Pocket resident speaks about his familial link to first Transcontinental Railroad

Pocket resident Gene O. Chan, who was born in the Sacramento Delta town of Locke, is a descendent of a Chinese native who assisted in the construction of the western portion of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Pocket resident Gene O. Chan, who was born in the Sacramento Delta town of Locke, is a descendent of a Chinese native who assisted in the construction of the western portion of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Photo by Lance Armstrong

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

Pocket resident Gene O. Chan, whose home is presently a meeting place of Gung Ho American Legion Post No. 696, which was featured in the last article of this series, has a family history that dates back to the mid-1850s in the Golden State.
While meeting with this publication last week, Gene, 82, shared details about the Chinese-born Jim King, who was his earliest relative to come to California.
With a proud tone to his voice, Gene declared that Jim helped build the western portion of the first Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the Central Pacific Railroad from the West with the Union Pacific Railroad from the East. That event occurred with a special ceremony in the Utah Territory on May 10, 1869.
Thousands of people, the majority of which were Chinese, were hired as laborers to build the Central Pacific Railroad.
Gene, who is a native of the Sacramento Delta town of Locke (originally Lockeport), which was founded by Chinese nearly a century ago, noted that he believes it is likely that Jim spent some time in Sacramento, including this city’s Chinatown.
In speaking about Jim’s early life in California, Gene said, “When (Jim) came (to California) in 1855, he was about 15 years old. He came out here and worked on mining near Coloma and in that area. His name was (formerly) Jow Kee, but what happened was he worked with miners, and they’re the ones who named him Jim King. So, he went to the railroad as Jim King. I heard from relatives that said (Jim) was a very good worker, so (some of the miners) taught him English.
“So, that’s all I have. I don’t know the ins and outs of the work he did on the railroad or anything, other than he could speak English, so he was translating and helping them hire people. So, he was the contractor.”
Gene said that his family connection to a railroad worker led him to the California State Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento about five years ago.
“I went to the railroad museum, because someone told them that I was a descendent from the railroad,” Gene said. “I had given some data to some people, you know, with the paperwork that (Jim) had. And I submitted it to (the museum) and then I got it all back, so I assumed they didn’t find (any reference to Jim).
“I (later) talked to them. I said, ‘Oh, you didn’t find my great-grandpa’s name on the railroad?’ They said they did (find his name). So, they said I could go and research it (at the museum). But then all of a sudden, somebody wrote a book about the railroad and (the author) got the log from the railroad and I looked at that book (“Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental” by William F. Chew) and there was my great-grandfather’s name – Jim King.”
That January 1866 payroll entry specifically reads “Jim King & Co.”
Gene said that he eventually learned something very unique regarding his connection to the Transcontinental Railroad.
“It’s so odd,” Gene said. “I went out to a gala in San Francisco with the Chinese Historical Society of America. They had canvassed the whole United States and found about 40 people who have some relations to the railroad. And of all of them, I was the only one who had a direct link in the railroad (payroll) log.”
Gene also discussed Jim’s post-railroad life, saying, “After the railroad was completed in 1869, (Jim worked as) a foreman during the (building of) the levees (in the Sacramento Delta). He was doing the wheelbarrows until the big clamshell (dredger) came. (Jim) then went farming, because he came from a farming area (in China).”
Gene said that he created a timeline of the events of Jim’s life and was pleased by the results.
“I did a timeline and it all fits,” Gene said. “(In) 1869, he got down here in the valley to build the levees. When the levee clamshell (dredger) came and took it over, he went farming at the Green Ranch in Courtland. He raised a large family on the (Green Ranch in Courtland). So, I have all the farmers there, (and it is) notarized on his immigration papers that he’s Jim. They all vouched for him with their signatures.”
In commenting about Jim’s life on the ranch, Gene said, “He was doing pretty well. He was probably the foreman again on the ranch. He was able to teach his children both English and Chinese.”
After being asked when Jim died, Gene responded, “What happened was his wife (Hel Shee) took all of the kids except for one back to China to the village (of Sun Chung). Then he was farming somewhere near Isleton and one of the sons (Kim King) stayed back to look for him. (Jim) disappeared and they never found him. They don’t know whether it was foul play or he fell in (the Sacramento River) and drowned, but they never did find him. So, that one son stayed behind, but he also later went to China and got a wife (Wong Shee) and came back, and raised a large family.
“My grandfather (Tai King, who was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake) – the number two son (of Jim King) – also went to China to get his wife (also Wong Shee), because there were hardly any Chinese women here, except for people that had some kind of work that allowed them to be here. But great-grandpa, I was told some of the things about him by people who knew him in China that lived in Locke. It’s a lot of hearsay. But still, I’m the only direct link to Jim King.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

