Adventures of a small-town girl in Bigtown | TheUnion.com
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Adventures of a small-town girl in Bigtown

Vivian Herron, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Going to Bigtown is usually a little adventure for me. Just like in Washington, something or someone interesting almost always happens when I go there.

I enjoy visiting thrift stores. My mom, gone these many years, used to adore thrifting, too. She got the biggest kick out of finding some little tsatske (Yiddish for a trinket, a tiny treasure of some kind) for just a bit of change. Me too.

Almost everything in my home is either from these wonderful shops or courtesy of K-mart’s layaway plan. Because Nevada County is so stuffed with so many well-off people, I’m fairly certain I’m about the only person around who uses that special service.



I like the class of people I meet in church- and charity-related stores… not only the customers but the staff who make these places run so smoothly. A few weeks ago I moseyed into the Mount Saint Mary’s thrift store – oh, you know where that is, it’s tucked right under the Grass Valley Museum at 410 South Church Street, right across the street from St. Patrick’s.

The manager and two of her friends had drawn up chairs and were deep in an interesting conversation while I rummaged around here and there. “Well, I found some neat stuff today,” I thought to myself. “But what I’d really like is to join those ladies up front because it sounds like they’re having a great time, but that would be just too utterly rude….”




“Oh, no it wouldn’t!” laughed Joanne Fleming. “There’s always something going on in here; don’t hesitate to jump right in!”

Joanne has enough energy and personality and sheer love of life for any three people I know. She is from San Carlos, where she worked at St. Charles School as director of their extended-day program. She moved to Nevada County three years ago and did the same work at Mount Saint Mary’s, and then went to Nevada City Elementary School where she was an instructional aide.

Joanne has been divorced for 11 years, has eight kids and eight grandkids, and is genteelly available … but take warning, gents, she is choosy. She works at the thrift store Monday through Thursday, and she makes a friend of everyone who walks through the door. By the time I left, half an hour of spirited discussion and lots of laughter had gone by, and I was a better person for it.

I met Jack Chandler at a grocery store conveniently located near The Union…. Well, I didn’t actually meet him, it was more like I was drawn into his gravitational field. I don’t know how he gets his shopping done; either he was stopping to talk to this woman or that man, or people were taking him by the arm to say hello.

Jack is a retired fireman (fire crew supervisor); he worked at the Washington Ridge CYA for 14 years and somewhere in there he was also a CHP officer. He’s lived in Nevada County since 1962. He and Betty were married for 56 years until her passing a few years ago, and he has two kids and three grandkids.

He was talking to me and five other people as they passed by; I was taking notes as fast as I could and I just couldn’t keep up with him. Now I know how two or three grocery shoppers end up clumped together in the aisles of supermarkets, talking and laughing away. I met Joanne and Jack on the same day, and when I finally got home, I had to lie down and take a nap.

Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.


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