VIDEO: A re-imagining of Spring's world-view.
SPRING'S FORT BRAGG
What follows is a brief glimpse into Larry Spring's Fort Bragg world. Here the influence of 'place' and how it may have informed Spring's thinking and cultural output can be imagined. Spring's experience of place was lived through both abstract spaces — Northern California as a source of esoteric energies — and material ones — the land, the town, the industry, and his building.
While the role and significance of rural Northern California’s peculiarities is unquestionably essential to understanding Larry Spring, it would be easy to overstate its importance. In relation to Spring’s personal biography and cultural production, however, the logic of time, place and changing social processes should not be overlooked.
Northern California has long been held in the American imagination as a place of limitless possibility. Its hardscrabble history is dramatized as what Larry Spring's long time friend Bob Kirtland called the "pioneering American spirit," (2015). This myth has origins in the Spanish colonial era when land originally settled by Coast Yukis, — and later the Pomo people — was exploited by successive waves of outsiders for economic opportunity. In this stereoscopic card, Pomo shelters are viewed through the distancing lens of virtual tourism.
C.E. Watkins. 1863. Stereograph. Courtesy of Steve Heselton.
Acme Lumber Co
Lumber interests built infrastructure — camps, railroads, and sawmill sites — on seized tribal land. One hundred years of industrial colonialism followed.
Photographer unknown. Circa 1910. Postcard. Courtesy FB-MCHS archives. Fort Bragg, California.
The Mathison Ranch
After timber resources were stripped, the lumber companies sold cheap sections coined 'stump ranches' to economic migrants like Larry Spring's family.
Photographer unknown. 1911. Courtesy of the FB-MCHS archives. Fort Bragg, California.
Sid Spring with mink
Farming a stump ranch was a labourious. To maintain an arable plot, farmers had to constantly remove the redwood trees' sprouts from their roots. Larry Spring's family turned to mink farming as a way to bolster their ranch's yield.
Photographer unknown. n.d. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, Fort Bragg, California.
The Spring boys with felled log
The timber industry monopolized Fort Bragg's political and cultural economy. The town's first mayor was Union Lumber founder C.R. Johnson.
Photographer unknown. N.d. Gelatin silver print. Estate of Larry Spring, California.
Paul Bunyan Days
Logging culture was a mainstay of leisure time in Fort Bragg. In 1939, Union Lumber established the Paul Bunyan Days festival starring the 6'8" Charlie Buck.
Phoographer Unknown. 1939. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of FB-MCHS. Fort Bragg.
The Interior of the Famous One Log House
The myth of gigantism was taken from the Pacific northern redwood stands and became tied to northern California's identity. Despite the near demise of the giant redwood from over logging, single log houses and other gigantic timber-themed amusements were positioned as tourist attractions.
Photographer unknown. N.d. Souvenir postcard. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg. California.
Gigantic window display
Larry Spring integrated the popular appeal of the oversized into his storefront window. This six-foot chainsaw has been on display since the 1950's. The saw has been cited by a number of visitors as the reason they visited his storefront.
McKeating, AM. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Redwood slice timeline
Union Lumber's 1753-year-old redwood round can be seen as a stand-in for the area's waves of colonization. Noted is the human chronology that features prominent moments in European history — 'Leif Ericson Lands on American Coast' and 'Signing of the Magna Carta' — yet omits regional narratives and any trace of the coast’s indigenous peoples.
McKeating AM. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Sointula Collective (Harmony) hunting party
Lured to Fort Bragg by Union Lumber's recruitment ads, Finnish immigrants introduced an alternative value system through their collective approach to resource sharing. Larry Spring's storefront was the original Finnish cooperative store.
Oscar Erickson. 1939. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Sylvia Bartley whose mother, grandfather, aunt and uncles are pictured. Fort Bragg, California.
Scrubby coastal rock
In the late 1950's many artists who were attracted to the areas' rough coastline and roiling fog moved north to make creative works in relative isolation. Like Larry Spring's craft explorations, much of what was produced was specifically rooted in the area's natural environment.
McKeating, AM. 2014. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Fuente on his Cowasaki
Artists who were looking for alternatives to the middle-class lifestyle. In the mid-sixties, artist Larry Fuente came north to make works obsessively concerned with surface ornamentation.
Madame Chinchilla. 1969. Chromatic print. Courtesy of Madame Chinchilla. Fort Bragg California.
Many counter-culture migrants came to the north to escape the Cuban missile crisis' militaristic effect on Bay area politics. By 1978, there were 23 communes in the area.
Bartley, Sylvia. 1990. Gelatin silver print. Fort Bragg, California.
Larry Spring on a dune buggy
Larry Spring was fondly recalled as one of Fort Bragg's few 'old-timers' who was open to the counter culture's new ideas. "He was a draw, and people wanted to be around him. He wasn't the only one looking for a different understanding of the unknown," (de Vall 2015).
Photographer unknown. 1970. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
UFO in the Paul Bunyan Days Parade
Artist Madame Chinchilla called Fort Bragg a "magnetic vortex" that influenced culture and identity. "When I arrived here 45 years ago, I was given permission to be who I am," (2015).
Spring, Larry. 1978. Colour transparency. Estate of Larry Spring. Fort Bragg, California.
Fort Bragg’s isolation and unique cultural mix allowed Larry Spring to creatively produce without the pressure of social or academic consensus. Nuclear technician Bill Roach described Larry Spring's inventive thinking as "a practical application of consciousness" that came from living on a foggy coastal range. "Water, trees, and isolation created an environment where you had to confront yourself. This resulted in a kind of mental activity that stimulated creativity," (2015).
McKeating AM. 2013. Jpeg. Fort Bragg, California.
Hands on Tour of the Universe
Fort Bragg's culture is distinctively self-sufficient. Former Mayor Dave Turner ascribes this to the confluence of outliers, isolation, and the town's flagging economy. "People here have to think for themselves and that means that unique things happen," (2015). Larry Spring was considered by community members to be integral to Fort Bragg's character. They continue to be very protective of his image and work.