Tuesday, 16 July 2024


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Fire restrictions on the Mendocino National Forest will be lifted at noon on Wednesday as a result of rain and lower temperatures in the area.

Visitors with a valid California Campfire Permit will once again be able to have fires outside of designated campgrounds, including wilderness areas, officials reported.

The fire restrictions were put in place July 31 due to increased fire danger and hot, dry weather.

Despite the change in weather, fire season is not officially over. Visitors are asked to be careful when using campfires, charcoal fires and gas stoves in the National Forest.

When you have a campfire, please do the following:

  • Clear all flammable material away from the fire for a minimum of 5 feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire.

  • Have a shovel available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.

  • Have a responsible person in attendance at all times.

  • Extinguish campfire with water, drowning the fire, stirring the coals and ash, and feeling for heat or warm spots; continue the process until the coals and ash are cold.

Campfire permits are available free of charge from any Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or Cal Fire offices, including the Mendocino National Forest.

For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316.

LAKE COUNTY – The majority of the county's school districts showed improvement in the latest round of Academic Performance Index (API) tests, with Middletown Unified leading the county's districts in performance improvement and overall scores.

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the statewide results last month as part of the 2008-09 Accountability Progress Report.

The API is the state's accountability system, while the federal government requires the Adequate Yearly Progress and Program Improvement. O'Connell's office reported that both the API and AYP are based upon statewide assessment results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and from the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

Students go through the API testing in the spring.

“Our accountability report confirms that most California schools are continuing to make solid gains in academic achievement,” O'Connell said. “For the seventh year in a row schools at every level have made real progress toward the statewide API target of 800, and almost half of our elementary schools have met or exceeded this goal.”

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000 with a statewide target of 800.

The testing tracks subgroups including racial/ethnic subgroups, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities, which must meet growth standards for a school to meet its API growth target.

O'Connell reported that the API results also show “a slight narrowing” of the achievement gap between Hispanic or Latino and African American students and their white or Asian peers.

According to the report, 42 percent of all California schools are now at or above the overall statewide target API of 800, up six percentage points from the year before. This includes 48 percent of elementary schools, 36 percent of middle schools and 21 percent of high schools.

Statewide, all student subgroups demonstrated between 11- and 15-point improvement, O'Connell reported. African American, Hispanic or Latino, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students increased their API this year by 15 points, while the API of white students increased by 14 percentage points and the statewide increase for all students was 14 points.

Overall, Lake County's districts showed improvements. The school with the single highest API score growth was Konocti Unified School District's Blue Heron Opportunity School, which rose by 127 points to reach 582 points. The district as a whole grew by four points.

Middletown Unified School District made impressive gains for the year in its API testing. The district's overall growth was 34 points, with Middletown High School improving by 61 and Lake County International Charter School gaining 100 points.

The majority of the district's schools have API scores of 800 or above, and Cobb Mountain Elementary has the highest API score in the county – 881.

Superintendent Korby Olson noted that the API scores of Middletown High School, Middletown Middle School and Cobb Elementary School not only make them the highest performing schools in Lake County, but place them among the top performing schools in Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties.

Olson said all of the district's schools made continued growth on the API thanks to the consistent efforts of the staff and administration.

He said the teachers in Middletown have had a focus on the state standards for more than 10 years,with the focus in the last several years centering on instructional strategies to deliver the standards.

In Lakeport, where scores improved districtwide by 26 points, Superintendent Erin Hagberg said staff use achievement data to drive their instruction methods in order to meet the performance requirements.

Hagberg said teachers spend time in collaboration meetings at grade levels in order to share best practices and make sure they're on the same page, while looking at achievement data and adjusting their approach when necessary.

“I think the results of that are seen in our great scores,” Hagberg said.

Hagberg said the district is continuing to focus on closing the achievement gap for its subgroups – economically disadvantaged students and English language learners, groups which she said are of concern at districts around the county.

She credited those subgroups' improvement to the hard work of both staff and students.

“I'm extremely proud of them,” Hagberg said.

The scores for the counties districts and API testing schools follow. The most recent year's API scores are listed, followed in parentheses by the school's 2008-09 growth number.

