Vincent & Claire Amendola

Claire and Vince Amendola
Claire and Vince Amendola

Vincent and Claire Amendola

Interviewer: Norma Ferriz
Interview Date: November 18, 2013

Norma: Good evening, my name is Norma Ferriz and I will be interviewing Vincent and Clair Amendola for the St. Helena Historical Society. Today is November 18 of 2013. Thank you for your time and can you start by sharing where were you born and a little bit about you?

Vincent: Sure. I was born a little over 90 years ago, 1923, in San Francisco. My mother was a native San Franciscan. My father was an immigrant from Italy. He came to San Francisco when he was 18 years old. My mother was born just a couple of months after her parents got here from Italy so she was started in Italy, born in San Francisco. So, I spent most of my early life there, except for some time in the Army, and then I met my wife, Claire, and after we were married, we spent two more years in San Francisco. I had to finish my high school, my college work. I wanted to be a high school teacher and I did finish it and my first job was here in St. Helena, at St. Helena High School in 1949.

Norma: Ok, so now Claire, can you tell us a little bit about you?

Claire: Sure. I was born in Newman, California in the Central Valley. I went to college at San Francisco State. Where I lived in Guadeloupe when I was a child, then in Santa Maria. I went to high school in Santa Maria, and then I went to college at San Francisco State for a teaching credential in music and music education also. And then I got my first job teaching in San Francisco. At that time Vince was still going back to school because he’d been in the Army overseas. So, then we married in 1949. So, in this December we’ll be married 66 years.

Norma: Congratulations.

Claire: And so, when we came up here, it was Vince’s first job. And they happened to say, the guy that was interviewing him, Harold Hill was interviewing him, and he said, he found out that I was a teacher too. And he said what does she teach? At that time, I was teaching music and English. He said, oh, might she be interested in a job too? So, I taught in the Junior High and he taught in the High School. I just taught for a year, because I stopped to have children. So, I had Michelle.

Norma: Was it at that time, the Junior High, was it RLS ?

Vincent: There was no Junior High.

Claire: The Junior High was in the Quonset hut that used to be on the High School campus.

Vincent: They were housed in the buildings right adjacent to the High School.

Claire: In was a Quonset hut.

Norma: So, was there a primary and a middle? How was the schools at that time? How were the schools? Was there a primary school and an elementary?

Vincent: There was an elementary school on Adams Street there.

Norma: Where it still is?

Vincent: Yeh

Norma: OK

Vincent: That was K through 6. And then in 1949 when we started, by that time the 7th and 8th grade were being taught down at the High School. I think it happened a few years earlier, but the 7th and 8th grade and 9 though 12 were all —- in those several older buildings. A couple of them were wooden temporary buildings. AG department was there. And after school was out, some of the men teachers would go out to the AG department, and close the door and have a cigarette.

Norma and Claire: (Laughing)

Norma: Oh wow. So, was there Vintage Hall there? Was, you know, the nice building of Vintage Hall there? That was part of the High School?

Vincent: That was the main building. It was built in 1912. And most of our classes were in there, but then of course there was some that were in some of the other buildings because there were 50 students per class, graduating class, so that meant that you would need about two classes to satisfy each year of graduates, so if we had 200 high school students, you’d need about eight classes going on at once. More or less, because you had P.E. and Study Hall and all of that.

Norma: Was there a library already at the High School?

Vincent: Yes, there was.

Norma: OK. And what are some memories that you remember about the High School?

Vincent: Well, I later taught in a suburban high school. And the difference is quite telling because here you knew all the students because you saw them every day. You knew their brothers and sisters. You knew their mothers and fathers because you saw them in town.

Claire: Some of them babysat for us.

Vincent: Some of the students would babysit for us. Whereas in a suburban high school where I taught later in San Mateo for five years, we knew the students alright, but we only saw them for one period and then you might not see them again. Here and now I can remember the names of many of my St. Helena students, but my students down at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, very few names I remember. Didn’t see them that often. But here all of my former students are 75 years old and over.

Norma: And you still see them in town some of them?

Vincent: Sure.

Claire: They invite us to a lot of their reunions.

Vincent: Many of my former students are still rattling around. Frank Borges is one and Richard Shurtz is another. Bob Trinchero and his sister.

Claire: I had Bob too, in the 8th grade. He was cute.

Vincent: And of course, there’s a number that I run into in Safeway now and then.

