Phoebe Ellsworth

Phoebe Ellsworth

Interviewers: Sharon Delmonico and Bonnie Thoreen                                                                                             Date of interview: August 9 circa 2015-16

Sharon Delmonico: This is Sharon Delmonico and I’m pleased to welcome Phoebe Ellsworth, whom I’m interviewing on behalf of the St. Helena Historical Society’s Oral History Program. We’re conducting this interview at 3:00, on August 9th, at Phoebe’s house. Okay. Can you tell us, Phoebe, where you were born and when you first came to St. Helena?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I grew up in Palo Alto, and I had an exceptionally wonderful upbringing and opportunities in Palo Alto. It was an amazing town to be in. It was quite small when I was growing up there. And I started having art lessons, when I was about seven, at the children’s art classes at the Palo Alto Art Club.  I also had piano lessons, and the piano teacher told my mother that I would never be able to learn the piano, that she better find something else for me to do. So, then, the art teacher said you better find something — you better find something for her to do in art. So that worked out fine and —

Sharon Delmonico: What did you first start working — when you were first doing art, what medium did you use?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, we had pencils and paints and we did landscapes — not landscapes, because it was inside mostly. Still lifes and imagine — you know, things that you imagined, and so forth.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: When I was about ten years old, we lived next door to Sarah and Michael Stein. Michael Stein had died by then, but he was the sister of Gertrude Stein, and they’re the people that collected all these Matisse paintings. And a cousin of mine was her doctor, so he arranged for me to go over with a picture one day to show her, and to see the paintings. The woman with — she had the “Woman with a Hat” and —

Sharon Delmonico: Oh my gosh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: — all this. It was a picture that I had drawn from my imagination of the trees and the hills back at Stanford, the dead trees, and she said, you better go and actually look at what you’re painting. So, I remember that she told me that. Let’s see. But then, it was interesting that her grandson was into horseracing, and this is documented and all that, so he was getting rid of her — trying to get rid of her paintings and get her committed, A family in San Francisco, the Hoss family, was able to get those paintings and most of them were in the MOMA, you know, Modern Museum of Art, in the City. And then, later on, do you know who Sue Cross is?

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Her family moved to that house because her father came from the Mayo Clinic and the cousin was in the Palo Alto Clinic and they organized. So, she lived next door to me when we were in high school.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And we had a lot to do in Palo Alto. There was a great community center, where we had dance classes and junior museum, where there were ceramics classes and art classes and sports, tennis, you know. You could go wherever you wanted on your bike around town.

Sharon Delmonico: And what did you father do?

Phoebe Ellsworth: My father worked for Bethlehem Steel. He took the train up to San Francisco and he was the treasurer for the West Coast operations of Bethlehem Steel. And he — he came out from Iowa to Stanford and he was one of the few people that started working in San Francisco and wasn’t — didn’t have to transfer back East. But he traveled to Seattle and Portland and Los Angeles frequently for the company. And my mother was born in Alameda, but she grew up in Palo Alto, and we lived right around the corner from my grandparents. And something else that was interesting is that she always had students living in her house.

Sharon Delmonico: Your grandmother?

Phoebe Ellsworth: My grandmother. And when she died, they found a list she’d had over 100. And, at one time, she entertained all the foreign students at her house on Sunday nights for dinner, which was amazing. And she was — she was on the City Council in the ‘20s. She started the Men’s and Women’s Rest Homes and Stanford International Club. She was very — and they lived right around the corner. And one of the people that lived there was a man named Michael Murphy.

Sharon Delmonico: Yes.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And he lived there for over five or six years.

Sharon Delmonico: Michael Murphy started Esalen.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He started Esalen. He told me he was going to do it and —

Sharon Delmonico: He did it.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And his brother lived at our house.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, no. So, the odd one?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Dennis.