Kelseyville Unified School District

Overall growth: -4

Kelseyville Elementary, 755 (-24); Riviera Elementary, 813 (1); Mountain Vista Middle School, 735 (7); Kelseyville High School, 688 (-13).

Konocti Unified School District

Overall growth: 4

Burns Valley Elementary, 711 (-1); East Lake Elementary, 717 (-7); Lower Lake Elementary, 729 (-22); Pomo Elementary, 718 (0); Oak Hill Middle School, 660 (-2); Lower Lake High, 665 (38); Richard H. Lewis Alternative, 706 (-37); Blue Heron, 582 (127); Carle Continuation High School, 678 (-17).

Lake County Office of Education

Overall growth: 18

Lakeport Unified School District

Overall growth: 26

Lakeport Elementary, 783 (32): Terrace Middle School, 801 (30); Clear Lake High School, 757 (10); Lakeport Alternative (Home School), 717 (23).

Lucerne Elementary School District

Overall growth: 7

Lucerne Elementary, 729 (5).

Middletown Unified School District

Overall growth: 34

Cobb Mountain Elementary, 881 (30); Coyote Valley Elementary, 813 (25); Minnie Cannon Elementary, 728 (2); Middletown Middle School, 810 (13); Middletown High School, 780 (61); Lake County International Charter School, 839 (100).

Upper Lake Union Elementary School District

Overall growth: -5

Upper Lake Elementary, 699 (1); Upper Lake Middle School, 666 (-12).

Upper Lake Union High School District

Overall growth: 3

Upper Lake High School, 701 (17); Clover Valley Continuation High School, 551 (No valid API base for 2008).

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .





There are two things my wife would never leave me alone in a room with: a bottle of Barbera and Linda Fiorentino – because she knows I'm crazy about both of them.

Barbera is the second most planted grape in Italy; only Sangiovese is more heavily planted. Although it is a fantastic wine with unique characteristics unlike most red wines, it has just never made it as number one.

Similarly, Linda Fiorentino has been fantastic in many movies but has never reached the associated “star power.” Nebbiolo and Dolcetto grapes aren’t as widely planted as Barbera but tend to be more popular. Italy has wine appellations named for the grape and even different styles of Barbera wine making. There is Barbera D’Asti (dry and full bodied, 85 percent Barbera grapes) and Barbera D’Alba (medium bodied and acidic, 100 percent Barbera grapes), just to name a couple. Both are different appellations in the Piedmont region of Italy and both wines must have a minimum alcohol content of 12 percent just to be called a Barbera.

Barbera grapes have been grown in Italy since at least the 13th century. In the late 20th century the Piedmont region (Barbera’s home region) was rocked by a scandal when it was found that Barbera wines of the area were being spiked with methanol to raise the alcohol content. The deplorable deed left many people blinded and there were several deaths. This caused the popularity of the grape to decline and thousands of acres of vines were ripped from the ground, but in recent years it is finding its popularity again. In her time Linda Fiorentino has had her scandals that also have fallen to the wayside. And if it wasn’t obvious, Linda Fiorentino is Italian also.

Barbera grapevines thrive in hot weather and can develop a very high sugar content which leads to a wine with a high alcohol content. I think one of the reasons that I like Barbera so much is that it is (to me) very reminiscent of port. The fruity taste with the high alcohol burn makes Barbera seem like a mild port. Barbera grapes are fairly disease- and pest-resistant and the grapes are small but intense … I’ll steer clear of any Linda Fiorentino comparisons or jokes at this time.

Barbera is a unique flavored wine that to some people is very welcome but others find offensive. For many years it was used mainly as a blending wine to balance the acid levels or used in the “jug wine” milieu. It isn’t as complex in flavor as the heavier reds, and can be too acidic for the average person. Linda Fiorentino’s character in “The Last Seduction” wasn’t exactly a likeable person either, and though I wouldn’t call her acidic, she sure was toxic. Barbera’s acidity can turn some people off, but I find it very interesting and refreshing. Tannins are typically low to medium and are offset by the acidity.

