Cherilyn Evans and Daniel Littlewood

Recorded May 14, 2011 Archived May 14, 2011 24:59 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY007844


Cherilyn Evans (63) tells facilitator Daniel Littlewood (32) about how she moved from Los Angeles to Ukiah, California.

Subject Log / Time Code

Cherilyn lived in Echo Park in Los Angeles, California. In 1982, she decided to leave with her son, as her relationship with her son’s father deteriorated.
She was amazed by the warmth and openness of the community in Ukiah and tells the story of how she found her house.
In her neighborhood in Los Angeles, she was one of the only white people, she describes the culture shock of coming to Ukiah.
Cherilyn has seen the demographics and attitude of people in Ukiah change.
She has created theatre pieces with others in the community dealing with identity and telling people’s stories.


  • Cherilyn Evans
  • Daniel Littlewood

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:03 My name is Daniel littlewood. And I am 32 years old. I'm here on May 14th 2011 in Ukiah California with someone that I just got a chance to meet.

00:15 My name is Cheryl Lynn Evans. I will be 63 years old tomorrow. And today is May 14th. 2011. We're in Ukiah California. Sharolyn. Let me start by saying happy early birthday. Thank you. Have a good one. And we're in the Ukiah California, but you're not you're not from here. I came from Los Angeles where I was born and lived thirty years. Tell me about the little bit about where you're from and Los Angeles and going up there. I was living in Echo Park at the time and

00:51 I had wanted to leave that smoggy and dirty place and crowded and crazy Los Angeles for a long time.

00:59 I had a son and what precipitated my leaving was that?

01:07 One day my son was sitting on my lap. His father was in the room red-eyed angry and he picked his keys up and threw them across the room. My son just below the eye when that happened my heart broken side, and I knew I had to leave.

01:28 The year was 1982.

01:31 And now I was motivated to remove ourselves from the situation. I have been teaching in south-central for nine years the last five at Crenshaw High School. Yes. I'm at Shaw dog. My nickname given to me then was Snow White.

01:51 I looked and I was teaching at a continuation high school. It's a very small so I looked into the continuation directory and I decided I wanted to be North of San Francisco. I said a little prayer and I open the directory and saw School in Mendocino, and I remember that Village from my Volkswagen bus days of Adventure up and down Highway 101 Highway 1.

02:15 And so I called no openings at that little school, but they referred me to Fort Bragg. In fact the man I talked to his become a good friend over the years Michael Potts.

02:28 So I called Fort Bragg and they referred me to Ukiah.

02:34 And said they had heard there would be openings in Ukiah never heard of Yokai. You knew about Yokai are vaguely I remember coming down 101 and maybe stopping for coffee. But no, I didn't know I open the book again and looked at the map and I saw that it was about an inch and a half north of San Francisco in about an inch away from the coast and I thought well that would work that would work for me. So I called the principal of the school.

03:02 And he told me he had four openings for the fall at that point. My heart just said thank you because I believe that one of those was going to be for me.

03:12 I had questions for him though, and I wanted to know whether there were seasons in Ukiah and whether or not the air was clean and he said yes, there were seasons and he was looking at his window right now at a pristine Blue Sky.

03:26 Give me that sounded perfect. So I asked could I send my resume he said yes, and I decided it would be the best thing to pursue this and try to move my son to the country. What was the team member with the prayer was to remember what you said what we were what you were hoping for.

03:45 I was hoping for a change in my life. I wanted to bring my son up in a place where I wouldn't be afraid for the influences around him. I wanted him to be able to love his father without seeing the negative things that were developing in our relationship and my prayer is always for my desire to let it be known to God got us in the universe but also for God's will to be done and for me to be used in the way that is best.

04:19 To serve

04:21 Everyone

04:23 That was and is my prayer.

04:27 So suddenly, do you maybe be sending a resume or waiting? What do you what are you you're hoping your fingers crossed. I got a call for the interview and blithely set out on my adventure. The car was Pat we came up and I was so excited. I didn't think about anything like oil in the engine so halfway up the Grapevine the car started saying.

04:54 We pulled over we made it to a place called to rocks. We were on 99 Highway 99 near Fresno and made it into the gas station there had to leave the car here. I am with my son on my hip and my interview clothes over my arm at the at the road hitchhiking and I turned around behind me and all I could see where the grass is waving in the wind and I'm thinking well surely you wanted the country here. It is in the country.

