It has been five decades since the Greenhaven 70 development began to change the face of the Pocket area immediately south of The Trap, the historic bar at 6125 Riverside Blvd. And included in part of that development was the old clay pit that had become known as Lake Greenhaven.
Among the various old-time stories regarding Lake Greenhaven is that of the “Duck Lady.”
The “Duck Lady,’ whose better known as Dolores Greenslate, was among the original residents of Greenhaven 70.
Greenslate recalled that in about 1964, an effort was made to make the area around Lake Greenhaven more attractive by removing its surrounding brush.
“(The developers) weren’t building anything around the lake at that time, but they wanted to make it look better for potential buyers in the area, so they eliminated everything that was growing around the lake,” Greenslate said. “They cleaned that area up all the way to the original soil. I was so mad at them when they did that, because these 12 to 14 (mallards) were coming up and down these streets looking for food, and digging in the early residents’ lawns looking for worms. Since (the ducks) had previously lived at (William Land) Park, they weren’t like the wild birds that just flew in and landed in the lake. They were domesticated. They were lost, and they came over here (to the early Greenhaven 70 homes). I just felt so sorry for them, so I started going to (the Safeway supermarket, which was located at 5930 South Land Park Drive) and getting day-old bread, and I would feed them that day-old bread.”
Greenslate recalled how her efforts to assist the ducks attracted the attention of Dr. Merrill A. Burt, veterinarian at the South Sacramento Pet Hospital at 5651 Franklin Blvd.
“It was completely out of (those ducks’) nature to go (live in) the wild when they had been fed all of their lives (at the park),” Greenslate said. “And so, I got recognition in the newspaper for (feeding them at Lake Greenhaven). Dr. Burt had put in for me being the most humane person of the year for animals.
“(Burt) had become aware of what I was doing [feeding the mallards]. I had brought a little female duck to (Burt’s) office in a towel that had been hit by a construction truck (in the area). The duck ended up dying on the table (at Burt’s office). And (Burt) said, ‘Do you want me to take care of (the dead duck). And I said, ‘No, let me take her home. She’s mine, and I’ll bury her in my garden in my backyard. So, I took her home, and I cried all the way home. I buried her in the same towel in my backyard, so she wouldn’t get dirt on her face. I still know the exact place where I buried her. But anyway, that’s how Dr. Burt (became aware) of what I was doing, and nominated me.”
Although Greenslate did not receive the award, many people became aware of her kindness to those ducks at that time.
In recalling her duck feeding routine, Greenslate said, “I made it a point of every day I would go get bread and I would break it up at night and the next morning I would go (to Lake Greenhaven) whether it was raining or whatever. I would go over there and they would see me coming and they would get really excited when they saw me. They would come running to me. I was known as the ‘Duck Lady.’ I would show up at the lake in a heavy coat and boots up to my knees and two big grocery bags. There was one duck with an injured leg, so I always favored him and fed him first.”
Greenslate said that the aforementioned newspaper article led to her bread supply being cut off by Safeway’s manager.
“I think the manager was supposed to return the old bread and not give it away, so he was probably afraid of getting found out (by his Safeway superiors) with the publicity of giving the bread to me,” Greenslate said. “That was the end of my bread supply. (Hank) Spencer, (superintendent of the William Land Park Zoo/now Sacramento Zoo) also found out about (the article), and he came over with sacks of grain for me, because he had read what I was trying to do.”
Eventually, after several months of feeding the mallards, Greenslate went to Lake Greenhaven, caught the ducks, placed them one or two at a time in gunnysacks, and then transported them back to their previous home at William Land Park.
Greenslate said that a short time after she had returned the ducks to the park, she was contacted by (Greenhaven 70 developer) Jack Parker.
“(Parker) said to me, ‘Mrs. Greenslate, you can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Why can’t I do that? Do you realize what you did when you brought (the ducks) over here? You just left them to fend for themselves, and they were domesticated and used to being fed at the park. You can’t do that!’ It really bothered me. I couldn’t just let (the ducks) starve and die over there (at Lake Greenhaven).”
It has been five decades since the Greenhaven 70 development began to change the face of the Pocket area immediately south of The Trap, the historic bar at 6125 Riverside Blvd. And included in part of that development was the old clay pit that had become known as Lake Greenhaven.
As presented in the first article of this series, a fire destroyed the original Edmonds Field at the southeast corner of Riverside Boulevard and Broadway during the summer of 1948. And 65 years later, people are still talking about the tragedy.
During interviews conducted for this article, six people shared their memories regarding the fire, and in some cases spoke about the ruins it left behind and the mystery regarding its origin.
Excerpts from these interviews are presented, as follows:
“We were getting cinders clear over there [at his house at 2770 19th St., near Markham Way] from the ballpark fire,” said 94-year-old Sacramento native Morrison Bruner. “What a glare in the sky. It was late at night.