Most experts think that Barbera should be consumed within six years of harvest for it to be its best. Many movie critics think that, although Linda Fiorentino has made numerous movies and been stellar in all of them, “The Last Seduction” was her best work even though it was her first (when she was younger, just like the wine).

Some Barbera do age very well, so you can buy them and throw them in the cellar for a few years and they tend to get better. Just like, guess who? Come on! Have you seen Linda Fiorentino lately? She’s several years older than me, yet I would still knock Britney Spears to the ground to get near Linda Fiorentino. Cellaring the bottles will soften any tannins that might be harsh, however cellaring should be reserved for the heavier stronger Barbera, not the lighter fruitier ones. Cellaring ones that are lighter and fruitier can cause them to become bitter and brown colored with age. So be sure to know the wine before you choose to put it up.

The flavors in Barbera fairly simple and straightforward, filled with red and black berries, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, cherries, dried fruit, fruit jam, minerals, orange peel, plum, spice, tamarind, violets, and watermelon. Aging the wine in oak (often toasted oak, i.e., scorched on the inside) gives it flavors of brandy, brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, coconut, dark chocolate, dead leaves, earth, mocha, mushrooms, smoke, toast, tobacco, toffee, and vanilla.

Barbera screams to be eaten with steaks, a big hunk of red meat right off the grill, or something with lots of tomato sauce. It would not be at all suitable to drink it with a salad. The acidity of the wine would not pair well with any salad dressing. It would be like putting a hot pink disco suit on Linda Fiorentino - someone might like it, but most people would agree it’s in bad taste.

Linda Fiorentino is a hottie for connoisseurs. You won’t find her in a swimsuit poster on a teenage boy’s wall like Farrah. She does the slow low burn, seducing your mind more than your body. Similarly, Barbera is a wine for someone who really wants something different and completely opposite from the everyday. Barbera is the anti-blonde wine; it won’t sit there and giggle in your glass. It has a warm and husky voice like Linda Fiorentino that just lounges in the glass and purrs ... What? Is that too colorful of a description? Try a Barbera and you’ll understand.

Even the color of Barbera isn’t like other reds. While Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots are typically blackish red and densely colored, Barbera is a dark ruby. The color causes you to stop and take a second look as if you are looking at a liquid gem.

Barbera is sometimes made in a rustic manner and is left unfiltered so sediment can be present in the bottle. This is considered perfectly normal and proper, so don’t think there’s anything wrong with the wine if you wind up with solid bits left in the bottom of your glass. My general rule for Barbera is to not drink the last half cup in the bottle unless I have checked it for the little chunkies or decanted the bottle.

A strange thing I came across while researching this article is that, while you can Google Linda Fiorentino’s name and it will suggest a related search “Linda Fiorentino’s Legs,” oddly enough if you Google my name the consequent search results don’t mention my legs at all – but there is a medical doctor out there that probably shakes his head when he thinks of the karma of sharing a name with me. Barbera, however, can definitely have its legs talked about. When you swirl the wine around in the glass and the wine makes long streaks down the side of the glass, those are called the legs. While the legs of a wine are an indication of the alcohol content they don’t actually indicate anything terribly significant, but just like Linda Fiorentino’s they’re still frequently looked at.

I hope this gives you a desire to try a bottle of Barbera, and maybe rent “Men In Black” to go with it.

Lake County Barberas:

Robledo Family Winery

Rosa d’Oro Winery

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery

Shooting Star

Zina Hyde Cunningham (Boonville winery, made with Lake County Grapes)

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Authorities reported Tuesday that a fight between two brothers last weekend escalated into a confrontation that resulted in the fatal shooting of one of them.



Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, is alleged to have shot to death his brother Rafael Montes, 26, during an argument last Saturday night at Alberto Montes' Pomo Drive home at the Elem Indian Colony, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Alberto Montes was arrested Saturday night, as Lake County News has reported. He is being held in the Lake County Jail on a murder charge with bail set at $500,000.

According to Bauman's report, the Northshore Fire Protection District and Cal Fire responded to the area of Sulphur Bank Drive and Pomo Drive on a report of a vegetation fire.