Norma: Uh huh, yea, that’s awesome. So, you came in ’49 and then you started teaching, but then you say you left for San Mateo.

Vincent: We taught here for seven years and decided to leave. Part of the impetus for leaving was that money was scarce here and the school district tried to pass an increase in the tax for schools.

Claire: Three times

Vincent: Well, it was turned down once, tried again and turned down again. This was in the spring of 1956. And then somebody came up with the idea that well maybe they need the money so let’s try another election for ten cents for one year only. That went down also. They voted against it.

Norma: Ten cents of our taxes or ten cents of what?

Vincent: An additional ten cents per tax per $100. By that time, money was a big decision to leave and over half of the high school staff left. The whole school board resigned. Quit.

Claire: And they were a good school board.

Norma: Because they needed the money to pay better the teachers?

Vincent: Yeh.

Claire: And to take care of the students.

Vincent: When I moved to San Mateo, I got a nice raise. Enough to live on. Here it was ….

Claire: Marginal

Vincent: Much lower. I don’t really remember exact amounts now. But there were a group of people that were not supportive of more money for the schools and then there were those that thought the schools should have more money. So, what happened is, as I said, many of the teachers either retired or left.

Norma: Tough time for the High School to lose many teachers at the same time.

Vincent: High School and Elementary also.

Norma: And the elementary school. How terrible.

Claire: They had a few rough years after that.

Norma: So that was approximately 1955, right ?

Vincent: ‘56

Claire: A little before ’56 too because there were three different elections.

Vincent: A new school board was elected. They selected a new superintendent and they had to hire, oh it must have been ten or twelve new teachers who were willing to take the smaller wage, the lower wage, that compared to the rest of the Bay Area. 

Claire: One of the nice things I remember when I was teaching there because we had this Quonset hut, it just had two rooms in it, you know, so we were right next to where the, uh, what’s our friend’s name, that has a winery right next to…

Norma: Susanne Salvestrin

Claire: Salvestrin. Yeh. Little Mrs. Salvestrin used to come out, she would be the grandma of the family, would you say that ? She used to come up, when we’d have a little break between, she’d come up, wave to me shyly. It was so cute. She was a cute little lady.

Norma: They still have the house.

Claire: We’ve been to meetings there. That was nice.

Norma: So, how come you came back?

Vincent: How come we came back? Well, I taught in San Mateo for five and a half years and I was very active in the California Teachers’ Association. The teachers’ union. And a job opened up in 1962 and I applied for it and I worked in the California Teachers’ Association for 27 years. Claire, meanwhile, raised our children, when they were little older, she…

Claire: I can tell that part, (laughing) When I taught, I stopped to have Michelle, I had been a piano teacher, and so I taught piano lessons here for a few years, just part-time when I was home. And then I did quite a long substitution for a guy that got sick and couldn’t finish at the High School. And then when we moved to San Mateo, I was home for a while, and had piano students as well for several years. Because Vince was so busy with his new job, and had to be out late in the afternoon and sometimes evenings because he was working with teachers then. I got bored, so I said I’m going back to school. And get a degree in French. So that’s what I did and then I got a job in Cupertino and taught French for 22 years in Cupertino.

Norma: Where is Cupertino? Close to San Mateo?

Claire: In Silicon Valley.

Vincent: Near San Jose.

Norma: But you were living in San Mateo?

Claire: This was after we moved to San Mateo.

Norma: Right. Right.

Claire: Yeh

Norma: So, Ok, tell me. So, you were with the Association for 22 years.

Vincent: 27 years

Norma: For 27 years. And you were teaching piano, and then to Cupertino. So then when do you come back again to St. Helena?

Vincent: Well, before we retired, we knew we wanted to return here, so we came up and looked around, and we’d leave our name with a real estate person, never hear from them again because the places were selling in St. Helena, they didn’t have to find buyers. So, one weekend we came up and we found a place and it was this one on Fulton Lane and we bought it. It had a very old shack on it that was about 100 years old plus a building there was maybe 30 years old. So, we had to divide the property into two parcels and in place of the old shack we built this house that we have now, designed by a friend of ours who’s an architect, and we’ve been in this house now since uh, well, well over 25 years. We enjoy it.

Norma: Why did you have to divide it in two parcels ?

Vincent: It was zoned at five-acre agricultural.

