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Book recalls yesteryears in Ripon
Barbara Book  Connie  IMG_0000.jpg
A book entitled “As I Recall” surfaced at the Clarence Smit Memorial Museum this week and is being read by Curator Connie Jorgensen. The 94-page hard cover was the work of Barbara Feichtmeir whose husband Ed served 20 years as Ripon’s mayor. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Barbara Feichtmeir — whose husband Ed served as Ripon’s mayor for 20 years — has left a book of memoirs behind that turned up at the Clarence Smit Memorial Museum.  

Museum Curator Connie Jorgensen noted that the book, “As I Recall,” was left on the counter near the front door since the family put it there weeks ago. Its pages date back to 1921.  Barbara began writing her book in 1980 at the age of about 59.

On the fly page she wrote:

“As I sit down to begin writing this memoir, I wonder if it will end up as Ed’s did.  Actually, I’m not sure he’s finished even now as another memory keeps popping into his head almost before he’s finished with the last.  Also, I’m not sure anyone will be interested in reading this, but I know I will enjoy reminiscing and reliving the old memories, so here goes.”

While Barbara includes the evolution of her family and her teen years in her book, Ed comes into the picture with the approach of World War II as he was completing his doctorate degree, training for Navy duty for  a short time on Treasure Island in San Francisco as well as in San Diego.  She said he was commissioned as an ensign “and was so handsome in his uniform.”

After Ed’s ship returned from training and back into port in San Pedro, he was given a 10 day leave and headed for home giving Barbara a book as a gift – “The Navy Wife.” 

She said that was as close as he got to proposing.  

“After a few hours together, we decided not to wait until the war’s end to wed and to enjoy what time we could had together.  Life was so uncertain then; nobody knew what was ahead – it was WARTIME,” she agonized. 

 Ed was off to sea on orders and Barbara rode the train from Southern California back to the Bay Area and her job in Oakland.   The servicemen on the train all had priority status and they were extremely polite, she recalled. 

“I continued riding the streetcar to work at Hale’s every day.  We all got used to the rationing of meat, butter, sugar and other commodities needed for the troops.  She added that she and a girl friend found a solution to replace the silk and newly introduced nylon stockings by applying leg makeup and then using an eyebrow pencil to draw seams up the back of their legs.  Butter was replaced by white margarine looking very unappetizing until the yellow coloring packet was mixed in.  It looked better but it still didn’t really taste like butter,” she said.  “Sugar and coffee were also in short supply and everyone had a ration book for designated food items.”

After the war and returning to California and Cal to finish his thesis,  Ed began looking for a job and at the suggestion of an old college friend, Erwin Loeffler, and  applied at the Shell Agricultural Research Lab in Salida.  Following an interview, he was hired in 1947 as an agricultural chemist with the agreement that he finish his degree. 

“We checked on housing in Modesto,” Barbara said.  “But we decided instead to settle in the small farming community of Ripon, 12 miles to the north in what I called a 2-car garage with possibilities on a large lot at the corner of Ridge Road and Quite Way.”

Getting to the store was a challenge since they only had one car and she didn’t drive – having to walk across the highway from their home.  She said she had to leave their daughter with the gas station man, crossed the highway on foot and walked some three blocks to Spaman’s Grocery Store.

“In those days it was safer to do that than pushing a baby buggy across the highway.”

Without having children in school, getting acquainted with the people in Ripon was difficult in the predominantly Dutch community where they didn’t feel like they fit in to the mix as much as they would have liked.  

“After two years we heard of a square dance group beginning and we signed up, meeting new couples and having a great time.  Ed wasn’t wild about following a set pattern of steps instead of doing his own thing, but he cooperated,” she said.  

That was the time they met the younger set near their ages that would become the leaders of the Ripon community: Fern and Allen Bugbee, Wes and Mavis Stouffer, Dr. Jim and Jeanne Benn, Midge and Frank Colbert, Eric and Lorraine Jacobsen and Cameron and Elva Dale who all enjoyed each other in family picnics and other social activities.

Already having two daughters and the birth of their son Kurt, Shell Development Lab dropped what Barbara described as a “bomb.”  Ed was being transferred to New York and they had to leave their new community of Ripon they had learned to love. 

“My lovely, happy life was shattered,” she said.  “It was a couple days until I accepted the situation and realizing it was an advancement for Ed, of course, I would go with him.”

After a few years in New York they were transferred to Denver where son Kris was born.  After seven years they headed back to Ripon and, like always, Ed went ahead and found a house for his family with the kids and Barbara following to their new home where they would live for the next 50 years at 408 Linda Avenue.

It was 1957 and when school started in the fall and daughter Wendi had just turned 11 and Kurt was 8.  Jan would start kindergarten in the spring with all attending Ripon Grammar School. 

After raising their children, they spent 12 years traveling overseas where they met the Mayor of Ripon, England John Richmond and his Macebearer Cyril Hawley.  That began a one-of-a-kind connection between the two Ripons with several trips back and forth “across the pond” and golf tournaments at Spring Creek in Ripon, California every other year and then in Ripon, England.

“Ed being mayor for so long meant we were involved in many wonderful situations, places and experiences.  What a life I’ve had!” she said.  “We had 63 absolutely wonderful, happy years together.  I still feel the same about Ed as I did when he first walked into my life – the luckiest girl in the world and still wondering why he picked me over all the others he’d met.” 

Barbara’s book may be read at the museum in downtown Ripon on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4 p.m.  Barbara passed away in April of 2015 and she was preceded by Ed in June of 2006.  

To contact Glenn Kahl, email