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

California Indian Heritage Center: A partnership between state and tribes

The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on this property, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. Photo courtesy of California State Parks

The future California Indian Heritage Center will be located on this property, along the Sacramento River in West Sacramento. Photo courtesy of California State Parks

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series about the future California Indian Heritage Center.

The future California Indian Heritage Center in West Sacramento, as explained in the first article of this series, is on course to open in less than a decade. The center will replace the California State Indian Museum, which opened on the grounds of Sutter’s Fort in 1940.
In commenting about the initial phase of the project, Dana Jones, district superintendent of the Capital District for California State Parks, said that the closure of the present museum and the movement of its collection to the initial portion of the future center “will definitely happen in less than 10 years.” And she added, “The full build-out of the new project is more than 10 years (away from its completion).”
Curtis Park resident Larry Myers, who serves as president of the California Indian Heritage Center Foundation, described the future center as a “necessary” place.
“It’s necessary (to build the center),” said Myers, who is a member of the Pinoleville Pomo Nation, a federally recognized tribe of the Pomo people in Mendocino County. “It’s something very vital. It’s something that the Indian community needs, that the citizens of California need. I think it’s something that can be just really great, and I think the Indians of California really deserve something like this.”
Myers, who moved to Sacramento from the Mendocino County city of Ukiah (where his tribe conducts its business) 35 years ago, spoke with much enthusiasm regarding the partnership that has been formed between the state and California Indian tribes, in regard to the future center, which will be located across from Discovery Park, overlooking the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers.
“What we anticipate is the tribes are going to be the leaders in what the (center’s) designs are going to look like, what needs to be displayed and how its going to be displayed,” Myers said. “So, it’s not going to be up to me or the State Parks to say this is what we’re going to display at this time. The tribes, they know their history and they know what’s important to them, so they can say this is important to be displayed right now and we want to make changing exhibits. Obviously, there are going to be a lot more displays than what is currently in the state Indian Museum.

The site of the future Indian center is outlined in yellow in this aerial photograph. Photo courtesy of California State Parks

The site of the future Indian center is outlined in yellow in this aerial photograph. Photo courtesy of California State Parks

“That’s what makes this partnership so unique is it’s state parks’ property, and state parks is going to play a big role in it, but it’s (the tribes’) culture and it’s their heritage and it’s important that they are the driving force behind the story that is told.
“What state parks is excited about is the ability to create this new idea of a partnership and allow the people whose culture it is to be able to tell their story. I think we’re kind of creating a new future for partnerships in state parks.”
Myers said that there have been many efforts to encourage more California Indian tribe members to become involved with the project.
“We need people that want to preserve (their history),” Myers said. “You need people that are interested in their culture, and want to preserve it and want to share it. We need them involved in what we do and how we do it. And, right now I think and feel we (will not) get excitement until we start to build. I think the community is going to be sort of sitting there watching. For the last 25 years or so, I’ve been involved in trying to get this thing completed and working at it and talking to people. There have been efforts in the past to try to (get more people involved). The community has got to the point of (wondering), ‘Well, maybe it will happen, maybe not.’ (A) just wait and see kind of thing.”
Although it was reported by this publication on April 15, 2010 that the new center had been scheduled to open during the summer of 2016, Ileana Maestas, environmental coordinator for the capital district and former curator of the Indian museum, assures the community that the extension for the opening of the museum simply comes with the territory of establishing a new museum.
“Well, I think (people are) kind of holding their breaths, because this project has been going on so long,” Maestas said. “Everybody has the same question, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ I totally understand that. But it’s not a project that’s been passive by any means. Coming from someone who worked in the museum world, to get a museum off the ground, it takes time, and I think it has taken extra time, because of the whole state process. When I look at some of the other major museums that have been created, they take time.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

KCRA introduced to Sacramento radio listeners nearly 70 years ago

KCRA announcer Steve George is shown in this 1940s photograph. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

