Santa Rosa, California Stories

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Mr. Rivers, Biology Teacher, Santa Rosa High School and Summer School; Did any of the students study with Mr. Rivers? That is how many of us met at Santa Rosa High School. I was going to Montgomery High School with a great group of friends dating back to Yulupa, Strawberry Elementary, Slater Junior High, Slater was called a Junior High and not a Middle School as the school is referred to now, but I studied at Montgomery High until I met Mr. Rivers. The students from Santa Rosa Junior High School took summer school with Mr. Rivers at Santa Rosa High School. I met these new friends at Santa Rosa High. They were smart, fun, and very energetic. Everyone wanted to go out after class every day, so we partied at Salmon Creek Beach after school, surfed, ate deli sandwiches bought on the way in Sebastopol, walked long distances along the sandy coast. We also studied Biology for hours at the downtown library on Fourth Street, and we had so much fun that I transferred from Montgomery to Santa Rosa High School. Friday after class, dozens of us, Mike, Gayle, Brian, Michelle, Tim, and more, jumped in the Green Van and drove to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to watch the first music videos on a big white monitor machine that cost like $5.00 to see a new singer named Madonna sing a rock video called Lucky Star and a young group of boys named Motley Crue sing a song called Live Wire. Madonna was a big deal. After Christmas vacation, at least four girls returned to Santa Rosa High School wearing replicas of Madonna’s dresses, creative colors all the girls in high school that wanted to wear edgy fashion following winter break as if all the girls that were Madonna fans had received Madonna clothes for Christmas from their parents. I believe the fashion warehouse in San Francisco was called Esprit or Espree, but I am fuzzy about the name and don’t really remember? Later the fashion was centered around Prince and his song When Doves Cry following his concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Also there was that Prince film called Purple Rain. Wow! I remember a few girls that worshipped Prince after going to his concert in San Francisco. The video machine was the first we had seen at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. This was before my friends would stay up late sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor of my family room on Friday nights to watch the latest videos on TV on NBC’s Friday Night Videos. Later we stayed up until midnight Friday to see the premier of the new video Like a Virgin by Madonna. Scholars would say that song changed the industry forever. I remember being exhausted and having to stay up all night with my friends eating pizza from the Brass Ass Pizza Saloon across from Howarth Park on Summerfield Road. Brass Ass had the best pizza north of San Francisco, California. Following back to Santa Cruz, Mr. River’s Biology class started at 8:00 am and ended at 12:00 noon on Friday. My friends and I closed our science books and drove south to Santa Cruz arriving at 3:00 pm after driving through San Francisco, San Jose, up the Santa Cruz Mountains, then arrived to surf, eat calamari steaks, fried prawns, shrimp cocktails, and cheese nachos at this bohemian restaurant in Santa Cruz for surfers. Nachos with melted cheese was a big deal at the time for students. Nachos with cheese sauce sort of replaced french fries as the social food to eat as we dished out gossip between the schools. I remember five friends stilling around the Santa Rosa food court with one serving of fries in a bag sharing them between us. As the sun went down over Santa Cruz beach, we boogie boarded, surfed more, shared wetsuits caked with sand, then as the sun set and the sky turned orange, all of us got non-stop ride tickets passes for all the rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: Roller coaster, bumper cars, the swing over the boardwalk, and that is where I met Michele. She saved me twice that night. First I cut my leg on a baseball game and had to go to the hospital for stitches. Michele came with me while everyone else continued to party. I still have the cut on my leg from the flying glass. There was a lot of blood draining down my leg.. If it weren’t for Michele helping me, we would have had to cut the fun short, and end the trip in Santa Cruz to return to Santa Rosa early. Second, after being out in the ocean surf and sun all day, everyone fell asleep and crashed in the back my van as I drove home. I alone had to stay awake to drive back over the Santa Cruz Mountains, north on Hwy 101 through San Jose, Silicon Valley Valley, San Francisco, and Marin County, then to drop everyone off at their individual house near Rincon Valley. Michele was the only person to stay awake with me as I poured ice water from a soda cup at 7-Eleven over my face every few minutes so that I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel of the green van. She was the last to arrive home. She wanted to make sure that everyone got home safely and I stayed awake. Michele was responsible for us all getting home safe that night because she kept me awake, especially when we hit fog north of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was a painful drive in the early morning hours after being out all day playing. A few other trivia surprises with Michele: Her father was the first person to pull a gun out on me. A handgun. That is another story. Second, her mother made this awesome homemade guacamole with a special ingredient, roasted sunflower seeds. Roasted sunflower seeds totally change the dynamic of a green avocado addition to an awesome guacamole dip. I heard that Michele is a great doctor now or a university professor in Northern California.


