A guy once told me that Sacramento is “a good baseball town.” His reasoning went like this:
The weather here is pleasant in the spring.
It’s hot in the summer, but it cools off at night.
The fall weather is perfect for baseball.
One night a few weeks ago, I tested this theory. That night I attended a Sacramento River Cat’s baseball game with my colleagues from Valley Community Newspapers. My editor Monica Stark was there along with fellow writers Lance Armstrong and Matias Bombal.
Before the game began, we all clustered inside our enclosed box, but we ultimately moved out the door to the plastic seats assigned to our group.
It was great. The temperature hovered around 90 degrees, but a gentle breeze made it feel much cooler. We took in the ambiance of Raley Field and watched the River Cats play a great baseball game.
They started fast, scoring their first run in the third inning. After that, they piled up runs so that by the eighth inning they led 10 to 0.
Then, with the game well in hand, I headed for home.
As I walked out to my car, I stopped to look back at the ballpark. Its lights shined down brightly on the field, and I thought “what a great venue this is: Just the right size, friendly staff, and a clean and welcoming place to go.
Then, I thought back to the days of old Edmonds Field where my boyhood heroes, the Sacramento Solons played AAA baseball. Unlike Raley Field, it was old and a little weather-worn. But I loved that team that featured players like Al Heist, Nippy Jones, Cuno Barragan and Elmer Singleton.
All of them had spent time in the major leagues before landing in Sacramento. Nippy Jones was even featured in a memorable World Series play. In the end, they came here to our town and played hard every day like it really meant something, and we loved them for it.
Soon my mind drifted back to the present and I thought out loud that Sacramento really is a good baseball town, and now that we have the River Cats, it will stay that way for a long time.
A guy once told me that Sacramento is “a good baseball town.” His reasoning went like this:
Mark Twain said that golf is “a good walk spoiled.” Contrary to that notion, I love to play golf. I didn’t always feel that way though.
I first played the game in the early 1960s when I still lived on Janey Way. Then, my dad, a Sacramento police officer, came home from working a special event one day carrying a well-used set of golf clubs.
The set came in a worn out leather golf bag and featured clubs which did not seem to match, along with a full bag of old golf balls.
My brother Terry and I could not wait to try the set out. So, we carried the bag down to the Phoebe Hearst School yard and started hitting balls. We were horrible. The game looked so easy on television. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas hit the ball a mile.
We, on the other hand, either topped the ball a few feet, or hit it wildly left or right. No one dare walk near where we were practicing, in fear being struck. But, like good Relles’, we persisted.
Soon after that, we scheduled a round of golf at the Perkins Golf Course on Jackson Highway. We played with Randy Puccetti and Bob Pesce. Randy played respectably because his uncle had given him some lessons. Bob and Terry and I were a danger on the golf course.
Our shots from the first tee went awry. Terry topped his shot 50 feet. I hit mine about 100 yards long and 50 yards off course. The whole round went that way. We were so bad, that at one point, two middle-aged golfers behind us tried to give us some tips, to no avail. After that fiasco, we quit playing golf.
I took the game back up though, in my early 40s. I did it the right way this time. I started out by buying a used set of clubs and a video entitled “Automatic Golf.” The video demonstrated an easy and effective way to hit the ball. It worked. I began to play, not well, buy respectably.
I played the game with friends from work. We had a great time. We all played at about the same level so the games were competitive, and nobody took them too seriously.
I even went out a played with my dad who was a very good golfer. I dearly enjoyed that time spent with him before he died.
These days I play golf with my friends in the Sons in Retirement (SIR) Branch 117. We play every Monday (9 holes) during March – October. I play with a regular foursome that includes my friends Hal, Jim and Bob. We always try hard to make a good score, but first and foremost, we have fun.
As far as Mark Twain’s saying that golf is “a good walk spoiled”, I have to say I disagree. Now, that first round of golf I played when I lived on Janey Way so long ago is just another frustrating, but funny, Janey Way memory.
The Perfect Cat
At our house, we have the perfect cat. When we got her at age six weeks, she was a puff of white cotton with brown feet and tail and a little dark face: perfect Siamese markings. We proudly named her Sophie.
