They write the songs in Land Park

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

Ted Bazarnik, a Land Park resident, is part of the Nashville Songwriters Association. He's trying to get one of his songs recorded by an artist. Photo by Greg Brown

An artist can’t record a song without the words and music of a songwriter, but a catchy ditty with a good hook line can catapult an artist to the top.

The recording artist is always on the lookout for THAT BIG HIT.

That’s where the Nashville Songwriters Association International comes into play. NSAI is the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters’ trade association. Established in 1967, the membership of more than 5,000 active and pro members spans the United States and six other countries. NSAI is dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all musical genres.

The Northern California chapter is located right here in Sacramento and has more than 450 members.

The Northern California Chapter of the NSAI gathers at the Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park on the second Wednesday night of each month. They get together to discuss and share their songs, bouncing ideas off of one another in a supportive and collaborative way. It’s a great way for them to inspire each other and have fun too.

I spoke with Gabrielle Kennedy, who is the Northern California coordinator for the NSAI and she told me, “We have pros, people that make their living being songwriters and musicians, come to Sacramento from Nashville quite often.”

A wide range of music industry professionals travel from Nashville several times a year to visit the local chapter of the NSAI. Last month, Rick Beresford, best known as the writer of the George Jones hit “If the Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me Her Memory Will,” hosted an all day workshop and gave feedback to folks attending. In September, Dan Hodges, a prominent music publisher, will be looking for songs to pitch to today’s country stars in a special event being held at Sidedoor Studios in Fair Oaks.

Another special event that will be held in late September is a workshop called “Arranging The Hits,” where writers can find out how to write and record their songs to sound like commercial hits. Larry Beaird from Nashville-based Beaird Music Group will be hosting the workshop. He’s one of Nashville’s top musicians who has played on the recordings of stars like Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill and Trace Adkins.

Members of the NSAI get feedback based on what their goals are. “Not everybody’s goal is to be on the radio, but if your goal is to be on the radio, then there is a certain type of structure that’s more common. You want it to be catchy and have a good hook,” Gabrielle said.

Most country music artists do not write their own songs, but there’s actually a greater opportunity in country versus pop to be a songwriter because your chances of getting something commercially cut are greater. “But it’s really tough,” Gabrielle told me.

If you are a member of the NSAI, you can send a song in once a month and they’ll have a pro critique it for you and send it back. You get professional guidance.

Members are also supporting one of the only organizations that go to Congress and lobby for the rights of songwriters. “That’s what NSAI’s primary purpose is,” Gabrielle said.

You’re paying a yearly due to fight legislation and to make sure your rights as a songwriter are protected. Right now they’re trying to get the royalty rate for songwriters increased for digital music. Currently the songwriters get 9 cents, and if they collaborate, they have to divvy that up.

NSAI is more important than ever due to the digital world like streaming music through Pandora. Pandora is a little “loosey goosey” when it comes to reporting which songs and artists are being listened to. It’s very difficult to keep track.

Gabrielle, who worked for CBS/Sacramento radio 10 years ago, set her radio career aside and decided to pursue her music dreams. She initially started a band with her sister called Gabscourt. Her sister got married and had two children and that left Gabrielle to continue to pursue her singer-songwriting career alone.

Gabrielle excitedly told me it looks as though she may get her first label cut soon. An artist named Canaan Smith signed to Mercury Records and he’s going to be coming out with his first album after the first of the year. They wrote a song five years ago with “some guy from Bermuda named Richard” as they like to refer to him.

Richard Bassett and Gabrielle actually met at an NSAI event in Lake Tahoe and began to collaborate. A Nashville publisher came to Sacramento at an NSAI event and she pitched the song to him and he loved it! He thought they both had a lot of talent so he invited them to come to Nashville to write with some seasoned Nashville writers.

“That was my first introduction about how Nashville does its songwriting. From that initial trip, I met Caanan and we all started writing songs together. One of those songs we wrote with him is looking like it’s gonna be a part of his first album,” Gabrielle said.

I mentioned to her “I bet that’s exciting,” and she told me, “Until it’s at Target or I can go to iTunes to buy it, I’m not gonna believe it til I see it.”

The song titled, “This Cigarette,” is about how a love, or person you’re in a relationship with, can treat you like their cigarette. “It’s kind of gritty country,” Gabrielle told me.

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

Shown here are local members of the Nashville Songwriters Association. The local chapter meets at Sierra 2. Photo by Greg Brown

In a matter of time

You’re gonna burn me again
Light me up just long enough
For me to feel like it’s something
You’ll give me what I want
Pressing me to your lips
But you’ll put me out again
Like the end of this cigarette

She sent me the demo and I have a feeling the song will be headed to iTunes and the Target on Broadway next year!

You also may run into Gabrielle in the aisles at Target too, since she’s a Land Park resident.

Another member of the local chapter of the NSAI is Ted Bazarnik. He also lives in Land Park. He’s 72 years old and he’s not satisfied sitting around watching Matlock reruns, although he did quip, “I sometimes do that too.”

“When I was young, I was a musician,” Ted said. He started making music when he was about 16 years old in Auburn, New York. Mainly rock and roll and R&B. They performed on the college circuit: Syracuse University, Cornell, Colgate, and all those places back in the 1950s into the 1960s.

His band was called “Chuck Rubberlegs Shady and the Esquires,” which is quite a mouthful.

He decided to get out of the music business and go into law enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice and worked for the University of California Police Department for 20 years. When he retired, he went to Utah and worked for the State Department Of Public Safety for 17 years and while he was in Utah he became interested in country music.

Ted went from fighting crime to writing country songs.

“I dated a cowgirl for awhile and she loved country music.” It kind of rubbed off on Ted. “She loved to sing along to all the country songs in the car.” He thought the music had great storytelling.

Ted was inspired to write her a song and everybody loved it. It was called “A Girl Named Tracey.” They still keep in touch to this day.

He got serious about song-writing once he moved back to California. Ted thought to himself, “I need something to do. I’m too old to get out on the road and play clubs and stuff…I’m 72 and have bad knees. But my brain still works!”