Sharon Delmonico: Dennis.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He was pretty wild and —

Sharon Delmonico: He was wild.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He was supposed to get my dad’s breakfast in the morning, but most — a lot of times, he’d roll in, my dad had to fix him something. Anyway, we — we always — so we always had students, too.

Sharon Delmonico: That’s a great story.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Mostly foreign students who stayed with us, so that was — and a lot of them worked for their board and room, and they had to wait on the table at night. But we liked to go in the kitchen and help with the dishes, because it was fun to talk with those people. Anyway, so —

Sharon Delmonico: And when you say we, do you mean you and —

Phoebe Ellsworth: I had a sister. I had a sister and a brother.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh. And you sister’s gone.

Phoebe Ellsworth: She died and my brother died. Let’s see, what else was fun about living there.

Sharon Delmonico: You had Dennis Murphy.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And then all through — all through junior high and high school, I had a private art lesson, and in high school I went out to Stanford and took lessons from a guy who was a professor at Stanford.

Sharon Delmonico: Do you remember his name?

Phoebe Ellsworth: George Harris. And another one’s name was John LaPlante, so that was fun. It was really a remarkable place to grow up.

Sharon Delmonico: Really. Did you go to Stanford?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I went to Stanford for one quarter, so I could be the third generation. I did get into Stanford, but I just didn’t want to go there, because, you know, I’d been going to Stanford since before I was born.

Sharon Delmonico: You wanted to go away.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. I mean, you know, I went to all kind of sporting events at Stanford, track meets, swimming meets, basketball, football. My dad had been a quarterback at Stanford, so he was an avid, you know, football fan. Theatre, Tuesday-night lectures, Sunday-night flicks. I didn’t need to go to Stanford.

Sharon Delmonico: So, where did you go after you left?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I went for two years to Bennington College in Vermont and then I came to UC Berkeley for a year, which was a disaster.

Sharon Delmonico: Because?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Because I had to take all these science classes. Physics and —

Sharon Delmonico: Oh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: — biology and it was horrible. I worked in the theater and that was fun. So then, the next year I went to the Art Institute.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, in San Francisco?

Phoebe Ellsworth: San Francisco.

Sharon Delmonico: Right.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And I went there for about two years, I think, and then I went one semester in Los Angeles to Chouinard Institute. Did you grow up on the peninsula?

Bonnie Thoreen: Hm-mm. I grew up in Minnesota. A long way.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Long way.

Bonnie Thoreen: Not nearly that much to do, I can tell you that.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well there was so much to do in Palo Alto, and it was really a privileged upbringing, very.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh. What were those years? You were born when?

Phoebe Ellsworth: In 1936 and I graduated from high school in 1954.

Sharon Delmonico: Those were good years to be there.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And we had a family cabin down in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Sharon Delmonico: Where?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Do you know where Casalegno was?

Sharon Delmonico: Hm-mm.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Do you know where St. Claire’s Retreat was?

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah, yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, one mile — right in the middle between those two places.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And we went — you know, we’d go on weekends in the summertime and go to the beach, the Rio Del Mar beach, mostly.

Sharon Delmonico: You didn’t go to the boardwalk?

Phoebe Ellsworth: My mother would not allow us to go to the boardwalk. That was not allowed. She was afraid we might get in trouble or something. I don’t know. And, actually, the only time I only remember one time eating in a restaurant, in all the years that we went there. My mom — well, we were having the kitchen fixed or something. And I wrote a little story about the cabin, our cabin. I’ll go get it in a minute and you can –

Bonnie Thoreen: Did your mother like to cook or was she just afraid that you’d get in trouble at the restaurant, too?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. She liked to cook and it was too far away to restaurants really. You know.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: It was like seven or eight miles into town, and we always basically had the same thing, and we had a lot of company. We always had barbeque, corn, and berries, and sometimes we stopped at Murdock’s Bakery — remember that in Soquel — and got something, macaroons or angel food cake. And, in the beginning, we had to wear a dress in the car. We weren’t allowed to wear — we had to save a dress to come home in. And my dad always put his jacket and had a coat and tie on at dinner every night.

