Sacramento’s Chinatown fell to revitalization project in the 1960s

An entrance to the Chinatown Mall is shown in this 2007 photograph. The mall was created in the 1960s as an urban redevelopment project. Photo by Lance Armstrong

An entrance to the Chinatown Mall is shown in this 2007 photograph. The mall was created in the 1960s as an urban redevelopment project. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series regarding historic Asian districts of Sacramento.

Chinese history in Sacramento is a story of gradual growth, dedicated laborers, family values and overcoming adversities. And the perseverance of earlier generations of the city’s Chinese led to their integration and increased acceptance into the mainstream society.
As mentioned in the latter portion of the last article of this series, Lincoln School at 4th and Q streets provided a formal education for children in Chinatown and other places in that vicinity.
Some local Chinese children attended McKinley School at 705 G St. and William Land Elementary School at 1116 U St.
These students continued their education at the old Sutter Junior High School and Sacramento High School. And some Chinese students attended C.K. McClatchy High School, which opened in 1937.
In addition to becoming students at the general public schools, Chinese children were also educated in Chinese language schools on weekday evenings and on Saturdays.
Besides Chinese laundries, which were also mentioned in the last article of this series, other common businesses in the early days of Sacramento’s Chinatown were restaurants and grocery stores.
Many longtime Sacramentans recall the now defunct Hong King Lum restaurant, which was located at 304 I St. in its early years and relocated to 415 J St. in 1969.
A 1934 advertisement for the restaurant reads: “Hong King Lum Café, dine and dance, no cover charge, we serve a real Chinese full-course dinner, 304 Eye (Street), cor. 3rd (Street), MAIN 1841.”
Among the Chinese restaurants in Sacramento during the 19th century were eateries on I Street, between 2nd and 3rd streets; 104 I St., between 4th and 5th streets; on the south side of I Street, between 5th and 6th streets; in the brick building on the north side of I Street, between 6th and 7th streets; on J Street, near 12th Street; on the east side of 3rd Street, between I and J streets; and on 6th Street, between J and K streets.
Certainly, the opening of Chinese grocery stores in Chinatown proved to be the beginnings of much greater operations, as the existence of those small stores led to the opening of Chinese-owned, post-World War II supermarkets such as Bel Air, Farmers Market, Jumbo Market and Giant Foods.
Today, only one of those supermarkets’ histories continues, as locals can still shop at locations of Bel Air, which was acquired by Raley’s from the Wong family in 1992.
The roots of the store began in the 1930s, when Chinese immigrant Gim Wong, who came to America in 1916 and eventually helped his family establish Bel Air, began selling produce that he grew on his 5-acre farm in Penryn, about 30 miles east of Sacramento. Assisting him with his business was his wife, Lee Shee Wong, and their children.

A statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen stands in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in this 2007 photograph. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen stands in front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in this 2007 photograph. Photo by Lance Armstrong

After establishing his produce-selling business on his farm, Gim eventually opened his own store in Penryn. And after moving to Sacramento in the late 1940s, he founded a grocery store at 28th and P streets.
The first Bel Air Market opened at 6231 Fruitridge Road in 1955.
Another very successful Chinese owned business founded in Sacramento is the General Produce Co., which began its operations in 1933 and continues its existence in the capital city today. The business was founded by Chan Tai Oy, who immigrated to Sacramento from Canton, China in the early 1900s.
A significant moment in local Chinese history occurred in the 1950s, when the city’s Chinese were granted the legal right to purchase homes in Land Park.
In 1959, the Confucius Temple was constructed at the southeast corner of 4th and I streets.
The three-story building, which was a $500,000 project of the Chinese Benevolent Association, was constructed as a center for worship, social activities and education, and includes classrooms, a gymnasium and other features.
During 1960s, a major urban redevelopment project called for the demolition of old Chinese buildings on I Street, marking an end to the city’s historic Chinatown.
That project was followed by the Sacramento Redevelopment Agency’s establishment of Chinatown Mall, which is located between 3rd, 5th, I and J streets.
The mall became home to such places as some Chinese associations, a bank and a hotel.
Additionally, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall at 415 Chinatown Mall was opened on June 6, 1971. A statue in Sun’s likeness stands in front of the structure.
Sun (1866-1925), who once visited Sacramento, was known for leading the Chinese revolution to overthrow the Manchu monarchy in 1911.
The Wong Center senior citizen, low income apartment building opened in Chinatown Mall in 1973.
Although Sacramento’s historic Chinatown is a thing of the past, the mall is both a reminder of that past and a treasure for present and future generations.

Lance@valcomnews.com

Former Sacramento radio DJ Johnny Hyde recalls his storied career

Johnny Hyde had a lengthy radio career, which included working for Sacramento stations, KXOA, KROY and KCRA. Photo courtesy of Martin Ashley

Johnny Hyde had a lengthy radio career, which included working for Sacramento stations, KXOA, KROY and KCRA. Photo courtesy of Martin Ashley

