Siskiyou, South County, Yreka


By Bob Kaster

Ann and I have lived in Yreka for fifty years. Actually, in the same house. How many people can say that? In 1972, there was one traffic light in Yreka, and it hung from a line strung across the center of the Miner Street/Main Street intersection. Life was simpler then, and I liked it better. I had a much more optimistic attitude than I do now. But that’s human nature, isn’t it? Don’t the “good ol’ days” always look better than current times? It’s interesting to note that Yreka people weren’t very optimistic back then either. The reason? The United States Air Force had pulled out of the Siskiyou County Airport. People were sure the town, if not the entire county, would dry up and disappear. Well, it didn’t.

Then, not too much later, along came the Spotted Owl. The Spotted Owl came to symbolize the demise of the timber industry and government regulation that doomed it. I think the problem was much larger than just the Spotted Owl, but, regardless of what the actual cause was, the loss was devastating and people thought that our city and county, so heavily dependent on timber, were doomed. Well, we’re still here. Damaged, but by God still here.

Fast forward to the 2000’s. Fire and smoke! Significant portions of the towns of Weed, Happy Camp, and Klamath River gone! Areas within Lake Shastina burned! Yreka, the county seat, was threatened by the McKinney Fire, with many of its citizens in the mandatory evacuation zone, and many more in the “get ready to go” zone. Well, our town hasn’t burned down yet, but it was dicey, to be sure. And I can’t remember a summer in the last fifteen years or so that we haven’t had to contend at times with smoky conditions and poor air quality. It’s harder and harder to remain optimistic. And now … drought! And water curtailments that threaten the future of our county’s agriculture, the last bastion of its economic base. Water curtailments issued by a nonelected bureaucratic California state agency, based on suspect data.

It all really sucks.

Well, we’re not ready to move. There are a lot of reasons for that which I would like to cover in future articles, but for now I’d like to tell you a story about what Ann and I did in the last couple of weeks. Maybe not real important in the overall scheme of things, but a small example of why we’d rather live here, drought, smoke, fires and all.

We spent a few days in Atlanta, whose metropolitan area has a population of about six million people. We visited our son, who owns a restaurant on Peachtree Street. (I gained five pounds, and am still fasting to make up for it.) His restaurant is a block from the Fox Theatre, Atlanta’s world-renowned historic performing arts venue. The Fox is a magnificent structure, with its striking red-carpet entryway and ornate gilt work, soaring turreted ceilings and stained-glass windows, all leading to a vast cobalt “sky” with a sea of twinkling stars. It is also home to “Mighty Mo”, the 3,622-pipe Mӧller organ that is still the largest Mӧller theatre organ in the world today. The Fox has 4,665 seats. It was originally built as a movie theatre. We saw “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” now on global tour after a record-breaking run on Broadway. It was a great show!

That very same week we saw another musical program, on a somewhat different scale. The performer was Joni Morris, who has been acclaimed as the “most authentic Patsy Cline Music Tribute Artist ever known.” Her performance was at Etna’s historic Avery Memorial Theatre. Like Atlanta’s Fox, the Avery was also originally built as a movie theatre. Also, like the Fox, a stage was later built for live performances. The Avery’s stage was built for melodramas, high school plays, concerts, improv comedy, and novelty shows. The theatre is quaint and charming, and a bit different from Atlanta’s Fox. The Avery seats a whopping 300 people, and Etna, which was once a mining town, has a population of about 700 people.

Living in Yreka, Ann and I don’t get over to the Scott Valley as often as we should. That evening we drove over Forest Mountain summit around 5:00 PM, as we had pre-show dinner reservations with friends at the Denny Bar Co. restaurant. Even though the air was a little smoky from the McKinney fire, descending into the Scott Valley reminded me of how beautiful the Scott Valley is, world-class. And the town of Etna was delightful. The town and the restaurant were hopping, and Etna’s Main Street looked like a movie set. We saw some old friends we hadn’t seen for a while. The evening was magical.

I will not try to decide which show I liked better. They were both great. But there’s one thing I do know. Ann and I are fortunate that we have been able to travel a lot over the years, and have experienced other cities, countries, performances, cultures, cuisines and other wonderful things the world offers. No matter where we go, we are always happiest to know that at the end of the trip, we will come home … to Siskiyou County.


Bob Kaster is a long-time Yreka resident and retired Superior Court Judge. In retirement, he has taken up creative and journalistic writing, including novels, short stories and essays. His thriller novels and The Great Yreka Courthouse Gold Heist, his documentary account of the 2012 theft of the gold display from Yreka’s courthouse, are available at Zephyr Books in Yreka and from Amazon.

Email Bob at [email protected]

To see some of his other writings, check out his website

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