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Glen Ellen Village Fair 2021: Grand Marshal Rick Dunham

Glen Ellen Village Fair 2021: Grand Marshal Rick Dunham
Rick Dunham, right, with Kitty Brenek leads the 2021 Glen Ellen Village Fair Parade in a 1945 Willys Jeep that Dunham restored. Photo by Paul Goguen

 

OCTOBER 15, 2021

Rolls in a 1945 Willys Army Jeep

By BJ Blanchard

It is fitting that all-around good guy Rick Dunham led the Glen Ellen Village Fair parade this year, as his grandmother, Irene Marsh, was among the first few Grand Marshals in the parade in the early 1990s. Dunham was chosen for this honor because he has always been quick to volunteer help and energy with a quick “Sure, I’ll do it,” and an upbeat chuckle.

Dunham is a homegrown guy whose parents and grandparents, the O’Neills, Marshes, and Dunhams, have all lived on the corner of Warm Springs and Henno Roads. As a youngster however, he spent years living out at Timber Cove on the coast, camping, hunting, fishing, and bussing an hour-and-a-half each way to El Molino School in Forestville.

Dunham came of age at the tail end of the Vietnam War, and after graduating from Piner High School in Santa Rosa, joined the armed services and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, working as a heavy equipment mechanic.

Then, there was gold mining. Years were spent along the Yuba River and the north fork of the Trinity River dredging for gold. Dredging is illegal now, but at the time Dunham was sifting, he withdrew a handful of gold nuggets from the riverbed. More exciting was the old cemetery of a ghost town he discovered along the Yuba River, with weathered wooden headstones in the tall grass.

An enthusiastic collector, Dunham is excited by archaic tools, trucks, gas pumps, Coke machines, and any kind of automobile memorabilia. Prized is his 1945 Willys Army Jeep. This sturdy little vehicle— you can picture Hap Arnold at the wheel—has a windshield that folds forward and secret hollows under the back seats for munitions. Dunham bought the Jeep from Joe Gallo’s grandson and restored it from a rusty relic to the beautiful Army-green transport it is today.

Any auto items older than the 1970s, with a little bit of rust, are ex- citing to the mustachioed Dunham. His collection of 30 gas pumps is impressive. There are several of the “visible” type, where you’d handpump the gasoline up into the tall glass cylinder, with number lines indicating gallons, and then drain the gas by gravity through a hose into, for example, your Model-T Ford’s gas tank. He recalls a “visible pump” in front of Shone’s when it was in the Poppe store on Arnold Drive at London Ranch Road. For years there were old pumps at the Norrbom’s 76 gas station, where Marshall’s is now.

But that’s not all, folks. Dunham has eight classic vehicles around his property, including a restored 1958 Chevy Carryall, old pickups, and a shiny orange 1964 Chevelle. Every week, he’s a regular at Sears Point/ Sonoma Raceway, racing his 1968 dragster in the Wednesday night drag races.

As a member of the Devils Darlin’s Car Club, Dunham drives his treasured cars in many events. For a child’s birthday, a celebration gathering, or pop-up parades, the Devils Darlin’s crowd proudly shares their love of vintage classic hotrods, trucks, lowriders, and more.

Look around Dunham’s tidy yard now, and you’ll find dented metal Chevron signs from the 1950s, Goodrich batteries billboards, 1930s gasoline pumps, a Coca-Cola dispenser— the kind that, for a dime, you can open the red bin and reach down into the chilled coolness to grab your ice-cold glass bottle of Coke, then flick off the cap with a gadget on the side—Mug Root Beer posters, fire hydrants, and more.

A fortune in antique hand tools—his father’s collection—was lost in the 2017 fire as the flames exploded up Warm Springs Road. Somehow, through gifts and swap meets and friends, Dunham has replaced his wonderful collection, and more, since then.

Dunham’s son, Michael, is a mechanic. Son Dean is in the Air Force in Kuwait. Daughter Katie is in Glen Ellen raising the fourthgeneration offspring to attend Dunbar Elementary School. Dunham’s a friendly guy—stop by to see his wonderful collection of keepsakes from the past.

 

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