Robb: The Bass Lake Diaries

September 25th, 2011

Robb, here in high school science mode,  picks up his story — you might want to go back and read “The Acting Wrinkle,” since it’s been a while.

I love this piece and the two that will follow it — and rock and roll is in the future.


As it becomes clear that my supposed ‘rock’n roll story’ has dithered back into a stroll through my high school days, I now realize that there is no way to leave that subject without a few words about my bizarre and amazing senior year.

Which is, in itself, a digression from a digression. I fear there will be several more. At least, up until now, I could claim to be following some sort of a career line, but what this story illustrates… I have no idea but I still gotta tell it. But first, (yawn) a little more scene setting.

We were living in Bass Lake, California… a vacation community just south of Yosemite where a million people visited during the summer…

Bass lake in the summer

…but had a total population of around a hundred during the winter.

Bass Lake in winter

Whereas the summers were a swirl of barbeques, waterskiing, playing water tag, boat rides to lakefront restaurants for dinner, or to the bakery for fresh sweet rolls in the morning, 50s rock bands playing a giant hall that hung precariously over the waterfalls… after Labor Day everybody left except for a few monosyllabic locals. The county drained the lake for water for farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, leaving, in winter, just a river running through a giant sea of mud about a half mile from our house which was, during the summer, a lakefront home with the water lapping happily at the lawn.

And, of course, in winter, all the hot spots were shut down.

That was okay for us kids because the school, and indeed, the bus, instantly replaced the lake as the center of our world. We left just as the sun was coming up and, during the darkest winter months, came home after dark. The bus was a community of its own. There were good neighborhoods and bad ones, infrequent social mobility between them; there were the mercantile zones where transactions took place; there was, functionally, a mobile night club where Larry Reynolds recreated the latest bits from the Steve Allen Show for those kids on our side of the lake who couldn’t get the signal. There was a three-wide seat near the back where the Three Harpies, Loretta, Gradene and Claudia cackled and snickered every minute of every day for four years, speaking a language entirely of their own invention. Three hours a day on a bus (an hour and a half each way) may sound hellish, and probably scared the shit out of me before it happened, but, once you’re into it, it just becomes part of your life. You do your homework, socialize, sleep, eat, flirt, go steady, break up… life goes on except it’s all on a bus.

Buses (with two girls’ handwriting, which I [Tim] have tried in vain to decipher)

Sierra High was a remarkable anomaly. It was seated in the foothills between hundreds of miles of farmland on one side and the High Sierras on the other. Therefore the area that constituted its tax base was absolutely huge, and included numerous PG&E power houses up in the mountains. The big problem for the school board was what to do with all the money. We had free hot lunches (which were actually good), the entire student body was bussed to away basketball and football games; there were three swimming pools and, eventually, two libraries.

…and dormitories. The one hundred and twenty two miles (one hundred forty for Brian) that I traveled every day were well within reach for spunky ol’ Sierra but the ‘power house’ kids – the ones who lived in those bizarre, tiny, artificial towns in the high altitudes – were from areas just too remote for daily travel, so those kids lived in a well appointed dorm.

Anyway, you get the idea, school was like a bustling moon colony but, alas, the parents who were left behind, and especially those in Bass Lake, lived a life of extreme quietude. That was perfectly fine for my dad who had bought the garage of a lakefront estate for $8,000 and proceeded to, construct, plaster, wire and plumb until he had a two story four bedroom house surrounded by a giant brick patio with a lattice brick fence (I kid you not) circling all of that. He got up every morning, busy beaver, with the day’s task carefully planned and happily dove in.

This left Mom. Now, if you’ve been following my contributions to Tim’s saga, you will remember my mom as fun loving, flighty and in search of life that was… gay (in the Nelson Eddy sense of the word).

Mom tried hard to live the country life, she really did. She and Dad got matching leather jackets and took long walks in the woods…

Mom and Dad into the wild

….but after three years she came down with a massive, shuddering case of cabin fever and announced to Dad that she was going back to LA and was he coming with her?

Dad was in a quandary. I still had a year to go at Sierra; I finally got things to where it was all working for me; I was getting A’s, playing football, swimming competitively, acting in plays, making tiny inroads with girls etc. He absolutely didn’t want to make me have to change schools but he didn’t want to lose Mom either…

… so at the end of summer, following my junior year, they both moved to LA and left a sixteen year old kid alone in the mountains.

21 Responses to “Robb: The Bass Lake Diaries”

  1. Suzanna Says:

    Talk about a cliff hanger. Fascinating that a school like Sierra High ever existed in California. Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. EverettK Says:

    Robb: YIKES! Now THAT’S what I call TRUST (on the part of your parents).

    Either that, or terminal foolhardiness. The rest of the story will tell that tale, I suspect. Although I can guess where it’s going, based upon the previous told story of The Condo. 🙂

    Tim: On the left it says (mostly):

    It’s been a
    real blast
    riding the bus
    this year with you
    and the rest of the idiots
    that ride this crate they call
    a bus and that has a driver
    that is completely out of his head
    (???)… anyway good luck in
    the future and have fun this
    (somebody) Dick

    On the right is says something like:

    THE WOMEN ….

    The rest is lost (to me) in the picture.

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Boy. Wave a mystery in Everett’s face and he’s on it. Robb is incommunicado until tomorrow — he spends some weekends in the country, where he has no online access — but maybe he’ll clear it up tomorrow.

    Sooz, I love these remembrances. And is “cliff-hanger” a pun?