He started surfing the web and found NSAI. He went down to Nashville to visit a friend and he “fell in love with the place. I absolutely went crazy. I stopped by the NSAI office and told them, ‘sign me up.’”

When he got back to Sacramento, he contacted Gabrielle Kennedy, who headed up the Sacramento chapter, and that’s how it all started.

Ted isn’t afraid of technology either. He uses Facebook regularly and even pitched his first demo via Skype. He pitched it to Curb Records and they loved so much they added it to their catalog. He also pitched the demo at a local NSAI workshop. Steve Bloch, who has a publishing company in Nashville, liked it and took it with him back to Nashville. It’s a big deal having a music publisher put a song in their catalog. The song is called, “Wish I May.” The idea came to Ted while he was sitting on his deck and he had the TV going at the same time. As Ted tells it, “I heard the Disney ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ that comes on before the movie…and I thought I’ll write a song about wishes.”

“Wish I May” is about a guy who’s been searching for somebody special and he knows that somebody special is out there for him.

Ted regularly collaborates with the other members of the NSAI including Chris Burrows of Sacramento and singer-songwriter Andrea Stray who lives in San Francisco. He appreciates the collaborations and thinks it makes the songs much better when there are different voices and talents contributing. He’s definitely not a one-man band.

Ted stays really active and gets out and goes to local concerts. He went to the Palms Playhouse in Winters to see singer-songwiter Holly Williams, who is Hank’s granddaughter. He also recently saw Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also hasn’t forgotten his rock roots. Ted attended the Kiss concert with one of his sons when they came to town. It was on his bucket list.

Ted really doesn’t date, he says, because he’s “having too much fun.” He told me his wife passed away from cancer back in 1997 and he would do anything to have her back. “I’ll never find anybody like her. When you find a jewel, it’s pretty difficult to find another one.”

After his wife passed, he did meet a couple of women, like the cowgirl in Utah, but he pretty much focuses on his songwriting, friends, and family these days.

“I fell in love with this songwriting thing and we have a great group of people. This group has brought me more happiness than you’ll ever know.”

Ted loves the songwriting process, heading to Nashville, going to the meetings, and the studio, and meeting all the artists. Ted said, “For me, it’s a brand new world.”

Ted’s ultimate goal is to get one of his songs recorded by an artist, which is very difficult because in Nashville alone there’s over 45, 000 writers. “The thing is if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen. I’m having a hell of a good time trying,” Ted said.

To learn more about the Sacramento chapter of the NSAI call 476-5073 or e-mail Gabrielle Kennedy at They’re also on Facebook.

Impressive diver brings the sport back to the forefront at C.K. McClatchy

In the hours before a meet, Nevada Schultz visualizes himself performing each dive better than he’s ever done before, but as he steps onto the diving board, his mindset changes. Thinking only about the dive he’s about to perform and forgetting about the competition, the Sac-Joaquin Section Finals champion gets into a highly focused state of mind.

And then in a couple seconds, the dive is over.

But, it’s the adrenaline rush from the excitement of completing a difficult dive that pushed Nevada to perform his best against great competitors.

At the section finals held at C.K. McClatchy High School on May 10, Nevada performed a backwards dive in a pike position so well it gave him momentum throughout the meet. His win was the first time a McClatchy student won Sections since 1979.

At the competition each diver performs 11 dives for Sections, each with a degree of difficulty rating which is then multiplied by the judges score. Nevada’s dives ranged from a forward dive to a 1-½ somersault with two twists. Another dive included the challenging backwards (flip-toward-the-board) plunge.

Speaking about the day’s excitement, Nevada said, “The pressure to perform was heavy; so completing all my dives at a high level felt great.”

Competing against the divers on his Junior Olympic team who compete for other high schools, undoubtedly was Nevada’s toughest competition. “They are all very good divers and any of us are capable of winning any meet,” he said.

For a sport that normally doesn’t get a lot of attention, Nevada said coming home a champion to long-time C.K. McClatchy’s coach Dee Robbins was the best part this year. “The highlight of my season was making my coach, Dee Robbins, proud by winning Sections. It made all the hard work and training worth it to reach my goal for the season. It feels glorious to represent McClatchy successfully and bring home the championship after such a long drought (since 1979). Diving doesn’t normally get a lot of attention, so this really helped bring attention to the sport at my high school,” he said.

Diving for only three years this summer, Nevada said he found his passion for the sport a little later than most divers his age. Asked about his training regimen, Nevada said he jumps on a trampoline at home, dives year-round five days a week for at least two hours, and conditions on dry land with ab, leg, and stretching exercises.

Asked to describe what he likes most about diving, Robbins spoke on this very work ethic, exemplified by Nevada’s hard work. “I enjoy watching kids improve and enjoy what they are doing. Diving takes commitment and hard work, but at the same time it is very satisfying and rewarding. The skills learned in the sport of diving carry over to help kids be successful in all aspects of their lives.”

The highlights of Robbins’ career continue to be the many deep and lasting friendships he’s had with many of his divers.

Coaching for about 38 years, Robbins described how the sport has changed since then. “In 1976, there used to be many recreational diving teams. My team (The Sunrise Sharks) would compete against Park Terrace, Davis, Auburn, Placerville, Rosemont, and Arden Manor. Each team was limited to 40 participants per meet. I had about 80 kids on my team. Now, we have basically no recreational teams and very few beginning classes that teach diving. It also seems that the sport is evolving into a rich person’s sport because of how expensive it is to participate,” Robbins said.

