Watching Cartoons

Dee’s niece Donna (English) Tronca shares this memory.

I remember Jack and I being at Barbara and Dee’s house one summer. It wasn’t the house on Daves Avenue. It was small, and there were awnings on the outside over the windows. That was an unusual site for me. Mom said they were used to shade the windows from the hot sun.

I remember sitting on the floor in the living room with Bobbie, Josh, and Jack. Uncle Dee darkened the room by pulling down roller shades, I think. He was doing something with a film projector. Then suddenly, lights, action, camera! Cartoons appeared on the wall! I have a fuzzy memory of crow characters, or something like that.

But what I remember most is the sound made by the projector, and the sound of Uncle Dee laughing at the cartoon. I thought how amazing to have the movies right there on the wall in the living room!

I, too, remember what a great treat it was when Dad showed movies on the wall.

Apricots and Roller Coasters

Ace’s niece Donna (English) Tronca — she called him Uncle Dee — shares a memory that for me evokes visions of how it used to be here in Los Gatos/Monte Sereno.

I remember one of the visits as kids to Los Gatos during the summer. Bobbie, Josh, and I were going to pick apricots from the trees next to the house. The plan was to sell them to a farmers’ market and then we would have spending money to take to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.

I was having trouble reaching the apricots on the trees, so Uncle Dee hoisted me up into one of the trees and acted as the brace so I wouldn’t fall while collecting the fruit. I also remember that at one point we all sat on the ground and ate a few of the apricots. They were warm from the sun and smelled so wonderful. There’s absolutely nothing like that in Wisconsin! We did sell our harvest and went to Santa Cruz. I was afraid to ride the roller coaster so Uncle Dee sat with me on a bench.

We originally had an acre here when Ace and Barb purchased the house in 1953. We had prunes, plums, and apricots. Across the street from us was Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad … and ten more acres of prunes and apricots.

When Dan Met Ace

When Ace became bedridden during the last few days of his life, his niece Donna (English) Tronca wrote some of her memories about Uncle Dee. Who?

When Dan and I visited a couple of years ago, it would be his first meeting with the California clan. A highlight of the visit was our stop in Los Gatos. I had, of course, primed him with stories of all the relatives. Dan was a bit confused about why Uncle Dee goes by different names in the family. I don’t know why, so wasn’t able to offer a definitive answer. But while we were visiting the Bagbys, somehow that discussion came up. I’ve always called him Uncle Dee, sometimes Delos. Judy, the same, Jack too, I believe. I remember Mom and Dad went back and forth between Dee and Ace. So Dan was still confused.

Uncle Dee got up from the sofa, walked over to the chair where Dan was sitting, stood over him and announced in his authoritative voice, “You can call me Ace.” Dan replied, “Yes, sir.” And thus it has been.

I do remember while  growing up the oddity of hearing people use different names for my dad. Family called him one thing; school people called him something else.

There wasn’t much confusion for me, though. I called him Dad.

The Old Homestead in 1956

House in 1956

This is what our house on Daves Avenue looked like in 1956. Of particular note is the state of Daves Avenue without sidewalks and the circular parking spot we had out front. To the right you can see the magnolia and ash trees in their youth. Out of the picture to the left is where the cedar deodara tree was growing. It was also just a few feet tall and not dominating the front view.

At this point, Monte Sereno had not been voted into existence. The city was incorporated on May 14, 1957.

The Iconic Ace

Ace hugging Eli

Bobbie and I were most excited to discover this photo of Ace. It is iconic of the man he was. The little boy in the shot is Eli, a neighbor (who has grown up quite a bit since this photo was taken.)

I love the metaphor of my dad embracing the children. It’s what he did for a career and it’s one of the things he did as the neighborhood grandfather.

Recently we received a wonderful letter from Mindy Dirks, the mother of the boy in the photo. It was a beautiful expression of how she remembers my mother and father, and it is shared with her permisison.

Dear Bobbie & Josh,

Writing this reminds me of the beautiful notes I always got from your mom about 1 hour after I had done something nice for her. Even the littlest gesture was always acknowledged and dutifully delivered by your dad.

I brought babies and toddlers to your house almost every day for 8 years knowing they’d be fully loved and accepted for who they were. Your mom always had a story about you two as children that fitted whatever stage my children were at. When I was worried, she’d tell how she worried similarly and offer the perspective that only a mother with grown children could have. She felt strongly that children should be accepted for who they are and that a mother needs to guard her children’s uniqueness, quirks and all.

