NORTH COUNTY COMMUNITY PROFILE : Getting to the Core of Wynola’s Fame Is as Easy as Saying Apple Pie
Three miles up the winding road from Santa Ysabel’s famous Dudley’s Bakery and 4 miles down the pike from Julian, there is this place--this little settlement of sorts--called Wynola.
Wynola occupies a tiny bite of California 78, no more than a mile long from start to finish. Yet, that tiny community has just about everything a body could want--a schoolhouse, a general store, a chicken restaurant and apples. Lots of apples.
The undisputed main attractions of Wynola are Farmer’s Mountain Vale Ranch and Manzanita Ranch, huge markets that sell just about every apple product known to man, including apple butter, apple honey and cherry apple cider. Although there is no visible indication of where Wynola begins and leaves off, the signs for these two fruit stands are impressive.
Farmer’s large apple-shaped sign practically assaults the traveler’s eye from a mile down the highway. Lest someone miss the hint, a more commanding sign painted on a rusty water wagon beyond the market admonishes, “You Have Just Passed Farmer’s.”
Established in 1916, the 70-acre ranch is owned and operated by Bud Farmer and his family. In a good year, they produce about 500 tons of apples, some of which are sold in half-bushels and others of which end up in cider or apple butter.
An unexpected side attraction to Farmer’s is a display of live pheasants in rows of cages next to the general store. Several turkeys also dawdle about, but there are some exotic sounding birds, including a Chinese ringneck pheasant.
From the American flag flying proudly over Farmer’s to its little redwood shack, it is clear that Mom and apple pie virtues are extolled in Wynola.
Manzanita Ranch, next door to Farmer’s, is also at the core of Wynola’s apple business, and, besides various apple offerings, it sells gooseberry preserves, guava butter, nuts and other commodities. The ranch was started in 1907 by Franklin Barnes and is now owned and operated by his son, Franklin (Woody) Barnes Jr.
Wynola is also home to about 160 families, who live nestled in the hills off California 78.
“I have absolutely no idea how many people live here, but we do have quite a cross-section,” said Billie Rasmussen, corresponding secretary for the Julian Chamber of Commerce and a Wynola resident for 10 years. “There are a lot of retired people, but we have artists and sculptors and small-business owners and people who work for the Forest Service.”
One Wynola resident of international repute is artist-poet James Hubbell, who makes his home on Orchard Lane.
Another Wynola landmark is the 104-year-old Spencer Valley Elementary School. Until 1986, when the school added two new buildings to give the students and staff some much-needed elbow room, Spencer Valley held the dubious distinction of being San Diego County’s last one-room schoolhouse.
Jane Wingrove, the 63-year-old teacher, principal and district superintendent for Spencer Valley, remembers the days before the expansion. To navigate around a photocopier and a chair, teachers had to slide sideways in the 4-by-10-foot room that served as an office, and the financial secretary had to store her files at home, Wingrove said.
Despite its computers, Spencer Valley still retains a homey quality. The children of varying ages and grade levels gather for their lessons at circular tables--no desks.
The 32 students also are often responsible for when to study math and when to study English, and, most importantly, how to plan the events for Tacky Day.
“Tacky Day is held the day before the last day of school, and we invite the whole community,” Wingrove said. “The children have a program where they sing and dance and put on a variety show, and then we have a potluck afterward.”
Wynola really comes alive, however, in the fall. In October, thousands of tourists descend on this otherwise sedate town to partake in Apple Days and activities surrounding the fall harvest.