San Benito Lifestyle

New Yorker Magazine writer with local ties tells the tale of ‘The Actual Hollister’

Great-great grandson of T.S. Hawkins visits the town that isn't the birthplace of the Hollister clothing brand

The July 20 issue of The New Yorker magazine features a first-person feature about the town of Hollister, told from the perspective of a well-known author who, the year he turned 43, "woke up one morning and thought it would be a good day to go to Hollister. I’d been seeing those hoodies around, and the place had been on my mind. So I found an old atlas in my garage, checked the map of California to make sure I remembered how to get there, and left. No one was expecting me and I wasn’t expecting anything. It was the kind of trip a middle-aged man takes when his children are at a trampoline birthday party." Although the author "checked the map" before he headed south, he mistakenly describes Hollister as being in the Central Valley.

Dave Eggers, lives in the Bay Area and is the author of the best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. In the New Yorker article, he explains that the story is not as random as throwing darts at a map, however. He notes that his great-great-grandfather, T.S. Hawkins, helped found the town of Hollister. "Growing up, I was confronted daily by his white-bearded face, in an old photograph that hung in our living room in Illinois," he notes. "A few feet away, his rifle, which he carried from Missouri to California, rested over our mantel."

As the article takes readers along on his journey through town, he calls it "strangely complete, like something out of a Richard Scarry book. There are factories, farms, schools, railroads, horses, sheep, goats, and barns. There are men wearing cowboy hats and driving pickup trucks." Many times, there are references to Hazel Hawkins Hospital — old and new.

His trip to Hollister is, like many of us who say we are from this town have experienced, comes with the requisite curiosity about a name that to non-locals is more associated with an international clothing brand than bikers and hay fields. 

"Fifteen years ago, the word “Hollister” meant little to anyone. Now it’s hard to walk around any city, from Melbourne to Montreal to Mumbai, without seeing it stitched on someone’s shirt or hoodie," Eggers writes. The article relays the fictional back story of the Hollister name, as promoted by Abercrombie & Fitch. It also tells the story of the Hawkins family, including the hospital's namesake — Hazel (daughter of T.S.) — who died at age 9 of appendicitis.

Eggers' article wraps up with a fond note about his adventure to the town whose history is owed in part to his predecessors.

"Though it might not be good enough for a Hollister clothing outlet, this is the real Hollister, a place where people work hard and sometimes struggle with their past and their present but look with great practicality toward the future. They build new hospitals that will bring new Californians into the world, new hospitals named after a young white pioneer child few ever knew existed."

To read Dave Eggers' story in The New Yorker, click here.

Eggers, a novelist and screenwriter, was born in Massachusetts then moved to the Chicago area. He has also shown a great interest in childhood education. According to Wikipedia, "He is the founder of McSweeney's, the co-founder of the literacy project 826 Valencia (San Francisco), and the founder of ScholarMatch, a program that matches donors with students needing funds for college tuition."  

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.