Claire: And you could only have some many buildings on each parcel…

Norma: Per parcel, oh. Oh, so in order to have the house…

Vincent: On the 3-acre parcel, the city agreed to uh, we cut it in half and so we have one acre and the other was one acre plus.

Norma: Oh Ok, in order to be able to build this house.

Vincent: Yes

Norma: Oh, Ok, so why do you did you want to come back to St. Helena? What was appealing?

Claire: Because we’d loved it before. (She laughs)

Norma: What did you love about it?

Claire: Well, of course it’s changed a lot, you know, but we knew when we came back, we didn’t know most of the people but at the time we were here, of course, we felt like we knew almost everybody in town, you know? And we thought it was a beautiful area. We just liked it. You used to be able to stand in the middle of Main Street and talk to your friends for two minutes without a car coming along, you know? Back in those days it was really a small agricultural town, before uh, before uh, what’s his name, the guy who advertised the…

Norma: Mondavi?

Claire: Mondavi, before he promoted the valley so much that, you know, it became very popular.

Norma: So, when you first came was it mostly all this area around Fulton, was it mostly agricultural, for example?

Vincent: It was about the same as now.

Norma: Ok, there were a few houses.

Vincent: There were three lots with homes on them, and there was the Nursery there that has been sold now. And Carpenter, Dr. Carpenter, had a number of acres around west and north of us.

Claire: And then Cooke, he just died, he has 14 acres here, they’re gonna, well I think they’re gonna put it up for sale. We hoping it will be for vineyards.

Vincent: They have 14 acres here and he has just passed away I believe, and I believe they’re going to sell that, try to sell it, they’ll sell it.

Norma: Was it, at that time, it was all those acres, was its vineyards?

Vincent: Originally it was vineyard, many, many years ago before Cooke had it, it was owned by a family called DalPorto. DalPorto, one of the sons was in school when I was teaching there and then when Cookie bought it, I don’t think they, I’m sure they didn’t take care of it because it went from bad to worse. Olive trees grew there, oak trees grew there, some of the vines remained, others died. It became a wonderful place for birds and rabbits and now we’ve lost those because they cleaned out all the plants.

Norma: I know they just did, about three months ago, something like that.

Claire: When we first came to look at the property, the lady that owned it _(she is difficult to understand here) right? I don’t remember what her name was. But anyway, she had it cut up into little sections. She had calves in them.

Norma: Over here?

Claire: Yeah. It was cute. She’d raise the calves and then she’d have them butchered, you know at the end of the year. Put away a store of meat.

Norma: Ohhh

Claire: So, she had to get rid of them. It was cute. When we were taking some slide pictures earlier on, I have one picture of a cow, a calf, looking over my shoulder while we were working in the back.

Norma: Oh wow, I can’t imagine cows here. So difficult to imagine.

Vincent: The real estate agent was a Rianda.

Norma: Oh Miss Rianda, yes, of course. Oh wow. So, she’s the one that sold you this property. What a wonderful connection.

Claire: Nice lady.

Norma: Uh-huh, and was Main Street, you said that you could be talking for two minutes, in town, but was it, like, all the same amount of businesses and the same kind of businesses?

Claire: Pretty much, except the businesses have gotten really fancy and expensive now. Used to be able to go and, you know, buy Normal clothes, underwear, jeans, without paying a fortune for them.

Norma: Right, right.

Claire: Now some of my friends in Napa will say, “Where do you shop in St. Helena?” I said, “I don’t”. (She laughs)

Vincent: Where Safeway is was a lumberyard. And Central Valley was not there, but it was started in town as a small lumberyard and building material. I don’t recall the name of the person who started it.

Claire: Creasy

Vincent: Creasy.

Claire: Yeah, I had his daughter for piano lessons.

Vincent: One of streets down in the south end of town was name after a daughter, what, Victoria?

Claire: Victoria, yeah.

Vincent: Yeah

Claire: Like when you’re getting ready to turn down toward Raymond Winery. It’s on the left side.

Norma: And its name for the daughter of Creasy that owned the lumberyard.

Vincent: Well many of the streets here were named after people. Some were still alive at the time. The Stice family was around. Stice Lane. York, another street. Fulton Lane was named after a person, but he died way before we were here. Back in the 1800’s. So many any of the streets out of town are named after families that lived there. Galleron Lane.

Norma: Oh, there was a Mr. Galleron ?