Sharon Delmonico: Even at the cabin?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. No. Not at the cabin, no, but at our house.

Sharon Delmonico: Did you have to wear gloves when you went to the City?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Oh, definitely. Very definitely. And then a couple of times when I was living in San Francisco going to the Art Institute, I went downtown, you know, in jeans or something that I — and I always ran into one of my mom’s friends.

Sharon Delmonico: It was a small town then.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. So that was –

Bonnie Thoreen: Were you parents really socially active?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Very.

Bonnie Thoreen: Very.

Phoebe Ellsworth: My mother was what you call a –

Bonnie Thoreen: Socialite.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Socialite, yeah. My father played tennis. My mom didn’t do much in the way of sports, but she entertained a lot of people and she had a lot of experience in giving parties.

Bonnie Thoreen: Did she play bridge?

Phoebe Ellsworth: She played bridge, yeah. And we’d come home from school and there would be a lot of dishes in the kitchen sink for us to do or things — she’d go out in the yard and leave stuff around. She’d deadhead and leave stuff all around for us to pick up, you know, there.

Sharon Delmonico: You had chores.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. We had chores. And then, you know, we had these people that did the dishes at night and —

Sharon Delmonico: The students.

Phoebe Ellsworth: The students. One was a guy from Peru who was on the tennis team. He was a tennis champion and he hadn’t made his grades. So, the deal for him was to teach us to play tennis for his room and board, and he hated it. To teach these damn girls how to play tennis. Ah funny. So, all in all, it was pretty special growing up.

Bonnie Thoreen: Sounds great.

Sharon Delmonico: I know. That sounds wonderful. Where did you fall in the line-up of the children?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I was the oldest. My sister was about a year younger and my brother seven years younger.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, okay. And what did they end up doing, just out of curiosity?

Phoebe Ellsworth: My brother was a lawyer and my sister was a socialite.

Sharon Delmonico: A socialite?

Phoebe Ellsworth: In San Francisco.

Sharon Delmonico: What was her name?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Sharon Griffin. Did you know Will Wyman in St. Helena ?

Sharon Delmonico: That was your nephew?

Phoebe Ellsworth: That was my sister’s son, yeah.

Bonnie Thoreen: I knew him, yeah. Nice young man.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Very nice.

Sharon Delmonico: I do know who he is. Yes, I do know them. Yes.

Bonnie Thoreen: But he’s not here anymore.

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. He’s down in Berkeley now. But he’s a development director. So, they lived in San Francisco, and she was very, very socially active.

Bonnie Thoreen: So, did you rebel against that life?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Hmm?

Bonnie Thoreen: Did you rebel against that socially active —

Phoebe Ellsworth: Little bit. Not quite as much as they did.

Sharon Delmonico: As your sister and brother did. Or as — when you said quite as much as they did.

Phoebe Ellsworth: As Sharon. She was very, very social.

Sharon Delmonico: So, you graduated from —

Phoebe Ellsworth: The Art Institute.

Sharon Delmonico: The Art Institute. And then what happened? Did you go to work as an artist? Or did you —

Phoebe Ellsworth: I worked in offices in San Francisco.

Sharon Delmonico: Ah, the plight of the art student.

Phoebe Ellsworth: When I — I was also active in other things in school and when I was in high school, I went one week to a Red Cross leadership development camp thing and about five years later, I think I — I’d been out of college for a year — I got a phone call from these two ladies asking me if I were interested in the job. And this job was for the Junior Red Cross, marketing the Junior Red Cross program in schools, and they were teaching humanitarianism and good will and they had a bunch of curriculum-related projects that students could do, and give to the Red Cross. So, my responsibility was San Mateo County, and I visited the schools and talked to the classrooms and talked to school assemblies. And these two women were great and one of them is still alive. She’s 97 years old. I play Scrabble with her online every day.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, I love this.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And she still plays tennis and she was a Red Cross Donut Dolly in the Second World War and there was recently a TV program that she was featured in. Anyway, so I worked for them until I got married, which was about two years.

