History of the famous Red Wagon | TheUnion.com

History of the famous Red Wagon

On Jan. 1, 1960, Elmer and Vivian Lindley moved the family restaurant from their home on Cherry Creek to Combie Road, site of the Red Wagon Restaurant outside of Lake of the Pines. I imagine the décor at that time was similar to what it is today – the barn-red and white trimmed exterior, inside a scattering of family photographs, red and white checkered table coverings and a big cozy fireplace.

Since that date, the mom’s kitchen ambience of the restaurant has been lovingly preserved. The next couple to serve area residents home-style meals was Herman and Margaret Stone, who bought the restaurant in 1964 and ran it for the next seven years. It was in November of 1971 that perhaps the most well known Red Wagon family added their flavor to the restaurant. Lyle and Emily Spencer served great food, become involved in area fundraising and politics, and made lifelong friends. It was during their tenure that the vintage hay wagon that rests in front of the restaurant was rescued from a Ripon field, restored by the Higgins-Diggins Lions Club, and presented to the Spencers as a monument to their service to the community. Lyle passed away in 1990, and Emily in February 2003.

I spoke to the Spencer’s oldest daughter, Janet Proctor, about her parents’ legacy. She and her sister Donna Prince are the only two of the five Spencer siblings still active in running the Red Wagon. Janet told me the menu has changed little over the years – the most popular meal is still the pan-fried chicken that is cooked in a cast iron skillet. Another rarely seen menu item, reminiscent of an era when chickens were actually slaughtered at home, is liver and onions-a favorite of the older crowd. The Red Wagon Restaurant serves homemade bread, jam and pies, and is almost as much a part of the area’s landscape as the oaks and the pines.

I am sure that in 1960 when Elmer Lindley opened the door for the first time at the Red Wagon, he had spent little time with Nevada County discussing the general plan. Concern over preserving the rural quality of Higgins Corner came later, when Andrew and Wendy Quist, co-owners of Generations Health Club off West Hacienda Drive, were designing their building. I don’t really see a need to juxtapose these two businesses – the parallels are obvious. First of all, Wendy chose barn red and white trim for the new 8,000-square-foot facility. Both businesses are family-run and arose from a need to serve the community. Of course, the real difference between the two lies in their ability to add fat to or subtract fat from area residents.

I spent a few moments earlier this week walking through the new health club, still in its construction stage. Co-owner Andrew gave me a tour of the layout. Features will include the latest workout equipment, smoothie bar, and day spa. Wendy told me the club hopes to serve the community by making people “better at what they do,” whether it is skiing or picking up grandchildren. The club is scheduled to open late this summer, and has a presale office on the corner of Combie Road and West Hacienda. For more information, call 268-2860 or visit http://www.generationshealthclub.com/ on the Web.


Reader Gary Clarke asked me to include the following information for an event happening Saturday. A special “Spiritual Growth Retreat for Women” will be held at the Sierra Pines United Methodist Church. The Rev. Donna Morrow DeCamp will start off with a wonderful movie about women and how they bond with one another and nurture themselves and each other for their mutual benefit and for God’s glory. The retreat begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. Call the church at 268-6907 to sign up.


Laura Lavelle is a resident of Lake of the Pines, and her column is for Lake of the Pines area residents who want to share thoughts and information. Contact her at laural@theunion.com or leave a phone message with the readership editor at 477-4238. To read more of Lavelle’s columns, visit http://www.theunion.com/lavelle.

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