For many longtime radio listeners in Sacramento, the name, Johnny Hyde, is quite familiar.
During his lengthy career, Johnny, who will turn 75 years old next week, spent time working for local radio stations, KXOA, KROY and KCRA.
Last week, Johnny shared many details about his life and career for readers of this publication.
Johnny initially spoke about growing up in St. Louis with his mother, Margaret, and his sister, Carole.
During his youth, Johnny became fascinated with radio.
In speaking about his memories of listening to radio at that time, Johnny said, “While I (was) living in St. Louis, I used to go to bed at night (with) a radio sitting on my chest. I would sort of act like a human antenna and bring in the music from not only St. Louis, but across the river in East St. Louis, (Illinois). And that’s where I would hear black music. That’s where you’re hearing the Lightnin’ Hopkins and you’re hearing Chuck Berry and some folks like that. That was a hot fudge sundae right there. I’m the human antenna, just listening to this stuff, just absolutely fascinated by it, and I knew that that was my life right there.”
Johnny recalled one of his favorite radio memories, saying, “One (St. Louis radio station) was KXOK. And in those days, they used to have a little audience section – seats for an audience – to go watch the disc jockey and the engineer, who played the records. And they would have guests on the radio program.
“I think the high point of my life at the time was when I met and saw Patti Page (1927-2013), whose big hit was (‘The Doggie in the Window,’ with the lyric line), ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ That was about the greatest thing in the world to me. This was at KXOK in St. Louis. She was on the radio program.”
Another one of Johnny’s favorite radio memories was listening to KXOK disc jockey Ed Bonner (1923-1993), who Johnny referred to as “the Dick Clark of his time in St. Louis.”
Johnny, who also recalled listening to St. Louis radio stations, WEW and KXLW, was asked if he had dreamed of becoming a disc jockey.
He responded, “Oh, yeah. Actually, I really dreamed more of sort of being, I don’t know, the guy who put the show together. I guess you would call him a producer now, the director.”
When he was 14 years old, Johnny left his home in St. Louis to seek out his father, Eddie Hyde, who he had never met.
Johnny said that he discovered that his father was in poor health, in and out of a hospital, and was not overjoyed to see him.
“I met him,” Johnny recalled. “He had no place in his life for a 14 year old, and I just wanted some place really to belong. So, what I had done was I made a decision that I was leaving home. I left home, got on a Greyhound bus, ended up in Tucson, (Ariz.). ‘Hello, dad, I’m your son.’ ‘Oh, (expletive),’ on his part. So, I stayed with him for a while and he had to go back in the hospital. He was that sick.”
Although Johnny returned to St. Louis, he would not stay there long.
He was soon back in Tucson, where he began hanging out at radio stations and making acquaintances with some of the disc jockeys.
Johnny found a home in a room at a rest home, an arrangement that he noted worked out fine for him, as long as he “didn’t interrupt Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights.”
While in Tucson for the second time in his life, Johnny lied his way into a midnight to 6 a.m. disc jockey shift at KAIR, as he told the station that he had prior experience as a DJ.
That job did not last long for Johnny, mostly because he would deprive himself of sleep and sometimes fall asleep on the job.
“My problem was I was so fascinated by the guys that were working the day shift, I was up all day with them,” Johnny said.
Despite firing Johnny from his first radio job after about five months in that position, Ralph Anderson, the station’s manager, liked Johnny and set him up with his second radio job, at KVWM in Show Low, Ariz.
Johnny would later return to Tucson, where he began working mornings at KCNA.
His career in radio also included working as a DJ for KELP in El Paso, Texas, KRIZ in Phoenix, KWAC in Bakersfield, KYNO in Fresno and KJOY in Stockton.
Following the death of KJOY’s owner-manager Joe Gamble, Johnny began working in Sacramento.
In recalling that time of his life, Johnny said, “It was a strange situation that I ran across. I got a job up here (in Sacramento) at the old KXOA, and I was going to do nighttime at KXOA. But they had to get rid of a program director who didn’t know that he was about to leave and do another shift. And at the same time, KROY was absent a guy who was on vacation and they needed help. So, the two stations worked together. KXOA hired me, but I went to work for KROY, filling in for I think three or four weeks in the all-night shift there. And then when that was over, I went over to KXOA. We’re talking 1964.”
Johnny explained that he quickly became very creative during his night shift at KXOA.
“I would go in and I would listen to music and put together sort of like my music format and I would pretend that it would be their music format and I would integrate mine,” Johnny said. “Finally, the owner of the station or the manager said, ‘Why don’t you take an hour at night to feature your music? Call it Hyde’s Hits or something like that.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s stupid.’ But the more I got thinking about it, I had become fascinated with British music, and The Beatles were obviously just part of the floodgate. There was the Herman’s Hermits and there was The Searchers and The Rolling Stones, The Hollies and all those type [of musical artists] coming.”
Johnny’s decision to finally accept that offer, led to his very popular program, The Gear Hour, which featured the newest British hits.
The success of that program moved KXOA past its rival, KROY, in the ratings.
Johnny, who also created a fan club for followers of his show, said that the popularity of his show led to his hiring at KXOA in 1965.
After Johnny’s hiring at KROY, he would become that station’s program manager, and KROY would move forward as the city’s number one station.
Also contributing to KROY’s success in that era were disc jockeys such as Bob Sherwood, Chuck Roy, T. Michael Jordan, Gene Lane and Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley.
The station also enjoyed success through various promotions, including its annual picnic at Gibson Ranch in Elverta and its Rock Island Line, which Johnny recalled transported fans of the station from Sacramento to Dixon and back.
Johnny noted that his radio career continued after he left KROY in the summer of 1970.
“After KROY, I had really become bored,” Johnny said. “My problem in the world of programming is I will build and if it’s successful then I will become bored with it. (That boredom occurred after the release of) about the second or third successful ratings book.”
To cure that boredom, Johnny accepted an offer from KCRA co-owner Jon S. Kelly to work at KCRA radio, while his brother, Bob, was on a sabbatical leave.
In speaking about his time working at KCRA radio, Johnny Hyde said, “I programmed there for two years. We took number one in the market. It was good, it was successful and they had me go over and do some stuff on the television side, which I never enjoyed, but I did it anyhow.”
With the return of Bob from his sabbatical leave, Johnny left his position at KCRA and filled his time with advertising and consultancy work for some radio stations, including KROY.
Today, Johnny is happily retired and residing with his longtime girlfriend, Maxine, his dog, A.J., and his cat, Pesek.
In pondering his radio career as a whole, Johnny Hyde said, “Well, I’m actually the luckiest person in the world. I mean, look at this way: A 14-year-old kid on a Greyhound bus going to Tucson and then being able to truly create something that had meaning and lasting power. It’s 2014 and (his career is still being talked) about. A lot of guys who went to work for (General Motors) never got to do that, unless they invented door handles.”

Editor@valcomnews.com

Chinatown history includes successful laundries, more

San Fong Chong Laundry was located at 814 I St. from about 1906 to about 1942. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

San Fong Chong Laundry was located at 814 I St. from about 1906 to about 1942. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

Editor’s Note: This is part five in a series regarding historic Asian districts of Sacramento.

Sacramento’s historic Chinatown, as mentioned in the previous article of this series, was established during the Gold Rush era.

Despite various tragedies and prejudices, its residents continued to persevere and conduct the everyday activities of their lives in that self sufficient community.

And as its own community, Chinatown or Yee Fow, which was mostly located along I Street, primarily from 2nd to 6th streets, included residential housing and a wide variety of businesses, as well as religious institutions and social centers.

Gambling halls and saloons were also established in the early years of Chinatown, which originally featured wood and canvas structures.

Among the early Chinese businesses in the state were laundries.

Wah Lee is often given credit for establishing the first regular Chinese laundry in the United States. He opened a hand laundry business in San Francisco in 1851, and was noted to have hung a sign, which read, “Wash’ng and Iron’g.”

In Sacramento, Chinese laundries also date back to the 1850s.

The Sacramento Union, in its June 21, 1854 edition, notes: “Sutter Lake – This sheet of water (next to Sacramento’s Chinatown) has now fallen to nearly its ordinary summer level, and on its margin, not long since submerged, may be seen hundreds of Chinamen employed in washing the clothes of the citizen or stranger. In fact, the banks skirting Sutter Lake seem to be metamorphosed into one grand laundry for the ‘million.’”

In another article, which was published in the Feb. 14, 1855 edition of The Union, it was mentioned that Chinese had by then “nearly monopolized” the laundry operations in the capital city.

It was noted in the May 31, 1875 edition of The Union that, at that time, all Chinese washmen in Sacramento were members of the Chinese Washhouse Association.

Among the many Chinese owned laundry businesses in Sacramento in various eras were a washhouse at 4th Street, between J and K streets, during the 1870s; Ah Qum, Ah Chee and Ah Yeu’s laundry at 6th and L streets during the 1870s; Chung Chin’s laundry at 1215 4th St. (about 1907 to about 1911) and Ling Chong Laundry, which opened at 1323 3rd St. in about 1920.

Ling Chong was acquired by Fong Tom Lee in about 1940, renamed Third Street Laundry in the early 1950s and relocated to 520 S St. in about 1961.

The business remained in operation until Lee’s death at the age of 79 on March 2, 1976, and the laundry was resumed for about a year in the same location by Kwok Chu Wong, beginning in about 1978.

Another Chinese laundry business was San Fong Chong Laundry, which opened at 814 I St. in about 1906. It was located in a brick building that was constructed in 1869.

A reference to that business in the May 5, 1939 edition of The Sacramento Bee notes that it was a typical Chinese laundry that was continuing to give tickets for laundry bundles as had been done in “the days of old.”

San Fong Chong Laundry remained in business until about 1942.

When it comes to railroad history, Chinese provided labor for the mid-1850s construction of California’s first railroad, the Sacramento Valley Railroad, a short line from Sacramento to Folsom.

And during the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad, thousands of people, the majority of which were Chinese, were hired as laborers to build the Central Pacific Railroad.