“It has been said that [the fire] started from a cigarette butt landing on wood below the stands, which I doubt very much. There were spaces in the floor boards and under the seats where anything could be dropped, especially Coke bottles. After the game, some of us would go under the stands and find the bottles to take to the store for [a] refund of a few pennies. The structure was built in such a way that horizontal wood was very scarce. Most of it was angles. There was a dirt floor and it was not compacted and the dust was about six inches deep. There was also lots of dust on the cross members of the framing.”
“We were at a bar at 18th (Street) and Broadway (on the night of the fire),” recalled 90-year-old Sacramento area native Billy Rico, whose own successful baseball career included playing for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. “I was with a guy who was a great (PCL) ball player by the name of Frankie Hawkins. A fire broke out and everybody went out in the street, because it was the ballpark (that was on fire just a few blocks away). It was about time for it to catch fire anyway. It was old wood. Everybody was running like crazy up and down the street. I didn’t go down by the fire. You couldn’t, because it was so damn hot. I also went out there the next day (to the ballpark remains) and looked around. I hated to see the (destruction), because I saw a lot of great ball games out there. The greatest left-hander I ever saw pitched there. That was (the Solons’) Tony Freitas.”
“What I know about (the fire) is a man named Joe Valine, who was a salesman for the International (tractor) dealer, Sacramento Valley Tractor Co. (at 1901 Broadway), used to talk about it,” said 82-year-old Walnut Grove native Dennis Leary. “He thought the whole neighborhood was going to burn before it was over. The flames were probably 200 feet (tall) and spewing sparks all over the neighborhood. I had gone to quite a few baseball games at that old, wooden stadium. All of the early stadiums were like that. That’s the way they were built. It was all out of wood. It wasn’t out of concrete and cinderblocks or whatever they use today, and every once in a while one burned.”
“I actually heard about the fire while I was in Guam,” said Dick Ryder, a June 1947 C.K. McClatchy High School graduate, who grew up a short distance from the ballpark at 2800 Regina Way. “I was working for the Navy under the naval civil service when I was 18 and that (fire) happened during that summer that I was still there under my contract. He came over, incidentally driving a brand new Ford Sportsman woody, and was telling me all about the big fire that he had seen before he left Sacramento. Since I was so far away when I heard (the news), it kind of shows you what an international place Sacramento is!
“About seven years earlier, when (former St. Louis Cardinals star) Pepper Martin was the (Solons’) manager, I attended every home game that year. (The original Edmonds Field) was a big wooden ballpark, and my recollection is you sat on wooden seats and there was a space under the seats that went down to the ground underneath the (stands). There was that empty void down there, and when (former Sacramento Bee columnist) Stan Gilliam used to (talk about) the fact that his smoking started the fire, I can believe that.”
“At (the time of the fire), we were living at [2550 Freeport Blvd.] and we heard all of the commotion and the (sirens of) fire engines go by, so we went on down to the end of the street to Broadway,” said Sacramento native Dolores Greenslate, a June 1942 graduate of McClatchy High. “We saw all the lights and the flames of the fire and the smoke and everything, and everybody was running in that direction, so we ran down in that direction, too. We were just about where Tower Records (was later established at 16th Street and Broadway) and we stopped there, because they didn’t want anybody to go any further. It would have been interfering with people who were fighting the fire. There was debris and it was flying. It was an old rickety ballpark and naturally when it was burning cinder hot, there’s going to be sparks all over the place. It was a spectacular fire, because ambers and flames were reaching high into the sky. What was especially notable was the fire was burning the telephone poles on the north side of Broadway. With the sparks spitting out everywhere, it kind of reminded you of the 4th of July. Those poles were in front of the (Shell Oil Co.) gas station (at the northeast corner of Riverside Boulevard and Broadway) and were burning brightly and viciously, and nobody wanted to go by there, because they thought the gas station was going to explode. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, if the fire got down to that gasoline and it exploded, what a catastrophe that would be.’ There were a lot of houses on Yale Street and other streets over there that had residential stuff and they would all go up in smoke. If the electric lines were on fire, they would go right to the houses, too.
“(Stan Gilliam) was always (talking) about how he thought he burned down the ballpark, and I think he did, because, in those stands, stuff would fall down (to the ground). If you were eating some popcorn and you dropped some, it would just fall all the way down there (to the ground). There were wrappers down there and everything else. And (Gilliam) said he really did lose his cigarette. I asked him about it one time and he said, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if I did start it, because I was there that night.’”
“I recall the fire in the particular area in which I lived in East Sacramento (at 1215 44th St.),” said Toby Johnson, the 96-year-old, former longtime educator and county supervisor. “There were flames in the sky and the general reaction was a mass turnout of people (at the site or) trying to view it from some vantage point, like the Capitol grounds and so forth.
“The following day, a couple of my friends, Mike McPartland and Jack Harrison, and I went over there and looked at (the ruins). Mike had a car, so we went over in that. They wouldn’t permit you to go in where the fire had been its greatest. The devastation was pretty darn rampant. (That) day, everybody in Sacramento had to see the outcome of the burning of (the ballpark).”
A group of 57 people recently congregated inside the Dante Club on Fair Oaks Boulevard to celebrate a milestone in local high school history – the 70th reunion of the January and June classes of C.K. McClatchy High’s Class of 1942. Thirty-four of the attendees were members of these classes.
