivery”.

Pat Alexander: Innovative Laurie. Oh, my goodness. So, —

Laurie Wood: But evidently, he delivered, they say, I don’t know, well over 2,000 babies. Oh yeah.

Pat Alexander: Unbelievable. Aside from the story about you having to wake up your uncle, “Okay, next stop”, are there any other stories you can share with us about what it was like having an uncle who kind of delivered half the population of the town?

Trisha Westbrook: Or more.

Pat Alexander: Or more.

Laurie Wood: Yeah, well, I think again, I don’t know what to say in that respect. I do know … and I don’t know whether you’re well aware of it, my good friend Chuck Carpy when we established Freemark, his father also was quite an individual in the valley, Albert Carpy.

Pat Alexander: Hmmm.

Laurie Wood: And particularly from the sports end of it. And so, he created what we call Carpy’s Gang and by golly, children from the age of four or five on through high school, that guy, Al Carpy, spent day after day, week after week, year after year basically financing a lot of the baseballs and the bats and the footballs, and my uncle was right behind him too from the financial end of it. Making contributions to his good friend Al Carpy.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And of course, my uncle and his wife and the Carpys socially were very, very, very close friends. So, again I keep getting back to good old uncle George and probably, unbeknown to a lot of people, what he’s contributed to the valley and particularly this community in a way has just been tremendous. Although we hear and even today, I get postcards and letters from people in Seattle, and Georgia thanking me again for having the privilege of working with my uncle and most of them are babies that he brought into this world.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Trisha: Hmmm.

Laurie Wood: I had the opportunity of finding and I’ve gone through everything, but he had several boxes of photographs and I gave them to Larry —

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: — because there must be 500 photographs there of children from age —

Trisha: People that he –

Laurie Wood: Delivered.

Pat Alexander: I saw those upstairs, I was like, oh, my goodness. That’s wonderful.

Laurie Wood: Yeah.

Pat Alexander: So, if the library is your uncle’s sort of vision for the future, right of prosperity is effective because of his gift and his endowment, what do you see as your footprint?

Laurie Wood: Goal?

Pat Alexander: Yeah, goal.

Laurie Wood: Well, I’m glad it’s going to be brought up again because I’m probably way off base but along with the historical society, I think it’s too bad that the museum here in St. Helena was moved down to Yountville with all due respect.

Pat Alexander: Yeah. I do too.

Laurie Wood: And that would be my greatest love if we could establish a museum here and indirectly I’ve tried to put out a few feelers to John Sales and a couple of other people, you know, that, “ Gee, is there any possibility?” Because I think historically you’d be blown away what people have hidden in their houses and what could be displayed. Now again, location, location, location, you know, and unfortunately, I think the present location there is somewhat limited on Adams Street as far as any additional buildings.  So, I don’t know, as I say, locally though if there was any chance, I think this little town could have a nice museum and to me location, location, location and man, to be right on the main highway.

Pat Alexander: That would be fun.

Pat Alexander: Your family and you have left a big, big beautiful (foot)print on the valley. What would you have your children and your descendants do? Where do you see Napa Valley say in 50 years, Laurie?

Laurie Wood: I, if we could have a footprint, I wouldn’t change it much from what we have today, really.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And that’s my biggest fear, with all due respects to some of the newer people coming in to the valley, their lifestyle and mode of living, I hope doesn’t disrupt things. But it’s a democracy and they have the opportunity to come in here, well then, that’s fine.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: But and the other thing too is I know you’ve got to be receptive to change because otherwise if you can’t change, things will just fall apart.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Trisha: What do you —

Laurie Wood: So, —

Trisha: Oh, I’m sorry.

Laurie Wood: No, that’s all right.

Trisha: I’m curious what you see besides the vineyards as sort of the signposts of the identity of this place when, I mean, the thing that we all sort of know it, we feel it, but if you had to take away the vineyards, but say what are the other things that characterize this place, what would you say?