In recognition that Chinese workers provided most of the labor for the construction of the Central Pacific, a select group of eight Chinese laborers carried forward the ceremonial, last rail of the Central Pacific as part of a May 10, 1869 ceremony at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory.

During that era, many more Chinese made their homes in and visited Sacramento’s Chinatown.

Despite their role in building the Transcontinental Railroad, in many cases, Chinese were not well received in Sacramento after that railroad’s completion.

Chinese were often blamed for reported economic struggles in the 1870s, as they had accepted low wages to build the railroad.

It was during the 1870s and 1880s that many Chinese began to find refuge from the hostilities they faced in the capital city by relocating to the Sacramento Delta, where they became involved in farming.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 denied entry of Chinese laborers into the United States for a decade.

On December 18, 1885, about 1,500 locals gathered at Armory Hall at the southwest corner of 6th and L streets, where The Citizens’ Anti-Chinese Association of Sacramento, California was formed.

The constitution and by-laws of that organization included the following words: “(The association was designed) to establish bureaus and agencies for the purpose of furnishing domestics to replace Chinese house servants” and “to appoint permanent committees, whose duty it shall be to use every effort towards (sic) the displacement of Chinese now employed in the various locations and industries by white labor.”

In regard to the medical industry, early Chinese physicians in Sacramento, at various times, included Dr. Offo, Dr. Young Can Sing, Dr. T. Wah Hing and Dr. Fung Lung.

An 1870 advertisement for Dr. Sing reads: “The celebrated Chinese physician, No. 141 I Street, between Fifth and Sixth (streets), continues to make the most wonderful cures of diseases of all kinds, and has the testimonials to show from many of his old patients, to prove that he cures where other physicians have failed. His charges are low and cure is certain.”

A Chinese public school was opened at the Perry Seminary building on I Street, between 10th and 11th streets, in the fall of 1894.

Among the school’s first students were Fong Ming Seung, Hong Yung Chin, Fong Quong, Yee Wing, Henry Lung, Louie Yon, Fong Yum, Annie Soon, Mamie Fung, Fong Poy, Louie Do Fook and Fong Hog. Clara F. Parsons was the school’s first principal and teacher.

The Chinese public school was still operating as late as 1912, at its final location of 913 3rd Street in Chinatown. The school was then run by Principal Tang Tien Leung.

In latter years, many young people from Chinatown and other places in that vicinity attended Lincoln School at 4th and Q streets.

Lance@valcomnews.com

Historic East Sacramento cleaners served community for nearly three decades

Betty Dias, who has fond memories of her Uncle Lester Spurgeon, holds a vintage, wooden hanger from her uncle’s cleaning and dyeing business. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Betty Dias, who has fond memories of her Uncle Lester Spurgeon, holds a vintage, wooden hanger from her uncle’s cleaning and dyeing business. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series about the life of Lester Spurgeon and his business, Spurgeon’s Cleaning & Dyeing Works.

Spurgeon’s Cleaning & Dyeing Works, as mentioned in the first article of this series, was a longtime operating business in East Sacramento.
In 1919, after having returned from his service in World War I, Lester Spurgeon opened the first location of his cleaners at 2224 3rd St.
That business site, which had been vacant for about a year, was formerly the location of Acme Fancy Cleaners, which was owned by Fred M. Law.
A Leonard E. Spurgeon, who had previously worked as a janitor in Sacramento, was recognized in the 1921 city directory as working at Spurgeon’s at that time.
Spurgeon’s, which was relocated to East Sacramento in 1925, was referred to in the city council notes of March 26, 1925. It was mentioned that Lester’s request for a permit “to install two 500-gallon gasoline storage tanks, two feet underground outside of building on his premises 3210 Folsom Boulevard” was granted. The tanks would be used to store cleaning solvent.
While his business was being operated at that location, Lester would occasionally attend cleaners’ conventions with his Canadian-born wife, Sue.
Among those conventions were the 22nd annual convention of the National Association of Cleaners and Dyers in Memphis, Tenn. from Jan. 15-18, 1929, and the Northern California Cleaners and Dyers Convention in San Jose and San Francisco in the early 1930s.
At different times during that era, Lester, who had a stepson named Edwin Davidson, served as vice president and treasurer of the Northern California Cleaners and Dyers Association.
In 1930, Spurgeon’s Cleaning & Dyeing Works had its address changed to 3200 Folsom Blvd.
An advertisement for the business appeared in the Dec. 1, 1930 edition of The Bee.
The advertisement includes the following words: “This week marks the close of our eleventh year in business. These eleven years seem but a short time to so thoroughly gain the explicit confidence of Sacramento’s cleaning and dyeing patronage.
“This public confidence, justified by a modern plant operated by the most skilled craftsmen, has gained for us our enviable reputation.
“We wish at this time to extend our thanks to the many hundreds of satisfied customers who have made our success possible.”
In about 1933, Spurgeon’s added a branch at 1011 8th St., and by the following year the business had a third location at 1601 O St.
On Aug. 5, 1935, The Bee reported the unfortunate news that Lester, who was then residing at 1407 32nd St. in East Sacramento, had died during the previous day of bronchial pneumonia at Sutter Hospital at 2820 L St.
Lester’s services were held during the afternoon of Aug. 6, 1935 at the Miller & Skelton chapel at 1015 20th St. under the auspices of Sacramento Elks Lodge No. 6. And his entombment rites were directed by Sacramento Post No. 61 of the American Legion in the East Lawn Cemetery mausoleum.
According to Lester’s obituary, he was well known in political circles and active in welfare work.
Sacramento resident Betty Dias, whose mother, Vail Lorbeer, was one of Lester’s half-sisters, fondly recalled her Uncle Lester.
“Whenever he saw us, he gave us a dollar,” Dias said. “I would be with my Aunt Lottie’s son, Bob Johnson. (Lester) was generous and he was kind of flamboyant. He was a good dresser and he was a man you looked at and you knew he enjoyed life. There was no doubt in it. He was always very kind, absolutely.”
Dias, whose full birth name was born Maude Betty Lorbeer, added that she was named after Lester’s sister, Maude.
At the time of Lester’s death, Spurgeon’s was recognized as one of the Sacramento Valley’s largest cleaning and dyeing plants and was an employer of 65 persons.
Among the workers of the business, and the approximate years they worked at that establishment, were Lena O. Scanlan, 1935-40; Mary Alice Scanlan, 1937-40; Ellen O. Scanlan, 1937-40; Merry E. Tweedy, 1939-40; Carrie M. Bonetti, 1946-50; and Dorothy M. Gray, 1948-49.
Spurgeon’s continued to operate after Lester’s passing under Sue’s direction.
A third Spurgeon’s location, at 1437 Del Paso Blvd. in North Sacramento, was added in about 1937.
A 1942 advertisement for Spurgeon’s has a list of the types of items that could be cleaned at the business at that time. Included in that list are rugs, draperies, blankets, upholstered furniture, ski garments and furs.
About seven years later, Spurgeon’s added branches at 15th and L streets and at the Arden Town Shopping Center at Watt Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard.
It was also around that time that an 800-gallon storage tank for cleaning solvent was installed at Spurgeon’s main facility on Folsom Boulevard.
In about 1951, Sue, who had been residing for several years at 1516 35th St. in East Sacramento, transferred the ownership of Spurgeon’s to George E. Davidson.
George then added another branch of the business, at 901 O St. However, that branch was closed by the following year.
An advertisement for Spurgeon’s in the January-November 1952 issue of the Police and Peace Officers Journal of the State of California reads: “Spurgeon’s – cleaning and dyeing. Sacramento’s leading cleaners for the past thirty-one years, 3200 Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento, California, Phone HI 6-6451.”
Spurgeon’s Cleaning & Dyeing Works ceased operating in about 1954, and its East Sacramento location was replaced by Harms Furniture Co., which was owned by Land Park resident David L. Harms.