East Sac resident turns 99 years young

East Sacramento resident Mary C. Caplis celebrated her 99th birthday this week. Photo by Lance Armstrong

East Sacramento resident Mary C. Caplis celebrated her 99th birthday this week. Photo by Lance Armstrong

East Sacramento resident Mary C. Caplis celebrated her 99th birthday this week. And although many people could test their luck at guessing her age, most of them would guess wrong.
Certainly, Mary has the appearance of a much younger woman, and just about anyone who has attempted to keep pace with her during one of her brisk walks knows that when it comes to moving her feet, she has not slowed with age.
Last week, while taking one of her speedy walks, Mary came to a halt for a couple of hours to share a few details about her long and eventful life.
Mary, who was born in Missoula, Mont. on Dec. 15, 1915, was one of the five children of John James and Marie (Hoffman) Caplis. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother emigrated from Germany when she was about 16 years old.
After being asked to describe her father, Mary said, “He was a typical Irish (person), easy going. He was on the lazy side. I don’t think my father ever picked up a shovel. I don’t think he ever did anything around the house. He was very intelligent. In fact, he read through ‘History of the World’ by (John Clark) Ridpath by the time he was 12. He was always considered as a graduate from Stanford (University) or something, but he finished two years of high school, if he did that. He was an extemporaneous speaker, and spoke for a lot of the politics.”
In discussing her father’s political side, Mary said, “He served two terms in the legislature in Montana. He was really for Democratic. I’m Republican. My father was head of the home loans in Los Angeles under (President Franklin D.) Roosevelt, and he was kind of buddy, buddy with Senator (William Gibb) McAdoo.”
Mary also spoke about her mother, saying, “My mother was a businesswoman. She came over and worked as a domestic until she learned the language. And then she moved to Montana and worked in a rooming house, and then she sold the rooming house and bought the hotel in Missoula. That’s where she met my father.
“My mother was all business. She was very strict, typically German, very family oriented. We were always taught that it was a hell of a cruel, cold world out there and that we all better stick together. And right or wrong, whatever it (was) a person did, you (would) back them. It’s your family and your kids and your brothers and sisters. So, we were all very loyal to one another. It was a different kind of era.”
Mary said that she was 6 years old when she moved from Montana to Los Angeles with her mother and her siblings.
“My mother didn’t like the climate in Montana,” Mary said. “She just couldn’t stand it, and she didn’t like the politics. She said, ‘In California, you can pick the oranges off the trees and it’s gorgeous country.’ She just took (her children to California). My father had to finish his (legislative) term, so he didn’t get to California for another year, or maybe six months. See, my mother was a businesswoman that was going to go where she wanted to go.”
