Note: the text interview below is much shorter than our recorded interview. Use the playback tools above to listen to the in-depth interview.
(Recorded at Museum for a Day)
GRETA ERICSON: My name is Greta Ericson, and I came originally to St. Helena in 1965 from the Sonoma area. We lived there ten years in Sonoma, but before that, we actually came from the East Coast, New York State and Connecticut. My time in the St. Helena area, we happened to be fortunate enough to be able to lease the old Bourn mansion on Sulphur Springs Road. A big red house, it was wonderful, on the corner of Crane and Sulphur Springs.
And it was a historic house. We lived there 16 years always thinking we would buy it, but the heirs to the Bourn family really decided to keep it and we then moved into town. I started a dress shop in 1968, in November of ’68, called Wine Country Clothes, and it was very successful.
We were there until 1980 on the corner of Hunt and Main Street, that old stone building. I named that building, by the way, Cornerstone, because after I sold the dress shop, I ran a hotel that was above the dress shop and refurbished the top of that building. It was, before that, it was kind of, it was called the Valley Hotel, and it was kind of transient where people living on Social Security and you know, the room was rented for ten dollars a night and that type of thing. But it’s a fabulous old building that was built in 1890.
Anyway, after I sold the shop, I went into real estate. However, in 1973, I joined the Chamber of Commerce, or ’72, and in ’73 I was their President, and in ’74, I ran for a seat on the city council to be a councilwoman. However, in those days, if you got the most votes — there were three seats open and if you got the most votes, you were automatically the Mayor, and I did get the most votes. You have to realize I had the dress shop in town and knew every woman that came in to be fitted for one thing or another. It was a very definite edge.
Anyway, the job was very rewarding in the sense that it gave me great satisfaction to pull all of the parking meters out of town and change the facade of St. Helena. It just little by little, St. Helena took on a nice ambiance. It made a difference because we just appreciated it so much, and selling in real estate was interesting too, and I feel that it was a wonderful thing to be able to contribute to St. Helena.
I’m responsible one time for saving the tunnel of trees. They were supposed to be marked to be cut down, and I had all the children in the town write letters and everything, and we had almost 3,000 letters and stopped it right there. And Dupont Corporation came in and gave some medicine for the trees so that they wouldn’t get diseased and so on, and we still got the trees so that’s wonderful.
INTERVIEWER: That’s wonderful.
GRETA ERICSON: I had brought in the Woodbridge, the housing development for older people, on the end of one street, and I’m very proud of that. Several things like that. I think that a woman in the position on the council is a housekeeper, more of a housekeeper than a man is. I think they look at small things and change it. It was a rewarding experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What else can I say. I love the town. I’ve been a member of Soroptimist Club here for 35 years and was Citizen of the Year in 2000, and I appreciated it very much so I’ll just live and die right here.