For many reading this, few may know the significance behind the notorious Santa Rosa Green Van, but the van was legendary for knowing where the fun was in Santa Rosa. Cars would follow the green van after football games to find out where parties were going to be after the football games ended like the football game at the Junior College stadium between Montgomery’s Vikings and the Santa Rosa High Panthers. I remember crazy stories of Billy killing a black cat with the Montgomery football players or the spreading of fish fertilizer in the hallways of Santa Rosa High by the Montgomery students before the game. There were some sick stories over the division of the two schools, but I studied at both. Drivers would see the green van stopped in the parking lot at Salmon Creek Beach in Sonoma County and know that there was a fire burning by the beach with at least a dozen people partying with drinks and food: Nachos from Bodega Bay, we picked up roasted chickens from the deli in Novato, smoked salmon by Duncan’s Beach, french bread rolls from Sebastopol, Hershey chocolate kisses were a game that couple played a kissing game with the little chocolates, bags and boxes of red vines licorice whips. My friends and I always had food to eat, soda to drink, and a fire by the white surf of the beach. If two high schools came to Salmon Creek Beach, Santa Rosa and Montgomery, there were two fires about a hundred feet from each other. I got lucky, because I went to both schools. If a girl like Michele broke up with someone at Santa Rosa High School, and she didn’t feel comfortable dating someone at Santa Rosa High, or the unwanted gossip and attention, but wanted to meet someone at Montgomery High, many times I was asked to go to the other high school fire at Salmon Creek Beach and ask her or find out if she was available, single, or get a phone number. The bridge, it was an interesting ambassadors job, as if a boy at Montgomery High School was to say, “Go to the enemy camp fire, spy to find out if the girl I like is single, tell her that I want to ask her out, and negotiate a truce to see if the girl at Santa Rosa High School will meet me.” The place couples from Montgomery and Santa Rosa would meet on the weekends was the Plaza. The Santa Rosa Mall, Take One Video Games, Food Court, in one week, you may even see them holding hands together as they walked through the mall. Couples literally met for the first time at the video arcade Take One. Remember the arcades? First we played Asteroids at 7-Eleven. Then Pac Man, before the video game arcade opened on Mendocino Avenue across from the Press Democrat Newspaper.

Stories surround each friend. Chris left the radio on so that he could get together with a girl after we told him five times repeatedly, do not turn the radio on, it will drain the battery, but Chris wanted to get laid, so he selfishly use my van keys, turned the radio on, hoping the music would drowned out the noises coming from the bed in the back my green van, and we were all stranded at the beach with a dead battery, while Chris slept in the arms of the girl he had just seduced in the back of the green van. Finally, someone pulled up a car at about 5:30 am, we pulled out jumper cables, electrified the engine, and started to drive east to Sebastopol and into Santa Rosa around 7:00 am. There are more stories. You may have some I don’t remember. For example,

The S.R. track star that threw up macaroni and cheese in the back of the van.
Tim’s Smoking Green Van
Surfing at Stinson Beach

Fishing in Spring Lake
Fishing in Mendocino County and Humboldt County for Steelhead  
Morton’s Warm Springs

Stories about Couples Making Out in Annadel State Park

James and Cathy kissing on a hill, release the parking brake, and their car rolls down the hill.
The car accident Brian and Kenny survived.

Brian Tiewater and I had the best stories. Brian taught me to have adventures before I had a driver’s license.

mr rivers


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