Southside Improvement Club celebrates 100th anniversary

The gathering was attended by members of the club and their female guests. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

The gathering was attended by members of the club and their female guests. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Members of the Southside Improvement Club gathered in the Monsignor Val Fagundes Hall of the historic St. Elizabeth Portuguese National Church at 1817 12th St. on Dec. 5 to celebrate a very special occasion – the 100th anniversary of the organization’s incorporation.
The milestone was actually achieved on Nov. 10, a century after more than 125 local citizens met at the O.D.E.S. Hall on W Street, between 5th and 6th streets, to officially work as a unit in securing needed improvements for the “South Side” section of the city, which was then described as being located from Front to 15th streets and from R to Y streets.
Although historic newspaper accounts recognize the Southside Improvement Club as operating for about a decade prior to its Nov. 10, 1913 anniversary date, the organization had not yet been incorporated during those earlier years.
On Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1913, The Sacramento Star published an article entitled “New improvement club is formed.”
The article noted that the objective of the club was to clean up and improve the south side of the city.
The Sacramento Bee’s Nov. 11, 1913 report on the same topic noted: “It was agreed that any person owning property on the south side (of the city was) eligible to membership” and that “the club (would) fight for desired public improvements.”
Charter members of the organization included Ben Adams, J.V. Azevedo, F. Butler, Daniel H. Carroll, William A. Carroll, J.T. Connor, Cornelius C. Conrad, William A. Durant, Joe Enos, William S. Gloria, R. Arthur Leiva, John B. Martin, Joseph McDermott, Peter J. Nusbaum, Charles S. Ralph, William L. Rose, Elwood Santos, J.G. Thomas, Elmer O. Walker and Charles W. Walser.
During the aforementioned Nov. 10, 1913 club meeting, the following officers were elected: Ralph, president; Rose, vice president; Nusbaum, treasurer; and Walser, secretary.
The club’s constitution was read and approved during the organization’s following meeting, which was held on Nov. 24, 1913.
Early activities and improvements instituted or supported by the club included the development of Southside and William Land parks, the repairing and removal of levees, the construction of the Robert E. Callahan Memorial and improvements to local streets.
The club was also influential in the efforts to have the current swimming pool constructed at Southside Park 60 years ago.
The 100th anniversary gathering began with an installation of officers presented by the club’s President Joe Waters.
These incoming officers are Larry Budney, president; Manny Perry, vice president; Steve Silva, second vice president; Robert Salerno; secretary; Michael Budney, treasurer; and Judge Jerry Bakarich, sergeant at arms. These men will officially begin working in these positions in January.
In discussing his upcoming role with the club with the Land Park News, Larry said, “We have basically come from a political lobbying type of club (with) concerned citizens that were looking to improve and beautify the city, and certainly that probably still exists in people’s hearts here. But the reality is we’re getting older and politics is really complicated nowadays, and I’d rather just focus on doing something that’s a little more practical and focusing on how we can be helpful to the community. In that way, we can work with individuals, like if you know a kid who needs scholarship money or if we’re going to help a family and improve their life maybe by giving them some extra money for Christmas gifts or whatever. In that way, we would be more philanthropic. It’s also going to require that we think about it. I’m going to throw it out there to the guys in my first meeting (as president) and say, ‘Okay, we’re called the improvement club, so in reality, what are we really improving? What is it that you really want this club to do that would be meaningful?’”
The next portion of the Dec. 5 gathering was a historical review of the club by Judge Jerry Bakarich.
Bakarich then introduced the club’s historian, William Burg, who presented a slide show featuring historic photographs of the club, the south side area and other scenes of Sacramento.
The event, which was the club’s second ladies’ night of the year, also included a brief speech by Larry Budney and comments by Dr. Herbert Yee, a rib-eye steak and chicken dinner prepared by Joe Semon and his crew and a raffle for prizes that were donated by club members. The raffle was conducted by Jerry Balshor.
The club also had a collection area for donated coats for the News10 Coats for Kids drive.
In celebration of last week’s special gathering, several members of the club shared details about the organization and their memories about the club and its anniversary.
Portions of the comments of these members are presented, as follows:
Al Balshor: “I think it’s great (that the club is celebrating 100 years) and we’ll keep it at $3 a year (for) dues. We’ve had many, many dignitaries in office – mayors, city managers, supervisors. The old club, if you didn’t go through the Southside, you never got a job. The old dignitaries (who were members of the club included) George Klumpp, Frank Seymour, Jim Garlick. Bartley Cavanaugh was the city manager (and a member of the club). We (formerly) met back for many years at the Southside Park clubhouse. (The club) used to have, all the way from the early 1930s or so, fireworks in the park. The city would pay for the fireworks. It cost them $2,500 and we would put it on with entertainment at the Callahan Memorial there. I’ve been president (of the club) twice. I was president in 1954 and 1997, and each (term was) two years. I didn’t join (the organization) much long before (1954), because I was under 18. You have to be 18 to get in. I think there are about 12 left of (the surviving) presidents (of the club). (Among them is) old Manny Perry. He’s of my age. We meet on the third Thursday of each month at St. Elizabeth Church at 12th and S (streets), and occasionally we’ll take bus trips. We’ll go to Reno, (etc.). We have a ladies’ night twice a year. It’s still a men’s club, but we’ll bring them as our guests.”
Manuel “Mannie” J. Viera, Jr.: “My dad (Manuel J. Viera, Sr.) belonged to (the club) for years. And I got my cousin, Ricky Dias, into it, too, or vice versa. I’m not sure which. I like the camaraderie (of the club). There are a lot of people who I’ve known since I was a young man going to (Holy Angels School and Christian Brothers High School). We reminisce about those things and stuff like that. I think it’s tremendous (that the club is celebrating its centennial). A lot of clubs don’t last that long. The membership drops and they get disinterested and that sort of thing. But (the Southside club) seems to be doing a pretty good job over there, so I’m glad I’m with them.”
Ron King: “I joined the (club) about 45 to 50 years ago. Everybody at south side used to belong to it back then. They took care of everybody in south side. I lived right by (Southside) Park at 3rd and W (streets). I think (the 100th anniversary) is outstanding. A lot of old-timers went through that club, and big wheels, too. They had mayors, police chiefs, stuff like that. I get to see a lot of guys (at the club) who I grew up with. There are a lot of old-timers there who lived down by (Southside) Park. So, you get to see them and talk to them and hash over old times.”
Bob Dias: “Ron King and a lot of friends I had in there (at the club) – Gene Plecas and a guy who worked for me, Tony Viegas, and his brother, Danny Viegas – (were members of the organization). I just got interested in it. There are few clubs that have lasted as long (as the Southside Improvement Club), so you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. Financially, they never had a lot of money to operate on, but they survived.”
Joe Waters: “I joined about 20 years ago. My friend, (Tony Scalora), who passed (at the age of 78 on April 20, 2004), he and I were great fishing buddies, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come down (to the club) and I’ll pay your dues?’ It’s $3 a year. It’s the best two-bit club in America. I live in the north area. (Originally), there were no (residential) boundaries (for the club members, but today) some (members) live in the north area, some of them live in the Bay Area, some of them live in Elk Grove, Auburn, El Dorado Hills. They’re scattered all over now. When I first got out of the Air Force (in 1960), I lived on W Street (near) 16th Street. I (initially) thought (the club) was a hoot. The guys, they would get up and they would talk about baseball and what we’re going to do to help the area. (Despite its more social approach), it’s still an improvement club. We give to (St. Elizabeth) church, we give to the different schools and what have you. It’s a great club and I hope we’re going to do another 100 (years).”