The 1942 McClatchy High yearbook described the January Class of 1942 as “small, but mighty.”
And certainly these same words could be used to describe the enthusiastic 1942 graduates who gathered together at the Dante Club during the afternoon of Wednesday, June 13.
The event began with much mingling among those friends who kept in touch and those who had to catch up on details from the years that they had lost contact with one another.
The buzz of the lively conversations continued through a served chicken meal and dessert.
The event begins
As the schedule moved to the program segment of the event, the emcee Dolores (Silva) Greenslate of the June Class of 1942 stood before the crowd, which sat in small groups at eight tables.
At the center of each of these tables was a red and white flower arrangement in a tall, red plastic beer mug with the abbreviated word, “grad,” running vertical along one side in large letters. Hanging out of the mug was a small, plush lion representing the school’s mascot, Leo.
The person or couple sitting at a table with the largest number of great-grandchildren would later be given the arrangement, mug and plush lion in recognition of this notoriety.
Also adding to the McClatchy school colors theme were white table cloths and red, cloth napkins.
After a little work to silence the buzz of the sharing of 70 years – and in some cases more – of memories, Dolores Greenslate presented a welcoming speech to the attending alumni and guests. She also acknowledged June 1942 graduate Art Rinetti, who was a member of his class council and was unable to make the reunion due to health issues.
Those in attendance
In addition to Dolores Greenslate, members of the 1942 classes in attendance at the reunion were: Minerva (Kattenhorn) Bruner, Stanley Chun, Clancy (Schierts) Determan, Ed Drennon, Dorothy (Ferrick) Dunkle, Kenneth Garcia, Lauretta (Purcell) Geremia, Rich Gilmore, Della (Gomes) Garibaldi, Mariel (West) Green, Norm Greenslate, Harvey Holm, Walt James, Claire (Schluer) Johnson, Betty (Anderson) Kiene, Peggy (Kneeland) Kinney, Fred Kirchubel, Carol (Wykoff) Laquaglia, Eunice (Christensen) Locke, Arleen (Matson) Lotta, Jo (Licursi) Loverde, Gerald McJenkins, Don Odgers, Muriel (Hopkins) Paine, Barbara (Cross) Petrotta, Dolores (da Roza) Pierce, Rudy de Polo, Tommie Lew (Wallace) Rider, Mary Iris (Smith) Ryder, Richard Schultz, Pat Symons, Betty (Lyles) Townsend and Nelda (Thomas) Valiska.
The January class
As a further indication of the veracity of the 1942 yearbook’s “small, but mighty” description of the January class, at the reunion, the January class was only represented by three people – Drennon, Garcia and Kinney.
During his time at McClatchy, Drennon was a lineman on the football team, a member of the Block M Society and he worked in the school’s cafeteria.
Garcia was a member of the Saber and Chevrons Society and the Carnival Committee and Kinney was the class secretary, a graduation usherette in 1941 and she had a role in the senior play, which was a ghost story, called “A Murder Has Been Arranged.”
Kinney also played an important role in the recent reunion as its co-chair. The other co-chair was Dolores Greenslate, who is the only McClatchy alumni to be a member of every reunion committee of the classes of 1942.
Speeches and memories
As part of her reminiscent speech about the January and June classes’ experiences at McClatchy High, Dolores Greenslate shared her amazement with how members of these classes had come together 70 years after graduating from the school.
Although she noted that she still spends time with some of her old classmates, Petrotta, who grew up at 2975 32nd St., where she was raised by her parents, Howard and Josephine Cross, enjoyed seeing classmates that she had not seen for many years.
“Some of (the graduates) I haven’t seen for a while – the guys especially,” said Petrotta, whose father owned and operated an automobile repair garage on Franklin Boulevard for more than a half a century.
Petrotta also mentioned that when she was a majorette at McClatchy, she made her own skirt.
“We had to make (the skirts) long, because we weren’t allowed to wear them short, but when we went on the field, we rolled them up,” Petrotta said.
Bruner, like many McClatchy students of the era, walked to school.
“I had to walk all the way from Mead and Wentworth (avenues) to McClatchy every day, rain or shine,” Bruner recalled. “I got to typing class one day – that was my first class – soaking wet. We had a typing teacher named (Mrs. Dorah) Tuttle. She said, ‘You go over there and sit by the window, where the heater is, so you can dry off.’ We also had a great gym teacher, Miss (Nell) Flanders. And of course, Arleen Matson (Lotta) and Della (Gomez Garibaldi) and I and a few other of these gals were the ones who would play out in the hockey field.”
One of the familiar sights of every reunion of this class is the presence of de Polo, Chun, Pierce and Norm Greenslate, who grew up near one another and attended school together from kindergarten through high school.
They began their schooling at William Land Elementary School at 1116 U St., then went to California Junior High School at 2991 Land Park Drive before spending their final three years together at McClatchy.
Members of the McClatchy classes of 1942 began attending this now-longtime institution at the beginning of only the third school year in its history.