05:27 It was a wonderful truck driver who picked us up and my son was very excited sitting up on my lap in the front of this truck watching the road go by and he asked me what I want. My plan was. I told him I was planning to hitchhike to Highway 20 and move across into Ukiah that way. We were on the five.

05:48 He encouraged me to allow him to take me to the bus station. He said it would not be safe for us to hitchhike on Highway 20 because it would be growing dark. So he took us to the Fresno bus station where we caught the Greyhound and pulled into Ukiah at midnight.

06:07 You were nervous. You were excited. You were just tired. I'm tired. What were you feeling we found a place that night? And then I am well I had been I had been receiving the papers from Santa Rosa in Ukiah as I Was preparing ahead of time to make this move and I had called a realtor or two and then the next day I needed to find a child care for my son. So I could go to the interview and this is all before having the job right? We're just coming up here on faith that this well, I went to look at a property and I knew it wouldn't be the property that I wanted to buy but they happen to have a daycare. So I asked if they would watch my son the next day while I did the interview which all happened.

06:58 I was I was amazed at the openness in the friendliness of people here and the helpfulness in the kindness.

07:07 I knew I wanted to be north of the actual town of Ukiah and I had seen a little bit of Redwood Valley and I kind of wanted to go in that direction.

07:17 The realtor I took us to a place that he thought I would like I had told him that my requirements were privacy and water.

07:29 We came up tomki Road in Redwood Valley. And as I was coming down the road looking through the redwood trees down on the little house by the Russian River. I felt yes. This is it. Thank you. This will be our home.

07:43 I should have known when they gave me a can of wet patch with the house because it was a crumbling one story house. But still it was our home for many years until we rebuilt.

07:54 When I was living in Los Angeles, I used to go escape the city every year and go up to a place called Big Sur in Big Sur to called Limekiln Beach red sweats and that to me restored my soul gave me my nature fix calmed my mind. I could let all of the noise in the commercials fade away and resent her myself there in nature and I believe that because of my love for nature in my pilgrimages to lime kill him. Now. I was given a place that seemed exactly like Limekiln with the Redwoods with the Stellar Jays with the river and I can listen to my Mozart at the same time.

08:34 So I was very blessed to be guided to this wonderful place.

08:40 Well, I went back to Los Angeles after the interview and I proceeded to pack up my house in the face that I would get the job.

08:50 When I got the call saying that I was hired my father thank goodness. My father and some friends help me put everything including the piano and three cats into the U-Haul and off. We went leaving Echo Park in Los Angeles for our new home.

09:08 Besides a new teaching job. I needed to find daycare for my son and a place to live. When we first came we lived in the palace hotel, which at that time was very elegantly remodeled in Antiques and we lived on the third floor paying $60 a week for our room.

09:31 They had a fabulous continental breakfast which got us up every morning and out into the day. We enjoyed a huge bowl of fruit with Muffins with tea with juice with coffee that got us out the door and off to drop my son off at his daycare and then to take myself to my school.

09:50 I had made an offer on the house in Redwood Valley and I was waiting for my retirement money to come down from Los Angeles so that I could buy it things fell into place and we were able to move on move into the house on Thanksgiving weekend giving great things that first week we kept the milk in the river because we weren't able to unload the U-haul yet, but we were so happy we didn't care.

10:21 In fact, my neighbors have a story there was we had a little Portable Boombox and I plug that thing in the kitchen counter and my son and I were dancing in the kitchen. Just having such a good time and our neighbors came to knock on the door to introduce themselves, and they said that we were dancing so exuberantly and so loudly that we didn't even hear them knock on the door. They went back home thinking they had some possibly crazy, but very happy Neighbors.

10:47 And will this is what I was going to ask is not only this a huge life shift. You're also was at the end of the relationship that you had in La this all happening at the same time as since then his father during those years. His father came up many times to continue seeing his son and since then we have developed a very good friendship and we still talk often and he still down in Los Angeles. And in fact, my son now has moved back to Los Angeles to where he's teaching school. But at the time you were going through all these changes all at once I was alone and I had huge responsibilities, but on the other hand the wonderful thing for me was the way the community came forward to support me and to help me in my new in my New Life Community chest like Crenshaw and I remember there was a time at The Palace Hotel.