Former Pocket resident shares more about his ghost hunting adventures

Paranormal investigator Paul Dale Roberts utilizes a pair of dowsing rods during the recent investigation in south Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Paranormal investigator Paul Dale Roberts utilizes a pair of dowsing rods during the recent investigation in south Sacramento. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part four in a series about former Sacramento disco king, Paul Dale Roberts.

For this final article of this series about the adventures of former Pocket resident Paul Dale Roberts, he explained more about his work as a Fortean investigator and had the author of this story join him as a guest at one of his paranormal investigations.
As noted in the previous article of this series, Paul Dale Roberts is recognized as one the nation’s leading paranormal investigators.
Additionally, Roberts is a writer for Phenomena magazine in England and The Costa Rican Times, he has written four HPI Chronicles series books related to the paranormal and he has appeared on eight documentaries regarding the same topic.
Roberts, whose writings are included in 11 paranormal-themed books, said that he was reading Brad Steiger paranormal books at the age of 12, and that he now has articles published in several of Steiger’s books.
Roberts has met paranormal icons, Bill Murphy, lead scientist on the SyFy television channel’s investigation series, “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” and Paul Bradford of the SyFy series, “Ghosthunters International.”
Stanton Friedman, the star of Discovery Channel’s “UFO Hunter,” and Brad Klinge of the paranormal television series, “Ghost Lab,” have contributed to Roberts’ paranormal articles.
Additionally, Nick Pope, a former British minister of defense and a well-known journalist, endorsed one of Roberts’ books.
Roberts is considered the “go-to guy” in Hollywood for Northern California investigations, and he was contacted by the producers of the paranormal television series, “A Haunting,” “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal” (in which he was considered for a technical consultant position), “Ghost Adventures,” “Paranormal Witness,” “The Haunted” (on the Animal Planet channel), “The Othersiders” (on the Cartoon Network), “Haunted Collector,” “Ghostly Encounters” (on the Biography Channel), “Haunted Highway” and “When Ghosts Attack” (on the Destination America channel).
For the “Othersiders” series, Roberts was used as a finder-locator for paranormal hot spots in Northern California.
“When Ghosts Attack” recently showed an episode based on an article that Roberts had written about HPI’s Keith Dovichi’s demon case in Pioneer, Calif.
Additionally, Roberts was supposed to be included in an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” in regard to his investigation at the National Hotel in Jackson.
However, when Roberts and his team arrived at the National Hotel, the “Ghost Adventurers” crew was at a different National Hotel about two hours away.
Roberts laughed and while pretending to be engaged in a conversation on his cell phone, he said, “Hello, I’m in the lobby. I don’t see a camera crew.”
In speaking about his business, Roberts explained that HPI originally stood for Haunted and Paranormal Investigations. But after Roberts became HPI’s owner, it became known as Hegelianism Paranormal Intelligence (International).
The organization was named after the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel’s idealism and philosophy utilizes the pros and cons of any given situation. Roberts uses the pros and cons of every investigation to determine the conclusion of whether the place of investigation is haunted.
Roberts’ investigators are actually known as “paranormal intelligence operatives,” and HPI is considered international, since Roberts has traveled to 55 countries and territories to conduct investigations.
Among the places where Roberts has investigated are Area 51, Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, Honduras, Belize, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Stonehenge and the Tower of London in England, Dublin Castle in Ireland, the bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand, San Miguel Island in search of the legendary cryptid, Chupacabra, Mount Shasta for Bigfoot and UFO hunting, and the Auburn and Colfax area’s Green Valley Vortex. The latter place has been rumored to have had UFO sightings, a crop circle and ghostly activities.
In discussing the topic of paranormal activities in the Pocket area, Roberts said, “On one investigation in the Pocket area, the occupants were complaining that ceramic cups flew off the kitchen shelves and came crashing onto the kitchen floor. This was too much for the occupants to handle.”

