Newcomers Offer Tips on Making a New Life in the Foothills

Arlene Uslander
By Arlene Uslander December 15, 2009 18:54

Linda at home

Forty-one consecutive days of rain got to be too much for Seattle resident Lynda Weinberg, so she decided she wanted to move to Northern California, where she had lived at one time.

Originally from New York, Lynda is a psychic, nutritionist and healer, who from childhood learned to have great faith in her intuition. She took out a map of Northern California, closed her eyes, and let her finger “do the walking.”

When she opened her eyes, her finger had landed directly on Sonora, where the sun supposedly shines 325 days a year. She felt “strong vibrations” and remembers thinking, “That’s for me!”

Lynda, 71, a divorcee with children and grandchildren in different parts of the country, moved to Sonora two years ago without knowing a single soul here. But this friendly, vivacious woman quickly adapted. The warmth and friendliness of local residents made her realize from day one that she had chosen the right place to live.

“Where else,” she asks, “can you walk down the street and have total strangers ask you how your day is going?”

Lynda volunteered at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, serving early morning breakfasts, and also helped in the reference department of the Tuolumne County Library. It was at the Sonora library that she made her first social contacts, during book discussion groups, game day, and by taking a Hebrew class.

That class led her to become involved with the Mother Lode Jewish Community, whose Tuolumne, Amador and Calaveras county members hold Sabbath and Jewish holiday services in private homes. A past president of the group and still on its executive board, Lynda is also involved with a messianic group that holds Friday night services at the Sonora Senior Center.

“You have to get involved,” she says. “There are so many different ways to do this. Just walking up and down Washington Street, picking up the free papers outside shops and restaurants; and reading Friends and Neighbors Magazine and The Union Democrat, which announce the myriad activities going on in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.”

Blair Abbott, 71, and his wife, Carolyn, 67, moved to Sonora four-and-a-half years ago from Fremont, where they lived in the same house for nearly four decades. Carolyn had been a dental assistant; Blair was a maintenance supervisor at the Palo Alto-based Electric Power Research Institute.

“We wanted to get into this area because we enjoy the foothills,” says Blair. They used to visit here often with relatives who live in Sonora and Twain Harte. Carolyn grew up in Fremont, and since childhood, her family came here to ski, snowshoe, and just get away to the peace and quiet.

There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day for the Abbotts. Blair joined the Elks Lodge, SIRS (Sons in Retirement), helped found a men’s group called the Sonora Geezers, and became a volunteer at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, although he’d had no prior experience with trains. “I’m part of the ‘Tuesday gang,’ which works on the trains, exhibits and buildings,” he explains.

“I see it as an adventure,” Blair says of moving here. “And, you find more of a jury of your peers here if you are over 50. You can identify more with what goes on.”

Carolyn is so busy that she finds herself at home just one day a week. She and her husband joined the Tuolumne County Newcomers Club early on “and have made some of our dearest friends there.” She also joined a Red Hat group, the Mother Lode Art Association, became a docent at Columbia State Historic Park, and took the Master Gardening program through the University of California Cooperative Extension.

“One of the nicest things about living here is that we don’t have to go very far to do anything,” says Carolyn. “We really enjoy the summer concerts in Courthouse Square, and we go to Sierra Repertory Theater. We’ve never seen a bad performance.

“My family says, ‘Are you coming down to the Bay Area?’ but most of the time, we are too busy doing things here. We know we have sacrificed seeing our children and grandchildren as much as we did before, but we have met friends who are like family, and our children have their own lives to live.”

Leslie Davis, 61, and her husband, Gary, 72, both retired from Siemens Medical Systems in Concord, found a niche for themselves here when they moved from Pleasant Hill in 2006. They had only vacationed in the area for two weekends over the years, and when they moved, they didn’t know anyone here.

“We wanted to move above the fog and below the snow,” Leslie says, adding that they actually enjoy the few inches of snow Columbia gets in the winter.

They joined the Church of the 49ers, and Leslie, who works part-time for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, has volunteered for Tuolumne County Habitat for Humanity and the Mountain Women’s Resource Center.  She also joined the Sonora chapter of the American Association of University Women.

“I thought the AAUW would be a good place to meet women with similar interests,” says Leslie, “and I agree wholeheartedly with its mission to advance equity for women and girls. The members have been very welcoming. It has five book clubs, several gourmet groups, a writing group, and more. I’ve been so impressed with their professionalism, and the large amount of money raised for scholarships.”

Is there anything they don’t like about this area? “Yes,” Leslie admits, heaving a sigh. “We had to give up Trader Joe’s and Macy’s!”

Jim and Judy Hamilton moved to Twain Harte from Redwood City in October 2008. They owned a vacation home in Twain Harte in the 1980s, and moved here when Jim retired from the retail camera business.

They knew just a few people when they came here, but their social circle quickly expanded. They joined the Newcomers Club, which Jim describes as “the easiest way to meet people.”  He also suggests checking the Union Democrat’s Weekender section, which details upcoming community events.

Jim, 71, maintains that at any age, it is a challenge to move to a new area.

“Some people are not outgoing, and that makes it harder,” he notes. “Joining a club or church group are ways to meet people in a comfortable setting.”

His advice to people new to the Mother Lode? “Join a club, meet your neighbors and talk to people!”

For Judy, 63, the biggest changes have been “living in a four-season climate, shoveling snow, and watching for deer crossing the roads.”

“However, I wouldn’t move back to the Bay Area for anything in the world,” she adds. “Both Jim and I feel blessed to live where we do, surrounded by wonderful neighbors and being part of a great community.”

Arlene Uslander, an author and freelance editor, moved to Sonora with her husband, Ira, from Chicago in September 2008 to be close to their son Bob and family. “It’s a wonderful place to live because of the great variety of things to do and see in Sonora and surrounding areas,” Arlene says, “the beauty of the rolling hills and mountains, and most of all, the warmth and friendliness of the people.”

Groups Welcome New Arrivals

Tuolumne County Newcomers Club: New members welcome to this very active group, which schedules various events monthly at different locations. Included are luncheons, dinners, soup cookoffs, game nights and theater outings, to name a few. Annual dues $25, plus cost of any event. Grace Fruiosi, 586-0710, or Marge Czadzeck, 586-9496.

Gold Country Social Club: Meets the second Tuesday of month for lunch and speaker at the Pine Tree Restaurant, 19601 Hess Ave., East Sonora; groups within the club host other activities such as card and book groups. Open to men and women; raises funds for local charities. Annual dues $12, luncheons $10. “I’d encourage anyone interested to start by coming to our monthly luncheon, and we’ll do our best to make them feel welcome,” says Betty Finch, vice president. 532-9438.

Arlene Uslander
By Arlene Uslander December 15, 2009 18:54
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