The Best of the East Sacramento News 2014

Dear readers,
This year, the East Sacramento News has enjoyed bringing you stories about your neighbors and about the history that has made up the community you call home. What follows are summaries and excerpts from some of our favorite stories from the past year. Also, see some of the best photos of the year on page 19, many of which were taken by our star photographer, Stephen Crowley, who has had six photos nominated for awards by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Additionally, movie reviewer Matias Bombal shares with readers the top five movies he has reviewed for Valley Community Newspapers since he started writing for us in 2014. Without further adieu, here are the top stories and columns selected by staff this year.
Sincerely, Monica Stark

Bizarre vandalism hits East Portal Park area by Michael Saeltzer: David Powell has lived in his house since 1973 and is well known in his part of the neighborhood as being a good guy. He’s a retired firefighter, once having helped lead a grassroots movement to rebuild the playground at East Portal Park. He lives across the street from many nice rentals on 54th Street near J Street.

A few blocks away from David’s home, a woman living near Curtis Park for more than 13 years informed her neighbors that somebody had vandalized her home by spray painting the words, “Put can away,” in silver paint across the wall of her porch right next to her front door. Then, it got worse. It pretty much happened again to her neighbor. This time in dark blue spray paint were the words – “Don’t put cans out so early.” Important to note, is that the second time, the people involved have young children so they requested anonymity.

Courtesy of David Powell This is one photo that illustrates the graffiti that took over a small section of East Sacramento near East Portal Park earlier this year. Residents were targeted for over-watering their plants, putting their garbage cans out too early or leaving them out too long.

Courtesy of David Powell This is one photo that illustrates the graffiti that took over a small section of East Sacramento near East Portal Park earlier this year. Residents were targeted for over-watering their plants, putting their garbage cans out too early or leaving them out too long.

A few weeks later is when David received a call from Patty, an elderly neighbor across the street. She was telling him that someone knocked on her door, and when she answered, the man standing there told her she was using too much water. He then asked if he could borrow a wrench to turn it off. Then a week or so after that, the neighbor living nearby awoke to a large spray painted tag done in the same color blue as Kathy’s neighbor saying: “Stop over wating! (sic)”

After learning about all of these incidents, David stepped into action. He already had a preexisting relationship with police officer and local George Chargin. Officer Chargin helped when the area was having trouble with homeless people and this time he set up a meeting for all the victims to attend to share their stories, gather facts, and see if a person suspected of possibly committing the crimes could be detained. When confronted by Chargin, the suspect in David’s words, “said all the right things.” No charges could be filed.

When asked if the neighbors have a neighborhood watch program, each of the victims said that there is a neighborhood watch sign in the area, but none of them know of such a formal group. One neighbor named Meme said, “When something happens we know where to go, straight to David, he’s awesome!”

David explained he had his own form of protection in his house. The hunting pictures didn’t leave one guessing as to what that meant.

Ray and Dorothy Bertolucci are shown in front of their 37th Street guest house in this c. 1949 photograph. Ray was unofficially known as the “Mayor of 37th Street.” / Photo courtesy of Lois Lindstrom

Ray and Dorothy Bertolucci are shown in front of their 37th Street guest house in this c. 1949 photograph. Ray was unofficially known as the “Mayor of 37th Street.” / Photo courtesy of Lois Lindstrom

Remembering the ‘Mayor of 37th Street’ by Lance Armstrong: There are many memorials that can be found in various places throughout the capital city. But one of the most hidden and less known memorials is that of former East Sacramento resident Ray Bertolucci (1911-2011).

At the end of a cul-de-sac on 37th Street, just south of P Street, is an area, which is rich with trees, ivy and other plants.

Although it is necessary to do some investigating on the southeast side of that area to locate Ray’s memorial, with relatively little effort, one can find that memorial, as well as memorials to his wife, Dorothy M. (Herbert) Bertolucci (1915-1997), and Jamil D. Nammour, a professor at Sacramento State University from 1969 to 1986.

Ray’s plaque has a short inscription, as it reads: “Raymond Bertolucci, ‘The Mayor,’ 1911-2011.”

With a glance at a listing of mayors who have served Sacramento, one would not find the name, Raymond Bertolucci.

So, with that in mind, the obvious question would be: Why was this man, Ray Bertolucci, recognized as a mayor on a memorial at the end of a portion of 37th Street in East Sacramento?

Although Ray passed away three years ago in his 37th Street home, and thus would not be available for comment, the answer to that question can be easily answered by many people who remember him as having acquired that title.

In an interview with this publication, Larry Bertolucci, who was Ray and Dorothy’s only child, said that his father began to be referred to as “the mayor” by his neighborhood friends in the 1980s.

“(Ray) was just very active in terms of when they closed 37th Street off (south of P Street, near the old freight train tracks/light rail tracks) and made it a cul-de-sac (in the mid-1980s), and he was just a real advocate for that general location,” said Larry, who graduated from Sacramento High School in 1962, and later graduated from Stanford University. “When people would move in, he would welcome them. If anybody was doing any nonsense, he was not afraid to confront them and say, ‘That’s kind of unacceptable for this area.’ And everybody just kind of rallied around him. I think it was partly because of age, partly because of his personality and partly because of his tenure of living there. So, you know, it just kind of came into fruition if anybody needed any answers about the area, (they would ask for his assistance). The guy had phenomenal recall. It was amazing that he could put the dates and names to places. He could tell you in Old (Sacramento) what store was there on what corner, what they did, who owned it. He would meet a guy in a store, at Corti Bros. or maybe at Safeway, and he would say, ‘Larry, I know that guy.’ He wasn’t afraid to go up and (talk to) the person and say, ‘I know you, tell me your name,’ or ‘I think your name is this. You were related to this guy.’ And the next thing you know, they were carrying on a conversation. He was absolutely uncanny.”

