Skip to main content

The Little Girl Who Grew Up At Wyntoon

03/19/2013 10:37AM ● Published by anonymous

Shirley Selna Shewmaker Wahl's Life at Wyntoon on the McCloud River

Story: Ron Linebarger

When my parents took employment at Wyntoon, William Randolph Hearst’s forested hideaway on the McCloud River near Mt. Shasta in 1936, my childhood ceased being a normal one. I was 11, and until that time, daily living was pretty simple: Rise early, dress, eat, run to catch the school bus; return home, play, eat, and retire. We moved a lot to various logging camps dotted about in Plumas and Lassen counties. My dad was a logger and a cat skinner. In the camps, we lived in two-room wood cabins with tin roofs. There was always a sawmill, a millpond, a sawdust burner, rows of cabins surrounded by large squared piles of cut lumber that I called the children’s playground. And nearby, a stream or small river was always available for family bathing or swimming, one of the more delightful pleasures of those long-gone days. But for me, all of that uncomplicated living changed when my dad, Cal Shewmaker, took a year-round job as a crew boss and “driving cat” to build roads at Wyntoon. When we arrived, we were surprised to see “cottages” which looked like castles. We could not believe the great change we were making from Depression-era logging camps to a place of palaces.

The first time I met Mr. Hearst was the following summer of 1937, when I was picking pansies at the edge of the circular driveway in front of the Brown Bear House where he stayed. It was early morning and it was one of the chores to be done before Mr. Hearst and Miss Davies appeared for the day. Mr. Hearst did not like nature disturbed, and that was an order. But naturally, pansies must be picked in order to grow. The fact that I, a 12-year,-old was crouched down doing it rather than, say, the gardener, Pat Leonard, may have been cause for the look on Mr. Hearst’s face. He suddenly appeared out of nowhere and was standing behind me. I heard a “harumph,” looked up and again up farther, until I could not tell whether I was looking at a big man of our time or a giant of a man in olden days. I had heard plenty about Mr. Hearst from the other servants and my parents, but not about how big a man he really was. Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits, because this man had “authority” written all over him. He was well suited in a gray tweed suit with a flashy necktie, and I remember large saddle shoes because I wore saddle shoes in those days, too. Well, he didn’t scold me as I thought he was going to do. Probably he was able to read fright written all over my turned-up face, so he turned on his charm, grinned, and said, “You must be Shirley, the little girl of the Shewmaker family living in the log house down by the Bend.” I answered weakly, “Yes, sir,” and made an effort to hide the picked pansies in my closed fist. “Well! Nice morning isn’t it?” he said, and walked away toward the Angel House to see Mac McClure, the draftsman.

I didn’t meet him again that year, but later, down near the bend, I picked a large bowl of wild strawberries and took them up to the Gables where everyone met for meals. The servants ate in one dining room and Mr. Hearst and guests supped in the main dining room of the Gables, which lay about a half-mile down river from the Bavarian Village . My intention was to share them with my mother and father as sort of a surprise. When I climbed the back stairs to the help’s dining room, the butler, Freddie Redelsperger, saw what I had in the bowl and exclaimed, “Oh my, where did you find those delicious-looking strawberries?” I told him, and noticed his eagerness in that he was practically grabbing the bowl from me when he said, “You know, Shirley, Mr. Hearst would delight in having these delectable berries for his dessert tonight.” Well, what could a girl do but give them up, which is what I did. Later, the butler told me that Mr. Hearst did indeed enjoy them with ice cream that evening, and a week later what happened? Mr. Hearst had ordered from Blum’s Confectioners in San Francisco a 10-pound box of chocolates to be given just to me in return for those wild strawberries.

A few years later, I was pressed into summer service, and my first job was washing fine dishware and glassware for the evening’s formal dinners. Later, under my mother’s tutelage I donned the standard, white, starched uniform and became a maid for guests at the Cinderella House.