11:47 Where I had just been paid I didn't even have a bank account yet and I had my check was stolen my money my cash was in the drawer and it was stolen. I thought by one of the women who worked in the hotel. I never could prove it never could settle it the manager was unhelpful. The police couldn't really do anything about it, but I felt a bit devastated because I didn't have a lot of resources at the time going to school the next day. I explain my flight to one of the teachers there Mike Croghan who immediately reached in his pocket and said here's $100.

12:23 He also called his sons together and helped us move into our new house and help us unpack that U-Haul and move everything in.

12:32 And then students from my class who were also neighbors came and cut wood and play cinder blocks under the floor joists in my bedroom. So to add support so that I could put up my water bill.

12:46 It was amazing how people came forward to help later on the same boys asked me. Did I like salmon? Will I said of course thinking of those expensive salmon steaks? I had seen in the markets in Los Angeles.

12:59 One evening, they roared down my driveway and their motorcycles and plopped a three-foot salmon all the way across my dining room table salmon with saws. I asked them. How could I repay them? The salmon was worth so much and they said well after a lot of pushing on my part, they would finally reluctantly take $5 for gas money.

13:26 How was it was? Excellent. It was wonderful. We made a fire outside and barbecue that salmon and it was fabulous.

13:34 The word there were some culture shock coming to Ukiah I had been in south-central. I think I mentioned my nickname had been Snow White that was one of the few white people around and yet I enjoy very much my time there and with those those kids were great, but when I came to Ukiah there were things I hadn't even thought about I knew nothing about to for example people were chewing tobacco girls were chewing tobacco. I had forgotten how many redheads there were and I felt a little out of place. I used to go down to the city a lot more often just to kind of be around people of different cultures and colors you guys changed a lot in the 29 years that I've been here and I'm happy to see a lot more diversity coming into our town. But when I first came it was quite different.

14:27 Quite different

14:30 When my son was growing and I wanted to I wanted to enroll him in the Waldorf School. I found out about that here and really enjoyed and appreciated the way that they nurtured the children in the kindergarten.

14:43 So the problem was the kindergarten started a lot early at later than my school. Did I had to be up and out way earlier by about an hour and a half and my son did another wonderful friend Katrina fry?

14:56 Actually took allow me to drop my son off at her house every morning where she fed him breakfast and then took him to school with her children as well. These are the kind of friends that I found here in this area.

15:10 These are examples of the kindness and the support that I have experience in this community. And that's why I wanted to tell my story in Los Angeles people don't know their neighbors people don't want to know their neighbors that neighbor might have been the one who broke into your house last week or the one that took your stereo out of your car at 5 a.m.

15:31 So here I've seen people growing up together and knowing each other so well through that. It was a new and wonderful experience for me to meet people who were real who were sincere and who are vested in building a community of a farmers of wine makers of Educators and of artist people coming from different cities came here and decided we needed to build the theater which they did and which I've enjoyed and participated in and I just appreciate it so much the kind of Grassroots movements that would happen here where people would have a passion and act on it and be joined by other people that wanted to bring something into existence and make it happen.

16:15 That's the magic of our community here. And how do you feel you've contributed to that? How did you feel grateful to feel like I'm giving back to it. Absolutely. I've been teaching here for 29 years. I'm on my second generation of students the students now in my classroom. I I taught their parents. In fact, I can see their parents and their faces right now. I'm in middle school couple of years ago and kid came into my car and I looked at him while I'm taking roll the first day and I have to wait a minute. You're daddy's Gil Vargas, right? He taking it back his eyes get big and I go look at my desk. Your baby picture is on my desk. And here's the boy at Age 2 holding the soccer ball because earlier Head Todd and continuation high school. So those kids were little bit older and when they would have their children they bring me their pictures and I'd see the babies and now here I am teaching several many of those children now, so it's been great because I've been really connected through a hole

17:15 Malaysian here

17:17 And I'm very happy and proud to be working with friends and neighbors who work everyday to build a sustainable and a clean and healthy and a beautiful future for our children.

17:30 When I arrived here, I needed the physical things of life. I needed the job. I needed a place to live. I needed the daycare. I needed the income and I asked for and I received all those things but what I never really anticipated was the community that I would be moving into I had never experienced that and now I enjoy so much the the the wealth of blessings that this community has brought me. We share the holidays together. We celebrate the seasons together. We have our Solstice bonfires. We have are our Easter circles where we saying and gather it Thanksgiving with people from our community and other travelers from all over the world and share these times together. And now I'm seeing the children having their children and bringing them up into the same community.

