We visited Sally Jones at the Pork Palace, her Gaviota homestead. Once a dairy farm, the property is bedecked with sundry buildings…a remodeled bunk house, a rainbow-colored Quonset hut, a party room brimming with curios, decor with a sense of humor…as well as an art studio, a garden, and her own comfortable home, not to mention goats, and chickens, and plenty of pigs. Sally beams with pride and joy as she reminisces about life with her husband George and their four sons here and in the Santa Ynez Valley. “I was a homemaker,” she says, “and I worked hard at it, and it was a joy.” In later years she found pleasure and solace in walking, and most recently in painting and drawing.
THE MORE I WALKED, THE BETTER I FELT
This interview took place on August 2, 2014 in Gaviota, California.
LH: Okay if you could just begin by telling us your name and where and when you were born.
SJ: My name is Sally Jones and I was born in Long Beach California, July 27th, 1936.
LH: And can you think of any of your just very earliest memories of being a child?
SJ: Oh my goodness, I remember I had one older brother and I remember us being very adventurous and having a lot of fun together. I remember our first house in Houston, Texas. We had a big yard in the back. We had a pet duck that we used to walk around. I remember riding my bike to school, and I was a child of World War II so I remember taking dimes to school to buy bonds to support the war effort. I remember collecting newspapers. We were probably more into recycling than people are today. We saved the bacon grease and took it back to the butcher’s shop where it was then recycled. We hung our clothes on the clothesline, we saved our newspapers, we didn’t use any plastic. Everything was in bottles and had to be taken back to the grocery store. (laughs) So, if the people today think they invented recycling, they need to take a look back at the thirties and forties.
LH: How has that experience of growing up through that time shaped your decisions now, how you think about the world or how you think about things? Has it influenced you?
SJ: Oh, of course, because I think each person is the sum of their experiences. So even though you can’t absolutely identify one experience that shaped you, they all shape you, yeah. I think probably we were not a disposable society like we are today. Everything was used completely. Things were repaired. I can remember my mother taking an iron to the repair shop to have a new cord put on it. Can you imagine doing that today? (laughs) Everything was used until it was not usable anymore. And today we’re very much a throw away society. People don’t mend socks, they don’t sew buttons back on. They don’t lengthen hems in dresses as a child grows like they used to. My mother used to make all my clothes and I can remember she’d make a great big hem so she could let the hem out as I got taller. (laughs)
CCW: Sad that we’ve lost that.
SJ: We’ve lost that, yeah.
LH: What do you think the implications are of having lost that?
SJ: I think we’ve become great consumers. We consume more than we need. And I think that’s probably the result of advertising. When I go into Costco I think, “This is a triumph to American consumerism!” When I walk in there. I’m just aghast at the material things that are there.
LH: One of the things that we are also interested in, is just people’s sense of place so in regards to you, how you found this particular spot, what drew you here, just to begin with.
SJ: Okay, well, we had four little boys, the oldest one was five and a half and we lived in Torrance, which was not a neighborhood I was particularly fond of and my husband had attended Midland School so we knew about the Santa Ynez Valley, and his mother and father had just bought a small property off of Brinkerhoff and Roblar and we decided that this would be a wonderful place to raise kids. So we had a financial adventure that we were going to do with his father, which was to import Peruvian Paso horses. This was in the sixties when there were only about a half dozen of them in the United States. We bought an old house on Calzada, and we had enough money to live for three months, we figured.
In those days you didn’t worry about things like people worry about today. I think people we a lot more spontaneous. You know, nothing in our life was planned. So we just moved up here. And as we made this transition, his father died of a heart attack. So we had to decide whether we were going to continue with this, or go back to Los Angeles. We decided it was definitely worth continuing it, so we did keep importing Peruvian Pasos for a couple of years, and then we found out that horse people don’t easily change to another breed. So people who had Arabian horses didn’t want Peruvian Paso horses and people who had Morgan horses didn’t want Peruvian Pasos. So we tried to market them as much as we could and we did. We eventually had to finally get out of the horse business but that was okay.