Prior to this time, the city’s only high school was Sacramento High School.
It took very little time for these schools to become cross-town rivals in sports.
Norm Greenslate, who was known for his success as a batter, was the captain of the baseball team, which ended the 1942 season with an 8-3 win against the Dragons of Sacramento High. Other star hitters on the team were Wes Kelly, Al Gianelli and Harvey Ward.
Also playing on the baseball team were James, who was an infielder, and Odgers, who was an outfielder.
And as previously mentioned, Drennon played on the football team, which also included All-City team left tackle, Bob Geremia.
More Personal remembrances close the evening
Being that these students attended McClatchy during wartime, activities at the school at that time included folk dancing in the courts for morale, bandaging in first aid classes and a visit from a former student who had become a U.S. Army bombardier.
And of course, the most popular senior year event for many members of the classes of 1942 was the Senior Ball, which was held at the Memorial Auditorium.
Also adding to the 70th reunion was Lotta’s speech and readings from her old junior high autograph books.
Lotta, who had perfect attendance in school from the time she was in kindergarten through her years at McClatchy, brought a cordless microphone around the room, allowing alumni to share some of their own memories.
In summarizing McClatchy High during his time at the school, de Polo, who grew up at 1225 T St., said, “(McClatchy) was a good school, clean, a lot of fun, a lot of sports and it had very, very good students with no problems or anything like that and the teachers were good.”
Additionally, de Polo mentioned McClatchy’s first principal, Sam Pepper, who was very popular and well respected among the school’s students.
Dolores Greenslate said that although many people had to have assistance in making it to the 70th reunion, her classmates hope to attend another reunion in five years.
“At the very end (of the reunion), when we all had to part, I said, ‘This was the finish of our 70th reunion and we’ll see you back here in another five years for our 75th (reunion),’ and they all smiled and sort of cheered.”
Long before the days of the Gold Rush, a lake was located at this site, which was home to the Miwok Indians.
And the water of the lake continued to exist on a regular basis until the lake bed was partially filled in at the time of the creation of the 22-acre park, which has the address of 6135 Gloria Drive. This process occurred during the dry season when the lake’s level was low.
Since the lake was not filled in to the point that the ground was leveled off to provide adequate drainage, during prolonged, heavy rains, water accumulates, resulting in the partial rebirth of the site’s historic lake.
Evidence of a former Indian campground around the lake was discovered by Portuguese settlers, who farmed in the Riverside-Pocket area.
Among the items discovered after the farmers tilled the ground were: arrowheads, grinding rocks and various tools.
Furthermore, several Indian burial grounds existed in the area, including one that was located within a quarter mile from the lake. This burial ground was discovered
during the construction of Interstate 5, near the end of the Seamas Avenue exit.
Another burial ground is located on Pocket Road, a short distance from Garcia Bend Park, and is presently protected from development.
The lake, which was originally a rainfall lake that was surrounded by a wilderness of tall trees and brush, bears the name of the Munger family, who arrived in the Sacramento area during Gold Rush times.
According to the 1890 book, “An Illustrated History of Sacramento County,” Carl Munger, whose father, Calvin, was a native of New York and whose mother was born in Massachusetts, resided on property near Oak Hall, a speakeasy, where businessmen from downtown Sacramento would venture to spend leisure evenings.
Carl operated Oak Hall, which served beer, fine wines, lemonade, cold lunches and chicken dinners and also sold cigars, from about 1880 to 1897.
Also located in the vicinity of Oak Hall was Munger’s Lake.
Pocket historian Dolores (Silva) Greenslate speculates that the house where both she and her mother, Maria Gloria “Mamie” (Machado) Silva, were born was also the former residence of the Munger family.
She has come to this conclusion based on the fact that her childhood home, which was located on the present day Riverside Boulevard, was located near Munger’s Lake and was present during the beginning of the settlement of the Portuguese farms in the early 1850s.
Considering that Calvin was born in 1822 and the aforementioned 1890 history book refers to him dying “in the residence of his son Carl, four miles from Sacramento on the river road” in 1872, it is uncertain if any member of the Munger family would have resided in the home as early as the early 1850s.
One of the features of Munger’s Lake is that it attracted waterfowl such as ducks, geese and mud hens and contained small turtles and fish, as is evident by a story, which appeared in the Dec. 3, 1856 edition of The Sacramento Union.
According to The Union, Carl was fined $10 for selling fish that he had caught in Munger’s Lake without a license.
Unaware of the city ordinance that required him to have a license to sell the fish in Sacramento, Carl brought a wagon load of fish to the city and sold the entire lot to one man.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the property on the east side of the lake was owned by the Reichmuth family, thus leading to the name of the park. The family had a dairy and sold their milk in town and also to others who visited the dairy with their own bottles to be filled.
Visitors accessed the dairy via a gravel road off Freeport Boulevard, across from today’s Sacramento Executive Airport.
In 1900, John Joseph Machado and Joseph Azevedo, Sr., who were both born on the island of Pico in the Azores Islands of Portugal, immigrated to America and eventually settled in the Pocket area to make their homes.
