Elgin, Illinois is known as "The City in the Suburbs" and is widely known to offer exceptional cultural and diverse opportunities to those living in a small urban city 38 miles northwest of Chicago. For Paul Dolby, the 2022 Alturas Chamber of Commerce Grand Marshal, his time to relish and experience this thriving arts community was short-lived after his father, Frederic Dolby, passed away from the debilitating Polio epidemic disease of 1949 when Paul was almost two years old.
Soon after his father's passing, Paul's mother, Betty, decided it was time to pack up the family belongings and move westward to Likely, California to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Dorothy and Glen Olsen. Moving closer to nature, especially in the far reaches of Modoc County, was the perfect choice to raise a two-year-old young boy and his sister, Pam, who was only 28 days old when the move transpired. Likely may have been the sort of town one might drive past without a second thought, but for Betty, Paul and Pam, it offered a glimmer of hope and the perfect subtle and quiet environment for a family looking for a fresh start.
It didn't take long for Betty to acclimate to the rural lifestyle that Modoc County and Likely had to offer. Her first job came when she was hired as a Secretary at Brooks Insurance Agency (Bob Brooks) located in the small left-side corner office next door to the Niles Theatre. According to Paul, this was Bob Brooks' first hired Secretary in his insurance agency.
Meanwhile, across town, a young office manager for the Lindgren and Burrell Logging Company by the name of Chet Brown, managed to attract Betty's attention one day in passing. They both got acquainted, fell in love, and shortly thereafter, got married in 1952.
Chet had already obtained his insurance license prior to his marriage to Betty, so it didn't take him very long to circumvent his logging career and open his first insurance agency, known as "Chet Brown's Insurance". The thriving business was in the front office between the restaurant and hotel at the old Warner Hotel in Alturas. Shortly after the move, Betty herself took the State test and obtained her insurance license, and at the same time, becoming the first women in Modoc County to do so.
Within a couple of years, Chet and Betty moved their insurance business into an older style, single-story white cement building at the far end of North Main Street in Alturas. For those who don't remember Chet Brown's Insurance Agency, it was located directly across the small parking lot of Hickerson's Variety Store, where Paul has his two-story professional office building today.
Without further ado, Chet and Betty Brown expanded the population of Modoc by one when their son, Steve, was born. With a growing family in the making, the two decided to purchase a ranch located off County Road 75, which is where Paul still resides today. This was their very first ranch which provided plenty of room for their kids to roam as well as give them ample number of daily chores to complete their all-important to-do-list. "My dad and mom called their first ranch the "River Ranch" because the Pit River flows through it," Paul said. "All the farming was done with horses in those days, so, my dad used a dump rake and put up the hay with an overshot hay stacker all by using horses." Paul never skipped a beat when describing his life at the ranch as a young teenager, stating, "growing up on the County Road 75 ranch, it was fun, we lived on the river where we could go fishing, there was a lot of things to do there."
When Paul was in 8th grade (April 1960), his parents got the opportunity to purchase a ranch on Cedar Pass which was then owned by Clyde and Ruth Hays. "My father loved that ranch and had always considered the ranch his dream, and he always wanted to someday buy it. That was when my mom told my dad she would make it happen," Paul remembered. "It was a beautiful place to be raised, in the mountains surrounded by meadows, creeks and forest." This was the family's final move.
From ranch work to the school classroom, Paul learned at an early age how to balance both routines into his daily grind of hard work and no play attitude. "The school bus did not come all the way up to the ranch house, so my dad and mom would drive us two miles down the road to meet the bus in the morning, and after school we would have to walk the two miles back to the ranch because my mom and dad were working at the office in town. It made for a long day," Paul said.
Paul received all his schooling in Modoc County, graduating from Modoc High in 1965. He continued his education by attending the College of the Siskiyou for two years before graduating from the College of Artesia in Eddy County New Mexico in 1970 with a BS degree in Business of Administration and Economics.
When Paul was 13 years old, and while driving around with his dad, Paul noticed an old classic car parked on his neighbor's ranch property inside an open haystack barn. The ranch owners name was Maggie Dees. Paul dreamed of someday buying the old car, which was a 1930 Model A Ford, but he wasn't sure if she would sell it, especially to a kid who was only 13 years old with no driver's license. His dad convinced Paul that the only way to find out would be to go and talk to her. The meeting between the two came to fruition, and the deal was eventually made for $125. That was all the money Paul had saved up.
The old car made do for the much-needed transportation to and from the bus stop for the next several years before old age and warn-out broken parts sent the Model A into full automotive retirement. One of Paul's friends nicknamed the old Model A "Toots" and that is what is fondly referred to today. "Toots" sat in Paul's garage for the next 50 years collecting dust, when finally, on his 70th birthday, he sent "Toots" off to Sparks, Nevada for a full and complete restoration, which took three years to complete. "Toots" is the car that will transport Paul down the parade route during this year's Fandango Days.
In 1978, Paul obtained his insurance license, and in 1980, he took over his parent's insurance agency so they could retire full time to their dream ranch on Cedar Pass. And in 1986, the old Chet Brown Insurance Agency building was finally torn down to make way for Paul's new professional office building which is still located at 1030 North Main Street.
Today, Paul resides at the old River Ranch off County Road 75, the first ranch his parents purchased in the early 1950's when he was a young child. This is also where Paul proudly raised his two beautiful children, Brent and Cameo after they were born. Cameo and her husband, Clayton Thomason, live a short distance from the ranch with their two boys, John and Jimmy and their daughter, Teri. Cameo works for her dad at Dolby Insurance and is the third generation working in the insurance business. Brent lives on the same family ranch with his wife, Tina, and their two daughters, Brook and Lilly. Brent and his wife have taken over the daily ranch operations as did his father when he was growing up.
To make way for his already consumed daily schedule, Paul is a dedicated Rotarian with the Alturas Rotary Club, an Alturas Elk's Club member, a member of the Modoc County Farm Bureau and California Cattlemen's Association and is a board member of the Hot Springs Valley Water District. He is also a past member of the Oregon National Guard. All-in-all, this has been quite an accomplishment for such a modest and humble man who still believes others should have deserved this award and not him. Paul, in all sincerity, is an outstanding member of our community, supporting many local events and youth programs.
Finally, Paul reflected on a little uncertainty when he talked about his brief life in Elgin, Illinois shortly after he was born. "Every once in a while, I would look back and think, gosh, I've always wondered what would have happened with my life if my father hadn't passed away. I probably would have been raised in the mid-west, my father was a cabinet maker and worked with wood, I probably wouldn't have been a rancher or be in the insurance business, so it was something that was always there in my mind," Paul said. "We were very lucky to have ended up here in Likely, there was no better place to live."
It was with that one-way trip from "The City in the Suburbs" near Chicago to the quiet and tranquil town of Likely, California 73 years ago that afforded the opportunity for Betty, Paul, and Pam Dolby to meet new friends in a small rural community that welcome people of such with open arms. It really was the most likely move for a family looking for a fresh start in life. Congratulations Paul Dolby for being selected the 2022 Alturas Chamber of Commerce Fandango Days Grand Marshal. You deserved it!!