Janey Way Memories #145: Sleeping Out

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.

Janey Way Memories #144

One hell of a man

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.”


Janey Way Memories #142

“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.

Janey Way Memories #131

The Picture on Aunt Margaret’s Wall

Janey Way
Janey Way

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.

Janey Way Memories #138

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.


Janey Way Memories

Old Friends
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.”

Janey Way Memories: Bobaloo

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.


Janey Way Memories: Starting Over

When I returned home from my 2-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army in 1971, I had to literally start my life all over again. All I possessed was the cloths on my back, but fortunately my parents let me take up residence at their home on Janey Way. I knew I had to get some money fast, so I did what all the returning soldiers did back then: I applied for unemployment compensation.

That was easy. I took the bus down town to the unemployment office and stood in line with the other unemployed people. After a while, my name was called and I went to a desk to meet with a claims representative. He helped me fill out my application, and then told me, “You should receive your first check in about two weeks.”

Sure enough, on Friday, two weeks later, my check arrived. It didn’t seem like very much money. I knew I could not live independently on that paltry amount. However, my mom gave me a good suggestion. She said, “go down and apply for a job with the state, Marty. They always need new employees.”

So early next morning, I went down to the State Personnel Board and put in my application for an entry level position: Clerk I. Soon, I received a notice to come and take a test for that position. The test proved easy and I passed with flying colors. By December, I interviewed for a job with the Department of Justice.

The interview went well. The guy heading up the interview panel was Robert Scott. He told me right off that he knew and liked my parents. I got the job.

I began my career with the state of California on Dec. 26, 1971. Little did I know that it would become my life’s work. My goal had been to become a teacher, but circumstances beyond my control ultimately prevented me from obtaining that goal.

Things went well at the DOJ though. I got promoted to Clerk II a year later. I remember receiving the news from a supervisor named Marlene who ran my unit, the Record Analysis and Coding Unit (RAC). She did not like me much for whatever reason, but she was happy to advise me I placed number one on the list.

I soon left RAC and took a swing-shift job in the Folders Unit. That group filed criminal dispositions in a massive warehouse that held almost 5 million criminal records, encased in folders, stacked on shelves just like you find in the library.

We received a stack of about 700 criminal disposition forms every shift and had to file them by the end of the night. I finished early most nights, and then sat around pretending to look busy until the shift ended.

Working swing shift enabled me to return to Sacramento State College and resume my academic pursuits. A few years later, in June of 1975, I graduated from Sac State with a baccalaureate degree in Social Science, and the rest is history. I took a state job as a Research Analyst at the Department of Rehabilitation, where learned how to use a computer. Ultimately that led me to a career in Information Technology. I retired in 2002 as the Chief of the Bureau of Administration at the Stephen P. Teale State Data Center.

My mom’s suggestion to apply for work with the state in 1971 had led me to a career I had never even imagined back then. What did Forrest Gump say? “Life is like a box of candy, you never know what you are going to get.” Now, my return home from the Army in 1971 is just another surprising Janey Way memory.


Janey Way Memories: Returning Home – Part 2

When I separated from the U.S. Army in Germany during 1971, I opted to stay in Europe to travel. So, together with my buddy, Sergeant Jeff Lucas, I bought a car and headed south. Over the next three months, we traveled to Austria, Yugoslavia and Italy. We toured Salzburg, Vienna, Venice, Florence and Rome.

However, in July, Jeff told me that he had to return home to begin interviewing for teaching jobs in the fall. So, we drove back to Germany and sold our car. Then, Jeff headed home and I boarded a train bound for Barcelona, Spain.

There, I met up with three Australian blokes we had encountered in Italy. They were going to Pamplona, Spain for the running of the bulls, and when they offered a ride, I accepted. Off we went to Pamplona, then to San Sebastian, and ultimately to the party capital of Europe, Tormolinos. We stayed there on the south coast of Spain partying with the European summer tourists for weeks. Then, in September, my money began to run out. I had to return to Germany to get my military hop back to the U.S.A. So, I grabbed my backpack and sleeping bag and headed off.

I took a bus and then a train to the French boarder, then hitch-hiked through France to Belgium, where I met my new friend Guy Muzzi. After staying with Guy about a week, I traveled to Rhine-Main Airbase in Frankfurt Germany where I arranged a military flight back to the states.

I ended up at an Airbase in New Jersey, where I signed my final military document, a form releasing me back to civilian life. At last, I was a free man. From there, I took a bus to Allentown, Pennsylvania to visit my good friend and travel partner, Jeff Lucas.

Unfortunately, Jeff was not at home. However, his kind mother allowed me to stay over and wait for him. That worked out, because Jeff returned home a day later. He was surprised and happy to see his travel buddy. We renewed acquaintances for a few days, then I was off again, this time I headed for Detroit, Michigan. Detroit is right across the river from Windsor, Ontario, where my new girlfriend, Judy Caverzan lived.

I hitched a ride with a trucker, and made it in one day. There, I walked across a bridge to Canada and found Judy’s home. No one answered the door, so I waited on the porch. Soon a car pulled up and Judy jumped out. Like Jeff in Allentown, Judy was flabbergasted to see me. But, I visited her for about a week and we had a great time touring Windsor and Detroit and gallivanting through the Canadian country side. Soon though, I had to get going. Judy offered to buy me a plane ticket home, but I refused. I was on a mission!

