Phyllis Benham with examples of her art. (Photo: Kirkner)
No person can stop time, but there are a chosen few in this world who appear able to suspend it, or elongate it, people whose vitality remains intact for birthday after birthday until you (and they) lose count of what year, if not what decade, they’re on.
Phyllis Benham is one of these people.
And Phyllis is holding yet another one of her infamous “pick-a-pot” parties this Sunday from noon-5 p.m. at the home of Susan Burgitt and Mary Pipersky in Sunny Slopes (go to the end of Sunny Slope Rd. and look for the balloons … and bring cash!)
Benham has been “potting” for about a quarter-century now. She became interested in ceramics years ago when she enrolled her children in a summer program and “it looked like fun.”
She later took an adult education class in pottery at Bakersfield College and has followed that up with numerous workshops over the years.
This year marks the 4th annual party. The first year, my wife and I went with the idea of getting Christmas gifts for friends and family.
By the next year, however, we decided we rather liked everything too much to part with it.
And now, with each successive year, Phyllis continues to fill the various nooks and crannies of our house with her wares.
Phyllis works out of Danny Whitmore’s mother’s garage … or 1/2 garage. Mrs. Whitmore died years ago, but the Whitmore family still keeps the place as a vacation home. As the place has no heat, Phyllis’s general potting schedule is April through November.
“I’ve got a wheel, a kiln, all my glazes and accessible water outside … and a dog run, where Danny and his son raised pheasants this summer.”
She explained that she gets her clay in 25-pound sacks, usually ordering 400-500 pounds at a time.
“I used to get it shipped from Laguna Clay, but that proved terribly expensive, so now I pick it up in an airplane from Leslie Ceramics in Berkeley.”
I look at her dubiously. Sometimes the ageism creeps in regardless of how open-minded you think you are.
“Yes. I get tested every six weeks,” she says. “I pass everything. I don’t have de-icing equipment, so I only fly in decent weather.”
“Does your husband [Herb] fly, too?” I ask.
“No, he reads the paper, although sometimes I wish he’d look out the window once in awhile to see what we’re gonna get hit by.”
Herb and Phyllis met on a tennis court in Santa Barbara in 1949 and were married April 15, 1950.
“Why would you get married on tax day?” I asked.
“It wasn’t tax day at the time. Besides, it wouldn’t have made any difference back then. We didn’t have any money.”
Phyllis first visited Mammoth in 1948 on her way east to attend Bennington College in Vermont. She graduated from Bennington in June 1949.
The Benhams have owned a home in Mammoth since 1980.
“What’s the secret to a long marriage?”
“Lots of space,” replied Phyllis. Then after a few beats, she added, “Really, it’s a crapshoot.”
If you don’t have a chance to make the pick-a-pot party on Sunday, Phyllis does sell her stuff at the Twin Lakes Gallery during the summers. But really, it would be worth your while to drop by on Sunday. It’s like getting everything wholesale from the prices you’d expect to pay for similar stuff at a chi-chi gallery.
From Kirkner’s desk …
Time to sort out the Lake Mary Tunnel collapse
It’s been two seasons since the Lake Mary Road tunnel collasped during the construction of the adjoining pedestrian/bike tunnel, according to Town Manager Rob Clark. At the time of the collapse the Town of Mammoth, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the contractor, Speiss, pulled together on an emergency basis and installed a new tunnel.
The time has now come to sort out who is actually responsible for the damages and to have that party, or parties, pay up.
Last week the Town was served with an official summons and complaint, which has been filed with the Mono County Superior Court.
“The complaint was filed by Mammoth Mountain’s insurance company, Lexington Insurance,” Clark told The Sheet. “MMSA paid the bulk of the costs at the time of the collapse, which was almost $1.7 million.”
The Town’s insurance company, California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, will handle the defense on the Town’s behalf.
“There is no court date set yet,” Clark said, adding that it could get settled before even having to go to court. However, the complex questions and numerous parties involved could make that tough.
“There are potentially multiple reasons for the collapse,” Clark said. “It could have been the original design, the construction process, the way that the Town put the bid together and had it inspected, or something else. Multiple parties could be found responsible. If the parties can’t sort it out then the court will have to.”
Mammoth gets visit from Tornier
Local orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mike Karch set up a special treat for Mammoth Hospital a little over one month ago. After making a visit to Tornier Cadaver Lab in the Central Valley, Karch was so impressed with the Lab’s educational opportunities for operating room physicians he asked the facility to share its knowledge with Mammoth’s entire operating room staff. He wanted his colleagues to benefit from Tornier’s more than 50 years of experience in prosthesis design, education, training, and surgical procedure support.
The all-day training lab took place on Sept. 30 in the Mammoth Hospital parking lot. Procedures included a meniscectomy, two total shoulders, two reverse total shoulders, and an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction.
“Not only was it phenomenally educational, but a great team-building exercise as well,” said Margy Klammer, RN, who helped organize the logistics of the experience.
Tornier hadn’t offered their cadaver lab to an entire operating room prior to the request of Dr. Karch, but was so impressed by the teamwork and enthusiasm in Mammoth that they now recommend the lab not just to physicians but to their operating staff as well. –Press Release
From Geisel’s desk …
District 4 seat to change soon …
The Mono County Board of Supervisors took a few minutes on Tuesday for an important agenda item: a formal proclamation honoring the service of outgoing Interim District 4 Supervisor Bob Peters, who will soon turn over the seat to supervisor-elect Tim Hansen. Board Chair Byng Hunt lauded Peters, who owns the Bridgeport Inn, for his lengthy history of county service, including Regional Planning Advisory Committee and Tourism and Film Commission roles. Peters took over the District 4 seat on March 19 following his appointment by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governor exercised his option to fill the seat, which was vacated by the sudden passing of Bill Reid in October 2009, to help the Board avoid any counterproductive legislative gridlock and lack of quorum votes.
For his part, Hansen ran a very grassroots campaign, using a straightforward, direct mail outreach, in addition to his regular practice of attending various meetings and public events. Hansen pulled enough north county votes, and those leftover from the June race that included former candidates Renn Nolan and Bobby Tems, to post a comfortable 15% margin of victory over his opponent, Tim Fesko.
Hansen said he’s always been one to get out and “bullsh*t” with the public, which wasn’t going to change whether or not he won the election. Asked why he thinks he won, Hansen, a pop culture devotee, simply said he thought it came down to his Clark Kent/Superman-esque pursuit of “truth, justice and the American Way.”
Hansen will be sworn in as soon as the election is certified.