As she aged though, she lost some of her luster.
Her tail began to reflect feint white rings. One foot remained brown while another turned black and the others mottled.
When I took her to the SPCA for spaying, they noted “short hair/Siamese mix” on her medical record. Oh well, maybe she wasn’t so perfect.
However, she did retain her piercing blue eyes. She is smart too.
When she cleans herself, she goes to her water dish, dips her foot in it, and rubs it on her face and body to take a bath. We leave the heavy metal door to the garage ajar so she can get to her litter box, and when she needs to go, she sticks her foot into the crack, swipes the door open and runs through. At day break, when she is ready for breakfast, she jumps on the bed and talks to me, until I feed her. She runs our house.
She reminds me of another perfect cat I once owned on Janey Way. He came as a gift too.
One day, I went with my big sister to the house of a married couple she knew. We sat in their living room, drinking coffee, surrounded by a little of seal point Siamese kittens. They were so beautiful that I walked over and picked one up. It surprised me. It didn’t squirm or scratch or cry. It just purred.
Then its owner asked me, “Would you like to have him.” I said, “for sure.”
So, I took a perfect little Siamese cat home that day, wondering out loud, what my father would say. He loved the little animal. We named him Sinbad.
Sinbad grew to be a sleek and shiny feline. He made Janey Way his kingdom. Other cats, indeed other animals, walked a wide birth around him. If I saw him perched down at the corner of the street, I would yell “Sinbad,” and he soon came running to me.
One time, he got into a fight with a squirrel behind Dom Costamagna’s house. It caused his leg to become infected. Dad took him to the vet, at no small cost, and he soon returned to perfect health. Dad loved Sinbad.
Sadly though, we ultimately lost Sinbad. We let him out to play one night, and he never returned. We hoped someone just took him home with them, but you never know. He just disappeared.
These days, Sophie is our “perfect cat,” and Sinbad is a long lost, but treasured Janey Way memory.
When I logged onto my Facebook account a few weeks ago, I discovered a picture of my granddaughters, Gabrielle and Madeline, sitting in a tent, eating s’mores. I said to myself, “how cool, they’re camping out.” Sure enough, when I saw their mother next day, I said, “were the girls camping out?” She laughed and said, “Yes.”
This reminded me of the summer during the 1950s on Janey Way, when we slept out often. Back then, when the temperatures hit 100 or higher, we went running to mom and dad and asked to sleep out in our backyard. They rarely said no. We had no central air in our house at that time, so sleeping out offered a nice way to beat the heat.
So, by 9 p.m., as the sun set, you would see us lined up in sleeping bags across our backyard.
We never slept much though. We played cards by flashlight, told stories and jokes, and laughed infectiously. We made so much noise; I wonder how my parents ever slept. Every once in a while, my dad opened up the window and said, “You boys quiet down out there. That always kept us quiet for a while.”
Sometimes we snuck out of the yard to go down the street to scare the girls sleeping in another backyard. I am sure they expected us, so I doubt they were frightened.
Other times, we pooled our financial resources then walked over to Shakey’s Pizza on 56th and J to buy a large pepperoni pizza. Pizza always tasted so good, late at night.
Soon though, our eyelids got heavy and we settled into a peaceful sleep. With the Delta breeze blowing over our heads, we slept the night away.
When morning came, the sun shining down on our faces woke us up. Then after drinking a cup of hot chocolate, we were off and running for another carefree summer day. Maybe we would play basketball, maybe we would go to Glenn Hall Park pool to swim. It was summertime, and we had nothing to do but have fun.
Now, my granddaughters are sleeping out, and all I have left, is my lazy and hazy Janey Way memories.
My father had a tough life. Like all of the people from his generation, he survived the Great Depression and World War II. Not only that, Dad lost his father when he was 5 years old.
Consequently, he was raised by a step father who didn’t always treat him kindly. My aunt recalls an incident which took place when dad was 10. He was playing in his front yard on 5240 14th Ave. when his misbehaved. So, his step father picked up a piece of metal wire and struck him on the back. When Dad cried, the doctor who lived across the street came over and said: “Mr. Petta, if I ever see you do that again, I will have you arrested.”
