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Read some articles from back issues of the print edition and supplemental content.

Last Updated: 05/31/2008 05:00PM • Subscribe via RSSATOM

The Mickey Mouse Club

05/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

I am not a Disney-phile. I do not have Mickey Mouse decals on the back windows of our Tahoe. And I don’t own mouse ears (contrary to this month’s illustration). But, I love the place anyway. Growing up in soggy Olympia, Washington, Disneyland to me may as well have been Oz, and most of my grade school friends felt the same way. The sun and surf of southern California seemed a million miles from our lead-gray skies. Not many of our parents had the inclination (nor the money for that matter) to ever plan a trip there. All we knew of the “Happiest Place on Earth” was what we saw watching The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. It was magical, though – a castle, rising majestically in a land where it never rains...? Oh, man. Which is why, if over summer vacation one of our classmates had gotten to go, the rest of us would crowd closely around him, for he had been to the Promise Land! With chins dangling near the frayed knees of our Toughskins, we listened as our elementary emissaries spoke in hushed, reverent tones of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn and Submarine Voyage. We were awe-struck, dumbfounded and envious. We all asked, “Did you go to Space Mountain?”“Six times.” “No way!”“My sister threw up her corn dog!”And in unison we shot back with, “AWESOME!”For the rest of the school year, that kid could strut around the playground of South Bay Elementary like royalty. I still remember some of them – Robbie Campbell, who was shaving in fifth grade; Jeff Goobe, a kickball legend; Chris Pleasant, whose parents were rich; and Garrett Sailor, whose parents were not at all. Even Kit Sunsten, who had the unsavory reputation as a paste-eater, became cool overnight when he showed up from summer break wearing the coveted Mickey Mouse shirt.The first time that I went, I was 26. I was recently married and focused on being a true adult for the first time in my life. But the moment I set foot on Main Street USA, it was as though Tinker Bell took her wand and punk-slapped me back to the 1970s. The castle wasn’t quite as big as it seemed on TV, but it was still, you know, The Castle! And there was Adventureland, Frontierland and the Monorail! I went on the Matterhorn and kept my corn dog down, but the Teacups almost brought back it up. I knew enough to avoid a global-scale song suckering by taking a wide berth around Small World. Space Mountain was every bit as cool as Jeff Goobe said. And while somewhere in nearby Hollywood, a young Johnny Depp was taping the third season of “21 Jump Street,” I became smitten with Pirates of the Caribbean, which is still my favorite ride. The only bummer of the whole day was finding out that they don’t sell beer. Well, that and the Country Bears. I’ve been back with my family a few times since, even though by the time we leave, the ribs on my wallet are always showing. I mean, let’s be honest, Mickey pretty much attaches a big cartoon vacuum to your bank account from the moment you step off of the parking lot tram. Yet in spite of that, the park retains its sense of time-spared innocence. Maybe it’s because we want it to. Maybe it’s because we need it to. Or maybe it really is real. It doesn’t matter. All I know is, each time I’m lucky enough to go, I become that awe-struck kid again in the frayed Toughskin jeans, and the gray skies seem to be a million miles away. •Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1 KNCI.