Vincent: Ah, yes, he was a, he was one of those that was against the tax deal. He did me a favor, because I got out and I got me a job that was very nice.

Norma: I know Crinella, where I live, was also a family, the family Crinella. So, tell me about your family.

Claire: Well, let’s see, Michelle was born in 1951, Steve was born in 1952, and then David was born in 1957.

Vincent: We had 3 children.

Claire: Three children. So, Michelle lives next door and Steve lives in Yountville with his wife and sons and David lives in San Mateo.

Norma: So, Michelle and Steve were born in St. Helena.

Vincent: Yeah.

Claire: Up at the hospital.

Norma: At the Sanitarium, was it called the Sanitarium or was it called the St. Helena Hospital ?

Vincent: They called it the San. Dr. Brignoli was our doctor.

Claire: Yeah, he was nice.

Norma: You liked him because he was Italian like you ?

Vincent: Well, I don’t know how it happened.

(Everyone laughing)

Claire: Also, a good friend of ours was Dr. Neal too. Dick Neal.

Vincent: Yeah, he moved to Petaluma about 25 years ago, passed away also. Dr. Booth, there was still three doctors then. Booth was on the school board. There was some very nice people on the school board. John Daniel, who at that time his family owned Inglenook, was on the school board. Violet Young passed away maybe six or eight years ago, was on the school board and also later she was on the county school board. Good people and they were interested in good schools. We had a good staff, but there wasn’t enough money to keep us here. I got a very nice raise when I left here and went to San Mateo. I had to think of my family rather than just thinking of living in a nice town.

Norma: You had two babies at that time and one that was soon to come. But interesting that you came back. Tell me about like the services like how were the police or the firemen or the library. Tell me about those services, the first time you came for example.

Vincent: Well the library used to be on the corner of Oak and Adams.

Norma: Carnegie Building

Claire: Yeah, the Carnegie.

Vincent: And uh, City Hall used to be, well, there’s a parking lot there now, but it was right next to the Credit Union on Main and Adams.

Norma: Where Silverado Credit Union is right now.

Vincent: I don’t know about the Police Department

Norma: You didn’t deal with them.

(Everyone laughs)

Vincent: At that time, I was always behaving, so no problem.

(Everyone laughs)

Norma: What about, like you said, you knew everybody and the students, so was it, like the people, like everybody, the kids were able to roam freely or what are some particular memories that you may have?

Claire: I can tell you a couple. Vince was out of the house for something, I don’t know, maybe a meeting or something, I get a knock on my door it’s evening, it’s after dark, it’s a bunch of the kids there and they say, “ We got something for Mr. Amendola.” I said, “Ok.” They say “ Can we put it in the garage?” I said, “OK.” There was nothing to do for the kids in those days. So, they brought in a whole bunch of frogs that they’d gotten so they could dissect them in class. So, they put them in the laundry. You could hear them plopping.

Norma: They put them in the laundry basket?

Claire: No not in the laundry basket, in the laundry sink in some pans of water. The kids used to go out and shoot rats too, at the dump because they didn’t have anything to do.

Norma: Oh my, wow. Where was the dump?

Vincent: Oh, you had to go out Rossi Road; I don’t know the specifics of it now.

Norma: Where were you living?

Claire: We were living at the end of Adams. And what’s the cross street there?

Norma and Vincent: Hudson

Vincent: We lived right across from Spottswoode.

Norma: Oh OK. Wow, what a gift.

Vincent: Well, we rented there and then we bought an old house that had been built by a family that later lived in it.

Claire: It was Episcopal. The Episcopal minister’s house.

Vincent: It was bought by the Episcopal Church and then they sold it and we bought it for a very reasonable amount. It has since been bought at a much, much higher price, remodeled and now owned by…

Claire: Vera Trinchero. Vera Trinchero

Vincent: Yeah, Vera Trinchero. She bought it and her mother-in-law, former mother-in-law, lived there until recently, may still be there, I don’t know.

Norma: Where was that house?

Vincent: It’s almost on the corner of Allyn Avenue and Adams.

Norma: Oh, Allyn and Adams. And then you sold it when you went to San Mateo?

Vincent: Yes

Norma: Oh, so you bought it really fast.

Vincent: Well we sold it for $6,200.

Claire: We bought it for $5,000 or something. Then I think Vera put in probably $300,000 just remodeling it. Things change.