Laurie Wood: Yeah. Well, I think my biggest fear is that this communication gap to me whether it’s in education or whatever. And, you know, I served 16 years on the school board at St. Helena High School.

Pat Alexander: Did you?

Laurie Wood: Yeah. But the communication between people of different classes, different races, some of them moderately wealthy or very wealthy, how is this mixing bowl going to take place and are we going to lose something, as I say, particularly the chance to express individual thoughts more than anything else? To me, that’s the most healthy thing, whether it be highway light signals or whatever you’re talking about. The vacation aspect, you know, Christmas time now, oh my God they’re going to give the students three weeks off for Christmas. Do we like it or don’t we?

Pat Alexander: Yeah.

Laurie Wood: Well, again, that’s change. But I just hope it just doesn’t change that radically where a person can’t at least express themselves and try and work as a unit to preserve things somewhat the way they are. We are actually blessed, there’s no doubt in my mind, in this little valley.

Pat Alexander: Uh-huh.

Laurie Wood: And I don’t think some people realize it. Because it is unique and I hope it stays that way.

Pat Alexander: Me too.

Laurie Wood: I can remember very definitely the old steam train, as I say, the electrical cars that we used to ride up and down the valley on. That was the mode of transportation.

Pat Alexander: Now, see, we’ve opened a whole other can of the interview.

Pat Alexander: No, I just want to ask real quick before we end and we’re coming to the end of the interview, I’m so sorry to say. Did you ever go and play up in Calistoga? Did you ever take the steam in, the trolley up there, or had that stopped running by the time you were old enough to go?

Laurie Wood: That stopped, let’s see, we moved over to Inglewood Avenue in 1926, I think that stopped in the early ‘30s.

Pat Alexander: Okay.

Laurie Wood: Yeah. But I remember we used to lay the pennies on the railroad track and the train would go over them and squash them.

Pat Alexander: Well, I want to —

Laurie Wood: One thing I do remember though too and speaking of Inglewood Avenue. Of course, the Depression had a big effect on a lot of people in this valley because boy we had to work, and we had to work hard to make a living there in those early years, particularly from the agricultural standpoint. My dad, I remember, my brother and I in 1947, we bought a brand-new ton and a half truck and again, he’d established this little vineyard management company. And we were into walnuts and prunes and grapes and we would haul grapes for other vineyards to the winery. And we figured out … It wasn’t uncommon, it was usually my brother and I, or there was always two of us, one guy to pick up the box of grapes and put it on the truck, you get to the winery, you dump the box of grapes, we didn’t have gondolas in those days, we would physically, each man, lift 10, 15, 20, 30 ton of weight per day.

Pat Alexander: Oh, my goodness.

Laurie Wood: Just hauling all these grapes.

Pat Alexander: Wow.

Laurie Wood: And prior to that of course, it was prunes, I mean, hauling. We hauled, week after week, prunes from all the various ranches here from here down to Napa where they packaged them.

Pat Alexander: Wow. That’s amazing.

Laurie Wood: But that’s life.

Pat Alexander: Well, I thank you so very much. This is —

Laurie Wood: I hope I haven’t rambled on too much.

Pat Alexander: You have not rambled on. I am so thrilled, and I just want to thank you so much for sharing with us. Trisha, I’m wondering if you have anything you’d like to add or ask?

Trisha: Well, I want to ask one thing. When I listen to people talk about their lives, I can sort of, I have a writer’s mentality, so I tend to try to come up with a phrase that sort of. So, if we had your picture in our exhibit on St. Helena Pioneers in our museum, what I would probably put under it in quotes is “A better job can be done.” Would that —?

Laurie Wood: That would be —

Trisha Westbrook: Would that be okay with you?

Laurie Wood: That would be perfect, yeah.

Trisha: Okay. Okay.

Laurie Wood: Because I feel there’s always room for improvement. There’s no question about it. You’ve got to be progressive, I mean, and look to the future.

Pat Alexander: Thank you so much. This concludes side B of our tape and thank you very much.