KCRA announcer Steve George is shown in this 1940s photograph. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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 experienced much growth in the radio world in 1945, when the city was introduced to two new local commercial stations.
The first of those stations to be introduced to Sacramento radio listeners was KCRA-AM.
With its official debut on April 23, 1945 at 6 a.m., KCRA-AM became Sacramento’s third commercial radio station, as it joined KFBK, which first broadcast in 1925, and KROY, which first went on the air in 1937.
The original partnership of the station consisted of Vernon Hansen of the Crystal Cream and Butter Co.; David R. McKinley, owner of Channel Bakeries, and Ewing Cole “Gene” Kelly, operator of a local advertising agency.
That partnership, which was recognized as the Central Valleys Broadcasting Co., was organized three years prior to the establishment of KCRA-AM.
Hansen, Kelly and McKinley filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission in July 1944 and received a grant for operating a radio station on Nov. 9, 1944.
Construction on the KCRA-AM studios began on March 14, 1945.
KCRA-AM made its unofficial debut on April 12, 1945, when Gov. Earl Warren was brought to the station by Kelly to comment on the air regarding the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The station, which was then the only National Broadcasting Company outlet in the Sacramento Valley, began on a wavelength of 1340 kilocycles and was serviced by Associated Press news and World Broadcasting Company entertainment features.
The first main studios of KCRA-AM were located in the Capital National Bank Building at 1007 7th St., and the station then-utilized a 250-watt transmitter and a 200-foot tower that sat 900 feet north of A Street at 27th Street.
The station’s other studios included facilities in the California-Western State Life Insurance Building at 926 J St., Room 604.
According to an article in the April 23, 1945 edition of The Sacramento Union, the original programs of KCRA-AM were broadcast to an audience of 350,000 in Sacramento, Yolo, Solano, Colusa, Nevada, Placer, Sutter, Yuba and El Dorado counties.
KCRA-AM was joined by KCRA 96.1 FM in 1947.
A U.S. commercial FM stations directory, compiled from official FCC records through Sept. 2, 1947, notes that the license for KCRA-FM was granted on March 12, 1947.
On Nov. 18, 1948, a voluntary assignment of license from Central Valleys Broadcasting Co. to KCRA, Inc. was completed.
It was also in the late 1940s when KCRA-AM made its move from 1340 kilocycles to 1320 kilocycles.
The Union reported on Sept. 11, 1949 that KCRA would be relocating from its then headquarters at 926 J St. to a building at 1011 11th Street, above the Country Maid Creamery restaurant “in 60 to 90 days.”
With that move, KCRA increased it overall floor space from 1,200 square feet to 4,000 square feet. The new plant featured two large studios, a control room and 15 offices.
It was also around that time that Howard Smiley, who formerly worked for KFBK and KROY, was hired as KCRA’s station manager.
In 1955, KCRA opened its new radio and TV studios at 310 10th St.
KCRA-TV was originally under the proprietorship of Gene Kelly and brothers Vernon, Gerald and Kenneth Hansen.
Gene Kelly died at the age of 57 on Oct. 29, 1960 and his widow, Nina, officially became a licensee of the corporation.
Another KCRA license change occurred on May 23, 1962, when the Hansen family, then owners of 50 percent of KCRA’s AM, FM and TV licenses, sold their share of the business to Nina and her sons, Robert E. and Jon S. Kelly. At that point, the Kellys officially began doing business as the Kelly Broadcasting Co.
KCRA-FM became KCTC in September 1968.
In 1977, the Kelly Broadcasting Co. began operating radio studios at 2225 19th St.
On July 3, 1978, The Sacramento Bee reported that the FCC had approved the transfer of licenses of KCRA-AM and KCTC to WGN of California, Inc. for $5.6 million.
It was also noted in the article that the Kelly Broadcasting Co. had reached an agreement on the sale with WGN Continental Broadcasting Co. during the previous August, and that the Kelly Broadcasting Co. had continued to operate the stations until the sale was completed.
KCRA 1320 AM became KGNR News Radio 132 in August 1978.
As for the second aforementioned radio station to begin its operations in Sacramento in 1945, a history of that station – KXOA – will be presented in the next edition of this publication.

Lance@valcomnews.com

Charles Swanston Memorial Fountain pays tribute to early area resident

The Charles Swanston statue is among the various memorials at William Land Park.

The Charles Swanston statue is among the various memorials at William Land Park.