About 30 minutes after fire personnel arrived at the scene of the approximately half-acre grass fire located off of Pomo Drive, the sheriff's dispatch began receiving calls reporting a man had been shot by his brother during a fight about the fire at a home on Pomo Drive, Bauman said.

When sheriff's deputies arrived at the Pomo Drive home where the shooting was reported, Alberto Montes immediately came out of the home with his hands in the air and was detained without incident, Bauman said.

Inside the home, Bauman said deputies found the mens' sisters, Rebecca and Nora Montes, and their mother, Brenda Geary. Two of the women were tending to Rafael Montes, who was on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said that a Northshore Fire advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the shooting on a medical call.

Firefighters and deputies attempted to treat Rafael Montes, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, Bauman said.

Deputies recovered the weapon they believe Alberto Montes used – a .22-caliber rifle – Bauman said.

Bauman said that, according to witness statements given to investigators, Rafael Montes, his two sisters and mother had arrived at Alberto Montes' home, at which time a trash fire outside was burning. About 20 minutes later, it had gotten out of control.

Alberto Montes, his sisters and mother attempted to put the fire out, and at one point he allegedly went into the house and began arguing with Rafael Montes because he reportedly didn't believe his brother was offering any help in the situation, according to Bauman.

The argument escalated to the point where Alberto Montes allegedly went to his room, got the .22 rifle and returned to confront his brother, Bauman said.

Rafael Montes, who reportedly had been drinking, taunted his brother to use the weapon and Alberto Montes is alleged to have fired one shot, striking him in the chest, Bauman said.

Bauman said an autopsy on Rafael Montes is scheduled to be performed on Wednesday morning at the Napa County Coroner’s Office.

The grass fire believed to be the source of the argument was contained after after about an hour, with fire units clearing the scene shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday, Bauman said.

Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins said Tuesday that the Lake County Arson Task Force was investigating the fire.

Arson investigators had turned over to the sheriff's office the information they had. Robbins said they didn't know who lit the fire in a small pile of trash next to the house.

“Our investigation will continue a little bit on it,” he said.

Alberto Montes is tentatively scheduled to be in court for arraignment on Wednesday, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Arson investigators are looking into the cause of a small, fast-moving wildland fire that was reported about an hour before a shooting at the Elem Indian Colony on Saturday evening.

It took firefighters about an hour to contain the fire, which was reported on Sulphur Bank Drive at about 6 p.m. Saturday, according to Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Fire response included three engines and two chief officers from Northshore Fire, mutual aid equipment from Cal Fire – including three engines, one dozer and a chief officer – and a mutual aid engine from Lake County Fire Protection District, Brown reported.

The fire started in the colony and burned towards the Bradley property, Brown said. The fast rate of fire spread was due to 20 mile per hour winds coming off of Clear Lake.

Shortly before 7 p.m., a shooting occurred at the colony. Brown said fire personnel were involved in firefighting operations and did not witness the incident.

A Northshore Fire advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the shooting on a medical call, Brown said.

He referred further questions on the incident to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which did not respond to inquiries on Sunday. For more on the shooting, see Clearlake Oaks man arrested for murder .

Clean up and mop up on the fire continued until 9 p.m., Brown said.

CLEARLAKE – This week a Clearlake Oaks man was found guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm for a November 2008 shooting.

On Wednesday a jury convicted 45-year-old Patrick Dewin McDaniel Sr. guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm of the charges. He was found not guilty of attempted murder.

McDaniel was found guilty of shooting 42-year-old Patrick O’Conner Sr. on Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving, according to the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

He also was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, and carrying a loaded firearm in public.

In addition, the jury found true special allegations the defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of the crime, intentionally discharged a firearm and caused great bodily injury to the victim.

William Conwell, McDaniel's defense attorney, said he could not comment on the case.

“I think the jury reached the right result,” said Deputy District Attorney Sharon Lerman-Hubert.

Lerman-Hubert said McDaniel faces a maximum of approximately 18 years in prison when he's sentenced on Nov. 7.