Norma: Things really change. So now that you live here, what are some of the most striking changes that you have seen, either for the good or for the not so good?

Claire: Well, traffic’s completely different.

Vincent: The what?

Claire: The traffic is kind of amazing. It takes you ten or fifteen minutes sometimes just to get from one end of town to the other. That’s probably one of the biggest changes.

Vincent: We were here in the ‘50’s there was heavy traffic on the weekend. We laid it on Lake County because there was vacation people with a place up there. Now when we have traffic, it’s not Lake County, it’s Napa County. Traffic is impossible now.

Norma: But in the ‘50s there was a lot of traffic going through Main Street or Highway 29.

Claire: I don’t remember a lot of it…I don’t remember a lot of it…

Norma: On the weekends

Claire: I don’t remember a lot of it…

Vincent: There are a lot of things you don’t remember.

Claire: Look who’s talking.

(Everyone laughs)

Norma: Ok so traffic. Was there a lot more people on bicycles?

Vincent: No.

Norma: Walking?

Vincent: No, I don’t remember

Claire: I think so, yeah. There are more people. No, there are more people now on bicycles. I see more people now on bicycles.

Norma: OK, just more people then.

Claire: We probably miss knowing more people in a certain sense. Although we can’t keep up with some of the friends we have, so we don’t need to make new friends. But it was fun to know more people. Because you knew their parents, you knew their kids in school, they baby sat, or I had them for piano lessons.

Vincent: I think there are a lot more second homes in St. Helena now than there used to be. There were some before. A couple come to mind, but now I heard that in a census a while back they estimated the town would have so many and it didn’t. The reason for it is they base it on the number of new water and electrical outlets, but most of the people don’t live there. The houses are empty during the week. Quite a few people that have made their fortune elsewhere and now retire here. We have a neighbor down the street that used to be with (indecipherable) tech. He bought the nursery here and he’s in the process of building a home, a retirement home, it happens.

Claire: I think one thing that’s unfortunate is that because there are so many people that are well to do, that can afford to come into the valley now, that it makes it very difficult for people to find housing that’s reasonably priced, so that you have a lot of people who have to live in Napa or live someplace fairly distant from their jobs and that’s too bad. And then of course there’s some advantages too because the wealthy people have more money to spend so we can make a lot of beautiful houses and they make beautiful improvements on the houses. So that’s a nice thing too.

Norma: So, at that time the houses were cheaper. Were there also apartments or there were mostly houses?

Claire: Mostly houses.

Vincent: Well everything was cheaper then. Wages, you know, food, houses. Yeah, that’s Normal. Right now,…

Claire: The housing boom.

Vincent: We’re higher than many areas around the Bay Area because it’s such a desirable place to live.

Claire: When we rented on Adams, it was a nice home. We were paying $50 a month rent, you know?

Norma: A home with two or three rooms…

Everyone: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah

Claire: We had several bedrooms.

Vincent: We even had a basin for the frogs in the garage.

Norma: Exactly. That was a good memory of Claire. Do you have one that strikes you?

Vincent: Well, the kids used to have a, the Senior Class would have a free day, sort of a Sneak Day, they called it. It wasn’t really a Sneak Day because the school administration knows about it. But they would arrange to have a day at some resort usually in Lake County and there would be picnicking and swimming and stuff like that. So, what happened is that many of the girls in the graduating class would have boyfriends that were older. So, the boyfriends would say oh, the class is going to be up in a certain place in Lake County, they’d bring a case of beer up there the night before and hide it in the bushes. So, with the class of ’54, I was advisor to the committee. I said you want to do something different, they said, well, what is it? I said, let’s find a different place for Senior Day Off and not tell anybody about it. They said Ok. I said well all four of you have to keep your mouths shut. The only people that we’re gonna let know is the school principal, the school secretary and so on. So, we did that. We arranged for a place down in Marin County and people kept their word. The word didn’t leak out. So, in order to baffle these people when we left the high school, we didn’t go south on 29, we went north and then over to Santa Rosa and then down to Marin. We were going up the highway and someone said hey this isn’t the way to Lake County, I said, yeah, it’s a different way. But we got down there and later on some of the girls called their boyfriends and those boyfriends showed up later but we didn’t have the problem of large amounts of beer stashed in the bushes down in Fairfax in Marin County. So, it was a little different Senior Sneak Day. Very nice.

Norma: I’m not sure the girls would like it, liked it at that moment.