Your dad was more of a brag-about-the-present kind of father. Whatever you two were up to was brag-worthy. He was proud of his children for sure, but even more, he delighted in the two of you. He was current in his knowledge of your lives and he took personal joy from all you did. It was as if your days were his days, your interests were his interests. It was particularly amusing watching your dad try to make his way through a book or article either recommended by one of you or having to do with your thoughts and interests. Each book enjoyed and deemed “fascinating,” not so much for its content but because of its connection to you two.

Both of your parents loved freely. Their eyes sparkled when they’d see my children and Jonah and Eli basked in this light. It helped shape my boys and gave them a sense of community and a broader concept of the word “home.”

This week, we mourn the loss of your dad. It is a big giant loss. Your dad’s last question to me as he lay dying was ‘how’s your dad?’ He truly cared about my life and my family. He celebrated the successes of everyone in my family, my parents included. As Josh said, he really was the superintendent of the neighborhood.

We are grateful for the time we shared with Ace and we take comfort in knowing that as he lay dying he was fully loved and cared for by the two he loved best. May the memory of Ace and the memory of Barbara be a blessing to us all.

Bobbie and I are very grateful to Mindy for her generosity in sharing her memories and feelings with us.

Cornerstone of Our Neighborhood

“Our family has such wonderful memories of Ace. The memory of Ace waving to us when standing by his mailbox will be eternally engraved upon us. His helpful hand of installing a basketball hoop, although using at least a ton of cement, for Shelley and Ashley with the help of Gay Helm will always be appreciated. And, of course, his attentive, listening ear, warm smiles and dear hugs will forever be missed.

“Ace was a cornerstone of our neighborhood. He will be truly missed. Josh & Bobbie, our sympathies for your loss are extended. What a wonderful legacy your Dad (and Mom) have left.”

~The Wegers (Al, Sharon, Shelley and Ashley)

Rest in Peace Ace

“My name is Taia. I was one of the care givers for Ace.

“The first day I met Ace, he was so kind and sweet. I never met anyone as very sweet and kind as Ace. Even when he was in pain, he never complained. He would always smile every morning when I walked into his room.

“His last day he was still sweet and smiling. It was sad he went so fast, but at least he’s in a better place and he is now with our Heavenly Father.

“Rest In Peace, Ace, and thank you for always welcoming me into your home it was an honor to work for you. Much love and prayers go out to the children, Josh and Bobbie.”

~Taia

Two Thumbs Way Up

“Ace used to stand in the cul de sac cheering me on as I’d leave for work in the morning. He’d smile, give me two thumbs up — way up — and dance around. Aside from making me laugh, it was like a good jolt of morning coffee giving me the energy to embrace my day.”

~Mindy Dirks

The Neighborhood As It Was

Looking north across Daves

This is especially for our Monte Sereno neighbors.

When we moved to our house late in 1952, Monte Sereno wasn’t Monte Sereno yet. It was county land, but we had Los Gatos services.

Across Daves Avenue from our house was the prune orchard around which Billy Jones’ Wildcat Railroad chugged on many Sunday afternoons. After Billy Jones died in 1968, the train was relocated to Oak Meadow Park.

Daves Avenue did not have sidewalks then. We had a gravel turnaround in front of our property. As a kid, I used to love the great mud puddles that would appear during each rain.

The photo of our pet pooch with the orchard in the background was taken in 1962. Every spring the field across the street would erupt in a sheet of yellow mustard grass, a delight to my eyes even as a boy.

(Click on photos to enlarge the view.)

Looking east

When this shot looking east was taken around 1955, Michael Lane did not exist. Our driveway had not yet been paved, nor had the fence beyond the shrubbery been erected.

There was a walnut orchard between our property and the next house. It belonged to the Toso Family.

Bobbie and I had long since left home when the Tosos and Ace and Barbara sold some property to Michael DeBono, a contractor. He built Michael Lane and six new homes. By then the Jones’ property on the other side of Daves Avenue had been developed, and Ace and Barbara had made new friends and neighbors.

Looking west

Here is a shot looking west from around 1957. That’s Ace in the front yard raking leaves.

Our family owned a half-acre lot just beyond the lawn where we Bagbys maintained prune, plum, and apricot trees.

The magnolia tree had just been planted in the front lawn. The cedar deodara (off-camera) that now dominates the property was just a babe, too.

Ah, Retirement

Ace and Honey

Ace sailed into retirement and had more time to ponder the mysteries of life.

Honey was a feline who chose Ace and Barb to be her humble servants. Seriously. She started hanging out at the back door — and hanging out and hanging out — until she was given a new home at the Bagby residence.