The confrontation that led to the shooting took place outside a home on Second Street in Clearlake Oaks, where McDaniel, his younger brother, Cecil, and some others were visiting.

According to the original investigation reports, Patrick McDaniel and O'Conner had exchanged words earlier in the day when the McDaniels arrived at a neighboring home. Witnesses stated that prior to the shooting McDaniel was argumentative, and was bragging and flashing a small semiautomatic pistol.

McDaniel went outside where he and O'Conner – who was in his yard with his 23-year-old son, Patrick Jr. – again had a confrontation. The O'Conners approached McDaniel, who was alleged to have pulled a gun from his coat pocket, struck Patrick O'Conner Sr. with in the head with the pistol and then shot him once in the chest.

After O’Conner Sr. was shot, he managed to run back to his house next door, where he was assisted by family members until medical personnel arrived. Deputies found him seated in front of his house.

Patrick O’Conner Jr. testified that he heard one shot, and then two more clicks as he and his father fled, the District Attorney's Office reported.

Deputies arriving at the scene searched for a reported five hours seeking the McDaniel brothers, as Lake County News reported last year.

Officials said the gun believed to have been used by Patrick McDaniel was found the next morning in a yard three houses west. The .380 caliber Walther PPK was picked up by a 5-year-old boy playing in his yard. The gun was jammed with a round in the chamber.

The McDaniels fled, with deputies arresting Cecil McDaniel on Dec. 3 in Clearlake Oaks.

Patrick McDaniel was arrested on a fugitive warrant by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police on Dec. 17 and extradited by the US Marshals Office to San Quentin State Prison before being returned to Lake County.

After his arrest, Sgt. Det. Jim Samples of the Lake County Sheriff's Office interviewed McDaniel in Nevada, at which time McDaniel admitted to the shooting, but claimed it was an accident, and that he was defending himself and his brother, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Lerman-Hubert also prosecuted Cecil McDaniel, who in April was found not guilty of felony battery with serious injury for breaking O'Conner's son James' jaw just after the shooting occurred.

Patrick McDaniel's trial was a long one, beginning on Aug. 18 and Oct. 7, with Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom presiding.

The trial's length was due to a large amount of evidence, 20 witnesses and numerous delays, said Lerman-Hubert.

During the trial, Lerman-Hubert called to the stand a Sutter Lakeside Hospital doctor who worked on Patrick O'Conner, and who testified that the injury he suffered was life-threatening.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated on the case for approximately five hours in Department Four in Clearlake, according to the District Attorney's Office.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

SACRAMENTO – On Sunday, the last day for him to decide the fate of hundreds of pieces of legislation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed five bills by Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) but vetoed two others.

The Wiggins bills that he signed were:

  • SB 2, which authorizes a vote of the Pierce's Disease and Glassy-winged Sharpshooter Board on whether the industry assessment should be continued needs to be passed in 2008. PD and the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter continue to be a problem for California winegrape growers. Industry funds are a key component, along with state and federal funds to pay for research and containment. This bill is sponsored by the Family Winemakers of California, the California Association of Winegrape Growers), and the Wine Institute.

  • SB 215, which requires local agency formation commissions to consider "sustainable community strategies" before making boundary decisions. Local agency formation commissions (LAFCOs) control the boundaries of cities and special districts, operating under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act and are considered by the courts to be the "watchdog" over these boundary changes. One of the purposes of LAFCOs is to "discouraging urban sprawl." To guide their boundary decisions, LAFCOs must adopt "spheres of influence" for cities and districts, designating their future service areas and boundaries. LAFCOs’ boundary decisions must be consistent with these spheres of influence. SB 215 is supported bu the California Association of LAFCOs, Mendocino LAFCO, Planning & Conservation League, Sonoma LAFCO, and Trust for Public Land.

  • SB 260, which increases the cap on the fee assessed on each gallon of motor oil manufactured in California from two cents per gallon to five cents to cover the costs of administering the existing California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards, Petroleum Products Program. The motor oil fee has not been increased in 29 years (1979). The current rate is not sufficient to cover the costs of the current program. SB 260 is sponsored by the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association.