John and Joseph married into the Anton Rodrigues Pereira (later Perry) pioneering family, as John married Clara Perry and Joseph married Fatima “Minnie” Filomina Perry.
Being close friends from their childhood, Joseph and John decided to pool their money and purchase about a 53-acre ranch, which included part of Munger’s Lake and the old, existing two-level house, which was possibly the former house of Carl Munger.
This house became the home of John and Clara, who raised four children in the house.
Joseph and Minnie had their home constructed a short distance south of John and Clara’s house, and together they raised two children in the house.
This partnership of the property continued until 1917, when John bought out Joseph’s share of the property, and Joseph and Minnie had a mansion home constructed on 546 acres in Natomas. This mansion, which has since been remodeled, moved a very short distance and repositioned, later became the home of Heather Fargo, who served as Sacramento’s mayor from 2000 to 2008.
Upon the departure of Joseph and his family, John and his family moved into Joseph’s former home.
At a later time, when John’s sons were old enough to help him with heavy labor, John and his sons cleared away the heavy wooded and bushy area on his portion of land along Munger’s Lake in order to begin farming pink beans to be sold at market and a variety of squash and melons that were grown on the sandy banks of the lake.
During especially rainy years, the lake would overflow its bank and water would spread over the fields.
These times were very devastating for John and his family, since this flooding caused them to lose their entire income for the year.
The old John Machado house and the newer Joseph Azevedo house existed on the property until the local construction of Interstate 5 necessitated the removal of these homes.
Greenslate, who was raised in the house that was possibly Carl Munger’s former house, said that she is very nostalgic when it comes to remembering Munger’s Lake.
“I remember running back through the fields with neighborhood children to play on the banks of the lake,” Greenslate said. “It was fun looking for arrowheads that we often found when the soil was disked for new plantings. I also remember fondly watching my adored grandfather (John Machado) while he worked on the thresher as he sacked the beans, which were grown in the lake. Presently, I enjoy driving by (Reichmuth) Park and looking at it and visualizing the old lake and how it used to be. And when I see the water build in the park after heavy storms, I get a kick out of it and I say, ‘Good for you, you still want to be a lake.’”
This flood, which was known as the Edwards Break, began at the sharp turn of the Sacramento River, near what is today the intersection of Sutterville and Riverside roads.
Four-legged levee destroyers
This tragedy happened as a result of a levee being weakened due to the burrowing of gophers and squirrels.
During a heavy storm on Feb. 27, 1904, water penetrated the burrows to the extent that the water’s force caused the levee to break and flood the area.
Due to the magnitude of the flood, news about this occurrence spread beyond the Sacramento area.
One such report was a Feb. 29, 1904 article in The San Francisco Call, which included the following words regarding the flood: “The fact is, simply, that there has been a bad break in Reclamation District 535 (later known as Reclamation District 673), south of (Sacramento), and that it has flooded probably 10,000 acres of the richest land in the state.”
This break was wide enough that large objects such as boats and a barge entered the opening of the break and flowed down into the Pocket.
In one incident, the home of Antone Perry, who resided on the present day Park Riviera Way with his family across from today’s Lewis Park, was struck by the aforementioned barge.
Traveling southward on the floodwaters, the barge made a sudden, swirling turn and then sharply struck the back corner of the Perry home, which was thus forced off of its foundation.
Present within the home during this incident were Antone, his wife Amelia, and their six children.
Another very notable house in the Pocket was the home of Manuel Seamas, owner of the area’s well known Grangers Dairy.
As a result of the Edwards Break, the Seamas house was flooded up to the ledge of the first floor window, which was located about 5 feet from the ground.
The flood also toppled the ornate, white, wooden fence that bordered the Seamas property and ruined the family’s renowned, spacious gardens, where gala parties were held with many guests.
Selfless acts of heroism
Although the majority of the residents’ animals were drowned in the flood, fortunately, with the exception of a man who was killed at the site of the levee break, those living in the area were able to survive this tragedy.
This fact was made possible through the selfless efforts of various men of the area.
Upon seeing the water rising to a dangerous level, men in the Riverside-Pocket area used their rowboats to rescue people who were stranded in their homes.
One such man was John Machado, who was known as “Jaoa Alvert” (“John Albert”).
Taking his rowboat from an area near his front porch, Machado transported his wife and infant daughter to the Reichmuth dairy area on high ground, which is known today as South Land Park Hills.
Machado then proceeded back to the Pocket to rescue area residents and take them to higher ground on the levee, where others had their homes. One of these homes was the home of his in-laws, Antone Perry, Sr. – the father of the aforementioned Antone Perry – and Mary Gloria Perry.
Machado, who was a tall, strong man, joined other men from the area who rowed their boats throughout the night in their efforts to bring stranded residents to higher ground.
Individual emergency preparedness
Although the Edwards Break flood took Riverside-Pocket area residents by surprise, this did not mean that they were without preparation for such a tragedy.
With an impending break of the levee in mind, the local rescuers referred to above, purposely kept their rowboats nearby their homes.