At the west end of William Land Park and bordering the north side of the Sacramento Zoo, is a memorial fountain that is dedicated to an early day Sacramentan named Charles Swanston.
In being that Charles died more than 125 years ago, it is understandable that many people in this community would benefit from a history regarding this former local citizen.
Born in Ohio to Ireland natives William and Elizabeth (McCurdy) Swanston on June 21, 1833, Charles was raised in that state, working on his father’s farm.
In 1865, Charles made his way to the Golden State, where he would initially work as a stock buyer for various parties.
Charles’ next financial endeavor was to establish a butcher’s shop.
According to the 1931 book, “History of the Sacramento Valley, California, Vol. 2,” Charles’ expanded business later became the largest of its kind in the Sacramento Valley and the only packing concern in the capital city.
As part of his business, which became strictly a wholesale operation, Charles owned 200 acres of land about two miles from Sacramento. On that property, he had packing and slaughterhouse structures that included the then latest equipment.
Charles was a large buyer and seller of stock for his business, which was also a feeder of beef cattle in Nevada and Oregon.
The aforementioned 1931 history book notes that Charles had an “unerring judgment in the selection of bullocks, sheep and hogs” and was “a man of great vision and abundant faith in the future development of the Sacramento Valley, a faith that he backed with his time, efforts and money.”
In 1861, Charles married the then-21-year-old Nancy M. Powers, who was a native of Beaver County, Penn., and together, they had three children, Lillian, George and Frank.
Nancy died at the age of 35 and her funeral was held at her old residence on K Street, between 18th and 19th streets.
George would eventually join his father in his business, and together they established the meat packing firm, Swanston & Son.
Swanston & Son was in operation as early as 1892, and George, who was a partner and general manager of the business, was heading a branch office in the Stoll Building at the southwest corner of 5th and K streets by at least 1898.
On April 14, 1911, Charles returned home from a trip to Bakersfield and complained of feeling faint. He died in the early morning of the next day before a doctor could arrive at his residence.
An announcement of Charles’ death in the April 16, 1911 edition of The San Francisco Call notes that he was “known from the Mexican border to Nevada, Oregon and Idaho as one of the biggest cattlemen in the state” and that through his business he owned large tracts of rich agricultural land in the Sacramento Valley.
The firm continued to successfully operate following Charles’ death.
An example of the business’s latter large scale operations appears in a brief news item in the April 5, 1913 edition of The Pacific Rural Press. That item reads: “Swanston & Son have been putting 1,000 head of steers from the San Joaquin Valley on their Colusa, Yolo and Lake county range. The cattle will be sent later to the Klamath Meadows to be finished for beef.”
On Nov. 14, 1922, the same publication reported: “Swanston & Son, Sacramento, topped the steer sale (at the California National Livestock Show in San Francisco) by paying 25 cents per pound for the champion shorthorn steer, Straloch Corporal (who was dropped at the Straloch Farm in Davis on Jan. 11, 1921).”
Among the various employees of the firm was Oswald Hall, a butcher who resided at 1930 F St.
Swanston & Son remained in operation until as late as 1926 under its president Robert Swanston, who was the son of George Swanston.
As a tribute to his father, George Swanston donated $10,000 for the creation of the aforementioned Charles Swanston Memorial Fountain, which sits upon a knoll and includes a statue of Charles that bears the inscriptions: “To the pioneers” and “Erected by George Swanston in memory of his father Charles Swanston.”
Although the featured topic of this article is the legacy of Charles, it should be recognized that George’s legacy is also substantial.
In addition to his successful business affairs with his father, George, in association with F.H. McKevitt, was involved with the 1922 sale of property, which would become William Land Park.
George died on July 23, 1923, prior to the completion of the park and its memorial fountain.
The memorial fountain was mentioned in the Jan. 4, 1923 minutes of the Sacramento City Council, as follows: “Communication from George Swanston (sic) relative to the adoption of plans for the improvement of William Land Park and his offer to build or cause to be built a public drinking fountain to be placed in the William Land Park and to be known as the Charles Swanston Memorial Fountain was ordered filed.”
The memorial, which sits in the park’s formal garden area, was designed and sculpted by the famous sculptor, painter, muralist, etcher and art educator Ralph Stackpole (1885-1973). It was officially accepted by the city on June 18, 1926.
Stackpole, who was a native of Williams, Ore., moved to San Francisco when he was 16 years old and became a student at the California School of Design (predecessor of the San Francisco Art Institute) two years later. At that institution, he was a student of painter Arthur F. Mathews (1860-1945). And at the same time, he was an apprentice of sculptor Arthur Putnum (1873-1930).
The great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed the Nob Hill home of the California School of Design.
Stackpole next studied art in Paris, and, in 1911, he returned to the United States, spending a year studying in New York under the Ohio-born artist Robert Henri (1865-1929).
Stackpole then made his way back to San Francisco, where he established an art studio at 728 Montgomery St. and taught sculpture classes at the California School of Design for many years. He also spent two years teaching the same subject at Mills College in Oakland.
It was during that era of his life that Stackpole created many sculpted works, including those for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and the 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition. His works also include murals in Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and in the Sacramento City College auditorium, and a fountain at Cesar Chavez Plaza on the block bounded by 9th, 10th, I and J streets.
In 1922, Stackpole became friends with the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957), who he would bring to San Francisco eight years later.
Stackpole spent the final two decades of his life residing in Chauriat, France.
Like Stackpole, Charles Swanston left a strong legacy in this world.
In addition to his monument and other Swanston named local landmarks, including Land Park’s Swanston Way and Swanston Park at 2350 Northrop Ave., Charles has been memorialized through many positive words.
Certainly, among the words that support the worthiness of having a monument dedicated in his honor are the following words published in the aforementioned 1931 book: “Indeed (Charles) was a prominent factor in the commercial development of this city and was recognized as a man of reliable judgment, fine public spirit and genuine worth.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

Japanese had early presence in Riverside-Pocket area

Rose (Ishimoto) Takata grew up in the historic Riverside area of Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Rose (Ishimoto) Takata grew up in the historic Riverside area of Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