The grave of Dorothy Millette Bern is located at East Sacramento’s East Lawn Memorial Park. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

The grave of Dorothy Millette Bern is located at East Sacramento’s East Lawn Memorial Park. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

East Sacramento cemetery marker recognizes woman with unique Hollywood connection by Lance Armstrong: A grave marker reading, Dorothy Millette Bern, lies at East Lawn Memorial Park in East Sacramento. And although that name may mean nothing to most Sacramentans today, there was a time when locals were well aware of details pertaining to Dorothy and her association with a real-life Hollywood mystery.

The year was 1932 and headlines of newspapers across the nation were announcing the latest daily news pertaining to the sudden death of the German-born Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film producer Paul Bern. He died in his Hollywood mansion two months after marrying the notable film actress Jean Harlow, and his remains were interred at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood (Los Angeles County).

Also mentioned in the first part of this series was an article, which appeared in the Sept. 8, 1932 edition of The Sacramento Bee.

That Associated Press article noted that Paul had been married to another woman a decade earlier and that he was never divorced from the woman, who was “a mental incompetent in a New York sanatorium (sic).”

The hotel officials also claimed that Dorothy was visited by Paul at the hotel on an annual basis, and that she had ceased residing at the New York hotel a short time prior to Paul’s marriage to Harlow.

Dorothy once again made the news on Sept. 9, 1932.

The Bee then-reported that Dorothy had been a passenger on the Delta King during one of its voyages from San Francisco to Sacramento. She had, according to River Lines officials, boarded the vessel under the name of “D. Millette” on Sept. 6, 1932 at 5:30 p.m., a day following the announcement of Paul’s death.

Earlier in the day, a woman arrived at Plaza Hotel in San Francisco and registered as “D. Millette, New York City.”

It was also reported by The Bee that Dorothy, who had checked into the King’s stateroom No. 304, appeared to have been missing when the riverboat arrived at its destination, and that police believed that she had ended her life by leaping into the Sacramento River.

A coat and a pair of shoes that were identified as belonging to Dorothy were discovered on the boat’s observation deck, and a large portion of her belongings were discovered in her stateroom after the King docked in Sacramento.

H.L. Karrick, a passenger on the same Delta King voyage, would later say, “Everybody on the boat was watching (Dorothy). She kept wringing her hands and appeared to be weeping.”

Additionally, Karrick stated that he witnessed Dorothy standing by a rail of the ship and gazing into the water at 2:30 a.m., when he departed the vessel at Rio Vista.

In an article published in the Sept. 10, 1932 edition of The Sacramento Union, it was noted that based on the theory that she had jumped to her death in the river, constables and fisherman in every river township below the capital city were keeping a lookout for a floating body.

Meanwhile, faced with the possibility that Dorothy may have swum ashore and was still alive, and possibly involved in a suicide hoax, police also searched transportation systems and rooming houses.

Aiding in support of the then-theory that Dorothy committed suicide was the fact that $38 was found in her purse that had been left in her stateroom.

Although a statewide police search for Dorothy was reinstated, that search would be short lived.

On Sept. 15, 1932, The Union ran the front page headline, “Dorothy Millette’s body found in river.”

The Lady of the Lake: Judy McClaver’s journey to clean up McKinley Park pond activates the community by Monica Stark: With pointed fingers and curious faces, McKinley Park visitors have taken to watch neighbor Judy McClaver row a paddle boat back and forth across and around the pond, filling up a large trash can with garbage, tree branches, tennis balls, fishing lines, hooks and even syringes. She and her friend, Rick, have also worked together to remove domestic birds, replant the island, fix the sprinklers, and prune the shrubs.

A local hero to the community, Judy has taken on a mission to educate the public and city officials about the health of the water and the importance of feeding the waterfowl a proper diet. The pond, measuring about an acre in size, she explained, should not have more than 30 birds in it at any one time. In this pond, at the worst time of year, migration time, Judy estimates the pond as being home to about 100 geese and 100 ducks, compared to now with about 20 geese and about 30 ducks. It’s also home to about 75 turtles and a variety of fish.

“I knew the pond was dirty – that it had no care,” Judy told the East Sacramento News on a warm Thursday afternoon, as she did her routine maintenance. Pointing toward the island that sits in the middle of the pond, she described the gravity of its spoilage.

“That whole island was in disrepair. The birds were getting hurt over there; they were being trapped because of the bamboo. They would trip over it. It’s so thick when it grows, and the females would go into the bamboo when they were chased by the males to get away, but they couldn’t get out. And there were rats on the island. And there were rotten eggs. It was definitely horrid over there,” she said.

Though the pond is much cleaner now thanks to her ongoing work, she knows that her physical efforts aren’t enough – that the water is disgustingly dirty.

“I am the one that told the city how dirty this pond was and about its lack of maintenance and management, so that they finally commissioned an estimate to be done of four city ponds. This estimate proved what I had been telling them…this pond is a human health hazard,” Judy said.

Sure enough, deemed as such, a Lake Management and Assessment Report, commissioned by the City of Sacramento identified dangerous levels of E. coli from the waters of McKinley Pond. And after much insistence from neighbors to repair and clean it out, the city has set aside $225,000 in Park Impact Fees and Quimby funds, which was approved in June, parks staff will work with the community on the scope and design of the revamped pond. It’s estimated the construction will be completed this year.

They’ll drain it, erect a fence around it, but someone will need to find homes for all the wildlife living there. As Parks and Recreation Director Jim Combs said in a phone interview, “You can’t just clean these ponds every year. It’s not like your bathtub. We have to relocate the animals. It’s a big undertaking.”

Lady of the Lake attacked during 8 a.m. routine maintenance by Monica Stark: Judy McClaver, McKinley Park’s very own Lady of the Lake, was attacked while picking up trash at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 19. Assaulted from behind, a known felon ripped Judy’s t-shirt, knocking her to the ground where she hit her head on the sidewalk. She got up, but he came at her again, so she hit him with her trash reacher, but he sent her to the ground again, hitting her tailbone.