Lance@valcomnews.com

Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley recalls his radio years, more

Caption: Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley works behind a microphone at the Capitol Radio Studio. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Caption: Martin “Wonder Rabbit” Ashley works behind a microphone at the Capitol Radio Studio. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in a series about the history of broadcasting in the Sacramento area. This series was inspired by readers’ positive responses to previous articles about local television history in this publication and several requests to feature histories of local radio stations.

Sacramento native Martin Ashley, who was known to many radio listeners as the “Wonder Rabbit” during his years as a disc jockey, met with this publication last week to share some of his memories.
After responding to several basic preliminary questions, Ashley, 67, was asked to discuss how he became interested in working in radio.
“Actually, I wasn’t interested in radio,” Ashley said. “I got interested in electronics. When I was about 10, 11 or 12, I started fooling with batteries and lights and putting lights on (his) bicycle. But then, of course, (his) parents wouldn’t let (him) ride (his) bicycle after dark, even though I (had) a light and no other kids had lights. And then people would bring me things to look at to see if I could repair them. And oftentimes they would say, ‘If you can’t repair it, just throw it away.’ So, I would tear it apart. So, I got interested in electronics.”
And with that interest, Ashley became a member of Joseph Bonnheim Elementary School’s audio-visual squad.
Ashley continued gaining experience in electronics during his years attending Peter Lassen Junior High School, which was located at 5022 58th St.
While Ashley was a student at Lassen, science teacher Carl Holtz gave him a special exception to study audio-visual in the seventh grade, despite the fact that seventh graders were not typically allowed to participate in that class.
After leaving Lassen, Ashley attended Hiram W. Johnson High School, where he met electronics teacher Eugene J. Houghton.
Ashley recalled that Houghton recognized that he had an aptitude toward electronics.
“[Houghton noticed] that the electronics class was far too simple for me, because I was beyond that,” Ashley said. “So, what he had me do in the electronics class was instead of working with crystal radios and the beginning electronics stuff, he would have me fix the projectors for the sound system and rewire microphones and stuff like that.”
It was also during his teenage years when Ashley was involved in local theater productions.
Ashley said that it was not acting that drew his attention to theater, but instead the sound system and lighting.
But Ashley added that he did end up doing a little acting on stage.
“I did some acting, what we call walk-ons,” Ashley said. “These were walk-on parts. I was also the voice of the president in one of the Music Circus performances (of) ‘Li’l Abner.’ But primarily, my interest was how the lights work and the dimmers and the sound systems and the microphones and things like that.”
When Ashley was about 14 years old, he took an interest in the operation of radio stations.
As a result, he talked a friend’s mother into driving him to the soon-to-be-on-the-air radio station, KJAY 1430 AM, to inquire if the station needed assistance with their wiring.
Although Ashley did not acquire work at KJAY, he said that the visit led to him visiting the Federal Communications Commission in San Francisco and acquiring his FCC third-class broadcast license.
After obtaining his license, Ashley would sit in radio station lobbies to study how disc jockeys operated on the job.
Ashley would eventually imitate the typical voice of a disc jockey while delivering the morning bulletin at Johnson High.
And when he was a junior at that school in 1964, he emceed the senior ball at the Memorial Auditorium.
After graduating from Johnson in 1965, Ashley attended Sacramento City College and ran projectors on film days at Sacramento area library branches.
In about October 1965, Ashley went to KXOA at 800 Leisure Lane in search of his first radio job.
During that visit, Ashley learned that KXOA would no longer simulcast on its FM station, and an FM staff would have to be developed.
Ashley was eventually hired as KXOA-FM’s 9 p.m. to midnight shift disc jockey, and he would later work the 6 to 10 a.m. shift.
In August 1967, Ashley was drafted into the Army and sent to El Paso, Texas.
Later that year, after he completed his basic training, Ashley obtained a job at El Paso’s first television station, KROD-TV Channel 4.
In recalling his busy schedule at that time, Ashley said, “I was in the Army from approximately 6 a.m. until approximately 6 p.m. I would then grab a bite to eat, go to the television station, work there until 1 o’clock in the morning and come back to the base.”
Ashley switched from KROD-TV to KROD 600 AM radio in 1968, and later that year, he left KROD to become a disc jockey for El Paso’s then-number one radio station, KELP 920 AM.
Former KXOA disc jockey, Johnny Hyde, who was then working at KROY, called Ashley in July 1969 and asked him to return to Sacramento to work for KROY.
A month later, Ashley was out of the Army and employed as KROY’s weekend and public service director.
Only about two months later, Ashley was working as KROY’s midnight to 6 [a.m.] shift disc jockey.
As for the golden question of how he became known as the “Wonder Rabbit,” Ashley explained that the name evolved from his own joke when he signed his name, ‘Wonder Boy,’ on a flip card on the control room door at KROY.
“Bob Sherwood (who was then working as KROY’s program director) crossed out ‘Boy’ and put ‘Rabbit,’” Ashley recalled. “So, I walk in the control room to drop off some stuff and (Sherwood) says, ‘Oh, by the way, Wonder Rabbit is going to be on the air tomorrow night at 7 o’clock.’ Well, 7 o’clock comes and it was a Saturday night. I’ll never forget it. All of a sudden, the phone is lighting up. And I’m on the air as Martin Ashley and they wanted to talk to Wonder Rabbit.”
Ashley was transferred from the midnight to 6 a.m. shift to the noon to 3 p.m. shift in the early 1970s.
In recalling that time in KROY’s history, Ashley said, “This was top 40, with mega numbers.”
The next career move for Ashley came in March 1974, when he left KROY to work for KNDE, where he would remain for the following 10 months.
And in speaking about yet another stop in his employment journey, Ashley said, “In December of 1975, I went on syndication. I got hooked up with a syndicating company out of Roseville called Concept Productions. They had two or three formats that they supplied to small radio stations throughout the country, and one of them was top 40, or by that time it was called CHR – contemporary hit radio. And so, I did the Wonder Rabbit Show, the morning shift for over 13 years.”
In continuing to speak about his career in radio, Ashley said, “My career was also doing all these other things. I was chief engineer at KROY-AM, when it was FM and then it went AM and then it sold and it was KENZ, and then it was KSAC (FM). Then they sold in the early 1990s and KROY (FM) became KSEG, ‘The Eagle.’ And I was chief engineer at the time. And I had a recording studio in the same building. It just goes on and on and on. I worked for the Eagle. I worked for KROY three different times on air under three different owners. And the last one, when I was on the air in 1989 or 1990, they had me on Sunday nights doing (a program called) ‘The Wonder Rabbit Oldies’ or something.”
Ashley, who also has a lot of on-air camera experience in television, explained that he continues to work behind a microphone in a radio station environment.
“In 2004, I transitioned to here (at the state Capitol) and finally left commercial radio behind,” Ashley said. “Here is what we call the Capitol Radio Studio. It is a bipartisan studio for legislative purposes, primarily members of the legislature, senators, being Democrats or Republicans, and we also occasionally do airchecks for Assembly Republicans, because they have no facility. There are other facilities, but not in the Capitol itself for radio. We do interviews where we call sound bites for radio stations. We have equipment that is effectively a radio studio, with microphones and consoles and CD players and electronic editors and stuff like that, where the members can come in. We can connect up to their local station in their district, be it Palmdale or Los Angeles or Arcadia, or wherever their district is (located). And they can be interviewed by their local host. We do public service announcements with members on West Nile virus and back to school safety and all kinds of stuff like that. Occasionally, a member will ask for us to record his speech in a hearing or on the floor itself. We do lots of things that are all legislative, nothing commercial here at all.
“We do everything that a radio station does, except for the fact that you can’t pick it up on a car radio. Otherwise, I’m still doing what I did back in 1967.”
And in summarizing his many years in radio, Ashley said, “I’m very proud of my entire career and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