Sharon Delmonico: So, tell us how you met Bob.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Oh, one of the other things I did when I was in high school, I went on these Sierra Club High trips and I met Bob on one of those.

Sharon Delmonico: In high school?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. No. After high school, in ’61. And I think I was — well I was working for the Red Cross when I met him, so — and you know who Sarah Galbraith is?

Bonnie Thoreen: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: She was on that trip. She was the head cook and Bob was the assistant cook.

Bonnie Thoreen: Small world.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. Her sister had been my sister’s roommate at Cal, so it’s incredible.

Sharon Delmonico: Wow.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, anyway, that’s how I met Bob. He was on this trip because he was extremely good with equipment. He wasn’t necessarily a cook, but he — they had these stoves that they had to put together and they were gas stoves and, anyway, that’s where I met him. And I had been — it was his first trip and I had been on several before, when I was in high school. They were great trips, really fun.

Sharon Delmonico: And where did you go? Where were they?

Phoebe Ellsworth: That one was at a place called Mineral King.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And they were two-week trips and you camped for two days in one place, and then you hiked for maybe five to ten miles to another place. And they had — they packed your — they had mule trains that packed your stuff. And they had great campfires, good food, and nice people.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, then we met and we got married about eight months after we met.

Sharon Delmonico: And what was Bob doing at that time?

Phoebe Ellsworth: He worked at Mayacamas Vineyards.

Sharon Delmonico: Really? Huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He was making wine and doing everything there.

Sharon Delmonico: And did you move to St. Helena right away?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, when we got married, we lived at Mayacamas Vineyards for about until — both my kids were born there, until Geoff was about six months old, and then we had an interesting thing happen. Some of the people that worked — a couple of the people that work there are weekend — were weekend people, were growing marijuana, and the owners of the winery, Bob sort of reported it. You know, suggested what should we do. And the owners of the winery said, you know, we don’t really care about government regulations and they fired Bob.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh my gosh.

Bonnie Thoreen: Was that the Travers ?

Sharon Delmonico: No, before the Travers, the Taylors. British guy. And I’m sure the reason they fired him, this was an excuse, because they probably didn’t want to have somebody with two kids and the responsibility of that, working there. So, that was a good way out. So, we went down to Berkeley and he worked for a place called the Berkeley Yeast Lab, which was a wine-testing lab, which was way down on Alcatraz Avenue in Berkeley. And then that turned into Scott Laboratories, which was a big — they bought the Berkeley Yeast Lab — which was a big supplier for the wine industry. And then, I’ve forgotten what happened, why he left there, but he had some other things that he was doing and he wanted to — he started this home winemaking store. It was in Albany and he was there and he had a few supplies for home winemakers. One of the reasons that they started it was because people would come up to Mayacamas and say, I make wine, can I get 100 corks from you? Can I get some sodium bisulfite from you, da, da, da, da. So that brilliant idea came to him. So, he ran it in Berkeley for a while, and he also sold some wood tanks and worked at a lab in San Francisco, and did a bunch of things.

Sharon Delmonico: And where did you live?

Phoebe Ellsworth: In Berkeley, in Kensington in Berkeley. So that was until –when we came here, Geoff was just going to kindergarten. Flint was going to first grade. So, then he decided, there was somebody else, they were looking for a winery property, but instead he found somebody and Ed Beard and the Vintage 1870 had a place where the Complete Winemaker was, which was a whole big back building.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: You know where the –

Bonnie Thoreen: Was that where Groezinger’s was for a while?

Phoebe Ellsworth: What? Well Groezinger’s was the winery.

Bonnie Thoreen: Oh, that was it.

Phoebe Ellsworth: That was it.

Bonnie Thoreen: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Then Sally and Don Schmidt developed the Vintage 1870 part. So, we were one of the first [indiscernible]. Yeah. And she had a restaurant called The Chubby Kitchen.

