Last weekend, I drove up to Old Station, CA for the weekend to help my parents with their high school reunion. Actually, it was more a "birthday party" for Burney High School, as it was turning 40 this year, and the reunion included the first 5 classes that graduated. But, I digress. I grew up in this dinky town (seriously, you blink, you miss it) of maybe 300 people (and that's probably including the summer campers). Definitely one of those towns where everyone knows everyone else, and you can't get away with anything. My parents owned a restaurant in Old Station, Brangus Burgers, and there were probably a total of 10 kids that lived there year-round while I lived there. I doubt that's changed much. What's wonderful about small towns is that change takes a lot longer than it does in a city. Cities are constantly tearing down and building up; sirens blaring off and on all day long (and all night); smog blanketing the area; businesses are open 24 hours, and no one cares who you are.
Small towns are special. People are friendly, the air smells of pine trees (and no, it's not because of air fresheners), sirens are rare, there's a chance someone there has never heard the term "smog" (unless their car requires a smog check), and the town shuts down by 9/10pm. And there's history staring at you everywhere you go. Old Station got it's name from being an old military station, the original cabins the army stayed in are still there, now rented out for travelers. The military guarded the road, as Old Station was a pit stop for those traveling by stage coach between Sacramento and Yreka. It sits with Lassen Volcanic National Park in it's back yard. It's direct neighbor is a large lava tube, dubbed The Subway Cave, which was formed by the local lava eruption from nearby vents. Great place to go on a hot day. Not kidding. Hat Creek runs right through it, perfect for fishing. It's where I learned to fish. Not that I still do. I stopped once I was old enough that I required a license. But I do remember putting worms on my own hooks! And the beautiful Burney Falls are not far, either. Rumor has it, Roosevelt called it the unofficial 8th wonder of the world.
Being up there last weekend brought back a lot of memories from a very happy childhood. I hadn't been back up there in probably close to 10 years. I've driven through Burney and Fall River on my way to my grandparents ranch, but hadn't really spent time there. I remembered the 1.5 hour bus ride to and from school (yes, I'm serious), spending hours at my parents restaurant entertaining customers or visiting with family friends . . . or making them my "special" pies (you know, the kind of pies a 3 year old makes), camping under the stars with my parents, learning how to fish, and Halloween parties held at the fire hall (conveniently located right next to our restaurant).
Our old restaurant, now called JJ's Cafe.