Mary’s mother died at the age of 73 on March 29, 1950, and by 1953, Mary, her father and her sister, Anna May, were living together in a house they had purchased at 1414 40th St. in East Sacramento.
In recalling her discovery of that East Sacramento home, Mary said, ‘I spotted a house. I went down to see (an East Sacramento resident, who was related to her San Francisco friends, Milton and Frances Mecchi) and she said that the woman’s husband died and she’s anxious to move East and she’s ready and real hot to go. And I (told Anna May), ‘I think she’ll negotiate a deal and it’s three bedrooms in the right part of town.’ And I (added), ‘I don’t know about father.’ She said she would phone him and he would phone me, if he was interested. So he called me and I told him all about it and that I thought it was a good deal real estate-wise, and we could handle it (financially). So, we agreed (to live together). I moved in, two months later my sister makes it and six months later my father makes it.”
John James died at the age of 69 on Sept. 21, 1957 and Mary and Anna May continued to reside in their East Sacramento home until about 1964.
During the previous year, Mary and Ann May had a two-story, seven-unit apartment building constructed at 2517 U St. at a cost of $48,200. They resided in Apartment #1 and managed the apartments until 1970.
Mary said that she then moved with her sister to 1395 Los Padres Way, because they had grown “tired of people losing their keys and knocking on our door at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Anna May, who continued to reside with her sister for the remainder of her life, died at the age of 100 on May 12, 2013, and Mary returned to live in East Sacramento on Nov. 13, 2013.
In continuing to discuss details about her life, Mary said that her employment years in Sacramento included working for about two weeks at the Joseph Magnin Co. women’s clothing store at 931 K St. and for 30 years at Setzer Forest Products at 2570 3rd St.
Mary recalled acquiring her job with Setzer through the unemployment agency.
“I went down to the unemployment (agency) and they went on and said (the Setzer job) wasn’t this and that, but if I didn’t mind (working) out in kind of the tules, there’s a lumber company and they want a person and they don’t care whether it’s a man or a woman. It sounded like kind a rough situation, because I think there’s a sawmill there. It’s a box factory down at 5th (Street) and (just south) of Broadway. So, I thought, ‘Well, maybe lumber might be a good thing, outdoors and everything. So, I just went out there and interviewed. Well, they wanted an invoice clerk. So, I talked with this man (at Setzer named Frederick M. Olmsted) and he was kind of enthusiastic.”
Mary was offered the job and she was allowed to take a week to decide whether she would accept the offer.
Left to right, Mary C. Caplis, Nancy Jo Plescia, Helen Smernes and Theresa Just participated as a team in a golf tournament at Rancho Murieta in 1985. Caplis enjoyed golfing with friends from the early 1960s until 2000. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Left to right, Mary C. Caplis, Nancy Jo Plescia, Helen Smernes and Theresa Just participated as a team in a golf tournament at Rancho Murieta in 1985. Caplis enjoyed golfing with friends from the early 1960s until 2000. Photo by Lance Armstrong