Sharon Delmonico: Right.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And he was — he’d been a banker in Fresno, I think. So, we were there for a while, and then maybe, I don’t how many years, then he negotiated with Bill Buloti to buy the building on the corner where the Vintage Home is. And they had the Complete Winemaker there. And that got too small.

Sharon Delmonico: And so, you moved up the street.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Up the street. And I’d walk by to go to the bank and, you know, one day I said, Bob was looking around and I said, well look at that place. So, we moved there.

Sharon Delmonico: Who owned that building?

Phoebe Ellsworth: It was owned by a trust for a long time, some Bank of America. Then Mike Grgich bought it.

Sharon Delmonico: Right.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And he decided that he wanted to raise our rent from $4000 a month to $11,000, so we moved.

Bonnie Thoreen: Your sign is still there though.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. The sign is still there. I’m wondering how long it’s going to stay.

Bonnie Thoreen: I hope it stays forever.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I know. I’ve taken a picture of it. So, then we were there. Then they moved. I sort of quit working there then. Down by Ogletree on Vintage Avenue. Big industrial building.

Sharon Delmonico: Vintage Avenue.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Where Central Valley is.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And then —

Sharon Delmonico: What was the year that Mike Grgich raised the rent? I wonder if he could foresee what was coming to St. Helena.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I always called him Mike Greedy. He made Bob really mad. He’d come and he’d want stuff for free all the time.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And then he’d want to try it. And Bob said, you know, you buy it, not try it.

Bonnie Thoreen: Well that must have been what? In the ‘80s?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. I’m trying to figure out when he sold The Complete Winemaker.

Sharon Delmonico: Because it was in that building when we moved here in ’81.

Phoebe Ellsworth: ’65. And Del Britton— I don’t know one time said, when you get to be 65, it’s really time to start thinking about selling the business, unless you — and Bob was very reluctant to do it, very reluctant. I had to keep pushing and finally I had to call the real estate people.

Sharon Delmonico: And so, you sold the business when it was relocated to Vintage Avenue.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah.

Sharon Delmonico: And that was what — do you remember when that was? And who bought it?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Some people from Salt Lake City. I forget their name right now. And then they eventually moved it to — Kurt — Kurt Caveness was his name. They moved it to Santa Rosa. And I don’t know — I think they changed the name, too, but I’m not sure.

Sharon Delmonico: So, he really devised the concept of this business based upon his experience at Mayacamas, of people coming in and wanting — home winemakers.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Wait a second. Stop this. I got to get a Kleenex. And so, they, you know, he would increase what he was supplying to people.

Sharon Delmonico: I see.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Early on, he shipped grapes to Joel Phelps in Denver.

Sharon Delmonico: Wow. The early Phelps days.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. And so that’s how the business grew from being home winemaking to —

Sharon Delmonico: More.

Phoebe Ellsworth: More equipment to bigger wineries and specialized wineries.

Sharon Delmonico: So, I also want to know, during this period of time, being the feminist that I am, what was happening to you and your artwork? Were you doing artwork? Were you able to continue with the family and working at the Complete Winemaker? Was it possible for you to continue to paint?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. I usually have a show most every year.

Sharon Delmonico: Good.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And I have — I volunteered at the school teaching art. I didn’t do it as much, you know, but — it wasn’t the most rewarding thing to do. And Bob said — this isn’t very nice — but he said you can paint, but I’m not paying for it.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh.

Bonnie Thoreen: Did you have a comeback for that one?

Phoebe Ellsworth: We argued a lot and, you know, when I worked there in his business, he wouldn’t pay me, and a lot of women around town worked in their husband’s businesses.

Sharon Delmonico: Of course.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And didn’t get paid. The husbands always thought that it was cheaper for them not to have to pay another person and I talked to quite a few women around town who were in the same position.

Sharon Delmonico: That was an interesting — that’s an interesting historical observation.

