Draper – the keeper of Cotati’s history
Founder of Cotati Historical Society and volunteers create contest to test citizens’ knowlege of their city
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By Dave Williams  June 28, 2013 12:00 am

Just about anything and everything you’d ever want to know about Cotati can be found at the Cotati Historical Society.

If you want to learn how the street names in the hexagon-shaped hub came about, just ask one of the ladies at the front desk, and you’ll get a complete explanation. You want to see the robes members of the Loyal Order of Odd Fellows once wore, walk into this charming little museum located at City Hall, and you’ll find it. Coming soon to the museum will be the accordion played by the one and only Jim Boggio, who co-founded the annual Cotati Accordion Festival. Boggio’s accordion, donated by his family, will be on display shortly before the Accordion Festival in August.

All of Cotati’s history is not confined to the historical society because there are some items that are too big to fit inside and some that are too fragile to move into the museum. None of the precious artifacts in the museum would be on display if not for the vision of Prue Draper and her late husband Lloyd. The Cotati Historical Society, a nonprofit entity, opened in 2007 and continues to add bits and pieces of Cotati’s history to the museum.

“It’s developed into more than I hoped it would be,” the 83-year-old Cotati matriarchal figure said. “There was a lot of stuff Lloyd and I had collected. And organizations like the old Cotati Women’s Club and American Legion had all this stuff they didn’t want to throw away but nobody wanted. We got the idea of a museum when the police department moved into its new place.”

The City of Cotati agreed to rent the current locale of the Cotati Historical Society for $1 a year so long as it took care of the insurance.

“We’ve gotten tremendous participation, and people have been donating…since then, it’s been wonderful,” Draper said. “So many other people have been wanting to give us things, but we do have to turn some down.”

Measuring Draper’s impact on Cotati would be too time-consuming an endeavor. (For a synopsis, check out the information box connected to this story.) Draper, who in 2013 was named the California 3rd Senate District Woman of the Year, tends to downplay her role in helping shape Cotati.

“I’ve just carried on the way the citizens of Cotati did in the 50s and 60s,” Draper said. “It’s just the way we believed in our town…building it up is really important. I still feel that’s what you should do for a community. Sadly, almost all of those people who set that pattern for me are dead.”

The Cotati Historical Society, along with the City of Cotati and the Cotati Chamber of Commerce, will play a major role in the city’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebration, which also will coincide with the annual Cotati Kids’ Day on July 13. 

The Historical Society, city and chamber have been planning this celebration for quite some time. The Historical Society, with assistance from local businesses, has introduced a Cotati History Hunt contest.

Contestants will get an entry form from the Historical Society and go to 31 buildings in Cotati and answer multiple-choice questions about which businesses used to be in certain buildings. Some of the questions have only one correct answer, while some may have two or more. Entry forms can be turned in at the 50th anniversary celebration or before at Exchange Bank, which currently has an exhibit of historical Cotati buildings.

“I got a few volunteers, like Shannon Roberts, who grew up in Cotati, Marie McNaughton, Yvonne Van Dyke, Darryl Henkey and Sandra Walton, who has lived here for almost as long as I have,” Draper said. “We had a field trip one day, drove around and laid out the route and picked the buildings, usually those before Cotati incorporated in 1963.”

Draper on July 13 at 2 p.m. also will lead her last historical walking tour of Cotati. Before leading her final tour, she’ll be the grand marshal of the Kids’ Day Parade.

“I’m 83 years old, and I’m tired…worn out,” Draper said. “I’ll still work in the museum and do the newsletter, but no more special events.”

By the way, the street names on the hexagon-shaped hub ¬– Olaf, Henry, Charles, Arthur, George and William – all were named after the children of Thomas Page and his wife, Ana Maria Liljevalch. Wilfred Avenue in Rohnert Park is also named after one of Thomas and Ana Maria’s children.

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