The first house we bought was on Calzada and it was some type of museum that was owned by the Bodette’s and one property over in the back was a private school called the Derville Academy. It was really old and falling apart so we had to spend a great deal of time remodeling it. It’s a vacation rental now. Yeah, so I think our sense of the Valley came, you know, pretty early in our life raising our family and the kids. Having four boys and living on 11 acres was heaven for them. We had ponies, and sheep and chickens and they played outside all the time. In fact, I would pay them to sit and watch TV and be quiet, and stay in one place. (laughs)
LH: That’s a little different…
SJ: A little different than today, yeah. So I think we came to the Valley when it was still very rural and kids were free to ride bicycles anywhere or ride their ponies anywhere. They used to leave in the morning with their ponies and all the property across the street, from our house on Calzada was just a field. There were no houses.
LH: Around what year was this?
SJ: We moved here in 1962 and we were here for about a year and a half and then we went back to Los Angeles for a year and then they we came back here in 1965. Permanently. So this was in the late sixties, early seventies.
LH: So how long had you been in Los Angeles before that?
SJ: Probably four year, five years, something like that.
CCW: I’m curious: did you get a sense of the 1960s being here…did all that that was happening permeate this place?
SJ: I was so busy taking care of four little boys, I really didn't pay attention. It didn’t really affect me. It was just whether I got through the day safely and no one was hurt, nobody had to go to the emergency room. They all got fed. That was my goal. It wasn’t to watch the news. No. (laughs)
CCW: My mother-in-law says the same thing. “I missed the sixties. I had four kids.”
SJ: I know, I know. I took one boy to the emergency room twice in one day.
LH: Along those lines of raising four boys and you chose to raise them in this particular place, what, for you as a mother and a woman, were some of the challenges of that?
SJ: Keeping them safe and keeping them healthy and making sure they were learning something about being useful human beings. Manners. How to listen. They all did very well in school, so that was not a problem. And how to work. They learned how to work. They learned how to do hard work. Which I find my grandchildren don’t know how to do. I hate to say that because I love them all dearly. But they don’t know how to work.
LH: How did you teach your boys that?
SJ: I think because my husband was a worker. So when he went out the door in the morning, the boys went with him. And he showed them how to do things. How to build fences, how to change the oil in the car, how to fix a carburetor, how to fix the pump, how to do plumbing, how to fix broken water lines, how to dig trenches, things like that. I mean, today when, you know, if a young man’s car breaks down, he’s going to call Triple A, (laughs) He’s not going to do the work himself. Or he calls the plumber. He doesn’t know how to change a hot water heater.
LH: What that was like for you to be on this land, having come from the city, and finding a community for yourself here? What was that like for you?
SJ: It was wonderful here because I think life was a lot simpler than it is today. It was more of the quiet, rural life. I mean, the traffic today is unbelievable. And I think, of course, the (Chumash) Casino is a very controversial thing and has brought, what is it? Eight thousand cars a day going to the valley. After we left our property on Calzada we built a house in Oak Trail, and it was eleven miles from our house at Oak Trail to the Santa Ynez Elementary school, and it’s all downhill. So when the boys were in elementary school, I let them ride their bikes to school. And I never thought about traffic. There was no traffic on San Marcos Pass Road. There weren’t people going down Refugio Road 60 miles an hour. So it was very safe for them to go.
CCW: They enjoyed the ride back home?
SJ: No, I used to pick them up in the truck. It would take them too long to get home. They’d miss dinner (laughs) and then, I don’t know, they’d have orthodontist appointments in Santa Ynez once a month and they would just ride their bike from school to the orthodontist and then go back to school. Well, I’d probably be put in jail today for letting my seven-year old ride his bike to the orthodontist to get his teeth cleaned and go back to school. He’d be an unaccompanied minor.
So, it was a safe place for kids to journey around. And there were so many other families just like us. There was no Theaterfest, but there were a lot of social things going on in the community. The Catholic Men’s Club would put on a barbecue dance twice a year at the Vets’ Hall and that was the big thing to go to. So you planned ahead and got a babysitter so you could go (laughs) and then there was a dance hall where Frederick’s Court is, (in Solvang)…and they used to have honky tonk music on Saturday night and dancing.
CCW: What was it called?
SJ: I can’t remember the name of it. And then also on Alisal Road there was a bowling alley and a theater too. All right there.