And in recalling her acceptance of that position, Mary said, “There were a lot of things about (the job) that suited me, so I called (Olmsted) and I went back (to Setzer). So, he said, ‘Can you start tomorrow?’ and I said, ‘A little soon. You’ve got to give me a few days. I’ve got to get organized.’ So, I rented a room in a house somewhere on V Street (and would later reside at 2330 Capitol Ave.). Anyhow, I (soon) went to work (for Setzer). I started as the invoice clerk and worked quite a few years under different sales managers.”
Mary said that she was eventually called into the Setzer office and presented with the opportunity to become the company’s first female sales manager.
“(During that meeting, Setzer Forest Products owners), Cal and Hardie Setzer said, ‘The Proud-foot company (which had then-recently evaluated Setzer) has chosen you as the sales manager (for Setzer).’ I said, ‘As a lady, I’m chosen as a sales manager?’ He said, ‘They’ve chosen you and they told us that you should be able to step right in.’ I thought, ‘Hell, this isn’t bad.’ So, I accepted (the offer), of course.”
Mary also later became president of Western Wooden Box Association.
In commenting about that position to The Sacramento Bee in the 1970s, she said, “The important thing is not that I was the person elected (to an otherwise all-male member trade organization), but that it shows a woman can advance in areas that once were considered the province of men. It might encourage other women.”
Long after Mary had retired from her position at Setzer, she attended the funeral of Hardie Setzer.
At the funeral, Mary was approached by Hardie’s son, Scott Setzer, who complimented her regarding her work at his family’s company.
In recalling that compliment, Mary said, “(Scott) said, ‘Mary, I want you to know that while you were sales manager, we were never in the red. We were always in the black.’”
Toward the end of her interview for this article, Mary, who for many years of her life enjoyed cooking, fishing and golfing, presented a flyer for a golf tournament that was held in honor of her 99th birthday at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex at 6801 Freeport Blvd. on Dec. 12 at 1 p.m.
After being asked to explain whether a healthy lifestyle attributed to her longevity, Mary responded with a comment that would cause many mothers to cover the ears of their children.
“I smoked for 82 years,” said Mary, who also had a brother, Frank, who lived to be 94 years old. “I got expelled from a Catholic high school for smoking. I started smoking at 12. My mother would give me a quarter for a good, hot lunch at school. It cost 10 cents for cigarettes and then I had 15 cents (remaining) and I could get an ice cream, and I had that for lunch.”
Mary also mentioned that there were also times in her youth when she “drank excessively.”
Since not all aspects of Mary’s approach to personal health during portions of her life would serve as a model for others seeking longevity in their own lives, she was then asked to discuss her overall philosophy on life.
“Do what you can with the tools that you’ve got,” Mary said. “I just feel that you have to have a principal. I think God gives you freewill and with your freewill you develop your principals. Unfortunately, a lot of this has to do with parenting for a few years, I think. But anyway, I think it’s within yourself. I believe that you love alone, you live alone and you die alone, (and) that you and God will eventually work it out. In the meantime, all you’re obliged to do is the best you can with the tools you have. I don’t know whether it’s essential to have a specific religion or not, but I do think you should believe in God and the hereafter. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and as Shakespeare said and that way you can’t ‘be false to any man.’ (This) is true, if you’re honest to yourself.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Airport was once proposed for Fulton Avenue, Cottage Way site