“I was screaming for 9-11 the whole time and there were plenty of people around witnessing, yelling at him and calling 9-11,” Judy told the East Sacramento News two days after the incident. At that time, she said she was doing “OK,” that her headache had been resolved, but that her tailbone still had been very painful. She said X-rays did not show fracture, but that there were a few other bruises. “It’s difficult to lay on my back with metal clips on back of my head, but I survived.”

During the incident, people made a barrier between Judy and the man, while emergency medical technicians and police officers made their way to her aid. When the first officer arrived, he directed the man to sit and called him by name. “Obviously well known to the police, (I) later found out they get calls on him frequently,” Judy said. “We could hear the guy refusing to cooperate with police commands and being threatened with a taser. The guy was one step short of going into the pond. I was hoping he would, but that would then mean the police would have to deal with the filthy pond water. Eventually five more police (officers) showed up.”

Judy said she spent about six hours in the emergency room, “getting CTs, X-rays and waiting. I also got seven staples to a laceration on the back of my head.” Described as “6 feet something, black with dreadlocks and always (wearing) dark clothing,” Judy said she had seen her assailant in the park repeatedly for the last few weeks prior to the incident and described his odd behavior as follows: “the guy who attacked me – I never saw him never interact with people in the park, but he would make wide circles around (them).”

Janey Way Memories: My First Christmas Away from Home by Martin Relles: In September of 1969, I completed my military training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then the U.S. Army issued me orders to serve in West Germany. In early October, I boarded a charter plane headed for Frankfurt, Germany. After three days in Frankfurt, I received orders to serve at the 510th Ordinance Battalion in the small German town of Gunzburg.

If the truth be told, I arrived in Gunzburg ill-prepared for the German climate. It didn’t help that my army duffel bag, filled with most of my clothing, disappeared en-route. It eventually arrived, months later, but initially, I had minimal gear.

By mid-November, the first snow fell and it covered the ground until, April. You got used to it though. I soon began to enjoy it. Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas approached. I started to feel a little home-sick then. However my first Christmas away from home turned out wonderfully.

Mom sent me a care-package in mid-December full of treats. We went out and bought a small tannenbaum (Christmas tree) for our room. We decorated it with ornaments purchased at a store in town. In town, they decorated the streets with red ribbons, greenery and ornaments. I bought small presents, and mailed them home.

On Christmas day, I attended services at the beautiful Gothic cathedral in town. That evening, the officers hosted Christmas dinner for the men in the dining hall. They came, in full military dress attire, accompanied by their wives. After a fine turkey dinner with all the trimmings, they distributed small presents to all of us. Christmas away from home wasn’t so bad after all.

Know your neighbors: Don Coan and Barbara Jodry by Monica Stark: Eighty-seven-year-old Don Coan, an East Sacramento resident who was a human rights activist, according to The Sacramento Bee died Oct. 2 of prostate cancer. Don and Barbara spoke with the East Sacramento News in July to promote Solar Cookers International’s solar cook-out, which was held in William Land Park and featured dozens of demonstrators from around the world. What follows is some information about Don and Barbara from the July interview.

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“I enjoy using the sun for baking during the summer. It saves on gas and doesn’t heat up the house.” –Don Coan, East Sacramento resident, Solar Cookers International Order of Excellence (2009), SCI Volunteer of the Year (1989, 1993)

East Sacramento residents Don Coan and Barbara Jodry bought a nice, new stove in 2000, only to have used it maybe a dozen times since then. “We like to do the Thanksgiving turkey in it,” laughs Barbara. “It’s a running joke. We just really like to use our solar cooker,” she said.

Living on 38th Street near F Street, the two helped spawn an annual “solarcue” down the street in Rick and Heidi Kantola’s sunny front yard.

As solar cooking conventions started taking place around the world, Barbara and Don thought: “Why couldn’t we do it in the neighborhood?” So they did, “solarcue” fashion. “It seemed like a lie to call it a solar barbecue, but they started calling it a ‘barbaracue’ because my name is Barbara. As you can tell, we have a sense of humor here. This was in the 90s, early in our efforts to boost publicity about solar cooking,” Barbara said.

For several summers on a day near the solstice, Don and Barbara attracted quite a few passersby who saw the solarcue. “Barbara and I were just looking at the home movie that a friend of ours took of one those events. It was great to be reminded about that period in our lives,” said Don, who, just a few weeks prior to the interview, stopped volunteering regularly inside the Solar Cooking International office, located at 1919 21st St., No. 203. Don received the organization’s Order of Excellence award in 2009 and the SCI Volunteer of the Year award in 1989 and again in 1993. SCI facilitates humanitarian and environmentally focused partnerships around the world through a database of connections. As an umbrella organization to numerous groups that try to spread solar cooking worldwide, SCI helps facilitate partnerships.

Sold on the logic of solar cooking instantly when Sacramento State University professor, Dr. Bob Metcalf, first introduced the cooking methods to them in the 1980s at a demonstration at Sacramento State University, Barbara said it seemed “like idiocy to walk away from.”

“If the sun could give you sunburn, why wouldn’t it cook food?” she asked.

At the time, 1988, Don had just retired from his career as the Sacramento County Welfare Department (now Department of Social Services) Bureau Chief. Not one to really “retire,” Don described how he became involved with his then-newfound passion of solar cooking. “I was looking around for interesting things to do other than going fishing or that kind of stuff and it happened there was an article in Christian Science Monitor on solar cooking and there happened to be an office in Sacramento that promotes solar cooking. They said, ‘if you send in a dollar to this address, then you can get the instructions to construct a solar box.’”

So, he learned to make his own solar box cooker out of cardboard and figured he might as well help teach others how to do the same thing. And he put in volunteer work once a week doing “one thing or another” for Solar Cookers International. As the organization grew, his ability and interest grew too.

Shortly after they learned how to solar cook, Don and Barbara began raiding bins in the back of local businesses for cardboard boxes – a basic solar cooking material. “We’d get permission and take away corrugated cardboard and build a box, 30 by 30 inches. We insulated it with crumpled paper. The idea was to build something from practically nothing, something poor people could handle,” Barbara said.