Jeri Smith’s 11-year-old daughter, Macie Whitten, studies nonhuman-like handprints on a mirror in her home’s living room. Jeri Smith is shown in the background. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Jeri Smith’s 11-year-old daughter, Macie Whitten, studies nonhuman-like handprints on a mirror in her home’s living room. Jeri Smith is shown in the background. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Roberts said that he conducted an investigation at that house and captured many electronic voice phenomena or “EVPs,” and that some disembodied voices spoke in a foreign language.
He added that when he conducted a Catholic house blessing to cleanse the home of the entities, a resident of the home looked at him with surprise and claimed that an orb flew between them and “shot up into the night sky,” and that the house has been “peaceful ever since.”
Orbs, Roberts explained, can be anything from dust, skin flakes and light refractions to dew, lint and bugs. But he added that if an orb presents an “intelligent movement,” then it can be deemed as paranormal.
Since Roberts conducts Catholic house blessings for the purpose of ridding homes of malicious entities and malevolent, dark forces, he is known by the nickname of the “Demon Warrior” in the paranormal community.
Roberts said that his success rate in “cleansing” homes is at “an all-time high.” And he added that there are many ghost hunting groups that have equipment to conduct investigations, but “have no methods of cleansing a home.”
Roberts’ arsenal of cleansers consists of Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, Apache, Choctaw, Greek Orthodox, metaphysical, and even Voodoo.
Roberts explained that there are many haunted locations throughout the world, and that he receives a lot of calls from residents in the Land Park area, because so many homes are “old and have a history.”
Roberts said that HPI has 43 investigators, 12 of whom are noted to have psychic abilities.
And he added that the organization has a “stockpile of equipment,” including infrared cameras, digital recorders for EVPs, night vision goggles, digital cameras, camcorders, temperature gauges, K-II meters and EMF (electromagnetic field) readers. K-II meters and EMF readers determine if there is a fluctuation in the electromagnetic spectrum. Such detection, Roberts said, may indicate that there is “an entity present.”
In continuing, he said, “Temperature gauges measure drops in temperatures. This may indicate that an entity is feeding off the energy of a particular area, causing a vacuum in that immediate area, which will cause a cold temperature drop.”
Roberts added that at times his team even uses dogs in their investigations.
“Dogs have a natural sixth sense and can pick up on ghosts,” he said. “(Roberts’ dogs), HPI (pronounced hi-pee) and Princess Hannah, will sometimes sense a presence.”
Roberts noted that he uses his dogs and his psychics as tools to locate hot spots and it is up to the investigators to prove that something paranormal is actually occurring in those hot spots.
“I will not just take the word of a psychic without positive proof,” Roberts said.
Roberts also spoke about the use of what he referred to as a “spirit box.” The instrument utilizes radio frequencies to attempt to communicate with spirits.
But he noted that “spirit boxes” and dowsing rods – another tool used in attempts to communicate with spirits – are only tools of the trade and are not used to substantiate the existence of an entity. Instead, EVPs are more valuable instruments for paranormal investigators.
On the eve prior to Thanksgiving Day, the author of this article joined Roberts for an investigation of an alleged haunted house in south Sacramento.
Jeri Smith, one of the house’s residents, claimed that she had experienced paranormal activities in her home.
“The first incident was like a year ago,” Smith said. “I had seen a really black, distinguished figure on my ceiling in my room, and there were no shadows in the room or anything. It was a perfect black figure of a man with a hood.”
Smith also shared details about several other incidents that she explained as being possibly paranormal in nature. These alleged experiences included the sound of mysterious voices and footsteps in the house and nonhuman-like handprints on mirrors.
“Beyond the Norm” is the third volume in Paul Dale Roberts’ HPI Chronicles book series. Photo by Lance Armstrong

“Beyond the Norm” is the third volume in Paul Dale Roberts’ HPI Chronicles book series. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Smith’s friend, Lesa Willis, added that on an occasion when she spent a night at Smith’s home, she also heard mysterious footsteps in the house.
As Roberts investigated this home, he did capture a few anomalies through digital photography. But Roberts was not able to deem any of those photographs as evidence of paranormal activity.
Roberts also performed what he called a “quick and dirty EVP session.”
During that time, he spoke simple phrases into a recorder such as “Is there anyone here?”
Roberts paused each time to allow a possible entity to respond.
These tests did not capture any “disembodied voices,” as he called them.
While Roberts was using a pair of dowsing rods at the home, the rods underwent very limited activity.
Following the investigation, Roberts conducted a Catholic blessing at the home.
Roberts noted that although the pre-Thanksgiving investigation did not result in the detection of any paranormal activity at the home, he said that two days later his team traveled to Tracy and conducted another investigation.
During the latter investigation, a woman, who was a guest at the home, said that she had become possessed and acted as if she was possessed.
Roberts commented, “If she wasn’t possessed, she was a damn good actress.”
Toward the end of his last interview for this series, Roberts expressed appreciation for his opportunity to share his life adventures with Valley Community Newspapers.
And he added, “If you see a Kia Forte – aka the Rusty Anomaly – with ghost hunting car magnets on the car doors in your neighborhood, don’t be alarmed it’s only the ‘Demon Warrior’ making sure that your neighborhood is safe from any paranormal activity.”
Roberts’ paranormal stories can be read at and he can be contacted through the paranormal hotline: (916) 203-7503.

Tony Lutfi’s goal: To own 50 restaurants before turning 50

For much of his life, Tony Lutfi has had the goal of owning 50 restaurants before turning 50 years old. He was recently on the cover of Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine with the headline: Mega 99: Tony Lutfi soars from 52 to 134 units in three years.

Far surpassing his goals, Lutfi, whose corporate headquarters are in the Pocket area, is among the top 55 multi-unit franchises in the nation.

Born in 1960 in Amman Jordan as the youngest child for a refugee Palestinian family who then lived in Jordan, Lutfi immigrated to the United States in 1976 with hopes to pursue higher education in the medical field. He attended high school in Lodi and graduated in 1977, then quickly moved to Stockton and attended Delta College while sharing an apartment with his cousin.

“I did not want to be a burden to my family that struggled financially and I knew that I needed to work and make it on my own at age 16,” he said. He worked at a 7-11 for a short period of time and then was offered a position with Jack in the Box for the graveyard shift, which worked out well allowing me to attend classes in the day and work at night.

Life quickly took its course. Lutfi quit college and decided to accept a shift manager position with Jack in the Box. In 1980, the rest of his family immigrated to the U.S. and they decided to purchase a corner grocery store in Stockton. He quit his position with Jack in the Box and worked for the family business for two years while his family became more accustomed to the life style and learned English.

In 1993, Lutfi applied to work for a franchise and was given an opportunity with Rax Roast Beef as an assistant manager making $925 per month.

In 1984 Lutfi married to Anna, whom I dated for five years. He did not want to pay rent for a home and decided to purchase his first home by borrowing money on credit cards.

“I knew that I will work hard to pay the cards off and hoped that I will build enough equity in my home to use it later to buy a business. Life took its course again and our first son was born in 1985 and the second in 1987. I was right with my first investment, the house appreciated in value and the credit cards were paid off,” Lutfi said.

In 1988, he attempted to buy four restaurants from his employer, but lost the opportunity to another company who purchased the entire company and agreed to employ him.

A few years later, the president of the company decided to start a new company and asked him to be a partner operator. They purchased four Church’s Chicken restaurants in Sacramento and partnered up with a local Pocket area dentist, Greg Maroni DDS.

They remodeled the restaurants and started the company while he continued his employment with company. In 1998, Maroni and he decided to purchase the entire company and committed to a partnership.