Additionally, most of the area’s homes were constructed with two levels with the lower level being for a cool storage area for perishable food and also possibly the kitchen area, which included a wood burning stove and perhaps a coal oil stove.
The upper level of such homes consisted of bedrooms, which were separated by a hallway that led to the front porch and stairway.
Some families in the area had their rowboats attached directly to these upstairs porches.
Area families were also educated with the knowledge of how to help save their homes during a severe flood.
One such method was to lean out a home’s upper windows or porch and break the lower windows with heavy objects or tools that were tied to long ropes.
The purpose of this action was to purposely flood the first floor, instead of running the risk of having the house carried away in the floodwaters.
Built on higher ground
In addition to the construction of ground level, two-story houses in the area, some people in the area also prepared for possible major floods by bringing in soil and building their homes on mounds.
On some occasions, soil for such houses was provided via dredgers that were used to build and repair the local levees and keep the river channel open for passenger and freight boats.
A dredger’s leverman would swing the boom, which transported large buckets of silt and soil, over the top of the levee and deposit the soil on the property.
The soil would then be leveled to the desired height of the home builder.
Pocket historian Dolores Greenslate said that she believes that among the area’s residents who built their houses on mounds was a Portuguese man, named Joe Lewis. This belief appears to be factual when considering that Lewis was known by the nickname, “Joe da Cabeco” (“Joe of the Top of the Hill”).
Following the break in the levee, several weeks passed before the floodwaters finally receded and people were able to return to their homes.
The most fortunate people of the flood proved to be those who prepared themselves by having their entire living quarters on the second level of their homes.
For those who kept their homes in this manner, their post flood work only involved repairing the foundations of their houses and their ground level, cool storage area.
Fortunately, unlike the people who resided in the Riverside-Pocket area during the flood of 1904, with the strengthening and higher level of the levees, people living in this area today are no longer constantly worried each winter about the possibility of major flooding.
Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a two-part series featuring the history of the Lisbon schools of the Freeport and Pocket areas.
With the 1909 opening of the Lower Lisbon School in the Pocket, the area’s students had a much improved learning environment than they had in the converted barn school building.
This new, larger, one-room school was a bona fide school structure, as it included such regular school building features as windows, individual desks and a wood stove.
The new school was constructed near the site of the old barn structure school building, but closer to Riverside Road.
On the exterior of the building, above the doorway, was a sign reading “Lisbon School.”
This sign still exists today and was for many years on display at the Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento.
Hundreds of children were educated in the school, because the greater number of children in the Pocket lived on farms in this area.
Among the teachers of the Lower Lisbon School were: Lilly Jones (1909-1912), Mrs. Lombardi (1916), Miss Marianna (1916), Hattie Williams (1918), Gladys Lynch (1919-1920), Mabel Wakefield (1921-about 1928), Emma James (1929), Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Jorgensen.
Because moisture from the canal created a health and safety issue at the Lower Lisbon School, the school was condemned and closed in 1928. This structure was demolished in the early to mid-1940s.
Following the closure of the Lower Lisbon School, the school’s children were transferred to an existing Japanese school, which was located on the Frank and Jack Lewis ranch in the central Pocket area.
The school building belonged to the Japanese community and served as a Japanese language school.
This Lower Lisbon School site was rented on a monthly basis from the Japanese.
The two schools were able to coexist in this structure since the Japanese school was only in operation on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Lower Lisbon School held its classes in the Japanese school building until 1945, when it merged with the Sutter School District – later the Sutter Union School District.
Upper Lisbon School
As previously mentioned, the Lower Lisbon School was not the only Lisbon School in the Pocket area.
Two decades prior the construction of the Lower Lisbon School, the one-room Upper Lisbon School was constructed on the Nevis ranch, where Park Riviera Way joins Riverside Boulevard, just south of where Elks Lodge, No. 6 sits today.
The school was built due to the fact that there was no school between Pimentel’s Ingleside Café (presently The Trap bar) at today’s 43rd Avenue and Riverside Boulevard and the bend on Pocket Road, about a quarter of a mile past today’s Portuguese Hall.
Providing instruction at the Upper Lisbon School were its teachers: Mrs. Hoschner (1928), Emma James (1931-1934), Mildred Fernandez (1934-1940), Dorothy Sweeney, Inez Applegate, Julia McMahon, Brizady Giannoni, Mrs. Lombardi, Eleanor Harkness and Mrs. Seamore.
Dolores Greenslate, who serves as the Pocket historian of the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society, remembers attending catechism classes at the Upper Lisbon School in 1929.
“I attended the catechism classes necessary for first communion in the Upper Lisbon School in the St. Mary Church (St. Maria Church), next to the Portuguese Hall,” Greenslate said. “My mother bought me a beautiful white dress and also a little crown for my first communion. I felt like a little bride. The doorway to the school was up what I though was steep stairs and I had never been in such a big schoolroom.”
Both the Upper and Lower Lisbon schools closed at the same time in 1945 to merge with the Sutter School District.
