Danville Express

Living - November 23, 2007

Calendar celebrates old Danville

Business promotion doubles as gift to community

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

How Diablo Road has changed. A photo of the Danville Oak Tree in 1975 shows it to the south side of Diablo Road rather than in a center divider with geriatric braces. Yet a big improvement has been the removal of the line of telephone poles.

Diablo Road of yesteryear is just one picture in the 2008 Danville Historic Calendar produced by Huether Insurance Agency with photographs by Bill Hockins. Tim Huether proudly hopes the calendar will hang in every home and office in the area.

"Everyone who sees it says, 'Wow!'" Huether said. "The neat thing about the project is that people come in with their stories. One guy came in whose father owned the gas station in one of the pictures."

Huether's father was a New York police officer, who patrolled Central Park on a horse. The family lived on Long Island where Huether became acquainted with a neighbor who owned a horse farm - and was in insurance.

"When I was an adult, our paths crossed," recalled Huether. "He offered me a job, to learn insurance."

Huether found it satisfying to help people in this way and was happy to ply his business on Long Island - until Karen Peterson came to nearby Fire Island from California for a family reunion. It soon became clear that they wanted to live in the same place. Karen tried out New York but Tim also visited California, where her family had moved.

"I fell in love with it," Huether said, noting that Danville reminds him of his hometown on Long Island before it "surrendered to highways and franchise restaurants."

He moved here in April 1993, and they were married that September. Now they have four children.

Huether opened his insurance business in Danville six-and-a-half years ago.

"I specialize in providing comprehension risk analysis of insurance needs for affluent clientele for both personal and commercial needs," he said.

He recalled attending an Insurance Agents Association gathering in his early years here and meeting photographer Bill Hockins, a retired agent whose office had been in Danville.

"Photography was his love," Huether said. "And he was always putting forward his love of Danville."

"What is unique about Danville, and what Bill and I both loved and sometimes discussed, is its appreciation for the past and its passion for saluting that heritage as it grows and necessarily modernizes," Huether said.

Hockins had begun taking photos when he was a boy growing up in Piedmont. He and his wife Hazel moved to Danville in the 1950s. When he began to sell insurance in the San Ramon Valley, he took photographs of the homes and businesses he was insuring.

"This was the start of my taking over 50,000 negatives of the rural San Ramon Valley," Hockins is quoted as saying, on his Web site, www.fototopia.com.

Hockins passed away in October 2005 and his son Russell took over his business selling the photographs; some are set onto sturdy wooden puzzles, where are available at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.

When Huether began to ask himself what he could do to get his name out into the community - at the same time doing something nice for it - he remembered Hockins' lovely and nostalgic images. He liked the idea of producing a historical calendar, and contacted Russell who provided plenty of photos for the project.

"They were in binders," Huether said. "There were at least a thousand pictures."

After much deliberation he whittled them down to a few dozen, and from there to the 13 photographs in the calendar.

"It's fun to see what used to be where on some familiar streets, and what events like the Independence Day parade looked like 40 or 50 years ago," Heuther said.

He printed 5,000 calendars, at a cost of about $6,000. His friend and publicist Paul Hirsch wrote the captions. His father-in-law Gary Peterson, an engineer, helped with the proofreading as did his wife, who was an English major.

"I was told to get an engineer and an English major for the best proofreading - and I did," Huether said.

Distributing thousands of calendars has proven to be a huge undertaking. Huether keeps the museum supplied. They often go home with schoolchildren from there, and one father came into Huether's office for more. They are available at his office, 319 Diablo Road, Suite 100, as well as at the Danville Weekly office right next door, 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100.

"It's been a really fun project," Huether said.

He said the undertaking took two years, from start to finish. He hopes the 2008 Danville Historic Calendar will be a salute to his old friend, photographer Bill Hockins, as well as help those living here today to appreciate and preserve what they have.

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