Discussing their involvement with worldwide conferences, Don said he and Barbara went to their first conference in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. “This was a conference related to environmental issues. We had cookers there to show people how they worked.”

Explaining further, Barbara said: “We went down there and took our solar cookers. We weren’t with the high muckety-mucks discussing world environmental issues. We were demonstrating one small solution cooking using the sun versus fossil fuels and how the process is not endangering lives.”

Rick Edwards and Leanne Mack work with East Sac Pet Pals, which is much more than a simple dog walking business.

Rick Edwards and Leanne Mack work with East Sac Pet Pals, which is much more than a simple dog walking business.

On the Curbs: East Sac Pet Pals is more than just dog walking by Michael Saeltzer: Rick Edwards is the former owner of East Sac Pet Pals. He used to be seen jamming around in his small jet black super charged 2003 Honda Element with the pink stripe around it reading “East Sac Pet Pals.”

He owned the business with his wife Deb who overcame one bout of ovarian cancer, but ultimately was not able to overcome the disease. After Deb passed away, he transferred the business entirely over to Leanne Mack who is quickly making herself known in our community for her decision to quit corporate life and pursue a different lifestyle. Rick and Leanne both experienced situations in their lives that unexpectedly included pets, community, and personal transformation.

Rick explained to Leanne that East Sac Pet Pals is much more than a simple dog walking business. They provide the full package emphasizing home security and safety (Rick worked with the Sac Police to develop best practices for pet sitters), the ability to help out in a jam (think locking your keys in your car on your lunch), and years of knowledge about pet behavior and their health needs. Also included as part of the service is a daily journal of your pet’s day, pictures sent via the web, and a special package of care upon their passing – which is always a time of grief.

Janey Way Memories: The Australians by Martin Relles: After serving two years in the military in 1969-1971, I took a European Out and was honorably discharged at my duty station in Gunzberg, West Germany. Then, my friend Jeff Lucas and I purchased an old Volkswagen and headed south.

We drove first to Austria, visiting picturesque Salzburg, then stately Vienna. After that, we drove through the northwestern edge of Yugoslavia down to Trieste, Italy. From there, we drove along the coast, eventually arriving in Venice. As we pulled into Venice, we stumbled onto a campground. It featured a big sign labeled, “Camping Fusina.”

Little did we know, but that campground had a reputation as the best party spot for young tourists in southern Europe. All the youth bus tours came through Camping Fusina. And, Renato Rossi, the manager of the campground, accommodated them. Tourist buses arrived daily at the campground, then later at night Renato hosted a barbecue and rollicking party. This daily reveling took place throughout the tourist season. Jeff and I fit in well with this merry-making.

In addition to meeting lots of attractive young ladies, we met a whole host of interesting people from all over the world. Among them were three disheveled guys I called, “the Australians.” Their names were David, Peter and Charles (AKA Cobo). They had worked for a full year on a cattle ranch in the outback to cobble together the funds to travel in Europe for six months.

They pulled into the campground one day in a World War II vintage black and white ambulance set up like a camper with sleeping bags laid out in the rear portion of the vehicle. It was their home away from home. Little did I know, but later that summer, I would be traveling with them in that vintage transportation.

Jeff and I immediately took a liking to these blokes. They were short by American standards. David stood about 5 feet, 10 inches. The other two barely reached 5 feet, 8 inches. They were also stout, even paunchy, but also strong and tough…They shared their stories about the Australian outback and we told them about New York City, Hollywood and San Francisco.

We showed them how to play American football and they demonstrated Australian rules rugby.

Most of all though, we just partied together. They taught us the Australian tradition of the “shout.” In Australia, a shout is a group of blokes drinking together. When the glasses are empty, one of the blokes buys another round. This goes on until the party is over. Nobody will ever accuse the Australians of being light-fisted drinkers. They like a good party. And, we joined right in with them. We earned a spot in their shout, for life. What a hoot they were. I’d love to see them again someday.

Eventually though, we all went our merry ways. Jeff and I set off for Florence, Italy and David, Peter and Cobo headed off in the direction of Spain, muttering something about running with the bulls. But, that is another story.

Now my days of celebrating with Australians are just another arm-bending Janey Way memory.

A fire occurred at the old Squeeze Inn on Fruitridge Road on May 14. Shown in this photograph is the back of the building, which reveals the majority of the structure’s exterior damage caused by the fire. Squeeze Inn was founded in East Sacramento. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

A fire occurred at the old Squeeze Inn on Fruitridge Road on May 14. Shown in this photograph is the back of the building, which reveals the majority of the structure’s exterior damage caused by the fire. Squeeze Inn was founded in East Sacramento. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Squeeze Inn restaurant was founded in East Sacramento by Lance Armstrong: Many Sacramentans today are familiar with the popular hamburger restaurant chain, Squeeze Inn. But most longtime Squeeze Inn customers do not recall a location of the business prior to its operation at 7918 Fruitridge Road, where a suspicious fire coincidentally occurred on May 14, about nine hours after the first article of this series by this author was printed in the East Sacramento News.

The history of this business began 32 years ago, when Sacramento natives Ken Noblett of 1449 Arvilla Drive and Shane Dickenson of 1512 55th St. opened the restaurant’s original location at 4087 C St. at Elvas Avenue.

However, on a side note, research revealed that an unassociated restaurant by the same name was established in the capital city long before the 1982 opening of the Squeeze Inn on C Street.

Ruth Noblett, widow of Ken Noblett, who co-founded the Squeeze Inn in 1982, explained that the business’s existence at 4087 C St. in East Sacramento was short-lived due to a change in plans by the building and property’s owner, the East Sacramento business, National Linen Service, at 3391 Lanatt St.

The fire, which caused mostly interior damage to the Fruitridge Road location, was deemed suspicious due to the structure’s vacancy and barred entries, and has been under investigation as a suspicious incident.