After that, according to my aunt, Dad’s step father never struck him again. Dad went on to star in football and baseball at Sacramento High School and Sacramento City College.
When World War II broke out, Dad worked first in the Richmond Naval Ship Yard before serving honorably in the U. S. Navy.
When he returned to Sacramento in 1946, he got a job working as a milk truck driver for the Golden Gate Dairy. Then, in 1948, he got on as a patrol man with the Sacramento Police Department where he had a successful 31-year career. He started in patrol, but subsequently served as a detective and finally as the chief of the newly formed Warrants Division.
I worked for him there as a student assistant when I was in college. I remember talking to a lieutenant one day in the patrol room at the old police station on 6th and H streets. He said, “Your father is one hell of a man. At 5 feet, 9 inches, he is probably the smallest man in the department, but he is tough. If I was in a scuffle on the street, your dad is the man I’d want backing me up.” That made me proud of my dad.
However, my dad and I didn’t always get along after I reached teen age. I remember an incident which took place when I was a senior in high school. Dad, mom, my brothers and I went to Berkeley to watch my cousin Tom play for Cal in a college football game. Cal won that day, and after the game, my little brother John ran down onto the football field. So Dad looked at me and said, “Go get him and bring him back here.” Like a good son, I went down to the field to retrieve John.
Unfortunately, about 10,000 Cal fans dotted the field that day cheering on the Bears, so I followed the crowd through the tunnel to the Bear’s locker room in search of my little brother. There, I found John along with some of my aunts, uncles and cousins, and waited for my family to follow.
When they came, Dad was mad at me. So he walked toward me with his hand raised as if to hit me. I stepped backward, but he continued to approach me. Then I turned around, ran about 50 yards and said, “Do you think you can catch me?” When he kept coming, I turned and ran and ran, and ran, half of the way around the Memorial Stadium.
Eventually, I stopped to look back. Dad was no longer in site. So I began walking and wondering what I would do. Fortunately, I suddenly ran into my older sister Pat, leaving the game with her husband Gary. She said, “What’s up Mart,” so I explained what had happened. Then she said, “Don’t worry, we will take you home.”
When we arrived home, I walked through the front door and saw my family, seated at the dinner table eating. I walked right by them, down the hall to my bedroom. I didn’t eat dinner that night.
Next day, Dad didn’t say anything about what had happened.
I often wonder if he didn’t think to himself: “My son Marty is one hell of a man.”
“What Goes Around, Comes Around”
The week before last, I had lunch with a group of guys who once lived on Janey Way. We met to celebrate a visit from an old friend, Jim Costamagna. Like us, Jim grew up on Janey Way, running around in the pit (the vacated sand and gravel site behind the houses on the east side of our neighborhood), competing in touch football games on the street in front of our houses, and playing the hubcap trick over on M Street. We had a lot of fun and many adventures back then.
Eventually though, we all grew up.
Some went to college, and others joined the military. Jim took a different path; he moved away.
He settled first in Denver, Colorado. Later, he headed north to Montana where he landed in the small college town of Missoula. He stuck there. He took a job with the Montana Department of Forestry, met his future wife Debbie, bought a piece of property, built his own home, and settled down to raise a family.
They raised two boys in Missoula. One suffered from severe seizures early on and still lives with the family. The other boy Justin, ultimately graduated from college in Missoula, and then moved away, much like his father had done so many years ago.
He went first to take a job in Australia. When that job ran its course, he moved to Florida, before landing in Sacramento, of all places. Here, he took a job with the State of California and settled into a career in public service.
Soon, he met a girl, and now they are engaged. They plan to marry next year.
Justin just purchased a home in West Sacramento and it looks like they are here to stay.
That is why Jim came to visit. The old home builder came home to help his son make improvements to the house he had just purchased.
So, there we sat at a restaurant in West Sacramento, having lunch and telling old stories from our childhood. I leaned over to ask Jim if he might visit Sacramento more frequently now that his son lived here. He told me they planned to do just that, most likely during the cold Montana winters. “The 50 degree temperatures here in Sacramento seem a lot better than the sub-zero Montana winter lows,” he told me with a smile on his face.
