Monthly Archives: December 2013

American River Canyon, Part 4 – Junction House to Riverton

Pacific House

Pacific House

Staying on the main route, the next station east of Junction House, so named because it is also near the junction of Johnson’s Cut-off, Ogilsby Grade and other roads, is Bob Blair’s House.

Bob Blair was one of four Blair brothers who emigrated to California from Scotland. The family owned and operated several lumber mills and lumber sales yards throughout the county. The first brother to leave Scotland for California, John Blair, was an early owner of Sportsman’s Hall.

Next along the road is Fresh Pond, or Fresh Pond House, a place where the Blair family had a mill and mill pond in 1911.

There is not a lot of early information about Fresh Pond. It is believed by some to be the “Fish Pond” that shows up in early emigrant journals. It is also believed that there was a natural pond at this location, before the Blair’s built one there around 1911.

The Fresh Pond school, originally built by the Blairs for the children of their mill workers, was here from 1911 through 1945.  In 1919, the building was torn down and replaced with the Sly Park School building that was moved here. Because the building came with its sign, after that it was called the Sly Park School.

A business of one sort or another has been at Fresh Pond since the 1860s, with a few voids due to fires.

In the 1930s Fresh Pond was known as Mealy’s Fresh Pond Tavern, featuring steak and chicken dinners and very popular dances on weekends.

The next station to the east of Fresh Pond is Pacific House.

American River Canyon, Part 3 – Placerville to Junction House

Sportsman's Hall, 1866

Sportsman’s Hall, 1866

Up until the late 1880s much of the road from Pollock Pines to Johnson’s (Echo) Summit was a privately owned toll road. Thus, entrepreneurs took advantage of this and often created new bypasses or realigned sections in order to collect the tolls for themselves.

Because of this, the toll houses, stables, way stations and roadhouses that existed at approximately mile intervals sprung up and died over night as the alignment of the road changed.

The inns, which were located about ten to fifteen miles apart, were more long lasting, since they were usually operated by families, and provided the best food and lodging.

Many of these stations were known as “mile houses”, a measurement of their distance from Placerville.

In the mid 1900s, Placerville distance markers were hand hewn from granite slabs by Folsom Prison’s convict labor and then placed each mile along the road, helping to identify the general location of those no longer in existence.

Over the years, some of the stations have grown into communities and others are only old buildings or the remains of foundations. Unfortunately, most of the stations have disappeared completely from our maps and even our memories.

Our starting point, Placerville, had many hotels, among which were the El Dorado Hotel, on the site of today’s Cary House and the Placer Hotel (also known as the Jackass Saloon) on the site of the Herrick Building.

The first stop east of Placerville was the Three Mile House, better known today as the Smith Flat House. It was built in Smith Flat in 1853 over the Blue Lead Mining Channel. It originally consisted of a general store, post office, living room, bedroom, dining room, dance hall, rooms for rent, and a full attic and basement. There was also a separate toll house and a barn large enough for 40 horses.

In the 1890s, wings were added to the original building to accommodate a kitchen, pantry, saloon, card room and additional rooms to rent.

Steppin’ Out – The Donut Factory (Revisited)

coffee-doghnoutAs I have mentioned several times before, over the quarter century plus I have been writing about food, I like apple fritters. I mean, I really like them and really good ones are often hard to find.

During Apple Hill season, several places make them with fresh apples, but that is only for a few months. What do I do the rest of the year?

Presently my very favorite apple fritter comes from a place called Spudnuts Doughnuts at 2445 Arden Way in Sacramento.

If you are old enough you may recall that Spudnuts was a chain started in 1946 that used potato flour to make donuts. The corporation went out of business, but the name is still in use at a number of places around the country. I don’t know if they still have any potato flour in them, but they are really good and when still warm and with a crisp sugar syrup coating, wonderful.

Locally I have tried apple fritters from every place I can find them: grocery stores, doughnut shops, bakeries, etc. I like the ones from some place for awhile and then maybe they would change staff, the recipe or size and they just wouldn’t be the same. So, I would go looking again.

A number of years ago, the bakery next to the Bell Tower in Placerville had great ones. They were big, so I would take my two children there and split one between the three of us. Yes, they were that big. But, the bakery stopped making them and then closed.

A few years ago I was having lunch at the now closed Taco Bell Express in County Fair Shopping Center on Fair Lane in Placerville. When I had finished, I walked around the corner of the building to check out The Donut Factory, which is located at 23 Fair Lane and faces Placerville Drive and the Fairgrounds.

I walked in and asked if they had apple fritters. Emphatically they said yes, so I bought one. It was big, crunchy and delicious, so I have been going there ever since. And, the fritters are only $1.65.

One Fall day I stopped by for my treat and they were closed. I almost panicked.

It turned out they were still open, but I had gotten into a habit of coming by around 2:30 p.m. Their regular closing time is 2 p.m., but during the summer they had been staying open later and I had gotten used to it. However, with school opening and children to pick up, it was back to closing on time at 2 p.m. sharp, and I was just late.

I came back the next day around 1:30 and as I walked in, I heard a voice say, “You’re late, a lady just bought all the fritters.”

There were none, none at all. Depressed, I said, “I’ll take a couple of old fashioned donuts with maple icing.” The nice lady said, “Have you ever tried our apple bear claws? I think you will like them,” and graciously dropped one to my bag of donuts.

If you have never had one, they are the size of a bear’s claw, full of apple and large enough to enjoy for several days. I may have a new favorite…well, a new equal favorite.

In addition to the fritters and bear claws, the Donut Factory has a lot of different kinds of doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, pastries, etc. that they make there. They also have espresso and coffee drinks, smoothies, milk and other things that go well with doughnuts if you would like to sit at one of the inside or outside tables, read the Windfall and enjoy your treat.

Not only do they sell there, they also wholesale their goodies to various other businesses in the county, including a few places in the Apple Hill area.

They are open from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 5:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday and from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information give them a call at 530-626-1320.

By the way, like the doughnuts I break in two and eat only a half each day (a learned habit), I cut the apple fritters into three pieces and eat one piece each day. I find that a whole one at a single sitting is a bit of an overload for me. Yes, you can put them in freezer bags and freeze them.

Letter from Santa Claus – 2013

santaA Serious Note from Santa Claus

A few weekends ago a young lady of about nine hopped up onto Santa’s lap and when I asked her what she would like for Christmas, she replied, “I would like my family back together.”

Every year Santa and his many helpers get lots of requests for world peace, feeding the children and helping people in need, but this one hit Santa very deeply.

With all the things that a young lady of that age could ask for, to her this was the one and only thing that was important – important enough to be her only request to Santa.

People forget how difficult separation and divorce are on young children and this young lady spoke out loudly for all of them.

In all the anger and frustration that happens in these situations, remember the children. They are not pawns in an adult situation, they are the most important consideration and our future.

Remember to be kind to each other,

Love, your friend, Santa Claus