Paul Blanco’s Good Car Co. at 2200 Fulton Ave. is among the businesses that sit on a site that was once proposed for a small plane airport, complete with two runways, hangars and other structures. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Paul Blanco’s Good Car Co. at 2200 Fulton Ave. is among the businesses that sit on a site that was once proposed for a small plane airport, complete with two runways, hangars and other structures. Photo by Lance Armstrong

It may be difficult for many people today to imagine, but an airport for small planes was once envisioned for a 100-acre site east of Fulton Avenue, between Cottage Way and El Camino Avenue.
The post-World War II, north area airport plans included a 2,000-foot runway, an 800-foot runway, hangars and other structures.
According to a brief announcement in the Nov. 28, 1945 edition of The Sacramento Bee, a permit was granted for the establishment of the airport by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
It was also mentioned that the permit was “subject to approval of the site by the Civil Aeronautics Authority,” which was based in Santa Monica. That approval process was based on the proposed air landing site’s size, location, physical characteristics and specific uses.
On the evening of Dec. 10, 1945, while that permit was pending with the CAA and the California State Aviation Project Committee was holding a session at the Hotel Senator at 1125 L St., a public meeting about the possibility of establishing an airport in the Arden area was held at Arden School at 3500 Arden Way.
In attendance at the meeting was North Sacramento resident James K. Bullock, an attorney who spoke against the project, claiming that the construction of an airport at the Fulton Avenue site would cause a decrease in property values in that area. He cited possible falling planes and aircraft noise as reasons for opposing the building of an aviation facility at that location.
During the same meeting, a vote was held in which a majority of Arden area residents opposed the plans for the establishment of the airport.
The final vote tally, which was 42 to 21, was announced by Arden District Improvement Club President Steve Williams and eventually sent to the CAA.
Only a day after the meeting at Arden School, Sacramento hosted the Western Aviation Conference at the Hotel Senator. At that event, Gov. Earl Warren gave a speech entitled, “What Aviation Means to the West.”
Sacramento had previously hosted the conference on one other occasion, from Sept. 23 to 25, 1937.
On Dec. 15, 1945, The Bee reported a story out of the nation’s capital that legislation was pending before Congress on a $1 billion national airport program, which included $24 million that would be contributed toward the construction and improvements of airports in California.
Although local and state governments would be required to match federal funding, it was expected that California would need to contribute a little more than half of the final cost – an estimated $26 million.
The overall program featured a plan for 3,000 new airports and improvements to 1,600 existing airports.
According to the article, legislation on the long range project had already been passed “in different forms” by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and conference committees were “ironing out the differences” on various topics, including specific details about the application of funds and the speed in which the program would move forward.
Another aviation related article accompanied the article regarding the pending national airport program.
The other article presented details about local plans for landing fields, and specifically mentioned the proposed airport east of Fulton Avenue.
It was also noted in the article that request had been made for an airport in the Colonial Acres area and a small, seaplane-type landing area at Bryte Bend on the Sacramento River.
An example of the drive to increase postwar civilian flying in Sacramento County was the county’s effort at that time to create a master plan showing airport locations and places where other airports could be built without traffic hazards. The purpose of having that master plan was to aid future planning commission decisions pertaining to landing field applications.
The areas recognized on the map as having been determined to be fitting locations for then future airports were Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Elk Grove, Franklin, Galt, Freeport, Glannvale, Twin Cities, Elverta, Elkhorn, Manlove, Swanston and the district adjacent to the Sacramento Signal Depot (later known as the Sacramento Army Depot).
Also shown on the map were the then-existing airports at Mather Field, McClellan Field and Municipal Airport (today’s Executive Airport), as well as landing fields in Florin, Natomas and Rio Linda.
North Sacramento resident Robert O. Bowman expressed his views regarding the Fulton Avenue airport plan in a letter to the editor that was published in The Bee on Dec. 18, 1945.
In commenting about the aforementioned majority vote against having an airport constructed at Fulton Avenue and Cottage Way, Bowman wrote: “Apparently, the Arden-Arcade folks don’t believe in postwar planning or employment.”
Bowman then quoted a few words from the Nov. 15, 1945 issue of the CAA bulletin, as follows: “A total of 901,300 jobs in or created by aviation is predicted for 1955. This one business can provide about 6 per cent (sic) of all the new jobs required to achieve substantially full employment.
“In 1955, there will be 2,800,000 families who can afford both an airplane and an automobile.”
On Jan. 28, 1946, The Bee reported that sponsors of the Arden area airport had requested that the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors make an early ruling regarding their county permit application for the airport.
The board responded by ordering a Jan. 30, 1946 hearing on the matter.
It was mentioned in the Jan. 28, 1946 article that Bullock had told the board that he was representing 90 Arden-Arcade residents who were opponents of the airport projects.
Those residents’ dream of not having an airport constructed in the area came true, as the project was eventually abandoned.
Today, the site is part of the well-known Fulton Avenue auto row, as well as several different types of businesses and residential housing.

