If I’ve learned anything over the last 14 years as a writer, it’s that everyone recalls history differently. What’s fact to one may be false in another’s memory. I like to think that I excelled in history during my formative years and that my time as a community journalist aided in developing my research skills, but discerning fact from fiction remains one of my more complicated tasks.
This remains especially true when examining the history of Monterey.
I’ve been fascinated with the small river city for as long as I can recall, leaning heavily on the memories of those who “remember when,” including my late uncle, Victor Bourne. Central figures like Tom Bondurant and Hatton Curry, men who left this mortal coil long before my time, were as prominent in my mind as Twain’s Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, thanks to Uncle Victor’s masterful storytelling.
Little did my family members know that the retelling of stories would nurture a deep respect for both Monterey’s history and its people, past and present.
In July, I sat down with Larkspur Press founder and operator Gray Zeitz and Dara Carlisle at Monterey Park, thinking I might glean some new information on the beginnings of the biennial Monterey Homecoming Fair, first held in 1976. I walked away with an entirely new take on a period in Monterey’s history that I can only describe as awe-inspiring.
In the early 1970s, dozens of creative young adults converged on the area, escaping the city life many had endured while pursuing higher education. They set up homes without the amenities many had grown accustomed. They raised families, partied, and started businesses. They placed what had become little more than a tiny dot on the map in the regional spotlight.
In the aftermath of my interview with Gray and Dara, I soon realized that to properly tell the story of how the Monterey Homecoming Fair came to be, I would need to dig a little deeper. I combed through dozens of articles that appeared in newspapers across the state and in Owen County’s weekly newspaper, The News-Herald, to help fill in the gaps, obituaries, and even more obscure sources like findagrave.com (yes, there’s really such a thing), and set off writing the story I’d longed to tell since first coming to work in Owen County 14 years ago.
When it came time to create the cover for this quarter’s Sweet Owen, using a photo of Cedar Creek seemed the only sensible thing to do to tie in the area’s picturesque landscape. The title, of course, is partly stolen from Dana Burke’s (now Watson) old newspaper column, “Monterey Matters.”
While it may not be the story some Monterey residents recall, I can assure you I didn’t take any liberties; what you will find are the memories of those who were there as presented to me. Whether you were there or you’ve just heard mention of Monterey somewhere along the way, I hope the story encourages you to drop by the small river city on Saturday, Oct. 1.
You never know what you might see or learn, but rest assured, the homecoming scene alone proves, without a doubt, that Monterey still matters in the hearts and minds of a lot of people. Including myself.
Molly A. Haines