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Old Hangtown

05/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

Wooden wheels creak and groan. A horse-drawn wagon kicks up a cloud of dust as it trundles down a rutted, well-traveled dirt road cutting through the middle of town. The town is called Dry Diggins, but, on account of a botched robbery that lead to the hanging of several men from an oak tree not far from town central, it has earned itself the nickname “Hangtown.” People go about their daily business, along the wood-plank walkways, in and out of the local saloons, general goods stores and provisioners. Each one has a different reason for being here in Hangtown. Most are miners and gold prospectors hoping to make it rich off of James Marshall’s discovery at Sutter’s Mill. Others are people who simply want to start someplace new, and seek their destiny out in California. Whatever the case, the California Gold Rush is in full swing, and these people want a piece of the action to call their own. Over a century has passed (154 years to be exact) since Hangtown was renamed to the more familiar “Placerville.” The residents of that time, as their town grew, eventually desired a name that was more appropriate, friendly, and reflective of the spirit of the Gold Rush, and needless to say, less reflective of the town’s riotous and disorderly past. The most common type of mining for gold during that time was placer mining and since the area contained many placer deposits, the name Placerville was coined. Today, there are many historic buildings left over from that period of California’s history. Some can be found along the stretch of Historic Main Street; new stores inhabit the old buildings, while a few serve as historic sites and exhibits. Some of the old landmarks have buildings built over them. The stump of the original hanging tree can be found in the basement of The Hangman’s Tree Tavern. Moving further up into the various ravines and canyons that surround the area, one can find the remnants of mines, surviving buildings, and the occasional ruble that belonged to prospectors and enterprisers. Some of these sites are overgrown with weeds, while others have been meticulously maintained and preserved. Placerville is a town steeped not only in history, but also historical figures. Some of these figures ran shops in Placerville at the time of the Gold Rush, hoping to make it rich not from gold, but from enterprising. People like John Studebaker, Levi Strauss and Philip Armour set up their own respective shops in Hangtown to profit from the miners and townspeople who had need for their services. The familiarity of those names should be an indicator of just how successful they were. Even after gold-ore became scarce, many shopkeepers, miners and regular people decided to make Placerville their permanent home, growing to love and appreciate the beautiful countryside where they had sought to stake their fortunes.Walking down Historic Main Street today, it’s difficult to imagine the way Placerville looked back in 1849. The dirt roads have been replaced with black asphalt. Instead of wood planking to serve as walkways, there are now concrete sidewalks. Where once stood general stores and saloons, now there are a congregation of hardware, antique, food and furniture stores. Still, with the right amount of imagination, one can still envision the way things were back in the days of the Gold Rush, back in the days of Old Hangtown. And in honor of the founding of this great city, the Placerville Downtown Association hosts Founders’ Day. This year, the festivities will be held on Saturday, June 7 on Main Street. For details, call 530-672-3436.•

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Friendly Visitors Program

05/31/2008 ● By Super Admin

All too often elderly men and women find themselves facing a common enemy: loneliness. Whether from an illness, an inability to drive, or distant family and friends, many homebound seniors miss out on the social interactions important in living a full, vibrant life. Enter El Dorado County's Friendly Visitors Program.With funding from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, and administered by the El Dorado County Area Agency on Aging, this rewarding program was founded in 2007 to bring local volunteers to seniors for a once-a-week visit to enjoy conversation or a shared hobby. The program has a wide reach, covering all of El Dorado County from El Dorado Hills to South Lake Tahoe and Garden Valley to Somerset. “Everyone’s well-being is improved when they have social contact with others that is meaningful,” says Connie Zelinsky, Coordinator of Volunteers. Zelinsky became involved in March of 2007, having worked for El Dorado County Human Services for a year prior and as a volunteer for Youth for Understanding. “I learned that people find so much meaning and satisfaction getting to know each other and learning from each other,” she says. “They may worry that they won’t know what to talk about, but, with time, they really come to know and appreciate each other.” While Zelinsky says she enjoys her own visits with the seniors, her greatest satisfaction comes from the friendships that grow between her volunteers and the people they call on. “As unique as each of them are, the volunteers also bring something different and special to the program,” she notes. “Each comes with different talents and experiences to share. I’m in awe of the good that people can do,” Zelinsky says.Participating as a volunteer requires a few mandatory steps. After filling out an application, new volunteers are invited in for an hour-and-a-half training session, which includes information on how the program works and what the program expects from volunteers. All applicants are also screened via a criminal background check for the safety of the seniors. Friendly Visitors pays for all fingerprinting costs and can reimburse for some mileage expenses as well. As the program grows and evolves, Zelinsky says some of the best feedback comes from the volunteers and seniors themselves. All participants are encouraged to speak up and contribute their comments and opinions on how to improve the program. It’s this spirit of community and conversation the program thrives on. “All it takes is one hour of the week giving someone their undivided attention,” says Zelinksy. “That is a very special gift that anyone can give.” •For more information on volunteering or to receive an application, contact Connie Zelinsky by phone at 530-621-6119, or by email at connie.zelinsky@co.el-dorado.ca.us.

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