Daisy Mah restored WPA Rock Garden in late 1980s: Despite her retirement, Mah still dedicates time to the garden

Daisy Mah stands in front of the WPA Rock Garden. The sign for the garden in the background was created by Sacramento artist Jim Ford. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Daisy Mah stands in front of the WPA Rock Garden. The sign for the garden in the background was created by Sacramento artist Jim Ford. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park. Due to space constraints, part four of the author’s Asian history series has been pushed to the next issue of the Land Park News.

Daisy Mah, who was mentioned in the first article of this series as having become synonymous with the rock garden in William Land Park, certainly has a story to tell about her longtime dedication to the garden.
Despite having retired last year from her many years as head of the garden, which she named the WPA Rock Garden in the mid-1990s, Mah has not entirely left the garden.
Although Duane Goosen became her replacement at the nearly one-acre garden in January 2014, Mah can still be seen working in the garden, generally twice per week in the morning hours.
In discussing her continued involvement with the garden, Mah said, “At the end of July, I returned (to the garden). They call me a utility worker, which is a temporary parks employee. I am currently still at that position and I try to limit it to twice a week. I’m still helping with the maintenance.”
Mah, who was born in the capital city and raised in Walnut Grove, added that part of her work in the garden has been sharing her knowledge about the place with Goosen.
“There are a lot of unusual things that I’ve planted and it’s hard to know what they are,” said Mah, who graduated from Delta High School in Clarksburg in 1971. “There are no labels to speak of, and so Duane is truly interested in knowing what’s out there. He’s a very good photographer, and I think he has pretty much identified all of the plants.”
After being asked to tell the story about how she initially became involved with the rock garden, Mah said, “I worked at the McKinley Park rose garden (from 1980 to about 1985) and enjoyed that, but it became clear that it was becoming a problem for me physically. You know, I was developing carpal tunnel syndrome and my hands were going numb. And so, I decided I needed to look elsewhere and there was a position at Old Sacramento that I took (in about 1985). But it was clear that it was not the right place for me, because there were no plants to take care of. So, when the position of (Parks Maintenance Worker II) at (William) Land Park became available, I went for it without any knowledge of the area. I had no knowledge of the garden that would take up a lot of my energy and passion for 25 years.
“At that time, the supervisor (Leonard Fuson) was not confident that I would be a long-term parks worker at Land Park, because I had moved around a little bit. I had only stayed at Old Sacramento for probably less than a year. He explained to me that many of his staff had been there 25 years or longer, and that would be ideal, because he was very concerned (about) continuity, I guess. I didn’t know how to prove that I would be committed, but he took me around to the different staff who would work under me and he showed me (the area). Anyway, I was pretty impressed with it. That was in May of 1986.”
Mah, who would undoubtedly prove herself to be very dedicated to her work at William Land Park, said that she did not immediately work in the garden.
“(Originally), I was more of a general park lead person, so I had about five people under me. You know, I picked up piles of leaves and I was responsible for making sure the bathrooms in my section got cleaned. We also had seasonal helpers during the summer, during the busy season. There were four lead persons at the time. We were real well staffed. But that changed dramatically in the past 10 years.”
Mah recalled speaking to Fuson about the garden in 1986.
“(Fuson) wanted me to take an interest in this garden, but he kind of discouraged me from going hog wild,” Mah recalled. “He didn’t really explain why, but I kind of get it, because if you make it too nice, it’s hard to fill those shoes. And there really wasn’t a history of anyone just going crazy in that garden.”
In the latter part of 1988, Mah began spending more time in the garden, working through her lunch break and other breaks.

The rock garden was established 75 years ago as a project of the Work Projects Administration. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The rock garden was established 75 years ago as a project of the Work Projects Administration. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Mah mentioned that while she taking horticulture classes at American River College in 1988, she was awarded a $400 grant.
“I decided that some of the money should go toward the rock garden and some of it I would use for myself,” Mah said. “I spent about $200 at a wholesale nursery called Cornflower Farms. And they specialize in Mediterranean and California natives. So, most of the plants were pretty tough and adapted to hot and drier conditions. I brought (the plants) to the park, and it was kind of a disappointment, because there might have been 25 plants in a one-gallon size. I had nearly an acre to plant and it was clear that I needed a lot more to make this garden nice, because by that time, I had cleared out a lot of the ivy with the help of the community service workers. And so, there was a lot of bare ground that was formerly ivy covered.”
The ivy, Mah recalled, had been planted at the site following a Proposition 13-related financial setback.
“I think what I heard was during Prop. 13, the funding (for the garden) was dramatically reduced and they (previously) had more staffing in the rock garden and they reduced it to one individual,” Mah said. “And because they didn’t have much funding for plants, they planted the beds with ivy and different plant covers. In general, it wasn’t very attractive.”
At a time when Mah had become overwhelmed with the garden, she was introduced to Warren Roberts, (the then superintendent) of the University of California, Davis Arboretum.
In recalling a meeting with Roberts, Mah said, “He came (to the garden) and he thought that there was a lot of potential. He was generous in that he offered me the arboretum as a resource for seeds and cuttings. I would still have to produce my own plants, but I would have the arboretum as a place to get started.”
Mah explained that throughout the years she learned many things about maintaining a successful garden.
“Eventually I kind of turned my nose to some of the plants that were in the garden,” Mah said. “Over the years, you realize that some of the plants that you thought were so common were actually very good plants to have. I also learned that (the garden) was subject to people running through and breaking things and stealing plants. I learned that if you cleared out plants too early and tried to replant, your chances of survival are really bad. I learned to appreciate that there was something there to build upon, instead of eradicating it and starting from scratch.”
In explaining how long it took her to reach her first overall satisfaction with the garden, Mah said, “It took a long time. It was a big struggle to get things to survive. And it probably was about 12 years ago, (when) I finally could admit that things were looking the way I wanted (them) to look. It wasn’t completely the way I wanted it, and part of it was keeping plants maybe longer than I should. (It) was a very challenging area.”
Mah, who resides in midtown Sacramento with her husband, John Hickey, who she married in 1979, added that she eventually became involved in attracting wildlife to the garden.
“To me, that’s so wonderful to see butterflies and bees and other creatures (in the garden),” Mah said. “And hummingbirds are obvious birds to attract, but we’re getting resident doves and Oregon juncos and goldfinches and bushtits. The wildlife has increased dramatically over the years.”
Overall, Mah, whose present activities include home gardening and her involvement as a member of the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club, finds the garden to be a place that she feels proud of having restored and very satisfied by the joy it continuously brings to its visitors.
“(People) find (the garden to be) a beautiful place and I think they have found a lot of satisfaction from it,” Mah said. “And personally, it’s been a source of unending challenges and pleasure.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

KXOA continues legacy through former Arden area resident

George Junak, who is known in radio as Greg Mitchell, established the 24-hour per day Internet radio station KXOA in 2009. Photo courtesy of George Junak

George Junak, who is known in radio as Greg Mitchell, established the 24-hour per day Internet radio station KXOA in 2009. Photo courtesy of George Junak

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series about the history of broadcasting in the Sacramento area. This series was inspired by readers’ positive responses to previous articles about local television history in this publication and several requests to feature histories of local radio stations.

