California Automobile Museum founder shares his Sacramento memories

While relaxing in his Little Pocket backyard last week during a meeting with this publication, Sacramento native Dick Ryder was in a very reminiscent mood.

DICK RYDER, who resides in the Little Pocket area with his wife of 53 years, Irene, enjoys a moment during his recent interview with The Pocket News. Through his marriage, he became a stepfather to two children, and he now has eight grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

DICK RYDER, who resides in the Little Pocket area with his wife of 53 years, Irene, enjoys a moment during his recent interview with The Pocket News. Through his marriage, he became a stepfather to two children, and he now has eight grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

He also proved that he enjoys kidding with others, as he chuckled and explained that he had ushered in the Great Depression with his birth at the old Sutter Hospital at 28th and L streets on Sept. 6, 1929.

“I started the Depression,” Ryder said. “It’s my understanding that Sept. 6 (1929) was the first day that there was any indication that the stock market was falling.”

Although he has spent his entire life residing in Sacramento, Ryder, who continuously displayed a good natured demeanor during his interview, noted that he came close to being born in San Diego.

“My parents (Clark and Mary Ryder) met in the Bay Area and they were going to have me,” Ryder said. “They didn’t like the Bay Area that much, so they decided to move apparently. And it was either to Sacramento or San Diego, because my dad had been in the Navy. And guess what? They moved to Sacramento.”

As a result of this decision, Ryder was born a river city boy, as opposed to a beach city boy.

River City memories

And by opting to remain in the capital city for his entire life, Ryder has more than 80 years of river city memories.

In 1930, the Ryder family moved into a former tract house at 2800 Regina Way, where they lived for many years.

Unique sign

Among Ryder’s earliest childhood memories is seeing a unique, lighted sign at the eventual site of the Tower Theatre.

EARLY INTEREST IN AUTOS. Shown in this early 1930s photograph, Dick Ryder poses with a homemade racecar that his father built for him. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

EARLY INTEREST IN AUTOS. Shown in this early 1930s photograph, Dick Ryder poses with a homemade racecar that his father built for him. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

“One of my earliest memories was going to pick up ice every week (at the State Ice Co.) at 20th (Street) and Y Street, which is now Broadway,” Ryder said. “The icehouse had this big sign on the side that (read), ‘Ice,’ and that’s the first word I ever learned to spell. I was three or four at the time. Coming back along Y Street to turn left onto Land Park Drive, there was a big sign in the field over there. I can remember it well and I have never heard a word of it ever since. But it was a big billboard sign with a face and two big eyes on it – and I think the eyes flashed – and I always called it ‘goo-goo eyes.’ ‘We’re going to go back to goo-goo eyes.’ (The sign) was right where we made the left turn, right now where the Tower Theatre is.”

Tower Theatre

Having grown up in the area, Ryder witnessed the construction of the theater, which opened in 1938. He soon afterward began attending Saturday kiddie matinee movies at the theater.

Solons in ’42

Although he admits that he was not a big baseball fan, Ryder said that he does not recall missing a regular season baseball game at Cardinal Field at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway during the Sacramento Solons’ 1942 Pacific Coast League championship season.

The airport

Ryder said that he also remembers visiting the old Municipal Airport (today’s Sacramento Executive Airport) on Freeport Boulevard during his childhood.

“My father was always interested in flying and he was always hanging out at the airport and I was hanging out there also – the ‘Daddy, can I come, too, sort of thing,” Ryder said.

Close calls

LOCAL BOY. Dick Ryder grew up in the Land Park area with his parents, Clark and Mary Ryder, and his sister, Caroline Ryder, who is three years younger than him. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

LOCAL BOY. Dick Ryder grew up in the Land Park area with his parents, Clark and Mary Ryder, and his sister, Caroline Ryder, who is three years younger than him. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

Ryder explained that during his childhood, he was like a cat with nine lives.

“Sacramento is a hot place (during the summer) and my dad had a spot out on the American River where he liked to swim,” Ryder said. “I gave my dad a big scare. Apparently he almost lost me there. He had to reach around under water and he couldn’t find me.”