Lance@valcomnews.com

Former Setzer Forest Products sales manager to turn 99 years young

Sacramento resident Mary C. Caplis, who worked for Setzer Forest Products for 30 years, will celebrate her 99th birthday next week. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Sacramento resident Mary C. Caplis, who worked for Setzer Forest Products for 30 years, will celebrate her 99th birthday next week. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Mary C. Caplis, who spent three decades working for Setzer Forest Products, at 2570 3rd Street, just south of Broadway, will celebrate her 99th birthday next week. And although many people could test their luck at guessing her age, most of them would likely guess wrong.
Certainly, Mary has the appearance of a much younger woman, and just about anyone who has attempted to keep pace with her during one of her brisk walks knows that when it comes to moving her feet, she has not slowed with age.
Last week, while taking one of her speedy walks, Mary came to a halt for a couple of hours to share a few details about her long and eventful life.
Mary, who was born in Missoula, Mont. on Dec. 15, 1915, was one of the five children of John James and Marie (Hoffman) Caplis. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother emigrated from Germany when she was about 16 years old.
After being asked to describe her father, Mary said, “He was a typical Irish (person), easy going. He was on the lazy side. I don’t think my father ever picked up a shovel. I don’t think he ever did anything around the house. He was very intelligent. In fact, he read through ‘History of the World’ by (John Clark) Ridpath by the time he was 12. He was always considered as a graduate from Stanford (University) or something, but he finished two years of high school, if he did that. He was an extemporaneous speaker, and spoke for a lot of the politics.”
In discussing her father’s political side, Mary said, “He served two terms in the legislature in Montana. He was really for Democratic. I’m Republican. My father was head of the home loans in Los Angeles under (President Franklin D.) Roosevelt, and he was kind of buddy, buddy with Senator (William Gibb) McAdoo.”
Mary also spoke about her mother, saying, “My mother was a businesswoman. She came over and worked as a domestic until she learned the language. And then she moved to Montana and worked in a rooming house, and then she sold the rooming house and bought the hotel in Missoula. That’s where she met my father.
“My mother was all business. She was very strict, typically German, very family oriented. We were always taught that it was a hell of a cruel, cold world out there and that we all better stick together. And right or wrong, whatever it (was) a person did, you (would) back them. It’s your family and your kids and your brothers and sisters. So, we were all very loyal to one another. It was a different kind of era.”
Mary said that she was 6 years old when she moved from Montana to Los Angeles with her mother and her siblings.
“My mother didn’t like the climate in Montana,” Mary said. “She just couldn’t stand it, and she didn’t like the politics. She said, ‘In California, you can pick the oranges off the trees and it’s gorgeous country.’ She just took (her children to California). My father had to finish his (legislative) term, so he didn’t get to California for another year, or maybe six months. See, my mother was a businesswoman that was going to go where she wanted to go.”
Mary’s mother died at the age of 73 on March 29, 1950, and by 1953, Mary, her father and her sister, Anna May, were living together in a house they had purchased at 1414 40th St.
In recalling her discovery of that East Sacramento home, Mary said, ‘I spotted a house. I went down to see (an East Sacramento resident, who was related to her San Francisco friends, Milton and Frances Mecchi) and she said that the woman’s husband died and she’s anxious to move East and she’s ready and real hot to go. And I (told Anna May), ‘I think she’ll negotiate a deal and it’s three bedrooms in the right part of town.’ And I (added), ‘I don’t know about father.’ She said she would phone him and he would phone me, if he was interested. So he called me and I told him all about it and that I thought it was a good deal real estate-wise, and we could handle it (financially). So, we agreed (to live together). I moved in, two months later my sister makes it, and six months later my father makes it.”
John James died at the age of 69 on Sept. 21, 1957 and Mary and Anna May continued to reside in their East Sacramento home until about 1964.
During the previous year, Mary and Anna May had a two-story, seven-unit apartment building constructed at 2517 U St. at a cost of $48,200. They resided in Apartment #1 and managed the apartments until 1970.
Mary said that she then moved with her sister to 1395 Los Padres Way, because they had grown “tired of people losing their keys and knocking on our door at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Anna May, who continued to reside with her sister for the remainder of her life, died at the age of 100 on May 12, 2013, and Mary returned to live in East Sacramento on Nov. 13, 2013.
In continuing to discuss details about her life, Mary said that her employment years in Sacramento included working for about two weeks at the Joseph Magnin Co. women’s clothing store at 931 K St. and for 30 years at the aforementioned Setzer Forest Products.
