I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
The last Foresters Hall passing into history
By Barry Schrader..................................February
A final chapter will soon be written when the few remaining members
of the Livermore Court No. 77 of the Foresters of America sell their Hall
located at Second and J streets in Livermore, a building dedicated in 1914
and now designated a local historical site.
Not only will this sale end the local chapter's ownership of its building,
but this is the last remaining Forester's Hall in the entire United States,
according to Pete Oaks, the Grand Chief Ranger-elect for the State of California.
Once a large and influential fraternal group in the US, with thousands of
members throughout many states, the Foresters has now dwindled to a few
hundred members nationwide in five states-California, New Jersey, Illinois,
Michigan and Connecticut.
In its heyday, the Livermore group boasted a membership of 350 men, plus
an active auxiliary known as Companions of the Forest. They now have less
than 25 members and their monthly dinner meetings only attract eight to
ten oldtimers. Holding the membership record for longevity locally is Merv
Frydendahl with 62 years, but his brother Connie is right behind him with
59 years of involvement.
What is the history of the Foresters? Their origins go back to Sherwood
Forest and Robin Hood, so legend has it. The Order started in England in
1745, even though Robin and his merry band of outlaws date back to 1180
A.D. But the charter on display in the Livermore group's meeting room shows
an archer in the dress of Robin Hood. The American Foresters broke away
from their English forefathers in 1889 in a dispute over the word "white"
being stricken from the requirements for membership.
Their motto is "Liberty, Unity, Benevolence, and Concord (meaning harmony
and peaceful relations)." Oaks, also an officer in the local chapter,
said they raise money to share with charitable groups-not unlike Robin Hood-only
they don't steal from the rich to help the poor these days. Their generosity
has helped such groups locally as Open Heart Kitchen, Tri-Valley Haven,
and the LARPD Senior Center.
The Hall was constructed in 1914 with reinforced concrete walls, while the
interior floors and roof supports were hewn from wood timbers. A spacious
ballroom on the second floor has been utilized for 91 years for dances,
parties, meetings, plays, concerts and family reunions. At present a fencing
class from Las Positas College, a Scottish Dance group, and scuba diving
classes are among those making use of the building.
The first floor is primarily occupied by two businesses-a real estate office
and a hair salon. But in between them is the Foresters' offices (also doubling
as the Grand Court of California headquarters) and meeting room, which they
hope to keep even after the building is sold. The local Native Sons of the
Golden West also use the building as their meeting place. Realtor Rich Fletcher
said the two story building encompasses 10,000 square feet, built out to
the 50 by 100 foot lot line. It needs some upgrading and must be made handicap
accessible. (Wouldn't it be nice if the city bought it for their new council
chambers, instead of chopping up the recently-vacated library, which would
make a much better museum and visitors' center for the valley's wine country!)
Chartered locally in 1892, the Order's officers today, along with Oaks,
include Chief Ranger Lyle Keene, Merv Frydendahl, Earl Glinton, Bill Brandi,
Jack Henry, Bill Steiner, Connie Frydendahl, and Ron Caragio. Brandi is
also past Grand Chief Ranger for all of California as well as a current
Supreme Court Justice, covering the entire United States. These men would
be good contacts if anyone is interested in joining this fascinating and
tradition-steeped group. If you want to know more, go to their website:
and read about them.
* * *
Those darn presidential candidates still keep popping up in the Tri-Valley:
Vange Jones just told me that her husband, the late Jerry Jones (1920-1983),
was president of the Livermore Democratic Club back in the 1970s and they
went to the county fairgrounds in 1972 to see (unsuccessful) presidential
candidate George McGovern speak at the Democrats' Labor Day Picnic. (Think
now, who was his running mate? Just a hint-he has a daughter married to
* * *
Here's the history mystery question for next week: Whatever happened
to Harold and Ruth Gabriel who drove California's covered wagon in the Bicentennial
Wagon Train across country, ending at Valley Forge July 4th, 1976? Marie
Cronin and Burke Critchfield, do you remember?
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551