So she drove me over to the outskirts of Detroit and dropped me at a rest stop. I put a thumb out again and found a trucker headed for Laramie, Wyoming. We got there in one day, arriving at sunset. That proved a nerve racking experience. I had to spend the night under a freeway over-crossing. It was cold and kind of frightening. The people, who saw me, honked and yelled vulgar insults – this, to a military veteran.

Anyway, the next day, I put my thumb out again and got a ride from yet another trucker. This guy was going to Denver, Colorado. We never made it that far. We came to an interchange in Nebraska that went one way to Denver and the other way to Salt Lake City. I wanted Salt Lake, so I got off right on the freeway: not a good plan. Eventually, a Nebraska state trooper stopped and told me to get off the freeway. So, I hopped a fence and began to walk. Ultimately, I came to a bridge over a stream where I set out my back pack with a sign saying, “California or bust.” Then I waved at all the cars going by. A lot of them went by, but soon a car stopped.

The guy driving the car looked a little strange. He wore a black leather jacket and a cowboy hat. He had hair down to his shoulders and dark sun glasses. Surprisingly, he handed me the keys and said, “You drive.” When I got in his mint green, souped up, Plymouth Roadrunner, he lowered his seat and pulled the cowboy hat over his eyes. I started the car and took off like a rocket.

We arrived at Salt Lake in late afternoon and I pulled off at the edge of town. I disembarked there after thanking the guy for the ride, and took a minute to access my situation. I looked south and saw what looked like an industrial district. I looked north and saw stores, restaurants and motels. I went north. Soon, I found a motel I thought I could afford. So, I went in and booked a room for the night for the reasonable price of $13. Then, I grabbed the key and proceeded to my room which was clean and comfortable. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

After showering and changing my clothes I went out to get something to eat. I quickly found a café that looked inviting. After my cool reception in Wyoming and Nebraska, I wondered out loud, if they would refuse to serve me. No problem, the young waitress said, “Come on in partner, and sit down right over here.”

I will never forget how good that felt. I still hold the people of Utah in high esteem. Next day, I went back to where I stood the day before, and held out my sign. A few minutes later, a Volkswagen van pulled in to the gas station on the corner and stopped. The driver went into the garage to get a part, and the passenger ran into the adjacent mini-mart. When they came back out, they waved me over. I was in luck; they were going to Chico, California.

Off, we went, through Utah, then Nevada and into California. By night time we had arrived in Chico. There, the driver said he would be visiting his parents in Sacramento the next day, and invited me to spend the night.

Next morning, we drove the two hours to Sacramento and I had him drop me off at MacFarlane’s Candy on Alhambra Blvd. Hopefully, my mom would be working that day. Thankfully, I saw her waiting on a customer as I entered the door.

She said, “Hold on sir, I will be with you in a minute.” Then she did a double-take and ran around the counter to hug me saying, “I can’t believe you’re back.” Later, she called dad who came to pick me up. When we arrived home, my younger brother John was waiting. It was like an old fashioned reunion.

I have never forgotten that day. I turned a page then, and began a new, adult life: yet another inspirational Janey Way memory.


Janey Way Memories #133: You Can’t Go Back

They say you can’t go back, and I believe that is true. My wife Barbara and I recently returned from a 10-day whirlwind trip to Europe.
We spent three days in Budapest, Hungary, and five days in Prague, Czech Republic, We also took a 2-day side trip to Gunzburg, Germany, my U.S. Army duty station more than 40 years ago. Wow, what blast from the past. The side-trip turned into quite an adventure.
We took the train from Prague to Regensburg, Germany, near the Czech border. Unfortunately, our train was late so we missed our connection, causing a one-hour delay. So, we wandered into the station to have a coffee. Unfortunately, we had no euro’s so we asked a waitress where we could find an ATM. She shook her head no. So, we sat out to find a machine. Fortunately, a nice fellow who had been sitting at the counter followed us, and pointed us down stairs. So we went down, acquired some cash, then had coffee. Overall, our experience in the Regensburg train station was not friendly.
Finally our train came, and we headed off to Gunzburg. What a trip. We caught one of those trains that stop frequently. We must have hit 15 stops between Regensburg and Gunzburg. By the time we arrived, night had fallen.
There, we disembarked at the station, and headed into town. Even in the dark, I could see how much Gunzburg had changed. When I lived there in 1969, Gunzburg was a farm town with a train station (Banhof) on one side, farms on the other side and the Markplatz, or central plaza, in the middle. At the end of the Markplatz, stood a hundreds-year-old clock tower with an arch through its middle where cars drove through. The clock tower still stands proudly at the end of the square, but not much else remains, as it was 40 years ago.
The Markplatz has seemingly been re-constructed, turned into an out-door mall, smaller, but not unlike our K Street. Virtually all the businesses that once stood there have been replaced by up-scale shops, even a cell-phone store. None of that existed in 1969. Worse, my old haunt, the Lowenbrau Steube (a sort of bar and grill) has long since disappeared. Even the street it stood on had been replaced by walkways covered with paving stones.
Fortunately, we found our hotel located right on the Markplatz, then walked right up the street to have a wonderful, traditional German dinner with wiener schnitzel, kartofel salad (potato salad), and a hearty German beer.
We left Gunzburg the next day, after taking a picture of me standing in the Markplatz. I doubt that I will ever return there again.
It is true, you can’t go back. Things will never be the same, not even in little Gunzburg, Germany.