  4. Malc Says:

    Love it !! It’s just impossible NOT to envisage the scenario as it unfolds – even from here across the ocean …

  5. Suzanna Says:

    Alone in the mountains…cliff-hanger…oh,, I get it. Ahem, no, I’m not that clever I’m afraid.

  6. John Lindquist Says:

    This chapter is bringing back the Eisenhower years for me: The chemistry lab and bus photos – plus the description of the tourist area that resembles Hayward, Wisconsin. And there were the long bus rides to school and back. (No buckets – but our driver did see fit to let us run to the woods on occasion.) Thanks, Robb for triggering the memories. Oh, here come some more: my one-room grade school (all 8 grades) with the outdoor privies, real dirt schoolyards, the old crank wall phones, piano lessons, etc. And I’ve never left school.

  7. robb royer Says:

    Suzanna – you don’t have to be clever to make that association, just a little buzzed. The story does have a resolution so… (in the vernacular of the moment) hang in there.

    Boy Everett, you are some decoder. You sent me scurrying back to my annual, and what you missed isn’t worth mentioning.

    Actually I won’t mention what happens to the house, not wanting to give away the ending but I will remind you that when Tim and I trashed the condo we were on a humanitarian mission.

    Hi Malcolm.

  8. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Sounds almost “Leave it to Beaver”-ish, until the ending. Now to find out what happens next…

  9. Brian Says:

    That’s a wonderful story, but who would ever believe it?

    Oh, you forgot about 15 mile trip from home to the bus stop through snow storms and those wonderful adrenaline rushes under the blankets at swim meets. Or did I miss those episodes?

  10. Larissa Says:

    Wow. What a fantastic way to end the story-and the fact that it’s mostly, generally, true is even more astounding. The way you make it sound, they literally just up and left. Maybe they stuck a note on the fridge. Maybe the didn’t. It seems as though you came out alive and it was a little bit of a different time, but still. That’s bold and awesome. Can’t wait to read more!

  11. robb royer Says:

    Damn, John, I didn’t know you were as old as me. Liz… I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a Hollywood movie pitch session but you always give ’em something they’re familiar with combined with something new or newly combined. So it goes like this (think of yourself as the movie exec) Ok, Liz, here it is…Leave it to Beaver meets… Home Alone!

    Folks if you’re wondering who this mysterious new Brian is… it’s him! Refer to The Acting Wrinkle if you want to see what he look(ed) like. Actually Bri, I talk about the extra fifteen miles in an upcoming chapter, although I might have gotten the math slightly wrong. I do remember in the final awards assembly, our senior year, you won the bus award for the most miles traveled.

    I doubt if you missed those episodes, Bri, if your bringing them up now, but I think, to avoid nasty rumor, you should point out the girls swim team was there, under the blankets, too.

    Larissa, it was pretty sudden. I remember I had a couple of weeks to prepare but it came on me pretty quick. I get into a lot more detail in the episode after next.

  12. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I gather it’s the “Home Alone” part that produces the chills…btw, my name is LIL, you’re not the first and probably won’t be the last. I’m just pleased if I made you smile.

  13. Sheri Hart Says:

    This site is always a guaranteed great read. Thanks for the stories Robb!

  14. Robb Royer Says:

    Sorry Lil. Can I plead dislexia? Does this mean we don’t get to make the movie?

    Sheri,thanks yourself. One thing I never run out of is bullsh… ah… stories.

  15. Delaney Royer Says:

    You have to finish the story dad! The next part is the best part.

  16. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I just love all this. My blog is hopping, new people are arriving all the time, and I’m having a manicure. Daily.

    The next installment will go up tonight for tomorrow, and then there’s only one more. Gonna have to band together and lobby for Robb to keep the story coming. Otherwise, I might have to write something some day.

    BTW, the end of THE FEAR ARTIST is coming into sight, and I think Robb’s contributions to the blog have helped to free me up to confront the issue I was dealing with last week, which was that this book would be the first piece of Infinite Fiction, the end a forever-extending vanishing point in the distant future.

  17. suzanna Says:

    Hi, Tim

    Well, I for one would love it if Robb continued writing more stories and posting them here.

    Now that THE FEAR ARTIST is almost finished are you already dreaming up the next book?

  18. EverettK Says:

    Tim and Rob: I make my LIVING creating puzzles. I’ve been a puzzle solver from WAY back. You’d be foolhardy to think you can throw down the gauntlet on something that easy and not expect me to respond. We’re talking reflex here, inborn nature, involuntary expulsion of fecal matter from the south end of a north-going male bovine…

  19. Pat Browning Says:

    This brings back good Bass Lake memories of stopping in Fresno to pick up a bushel of Maryland oysters, then sitting around on the deck shucking oysters so I could make Oysters Rockefeller for friends. But it also brings back a memory of the weekend Bobby Kennedy was coming through Fresno by train, which was late, so I picked up my oysters and left and that was the weekend that d–mn fool Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy.

    But Bass Lake, what a spot! Wish I were there.

    Pat Browning

  20. Robb Royer Says:


    There sure is something idyllic about the place. I went back after an almost twenty year delay and it still had all the magic. Mind you, that big dance hall that hung precariously over the falls was gone and Ducey’s Lodge burned down along with my prize fish, but there is still something timeless and unchanging about it.

  21. Sno Says:

    Well I’m sitting here at the bar…. Listening to Mitchell and I’m thinking…… How the fuck did I find this blog? Anyways… Rob… U sir, are a bad ass and I have for u a ton of respect… Pleasure to know ya

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