Claire: Tell about some of the excursions to San Francisco too.

Vincent: When the kids were 9th or, the class of ‘53, when they were ninth graders, the first year I was here in ‘49-’50 I got the bright idea they might enjoy a day in San Francisco, so we got permission to do it, and we were going to spend a day out at Playland at the Beach and then we were going to have dinner in the City, Chinese dinner, because it was reasonable and then come home. So, we did that. Everybody had a good time out at Playland at the Beach. One of the boys, whose name I won’t mention now, loved hotdogs. Hotdogs were 10 or 15 cents you know and he stuffed himself on hotdogs so that when we had the Chinese meal, he didn’t have any appetite left. So, we arrived in Chinatown and one of the larger restaurants and we had a Chinese meal, then came home. Good experience.

Another experience, I took my biology class over to Tomales Bay and Dillon Beach and we puttered around in the tide pools and kids dug for clams and then they didn’t want to take any home so we had them in a sack. So, what happened is I took them home and had to eat them.

Norma: So, you all enjoyed it.

Claire: Didn’t mind at all.

Vincent: Marietta Voorhees and I, you’ve heard of Marietta, I assume. She and I were the advisors to the class of ’54 and she was a great colleague, wonderful, and I taught half of the science and the other parts of science were taught by Nemo Debley. A good faculty to work with. One of the newer staff members, Cliff McLane, just passed away, I noticed in the paper. He was about 90. He came as a P.E. teacher and baseball coach and then about the time we all left in ’56 he moved to Contra Costa College; I believe. I don’t know what else I can tell you about my stay here.

Claire: We had Harold Hill. He was an excellent principal.

Vincent: Harold Hill was a superintendent and he was a wonderful man and a good administrator and a good leader, but a lot of the people weren’t happy with him. Part of it was because he put the transportation of students up for bid and the school district didn’t own the buses. The transportation of students used to go to one family all the time.

Norma: Wait, the bus only went to one house?

Vincent: Oh no, there were a number of buses…

Claire: Only one family got the contract

Vincent: They got all the business, except that one-year Harold Hill invited other companies. The other company had a much lower bid and the folks that lost the bid and their friends were unhappy about the loss of the business to an “outside” company. But if you leave it open for bid that’s what happens.

Norma: Was the outside company out of the town?

Vincent: Yeah. I forget where they were from but they were in the bussing business and they knew what they were doing. They, of course, hired local people to drive the buses. They didn’t bring people out from elsewhere, but they evidently could do it for a lot lower price than the local folks could do it.

Norma: Do you know how far they went to pick up children, like all the way to Angwin or …

Vincent: They had some pick-ups in Pope Valley and some were about halfway to Calistoga and some about halfway to Yountville. I think they took in Oakville. And that was about it. As I said the whole high school at that time was about 200 kids and the junior high was maybe 125 and some of the graduating classes by the time, they were seniors were down to 45 kids. They would drop out, you know. We had some excellent students, of course, that went on to excellent jobs and universities. One of our students ended up at El Camino Junior College in the Los Angeles area. Another one was at one of the large Eastern Universities in the Boston area. I forget which one. Others were quite distinguished; well I mentioned Bob Trinchero was one. Roy Raymond ran Beringer Brothers for a while and then they sold it and he and his father and his brother bought land on Zinfandel Lane and started the Raymond Winery, which they sold a couple of years ago. Roy is now retired and in Arizona. I think his brother, Walter, is still in town. Trinchero, of course, his family started out a year or two before we came up here. They bought a little mom and pop wine store and then Bob went in the service. I think he went in the Navy and when he came home he got involved in the business and sort of took over the running of it and they made a big hit with White Zinfandel and Zinfandel, of course, is a black grape, but what they would do is take the juice as it comes out and ferment that without the skins, so it doesn’t get dark. Vera told me at one time, “Vince, every year for about five or six years we doubled the production of White Zin.”

Claire: It’s not very good wine, but people liked it.

Vincent: But it sold.

Norma: Exactly, the market was there.

Vincent: It still is. It’s one of the larger wine companies in the United States now.

Claire: He was so cute when I had him in the 7th or 8th grade, I’ve forgotten which. He didn’t like to study too much, you know. It was English class and they had to do some written things and they had to do a little oral presentation. I knew darn well he had really prepared that, but he got up there and he got such a sparkle in his eyes. So cute, not just cute looking but he just has a way, his personality, you know, he really had a lot of sparkle. You had to give him an A because he put on such a good talk. Of course, it was about stuff he knew already, but still he did a good job.

