Two years after a massive wildfire, a reopened general store still offers a helping hand

Hello and welcome to Essential California newsletter. It is Friday May 20. I’m Diana Marcum, and I’m writing from Cressman’s General Store, where a family pulled up with a broken radiator.

Cressman’s is on Route 168 in Fresno County, Sierra Nevada. On the road to what Central Valley locals call the plains, it’s just above where the road narrows from four lanes to two and a sunny road becomes pine-scented and shaded – or du less before the 2020 Creek fire.

Now the only thing here is a new gas station and store housed in a shipping container surrounded by blackened ghost trees. Cellular service is spotty in these mountains, and Cressman’s has always been the place people know to go to in case of trouble.

Roxanne Marshall and Dave Parker had issues. Smoke billowed from their truck, which was pulling a posh trailer they had purchased during the pandemic as an escape hatch. “Sometimes it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand basket and never coming back,” Dave said. “Then you meet someone like the two in that store right there.”

Teresa Foster and Xochitl Caballero gave them cold drinks and use of the telephone. When they needed to know the size of their radiator, Teresa called her kids’ school bus driver, and he ran over a tape measure. Everyone who entered the gas station said hello and asked if they needed a hand.

Roxanne had been shaken at first – she had three small dogs in the back seat and one had just five teeth pulled.

But Teresa dated Bucky, her 1-year-old Great Pyrenees. “Bucky can calm anyone down,” Teresa said.

He had a lot of practice. The original Cressman’s – you’ve passed it if you’ve ever been to Huntington or Shaver lakes: white and green, next to an old barn where a man sold chainsaw art of waving bears – was there since 1904. He had a bakery and delicatessen. But when it reopened in the temporary container, Teresa brought Bucky to work as there was no food around.

Many in the community had moved away. Those who remained were uprooted, dragged, frightened. People started coming just to hang out with Bucky.

Xochitl lost the house where she lived before the fire. She does not know if she is in a state of trauma or recovery. “Some days you’re looking for something you don’t have anymore and it’s like the world is ending again,” she said. “But there are too many reasons to be grateful not to go ahead.”

She said she had seen clusters of yellow daffodils growing all over the hills this spring. Behind the store, the hill was covered with green grass, orange poppies and lavender lupine.

Roxanne’s daughter, Alisha, arrived with the new heater. The 24-year-old is a nurse at a children’s hospital and it was her week off. The plan was for her to drive behind the trailer in the car also carrying her 22-year-old brother, Alton, and Dave’s 88-year-old mother, Barbara. Then Dave and Roxanne sent them back to get a forgotten generator, then a chainsaw, then buy a heater.

“But they remembered the fishing rods,” she laughed.

Her mother also laughed as she walked with Alton in the parking lot. He suffers from severe autism and cannot speak. “When you have a child with a disability, you learn to laugh at everything,” Roxanne said.

On her hand, she had written Teresa and Xochitl’s names in ink, so she would remember them for the gift cards she planned to bring them.

Radiator replaced, they were finally on their way to the “boondock” – set up on a forestry service lot with no power or water. If they’re lucky and the fire doesn’t reach the spot they found by a stream, their camp will be waiting for them as soon as they can get from their home in Sanger. Someone told Roxanne that he heard a child say he liked to look at wildflowers until his eyeballs hurt. She said that’s what she hopes to do this summer.

And now, Here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Inside Irvine Taiwan Presbyterian Church, Pastor Billy Chang was in his element reading the book of Isaiah: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will fly on wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired. They will walk and not faint. Hours later, the parishioners had to find the strength to save their own lives when a stranger locked them in the auditorium and started shooting. Dr. John Cheng gave his own life to save others. Los Angeles Times

California mothers share their breast milk. With store shelves empty and government relief for the baby formula shortage yet to begin, nursing mothers across California are donating their breast milk to strangers. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County hospitals are once again filling up with COVID-19 patients. A sharp rise in numbers is raising new concerns that healthcare systems could again be strained. Los Angeles Times


A Los Angeles-based cash advance app is an upgraded version of a payday lender. At a time when so many Californians live paycheck to paycheck, many banks refuse to cut exorbitant fees. Apps like Dave, with bouncy graphics and cute names, see the opportunity to charge the cash-strapped big bucks to avoid the greatest devastation of bank fees. Los Angeles Times

LA’s beloved Angelyne (who can still be seen driving his pink Corvette around town) gets the biopic treatment on Peacock. Los Angeles Times

It reminds us of all our IRL Angelyne moments. Los Angeles Times

Why can’t you find an apartment in Los Angeles with a refrigerator? How the town became “a refrigeratorless aberration is one of the region’s most mysterious and least delightful eccentricities,” writes Liam Dillon. Los Angeles Times

We know you have a story about “that time when…” Help us celebrate the Hollywood Bowl by sharing your memories as the venue enters its 100th season. Los Angeles Times


Richard Riordan, the last Republican mayor of Los Angeles, endorsed Rick Caruso. In the early 1990s, Riordan ran a mayoral campaign similar to that of Caruso — a former Republican who is now running as a Democrat focused on public safety and making the city more hospitable for business. Los Angeles Times

FBI Tapes Reveal Secret ‘Cabal’ Running Anaheim, home to Disneyland Resort, the Ducks of the National Hockey League and the Angels of Major League Baseball. The corruption scandal jeopardizes a deal for Angel Stadium. Los Angeles Times

A Pennsylvania Democrat paid for a publicity blitz attesting to a candidate’s MAGA bona fides. It was a move straight out of the California playbook for picking your opponent. Los Angeles Times

Our daily news podcast

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you’ll love our daily “The Times” podcast, hosted every weekday by columnist Gustavo Arellano, along with reporters from across our newsroom. Go beyond the headlines. Download and listen on our appsubscribe on Apple Podcasts and follow on Spotify.


Powerful California oil lobbies and unions helped defeat a bill that would have banned oil drilling in state-controlled waters. Seven months after a major spill polluted the beaches and wetlands around Huntington Beach, Senate Bill 953 failed to pass an oversight committee. Los Angeles Times

A century after an agreement to divide Colorado River water between western states, there is an urgent call to rework the pact amid an ever-worsening drought. “It is absolutely urgent that we start thinking now, while there is time,” former Home Secretary Bruce Babbitt told our water reporter Ian James. Los Angeles Times

Interview with Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek might make you pay more attention to rainbows and consider the difference between curiosity and wonder. Los Angeles Times


Babies, babies, babies. Rihanna, who may have changed maternity clothes forever, and her boyfriend rapper ASAP Rocky welcomed their first child in Los Angeles on May 13. TMZ

And the twin sisters gave birth to sons on the same day at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Anaheim. It was not planned like that. Washington Post

Free online games

Get our free daily crosswords, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at


Los Angeles: clouds breaking, 69. San Diego: airy, 66. San Francisco: sunny, 71. San Jose: sunny and windy, 78. Fresno: sunny, 83. Sacrament: sunny, 82.


Today california memory just Marilyn Heyler Hettick:

In 1946, my father, William F. Heyler, sold a property on West Pico Boulevard to Alan Baker of Chicago, and then Mr. Baker built the iconic Apple Pan restaurant. I had the very first Steakburger and a piece of apple pie, which Mr. Baker’s mother, Mrs. Gamble, baked. I was in half-day session at Overland Avenue School at the time. It’s amazing that the Apple Pan is still going strong three quarters of a century later. Prices have gone up, but the interior is still the same.

If you have a memory or a story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please limit your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send your feedback to [email protected]

Comments are closed.