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May 30, 2008

Tracking down Wanderjahrians

This entry was posted in the following categories: General

For reasons I won't get into here, I'm staying up all night. My server died on Memorial Day, and in the shuffle to get things up and make sure things are REALLY backed up like they were supposed to be (*AHEM*), I started going through old emails, and old files. Nice thing to do on a quiet night.

One mailbox I found from about 10 years ago was from someone who went to school with me at a school called Wanderjahr. Wanderjahr was an "alternative" school, a boarding school at Far View Ranch in Bangor CA (Bangor is in the foothills; if you draw an equilateral triangle with Marysville and Oroville, Bangor is the third point, to the east). I remember that area so fondly, with small towns like Challenge and "Rough and Ready" (and even Gibsonville, just beyond LaPorte, population 3).

Anyway, Kim Schafer, the daughter of the co-directors of the camp, somehow managed to track me down (Kim, if you see this, my email address still hasn't changed), and mentioned some upcoming newsletter and the possibility of a reunion. I didn't hear much more from her after that, so presume nothing came of it.

But it got me curious about how well I could track down some people from there. So I set my google skills to work.

First thing to try was to google "Drobish". Bo Drobish was the founder of the school, and I haven't heard from him in at least 20 years if not longer. A few years ago, I tried calling the phone number of Far View Ranch (where Wanderjahr was located), but no answer.

First suggestion was an ancestry.com search, so I went there, and searched the most recent year's census, 1930. What did I find?

Faith B Drobish name city, Riverside, CA abt 1896
H Boardenan Drobish name city, Riverside, CA abt 1922
M Joy Drobish name city, Riverside, CA abt 1924

Now, I never heard "H Boardenan" before, but I remembered that Bo had a younger sister, Joy (who founded Far View Ranch Camp, which was a summer camp I attended for a couple years before Wanderjahr). So Bo must have been short for Boardenan. I had never known his full name until now! How about that.

Also, Faith. When I was living there, there was an older woman named Faith, on top of the hill behind the main house complex. We called her Aunt Faith, if my failing memory serves. And Faith is also listed there in Riverside in 1930. And Bo was about that age back in the mid 70s (very active man, but a bit gray and balding).

I then tried to track down Joy. I googled Joy Drobish, and found a few hits, but not many. Dope-slapping me back to reality, I tried her (then) married name, Joy Palmerlee. I actually found a few hits with Joy Palmerlee Apra, suggesting that she apparently remarried. She appears to be living with her husband Dan, in Oakland. I could even call her, but I wouldn't know what to say, and besides it's getting late even there.

I then refocused my attention on finding Bo Drobish, so I googled him. I found a notice in the Middle Mountain Foundation newsletter that mentioned:

In Memory of:


H. Boardman “Bo” Drobish

So at this point, I knew he'd died. And then, I found the link that tied it all together.

This link is from the Lisle Fellowship newsletter from Winter, 2002:

Last issue we had a brief entry for “Bo” Drobish, who passed away in April 2001. His sister, Joy Drobish Palmerlee Apra, submitted a lovely summary of his life and relationship with Lisle. We decided it would be sweet to include it in this issue.

“This is to inform you that my brother, “Bo” Drobish (H. Boardman Drobish), died on April 20, 2001 at age 79. He and I were Lislers together in Golden, CO the summer of 1947.

He later took on more leadership, for instance a Lisle Unit in California (1950 and 1951) and perhaps another. We have a family ranch in northern California at Bangor in Butee County, called Far View Ranch)…Uncle Si and Aunt Edna were there then.

Bo was a graduate of UC Berkeley in 1947, after serving as a pilot and 1st Lieutenant in the US Air Force, dropping food over Italy. His specialty was agriculture and permaculture. He died naturally and suddenly in Kalispell, MT, where he lived near a son who was an organic farmer. Thank you. Sincerely—Joy Drobish Palmerlee Apra.”

Our thanks to Joy for sharing this view of her brother’s life with us. Also, our condolences to her and the rest of “Bo’s” family.

This told me a LOT! First, it confirmed that Bo was dead. It also confirmed that Joy Apra was the same Joy Palmerlee who was his brother. And finally, when I heard that part about "near a son who was an organic farmer.", my immediate thought was "Kip!" That's GOT to be Kip!

I then did some googling of Kip Drobish in Montana, and sure enough, he's there. He lives close to the land, off the grid (more or less, he's on enough to post comments in blogs). He owns (and rents as a vacation home), a straw bale house. I even read a moving statement he prepared for a Senate subcommittee on the demise of old growth forests.

There are some others I wasn't able to find (at least not yet, it's only 2 AM, and I still have 5 hours to kill). Notably, John Suttle, the cowboy and my closest friend there. I don't think I'll call Joy or maybe even Kip (although I may email him a link to this). But I sure wouldn't mind getting ahold of John again.

A quick check wasn't terribly encouraging. Suttle's not that strange a surname, and I somehow doubt he's a lawyer (never struck me as the lawyerin' type, if you catch my drift). Nor can I imagine him in a B-minus grade horror film (according to imdb).

Anyway, with over 2500 Google hits for "John Suttle" (even with the quotes), I'm not hopeful of finding him. I also tried to find Linda Morgan, but got 31k hits for her. Won't even bother...

Michael (was David) Vezie

Posted by mlv at May 30, 2008 01:12 AM

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Michael -
I attendend Wanderjhar fom 73-74. I presume you were just the year after me. I remember Linda Morgan and John Suttle and the Schafers well.
I think it would be a wonderful idea to have a reunion - perhaps we could all meet at the Ranch for a short visit ?
Best Wishes
John Maynard

Posted by: Johnmaynard [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2008 02:27 PM

That would be fun. But I don't even know if the ranch is still in the family.

Posted by: Michael at September 8, 2008 02:42 PM

Dear David – I hope all is well with you! I recently came across a blog you had posted about WJ but now I can’t find it – I think I was surfing during a conference call. As you mentioned in the blog, about 10 years ago I tried to track down a bunch of WJ folks and had some success. I had some trouble rousing interest for a reunion and so kind of let it drop. I am now wondering if there is a way for us to create a web site or some utility where people could log on to read about others and post info about themselves? This could be a good way to empower people to be in contact and share information. I don’t know how to do this though and am wondering if you have any thoughts? Any help/ideas are welcome.

What has prompted this is the recent death of my mother, Eunice. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and went through 2 rounds of chemotherapy. She died on August 5 and I am still not over the heartbreak. She died very peacefully and surrounded by love, which is of comfort to be sure. I was realizing that WJ folks might like to know - some do but others don’t. This led me to think about seeing if we could create a way for people to interact, not just about this news but also to interact in general and share life information and stories.

Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts. I hope all is well with you!

Best wishes,

Posted by: Kim [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 20, 2008 03:21 PM

Came across your post while I was googling Kip Drobish as well, trying to find his most recent phone number. Thanks for the kind words and blog about having a Wanderjahr reunion. I am Joy Palmerlee Appra's grandson and the ranch is still in the family, I encourage you to try to arrange a Wanderjahr reunion if you are still interested, you might want to get ahold of Hart Drobish as well to see if you can get more people involved.

Good luck!
-Matt Palmerlee

Posted by: Matt Palmerlee [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 30, 2009 01:58 AM

You're right. I didn't mention that in a more recent fit of nostalgia and boredom I found that Far View Ranch is still going strong.


They are also a retreat center with a Facebook page:


Posted by: Michael at November 30, 2009 08:19 AM

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