As for the Nobletts, despite selling their business in Sacramento, it would not be long before they would return to their routine of operating a Squeeze Inn restaurant.

After moving to Stockton, Ken decided to establish a Squeeze Inn in that little Missouri town, which has no stoplights and a population of about 2,000.

The location of that eatery, which opened at the address of #10 Public Square, in April 2002, served the community well until a tornado blew its building away on May 4, 2003.

Ruth said that she had to be talked into continuing the existence of Stockton’s Squeeze Inn.

“We had a partner (Rod Tucker) and dissolved that partnership after the tornado,” Ruth said. “I didn’t (want to continue the business). I wanted to retire. (Ken) really wanted to and Rod really wanted to, so they kind of talked me into it.”

Additionally, Ruth said that because of a high interest loan, they “couldn’t really not reopen.”

The second Squeeze in Stockton opened at 404 Arby Road in October 2004.

Ken died at the age of 63 in November 2009, and Ruth has been the sole owner of the business since that time.

Ruth noted that she has some good news in terms of the continuance of Stockton’s Squeeze Inn.

Former Tuesday Club of Sacramento members Nancy Leneis, left, and Anita O’Bryan met with the East Sacramento News in 2014 to discuss the decision to cease operations of the club, which met for many decades at the organization’s clubhouse, just south of Sutter’s Fort. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Former Tuesday Club of Sacramento members Nancy Leneis, left, and Anita O’Bryan met with the East Sacramento News in 2014 to discuss the decision to cease operations of the club, which met for many decades at the organization’s clubhouse, just south of Sutter’s Fort. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Tuesday Club of Sacramento ceases operations after 117 years by Lance Armstrong: The Tuesday Club of Sacramento, a women’s organization that was founded 117 years ago, has came to an end in 2014.

In a meeting with the East Sacramento News, former Tuesday Club members Anita O’Bryan and Nancy Leneis explained the decision to cease operations of the club.

“The Tuesday Club took a very difficult vote to disband, because of declining membership, and less (members) were able to come due to health (issues),” Leneis said. “And younger people are not as interested in clubs, so they decided to disband. And it was a vote of the board taken first and then a vote of the entire membership at a meeting (at the Dante Club earlier this year).”

O’Bryan, who was one of the club’s 50-year life members, as she had been a member of the club since 1959, added that the club had been contemplating the idea of disbanding since last year.

“A year before that (final decision), we felt that the club was in trouble and should we consider closing,” said O’Bryan, whose mother, Irene Sweet, was a former president of the club. “And we tried to see if we couldn’t get it going before we made the final decision with the membership.”

Another former Tuesday Club member Irene Ryder was the first person to inform the East Sacramento News about the club’s demise.

At that time, Ryder said, “We have probably had our last meeting as a club.”

And after those words became a reality, a decision was eventually made to break the unfortunate news about the club to the public through the East Sacramento News.

That decision was partially made due to the fact that the club had met just west of East Sacramento for the majority of its years of operation.

Ray Jenkins, who owned Cycle Tune Co. for more than 40 years on Alhambra Boulevard, sits on his 1984 Honda Trail CT110. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Ray Jenkins, who owned Cycle Tune Co. for more than 40 years on Alhambra Boulevard, sits on his 1984 Honda Trail CT110. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Cycle Tune building demolished, but memories remain by Lance Armstrong: For the past year and a half, a small, cinder block building sat vacant a block from McKinley Park and across the street from Sutter Middle School at the address of 900 Alhambra Blvd. But about two months ago, that structure, which for the majority of its existence housed Cycle Tune Co., was demolished.

The 30-foot by 30-foot building was a destination spot for more than 40 years for motorcyclists who sought to have their bikes fine tuned and repaired in an efficient manner at reasonable rates.

Ray Jenkins, a 1968 graduate of Grant High School, was the sole owner of the business for practically the entire duration of the business’s operation, which began in 1976. Jenkins explained that his road toward becoming involved with Cycle Tune began when he was 20 years old.

In speaking about the founding of Cycle Tune, Jenkins said, “It was a motorcycle repair place set up by a guy by the name of Richard Northam, and he was a highway patrol officer that worked graveyards. He had a family of four kids and a wife and he wanted to get into some kind of business and he liked motorcycles and there were a lot of officers that had bikes. So, he was there for about six months (before Jenkins became a partner in the business).”

The recent demolition of the old Cycle Tune building represents an end of an era, as the structure was the last surviving building that had stood on the southwest corner of Alhambra Boulevard and I Street during a time when the Alhambra Theatre (present site of Safeway) and Helvetia Park (present site of Sutter Middle School) were a part of the area’s attractions.

The Sacramento County Historical Society recognized Valley Community Newspapers’ very own historical writer, Lance Armstrong, at its annual dinner on Tuesday, March 25 at the Dante Club. Lance is currently working on a book project on the history of Sacramento.

The Sacramento County Historical Society recognized Valley Community Newspapers’ very own historical writer, Lance Armstrong, at its annual dinner on Tuesday, March 25 at the Dante Club. Lance is currently working on a book project on the history of Sacramento.

Congratulations to our very own: Lance Armstrong: The Sacramento County Historical Society recognized Valley Community Newspapers’ very own historical writer, Lance Armstrong, at its annual dinner on Tuesday, March 25 at the Dante Club, 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd.

Lance’s early interest in history led to his many years of researching local histories and preserving historical documents, photographs and other historical items from throughout Sacramento County and other areas of the Golden State in his vast personal collection, which is recognized as the Lance Armstrong Collection.

After graduating from California State University, Sacramento with degrees in journalism and music, Lance began his professional writing career, which includes his work for local newspapers such as the East Sacramento News, Land Park News, Arden-Carmichael News, Pocket News, Elk Grove Citizen, The Sacramento Union, Capitol Weekly, Sacramento Downtown News, Sacramento Midtown News, Old Sacramento News, Natomas Journal, The Folsom Telegraph and the Sacramento News and Review.