In the previous article of this series, it was noted that the end of the use of the call letters, KXOA, in Sacramento came in 2004. But that does not mean KXOA is completely a thing of the past.
Instead, fans of the old station, which debuted in 1945 and could once be found on both the AM and FM dials, can tune into a live re-creation of the station via the Internet.
Because the deaths of KXOA 1470 AM in 1998 and KXOA 93.7 FM in 2004 left the KXOA call letters available, former Arden area resident George Junak, who has worked in radio for many years, took the opportunity to acquire those letters in 2008.
Junak, who is known by the on air name of Greg Mitchell, had made the decision to create his own Internet radio station and was familiar with KXOA. He had once worked for KNDE 1470 AM, which had replaced KXOA 1470 AM from 1971 to 1978, before KXOA-AM returned to the air for two additional decades.
In 2006, Junak, 61, moved from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla., where he would later launch his Internet radio station.
And in recalling his work to establish that station, Junak said, “In between (2008) and July (2009), when we actually signed the station on the air, I needed to get the automation software to run the station, build a little studio, load all the music into the computer system, load everything that we were going to run into the system. That was just pretty much done part time, so it took quite a few months. So, by the time July (2009) rolled around, everything was in place and we just put it on the air one day.”
Junak had no difficulty recalling the precise date of his station’s debut, as he said that, coincidentally, a KXOA-related incident occurred in Sacramento on that day.
“(July 15, 2009), the day that we signed (the station) on the air on the Internet was (when) a couple of towers came down at the 1470 (AM) transmitter site (near Commerce Circle and Lathrop Way),” Junak said.
The Sacramento Bee reported on July 16, 2009 that during the previous day, firefighters had responded to a fire that had toppled one of the former KXOA radio towers, damaged another tower and destroyed a small building containing radio equipment. A third tower was mentioned as having been threatened, but not damaged.
Junak who spends the majority of each day dedicated to his other radio-related business, California Aircheck, said he has enjoyed the responses of former KXOA of Sacramento listeners who have heard his KXOA station.
“People who had grown up in Sacramento were happy to have KXOA back,” said Junak, who began his radio career in Palms Springs in the early 1970s. “I enjoy hearing from people that come across it on the Internet.”
Junak added, “I also enjoy trying to be creative in a different way than just (through) California Air Check, where I just spend time editing things on that. So, doing KXOA is something that’s more creative on a daily basis than my full-time job.”
And after being asked if the station has reconnected him with radio people of his past, Junak said, “It did when I first put it on the air. I did hear from a couple of people that I had worked with, and I did hear from Martin Ashley, who went by the name of ‘Wonder Rabbit’ at (the now defunct Sacramento radio station) KROY. He sent me a couple of jingles from when he was at KXOA.”
Junak explained that most people discover the new KXOA by accident.

The original KXOA was one of Sacramento’s early radio stations. It debuted at 1490 AM in 1945 and moved to 1470 AM three years later. Photo courtesy of George Junak

The original KXOA was one of Sacramento’s early radio stations. It debuted at 1490 AM in 1945 and moved to 1470 AM three years later. Photo courtesy of George Junak

“(Operating KXOA is) pretty much just a hobby, so I haven’t really gone out of my way to advertise,” Junak said. “Most people just stumble across it and either like it or don’t (like it).”
In responding to the inquiry of what people can listen to on today’s KXOA, Junak said, “The format is called Motown, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. So, basically what you don’t hear is the really soft stuff that you might hear on a typical oldies station like the Carpenters and John Denver and Captain & Tennile and Brenda Lee. So, basically we’ve taken the best soul music, the best rock ‘n’ roll, mixed it together and left off the wimpy stuff. We play tons of The Beatles. We play like over 100 different songs of The Beatles, Creedence (Clearwater Revival), Cream, The Temptations, Steely Dan, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, The Moody Blues, Marvin Gaye, Eagles, The Byrds, (The Rolling) Stones, Four Tops, Foreigner, ELO, Elton John, (The) Mamas & (The) Papas, (The) Spencer Davis (Group), (The) Guess Who, Chicago. Basically things you might hear on a classic rock station. Typically an old station these days might play about 500 different songs. We play about 2,000. So, there are a lot of songs you’re not going to hear over and over and over again, and things that you probably haven’t heard in years.
The station, compared to what else you’re going to hear on the Internet, I think has a lot more personality and sounds like the stations of the 1960s, where it’s not where you can go for an hour and here’s the disc jockey two times, and just hear songs back to back to back to back all hour long. It makes it sound more like radio was back in the 1960s.”
Junak said that he works at the station seven days per week.
“I spend a couple hours a day on the station,” Junak said. “Usually I have to go through the logs and fix the problems on it during the day, and I usually decide that there are more minutes in the hour than there actually are, so I typically have to go delete songs at the ends of hours and I basically have to correct any problems.”
Listeners of the station can hear Junak from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Geoff Richards from 2 to 6 p.m., Bob Oscar Johnson from 6 p.m. to midnight and from 6 to 10 a.m., Bill Earl from midnight to 6 a.m., and Doctor John Winston from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
In addressing readers of this paper in regard to his station, Junak said, “We’re here 24 hours a day and if you enjoyed radio more in the 1960s and 1970s than you do today, then KXOA, ‘the Giant X,’ would be more of a station that you would want to listen to other than some of the other stations in Sacramento. So, we’re basically four people that aren’t really looking for radio as just background. We want you to hear something interesting along with the music.”
KXOA can be heard through the website www.147kxoa.com.

Land Park’s WPA Rock Garden turns 75 years old

The WPA Rock Garden is sandwiched between this pond and Fairytale Town in William Land Park. Photo by Monica Stark

The WPA Rock Garden is sandwiched between this pond and Fairytale Town in William Land Park. Photo by Monica Stark

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park.