Mary recalled acquiring her job with Setzer through the unemployment agency.
“I went down to the unemployment (agency) and they went on and said (the Setzer job) wasn’t this and that, but if I didn’t mind (working) out in kind of the tules, there’s a lumber company and they want a person and they don’t care whether it’s a man or a woman. It sounded like kind a rough situation, because I think there’s a sawmill there. It’s a box factory down at 5th (Street) and (just south) of Broadway. So, I thought, ‘Well, maybe lumber might be a good thing, outdoors and everything. So, I just went out there and interviewed. Well, they wanted an invoice clerk. So, I talked with this man (at Setzer named Frederick M. Olmsted) and he was kind of enthusiastic.”
Left to right, Mary C. Caplis, Nancy Jo Plescia, Helen Smernes and Theresa Just participated as a team in a golf tournament at Rancho Murieta in 1985. Caplis enjoyed golfing with friends from the early 1960s until 2000. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Left to right, Mary C. Caplis, Nancy Jo Plescia, Helen Smernes and Theresa Just participated as a team in a golf tournament at Rancho Murieta in 1985. Caplis enjoyed golfing with friends from the early 1960s until 2000. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Mary was offered the job and she was allowed to take a week to decide whether she would accept the offer.
And in recalling her acceptance of that position, Mary said, “There were a lot of things about (the job) that suited me, so I called (Olmsted) and I went back (to Setzer). So, he said, ‘Can you start tomorrow?’ and I said, ‘A little soon. You’ve got to give me a few days. I’ve got to get organized.’ So, I rented a room in a house somewhere on V Street (and would later reside at 2330 Capitol Ave.). Anyhow, I (soon) went to work (for Setzer). I started as the invoice clerk and worked quite a few years under different sales managers.”
Mary said that she was eventually called into the Setzer office and presented with the opportunity to become the company’s first female sales manager.
“(During that meeting, Setzer Forest Products owners), Cal and Hardie Setzer said, ‘The Proud-foot company (which had then-recently evaluated Setzer) has chosen you as the sales manager (for Setzer).’ I said, ‘As a lady, I’m chosen as a sales manager?’ He said, ‘They’ve chosen you and they told us that you should be able to step right in.’ I thought, ‘Hell, this isn’t bad.’ So, I accepted (the offer), of course.”
Mary also later became president of the Western Wooden Box Association.
In commenting about that position to The Sacramento Bee in the 1970s, she said, “The important thing is not that I was the person elected (to an otherwise all-male member trade organization), but that it shows a woman can advance in areas that once were considered the province of men. It might encourage other women.”
Long after Mary had retired from her position at Setzer, she attended the funeral of Hardie Setzer.
At the funeral, Mary was approached by Hardie’s son, Scott Setzer, who complimented her regarding her work at his family’s company.
In recalling that compliment, Mary said, “(Scott) said, ‘Mary, I want you to know that while you were sales manager, we were never in the red. We were always in the black.’”
Toward the end of her interview for this article, Mary, who for many years of her life enjoyed cooking, fishing and golfing, presented a flyer for a golf tournament that will be held in honor of her 99th birthday at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex at 6801 Freeport Blvd. on Dec. 12 at 1 p.m.
Although Mary will not be playing in the tournament, due to a rotator cuff injury, she said that she will definitely be in attendance at the event.
After being asked to explain whether a healthy lifestyle attributed to her longevity, Mary responded with a comment that would cause many mothers to cover the ears of their children.
“I smoked for 82 years,” said Mary, who also had a brother, Frank, who lived to be 94 years old. “I got expelled from a Catholic high school for smoking. I started smoking at 12. My mother would give me a quarter for a good, hot lunch at school. It cost 10 cents for cigarettes and then I had 15 cents (remaining) and I could get an ice cream, and I had that for lunch.”
Mary also mentioned that there were times in her youth when she “drank excessively.”
Since not all aspects of Mary’s approach to personal health during portions of her life would serve as a model for others seeking longevity in their own lives, she was then asked to discuss her overall philosophy on life.
“Do what you can with the tools that you’ve got,” Mary said. “I just feel that you have to have a principal. I think God gives you freewill and with your freewill you develop your principals. Unfortunately, a lot of this has to do with parenting for a few years, I think. But anyway, I think it’s within yourself. I believe that you love alone, you live alone and you die alone, (and) that you and God will eventually work it out. In the meantime, all you’re obliged to do is the best you can with the tools you have. I don’t know whether it’s essential to have a specific religion or not, but I do think you should believe in God and the hereafter. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and as Shakespeare said and that way you can’t ‘be false to any man.’ (This) is true, if you’re honest to yourself.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Gung Ho American Legion Post No. 696 meets in Pocket area