Lance, who is presently employed by Valley Community Newspapers, has used his knowledge, researching abilities and personal archives in the process of producing local history articles for each of these publications.

These informative and entertaining articles provide a valuable resource for the present and future understanding of the area’s rich history.

The majority of Lance’s local history articles include oral history quotations from his interviews with people from various levels of society.

In addition to his hundreds of local history newspaper articles, Lance is the author of Echoes of Yesterday: Elk Grove – the first book in his Echoes of Yesterday history book series. In 2007, Echoes of Yesterday: Elk Grove was recognized as the nation’s top regional history book for that year by the American Authors Association.

Lance is presently nearing the completion of several comprehensive history books about Sacramento from the times of Captain John Augustus Sutter to present.

Janey Way Memories: Remembering Catholic Youth Organization Basketball by Martin Relles: Last Friday night, I watched my grandson Angelo play in a youth basketball game. It was a blast. Angelo, at 4 feet, 10 inches tall, was one of the big kids on the court.

The boys played on the main basketball court at San Juan High School—a regulation court with 10-foot baskets. They looked pretty small on the big court, but their enthusiasm and endurance amazed me. When Angelo took a rebound, he drove the ball quickly up court, before passing the ball to an open shooter. Later in the second half, he took a long shot which rolled around the rim and dropped in. That shot gave his team a 2-point lead which they never relinquished. The final score was 33 to 31.

Watching the boys play, brought back memories of my own youth basketball experience in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball league. I joined the Saint Mary’s CYO right after graduating from Saint Mary’s School in 1960. Father John Puliz, the pastor of the church, started the club that same year. He felt the teenaged kids, who attended the church, needed a wholesome outlet for their youthful energy. The activities sponsored by the CYO included dances, trips, and team basketball. I signed up for the right away for basketball.

We had our first fall practice at Kit Carson Junior High School in East Sacramento. Bob Hocking served as the coach of our team. Coach Hocking had played basketball at Sacramento State College. He had lot of knowledge to share with our inexperienced, young team which included my friends Dan Petrocchi and Dick Mckechnie. We learned how to play a three/two zone defense and how to run a one/three/one offense. We had already knew the basics of basketball (dribbling, passing and shooting), but did not know how to play as a five-man team. Coach Hocking had his work cut out for him, but over time he molded us into a pretty good team.

In October, we started our 10-game season. It was so exciting. Coach Hocking assigned me to the point guard position. My responsibilities included dribbling the ball up court and initiating plays. I had a pretty good set shot, and the coach encouraged me to take it when I had the opening. I remember scoring in double figures during a few of our games. That made me feel like my hero Bob Cousey of the Boston Celtics. Other times, I passed the ball to big Dick Mckechnie in the key or to Dan Petrocchi on the wing. Dan had a good jump shot and often scored on those opportunities.

Our team played against teams from Sacred Heart, St. Francis, Immaculate Conception, All Hallows and Saint Patrick’s churches. All the teams were very competitive, and the games were close—no blow-outs here. In the end, we took second place. Immaculate Conception, with their 6-foot, 8-inch center won the league.

I have never forgotten, my CYO youth basketball experience. In fact, I often see coach Hocking at meetings of the Dante Club of Sacramento. He always says, “How are you doing kiddo? Keep writing those columns.” I am glad the old coach enjoys reading my stories. I certainly have never forgotten all he taught me, another inspirational Janey Way Memory.

St. Francis High teacher furthering notoriety in the art world through Johnny Cash project by Lance Armstrong: Adan Romo, a longtime teacher at St. Francis High School in East Sacramento, has earned much recognition as a creator of public art. And that notoriety has come through a variety of art projects, including one that is beginning to earn him widespread attention.

His latest project, and one that will become the largest artistic endeavor of his career to date, will be a series of Johnny Cash sculptures in Folsom.

During his interview with this publication, Adan spoke about his co-operation of an art business and his acquisition of the Johnny Cash-related art project.

“I have my own company with my father (Jesus Romo),” Adan said. “It’s called Romo Studios and we’ve been doing public artwork now for almost 20 years now. (The business’s projects include) public artwork for churches or communities or schools or monuments. And so, the opportunity came up (in 2013) for the (Cash project).

“The city of Folsom put out a call to artists to create concepts for a new project they have there, which is to create a three-mile long trail near Folsom Prison that connects all their other existing trails. And they chose to call that three-mile portion the Johnny Cash Trail.

“Then they wanted to select six different artists to create six different artworks along that trail to celebrate Johnny Cash.”

The project will also feature a phone application created for the Johnny Cash Trail, which was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended Johnny Cash’s eldest daughter, Roseanne Cash, on Oct. 4.

It’s show time! Tahoe Park pub theater to have debut movie next week by Monica Stark: A transformation of the Tahoe Food Market on 14th Avenue is complete. Just last March, the inside was a bit of a disaster area with wet plaster drying over large holes in the walls. There were bars on the windows.

Upon arrival to 5440 14th Ave., Jackie Nadile, the visionary and business owner of the latest incarnation of the space, opened the doors on Friday, Sept. 26 to what she and her husband Alan Lee have named, Public House Theater. Rows of old Del Paso Theatre chairs, obtained from Alan’s boss, line the inside as red curtains border a large movie screen. Also in the seating area are a comfortable couch and the kind of recliners you just sink into.

Behind the seating area, in a separate room, is the bar, which features beer from West Sacramento micro-brew, Bike Dog (whose owner, like Jackie, is a Tahoe Park resident.)

Whereas most movie theaters charge a lot for popcorn and soda pop to recoup the costs of proceeds lost from ticket sales to the movie companies, Nadile said she’s hoping to keep the prices down. With regular menu items such as sandwiches, paninis and pizza, Public House Theater will also offer specials from time-to-time from local restaurants, including sushi night with sake and fare from Kansai Ramen & Sushi House (2992 65th St.,Ste. 288).