The rock garden in William Land Park reached a milestone in its history, as it has been 75 years since it began as a project of the Work Projects Administration, which was a federal government Depression era system for work relief. The WPA was established as the Works Progress Administration in 1935 and renamed in 1939.
Located on a hillside off Land Park Drive and 15th Avenue, a short distance from Fairytale Town and adjacent to the William A. Carroll Amphitheatre, the nearly 1-acre rock garden includes granite block walls that line its walkways and a wide variety of plants, shrubbery and trees.
Also included in the garden is an arbor featuring a circular wall and seating area built in 2005 with cobbles that were used as ballast in clipper ships more than a century ago. The arbor was dedicated during the same year as a memorial to Norma Clevenger, a Sacramento gardener, and Aurora McGinnes, who was dedicated to caring for her brother, Esque Frost, during the Depression.
The beauty of the garden was detailed in the Feb. 24, 1940 edition of The Sacramento Bee, as it was noted: “The flowering peach trees (at the rock garden) are most appealing with their richness and quantity of rosy pink blossoms near plantings of deep green pine.
“Paths bordered with huge clumps of white snowdrops, rosy flowered dwarf heather, iris stylosa in light purple tones, bronzy wallflowers, white perennial candytuft, magenta mesembryanthemum, rosy lilac saxifrage, pansies of rich gold, deep purple, pure white and sky blue, orange marigolds and gleaming basket of gold alyssum lead down to the waterside, where dozens of paper white narcissi bend to the breeze.”
A brief reference to the garden was published in the May 18, 1940 edition of The Bee, as it was noted that James Mangan, city director of playgrounds, had requested that attendees of a May pageant at the amphitheater be careful not to walk on the garden’s flowers.
In its Aug. 31, 1940 edition, The Bee referred to nemesia, which is also known as the “baby snapdragon.” The plant was mentioned to have been “used with great success at the edge of the rock garden in William Land Park, close to the road which winds around the garden.”
Small shrubs and ground covers in the garden were mentioned in The Bee’s Feb. 22, 1941 edition as “making a carpet of brighter color and richer texture.”
The scenery of the garden was once again mentioned in The Bee, on March 28, 1942, as it was noted: “Many trailing plants ideal in rock gardens are at their best. Lamium maculatum, for example, is out on parade in the rock garden at William Land Park.”
In her gardening column in the May 8, 1943 edition of The Bee, Curtis Park resident Christine Abbott Morrison noted that it was common for local garden clubs to highlight their May meetings with field trips.

Home to a variety of plants, the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park also features an arbor with a circular wall and seating area that was built in 2005. Photo by Monica Stark

Home to a variety of plants, the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park also features an arbor with a circular wall and seating area that was built in 2005. Photo by Monica Stark

Morrison mentioned that the Mignonette Garden Club would then-soon partake in a picnic before heading to the rock garden for a tour conducted by Frederick Noble Evans, superintendent of the city’s parks department.
Evans, who held the same position at the time the garden was constructed, was referred to in an April 3, 1945 Bee article as having called the attention of local flower enthusiasts to the more than 5,000 daffodils which were adding color to the rock garden.
William G. Chorley, then-maintenance supervisor of William Land Park, was pictured in The Bee’s May 9, 1953 edition, as he was working on herb plantings.
In another Bee photo, which was published in that paper on July 8, 1955, Miriam Hall, Zelpha Smith and June Wallace are shown enjoying a break on a wall of the rock garden.
In present times, a sign on the south end of the garden reads: “WPA Rock Garden.” That year represents when the project was completed.
The garden was named by Daisy Mah, the city maintenance worker and gardener who would become synonymous with the garden.
Mah is credited for having restored the garden, which had become neglected.
In an article paying tribute to Mah in The Bee’s Jan. 20, 2007 edition, it was noted that prior to Mah’s assistance, the garden was a “rough and tumble patch of overgrown ivy, weeds and half-dead scrub oaks.”
The same article mentioned that after Mah became involved with the site, it had become a “cottage garden with a decidedly California/Mediterranean twist [with] thousands of shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs and trees.
Mah, who shared her story about restoring and maintaining the rock garden for the second part of this series, expressed her satisfaction with the garden’s present anniversary and with her work with the garden.
“Wow, 75 years, and to think I was part of one-third of those years,” Mah said. “I’m surprised, because I haven’t thought of it in that (historical) way for years. I feel proud to be a part of the WPA legacy and I did what I could to keep the garden alive and thriving. I feel a little bit like I was connected to an important part of the past.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Former resident recalls early Japanese presence in Riverside-Pocket area

Lily, James and Emmie Kato are dressed up for an Independence Day gathering in this 1933 photograph. Photo courtesy of Emmie (Kato) Makishima

Lily, James and Emmie Kato are dressed up for an Independence Day gathering in this 1933 photograph. Photo courtesy of Emmie (Kato) Makishima

Editor’s Note: This is part three in a series regarding historic Asian districts of Sacramento.

When it comes to Japanese history of the Riverside-Pocket area, Emmie (Kato) Makishima is someone who has no trouble recalling first-hand details about that area.
After reading the first articles of this series, Emmie, 88, expressed a desire to share various details regarding her memories of that area.
Emmie, who presently resides in Rio Linda, spoke about the main concentration of early day Japanese of the Riverside-Pocket area.
“It was actually from Sutterville Road – Japanese lived across from the zoo and had farms over there – to all the way to the brickyard (which was located next to today’s Lake Greenhaven),” Emmie said. “And past the brickyard was mostly the Portuguese.”
In regard to the farming site of the family of Rose (Ishimoto) Takata, who was noted in the initial article of this series as having resided near today’s Cabrillo Civic Club #5 at 4605 Karbet Way, Emmie said, “There weren’t that many Japanese farming there, but further down south there were quite a few.”
Emmie added that she grew up on a ranch a short distance from the old brickyard.
“I lived on (the old Riverside Road), near the Portuguese’s Lisbon (area), as they called it,” Emmie said. “I lived near where the brickyard used to be (located), where (the development of) Greenhaven 70 (was later constructed) with all those homes. That was our farmland that we rented. And there were about a dozen Japanese families that rented from this one lady (Marion J. Donnellan). And with the war, we had to evacuate and the lady sold the land. So, somebody else bought it and they developed it into all these homes.
A 1908 surveyor’s map of the Pocket area, by Ashley and Campbell, shows three parcels of land in the area that were owned by Donnellan. The acreages of those parcels were listed as 317.9, 110.5 and 17.6.
Additionally, a 1962 city document refers to the “525.386-acre tract of land designated ‘Marion J. Donnellan.’”
During her interview with this publication, Emmie named the surnames of several Japanese families who resided near her former Riverside area home. Those names were Hikiji, Kimira, Oto, Suyama, Kobayashi, Muramoto, Miura, Morita, Tsugawa and Tanaka.
And in speaking about her parents, Emmie said, “My father was Yohei Kato. He came from Shizuoka, Japan. He went to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane fields on the big island (of Hawaii in) Naalehu. He got to know the man who was the supervisor and he had three sons. So, he hung around with them. And during the First (World) War, all of them were in the Army, but the war ended before they were sent overseas. So, they trained at Schofield Barracks (on the island of Oahu). So, he got to know the supervisor, because of his sons, and then they had a younger sister (named Satski). That’s who my father married. A few months after they got married, (Yohei) came to Sacramento (in 1919) and farmed with some of his buddies he was in the Army with in Hawaii. And this was in Sacramento where they call it Swanston Drive now. They had a big farmland there owned by the Swanstons, and so they farmed over there. About a year later, he called for my mother and she came. Soon after that, they moved down to Donellan’s ranch, where they rented this property. It was 30 acres that they farmed. And it was a rental.”
Emmie said that not counting her Naalehu-born brother, Kiyoshi, who died when he was about a month, she had three siblings, George, Lily and James.
In recalling her own family farm and other Japanese farms near her old Riverside home, Emmie said, “Everybody in our area were truck gardeners, (who grew) vegetables. Most of the farms were close to Riverside Road, either on the side of the river or the opposite. My father grew all kinds of vegetables. We grew, let’s see, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, radish. I don’t think we had anything that took too (much) time to bundle. Let’s see, we didn’t have tomatoes. We had watermelons. Most of these things we had to put on the wagon with the horse pulling the wagon. We brought (the filled wagon) to the tank house, where we washed the vegetables up by the house. The roads were not paved out in the field. It was dirt, so when it was raining and muddy, that’s why we had to use the horse and wagon. They would bring (the produce by truck) to the farmers’ market on 5th Street, near Broadway. And then he got orders from different grocery stores, too, like Arata Bros. And there was a Red & White market. So, (Sohei) would deliver (produce) to these grocery stores, and in exchange he might get some groceries or money.”
Through his service during the war, Yohei acquired his American citizenship.
Emmie recalled that following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, her father was approached by the FBI, who immediately departed after learning that he was an American citizen.
She added that although Yohei did not own his own land, he did own his own house and crops, which proved additionally important to him in 1942.
“When they were working (on that property) and they had to evacuate, (Yohei) was able to sell (his assets) to a group of Chinese people from San Francisco,” Emmie said. “So, all the crops and the house and the farm equipment, everything was sold to them. So, in that way he was lucky, because he didn’t lose everything.”
Following the war, Emmie resided in Minnesota, where she underwent training to become a registered nurse. She later passed the state board for that work in Washington.
Emmie moved to Sacramento in 1950, where she worked at Sutter Hospital at 2820 L St. and resided near Curtis Park.
She also spent some time residing in Fresno before returning to Sacramento, where she married Joe Makishima in 1957. Joe died at the age of 80 on July 22, 2003.
Joe and Emmie, who had three daughters, Kimi (Joanne), Keiko (Diane) and Sherri, moved to Rio Linda in 1959.
Emmie is presently active in her community, as she volunteers for the Rio Linda-Elverta Historical Society and the Friends of the Rio Linda Library.