Phoebe Ellsworth: One of them was Barbara Shurtz. You know her?

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Her husband thought, you know, that was —

Sharon Delmonico: What was that business?

Phoebe Ellsworth: He was an accountant.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Do you remember Ray Rector and Karen?

Sharon Delmonico: Sure.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, Karen — Karen worked at — Karen and Ben. Here’s Karen in one of our first catalogues.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, my gosh.

Bonnie Thoreen: She looks like a model, doesn’t she?

Sharon Delmonico: She was married to Ben.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Ben. Ben Faulk.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah.

Bonnie Thoreen: What was her name again?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Karen Rector.

Sharon Delmonico: You have like cheesecake in your hair.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I know. It’s funny, isn’t it?

Sharon Delmonico: That’s great. I love this.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And when we started, we had a printing business and a winery, and the Complete Winemaker.

Sharon Delmonico: A printing business?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. Bob printed these catalogues.

Sharon Delmonico: And they were all — all these businesses in the same —

Phoebe Ellsworth: In that one building. In that big building.

Sharon Delmonico: And you had a winery.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah.

Sharon Delmonico: What was the name of your winery?

Phoebe Ellsworth: It was called the Vintage Winery. That lasted for about — I don’t know. Not very long.

Sharon Delmonico: So, you were continuing to paint and you were having shows everywhere, and that went on consistently and still is going on?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, not so much anymore.

Sharon Delmonico: Well, you’re still painting your tablecloths.

Bonnie Thoreen: Do you have a studio, Phoebe?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. I had the hall in our house and, later on, later on I had a studio, a room.

Sharon Delmonico: Where were your houses here in St. Helena? Where did you live?

Phoebe Ellsworth: First of all, the first year when we came here, we rented a house where the Edlyns [ph] lived.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: For $250 a month.

Sharon Delmonico: Really.

Phoebe Ellsworth: We lived there for a year. And then we moved to Tainter Street. We bought a house on Tainter Street. And, but we had looked at this house on Dean York Lane that I really liked, but we hadn’t sold our other house in Berkeley so we had to — then after about a year and a half, we moved to Dean York Lane.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: In that house. And it had a long hallway and that’s where I had my paints.

Sharon Delmonico: And was there an outside studio?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. Later on, toward the end.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay. Because there was a guesthouse I think, there?

Phoebe Ellsworth: That — we did that after Bob sold the business.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, he would be like 85 now. 20 years ago, we built that. That’s ’96 huh? Is that right?

Sharon Delmonico: And so, you decided to leave Dean York Lane and come here in — because you wanted to downsize.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Because that was too much to take care of.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh. And what was that year?

Phoebe Ellsworth: What?

Sharon Delmonico: What was the year?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I think it was around 2001, I think.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah, I think that’s about right.

Sharon Delmonico: So, what did Bob do after he sold the business and retired? He was so mechanically inclined that it seemed like everybody — nobody would let him retire.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He built these very special control boxes to run a wine press. They were — you could run a wine press from your desk or a forklift truck. They were, you know, Bluetooth wine —

Sharon Delmonico: Wow.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Very complicated wine press control boxes that you could do 15 minutes or backwards or stop or — and he built those. And then he worked down at ETS a lot.

Sharon Delmonico: What’s ETS?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Etiological Technical Services. Big wine lab here down on Adams Street.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He worked there a lot and he was building those things right up until he died. And I was really worried because we tried to find — we tried three or four people to take it over, but nobody wanted to do it. It was too complicated. So, there’s a few of these boxes out there.

Bonnie Thoreen: Did he have a patent on that box?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. I think he just built them.

Bonnie Thoreen: Wow.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Let’s see who bought them. Provenance, Swanson, Gil Nichol  — what’s Gil Nichol’s –

Bonnie Thoreen: Far Niente.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Far Niente had one. And I think the guy there, Ron, he sort of — we gave him a lot of information, so maybe he’s doing it, so — anyway. Bob was very clever.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah. He was mechanical.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Very.