Shortly after its closure, the Upper Lisbon School building was purchased by the local Portuguese lodge and relocated behind the St. Mary Catholic Church, next to the Portuguese Hall, to be used as a clubhouse and meeting place for religious classes.
The old school building was demolished, along with the old Portuguese Hall, in 1967.
When the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society was formed in 1979, one of its early efforts was to have the next elementary school built in the Pocket area be named Lisbon School, as a memorial to the area’s Portuguese pioneers.
On Oct. 28, 1989, the society’s wish was granted with the gala dedication ceremony of Lisbon Elementary School at 7555 South Land Park Drive.
With the decline of families with small children in the area, however, the school was forced to close last year and the school’s children were transferred to other elementary schools in the surrounding areas. Today, the facility serves children of the Hmong community as the Yav Pem Suab Academy, a public charter school.
Greenslate said that unfortunately for the legacy of Portuguese in the Pocket area, the probability of having another Lisbon School in the area does not seem promising.
“The Portuguese culture and presence is fading in this area, where Portuguese pioneers chose to make their homes (and livings) in farming and dairying,” Greenslate said. “It doesn’t seem like there will ever be another Lisbon School (in the Pocket area). The only solace we have is in observing street names and visiting our Portuguese community park and the present Portuguese Hall and St. Mary Church.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series featuring the history of the Lisbon schools of the Freeport and Pocket areas.
The history of elementary schools in the Pocket area reached a special anniversary this year, as the predecessor to the first school in the area – Yolo County’s Lisbon School – first opened its doors to its students 140 years ago.
The name Joseph S. Miller (born José Souza Neves) is synonymous with this early school, which was located toward Babel Slough in the area known as Freeport in Yolo County, directly across the Sacramento River from the Pocket area.
This one-room schoolhouse opened on May 4, 1870 on donated land on a corner of the Glide Ranch, about two miles north of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Miller, who was born on March 6, 1822 in the Azores Islands of Portugal and was the original Portuguese person who settled in the Freeport (Yolo County) area, was a neighbor of J.H. Glide, a large landowner in the area.
Because more people were settling in the Freeport area, there became a need for a school to educate the area’s children.
Miller was not new to the idea of starting a school, since he had previously had a log cabin-type school building constructed on his property and he hired teachers to instruct his children in this structure.
This school building, however, was not large enough to support a new school for the growing area’s children.
Lisbon School District formed
Because of this, Miller formed the Lisbon School District, which had a larger, one-room schoolhouse built that was nestled next to the levee in order to avoid floodwaters.
Originally the school consisted of primarily Portuguese students ranging from first through sixth grades.
Later, a second room was added to the schoolhouse to accommodate eight grades.
During this era, most children attending the school walked to school on an unpaved road atop the levee.
The school was suspended on very rainy days, since the children could not navigate the muddy road for any great distance.
Additionally, two or three children rode to school in a horse and small child’s buggy that also carried hay.
The buggy would be unhitched and the horse would be placed in a stall in a shed-type structure, which was located in front of the school and closer to the levee.
Some children from the Pocket area were rowed across the river or crossed on the Glide free ferry to attend the school while their parents were involved in farming on both sides of the river.
Among the teachers at the school were: Mr. Raindollar (primary grades), Mr. Harding, Mrs. McLaughlin, Mrs. Foley, Arthur Mills, Mrs. Masterson, Miss Day, Miss Mathews, Miss Marshall, Miss Lighthouse, Miss Reasoner, Miss Lightcap, Julia McWilliam (grades 1-4 from 1894-1900) and Maggie McWilliam (grades 5-8 from 1890-1900).
Julia and Maggie McWilliam, who were sisters, boarded with the Kirtlan family in the Freeport area, and other teachers boarded with the Contente family, who resided about a mile north of the Kirtlan’s ranch.
First ethnic school
On Jan. 21, 1873, a group of Portuguese-Americans, led by Manuel E. DaCosta, petitioned the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to establish their own school district.
Due to the large influx of Portuguese-American families, who had settled in the Pocket area in the early 1850s, there was a need for a school in the Pocket area that would serve the children of these families.
Among these families were the DaCostas, the Waxons, the Perrys, the Garcias, the Peters, the Williams and the DeCostas (no direct relation to the DaCostas).
When the school opened in the 1870s, it became the only ethnic public school in the Sacramento area. This status continued until 1945.
The first schoolhouse in the Pocket area was a converted barn that was located near the drainage canal in the southeast portion of the Pocket.
This school was the first Lisbon School and was later known as the Lower Lisbon School when a second Lisbon School, known as the Upper Lisbon School, was opened in about 1890.
Providing education for students of the first Pocket area school was its teacher Miss Agnus Devine.
Pocket native Dolores Greenslate said that her grandmother, Clara Perry, used to tell her stories about walking to the first Lisbon School.
“I remember my grandmother speaking of walking to school on top of the levee for about a mile and she would have to come down from the levee across the fields and sometimes she couldn’t maneuver it because of the mud. On such occasions during the wintertime, she would have to turn around and return home. I asked her if she was disappointed that she couldn’t go to school and she said, ‘No, I enjoyed staying home more, so I could come home to a warm house and do what I wanted to do.”