“My goal has always been to own 50 restaurants before I turned 50. Time was running out as I turned 38 and had only a total of 11 which included three Long John Silver’s in the Bay Area, four Church’s Chicken in Sacramento and four Arby’s in Sacramento, Modesto and Tracy.

Maroni had two Arby’s, which he owned since the late 80’s in Auburn and Grass Valley.

They agreed to form a partnership and operate the 13 units.

They opened four restaurants between 1998 and 2000, one was Arby’s in the Pocket area Promenade Shopping Center. They either sold or closed all four locations within two years and decided that the only way they can grow is by way of acquisition minimizing risk.

In 2001 just before Sept. 11, they agreed to acquire four Church’s Chicken restaurants in Las Vegas. They took over the operations on Oct. 22.

“Naturally, the world changed after Sept. 11, especially in Las Vegas. Tourism came to quick halt and businesses suffered including our new acquired restaurants. I remember driving to Las Vegas weekly and working in the restaurants just to save labor and try to save the business. Luckily, we had great managers that maintained and quickly rebounded by 2003,” Lutfi said.

They paid off the loan for the Las Vegas stores in 2006 and began a journey of growth.

In 2006, they acquired 11 Church’s Chicken in Stockton and Tucson.

In 2007, they acquired 15 Church’s Chicken in Phoenix and opened their first Little Caesars Restaurant in Orangevale.

In 2008, they acquired 11 Church’s Chicken restaurants and opened their second little Caesars Restaurant in Carmichael.

In 2009, they opened another Little Caesars restaurant and a Church’s Chicken in Las Vegas

In 2010, Lutfi acquired 21 Jack in the Box restaurants in Modesto, Los Banos, Oroville, Marysville, Placerville and Sacramento.

In 2011, Lutfi acquired 14 Sears Hardware stores in Houston and St. Louis, and Sears Appliance Showrooms in Dallas and St. Louis, but also opened two restaurants, one in Galt and another in Las Vegas. Lutfi also acquired five Sizzlers in Auburn, Sacramento and the Bay Area.

In 2012, Lutfi opened another restaurant in Las Vegas and another in North Highlands and added a Sears location in Chino, Calif.

Lutfi and Maroni closed last year with their largest acquisition to date, 42 Arby’s restaurants in Oregon and Washington.

Today, Lutfi operates the following: five Sizzler restaurants, 21 Jack in the Box, eight Sears Appliance Showrooms, and six Sears Appliance & Hardware Stores.

With Maroni, Lutfi owns five Little Caesars, 43 Arby’s, 46 Church’s Chicken,

Lutfi and Maroni also offer management and consulting services to several organizations in Texas and California who operate 117 restaurants of various brands.

Lutfi is still married to the love of his life who worked with him years ago at the Jack in the Box. They were married in 1984 and had three boys, Metri 27, in the business operating the Jack in the Box Company and attended Fresno State, Stephen 25, a graduate from Fresno State as a civil Engineer; he also joined our company a few weeks ago and is currently our analyst; and Ramsey 20, in his third year at Fresno State pursuing his degree in Business.

Although the business has grown to near 150 in seven states, Lutfi says they remain a family business with several of the family leading and serving the business. Starting with my nephew Nader who has been an integral part of our continued growth and many others including Dr. Maroni who has remained committed for the entire ride.

Pocket area resident and attorney Shane Singh has been representing the MarLu Investment Group for over 11 years and handles a majority of their legal work.

The MarLu Investment Group office is in the Pocket area, 1531 Corporate Way.

The First Time We Cut Our Own Christmas Tree

One December night at dinner, in the late 1950s, dad said, “this year we are going to drive to the Sierras and cut our own Christmas tree,” and we did. Early in the morning, on the next Saturday, my sister Patricia, and my brothers Terry, John and I jumped into the car with dad and headed up to the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We drove through Roseville, then Loomis, then Auburn and Colfax until we passed the snow line, and eventually turned off the road. There, we drove until we reached a place where dad thought we would likely find a Christmas tree. Then he parked the car, and we all got out. Off we walked into the woods, through the knee-high snow, in search of a tree. Wow! This seemed a lot tougher than we thought it would be. Most of the trees were too tall, and the smaller ones seemed a little scrawny and bare.
Eventually, though, we found the perfect tree. So dad pulled out a saw, and cut it down. Then Terry and I dragged the beautiful tree through the snow back to our car. That took some effort in the deep snow, but soon we reached the car with a smile on our faces. We did it. We found the perfect Christmas tree. Then dad tried to put the tree in the back of the car. Woops, the tree was a little to big. Out came the saw again, and dad cut enough off so it fit properly in the open rear compartment of our station wagon. Dad had to leave the rear hatch of the car slightly ajar to make room for the seven foot tree, but it fit. Then off we went in the direction of home. We didn’t get far though.
As we headed back toward the highway, we passed a forest ranger. He turned around quickly, and pulled our car over. The ranger explained that we could not take a tree from the national forest without a permit. Dad explained that we had no permit, but said that he was a Sacramento police man and understood that if we had violated the rules of the national forest we would have to suffer the consequences. When the ranger heard that, he softened his position. He said, “that’s okay Officer Relles, but in the future, you need to see us first to obtain a permit. Then, he fastened a tag to our tree which allowed us to transport it out of the forest. After that, we headed off, directly for home.
When we arrived home, dad filled the Christmas tree stand with water and secured it. Then we proceeded to decorate our beautiful fresh cut tree with lights and ornaments. We finished the job with lots of silver tinsel. It seemed the most beautiful tree we ever had. What made it so special was that we cut it ourselves.
Later in life, I took my children up to cut fresh Christmas trees in the Sierras. We usually went to a tree farm in Apple Hill. That seemed every bit as special as the one dad cut for us in the 1950s. They have not forgotten that experience.
Just last week, while I traveled abroad, my daughter and her husband took their two girls up to the mountains to cut their Christmas tee. Now, they will experience the same joy we experienced with dad, so many years ago: yet another merry Janey Way holiday experience.

Mystery of the Missing Markers

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding the history of East Sacramento’s former New Helvetia Cemetery.

