Who was WR Holman? Discovering and Developing a Legendary Memoir – Monterey Herald

He missed his own centennial celebration by just 32 months. Although it has changed in form and function over the years, in just 28 months the building that housed its legendary Holman department store will be 100 years old. Wilford Rensselaer Holman was over 90 when he decided he had lived a life to be remembered, that he had achieved enough things worth recognizing and that he would leave enough tangible traces of his investment in Pacific Grove to justify a brief.

He assigned his secretary, Louise V. Jaques, to take dictation and proceeded to share the details of a life well lived. Published as a private project in 1979, “My Life in Pacific Grove” is a colorful account from one man’s perspective of his life and times in the city by the bay, and the traces of that life that persist to this day.

Thanks to publisher Patricia Hamilton and editor-in-chief Heather Lazare, nearly 43 years later, “My Life in Pacific Grove: A Memoir” has received a second printing, this time for access audience, and with a more detailed and developed story.

“My life in Pacific Grove; A Memoir”

Hamilton, who has provided publishing services through Pacific Grove’s Park Place Publications since 1983, is a fifth-generation Californian, descended from Methodist ministers who attended the Pacific Grove Methodist Retreat from 1890 to 1893.

Lazare, a book publisher who has run the Northern California Writer’s Retreat since 2016, who served as an editor at Simon & Schuster and worked for a number of other publishing houses, is now a freelance publisher and business consultant. books. She is also married to WR Holman’s great-grandson, Benjamin Lazare. This is how, while browsing through the memories of the Lazare family, Heather Lazare came across a copy of Holman’s book. Hamilton has one too. Both also had stories and perspectives not presented in the book. As well as the feeling that it could be better organized.

Together they realized what they had was the basis for a second edition.

Learn more about the story

“Many years ago,” Lazare said, “Patricia Hamilton had approached me to write a new introduction to a memoir Mr. Holman had completed in 1979. After my mother-in-law passed away, I realized , going through an overwhelming amount of memories, what Patricia had in her hand that day was something I already had at home: a printed, bound copy of the story of Wilford Rensselaer Holman.

Lazare found in the book an interesting but rambling documentation of a time, a community, a life, filled with intriguing but unidentified photos.

“I knew I had to explore beyond the book and then work with it to create something thoughtful, respectful and more complete,” she said. “I needed to roll up my sleeves, dig deeper, get my hands dirty, and expand on this book.”

Author, editor and journalist Joyce Krieg, who works with Park Place Publications, agreed to type Holman’s entire book into a Microsoft Word document, from which Lazare could work. Ultimately, the first 80 pages of the book are in Holman’s words. The second section of the book is the result of research for articles about Holman and his family, as well as an examination of artifacts, such as a treasure trove of letters from a 10-year correspondence, from 1938 to 1948, between the wife by Holman, Zena Holman, and John Steinbeck.

“The letters, all from Steinbeck, are lovely,” Lazare said. “In his first, dated March 10, 1938, he wrote: ‘I feel a little embarrassed writing to you as I have never met you.’ Zena, an avid fan of the arts and letters, must have said she’d like to have a signing session at Holman’s.

Steinbeck’s response, says Lazare, “was decidedly Steinbeck, because he crumbled to say no.”

Once Lazare developed an idea of ​​what she believed the book should be, she was able to write an introduction, including how she came to the project and who made it possible. And she closed the book with Holman’s obituary as an epilogue. Since the original book ended shortly before Holman’s death, Lazarus introduced an afterword to share what happened to Holman’s building afterward.

Holman’s Hometown

Heather Lazare’s perspective on W. R. Holman and his family came from a combination of city life, his in-laws’ stories, and research, driven by plot.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “what I love is that although Pacific Grove has changed over time, the Pacific Grove that WR Holman knew, loved, and developed is still You can still see it in this place that holds so much history.”

WR Holman was just 4 years old in 1888, when he accompanied his parents from his birthplace in Sacramento to Pacific Grove where, no doubt, he would grow up to have more of an impact on the community than the Methodist Christian seaside resort who established it. A year later, in 1889, Pacific Grove was incorporated as a town.

Thirty-five years later, in 1924, Holman, having grown up in his father’s haberdashery business, developed his now legendary Holman’s Department Store on Lighthouse Avenue, creating the largest and most comprehensive department store at the time. between Los Angeles and San Francois. Today, the imposing three-story building, which later became an antiques mall with retail stores, is being renovated to house upscale commercial and residential spaces.

If he were still around, WR Holman might have considered moving into the luxury address, if he weren’t so attached to his stately Victorian still standing at 769 Lighthouse but turned into a stucco fortress smooth with a red tiled roof.

Even before his department store opened, Holman lobbied for the construction of a freeway off Highway 1, which would run through Del Monte Forest to transport customers directly from Carmel to Pacific Grove, rather than having to climb and cross the hill. in Monterey, then drive around the coast to Pacific Grove to shop at its department store.

Highway 68, known to locals as the “Holman Highway”, remains the route to a place that is on the way to nowhere. Going to Pacific Grove was an intentional decision.

“My life in Pacific Grove; A Memoir” is available from Bookworks in Pacific Grove, River House Books at The Crossroads in Carmel, Olivia and Daisy in Carmel Valley, and Bookshop Santa Cruz. Proceeds from the book will benefit Friends of Pacific Grove Library. Heather Lazare will be signing books at the Central Coast Writers booth during Good Old Days at Pacific Grove May 7-8.

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