In April of 1939 the Index Tribune reported “The Larson brothers of Hopland have leased “Keller’s” at Boyes Hot Springs.” The Larson family, including Oscar’s wife Ophelia, came to California from Wisconsin around 1939.
Oscar Larson promptly changed “Keller’s” to the C.O.G. Club, for Cal, Oscar and Gary Larson. The club was located near the corner of Vallejo St. and Sonoma Highway in the current Barking Dog Roaster space.
In 1942 they celebrated the fourth anniversary of the club with a Swedish smorgasbord.
Also in 1939, they bought a stucco house on property near the corner of Verde Vista and Arroyo Rd. in Boyes Hot Springs. The house was known by neighbors as “Larson’s Villa,” and by the Larson family as “Valhalla.” The house still stands in 2021, though the land was sold and subdivided in 1989 and new houses were built. The original stone walls and pillars, some fairly recently restored, still grace the street, and continue to cause curiosity. Other stone work has not survived.
Gary Larson via email, 2018:
I remember the house well. We visited it as late as 1989 and held a small family reunion there right before they sold it. I believe an article was written in the local paper. I will never forget as kids playing in the canals (See Lily Creek!) that ran under the driveway and the beautiful stone star at the bottom of the hill. There was one big tree that was on the edge of the property that they told us was a redwood. Ophelia’s home was warm. She played piano.
There was a bar in the corner of the living room for entertainment. There was a grill and huge outside patio and an apartment in the back. She always had a closet full of toys for us kids. We has a wonderful Christmas there one year in the 1960s.
Dad would put us to work raking and cleaning the yard when we would come to visit. Oh to be able to go back and visit my grandmother as an adult…I would have so much fun listening to the stories of their lives.
In 1949 Oscar and Ophelia Larson sold the club to Denny Coleman to concentrate on running Larson’s Sporting Goods and Liquor store, which he had opened in 1945, next door to the club.
Oscar Larson was very involved in civic groups. In 1943 he was elected president of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce. Other board members included luminaries whose names are still known in the Valley: Rudy Licthenberg, Dr. Andrews, Vic Leveroni, I.S. Shainsky, and John Dowdall.
In 1945 the Valley of the Moon Recreation District was formed. Oscar Larson was appointed to establish the district. In 1951 the district acquired four acres along Sonoma Creek in Fetters Hot Springs for development as a park. In 1955 the Lion’s Club erected a concrete block building for park use.
In 1959, what had been known as “Park #1,” was officially named Larson Park to honor Oscar Larson, who died in May of that year.
Iris Larson, Gary’s mother, 92 years old in 2019, told me via phone that Oscar bought war surplus houses from Mare Island and brought them to BHS. He installed them on lots he owned on Second Avenue. Some he joined together or stacked.
UPDATE: The Larson stonework in 2021.
Photographs courtesy of Gary Larson and author’s collection. Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.