18:21 And our roots are now intertwined and so I'm so thankful to creator for bringing me here to this place and I want to just offer my deepest. Thanks and blessings to everyone who has helped me along the way.

18:37 It sounds like there's a pretty long list of folks to get on that. Absolutely. Thank you.

18:46 You talk about your students. What about you? What about you you now 29 years. You're the longtime or somebody comes up from Roldan from Wichita. How do you how does it feel? Like I said the town and changed a lot and if you can talk a little bit about how some of that Spirit has changed some of it stay the same.

19:07 I yes. I've seen things change a lot and probably to me the most important area things have changed is that I've seen I've seen our children become color blind in the sense that when I first moved up here there were very few people of color. I heard names drop that were that were evil racist slurs and I would always be complaining that and challenging that and now I've seen in this generation. I've seen the physical

19:43 Demographics of my classes change I've seen the color of the children change them so many biracial children as as his mind that now the children the understanding is that prejudice is not all right, and I think that's a huge step forward for this little small town and I'm very happy to see that come about not that it doesn't exist. Not that we don't have problems. Not that there aren't still divisions in camps but in general, I really believe that the youth is coming up now with a much more open mind and a much broader perspective toward the wonderful diversity of our worlds in our people.

20:23 Kevin happened here. I think it happened by more people coming in. I know that I've been involved in bringing I am not not only I but many people Kate Magruder is one who comes to mind we've made in Creative theater pieces where people have been allowed to tell their stories in our community and so by listening to each other stories, we then develop compassion and understanding for other people and there's been many many times throughout the years that we brought these experiences to our community and then as a teacher, I brought my students in to participate in some of these shows that we've presented. So we've done things for Black History Month, for example, I had a friend like we should people who was involved in bringing a Martin Luther King celebration to our town for many many years. I have brought some shows and directed and produced them in the playhouse that have been Freedom monologues. What's one where we had

21:23 Every different people throughout African American history talking to about their lives and their situations Frederick Douglass and and Debbie the boys and different people then my favorite was the show we did a couple years ago called spunk which was we covered everything from Harriet Tubman to hip-hop and had you participating and people in the community again telling their stories through monologue into drama and to dance in through song. And so I think that things like this I really

22:00 Been a wonderful enrichment to our community just last week. He probably saw we had the Cinco de Mayo celebration here in the plaza. And so we had another telling the truth in a small town with a show that Kate McGrew to put together where we heard stories from Native Americans about what their experience has been in this town in and things that have happened to make us all aware of some of the pain and some of the things that people have gone through and how we can come together now to support each other to move past the past a little bit about your son and how what it was like for him to grow up here.

22:39 Well, I think it's an ideal place to raise a son or a child because we did all of the the sports the Little League. He he grew up in a clot. He came through party to the Waldorf School in party through the public education. And so the kids would move together through the years until they develop friendships and know each other through those times also as a single mother when I first came I saw the house next door bar and if I could throw a stone to it and I thought oh, no, I don't want neighbors because I'm coming from my Los Angeles mentality, but it turned out to be the greatest blessing in because my neighbors lesson Debbie back. I have three sons and those three sons grew up like brothers to my son and these kids ran the mountains and ran the rivers and just had a wonderful experience growing up together. And so I think it was ideal in that sense to raise him here. He is many youth do as soon as he got to the age of

23:39 High School I couldn't wait to leave this small town and I went to live with his father for the last two years of high school, which was fair.

23:48 And has stayed there came back up north for college and then got a teaching job down in Los Angeles where he is now and I secretly have my fingers crossed that eventually he'll decide that this would be a great place to raise his kids, but that will be his choice. We'll see how that goes. His name is Aaron my Irish have the money his father's African half and Thomas is his last name Erin Imani Tom. He's now 31 years old and following in your footsteps a bit. Yes. I'm happy to say that he is continuing the legacy of being a teacher and loving up his students just like I've Loved mine.

24:28 Well, I was has there any been anything that we've missed what the others are you can't you can't pack you can't pack 29 years in the 40 minutes, obviously, but but it was there anything that you wanted to get a chance to talk a little more about I just am so grateful and I just want to say thank you Ukiah. Thank U Redwood Valley. Thank you to the Fry's the becks the community of love that has embraced me hear. Thank you. Thank you.