“I gave him another scare when I had my tonsils out at age five, but I got through that one, too. I bled I guess. They had to give me resuscitation or something.”

Ryder said that he was also hit by a car during his youth on two separate occasions.

“When I was 12 or so, I was playing baseball in the street and the only time I can remember hitting a home run, I hit a car. I broke my shoulder and had a concussion,” Ryder said. “There was also the time that I came swinging around on my bicycle and this guy was pulling out (in his car) and he didn’t turn his lights on and I hit the front of his car and went clear over and landed on my front teeth.”

Swimming lesson

Ryder explained that his near drowning in the river proved to be a positive event in his life.

“Back in 1936 or 1937, my dad decided that we should have a pool in the backyard, so he could have better control,” Ryder recalled. “That wasn’t a thing that people did back then. They didn’t have pools. For two years, we dug a hole in the backyard and went swimming in the mud or dog paddling in the mud. It was a couple feet deep. In 1938 or 1939, perhaps, a concrete pool with walls rising 2 feet above the ground was done by Angelo & Frank. And Angelo & Frank were Angelo Queirolo and Frank Geremia. Geremia is a familiar name. A lot of pools in Sacramento are Geremia-built pools.”

The Ryder family’s pool was possibly the first backyard pool in the Land Park area.

Youthful work

Ryder eventually turned his family’s pool into a money-making place, as he charged area youth an admission of five cents each per day to swim in the pool.

He also earned money during his youth delivering The Sacramento Bee and The Sacramento Union and working during the summer harvest season in the Delta.

Dec. 7, 1941

After stating “everybody knows where they were when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor,” Ryder explained where he was at the time.

“I was getting over the mumps and my mother was getting the mumps and I was constantly listening to the radio,” Ryder said. “I was laying there in the chesterfield in the front room, because I was sick. I heard on (the radio) Pearl Harbor had been bombed and it was suspected to be the Japanese, etcetera, etcetera, and so I got the family together on that Sunday morning, so they could hear that.”

Early education

While discussing his education, Ryder explained that he was actually recruited to attend kindergarten at Crocker School at 1740 Vallejo Way.

MEET THE PARENTS. Clark and Mary Ryder moved to Sacramento in 1928 and had their first child, Dick Ryder, during the following year. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

MEET THE PARENTS. Clark and Mary Ryder moved to Sacramento in 1928 and had their first child, Dick Ryder, during the following year. / Photo courtesy, Dick Ryder

“(Crocker’s) kindergarten teacher, Miss Eunice Tuttle, had to go on a recruiting campaign, I guess, to fill up the relatively new school,” Ryder said. “One of my earliest memories was Miss Eunice coming to our home to talk to my parents to sign me up for school.”

While Ryder was attending Crocker School, the next school that he would attend – California Junior High School at 2991 Land Park Drive – was under construction.

Eventually, he attended McClatchy High School, where he graduated in June 1947.

With his love for snow skiing, Ryder was later drawn to the University of Colorado, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1952.

Insurance career

From 1956 to 1982, Ryder worked in the insurance industry. He established the Insurance Protection Analyst company at Arden Way and Howe Avenue and then he served as the president of Howe-Ryder Insurance Service at 2613 24th Street.

Today, Ryder fills part of his time as an appraiser of collector cars.

CAM founder

His involvement in such work makes perfect sense, when considering that he was the person who decided to create an automobile museum in Sacramento.

“People come up to me and say, ‘You’re one of the guys who founded the California Automobile Museum (originally known as the California Towe Ford Automobile Museum),’” Ryder said. “And I tell them, ‘No, I am the founder of the museum. After Bill Harrah died at the age of 66, his collection of 1,500-plus cars was left without plans. I figured that it was time for the creation of a California car museum located in Sacramento. We never received any cars from Harrah’s collection, but Harrah’s death definitely created the concept for the (Sacramento) museum in my mind and the idea immediately caught hold.”

Outside his time providing assistance for the museum every Thursday, Ryder remains active in his life with the Sacramento Rotary Club and the Fremont Presbyterian Church.

lance@valcomnews.com

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