I thought to myself, “Isn’t it funny. Jim moved away to Montana so many years ago. Now his son moves back here. What goes around comes around.”
Now, our friend, Jim Costamagna, has returned to his rightful place in the Janey Way Gang.
When I was growing up on Janey Way, we spent lots of time at my Aunt Margaret’s house on Hillsborough Lane in South Land Park.
By the time I hit teen age, Grandma Petta had grown too old to host our extended family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so Aunt Margaret took on that responsibility. She had a big house with a game room in the back. That made it a perfect place for all the children in our expanding extended family.
Besides the game room with its full sized pool table, the thing I remember most about Aunt Margaret’s house is a painting which hung on her living room wall. It featured towering rocks in colors of red, pink, brown and tan, contrast against a brilliant blue sky. The horizon lay covered with cactus and small evergreens. You could see a smattering of snow in the distance.
I pondered what I saw in this picture. It seemed surreal. How could snow be found in such a parched looking landscape? A few weeks ago I found the answer to this question.
My wife Barbara and I had seen an ad on television touting the national parks in Utah. We were taken by the beauty of these sites, so we decided to go and see them.
The wonders I saw there, brought back memories of Aunt Margaret’s picture.
We visited three national parks and one state park: Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Canyon Reef national parks and Petrified Forest state park.
Bryce Canyon Park brought back long-forgotten memories of the painting on Aunt Margaret’s wall. Towering, shear-faced rocks spread out across the horizon. Interspersed among them, were smaller rocks with human shapes, forged by weather over millions of years. Small pines and cactus filled the spaces between the rocks, and nestled underneath it all, were patches of white snow. Yes, in the mountainous dessert, eight thousand feet above sea level, they still have snow in April.
It is true, reality is stranger than fiction. There is a place where rocks are pink and red, the sky is bluer than one could ever imagine and snow covers the parched ground. I don’t know where the picture on Aunt Margaret’s wall is today, but I do know where it was most likely painted. It is real, not the figment on some artist’s imagination.
Now, the painting that so impressed me in my youth, is yet another unforgettable, Janey Way memory.
The Dalton Children Revisited
Earlier this week, while perusing my Facebook messages, I discovered an eye-opening note. It came from a man named Ray Dalton. Those of you who have followed my column since its inception may remember a story titled: “The Dalton Children.”
That column tells the story of five children, Carolyn, Wayne, Donna, Bonnie and Wiley Dalton, abandoned by their parents and raised by their grandmother.
Unfortunately, their grandmother died suddenly in the early 1960s. When that happened, the Sacramento Department of Social Services looked for foster care for the children and placed the five oldest Dalton kids with their Aunt Mary Kinzel on Janey Way. The two youngest children, Ray and Patrick, went to live with a foster family in Southern California.
Ray is the one who sent me the Facebook message. He said that the story touched him and that he has been trying to reconnect with his siblings. His message made me feel good because I, too, would like to reconnect with the Dalton children.
When I wrote the story about how the kid’s aunt Mary took then into her house on Janey Way and raised them to adulthood, one of my Janey Way friends said that he felt that the Dalton children had a tough time of it in the Kinzel home.
You know, that does not surprise me. It had to be hard in that household. Mary had two children of her own: Richard and Nancy. Then, having five new children thrust into her world could not have been easy.
However, you would never have known it. The children were always neatly dressed and well behaved. They never complained, even though they had to do chores, some of us never had to do.
I think living on Janey Way really made their difficult transition a lot easier.
We accepted them into our gang without question. They became a part of the fabric of our neighborhood.
The one sad thing is, that they each, in turn left the Kinzel house when they turned eighteen years of age. This did not surprise them. Mary had told them well in advance, that it would happen.
However, once they left Janey Way, we lost track of them. The oldest girl, Carolyn, found work and moved on to who knows where. Her brother Wayne went on to study at U.C. Davis, married, and took a job outside of Sacramento. Unfortunately, he died of cancer in his early thirties.
The other kids went their separate ways. I heard that they moved to Oregon to re-unite with their parents.
I would love to see them again someday. They were nice kids.
However, now their story is just another mysterious Janey Way Memory.
Earlier this month I shared lunch with a couple of my oldest friends: Dave Jurin, Tom Watson and Luigi Talini.