  • SB 620, which requires a compulsory survey during the time of re-licensure in order to monitor the Osteopathic Doctors' (D.O.s) workforce. In 2001, AB 1586 (Negrete McLeod) required the California Medical Board to administer a compulsory medical doctor (M.D.) physician survey with re-licensure. The survey includes information regarding: weekly hours in patient care, practice zip code, training status, self-designated specialties, and Board certification. The survey has provided a total count of physicians by specialty (i.e. primary care or specialist) statewide, and by county. SB 620 would require a similar compulsive survey for the D.O. Board in order to provide more information on all primary care physicians practicing in California in order to better address recruitment and retention of physicians, and to identify services needed in specific regions. SB 620 is sponsored by the Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons of California and supported by the California Medical Association.

  • SB 635, which allows Sonoma County to increase a number of fees for the purpose of funding domestic violence prevention programs. SB 635 will also extend Solano Countys Family Justice Program until 2011. The purpose of raising the fees for marriage licenses, certified copies of marriage certificates, fetal death records, and death records issued by the county clerk, is to fund oversight and coordination of domestic violence prevention, intervention and prosecution efforts. Currently, similar pilot programs exist in Alameda and Solano but are subject to sunset in 2010. The program would also sunset for Sonoma County in 2015.

The Wiggins bills that he vetoed were:

  • SB 158, which would have required health insurance plans that currently cover cervical cancer screening, to also provide coverage for the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls ages 11 - 26. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is also the only known cause for cervical cancer.

  • SB 272, which would have updated academic and career counseling statutes and trains career and vocational education counselors to advise students of all their postsecondary options (including career technical education, multiple pathways, or college education). The California education counseling statutes have not been updated in over two decades. By updating the education counseling statutes and specifying the roles of career counselors, SB 272 would enhance existing counseling programs in order to better address the academic and career needs of students. Furthermore, SB 272 would encourage school counselors to obtain training opportunities to learn about innovative concepts such as multiple pathways and Career Technical Education (CTE).

Visit Wiggins' Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/ .

The Clarkes' museum includes a carnival display that, with a few coins, springs into motion. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



NICE – Behind the brightly painted blue door of a former firehouse along Highway 20 is a new and unexpected attraction: A lunchbox museum and collector's emporium.

Step into the newly opened Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum and you'll be greeted by Debbie Clarke, a smiling and energetic woman whose enthusiasm for the wonderful stuff of childhood has coalesced into a colorful and magical new shop.

She and husband Duane transformed the former Nice Firehouse into a shop and museum that is part carnival, part walk down memory lane. It features more than 100,000 collectible items for sale, including dolls, television and movie memorabilia, and toys.

For the last 24 years, Clarke has collected lunchboxes, beginning with the first one that she and husband, Duane, purchased together at a flea market in 1985. It was a lunchboxes featuring teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman that is now nestled amidst the hundreds of other reminders of trips to the school cafeteria.

She has 700 lunchboxes in all, most of which line the walls. Extras are for sale.

Look closely and you're likely to see the lunchbox you carried to school as a child – this reporter did.

One of Clarke's treasures is a Beatles lunchbox she picked up at a small junk store in Clearlake a few years back for 25 cents. During the peak buying season at Christmas, Clarke has seen the same lunchbox go for as much as $1,000.




Debbie and Duane Clarke's lunchbox collection includes several depicting favorite western television shows of the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



When eBay came along, Clarke's collecting went to another level. “Then it got really crazy,” she said, noting she bought about 250 lunchboxes on eBay alone.

Clarke joined eBay's passionate collectors team in 2005 and was featured in a short eBay film in Chicago in 2008. She's also been the subject of many articles, with the shop's opening now gaining more attention around the region.

Clarke said she's fascinated by the social history that's portrayed on the lunchboxes. As an example, she's noticed that boxes produced during the Vietnam War seemed to have more of a pro-military theme.

She' especially fond of the TV show-related lunchboxes, which feature every genre – from Roy Rogers and “Gunsmoke” to “Kung Fu,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Nancy Drew.” Plus there are plenty of Disney and Star Wars boxes.

