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SMITH: Petaluma's caped crusader a force for good

Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.

A masked crusader has hatched as a force for good in Eggtown.

Calling himself Petaluma Batman, the young man appears on the streets and at schools in his homemade guise to entertain, intrigue and appeal for a loftier trajectory for humanity.

Closely guarding his identity, the 19-year-old Casa Grande alum and SRJC student engages sometimes in choreographed sidewalk battles with Petaluma Joker and Petaluma Penguin, and he raises money for righteous causes.

Recently an envelope appeared in the bookdrop at the Petaluma Library, an envelope bearing an autographed photo of the black-clad champion and the words, “A hero can be anyone.” Inside was a note that read, “For the Children’s Library” and $125, mostly in $1 bills.

A new video short of Petaluma Batman by 20-year-old SRJC student Austin Smagalski ( is drawing hits from across the nation and independent documentary-maker Brett Culp was just in town to include our hero in his feature-length production, “Legends of the Knight.”

Holy revelation! It suddenly occurs that all this fascination isn’t about the Batman who rights wrong on the streets, but about freeing the one who dwells inside.

GAYE LeBARON wrote a bittersweet piece on the telephone last week that set bells to ringing in Claire Lampson’s memory.

Claire recalled that when she settled in Geyserville in 1947 as the bride of deep-rooted Everett “Dave” Lampson, she learned about the shared-line country phone.

“Our home was located 3 miles south of town and had a ‘farmer’s-line’ telephone, which could serve up to eight families,” Claire said. “Each family had its own distinctive ring, but that didn’t mean that when it rang someone (in another house) didn’t pick up the phone and listen.”

She was still being introduced to the workings of small-town, mid-century telephone service when a neighbor, also a newcomer to Geyserville, asked during a visit if she could use the Lampsons’ phone. The visitor wanted to call home and tell her husband she’d be there directly to fix his lunch.

The woman told the operator her number, and the operator put through the call. But the woman’s husband didn’t pick up.

“The phone rang and rang,” Claire said. “Finally, the operator came on — and asked her if she was calling her husband.”

Claire continued, “Hearing yes, the operator told her, ‘Oh, he’s not home, he just went down the road!’ We both looked at each other in utter astonishment.”

How in the world did the operator know where Claire’s new friend’s husband was? Both newcomers to Geyserville would soon learn that the town’s switchboard operator worked out of a house with a nice view of the comings and goings on Main Street.

A SECOND-GRADER named Lizzie Beiswanger visited a small food pantry with her mom, Iris, and was startled and saddened to see all the people standing in line for basic groceries.

The mother and daughter had gone to Elisha’s Pantry at Christ Church United Methodist in Santa Rosa to look into possible recipients for the charitable portion of Lizzie’s new allowance.

Lizzie knew at once she wanted to give money to the pantry — and that she wanted to do more.

She rallied her school, Spring Creek, to take on a food-and-money drive for both Elisha’s Pantry and the Twice Blessed Pantry at St. Mark Lutheran Church, up the block from the school.

At an assembly the other day, Lizzie asked her schoolmates to think about they have in their lives, and “imagine what it might be like to be hungry all the time.”

She kicked off a two-week drive with $100 she’d saved up from birthday gifts and allowance paid for chores.

Lizzie and her mom also have widened the potential circle of participants in he drive by making it possible to go onto a PayPal and send money to

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

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