I’ve often said that the reason I enjoyed the old Andy Griffith Show so much was because I practically grew up there. Growing up in Orland was as close to living in Mayberry as you could get without being a member of the cast.
My family moved from the Los Angeles area to Orland, a small farming community at the northern end of California’s Sacramento Valley, in 1960. By the end of our first day in school, my brother Kenny and I felt as if we’d lived there all our lives. The following Saturday, we joined several of our new friends and walked the railroad tracks to Stony Creek, where I caught my first smallmouth bass and began a childhood adventure that would last until I left for college years later.
Everyone remembers the great sports teams that came out of Orland in the sixties and the way the whole town turned out on Friday nights to root them on. Over the years, I’ve had recurring dreams about going to class in the old high school annex—the wooden second-story floor creaking beneath my feet as I walked the hallway to English class. During the spring months, when all of the windows were open on the east side of the building, we could gaze out onto Vinsonhaler Park while listening to Mr. Fox’s entertaining lectures.
Several months ago, Orland historian Gene Russell and the Friends of the Orland Free Library graciously invited me to return to my childhood home to speak about my latest book, The Game Warden’s Son. Several of the stories in my sequel take place in the Orland area during the period from 1960 to 1970, when my father, Wallace Callan, was the local Fish and Game warden.
As weeks passed and the date of the presentation approached, I began wondering how many folks would show up. After all, it had been almost fifty years since my family and I had lived in this wonderful little town. My jaw dropped when, the day before my visit, I saw my photograph and read the wonderful story by Kayla Webster on the front page of the Glenn County Transcript.
The morning we arrived for the presentation, I marveled at what a great setting the Orland founders had chosen for the library. The library sits in the middle of the most beautiful city park you’d ever want to visit. It reminded Kathy and me of the small-town parks we’d seen while traveling through Iowa.
Jody, the city librarian, and her staffers Estel and Marguerite, greeted us with open arms and led us to the meeting room where my presentation would be held. As we all set about preparing the room for the morning’s program, Jody offered to bring us anything we needed. Leaving no detail unattended, she brought in a tray full of tantalizing fruit and pastries.
Everything was ready: our equipment checked out and the room was filled with enough chairs to accommodate our audience—or so we thought. Before we knew it, the entire room was full, with the crowd spilling out the back door, across the patio, and onto the Library Park lawn.
I was completely overcome with emotion by this incredible showing of support. Giving my presentation felt as if I were sitting across the kitchen table, talking with a group of old friends over a cup of coffee. The book signing afterwards was so much fun I hated to see it end: I so enjoyed visiting with classmates and old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen in fifty years, as well as meeting other warm and generous folks who had come from all over the valley.
From the bottoms of our hearts, we thank everyone who came and shared this special day with Kathy and me. It’s surely one I shall never forget.
Thomas Wolfe once wrote a book titled You Can’t Go Home Again. Apparently the famous novelist wasn’t from Orland.
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I will forward that to my friend Oz Garton, whose family is from Orland. Might have run into the family…
Thanks, Earle. That name rings a bell.
The Friends of the Orland Free Library were very happy to host Steve on September 1st. It was a great and winning morning for all involved. Love to hear your Orland stories!
Thank you, Gene, for the invitation and warm welcome. It was an honor to be back in my old hometown.