From opening day on, she plans on keeping the theater open for Monday Night Football games, as well as movie nights Friday and Saturday and Sunday matinee. Food and drink are served in a laid back atmosphere.

Know your neighbor: The Candy man from East Sacramento by Monica Stark: (Editor’s Note: This was published last April, just in time for Easter.) Chock-full of countless chocolate Easter bunnies and eggs, Andy’s Candy Apothecary, located at 1012 9th St., is a pastel-colored paradise decorated with kid-tested baskets, as well as slightly more “grown up” baskets. Just two months ago, it was all about chocolate hearts wrapped in red. “We sold out of all of the chocolate!” East Sacramentan Andy Paul, the store’s owner, then said about the holiday made for sweeties. “I was floored by how much business we had. It was crazy, but it was a good problem to have.”

The easy-go-lucky, but highly organized sweet tooth, has a high bar for quality candies. Winning last year’s Sacramento Downtown Partnership foundation’s “Calling All Dreamers” business competition Andy said owning a candy store has been a dream, a “pipe dream really” for about three years, though he’s been passionate about candy all of his life.

Under the direction of what he calls “curated collection” concept, Andy decided that while he is an amateur candy maker, he refrains from making anything for the store, since it would complicate business operations. Plus, he said his “stuff really doesn’t compete (yet) with all of the amazing things” he can find. While he first searches the local candy scene for the best products, he doesn’t limit himself geographically.

A father of two daughters, ages 6 and 10, Andy said the girls’ opinions of their dad owning a candy store has changed since opening day, Dec. 13, 2013. Though the novelty has worn off, they still get excited when he brings home samples.

Janey Way Memories: The Last Father: The Last Father by Martin Relles: Last Friday night, my wife and I attended the Music Circus production of “A Chorus Line.” We loved the show.

One of the most compelling stories in the production was the story of Paul, a young, gay, Puerto Rican dancer trying to earn a part in the chorus line.

During his interview for the part, the choreographer asks Paul to tell his story.

Despite his reluctance to open up about his life, Paul breaks down and tells all.

As a boy he was different from all the other boys. He didn’t like sports and really didn’t want to rough it up. He wanted to dance.

So, he taught himself to dance by watching Hollywood musicals. By the time he got into high school, his difference from other children caused trouble for him. They teased and bullied him. Eventually, he sought the help of a psychologist who told him he was perfectly normal and urged him to drop out of school and pursue a career in dance. So, he took the psychologist’s advice and left school. But, it wasn’t that easy for 16-year old boy from the Bronx find a job as a dancer?

Ultimately, he got a job dancing in drag in a club on the lower east side of New York. His new occupation embarrassed him and he didn’t dare to tell his parents. However, when the manager of the show decided to take it on the road to Chicago, Paul asked his parents to give him a ride to the airport after the evening show. That night his parents surprised him by arriving early to pick him up, and when he walked by them in full costume, gaudy dress and all, they recognized him. This made him feel horrible, but he went on to finish the show.

After the show, he walked out the stage door and discovered his parents talking to the show manager. He saw his dad point a finger at the manager and say, “you take good care of my son.”

At this point in the interview, Paul broke down and said tearfully, “that was the first time my dad ever called me his son.”

This was a touching moment in the show and it brought back memories of my father. I remember him introducing me to his friends, saying proudly, “This is my son, Marty.”

What made Paul’s story even more meaningful to me is that just two days before seeing “A Chorus Line,” I attended the funeral of one of the Janey Way fathers, Virgil Petrocchi. In fact, he was the last surviving Janey Way father.

His son Dan delivered the eulogy. It was a good story about a man who lived a good life, had a good sense of humor, gave sound advice to his children and cared deeply about all the children in the neighborhood. Virgil, like all the Janey Way fathers, played a special role in my life.

These men coached Little League, took the boys camping, set off fireworks on the 4th of July, and taught us how to live our lives with honor and dignity.

With Virgil’s passing, all the Janey Way fathers have left us, but we will always remember them in our Janey Way Memories.

Cycle Tune building demolished, but memories remain

Ray Jenkins, who owned Cycle Tune Co. for more than 40 years, sits on his 1984 Honda Trail CT110. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Ray Jenkins, who owned Cycle Tune Co. for more than 40 years, sits on his 1984 Honda Trail CT110. Photo by Lance Armstrong