Sharon Delmonico: Very. It just I never really got to know him. I only met him a few times, but his reputation —

Phoebe Ellsworth: And Flint, my other son, has those same skills and abilities.

Bonnie Thoreen: So, Bob and Flint and you and Geoff.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah.

Bonnie Thoreen: Kind of right brain, left brain.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, it’s been a great place to live. I mean I really like living here a lot.

Bonnie Thoreen: Basically, both your boys have been raised here.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah. From first grade — kindergarten, first grade.

Bonnie Thoreen: Through high school.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Uh-huh. The town, you know, Palo Alto was interesting because people came, you know, to Stanford from all over the world. And this small town, people came here from all over and we weren’t just isolated in some small town.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Bonnie Thoreen: How old were your parents when they passed away?

Phoebe Ellsworth: 90 and 92, or so.

Bonnie Thoreen: Wow.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Not too long ago. Ten years ago. Well I guess more than that.

Sharon Delmonico: Who were you the closest to, your mother or your father?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Oh, probably my mother. But, you know, my father was a very, very nice man. People — lot of people said he’s a very sweet man, which is a very unusual thing for somebody to say. He was very thoughtful. And he liked physical work. You know, he was good at making some things and —

Sharon Delmonico: And did they continue to live in the house in Palo Alto their whole lives?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. When I was 21, they moved from Palo Alto to Atherton, or to Woodside, and then they moved to Atherton. That was the thing to do.

Bonnie Thoreen: It’s all in the address.

Sharon Delmonico: Right. It’s all in the address.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And then they moved to the Sequoias, which is in Portola Valley, which is…

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So that’s why I moved to the Meadows, because, you know, that was a very — but the Meadows did not turn out to be the same kind of experience.

Sharon Delmonico: And their experience at the Sequoia, was that so they had stimulation and there were a lot of ..

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, they had better care.

Sharon Delmonico: Okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And a better situation than the Meadows has.

Sharon Delmonico: And — yeah, the Meadows, I know. Tell me about Geoff’s and Flint’s relationship with your — with their grandparents.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, you know, we lived two hours away, so we didn’t see them too much. But, you know, we saw them usually at Christmas time. And they would come up here occasionally, and — but they didn’t have really, you know, too much.

Sharon Delmonico: So, they didn’t go and stay extended periods of time with your parents?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. I mean we’d go for two days or something like that and stay overnight. And I would go down and go to things in San Francisco with my mom. But they — they didn’t — mostly, it was Christmas and Easter and things like that. Birthdays, birthdays. Yeah.

Bonnie Thoreen: I see two rather heavy-duty notebooks here. Like four-inch binders. Are these, mostly the Complete Winemaker?

Phoebe Ellsworth: This one is the Complete Winemaker, and this one is — that one’s, you know, things from shows I had –

Bonnie Thoreen: More of your things, your personal things.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And then this other one is stuff I’ve designed.

Bonnie Thoreen: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Cards and brochures.

Bonnie Thoreen: Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And whatever. I kept one of these for Jeff too and Flint. He didn’t leave much behind around. That’s when I worked for the Red Cross. They had me doing art.

Sharon Delmonico: Of course.

Phoebe Ellsworth: That’s our winery and labels for the …

Bonnie Thoreen: Do you still keep notebooks and scrapbooks?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Well, yeah, sort of. That was when the library opened.

Bonnie Thoreen: I remember that.

Sharon Delmonico: Were you here when that happened?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Uh-huh. 1979.

Sharon Delmonico: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I worked pretty hard on that. And I did these catalogues for Bob.

Sharon Delmonico: And you didn’t get paid for those.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Hmm?

Sharon Delmonico: You didn’t get paid for those.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He finally paid me.

Sharon Delmonico: All right.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Finally. Oh, that was something for the Pestonis. Anyway.