Vincent: He’d be a good person to interview. He’s not really working now; he takes a lot of vacations.

Claire: I think he’s retired, isn’t he?

Vincent: Yeah, he’s retired, but he still sits on Boards and stuff. I gave him a bunch; I lent him a bunch of my science books that he’s reading right now.

Claire: John Daniels took Vince up in the plane one time when they were…when you teach in a small school you get a lot of other duties, like Vince was in charge of the lunch room, weren’t you, for a while.

Vincent: I was in charge of the photographers and one year we decided we wanted a shot of the High School building, a beautiful building, so John Daniel, who was on the School Board, and owned Inglenook, took me up. I asked him. We took some shots of the High School and they’re currently in the front piece, I guess you call it the front piece of a book, right?

Norma: The first page?

Vincent: Well, before the first page. It ties in the cover and the first page of, I think, it’s the yearbook of 1954. It’s a nice shot. He was a good man, a very good man, John.

Norma: So, you said that something that is good that you live here is that when there is reunions. Do you go to some of those reunions, High School reunions, because they were your students?

Claire: Yeah

Vincent: We usually get invited to most of them.

Claire: Yeah, we do, which is very nice.

Norma: So, what do you talk about there with the people?

Vincent: Well they tell me all the things that I forgot.

(Everyone laughs)

Norma: About the times when you were there?

Vincent: They say “Mr. Amendola, you did this, this and this.” I say “Oh no I didn’t.” They say “Oh yes you did.”
(Everyone laughs)

Claire: They talk about their current life. It’s nice. It’s really sweet of them to include us.

Norma: Yeah, it’s awesome that you’re here. That’s good for that.

Vincent: One of the recent reunions, one of the kids said to me “You know, you remember when we went on that trip to the Grand Canyon in Utah?” Ralph Ingols had sponsored the trip and a couple of us went along at request to help and have more adults and I was one of them and Dunk (?) Fisher who was the AG teacher was another one. So, this kid says, this was about ten years ago, he said, “You remember you told me to straighten out on the trip and if I didn’t, you’d put my butt on the first airplane back to San Francisco and that would be it. ” I said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have said that to you. “ He said “Oh yes you did!”

(Everyone laughs)

Norma: So, you took field trips out of state.

Vincent: Yes, I was a part of helping. Ralph Ingols would help set up the trip. Once in a while he would ask people to go along. Violet Young, one of the School Board members went because one of her children was in that class. Dunk (?) Fisher was another, I was another. We had several extra adults. You didn’t want to have 40 or 50 kids with only one adult. You needed several.

Norma: How did you choose where to go?

Vincent: Ralph Ingols would work it out with the kids. On this trip I remember they went to Salt Lake City. He arranged for us to sleep in a gym there. Then we went to Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Death Valley on our way home.

Claire: I missed because I was pregnant with David and I couldn’t go.

Vincent: Yeah, she couldn’t go, but that was a nice trip and a lot of the kids went down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Some of them walked down. I went about half way down, that was enough for me. I knew what was down there.

Norma: Did you get to go to any field trip, Claire? Or not at all.

Claire: I didn’t go on any field trips, no. Because I had the kids at home to take care of, Michelle and Steve.

Vincent: Ralph Ingols, who passed away a couple of years ago, use to take some of the students up, they had a cabin up in the Sierras near Soda Springs. He’d take kids up there; they’d go skiing for a three-day weekend or something like that and a lot of the kids who are in there 70’s would remember that.

Norma: Sorry, but I didn’t get, why did he get them, was he the Superintendent?

Vincent: Why would he do it? Oh, he was a teacher, he taught Gym and High School and he did things like that, same as I took the kids to the City one time. Field trips like that were nice for the kids and also educational.

Claire: I had my share of field trips when I was teaching French. I went to France twice with the kids and to Japan once because in Cupertino we had a Sister City in Toyokawa, Japan. The mayor from Toyokawa had been bombed during the war in World War II and he wanted to have sort of a peace initiative with the kids, so the Japanese kids came to our place and then we went over there. It was neat. We stayed in Japanese homes.

Vincent: But of course, that wasn’t St. Helena where those kind of trips were available.