Then there is the collection of Ponytail boxes. Ponytails, popular from the 1950s to 1980s, were cardboard coated with vinyl in which little girls stored their dolls. Because the cardboard can be easily ruined, it's hard to find them in good condition.

Clarke also has vinyl lunchboxes that, like the Ponytails, are extremely rare because they were easily ruined.

“These are the rarest kind you can get and they cost a lot more,” she said, pointing to a display of the vinyl lunchboxes.




In addition to the lunchbox collection that's part of the museum, numerous lunchboxes also are offered for sale. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



These and numerous other items for sale not just at the shop by on Clarke's eBay page.

Then there is the carnival theme, with a display at the back of the store.

A friend of Clarke's worked at Sonoma County's Recycletown, and happened to be there one day when a man came in, bringing with him animatronics that his father had built for Playland by the Sea in San Francisco.

The man intended to rip out the metal innards of the robotic characters to put them in the recycle bin, but Clarke's friend intervened and they were saved.

One of the characters, an animated bear with a hot dog cart, now resides at the back of the store, next to a giant Laughing Sally which the Clarkes acquired from artist Poe Desmuke, who also did a large carnival themed painting on the shop's ceiling.





This animatronic bear from San Francisco's Playland by the Sea was headed for the trash heap at Sonoma County's dump when a friend of Debbie Clarke's rescued him. He now makes his home in the carnival display at the back of Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Drop 50 cents into the slot and Sally is happy to laugh up a storm, as the bear and other characters move, blink, even stick out their tongues while a neon carnival sign flashes “Open.”

Adding an extra measure of authenticity is that Laughing Sally's mirth is a tape of the original Laughing Sally, which Clarke got from Sheldon Steinberg, who owns the antique plumbing shop The Elegant Bowl, located in the old livery stable next to the Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe in Upper Lake.

It was through Recycletown that Clarke also got ahold of a large shipment of Star Wars-related items that were donated after George Lucas moved his movie production headquarters into a new facility in the Bay Area.

Opening the store took about a year, said Clarke.

The genesis of the project came about around seven years ago.





Memorabilia for sale includes items featuring the Beatles. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Clarke had grown up in Lake County and attended Lower Lake High, but had moved to Sonoma County where she was a history teacher in Healdsburg.

One day as she and her husband were driving through Nice, they saw the old firehouse and he said he'd love to own such a building. And it just so happened that when they stopped to look at the building it had a “for sale” sign.

The couple, who between them have three grown children, later sold their home in Sonoma County and moved to Nice full-time. Both of them recently retired and then began their next career as shop proprietors.

While Duane Clarke is the artistic one in the family – designing and painting the building's colorful interior – Debbie Clarke turns her enthusiasm toward her job as curator, sharing her knowledge with anyone who is interested.





An important part of the collection and the store is the offering of rare Ponytail vinyl boxes, used to store dolls. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



They've also created a library for people to look up their item's value.

Even though they've just opened full-time, they're already had a lot of interest, especially from visitors traveling along Highway 20. Many stay for hours at a time.

“They're finding stuff from their childhood,” she said.

She's also seen visitors come in a little down and leave in a better mood after experiencing the colorful displays.

Clarke's Collectibles and Lunchbox Museum is located at 3674 E. Highway 20. The shop is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or private tours can be scheduled by calling the shop at 707-274-9175.

Visit their virtual museum online or contact them through their Web site at www.retrodeb.com . The site also features a video of Laughing Sally.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .




Star Wars memorabilia is among the offerings at the shop. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.






The shop has been renovated over the past year as the Clarkes prepared for their opening. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

SPRING VALLEY – A fire believed to have been sparked by an antique car caught a hillside on fire in Spring Valley early Friday afternoon.

The fire, which occurred along New Long Valley Road within a mile of Highway 20, was dispatched at 12:26 p.m. Friday, according to Cal Fire, which had joint command of the incident.

A passing United Parcel Service driver reportedly stopped to empty his fire extinguisher on the car as firefighters and California Highway Patrol responded to the fire, which blocked traffic in and out of the valley.

