We were college kids in the late 1960s, an eight-pack of Californians away from home for the first time.
Ken, Randy, Pat and Doug, roommates at Fresno State. Valita, Peggy, Linda and Kim, our girlfriends.
Almost five decades later, we remain friends, Facebook and otherwise. We are spouses, parents, and grandparents. Retired, and sometimes just tired.
Along with family and good health, friendships are our most precious joys. Friendships that last five decades are extremely precious. I know people in my church who have attended for about 50 years. At one time in my life, l could not fathom that. Now, in my 70s, I can appreciate it.
My family has been living in Selma for about three dozen years, longer than we have lived anywhere. A town I once looked at as another way station in our lives, has become our permanent home. Our neighborhood north of Selma High is so quiet we can hear the train from a mile away.
I was reminded of all this when Pat and Linda visited us a couple weeks ago. Pat grew up in Merced and Linda in Oakhurst; they have made a longtime home in Grass Valley (Nevada County). Their three daughters are geographically spread out, and when Linda and Pat visit the grandkids on SoCal they sometimes stay with us.
It’s an easy visit, we are all so compatible. After all, we have 50 years of friendship behind us.
Grass Valley is a sprawling Gold Country mountain town of about 12,900. Pat and Linda lived in Reedley right after college, their first jobs. So small towns are nothing new to them.
Our visits usually include a meal somewhere in downtown Selma and a drive into the countryside.
This time, we headed east along the blossom trail on Dinuba Avenue into Reedley, then back into Selma on Rose Avenue. We checked out the downtown murals and Arts Center, had dinner at G’s, then dessert back at our house.
We love showing off Selma and its environs to friends and family. My siblings and their families have been driving up from Southern California every President’s Weekend to celebrate the birthdays of our father, who passed last May at 95. Jim Robison grew up in pre-WWII Los Angeles and spent most of his post-WWII adulthood in the SoCal suburbs before moving to Selma’s Bethel Home Village in 2006. He often told me it was the best place he could have spent those final 10 years of his life.
Last month, the families again made the trek from SoCal to Selma, lured by the memories of Dad and, I believe, their fondness for our Valley.
Sure, Selma has its share of issues and growing pains. But we have some smart people working on those issues.
Downtown Selma is a mix of buildings old, middle-aged and modern (the Arts Center), partly drab and partly colorful (oh, those murals!). Traffic can dive me crazy when schools let out or a train rolls through, and I’ve seen more stoplights installed in the past 30-plus years. Shopping and dining offerings are both national chains, local bistros, and mom/pop shops. I suspect we have more car dealers than most cities our size.
We have parks that offer rest and recreation for families, kids and athletes young (ball fields) and old (Pickleball courts).
We root for our Bears, as well as the Giants, Dodgers, Niners, and Raiders. Fresno State gear is a popular clothing theme. Our kids play youth football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and wrestling. They sing and dance and act and play music and excel academically.
We have a thriving arts scene that keeps getting better.
Mostly we are working-class folk, not too rich, not too poor. Our neighborhoods are ethnically mixed. We park vehicles old, middle-aged and new in garages, driveways, and curbside.
Selmans aren’t afraid to spout our opinions, whether at social gatherings, on social media or at governmental meetings. We worship with our brothers and sisters who share our faith values.
We have seen some of our friends and neighbors move away, but we stay because this is our home.
And we are proud to show it off to Pat and Linda and anyone else who drops in.
My name is Ken and I am bullish on Selma.