Returning to Our Roots

Long before we were rock ‘n rollers, my sister Sue and I spent our formative years in Woodland, an idyllic agriculture-centric town in the Sacramento Valley.  Even though it was 20 miles away from Sacramento, Woodland was in another world.  Two routes to Sacramento existed, and one was underwater part of every winter.  

When we were young, we went to Sacramento to buy school clothes.  By the time Sue and I were teens, we shopped for clothes in town -- no shopping trips to the big city for us.  Woodlanders went to Sacramento for high school athletics, the circus, the State Fair, and “culture.”  As part of my acculturation and probably to the chagrin of their parents, I would round up some friends and head off to the big city on occasion to see Ray Charles or James Brown.

Woodland was like any number of Valley towns.  That is “Valley” as in California’s Central Valley -- not the San Fernando Valley of Valley Girl fame in the 80s.  The Central Valley was, and for the most part still is, flat and agricultural -- flanked to the west by the Coast Range and to the east by the Sierras.  It is separated from Los Angeles by the Tehachapi Mountains.  US Highway 99 ran down the middle of the Valley -- from Redding to Bakersfield.  Actually, Highway 99 ran from Blaine, Washington, at the U.S.-Canada border to Calexico at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Like many other Valley towns, Woodland was built around a Main Street.  In our youth, a good number of Woodland’s teens could be found on Friday and Saturday nights “cruising Main.”  The route was east on Main Street to the A&W drive-in where people turned around to make the trip west to the J.C. Penny’s/Stop ‘n Shop parking lot.  This was truly a social event as gas was cheap and kids hung out car windows to talk, yell at each other, or flip somebody off.

American Graffiti could have taken place in Woodland except we did not have an airport, a radio station with Wolfman Jack, or Suzanne Somers in a ’57 T-bird.  Of course, neither did Modesto -- the Valley town on Highway 99 where George Lucas was born and which was the backdrop for the movie.  In reality, Woodland was not all that different from Modesto.

The A&W was where I first heard “Roadrunner” by the Wailers.  It was on the jukebox.  Despite being a Valley town and quite provincial, Woodland never banned Link Wray’s “Rumble,” which we heard on one of the two Sacramento AM radio stations -- KROY and KXOA -- that played rock ‘n roll.  Both Sue and I were gone from Woodland when the Kingsmen released “Louie Louie.”  But the Sacramento AM stations played “Louie Louie” and “The Witch” by the Sonics.  My introduction to and love for garage music -- primitive and simple -- began in Woodland and “matured” in Sacramento.

By now, you are asking yourself, “Has senility finally taken him back in time?”  The answer is, “No.  This post has currency.”  

The Pups will bring their instrumental garage surf rock to Woodland on Sunday, September 15th.  It will the day after the “All 60s Reunion” of Woodland High School.  A decade’s worth of middle-aged to old folks will gather to renew acquaintances, swap stories, and probably talk about grandchildren and maladies.  The next day, Sue and I will return to our roots and rock whomever shows up at the Black Dragon Brewery.

Is that cool or what?

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