Gung Ho American Legion Post No. 696 met for its November meeting in the Pocket area home of Gene O. Chan. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Gung Ho American Legion Post No. 696 met for its November meeting in the Pocket area home of Gene O. Chan. Photo by Lance Armstrong

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

Among the war veteran organizations in the capital city is Gung Ho American Legion Post No. 696, which meets in the Pocket area.
In speaking about the post’s history, Freeman Lee, the post’s 1st vice commander, said, “Gung Ho Post was formed and chartered in 1946, following World War II. There was still much discrimination, so Chinese Americans formed their own post.”
Lee explained that although members of the Gung Ho post were originally Chinese men, the post has evolved to accept non-Chinese and female memberships.
“As the years have gone by, so has discrimination and racism,” Lee said. “Veterans are free to choose their post. We continue to reach out to all veterans.”
And in adding a bit of Chinese American wartime trivia, Lee said, “Little known to the American people is the fact that more Chinese Americans by percentage of ethnicity served in World War II for the U.S. because single men were more often to be drafted first. This was due to the Chinese Exclusion Act that prevented Chinese women to emigrate to the U.S., so few Chinese men had opportunity to marry. And that Chinese Americans fought for liberty and freedom for their country when in fact their country denied them these rights due to the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
The post’s original officers were Tim Jang, commander; James Fong, 1st vice commander; Edmund E. Yee, 2nd vice commander; Earl D. Wong, adjutant; Dr. Donald Yee, finance officer; Richard Mar, sergeant at arms; David Dong, chaplain; Dr. Shue F. Wong, service officer; Joe Jang, historian; and John Mar, mess officer.
Tim Jang, who would eventually spend about 30 years in government service, including 19 years with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (today’s Natural Resources Conservation Service), enlisted in the Navy’s 132nd Construction Battalion during World War II. The battalion’s headquarters was on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Among the post’s charter members were several people who once resided in the vicinity of Sacramento’s Chinatown.
During the post’s first meeting, which was held at the Fort Sutter American Legion Post No. 392 at 3333 I St. on April 11, 1946, dues were set at $6 per year.
The first social activity of the post was a picnic at Lodi Lake in Lodi on Aug. 11, 1946 from 1 to 6 p.m.
The event, which had an admission of 50 cents, was attended by about 350 people who were treated to food that was donated by Chinese merchants in Sacramento.
The post participated in the Armistice Day parade on the streets of downtown Sacramento on Nov. 11, 1946.
By the 1950s, the post was meeting for dinners at Hong King Lum restaurant in Chinatown.
The Gung Ho Post once had a women’s auxiliary, which included such members as Mae Fong, Mabel Yee, Sarah Yee, Lillian Jang, Fern Wong, Emma Fong, Ruby Wong, Evelyn Seid, Ruby Yee, Rose Chong, Rosetta Fong and Lucy Wong.
In May 1972, a plaque was dedicated at the Confucius Temple in Chinatown Mall. The plaque reads: “In memory of our departed comrades who true to tradition gave their lives that freedom might not perish from the Earth. Chung Mei Post 8358. Gung Ho Post 696.”
Participating in the dedication were Benton W. Ham, the post’s commander, and Tim Jang, former post commander.
The Chinatown Mall was also used as the site of Memorial Day celebrations of the post.
Like many longtime organizations, the Gung Ho Post’s membership numbers eventually began to severely decrease.
One man who knows much about the post’s membership numbers is the aforementioned Freeman Lee.
Lee recalled being recruited to assist in a project to increase the post’s membership, which had fallen to 15 members.
“(The post’s commander) Dr. (Herbert) Yee recruited me (last March) to come over here to help Gung Ho Post out,” Lee said. “Gung Ho Post was about to go down. We see each other at association dinners and when (Yee) became commander, he didn’t want (the post) to collapse. He said, ‘Freeman, come and join the Gung Ho Post and help us.’”
At that time, the Gung Ho Post was about to be combined with George W. Manhart American Legion Post No. 391, but Lee helped bring in new members and continue the history of the Gung Ho Post.
In commenting about the Gung Ho Post’s current membership total of 27 members, Lee said, “So, now we’re at 120 percent strong.”
On Nov. 20, nine days after members of the Gung Ho Post participated in the Veterans Day parade in downtown Sacramento, a post meeting was held at the Pocket area home of Gene O. Chan.
In being that Thanksgiving was then about one week away, an early Thanksgiving lunch with turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, tea and other offerings preceded the meeting.
Attendees of the meeting included the aforementioned Chan, Lee and Yee, as well as Al Chew, Lawrence Chew, Nick Young, Jeff Wong Dai, Carlos Garcia, James Lew, Michael S. Wong, Paul Fong, Jr. and Jimmy Ong.
Members of the post, who were on the organization’s 2014-15 roster, but were not present at the gathering, were the aforementioned Frank Wong and Kern Chew, and Wallace Fong, Benton Hom, Bill Koontz, Don Lee, George W. Lee, Herbert Leong, George Louie, Poy K. Louie, Joyce Lee, Brandon Mark, Greg Miyata, Sam Ong, Dave Pevny, Joe Waugh III, Lawrence Wong and Randy Yee.
Eighty-nine-year-old Lawrence Chew, who grew up in the Delta area around Courtland and fought in combat, mostly in Germany, during World War II, explained that he enjoys the friendships he shares with other members of the post.
“I joined (the post more than) 10 years ago to get together with the buddies again,” Lawrence said. “They have all been in the service. I enjoy (being a member of the post). It’s camaraderie, and we always have a nice lunch, dinner.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

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.”