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How Herald Day replaced memories of San Quentin

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Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 9:33 am, Wed Aug 8, 2012.

Every time I drive past Twin Cities Road, it reminds me of my days at San Quentin. The Richard A McGee Correctional Training Center, located just west of 99, is where correctional officers prepare to "walk the toughest beat in the state."

By 1997, I was already becoming too slow to run after fugitives as a bounty hunter. Walking the tiers of death row as a correctional officer was a career upgrade for me. I guess everyone evaluates their present compared to their past.

Last weekend, I drove east on Twin Cities as part of my new journey as executive director of the Galt District Chamber of Commerce.

Last Friday night I heard about Herald Day. I was told to get there early. Prior to becoming the executive director, I never knew much about Herald, much less knowing that Herald had a "day." Since I already had a Saturday breakfast meeting scheduled at the Velvet Grill, I would to have to miss the parade and the mud volleyball tournament.

After driving approximately four miles east of 99 on Twin Cities, I found Herald. The massive and majestic American Flag, waving from the Softcom boom truck, made that especially easy.

As I got closer, I noticed a dozen elderly folks, mostly men, sitting around on the covered porch entry of the Herald Store. Hanging over their head was a wooden sign that said "Porch Club" and a large community bulletin board.

Even though it was just 7 a.m., the little park next to the Herald Store was already full of activity. Merrilyn's Gourmet Fudge was giving away delicious free samples. Cleo from Cleo's Traveling Notary recognized me and asked if she could take a photo with me by the Galt Business Builders booth. Another lady approached me with a large smile and handed me a small American flag and booklet titled "Honoring Our Veterans Herald Day 2012."

I thought the Blues, Brews and BBQ poster in my car trunk would match perfectly with the ambiance of the Herald Store and their mosaic bulletin board.

"Just put it anywhere," I heard a gruff voice say as I borrowed a thumb tack from a horseshoe advertisement. I turned around to acknowledge a husky man sitting right underneath the Porch Club sign. It didn't take long for me to recognize that I had just met the "Mayor of the Porch Club," Mr. Larry Craig.

Herald resident Randy Mayberry (yes, that is really his last name) told me if you ever need or want anything, Larry is the guy who can hook you up. Mr. Mayberry added that the Porch Club sends flowers to funerals, and will cut your lawn during a family crisis or bring a hot meal to your home.

According to Dorée MacAlvey, who originally is from Nicholsville, Ohio, but now proudly resides in Herald, it was Larry who helped create the community vegetable table. Take what you want, leave what you want.

Larry bought a place in Herald back in 1968, but didn't actually move to town until 1973. Larry was born in Glendale on Sept. 28, 1942. He is a retired captain for the California Youth Authority.

Larry is also an atomic veteran. Prior to working for the CYA, he was in the U.S. Navy from June 1960 to Sept. 1963. It was during that time that Operation Dominic took place. This was a series of 36 nuclear test explosions that was authorized by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, shortly after the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion. Operation Dominic was the largest nuclear weapons testing program ever conducted by the United States, and the last atmospheric test series conducted. In 1963, The Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed in Moscow.

It is because of the Christmas Eve Breakfast Project that Larry is so famous. Along with being the Mayor of the Porch Club, he is also apparently the king of the biscuits and gravy. Estimates for how many people show up for this annual free breakfast range between 600 to well over 750 people, rain or shine. Especially impressive when you consider Herald's population is barely over 1,000.

I asked Larry, if I came to the Christmas Eve Breakfast, would I need to pay because I live in Lodi as opposed to Herald? "Everybody eats free. Herald is an attitude, not an address," he said. From here forward, when I drive past Twin Cities Road, instead of thinking about my time at San Quentin, I will be thinking about the Honorable Mayor of the Porch, Mr. Larry Craig.

Contact Frank Gayaldo at gayaldofarms@aol.com.

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