CCW: I have certain questions I’m always very interested in, such as how do you navigate through hard times? If you’ve been through something really difficult, what is your source of strength?
SJ: Probably my faith in God. Some things are meant to be and you can’t change them. So you just ask for the strength to get through it. Yeah. That’s it. Simple. And you do it. You get through it.
LH: Is there a particular time that you could speak of that that has helped you to get through?
SJ: Well, probably one of the most tragic things that happened in our life is one of our son got Hodgkin’s disease at fourteen years old, and I took care of him for five and a half years, and he died at nineteen, and that was pretty much of a strain on the whole family. But you know, we got through it. And it makes you realize how precious life is, and that it’s just a gift. And you have no control over what’s going to happen. So you just have to enjoy it, and if that’s what’s going to happen, you just accept it. Yes, I think it made us all stronger. Yeah.
CCW: That’s good wisdom.
SJ: Because we had kind of gone through life with sort of this selfish, you know, everything is wonderful and working for us and everybody’s happy and healthy and things are going well, and then…bingo! Something happens and so you have to pick up the pieces and start over again. Yep.
LH: Is that an insight that you had at that time, or do you feel like you were able to gain that after the fact? I mean, how, I’m curious about that particular time.
SJ: Well, it took a while for me to gain that. So about halfway through his illness I realized that he was going to die and so he was just a gift for us to enjoy. Which we did. And he graduated from high school as valedictorian. Smart, was accepted at Stanford. Got a full scholarship. And had to leave spring quarter because cancer had gone to his lungs and his bones and, everything. So it was hard to say goodbye for everybody. The bell at Saint Marks Church is donated in his memory.
CCW: What was his name?
SJ: Gordon Jones. So if you hear the bell ringing in Los Olivos, that’s for Gordon.
CCW: That’s a lovely way to keep his memory in the air.
SJ: In the air. That’s right. Up where the angels are.
CCW: That’s beautiful.
SJ: So you learn how to love, and you learn how to say goodbye and you learn how to love again.
CCW: Is there any particular person who has been influential in your life, you know, a mentor or, an inspiration to you? I’m sure there were probably many, but does anyone in particular come to mind?
SJ: Oh my goodness, that’s a big question. I don’t know quite how to answer that, yeah. A lot of people. A lot of people in the valley.
LH: What draws you to a person that you know in some way…has something to offer you and you have something to offer them? Can you articulate that process at all, or can you think of a certain person that you were just drawn to and you knew that there was something that you needed to learn from them and you had something to offer them?
SJ: I’m always drawn to people that like to do the same things I do. I’m always drawn to people who are open and honest and share things with you and you can have a two-way conversation, you can share with them. I don’t know if you remember that book that came out years ago called “I’m Okay. You’re Okay.” That’s a good way of expressing how you have relationships with people. You pretty much know in the beginning if you’re going to be able to share thoughts or if it’s going to be a one-way relationship.
When I became active in the hiking group…I did that after our son died...I thought that would be a fun way to sort of get out of the house and do something different…I met Barbara Young, who is a good friend of mine, and we found that we were sort of kindred spirits. We both played tennis and we liked to hike and we both had husbands who did not want tot do that. So as the hiking group developed and we started taking trips, like to Switzerland and so forth, we found that our husbands said, “Go!” So she and I became traveling companions for years. And we shared a lot. She had boys, I had boys, she liked to do the same things I did. We didn’t wear any make-up. We could be ready in ten minutes to go anywhere, you know (laughs). It was easy to travel with her.
So we went several times to Switzerland with the Mills' and then I sort of branched out and we walked across England. We did the Coast-to-Coast walk. We walked two hundred miles in fifteen days and then we went back, walked the Lake District. We walked the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up, and then we walked in Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone. And I went to Nepal, I did a trek in Nepal, so I have wonderful memories of doing all that.
CCW: Do you have a favorite local walk?
SJ: Well I really don’t walk anymore. But one of my favorite walks was just walking up Refugio Road and getting on that peak by that camp, and I'd sit on the rocks and look out at the islands. In our days of walking glory, we used to just click that right off, go up there and sit, and be back in an hour.
