Mariposa & Yosemite

Retired? Hardly! Mariposa couple close antique store but are at no loss for things to do

MARIPOSA — Just because Fred and Kay Barnes’ antique store of more than two decades now is closed, don’t expect the longtime Mariposa couple to sit around idly doing nothing. The closing of one door has seen the opening of many other portals and the unleashing of diverse creative talents in many ways.

The Barneses have shuttered Fabled Kottage Antiques in downtown Mariposa, a fixture for more than 26 years and both will be taking a writing class.

Piano, photography, quilting, rockhounding, refurbishing furniture, writing a book, making unique ice cream flavors, square dancing and arts and crafts are some of the active interests of the couple whose roots have intertwined Mariposa life since the 1940s.

Kay concedes running an antique store was a consuming enterprise and they worked seven days a week, sometimes into the evenings. But when they closed the 500-square-foot shop at the end of December, it still was a bittersweet, emotional time. Many people brought them gifts and some cried; their repeat customers came from all over the world, including Africa, Australia, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Japan, China and Italy.

Leroy Radanovich of Mariposa has known Kay Barnes since their days at Mariposa High School in 1948. Kay worked on the “La Mariposa” yearbook, was editor of the “Sluice” school newspaper, secretary-treasurer of the glee club, an alternate cheerleader and had the lead of the senior play, a three-act comedy called “January Thaw.”

“The Barneses are lovely folks and very interesting people. Fred is the source of millions of jokes,” Radanovich said. Kay’s life hasn’t gotten much simpler since those early days. She went to Fresno State College, became a teacher in Mariposa and Fresno areas, taught piano, raised two children and plunged into the fascinating world of antiques.

She estimates she has taught piano to hundreds of students over the years.

The Barneses are downsizing now; most of the display cases and vintage artifacts from their store housed in the basement of the historic Mariposa Hotel building have gone to new homes but they are keeping an Indian basket collection.

“I had planned to work (in antiques) for about 25 years,” Kay said. “That didn’t leave much time for other things. We’re gradually weeding things out.”

Kay, 78, started playing piano as a fourth-grader and in four years reached the 10th level. A piano teacher for 55 years, she teaches some jazz and swing along with classical music. She was a church pianist for 10 years and played for beauty pageants in Fresno. She is still giving private piano lessons and has time for more students now.

Fred, 80, hopes the change of pace will enable him to go out more often into his workshop. He estimates he has re-caned or reupholstered perhaps four dozen chairs or sofas over the years. When he sees a piece of furniture, he finds himself wondering how he would replicate it.

“We live in a marvelous age,” Fred said. “I don’t mind mechanical work; I’m not frightened by it. Now I have time to devote to some other avenues.” Fred is making a crazy quilt from castoff neckties and has taught folk and square dancing classes to young students at Woodland Elementary School. Over the Christmas holidays he also lent a hand at a downtown Mariposa pizzeria, washing dishes.

A fifth-grade teacher for 29 years at Easterby School in Fresno, Fred also worked for 10 years as the floor supervisor of a Del Monte cannery in Kingsburg. He has concocted 42 unique ice cream flavors and some of these recipes are chronicled in his book “Fred’s Freezer Habits.” Lemon meringue pie, pumpkin, peach and plum flavors are among his one-off creations.

Fred hopes the writing class will help him in organizing his memoirs and Kay wants to write a book about the rustic aspects of her late teen years growing up on a 200-acre Mariposa ranch after being more accustomed to an earlier, more sophisticated life in Southern California. She has harbored the idea of writing a book for some time.

“We were both interested in antiques and loved the rarity of things,” Kay Barnes said. “Through the shop we met hundreds of people. I enjoyed the antique shop thoroughly. It was just fascinating.”

There are many competing interests for Fred’s time. Once a month he has lunch with about 40 classmates from his 1946 graduating class at Turlock High School.

A champion pole vaulter who honed his skills pole-vaulting across Mariposa Creek, he once competed against and equalled the performance of Olympian Bob Richards.

He laughs while recalling one of his earlier creek-spanning efforts that went awry as his bamboo pole broke and he ended up in the muddy water. His mother had been a pole-vaulter in her high school days and could sympathize with her son’s soggy predicament.

Fred courted his wife-to-be in 1953 while she was a substitute teacher in Yosemite National Park. They met while both were students at Fresno State College and were married in 1954.

Fred was born June 19, 1928 in Merced Falls, a tiny lumber-processing community along the Merced River. Kay tried nurse’s training for a year-and-a-half in Fresno, but abandoned that calling when she discovered she couldn’t disassociate herself from her patients’ ailments.

The Barneses sold many rare and vintage items in their antique store that included ribbons for President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, old Edison record players, a 1909 doctor’s log from Chinese Camp, clocks from the 1800s, old lamps, apothecary bottles, vintage photographs and kitchen utensils.

You were never sure what would capture people’s fancy, Kay Barnes said. “Vicariously we’ve had a marvelous trip, a good life. I have plenty to do; my ‘honey-do’ list is so large I can’t meet the demands,” Fred chuckles.

The Barneses have two children, Anita Smyke of Cordova, Alaska, and Doug Barnes of Clovis, along with five granddaughters and one great-granddaughter.

“It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ll miss the people, the fun and laughter but there are other things I’m looking forward to doing now,” Kay said.