It has been nearly 162 years since Captain John A. Sutter set aside 10 acres for his establishment’s first formal burial ground, the now nonexistent New Helvetia Cemetery.

The cemetery, which was eventually doubled in size, served the community for many years before evolving into a public park, which was known as Helvetia Park.

The old cemetery grounds, with the exception of a tombstone-like marker presenting information about the former cemetery, are no longer distinguishable. The land is presently the site of Sutter Middle School at 3150 I St.

In the process of creating Helvetia Park, the old cemetery, which actually adjoined East Park (today’s McKinley Park), had its headstones removed and replaced with flat gravesite identifying markers.

Unfortunately, various decisions and actions connected to the processes of creating the park and removing the cemetery in its entirety resulted in many missing tombstones and markers and even unidentified graves.

Other gravesites were presumably left unidentified in earlier times due to such possible causes as the deterioration of wooden markers and flooding that carried away wooden markers. Because of recurrent flooding in the area, there were no burials at the cemetery from 1850 to 1857.

A classic example related to the old cemetery’s missing markers was presented in the Aug. 11, 1989 edition of The Sacramento Bee, as a story was related in which a lecture about Sacramento cemeteries at California Middle School was interrupted by a boy who raised his hand and said, “We have some of those stones in our yard.”

In a meeting with the East Sacramento News last week, Dr. Bob LaPerriere, co-chair of the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission, discussed the topic of missing tombstones and other markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

“When they removed the bodies in the 1950s, we’re not sure exactly what happened, but some people recall that these concrete markers were kind of stacked up along the street,” LaPerriere said. “A couple years ago, we located – just between two homes behind Sutter Middle School – over 70 of these flat, concrete markers. They were used for stepping stones and kind of to widen the driveway.”

LaPerriere said that a unique event occurred following the discovery of these markers, as the stones were transported from Sutter Middle School to East Lawn Memorial Park at Folsom Boulevard and 43rd Street via a horse-drawn wagon.

The decision to deliver these markers to East Lawn Memorial Park was a simple one, considering that the city had purchased property at the cemetery for a mass, unmarked burial site, where 4,691 unidentified human remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred.

Unfortunately, this large number of “unknowns,” as these unidentified remains are often referred to, account for the majority of the remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery.

The Sacramento Historic City Cemetery at 1000 Broadway is the site of the remains of about 400 additional people who were once buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery.

However, these remains are individually identified and are located in three separate areas at the Broadway cemetery, west of Riverside Boulevard.

Other individually identified remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were reinterred at the following Sacramento city and county cemeteries: East Lawn, Masonic Lawn Cemetery at 2700 Riverside Blvd., Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery at 2720 Riverside Blvd., St. Joseph’s Cemetery at 2615 21stt St., St. Mary’s Cemetery at 6700 21st St., Sacramento Memorial Lawn at 6100 Stockton Blvd., Elk Grove Cemetery at 8540 Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove and the Sylvan Cemetery at 7401 Auburn Blvd. in Citrus Heights.

Despite this long list of other cemeteries, LaPerriere notes that a relatively low number of remains from the New Helvetia Cemetery were relocated to these cemeteries.

LaPerriere provided the following numbers regarding the relocations of these remains: 410 sent to Broadway cemetery, 84 to East Lawn, 32 to Odd Fellows, six to Sacramento Memorial Lawn, three to St. Joseph’s, three to Elk Grove, two to St. Mary’s and one to Masonic.

In regard to the many flat markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery site that are still missing today, LaPerriere mentioned that he would not be surprised if some of these markers are presently located on residential properties within the nearby vicinity of this former East Sacramento cemetery.

Although the aforementioned mass burial at East Lawn Memorial Park is recognized as consisting of “unknowns” or unidentified remains, this does not mean that there are no records of any of the names of the deceased people from the New Helvetia Cemetery who were reburied there.

To the contrary, records exist for many people who were buried at the New Helvetia Cemetery and it is by deduction from the names of those who were reinterred in other local cemeteries that a list of assumed names was created for the mass burial site at East Lawn Memorial Park.

LaPerriere said that East Lawn Memorial Park, although it was not obligated to do so, greatly contributed to the cemetery’s mass burial site.

“The city never put up a marker or anything (at the mass burial site), absolutely nothing,” LaPerriere said. “It took John Bettencourt (the late cemetery historian and preservationist who was vital in the formation of the Old City Cemetery Committee) and I working with East Lawn, quite a few years ago, to get the area memorialized. East Lawn, of course, had no responsibility to do it. The city bought the area, buried the people and the city should have taken care of things. But East Lawn, being very community minded, worked with us and they put four (right angle) corner walls in around the area to demarcate the area and they put a nice monument in the center memorializing those who were moved from New Helvetia (Cemetery).”

In addition to this burial site’s corner markers, most of the perimeter of the site is outlined with the flat, concrete markers that had been retrieved from the residential yards near Sutter Middle School.

As of about two years ago, the whereabouts of only one verified original tombstone from the New Helvetia Cemetery was known.

But fortunately, it was discovered that another original New Helvetia Cemetery tombstone – that of members of the Asch family – was located in Auburn.

About a month ago, the stone was relocated to Sacramento and it will soon be placed in the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery’s already existing Asch plot.

LaPerriere said that anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address:

Anyone with information regarding missing headstones or markers from the New Helvetia Cemetery is encouraged to call the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission at (916) 874-9103 or write to the e-mail address: cemeterycommission@sac

California State Fair: It’s time to eat ‘fair-style’ once again

The waiting is finally over. The always anticipated California State Fair opens today, July 14, and with it comes its usual traditions, which of course include “fair food.”

Unique fried foods like the ones advertised on this sign at a past California State Fair are among the annual event’s most popular edible items. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Unique fried foods like the ones advertised on this sign at a past California State Fair are among the annual event’s most popular edible items. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This is the time that guests of the event put aside their general eating habits and partake in a wide variety of edible assortments ranging from longtime favorites such as corn dogs and cotton candy to just about any fried food imaginable.

Although many reports have been made regarding the fair’s food offerings, less emphasis is generally placed on the food vendors themselves.