CCW: There’s something about walking, the act of walking. What does that mean to you, or do for you?
SJ: I think it’s your body in motion, when everything is working well. You start to make endorphins, so the more I walked, the better I felt. I can remember coming home from these long walks of ten, twelve, fifteen miles, and I was just full of energy when I got home. I mean, I could go out and garden, do this and that, and then finally collapse at bedtime. I found it stimulating. Of course you have to learn your pace. If you’re pacing yourself too hard, you’re gonna tire and not enjoy it. Just like life, you have to learn your pace. If your pace isn’t right, you’re not gonna enjoy it.
LH: Is there a particular hike you took that stands out now, that had an impact on you?
SJ: Well…the 22 miles, up Hurricane Deck, down the Sisquoc River, round the schoolhouse and back to Davey Brown Campground. Now that’s an amazing walk and we used to do it every spring. That’s 22 miles, and we had to find our pace. Once you find your pace, you can just go and go. Like when we walked out of the Grand Canyon, we had to go up 5,000 feet, so the ranger said, just go at your pace. If you cannot talk to the person next to you, if you’re out of breath, you’re going too fast and your heart is getting tired. So you just take small steps and keep going, and then you rest every twenty minutes, and drink water, and then you go for twenty minutes, and rest for five, and before you know it we’d gone up 5,000 feet, and we weren’t tired.
CCW: That’s a good philosophy. Find your pace.
SJ: Find your pace, and if you push yourself out of your pace, then you get depressed, you get anxiety, you get annoyed, you say I can’t do it.
CCW: Is there any message or wisdom you would give to some younger person? Advice?
SJ: Well, find out what your passion is and be willing to work for it. Even if you have to work fifteen hours a day, find your passion and go for it.
LH: How have you come to know that advice in your life?
SJ: I guess because I sort of live that. I was born and lived in a duplex in Los Angeles and just had my brother to play with. We did not have an amazing family life like people dream of having, so when I got married and had the four boys, I was so happy that my goal was to make this family work and be a wonderful experience for them and for me and for my husband. I had a lot of passion for that. So I was a homemaker.
I mean, I had breakfast, lunch and dinner ready, did all the housework and all the laundry, and enjoyed making appointments for the kids and getting them there, with all of the sports doings. It was a joy. And I worked hard at it.
CCW: Things you’re most proud of?
SJ: My husband was a salesman and he worked for Sun Motors which was a Ford dealership and it was on the corner where Danmarket Square is. And where that empty field is by the bank there was a gas station, and my husband knew everybody in town. He was very friendly and talked to everybody. And when we’d walk through town, I felt like I was home. It was a wonderful experience. And there were no stop signs. I think there was just one stop sign at Alisal and Copenhagen. And there weren’t any sidewalks down Mission Drive. It was just the dirt, the road. People always said hello and chatted.
LH: You are also an artist.
SJ: I started taking up art when I had to have both my knees replaced because I knew my physical life as a walker was coming to a quick close. I also had some severe back problems. I always wanted to draw and paint and I figured now is the time. I went up to Alan Hancock for about three years and took a class and then I took watercolor with Jean Ward, who was a lovely person who taught in the valley for many years, and I met other people who wanted to do that, like Susan or Barbara, or other people, in our little Tuesday morning group. It’s a great pleasure for me now. I’ll show you our art studio.
CCW: What inspires you?
SJ: Seeing something that makes me want to look at it again, that has something in it that’s beautiful, that’s pleasurable for me to look at. And then comes the challenge of reproducing it. I don’t write poetry, I don’t write stories, I don’t sing, all these other creative outlets. Painting is my creative outlet.
LH: What do you get out of it?
SJ: If it turns out well, which it certainly does not every time, I have a great sense of satisfaction that I captured that moment, so that when I look at my picture, I’m back on location, I can feel it. I can feel the heat from the grass, the sun on me, I can feel the bugs. I can see them. I’m there, where I was when I painted it. It’s a peaceful, satisfying thing, like I accomplished something.
CCW: A writer once said, we write to live twice. Maybe painting’s that way for you.
CCW: Is there anything you’d like to say that we haven’t talked about?
