The Summer 2013 Tidings is another installment of Dr. Felicia Shinnamon’s fascinating oral histories on Pope Valley. The following is an excerpt of that oral history. To get your copy of Tidings, become a member today!

Len D. Owens at Aetna Springs GateDr. Lyon’s fond childhood memories of Aetna motivated him to take his own children there in the 1960s. They went with friends whose children were all growing up together. They called this the “Nursery Group.” Each year they went somewhere together, but Aetna Springs was their favorite…

“The dining hall was really immaculate, with beautiful redwood and high ceilings. The food was absolutely excellent and we had a glorious time. We all dressed up to have meals in the dining hall. The barbecues were great too and I also enjoyed folk dancing with the Heibel family. As kids it was our first exposure to this form of dancing. Mr. and Mrs. Heibel were a young, vibrant couple. I always saw them as very well organized. They seemed to take a tremendous amount of pleasure in what they did, particularly in the evenings when we had the dances…

“A typical day at Aetna began with waking up in the screened in bungalow, having buffet breakfast together, and then going over to the barn to saddle up the horses and teach the kids to ride. I remember taking the bridles and running with the horses as the children sat on a saddle for the first time in their lives. We would run around the circle there, usually as a group. Later we would all take a swim and have a buffet lunch. Sometimes we would take a hike or play a little golf or tennis while the kids played on the swings or merry-go-round.”

Aetna Springs poolDr. Lyon’s daughter Laurie recalls that there were lizards everywhere. Dr. Lyon remembers that “when the lizards were caught by their tails, the tail would come off and they would run off. We made small lassos out of reeds. We took short walks to the springs where the water tasted of iron, just like the pool. In the evenings we would have cocktails at one of the family’s bungalows before a delicious dinner. We always dressed up for dinner.” Mrs. Carol Lyon remembers poignantly the creaking springs of the beds in houses around them, adding that “they were very thin mattresses on wire mesh.”

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