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Nick Moves to BC – Moon Day 1969

Longtime resident recalls his first taste of Boulder Creek

By Nick Herbert

In July of 1969 – the same day Man landed on the Moon – Betsy Rasumny and I moved to our house north of Boulder Creek where I’ve lived for more than forty years.

At that time, I had been living in Palo Alto – the solar plexus of Silicon Valley – and Betsy had been living for a year in New Mexico, the legendary Land of Enchantment.

I was working then as senior physicist at Memorex in Santa Clara investigating magnetic and optical media with a research group that included Tad Konar, a Pole who’d spent 63 months in Auschwitz. Betsy was living in a high meadow near El Rito, NM, with a rock band called Daddy Longlegs and hanging out with artists, Native Americans, hippies, and peyote church people. When I drove to New Mexico to bring her back to Boulder Creek, she introduced me to her artist friends and I took her, dressed in her best hippy finery, to visit a controlled fusion lab at Los Alamos.

In 2009, Boulder Creek was mostly a bedroom community for Silicon Valley, but in 1969 the one-hour drive over winding mountain roads placed it outside the range of convenient commuting to Xerox PARC. Instead, Boulder Creek was outlaw territory, a place to fire your guns, ride your Harley, and score controlled substances. Below our little house an ex-chief of police of Santa Cruz had a firing range, and above our house a self-styled outlaw and his friends tested out semi-automatic weapons. (Ironically this well-armed dude subscribed to a magazine called Western Outlaw.) Two doors down, at the end of our dead-end road, lived a drug dealer with a coopful of chickens (which I inherited when he moved away), a wild pig in a pen, and a girlfriend with a pair of Afghan hounds. Now the only trace of these wild days in my neighborhood is an upscale couple who ride a pair of Harleys. Hardly outlaws: She works for the Harley newsletter and he programs Apple computers for a Catholic school over the hill.

When we moved here on Moon Day, the town was full of bars: Simoni’s, the Shalimar, a family bar called Joe’s, and an outlaw biker bar called the Boulder Club. Now most of those colorful lowlife hangouts have disappeared. In downtown Boulder Creek today, only Joe’s Bar remains. (Joe’s was used as a set for the movie Welcome to Buzzsaw.)

Joe’s Bar, which is located on Boulder Creek’s Main Street, is usually crowded inside but outside a few regulars set up chairs on the sidewalk to smoke, drink and converse in the open air. This impromptu cafe’ is still a tradition at Joe’s. The clientele has changed a lot since the “old days.” Then it was mainly “stumpers” (loggers and related woodsmen) and conservative retirees. Now Joe’s consists of a pretty mixed bunch.

Even though I was a PhD physicist, I suspect the locals at Joe’s perceived me as one of the encroaching hippy hordes who were then beginning to take advantage of the low rents and rural nature of Boulder Creek. In any case, as I was walking past Joe’s a few weeks after Betsy and I had moved in, a man got up from his chair on the sidewalk and handed me a piece of paper. I just put it in my pocket and walked on, then read it later at home. The paper was an altered cartoon from the New Yorker, which depicted Boulder Creek as the Xenophobic Capital of the USA. I considered it terribly funny and felt honored to be welcomed to Boulder Creek by the natives in this back-handed way.

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