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

Much has been written about the Portuguese people of the early years of the Riverside-Pocket area in this publication. But it should be recognized that Japanese also have a rich history in that area.
By the 1920s, the Riverside-Pocket area consisted of about two-thirds Portuguese people and about one-third Japanese people.
Certainly, one person who knows a considerable amount about that area’s early Japanese history is 91-year-old Riverside area native Shigeko “Rose” (Ishimoto) Takata.
During an interview with this publication last week, Takata recalled some of her early memories of that area.
“I still remember quite a bit of what went on when I was young,” said Takata, who was one of the six children of Sehei and Chiyo Ishimoto. “I went to school there (in the Riverside area) in the 1930s. I went to Sutter School (in a building that now houses Cabrillo Civic Club #5 at 4605 Karbet Way).”
In regard to some of the Japanese families of that area, Takata said, “One was named Kanaka, and mine was Ishimoto, of course, and we both had chickens and then we also grew vegetables. But it was mostly chicken. We were a chicken ranch. And there was (the) Kawai (family). They were just strictly (a vegetable farming family). I don’t know what kind of (vegetable) farming it was, but (it was vegetable) farming. (The Kanakas) and us, we were mainly chicken farmers. These three Japanese families lived on (the same) property (near Sutter School).
“There were other (Japanese families) right around the Sutter School there. A bunch of them had poultry farms. We kind of centered right around the school where I lived. There was one other (Japanese family) that was fairly far (away). Most of us residents had farms. You know where The Trap is? The Trap (which did not yet have that name) was there at the time we were there, too. It was owned by the Pimentels. That’s an old bar that’s been there for years and years and years. But anyway, around The Trap (at 6125 Riverside Blvd.), around that area, that Greenhaven area, there were a lot of farmers, truck farms. And then further up by (today’s) Pocket Road and so forth, around there were (several) Japanese farms. (The farms) went from Pocket Road to the river (levee).”
In response to the inquiry of when her family began residing in the Riverside area, Tanaka said, “I can’t say, but my oldest brother (Yoshio) was born in 1914, and they were already here (in the Riverside area). We lived by where the Sutter School was (located) on (the old) Riverside Road. I remember our rural route box number (at that time) was 123. We moved later just before the war (to) Sutterville Heights, which is near William Land Park, in that area.

This photograph from the 1941 C.K. McClatchy High School yearbook shows Rose Ishimoto, who would later become Rose Takata.

This photograph from the 1941 C.K. McClatchy High School yearbook shows Rose Ishimoto, who would later become Rose Takata.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census lists the then 20-year-old Japanese native Sehei Ishimoto as a farm laborer residing in the San Joaquin Township of Sacramento County with Japanese immigrants K. Toro (24-year-old head of household) and M. Toro (28-year-old brother of K. Toro). And the same census notes that Sehei immigrated to the United States in 1899.
The San Francisco Call, in its Wednesday, Aug. 20, 1913 edition, recognizes that Sehei and Chiyo were married during the previous day.
Included under a heading, which reads, “SAN FRANCISCO – The following marriage licenses were issued Wednesday (sic), August 19, 1913,” are the words: “ISHIMOTO-IWATSUBO – Sehei Ishimoto, 32, and Chiyo Iwatsubo, 20, both of Sacramento.”
The 1920 Census notes that Chiyo emigrated from Japan in 1913 and was then residing with her husband and three children on Riverside Road in the Riverside area of Sacramento County.
In recalling her school days, Takata said, “We were in the Sutter School District. There were people who lived beyond (today’s) The Trap (bar, at the present address of 6125 Riverside Blvd., and attended the Lisbon schools). (That) was another area that had Japanese.”
After departing from Sutter School each day, Takata would attend classes at a Japanese school.
In recalling that school, Takata said, “I did go to a Japanese school. Just about everybody did (attend that school). They had classes from first grade to eighth grade, and then on Saturdays they had what they called middle school. There must have been at least 100 kids (who attended the Japanese school). I would think, but I really have no idea. The classes were divided. There were two rooms. From Sutter School where we went, (the Japanese) school was, oh, I would say only about maybe four or five blocks (away). My teacher (at the Japanese school) was Matsumura. I think at one time I knew (her first name).”
Takata also recalled several of her classmates, including Ruth Imoto, Noboru Oto and her best friend, Yaeko Muramoto.
After school, Takata would complete chores on her family’s farm.
Takata later attended California Junior High School at 2991 Land Park Dr. and graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in June 1941.
After being asked to summarize her life growing up during the Depression, Rose Takata said, “I tell people, we were poor, but we didn’t know it. I grew up in the 1930s. We always had food, we always had clothing, and we had a (Japanese) baseball team, you know, we had different things.”

Lance@valcomnews.com