Interview with Lois Parks
Tomales, CA Historian
Lois Parks was born in Rochester, NY on October 16, 1919 and embarked on a 6 ½ yr adventure in Suifu, China with her Baptist missionary parents at the age of 10 months. Her father, a Baptist pastor, established churches in China while her mother raised Lois and her two siblings, both of whom were born in China. Lois’ most vivid early memory was when two local war lords began fighting in the mountainous area where they vacationed during the summer months, and they were briefly separated from their father in the pouring rain as he arranged transportation via river boat back to Suifu.
The row boat they used to access the river boat had no oars, so they had to pull up floor boards to use as paddles!
Upon returning to the U.S., Lois’ family moved every 2-3 years based on her father’s parish assignments. She graduated from Tamalpais High School, commuting from Fairfax daily via train, and attended Marin Junior College one year before the family relocated to the Monterey peninsula and she completed her AA degree at Salinas Junior College. Lois then found work and paid her way through college at the University of Redlands, where she received a BA degree in English. With the war in the Pacific escalating, her parents decided to move from Monterey County to Oregon, and she followed them briefly after becoming engaged to her “true love,” Roy Parks, whom she had met at Marin Junior College. Roy worked for his father, a chicken rancher in Tomales, and in 1943 Lois became a rancher’s wife and active in civic affairs. The ranch’s direct contribution to the WWII war effort was to ship chicken eggs to Australia.
The Parks’ chickens were free range, and when ranchers popularized the practice of raising chickens in cages, the Parks family switched to raising sheep because they disagreed with the practice. History has a way of repeating itself! Roy also attended courses in pasture development and animal husbandry at UC Davis, while involving their four children in 4-H.
Meanwhile, when Lois’ oldest son, Bob, started school, she became a local school board trustee and served in that capacity for the next 15 years. Never one to stay idle, Lois was also the choir director and organist for the local Presbyterian Church. When the State Board of Education tried to consolidate school districts with fewer than 1000 students, she and others spent 10 years trying to get the state to allow them to vote on maintaining an independent Tomales Unified High School District. Once approved by the State, Lois reports that the ballot measure passed the first time it was proposed, and the district continues to this day.
Another one of Lois’ projects was the Tomales Regional History Center, which she and others started at the grammar school in 1977 and moved to the former high school auditorium in the late 1990s after numerous fundraisers. The History Center includes a visual and oral history of the geographic area from Point Reyes to Bodega Bay. Historically, this was a dairy and potato growing region, and boats traveled up Tomales Bay from San Francisco to bring these products to the City.
After Lois’ husband died in 1981, her boys continued to worked the ranch and Lois began to travel with either her sister or a close friend who shares her interest in genealogy. Lois stayed at the ranch until about four years ago, when she moved into town to be near her daughter, Sharon, and then to Santa Rosa earlier this year. Her most memorable trip was back to her childhood home in China which remained much as she remembered it (including the family home, which had since been taken over by the Government). In the past three decades, Lois has traveled to China (2x), Europe (3x), Australia, the Caribbean, and throughout the continental U.S.
Reflecting on the pace of change during her lifetime, Lois openly wonders if children today have the opportunity to fully enjoy the simple pleasures in life she enjoyed growing up, observing that it “seems to take so much to entertain them.” She also wonders if children are being challenged enough. For example, it’s almost too easy to find the answers to questions via the internet at the push of a button without having to research the answers yourself. Of course, she also appreciates technology advances, such as being able to instantaneously send letters to her friends via email, and was able to experience her granddaughter’s wedding in Southern California via Skype when she couldn’t be there in person.
Lois’ advice for the children of today: (1) you can’t learn too much; (2) take time for simple pleasures; and (3) keep smiling and think on the bright side.
Now, that’s Upbeat wisdom at any age!