Friday, January 27, 2012




Regarding Gasquet, I never meant to imply that it is a shameful place. On the contrary, I can completely understand why certain kinds of people want to live in a rural area in a beautiful part of the world. However, being raised in a rural place can be a different story. As a kid, I was filled with wonder at the nature all around me, but I felt completely isolated from my peers. I did have some interesting friends that came and went over the years, but I have to say - every family or person I knew were all coming from some other place, often, "escaping, " from something, someone, some situation. People escaping other people and ending up in a loose-knit community in the redwoods. I digress: the coolest time I spent in Gasquet was in the late 1970s. My family moved there in December 1975, about a month after my dad died. My mom, I can remember, was sighing a lot and consulting with her business associates about buying a house somewhere in rural Del Norte county. We were living temporarily in Smith River in a rather funky trailer/house combination. My mom tended to fall in love with homes that were of older construction and had unique qualities. She ended up buying the old Gasquet School house, a giant, cavernous house divided in 2 large sections, formerly classrooms I assume. Long and rectangular with giant redwood beam construction, the house was drafty but solid. The entire main dining room / living room was large and lodge-like, with high ceilings and 7 or 8 large windows along one wall, a large fireplace - later a insert stove - on one end. The other half of the house was divided into 5 bedrooms of varying sizes, a laundry room and a bathroom. The laundry room dead-ended in a pantry-sized hallway. This was my room, only big enough for my bed and alien sci-fi books. I digress: When my family moved to Gasquet, we landed in a cool little town with a fair-sized population of kids of all ages. It didn't really stay that way in the 1980s. The 70s in Gasquet were ruled by factions of rowdy youth partiers from several different families. At the least, that is how I remember it as a young kid. I was surrounded by my 3 older brothers and 1 older sister. They knew everyone in town and everyone knew us Coles. My brother Mike, 3d from the oldest in my family, was well known in this part of the world. He was a natural leader of a certain kind of tribe, the kind of tribe that exists in the Mountain Dew commercial Gasquet of my fuzzy memories, a tribe of regular, American dudes living the wholesome, mischief-laden, dope smokin', possibly thievin, small-town existence. All the dudes that were Mike's friends - guys with names like Bruce, Brett, Bob, Dan, Mike and Rocky, girls with names I can no longer remember - were typically rowdy but nice, often hanging out at, "The Forks, " the popular river spot, doing their thing, loudly, jumping off cliffs and hyperventilating for a cheap buzz. Drug use - there was plenty, and plenty of gas and glue-huffing as well. Off-roading in Datsuns and VW bugs - check. Siphoning fuel from airplanes for a high-octane kick for your Nova? - check. Running through the woods at night, tripping balls on 'shrooms - check. Fun stuff to witness, and somewhat disconcerting, but that was what was going down. Of course, my sister and other bros knew all these folks too, but Mike seemed like the head of the pack. I can remember tooling around town with my brother, going up to visit friends that lived on Gasquet loop road while riding on the back of dirt bikes, getting in car crashes every now and then, playing my first video games and first hearing, "new wave," music, like Blondie, on local turntables, all the while my bro sneakin' off to go smoke weed with his friends, always leaving me with Rush records to listen to or Atari 2600 games to play with, always Asteroids. I wish I could let drop some of the more salacious gossip of the times, but I don't want to incriminate anyone - although I'm sure the statute of limitations is long over for petty crimes of the sort that I was witness to. Stolen beer, siphoned gas, joyrides, petty theft, vandalism. I wasn't party to any of it at the time - of course I was much too young - but I have to say, it colored my outlook on life, somehow imparted a thieves' perspective on my psyche. I'm thankful that I was never witness to any truly bad shit - no white drugs, prostitution or domestic violence - not like so many of my friends, but there was a wild, permissive vibe in the air during the era. Our parents were distracted with the free, freaky, swinging 70s. We got away with entirely too much, but some of course, paid the price anyway. Next time: why Steve Miller Band wrote the soundtrack to the summer of my youth, Edward J Colesier

1 comment:

Gail Perlee said...

OMG, we were the family renting the old Gasquet schoolhouse when your mom bought the place. That was some place, all right. The kitchen was so small we had to put our fridge in the front entry hall - so to speak. Loved the old clawfoot bathtub in the one bathroom though. I know your mom decided to close in that wonderful big deck with the tree growing up through the middle of it so you guys could have a pool table in there, but I always thought that was too bad. That big deck was one of the best things about that place. And it had 5 bdrms, yes, but the first two were tiny & 3 of them were separated only by wood paneling over open frames. But you're right. The washer & dryer were inside in an alcove off the hall to the main bathroom. The one thing I never got while we lived there was a picture of the place. Do you have any photos of it by any chance? This is so one of those "small world" things. I went online keying in only "Old Gasquet Schoolhouse" & up came your blog. What were the odds? My husband was working for the U.S. Forest Service at the time. We moved to Gasquet in Dec. 1968 & left in Aug. 1976.