The fire then moved up a nearby hillside. “We took care of the vehicle fire an part of the wildland fire, and Cal Fire took over from there,” said Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Ken Petz.

Northshore sent an engine and a medic unit to the fire, said Petz, while Cal Fire sent five engines, a bulldozer that was used to create a fire break and aircraft.

Cal Fire said the blaze was contained at 12:54 p.m. The blaze was estimated to be about a half-acre in size.

Petz noted that, despite the dry conditions, there hasn't been much fire activity recently.

The only other fire activity of note in the area was reported by the Mendocino National Forest.

Late Thursday, a small fire just over an acre in size was reported in the Rice Valley area of the Mendocino National Forest, according to spokesperson Tamara Schmidt.

Cal Fire reported that it sent engines, dozers and hand crews to assist in fighting the fire, located in the vicinity of Lake Pillsbury.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, was arrested for murder on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Lake County Jail photo.



CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man was arrested late Saturday night for murder.

Alberto Alejandro Montes, 24, was taken into custody just before midnight by the Lake County Sheriff's Office, according to booking records.

He's charged with one count of murder, with bail set at $500,000, plus an additional felony charge of bringing a weapon into the Lake County Jail.

Earlier Saturday evening, sheriff's deputies, Clearlake Police and Northshore Fire paramedics responded to an incident at the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake Oaks in which a male subject was reported to have been shot in the chest.

Northshore Fire has arrived at a location on Sulphur Bank Drive at the colony at about 6 p.m. to fight a three-acre wildland fire, according to Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Brown said Northshore's personnel were busy with firefighting operations and didn't witness the incident.

However, Brown said an advanced life support engine was pulled from the fire and responded to the medical call for the shooting at the colony.

Brown referred questions about the shooting to the Lake County Sheriff's Office, which did not respond on Sunday to requests for more information about the arrest or the shooting.

The victim in the shooting, which occurred shortly before 7 p.m., died. By that time a suspect already had been taken into custody.

Montes, whose profession is listed as a cook, was booked into the jail at 12:20 a.m. Sunday, according to jail records.

A tentative arraignment date for Montes has been set for Tuesday.

KELSEYVILLE – A Saturday afternoon crash near Kelseyville resulted in major injuries.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred on eastbound Highway 175 on the way to Cobb, one mile from Kelseyville, just after 1 p.m.

A motorcycle was reported to have gone off the road and into a nearby field, according to the CHP.

The CHP said another vehicle was involved. That vehicle had gone 20 feet off the roadway.

The collision resulted in both of the highway's lanes being blocked for emergency vehicles, the CHP said.

Officials said the roadway was reopened just a few minutes before 2 p.m.

The identities of those involved and the extent of their injuries was not available Saturday, although the CHP reported major injuries.

A CHP unit in Santa Rosa was dispatched to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital to conduct a blood draw in the case.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – For those who aren't registered to vote but want to vote in the Nov. 3 election, the deadline is coming up.

The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office advises voters that a consolidated general district election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

At this election, voters who reside within the city of Lakeport will have the opportunity to vote for or against Measure C (use and sale of fireworks within the city).

In addition, voters who reside within the boundaries of the Mendocino-Lake Community College District, Upper Lake High School District, Upper Lake Elementary School District and Lucerne Elementary School District will have the opportunity to elect governing board members for each of the school districts.

Please be aware that new residents of Lake County, and registered voters who have moved to a new address, changed their mailing address within the county, or changed their name, that you need to reregister in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming consolidated general district election.

Don't delay – the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 3 consolidated general district election is Monday, Oct. 19.

The completed voter registration form must be either personally delivered to the Registrar of Voters Office on or before Oct. 19 or, postmarked on or before Oct. 19 and received by mail by the Registrar of Voters Office.

Please be aware that pursuant to Section 2101 of the California Elections Code: "A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election."

Residents may register to vote at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office, Room 209, Courthouse, Lakeport or may phone the Registrar's Office at 707-263-2372 for information.

Registration forms are also available at most local post offices, libraries, senior centers, city offices and chamber of commerce offices.

Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Board of Supervisors
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.16.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.18.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop

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