The Edwards BreakThis first Lisbon School continued to serve local schoolchildren until the 1904 flood, known as the Edwards Break, which destroyed the school and flooded the area with about 5 or 6 feet of water.
Following the flood, a temporary schoolhouse was constructed on the Rogers ranch, about three-quarters of a mile north of the demolished school.
Manuel Ferreira, the carpenter of the Pocket area who was known as “Shopinha” and local farmers constructed a shed-like building to be used as a temporary school.
An old stove was transported to the structure and classes were resumed at the school, which was taught by Mr. McCormick.
McCormick, who lived in a cabin near the school on the Rogers ranch, continued to teach at the school until about 1906.
Sometime from about 1907 to 1909, students from the temporary school were transferred to the newly-built Lisbon School – later known as the Upper Lisbon School – which was located in the area of today’s Park Riviera Way.
The students from the lower part of the Pocket continued their education in this school until 1909, when the new Lower Lisbon School, a one-room schoolhouse, was built near the original barn-structure Lisbon School.
Buildings such as the Memorial Auditorium, the Elks Building at 11th and J streets, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, a portion of the state Capitol and various structures in Old Sacramento, for instance, have a commonality that link them together for an obvious local trivia question.
These local landmarks were all constructed with bricks that were made at the Sacramento Brick Co., which opened on Riverside Road (today’s Riverside Boulevard) in 1881.
Additionally, the company, which was originally owned by Thomas Dwyer, also supplied bricks for reconstructing part of San Francisco following the great 1906 earthquake and fire.
By this time in the company’s history, the brickyard was already quite notable, as is evident by a reference in the 1890 History of Sacramento County, which reads: “(The brickyard has) in operation four Quaker brick machines with a capacity of (manufacturing) 140,000 (bricks) daily.”
During summer months, the brick-making plant utilized clay-like soil for its production that was dug from the “clay pit” in the area of today’s Lake Greenhaven, near John F. Kennedy High School.
Brick by brick
The preliminary process of creating the bricks began in the winter, as the clay was dredged and placed on the south bank of the pit for the purpose of having it dry until summer.
Once dry, the clay was loaded into the plant’s ore car-sized locomotives and delivered to the brickyard, which was located about a half-mile away, across Riverside Road. The plant, which was situated on about 250 acres, extended southward from the levee area to near modern-day Gloria Drive.
Overall, about eight cars were used for this process in a rotating sequence along the tracks, which were moved according to the locations of each dredging project.
Once at the brickyard, the clay was loaded onto a large conveyer belt and transported to a hopper before being transferred into what was known as the “pug mill.”
It was at this mill that the clay was mixed with a precise amount of water, so that the bricks would not be too soft or too dry.
After being stacked on pallets for the curing process, the bricks were then transferred to kilns for the firing process.
During the plant’s earlier years, 20-foot-wide by 40-foot-long, outdoor kilns, which were made of brick, utilized coal – a heating source that was later replaced by crude oil and for a period of time, gas.
Originally, bricks created at the brickyard were transported by horse-drawn wagons to local construction sites.
Pocket historian Dolores (Silva) Greenslate said that she recalls seeing a brick delivery wagon with a team of horses led by brickyard worker, Joe Prady pass by her childhood home on Riverside Road on various occasions during the late 1920s.
Eventually, the brick delivery wagons were altogether replaced by brick delivery trucks.
In addition to seeing the brick delivery wagons, Greenslate, as well as other children residing in the area at the time, was continuously entertained by the sight of the brickyard’s locomotives crossing Riverside Road.
“It looked as though it was a toy train, which we longed to ride,” Greenslate recalled.
Being that the area was a Portuguese settlement, Greenslate said that the brickyard provided a lot of employment for the local Portuguese people.
Greenslate added that Antone Perry, the son of her great-grandfather, 1850s Pocket pioneer Antonio Pereira Rodrigues, worked at the brickyard for many years.
Antone Perry, whose sons, Alfred and Bill Perry, also worked at the plant, was employed as a brick setter and was known among his co-workers as “Squirrel,” due to his ability to work in small, narrow tunnels, where he stacked bricks to be fired.
Although the Perrys resided within a close vicinity of the brickyard, many others lived in houses located on the brickyard’s grounds.
Four-room, two-story, wood-frame houses, which included upstairs living quarters and kitchen and eating areas, were rented on the grounds for $7 per month.
These homes were not the only houses located on the property, as the site also included the large house of the brickyard’s supervisor, a boarding house for single men and about 20 single-room cabin-like structures.
“Thing of the past”
Although the brickyard is certainly a thing of the past, having been closed on Jan. 3, 1971 due to development in the area, its history remains strong through a variety of elements such as many structures built with Sacramento Brick Co.-manufactured bricks, Lake Greenhaven and even Brickyard Drive, a Riverside-Pocket area street named in tribute to this famous, local landmark.
E-mail Lance Armstrong at email@example.com.