Bonnie Thoreen: Beautiful.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, let’s see that.

Phoebe Ellsworth: These are for that store downtown called Flats.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, yeah. Sure. Yeah.

Sharon Delmonico: That’s in your old building.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Christmas cards and then Valentines.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh. This is beautiful. Go back. That is great. I just love that.

Phoebe Ellsworth: This — Bob printed these. That was in his printing business.

Bonnie Thoreen: Well that was a good match. You did the design and he did the printing.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And those are my Valentines.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, how sweet.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And next week, I’m going to have a little exhibit at the Rianda House.

Bonnie Thoreen: Oh, good. For what?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I’ll show you. I have to put them in a frame. These are pictures I did in Hawaii.

Sharon Delmonico: Did you go there on vacations?

Bonnie Thoreen: That’s all right.

Sharon Delmonico: Did you stay for an extended period of time?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. Just a week. But I wanted to do bigger paintings from these, but I never got around to real big paintings like that.

Bonnie Thoreen: So, these are going to be at Rianda?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yes.

Bonnie Thoreen: And you’re going to frame them for the show?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Uh-huh.

Sharon Delmonico: Look at this black and white drawing. That’s very much a departure for you. These are beautiful. What’s it called?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Bird of Paradise.

Sharon Delmonico: Bird of Paradise, right. These are really beautiful.

Bonnie Thoreen: Had you done a lot of black and white work before?

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah, I did. Quite a bit.

Sharon Delmonico: What you did on the Bartoluccis —

Phoebe Ellsworth: Yeah.

Sharon Delmonico: — is all black and white.

Phoebe Ellsworth: That’s right. I gave all those drawings to the library, to the wine library. Anyway, that’s that.

Sharon Delmonico: So, you’re going to get frames for these?

Phoebe Ellsworth: They just came today.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, so you’re going to have to put them together.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I just got these boxes and we’ll see if it works. But this was, you know, did you ever see the hotels all have these big —

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, the quilts.

Phoebe Ellsworth: — quilts, and that was kind of my inspiration, you know. To–

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, yes. Those gorgeous quilts.

Phoebe Ellsworth: — do this.

Sharon Delmonico: The Hawaiian ladies. Yeah.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, do you think I told you enough?

Bonnie Thoreen: Well, coming up to about an hour. I like to keep the interviews for about an hour, but we can always pick up and start again.

Phoebe Ellsworth: I think I told you most everything you need to know — want to know.

Bonnie Thoreen: Do you have anything else you want to add?

Phoebe Ellsworth: No. You know, I’ve led a very good life.

Phoebe Ellsworth: My friend, Cecil Cutting?

Bonnie Thoreen: Uh-huh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: He went to Palo Alto High School and I went to the senior prom with him.

Bonnie Thoreen: Really small world.

Phoebe Ellsworth: And I knew Sloan Upton and his brother.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh, my gosh.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Because they’d gone on our High trips.

Bonnie Thoreen: Oh, okay.

Phoebe Ellsworth: So, one day I was walking down my driveway and I said to the neighbor, what’s the matter with these trees? And this voice came out of the tree and said, it’s brown leaf scale, Phoebe. And I said, who is up there and how do you know my name. He said, I’m John Britton. I went to high school with you.

Sharon Delmonico: Oh my gosh, John Britton.

Bonnie Thoreen: Let’s see. Who didn’t you know?

Phoebe Ellsworth: I know. That’s funny, isn’t it?

Bonnie Thoreen: Incredible. Well our time is up. Thank you, Sharon.

Sharon Delmonico: Thank you

Bonnie Thoreen: This was fascinating material.

Sharon Delmonico: Yeah. I do too. Thank you, Phoebe.

Phoebe Ellsworth: You’re welcome. I want to show you one more thing as you go out. A little thing —

Phoebe Ellsworth: — I wrote about the cabin. What?

Sharon Delmonico: For being my training interview.

Phoebe Ellsworth: Oh. That’s good.