Right Place, Right Time

 

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Ron Carli of American AgCredit personal history memoir oral history Cotati

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Right Place,Right Time The Life and Times of Ron Carli Ron Carli

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Right Place Right Time The Life and Times of Ron Carli Ron Carli

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Copyright © 2015 by Ron Carli. All rights reserved. Produced by Personal History Productions Helping individuals and businesses write and publish their stories. www.personalhistoryproductions.com info@personalhistoryproductions.com 707.539.5559

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I dedicate this book to the three ladies in my life who supported me through my life’s journey and my career: my mother, Marjorie (Corda Carli) Rosselli; my first wife, Nancy (Benson) Carli; and my present wife, Veronica (Roni) (Vachon) Carli. Without their support, my life would not have been full of so many successes.

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Contents chapter 1  Boyhood in Cotati chapter 2  Teen Years chapter 3  College and Marriage chapter 4  Launching My Career in Banking  chapter 5  The Mergers Begin  chapter 6  Life Goes On  chapter 7  A New Phase of Life  1 57 73 103 123 163 207 vii

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Chapter 1 Boyhood in Cotati When I was a young boy of eight or nine years old, growing up in Cotati, I’d get up at the first light on weekend and summer mornings, pull on a sweatshirt, a pair of Levi’s, and my boots, grab my BB gun, and head out on foot from our house on Old Redwood Highway. I’d be gone all day, hiking the hills, looking for something to shoot. I’d hop over our back fence and into our neighbor’s apple and pear orchard, and then hike due west, climbing over people’s fences and crossing their pastures and open fields. People never minded in those days. Everybody knew everybody back then, so if somebody saw me, they knew who I was. I don’t even know how many parcels I’d end up going through, because the houses mostly were along Railroad Avenue, and I was quite a ways back in the fields along the hills. I’d pass through the Jensens’ pastures and the Camozzi family’s land. A family called the Watsons owned all that Cotati Grade land at the time. (Highway 101 hadn’t been rerouted west of downtown Cotati yet, so back then the whole area that the freeway now cuts through was a vast, wide-open pasture.) I’d head south to Pepper Road; that was about as far as I got, walking out. Then I’d mosey on back and get home by dark. Along the way, I’d shoot sparrows or whatever else I ran into. If I hit one, I’d pick it up and put it in my pocket to bring home to feed to our 1

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cats, Tom and Jerry. Once in a while I’d hit a rabbit, but mostly I shot birds. In fact, when I left home to get married at age 20, one of the neighbors called my mother and said, “You know, I’m glad he got married. Maybe we’ll get a bird back in the neighborhood.” Another Time, Another Place The town of Cotati and the surrounding area were completely different back then. There were no housing developments or apartment complexes or big box stores. The area was predominantly rural. Every parcel in town had a chicken house or two and a big vegetable garden. And when you got in the outlying areas, you’d find dairies—but small dairies, not large ones like the few we have left in the area nowadays. The town of Rohnert Park wasn’t even there yet; it was still the Rohnert Seed Farm. And Sonoma State University hadn’t been established yet. Old Redwood Highway was the main north-south thoroughfare through town back then, and the traffic on the two-lane road was bumper-to-bumper. I can remember idling in our driveway, wanting to drive somewhere but having to wait forever just to get out into traffic. And then it was a slow crawl up the road. It was so bad that on weekends you didn’t even want to go anywhere. My Earliest Memories I was four years old and my brother, Kenneth, was eight when we moved with our parents, Marjorie Marie (neé Corda) and Adolph Domenic Carli, into the house on Old Redwood Highway, where I grew up. My mother, who now is 91, still lives there today. It’s an all-brick house—the only brick 2  CARLI

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The house where Ron grew up, on Old Redwood Highway. (Ron’s mother still lives there.) house in the area—and it sits on four acres of land just south of the intersection with Railroad Avenue. Before we moved into that house, we lived in a smaller house that my parents rented half a mile north on Old Redwood Highway, on the corner of East Railroad Avenue. It was to that house that my parents brought me after I was born in Petaluma General Hospital on November 3, 1949. Our first home was directly across the street from my paternal grandparents, Dominica (née Chiono) and John Carli. They owned a small, 10- to 12-acre poultry ranch on the north corner of West Railroad Avenue and Old Redwood Highway. (Both their house and the one we rented are still there.)   Right Place, Right TimE  3

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Ken, Grandfather Carli, and baby Ron in front of Grandfather and Grandmother Carli’s house on Old Redwood Highway in Cotati. I spent quite a bit of time over at my paternal grandparents’ place before the age of five, and since they spoke Italian, I could understand and speak Italian as a little boy. When I was as young as two or three years old, my mother would walk me to the edge of our front lawn and let me run across the street by myself to where my grandmother was standing, waiting for me in front of her house. I’d spend the entire day over at my grandparents’ place. My grandmother, whom I called Nana, was sweet and nurturing. She taught me how to play card games such as solitaire and war. My grandfather kept more to himself. He was quite a bit older than my grandmother. He was a big, balding man who always wore overalls. I vaguely remember that my grandfather had some draft horses that he used to plow his fields. My paternal grandparents had three or four chicken houses and an egg-packing house. At that time, the proceeds from the sale of their eggs were their sole source of income. When a hen got older, they’d use it to make stew. To kill a chicken, they just took an axe, laid the bird on a big, old piece of wood right there outside the house, and chopped off its head. One time when I was a little kid, I cut my finger playing around with one of those axes that was left lying around. One of my earliest memories—I must have been three or four years old at the time—is when I was at my grandparents’ place and had one of my aunt Catherine’s Pomeranians on a leash. The dog somehow broke away from me, ran out onto Old Redwood Highway, and got hit by a car and killed right in front of me. Our first house was small; it had a living room and dining room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms with a single bathroom in between. My parents slept in one bedroom, and my brother and I shared the other. We had 4  CARLI

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no TV in that house, but my brother and I liked listening to the children’s radio shows Big Jon and Sparky and Flash Gordon on our tube radio. It was while we were living in that first house that my brother damn near killed me with a bow and arrow. He put me up against a bale of hay and was shooting arrows at me for target practice. I was about three or (left) Dominica Carli, Ron’s paternal grandmother, at her home on Old Redwood Highway, in Cotati; (right) Ron as a baby in his mother’s arms.   Right Place, Right TimE  5

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four years old. He thought it was great. Fortunately, he wasn’t a good shot back then, so he didn’t even get close. They Both Loved to Dance My parents met when my father, who was working as a mechanic for John Deere in Petaluma, went out on a call to my mother’s family’s ranch in Novato to fix some equipment. My father was known by his nickname, Curly, because he had a full head of curly blond hair. At that time, my mother Ron’s dad, Curly Carli (far right with glasses), age 20, with buddies in front of the filling station on Old Redwood Highway, Cotati, 1936. 6  CARLI

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was working as a bookkeeper in San Rafael. Everyone has always called my mother Marge or Margie. My mother loved to dance, and my father was a fantastic dancer. They started dating and were married on July 18, 1943, which was my mother’s 20th birthday. My father was 27. Their wedding reception was held on my Marge and Curly’s wedding, July 18, 1943. From left: Dorothy, Marge, Curly, Chas Quenze, and fouryear-old Jay Ringer.   Right Place, Right TimE  7

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