And these vendors undoubtedly have many unique details to tell about themselves and their histories in business.

Despite their busy schedules as they prepared for this year’s fair, several vendors dedicated time to share information about themselves, the fair and their food offerings.

Milo Franks’ corn dog stands

One such individual was corn dog vendor Milo Franks, who volunteered the obvious observation that he has a surname that is quite fitting for a man in his line of business.

Franks, 61, who lives in Pilot Hill, near Auburn, said that he has seen the concessions at Cal Expo grow tremendously in his four decades of selling corn dogs at the State Fair.

“I’ve been working at the State Fair since the second year it was here (at Cal Expo) in the new facilities,” said Franks, who also sells pizzas with dough made on the fair’s premises. “I can remember there were stands here that were actually made out of those cargo vans that you can rent nowadays. And there were tents back then. Guys used to call them knock down joints. They were canvas (with 2-foot by 4-foot boards). Now it’s just nothing to have $2,000 or more invested in a stand.”

In an attempt to bring entertainment to the fair, Franks is working with his secretary, Georgeanne Clasen, to present the California State Fair’s first corn dog eating contest.

Milo Franks, who has been selling corn dogs at the State Fair for four decades, passes out a cash reward for a corn dog eating contest. The contest will make its California State Fair debut on July 21. / Photo courtesy, Georgeanne Clasen

Milo Franks, who has been selling corn dogs at the State Fair for four decades, passes out a cash reward for a corn dog eating contest. The contest will make its California State Fair debut on July 21. / Photo courtesy, Georgeanne Clasen

The qualifying round of the contest will be held on July 21 and 22 and the finals will be held on July 23.

The cost to enter the contest is $30 and the first place prize is $2,000, second prize is $500 and third is $300.

Although Franks, who enjoys racing hot rods at the Sacramento Raceway in his spare time, has spent two-thirds of his life as a corn dog salesman, he said that his initial plan was to be an industrial arts teacher, so he would not have to work during summers.

Franks said that ironically, he has not had a summer off in 42 years, but added if he ever retires, he will build a car and race in all of the National Hot Rod Association meets around the country.

Jungle George’s Exotic Meats and Bugs

Certainly, fair food offerings are much different today than when Franks began selling corn dogs at the fair.

A prime example of this fact is the Jungle George’s Exotic Meats and Bugs trailer, which is operated by Fremont, Calif. resident George Sandefur, a 38-year fair vendor, who began his career working in his native state of Indiana.

Sandefur said that he offers about 18 different, unusual meats such as alligator, python, raccoon and beaver meats and a full line of bugs from scorpions to crickets to maggots.

“We sell a lot of strange and unusual stuff,” Sandefur said. “Our new sandwich this year is our Maggot Melt, which is like a patty melt, but instead of a burger, it has maggots. We also have desserts, including deep fried butter and deep fried jelly beans.”

Offering unusual edibles was not always one of his trademarks, explained Sandefur.

“My trailer used to be a chicken trailer, but it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do,” recalled Sandefur, who has one child and five grandchildren. “So, last year, the California State Fair called and asked me to do something strange. I said, ‘How strange?’ They said, ‘Oh, maybe some strange meat or alligator or something like that.’”

Sandefur, who enjoys boating, swimming and flying standard, single engine airplanes during his spare time, said that by the following April, he introduced alligator meat, Rocky Mountain oysters and other unusual offerings at the Maricopa County Fair in Phoenix and sold out his inventory in about an hour.

“I said, ‘Oh, well, maybe I’ve got something here,’” said Sandefur, whose personal favorite exotic menu items are his alligator and yak burgers. “We just kept adding (unusual food items) and finally at the State Fair, we had probably 14 or 15 different meats and we added bugs. I just keep going on and trying to see how strange and ‘wow’ I can get. I believe that patrons, especially the younger crowd, are looking for more than standard fair food these days. They want something you can’t go to a restaurant and get. They just want something ‘wow.’”

Tempura, Inc.

Tempura, Inc. owner Grace Wang has been working at fairs for more than 15 years, and has two trailers at this year’s State Fair.

Wang, who is assisted in the business by her husband Richard, who designed and built one of Tempura, Inc.’s trailers, said that she is very excited about introducing crepes to guests of the State Fair through her Grace’s Crepes trailer.

“They never had crepes at the State Fair before,” said Wang, a native of the northeast part of China. “The reason why we wanted to bring this new crepe trailer to the State Fair is because we wanted to bring healthy food to the fair. We want to do less fried stuff. Our crepes, we do everything from scratch and this is our own recipe. We have about 12 different kinds of crepes.”

Tempura, Inc.’s other trailer will feature the Fresh Mexican Grill with quesadillas, chicken and beef fajitas, enchiladas, burritos, a nine-item plate, called the “Super 9,” fresh tortillas and homemade salsa and guacamole.

Wang said that some of her passions in life are reading books, attending seminars and living in Carmichael.

Regarding Carmichael, she said, “It is a relatively old community, so it’s very quiet with a lot of trees, big yards and very nice neighborhoods. I really like it. My (two) kids play with the neighbor kids, and it’s very safe.”

California Ice Cream Co.

Relatively newcomers to the State Fair, but 20-year veterans of the fair circuit, Galt residents Philip and Crystal Miller are adding sweetness to this year’s fair through their California Ice Cream Co. offerings.

The business features different flavors of ice cream, banana splits, sundaes, a McDonald’s McFlurry-like ice cream cup and their new item, a bacon maple sundae.

Crystal said that eating the bacon maple sundae is like having “breakfast in a cup.”

As a helpful tip in finding her business trailer, Crystal noted that the trailer is purple and pink and is decorated with an image of a snowball-throwing polar bear, named Cal.

When they are not working at fairs, the Millers devote time to Galt High School. Crystal is the assistant director of the color guard and Richard is a volunteer visual arts coordinator.

Although Crystal hopes that many people take advantage of the many food offerings at this year’s State Fair, she stressed that she is desirous that people come to the fair, in general.

“I hope everyone comes out and enjoys the fair,” Crystal said. “I know times are tough, but there’s a lot to do, so it’s well worth the entrance ticket.”