We drove all the way out to Walnut Grove on the Delta to eat at Guisti’s, a landmark in that area. Dave and I arrived first, so we waited in the bar for the others to show up. Soon, Tom sidled in and the bartender pointed us to a seat in the restaurant. A few minutes later Luigi arrived and joined us at our table. He had come all the way from his home in the Bay Area to join in the festivities.
I have known these guys since the 1950s when we attended St. Mary’s School together, so it didn’t take long for us to start telling old, well-worn stories.
Tom spun out the story of when he and Vince Angel took Candace Doddridge and Colleen Kelly into the crawl space under St. Mary’s church to “steal some kisses.” They used church candles to light their way.
Unfortunately, they were caught in the act by the inquisitive Father Russo who ushered them out into the garden area beside the church where he admonished them for taking lit candles down there saying: “You could have started a fire.” Fortunately, Mother Carmela let the kids off easy for that offense.
After that, Luigi told us how he ultimately got involved with his families nursery business on 56th Street and Folsom Boulevard. After high school, he went to work for the old Cal-Western Life Company on 21st and L streets. Then, after working there for seven years, he walked into the boss’s office one day and quit.
That weekend, he had a talk with his dad saying that he needed to take a job at the nursery. His dad responded, “I don’t want you to work here.” Dad, ultimately gave in though, and let Luigi work at the nursery. The rest is history. Now, Luigi owns and runs the family nursery as well as operating his own landscape company in Walnut Creek. Life has a way of taking turns we don’t expect.
Dave Jurin told us a story with a twist of its own. When he returned from a tour of duty in Viet Nam in the 1960s he tried attending City College. That didn’t work out for him. So, he went into the culinary business. He worked for years first as a cook, then a sous chef at places like the Sterling Hotel and the Del Paso Country Club.
However, when he hit his 40s, he returned to college and ultimately graduated from Sacramento State College with a degree in primary education. He planned to teach, but that career did not pan out for him, so he went to work with the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance as an eligibility analyst. Life took yet another unexpected turn.
These days our lives have come full circle. Tom and I are retired. Dave is contemplating retirement later this year. Luigi soldiers on, running his business enterprises. Who knows when he will throw in the towel?
Now we are just old friends, telling our stories and sharing some laughs. “There is no friend, like an old friend.”
When I grew up on Janey Way in the 1950s and ‘60s, 40 children called it home. They came in all sizes: short, tall, big and small. One boy in particular stands out in my memory. His name was John.
John had a nearly 100 percent hearing loss, but he managed to forge a place for himself in our gang. He taught himself to read lips early on, so he could speak words that he couldn’t even hear. But, the kids teased him a little though, because of the way he mispronounced some words.
He didn’t let it get him down. Instead, he developed a sense of humor. Remember the old saying, “Make them laugh with you, not at you.” John embraced that idea. He told jokes; he mimicked the other boys. And, sure enough, they began to laugh with him. They even gave him a nickname: Bobaloo. I don’t know where that came from. I think Desi Arnaz used to sing a Cuban song of that name. No matter, John became the Bobaloo of Janey Way.
John did well in grammar school in the David Lubin special needs class. His speech improved, and he demonstrated a real talent for the arts. However, in junior high school and high school he floundered, but he graduated on time.
After high school, the kids of Janey Way went in all different directions; some joined the military, and others went to college or got jobs.
John tried several different occupations. He worked first for our neighbor Rick, in a liquor supply distribution warehouse. After that, he worked with his cousin Ron doing landscaping. Eventually, he took a job with Relles Florist, first delivering flowers, and then doing floral design. He taught himself to make arrangements, funeral sprays and even wedding flowers. He had found his nitch.
John has worked at Relles Florist for more than 30 years. He has become my designated floral designer. When I order flowers for my wife, I always ask that he to do the work. That way, the arrangement is sure to be beautiful.
I think you can tell that John is more than just my friend. In fact, he is my younger brother. These days, John lives in our family home on Janey Way. He takes good care of our family home, and I help take care of him. They don’t call John bobaloo anymore, he is just Johnny. Now, bobaloo is just another inspirational Janey Way memory.