SJ: Well, I’m not quite sure how to answer. I’ve had many, many happy years here. When we first got here, most of the buildings were teardowns, awful. And we chose to be here. We chose to make this our passion, to fix it up and make it a home. And we did. And when the kids come back here…well, my one son lives next door, and Alan lives in Solvang, and our oldest son lives in North Carolina. So particularly Bob in North Carolina, when he comes here, it’s his home. And he’s lived on the East Coast ever since he went away to college because he’s an animal nutritionist, and that’s where the pharmaceutical companies are, and when people ask him where he’s from he says I’m from the Santa Ynez Valley. So this is still his home, and I think that’s wonderful. He’s 55 years old, and this is still his home.
Our boys were in 4H, which really shaped their lives and what we were doing. And for two or three years, they just bought a little feeder pig and raised it for the fair, so one year one of the boys got reserve champion, which was bought by Dick LaRue. We knew the LaRues really well ‘cause they had a son Chris who was in high school with the boys and every time the Gaviota Creek would flood, he would stay with us in the bunk house ‘cause he couldn’t get home. So he was here a lot. ‘Cause it used to rain.
So anyway, Gordon took his five or six hundred dollars that he got for his pig, and George took him to Fresno to buy a bred gilt ‘cause they thought they should raise their own pigs. So they bought this bred gilt and brought her here to the house we had at Oak Trail at the time. So immediately we had to build a barn, pens, we had to do all this stuff…which is fun. The pig had four baby pigs, one of them died, and there were three pigs alive, and she died. She never got up after she gave birth. She hemorrhaged inside, so here we were with three little baby pigs squealing for milk. So I called Josephine Van Schack, who was head of the 4H at that time and asked her how do we take care of these pigs? So she gave me the formula to make a batch of milk for these pigs, which included canned milk, goat’s milk, dog’s vitamins, all kinds of stuff, and they had to be fed every two hours, so up to the house came the three little pigs. Of course the boys were all in tears because the mother had died and we only had three little pigs. So every two hours they had to be fed, so at night we had an alarm clock, and we’d put it by one boy’s bed and he’d feed the pig and then he’d set the alarm clock for two hours later, and put it in the next boy’s bed, and they would get up and feed these little pigs, and then I would do it all day long when they were in school. So the pigs grew and grew and the box we had them in had to get bigger and bigger and they had to go out in the yard. Well, they were adorable, and they were pets. We had one boy and two girls. So there was Pork Palace, and Pork Palace Princess, and another…I don’t know, female name. We couldn’t sell them and we had to buy some young females, which are called gilts, to breed to the boar and we had to buy another boar to breed to the gilts. So all of a sudden we were in the pig business, which was not what we intended to do.
Bob was about ten, so it was about 1968 or ’69. So then we decided we had to have a bigger piece of property since everything at Oak Trail was either up or down, and if you wanted anything flat you had to have a bulldozer come and grate it. So one rainy day my husband George came out here and saw his property and said this is perfect. And he bought it. And I hadn’t even seen it. He came home and said, “We’re moving.”
This had been a dairy, and then rented a lot, and there were cattle here, lots of pens and barns and facilities for the pigs, so that’s how we came here and got into the pig business.
CCW: How many acres did you say this was?
SJ: It’s 40 acres, and the pigs are all up in the canyon, behind the house.
CCW: And it was a dairy in 1908?
SJ: It was a dairy for many, many years, and then it was bought by a group of doctors. Dr. Van Valen. It was 160 acres and they divided it up. Then he lived here for a while, and his daughter was married in the big Quonset hut.
CCW: Did you have occasion to go to the Hollister Ranch, since you knew the LaRues?
SJ: Yes, it was fun. Barbara and Dick LaRue had the parcel that had the old Hollister House on it, so we went there for dinners and picnics. And the beach, of course, was a gem.
CCW: Did you ever hear Dick talking about his ideas for the set-up of the Hollister Ranch?
SJ: No. Dick talked to George mostly about real estate and those kinds of things, and I talked to Barbara. The one thing that bothered Barbara the most was the wind. She said the wind wore her out. It would blow her patio furniture all over, and knock the plants over. When she moved, she said she was so happy to get away from the wind.