Norma: But who paid for those trips? The San Francisco one was sort of easy, but

Vincent: The kids

Norma: Oh, the kids needed to pay, oh, OK.

Vincent: I’m pretty sure that, well, the district may have paid for the bus. I don’t remember, frankly. But the kids paid for all of their expenses and perhaps a part of the bus, I don’t remember that.

Norma: And you, as a teacher, you had to pay for your own expenses?

Vincent: Yeah, I was teaching, what costs?

Norma: For the hotel and food?

Vincent: Oh, we wouldn’t do a hotel in the San Francisco area

Norma: No that’s a short one.                                                                                                                                    

Vincent: We went down in one day and come back.

Norma: But the Arizona one

Vincent: Well, the Arizona one, like I say, they slept in the gym in Salt Lake City and Ralph would arrange for sleeping spaces for the kids in their sleeping bags at the different parks so we didn’t stay in hotels and stuff.

Norma: Ok, well, great experiences. Being a teacher is gives you a lot of people and yeah/\…

Claire: I love teaching.

Norma: And then you get to go to all the reunions so that’s good.

Norma: So, is there anything, final words so, for example, so what would you say is a primary way that St. Helena has contributed to your life? Like you contributed to the life of St. Helena through educating their youth. How do you think St. Helena has contributed to your life?

Vincent: Well, I feel that a teacher who is halfway alive and halfway smart will learn a hell of a lot in their first year of teaching and I did that. I learned, I think I was a pretty reasonable teacher and I think I learned a lot in my first year of teaching. What to do, what not to do. You couldn’t get along with all the kids, but in the end,  you worked with them. Some of those that were really a pain in the neck ended up being friends, you know, but that’s as I say, that’s the thing that I learned from teaching here is how to be a much better teacher. What do you think?

Claire: Oh yeah. I feel quite the same way, but I also loved the beauty of St. Helena. I was so busy with having two children that close, so at the time I didn’t have time, so to speak, to smell the roses, so it’s been really nice to be a little freer now that our kids are grown up and be able to enjoy the surroundings and so on. Do a little gardening and do that sort of thing.

Norma: OK

Claire: We’ve made some very nice friends here.

Norma: Michele told me that you have a friend that is 97 years old? From St Helena?

Claire: Esther Sawyer.

Vincent: Esther Sawyer lived down whatever. They were neighbors of ours when we moved up here. And her husband, Whitey Sawyer, worked in the Post Office. Before that he was a distributor of Shell gasoline. They used to distribute to the farms. But they came to California at about the end of World War II from Indiana. And Esther, as we say, is still alive and Whitey passed away…

Claire: And she’s very alert.

Vincent: They have three children. One is living in Napa, another one is living in Pittsburg, and the third one, Larry, lives in Calistoga. They were transplants from the Midwest; you see. Typical California story. When I was teaching, one of the things I would ask the kids is, you know, how many of you were born in California. And it was always a fraction, maybe half.

Claire: Oh, when I was teaching in Cupertino, it was more so.

Vincent: Huh?

Claire: When I was teaching in Cupertino it was more so because you had all these people from Silicon Valley whose parents had come from all over.

Vincent: They had all the specialists and technicians from all over the world there down in Cupertino. And most of them, their parents were not born in California.

Claire: Oh, I forgot to say to you, when I graduated from college, I taught in the last remaining K-8 school in San Francisco, which was up in kind of a fancy district of San Francisco. So, I taught 7th and 8th grade, their English and Music at that time. It was an interesting cross-section of kids. Mostly they were from families who were fairly well off. One family that was, had to be a very rich family. And some kids whose parents worked at the Presidio, they were connected with the service. That was interesting too. Good job.

Vincent: Yeah, that was a pretty fancy school.

Norma: Ok, I think that’s it for the interview, so thank you very much. It was really fun and interesting and maybe, you know, somehow if you can connect us with Esther that would be great because I think that she also would be somebody interesting to talk to.

Vincent: Well, she’s a talker, believe me.

Norma: So that would be nice.

Vincent: She’ll go back more than we will because she was here at the end of World War II. We didn’t come here until ’49, but she was very active in the Methodist Church and lived here all the years that we were in San Mateo, so there’s no reason why you folks couldn’t get in touch with her down at the ..

Claire: Well, I’ll call her and tell her.

Norma: If you can all her and if she says yes, then we can contact her. That would be good.