I also was called upon occasionally to accompany Marilyn Walsh (daughter of movie director Raoul Walsh) horseback riding and be her companion during the evening formal dinners. And when Marilyn wasn’t there, Miss Davies called on me to make 14 at a table of only 13 guests, which didn’t happen very often, thank goodness. I always hated sitting as a guest while my mother was servant. I rather preferred working with her to serve the guests: “Serve to the left, take away plates to the right,” she’d tell me. I was used in the dining hall only when there were 30 or more to dine. Like my mother, I hated their dachshunds, who ran around nipping at our heels and ankles. I remember how I wanted to douse them good with a trayful of hot demitasse on occasion. It was hard enough toting those large, silver trays without such disturbances as the little devils prancing around at our feet.

The time finally came that I was to attend college. Mr. Hearst wanted me to become a journalist and work for his San Francisco Examiner; Miss Davies wanted me to be screen-tested for movies. They may have been disappointed when I announced my intention to become a nurse, but then, there was a war on. Nevertheless, Miss Davies, always thoughtful, surprised me with a going-away party at the Bend. Mr. Hearst didn’t attend the party, but he did send a present: A nurse’s wristwatch etched on the back, “Best of Luck – W. R. Hearst.” The two of them were like that, though.

Note: Shirley Selna Shewmaker Wahl had planned on writing about her and her parents’ (Cal and Nellie Shewmaker) life at Wyntoon. Unfortunately, she passed away while on a trip to Europe in 2001 before finishing or publishing her writings; the above story is adapted from her notes.

In Print, Community history The Little Girl Who Grew Up At Wyntoon Shirley Selna Shewmaker Wahl's Life at Wyntoon on the McCloud River Ron Linebarger William Hearst
  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/22/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/23/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/24/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/24/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/25/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/26/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/26/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day I

    01/26/2018
    04:00PM — 08:30PM

    Redding Cultural Cruise is just around the corner, coming Friday, January 26! Participate in t...


  • Wildcard Brewing Co. Foodie Friday

    01/26/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    On Fridays from 5pm-8pm, we bring you the best of both worlds: a frothy pint and a flavorful plat...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding International Folk Dancers

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Folk dance is for everyone and for all ages! Our motto is: If you can walk you can dance. We meet...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/27/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Cottonwood Community Library Book Sale

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    A book sale to benefit the Cottonwood Community Library will be held on Friday, January 26 and Sa...


  • Redding Cultural Cruise - Day II

    01/27/2018
    11:00AM — 03:00PM

    Join us SATURDAY, JANUARY 27 for Day II of Redding Cultural Cruise! Visit a number of Redding ven...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Brewhouse Tour

    01/27/2018
    04:30PM — 05:00PM

    Want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes at Wildcard? Join us for a tour. This is y...


  • Sleeping Beauty

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 08:30AM

    RSA Theater Booster Club is a Non-Profit organization. It is our mission is to teach our middle ...


  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/28/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Conductor and saxophonist Scott Seaton welcomes Terrie Baune (violin) and John Chernoff (piano) f...


  • North State Symphony

    01/28/2018
    02:00PM

    In this more intimate concert, Maestro Scott Seaton on his saxophone joins Concertmaster Terrie B...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/29/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/30/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    01/31/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Midweek Madness

    01/31/2018
    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Visit either Wildcard location on Wednesdays and get $3 off a growler fill! Come by the brewery a...


  • The Peking Acrobats

    01/31/2018
    07:30PM

    For the last 30 years The Peking Acrobats have inspired fans young and old as they defy gravity w...


  • Football Season Is Here!

    02/01/2018
    09:30AM

    NFL Ticket. Sunday all day starting 930am with breakfast! Mon night Football. Thursday night S...


  • Wildcard Brewing Company's Vinyl Night

    02/01/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Vinyl Night! Join us downtown the first and third Thursday of every month. We are going to ditch ...


Enter to win!

 

Check out our sister publication, Enjoy Magazine: South Valley Living

 

Wedding Style Guide 2017
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine

Enjoy Our Sponsors