Japantown was a thriving community, just west of state Capitol

Sehei Ishimoto often sold his Sacramento area grown produce and eggs in the city’s Japantown, near the state Capitol.

Sehei Ishimoto often sold his Sacramento area grown produce and eggs in the city’s Japantown, near the state Capitol.

Editor’s Note: This is part two in a series regarding historic Asian districts of Sacramento.

During her recent interview with this publication, Rose (Ishimoto) Takata, who grew up in the historic Riverside area, referred to a now nonexistent community, west of the state Capitol, known as Japantown.
In sharing a memory about that community, Takata said, “Well, my dad (Sehei Ishimoto) used to take us there (to Japantown), because he had to sell his eggs and the crops that we grew. Well, of course, we had Chinese cabbage. We used to have what they call daikon – Japanese radish – and we used to do green onion. I’m sure we had cucumber and stuff, too. But, mainly, we took whatever we had to the Japanese market in Japantown. I would say (that market was located in) the main part (of Japantown), somewhere around (today’s Capitol Mall), somewhere around 3rd (Street).”
Sacramento’s Japantown, which was basically located within an area bounded by 2nd, 5th, L and O streets, began to take form in the late 19th century.
An essay, entitled “A Portrait of Sacramento’s Japanese Community,” by Cheryl Lynn Cole, notes: “It is not known for certain when the first Japanese arrived in Sacramento. Probably several passed through the city in 1868 while on their way to the Gold Hill Silk Colony, located between Coloma and modern Highway 50. And possibly some of them returned to reside in the city when that colony collapsed a few years later.”
A 1910 federal immigration commission report regarding “Japanese and other immigrant races in the Pacific Coast and Rocky Mountain states” notes: “The Japanese population of Sacramento is estimated to have been 12 in 1883 and 100 in 1893. According to the census, it was 337 in 1900. In June 1909, it was estimated at 1,000. About 700 of these Japanese were connected with business enterprises and professions or were unoccupied members of the families of persons thus gainfully employed. Some 300 were employed as porters in saloons, clubs and other places conducted by white persons, as domestics or as general ‘help’ in the city. The 1,000 just mentioned is the estimated number of the Japanese ‘settled’ or regularly residing there.”
The report also refers to a “floating population, which ranged from 200 to 2,500 Japanese people. The latter number was mentioned to have been the result of Japanese who gathered in the city during the last two weeks of August before they headed to work at nearby hop fields.
Sacramento was noted in the 1910 report to have been an important distribution point for Japanese laborers for the then past 20 years.
And in regard to early living accommodations for Japanese in Sacramento, the report states that Japanese laborers discovered that they were not welcomed in “white boardinghouses” in the city, and that that they did not find Chinese conducted lodging houses to be suitable to their standards.
The reactionary measure for these Japanese was for them to operate their own boarding and lodging houses.
In 1891, Sacramento became home to two Japanese operated hotels and a Japanese run lodging house. Several other similar places were operating in the city by the mid-1890s.
Sacramento’s Japanese population continued to expand and evolve with businesses and residential establishments, and their downtown community grew to become recognized as Japantown.
An example of the early growth in Japanese businesses in Sacramento is the expansion in the number of Japanese goods stores. The first of those stores opened in 1893 and by 1909, there were 12 such stores in the capital city.
Sacramento became home to its first Japanese bathhouse in 1891 and its first barbershop and restaurant serving Japanese and American food two years later. By 1909, Sacramento was home to 26 Japanese run barbershops, and 36 Japanese operated restaurants, 28 of which were located in Japantown.
In living up to its name, Japantown was certainly like a town, as it would grow to include many more establishments, including banks, grocery stores, fish markets, drugstores, tailor shops, shoe repair shops, laundries, furnishings stores, employment agencies, book and stationery stores, photography studios, a newspaper, printing shops, bicycle shops, churches and even a motion picture theater.
The first Japanese run grocery store in Japantown was in operation as early as 1893, and by 1909, 12 such businesses were operating in the area.
The 1910 federal immigration commission report refers to Japantown as the “Japanese quarter,” and mentions that most of the city’s Japanese lived and worked within that area.
“It is evident that (Sacramento’s Japanese) are closely colonized,” the report noted.
In addition to their success in the Sacramento area, local Japanese also experienced hardships related to discrimination.
For instance, the Webb-Haney Act, which was more commonly known as the California Alien Land Law of 1913, prohibited people who were not American citizens or not eligible for citizenship from owning agricultural land. The law, which was mainly directed toward Japanese, also banned such people from leasing the same property for more than three years.
Local Japanese were later targeted in the Johnson-Reid Act – aka the Immigration Act of 1924 – which, among other things, halted Japanese immigration to America. The law was enacted on May 26, 1924.
Undoubtedly, a great tragedy in the lives of Sacramento’s Japanese occurred as a result of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
The presidential approval of this order, which occurred following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, allowed for the assembly, evacuation and relocation of more than 100,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast.
In regard to the removal of Sacramento’s Japanese from the capital city, a related article from the initial portion of that event appeared on the front page of The Sacramento Bee on Wednesday, May 13, 1942.
In describing the scene on that day, The Bee reported the following: “Carrying only their personal effects, large numbers of Japanese families, including tiny babies and gray haired oldsters, began gathering in front of the (Memorial) Auditorium shortly before 8 a.m. today. There they boarded buses for the short trip to camp.
“Streets were blocked off near the loading areas on I Street, between Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets, and on Fifteenth Street, between I and J streets, so that the evacuation could be carried on in an orderly manner.”
Following the war, many Japanese, who had resided in Sacramento’s Japantown, returned to that area and discovered that it had become occupied by others who had filled the vacancy created by their internment.
Available housing in that area, as well as throughout the city, was scarce following the war, and some local Japanese resorted to temporarily residing at the old Camp Walerga, where they had been detained before heading to the Tule Lake internment camp, near the Oregon border.
Eventually, the once thriving “Japanese quarter” made a partial comeback only to be eliminated again in the 1960s, this time in the name of redevelopment through the creation of Capitol Mall.

Lance@valcomnews.com