Story by Shirley West
Edited by Michael Clawson
Graeagle had two active groups, one known as the Sportsmen's Association and the other, the Graeagle Fire Department. The Sportsmen's Association was responsible for the boxing arena and bouts held there every month. This arena was located at the present ball park in Graeagle on Iroquois Trail. The boxing arena, complete with lights, seated 800 people. Alf McClaskey was the state fight inspector for many years. Everyone locally volunteered their time and services, but the referee came out of Sacramento and was paid train fare, room and board, plus $25.00.
The Sportsmen's Association was also in charge of the local baseball team. If the baseball or boxing matches ran into debt, the Sportsmen's Association would put on a dance. The largest soiree of the year was the Graeagle Fire Department's Christmas Gala. The community hall was decorated from stem to stern, and everyone in town pitched in to help. They leased three slot machines from Harry Jones in Portola, known locally as the "slot machine king". These machines were responsible for most of the profits. Local merchants would contribute merchandise for door prizes. There was never less than 80 to 85 prizes. The orchestra was usually out of Reno. The "Paul Jones" Group was the favorite for many years. There was also the bountiful supper served at midnight.
Boxing and baseball seemed to be the two favorite pastimes, that is until September when the California Fruit Exchange would send three or four carloads of grapes to town. When they arrived, the mill whistle would blow and all activity ceased while each household came to the railroad to receive their share of grapes. Then the fun began, as it was all turned into fine Italian wine.
When we moved to Graeagle, we couldn't understand why each house had a trap door usually located in a bedroom. Beneath each trap door was a small excavation. B. G. Vernazza explained this was where the "wine was put down". So, since some of these harvests took place during Prohibition, it probably was expedient to have the trap door under your bed and out of sight.
The California Fruit Exchange harvested timber and manufactured lumber, box shook and moudling for 40 years. Then, in 1957, the decision was made to close down and sell out. "Junkies" came in to salvage the building, but part way through their operation the mill caught on fire and everything was destroyed. The maintenance shop and present fire house were the only survivors.
Today, once again, Graeagle is a thriving community, and I think the old-timers would approve the Graeagle of today, as it has been kept as nearly like the original as possible.