For the past year and a half, a small, cinder block building sat vacant a block from McKinley Park and across the street from Sutter Middle School at the address of 900 Alhambra Blvd. But about two weeks ago, that structure, which for the majority of its existence housed Cycle Tune Co., was demolished.
The 30-foot by 30-foot building was a destination spot for more than 40 years for motorcyclists who sought to have their bikes fine tuned and repaired in an efficient manner at reasonable rates.
Ray Jenkins, a 1968 graduate of Grant High School, was the sole owner of the business for practically the entire duration of the business’s operation, which began in 1976.
In speaking about the founding of Cycle Tune, Jenkins said, “It was a motorcycle repair place set up by a guy by the name of Richard Northam, and he was a highway patrol officer that worked graveyards. He had a family of four kids and a wife and he wanted to get into some kind of business and he liked motorcycles and there were a lot of officers that had bikes. So, he was there for about six months (before Jenkins became a partner in the business).”
Jenkins explained that his road toward becoming involved with Cycle Tune began when he was 20 years old.
“I had gotten away from junior college and decided just to go to work,” Jenkins said. “I tried different things, welding and working in restaurants and (other jobs), but I realized I wanted to do something I enjoyed. So, one guy brought up this idea, and said, ‘There’s something called the state rehab vocational department.’ And I go, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘Well, you’ve got your handicapped arm.’ And I do. I have an arm that was injured during birth. It’s not fully developed and formed. So, I went down to downtown Sacramento, got an appointment and saw a fellow, and he said, ‘All right, I can see that you qualify because of your arm. So, what would you like to do?’ And I never had given it a great deal of thought, so I said, ‘How about a brain surgeon?’ And he said, ‘No, the state wouldn’t pay for that.’ I just said that to throw it on the table. And he goes, ‘Okay, what’s your other idea?’ And I thought, ‘I love motorcycles.’ So, I said, ‘Be a motorcycle mechanic.’ And he goes, ‘All right, then this is what we’ll do. You go out and you find yourself a situation with a (motorcycle) shop and if they will hire you, we’ll buy all of your tools and a tool box and we’ll pay half your wages for three years.’”
In being motivated by the offer, Jenkins went seeking a job and eventually acquired one at a shop that sold Kawasaki motorcycles off Jefferson Boulevard in West Sacramento.
Although he was not a mechanic, Jenkins told the business’s owner that he was a mechanic, thus forcing himself into a sort of “sink or swim” situation.
And Jenkins explained that he nearly sunk in his attempt to repair a Yamaha RD 250 two-stroke motorcycle with a transmission problem.
“I spent the better part of two weeks trying to get that thing together,” Jenkins said. “I was about ready to quit, because I was just tired of going to work and having to face the same machine day after day.”
Jenkins said that the very day that he was heavily considering quitting his job, he put the motorcycle together correctly.
After about two years of working at the West Sacramento shop, Jenkins moved on to other jobs, including working at a Suzuki dealer at Broadway and Franklin Boulevard and in the repair department of A&S Motorcycle Parts at 3501 3rd Ave.
Jenkins explained that he was given the opportunity to become involved with Cycle Tune during a period of his life when he was receiving unemployment checks.
“(The situation) just kind of fell into my lap or whatever,” said Jenkins, who was then riding a Bridgestone 350 motorcycle. “He needed a partner and I fit what he needed being a mechanic.
“How it worked out was I stopped and talked to (Northam, who was then riding a Honda CB 400 F) and he was a nice fellow, but I could tell that he wasn’t a mechanic. So, he would be like cleaning the bikes with a rag and changing oil. He could do that, but as far as like a tuneup or whatever, he had no idea how to adjust valves or sync carbs or what, you know. So, the second time I stopped by, I was talking to him and he said, ‘Be my partner.’ He needed somebody there that was a mechanic. He had a little bit more knowledge about the business aspect and licenses and sales tax numbers and that sort of thing.”
Jenkins mentioned that his acceptance of that offer led to his sole ownership of the business.
“I could tell that (Northam) was just burned out,” Jenkins said. “I never saw anybody that could lean standing up against a wall and take a nap. He was working eight-hour shifts at night in the patrol car and he’s got a family and then he’s trying to run Cycle Tune for 40 hours a week. So, we were together the better part of the year, I believe, and then he just came up to me one time and said, ‘Ray, I can’t do this. There (are) not enough hours in the day and I’m getting exhausted and I’m not spending enough time with my family. So, (the business) was sort of like dumped in my lap. I had never run a business. It was kind of scary. You know, there it is and you have to learn.
“So, how he put it was, ‘Ray, I know you don’t have a whole lot of money, so pay me half of the inventory.’ He made up some kind of figure like $5,000 or $8,000 or whatever it was and he said, ‘You can pay me when you can pay me.’ So, it was like pretty economical (to purchase the business) and he was more than generous. And we continued to be friends and I (would go) over and visit him and his family and we would go on motorcycle rides and things like that.”
Jenkins, who spent many years playing tennis during his spare time, said that Cycle Tune was a service-only, non-sales business that would also order specific parts to meet a customer’s need.
In recalling a fond memory of his business, Jenkins mentioned that he became known for purchasing a new motorcycle every other year.
“(The new bikes) worked as a business catalyst,” Jenkins said. “When customers would come by (the shop), they would say, ‘Oh, that’s the new (Kawasaki) KZ750. I read about that in a magazine.’”
Although Jenkins hired various workers in the heyday of Cycle Tune in the 1970s and 1980s, he noted that he opted to work alone for the majority of the years he owned his business.
In reminiscing about the 1980s, Jenkins said that Cycle Tune would then continuously work on about 18 motorcycles at a time.
Jenkins spoke with pride about his approach to his work and his determination to provide a high level of customer service.
The Cycle Tune Co. building at 900 Alhambra Blvd. sits behind a chain-link fence about a week prior to the structure’s recent demolition. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The Cycle Tune Co. building at 900 Alhambra Blvd. sits behind a chain-link fence about a week prior to the structure’s recent demolition. Photo by Lance Armstrong

“I was concerned about the quality of work that went through Cycle Tune,” Jenkins said. “A lot of my stuff that came to me was disenfranchised people that had been to dealers, paid a ton of money and got crap work. And so they would come looking for an alternative. So, I went out of my way to make sure (a bike) worked properly, and (its problem) was figured out. I test drove it and if there was an issue, no problem, bring it back, I’ll take care of it. So, I got a pretty good reputation in Sacramento over those 40 years.”
Jenkins, who began working alone in about 1985, recalled being informed about a proposal for the property that would lead to the closure of Cycle Tune.
“My landlord – and there were about four of them over 40 years – at the time, Tessa was his gofer person. (She) was the woman that would go around and do the legwork and collect the money and rent and deal with problems and what have you. And she told me that (a sale of the property) was in the works, that an offer had been made and it looked like something that was coming up. It was an independent (buyer). I think some investors from Southern California. In other words, I knew in March, April (of 2013) that stuff was going to be happening. By May, I’m contacting AT&T to try to garner my old (business) phone number that I had for 40 years.”
It was also at that time that Jenkins had a contractor working on a small shop behind his Arden area home for the purpose of creating a work space where he could continue working on bikes of other people on a hobby basis.
Jenkins, who presently rides a Yamaha Majesty 400 and a 1984 Honda Trail CT110, was completely moved out of the old Cycle Tune building by July 2013.
In regard to earlier history of the corner that included the Cycle Tune building, a residential structure was built on the property in about 1921. It was originally the home of a cement worker named Edwin S. Johnston. That building, which had the address of 916 31st St. (the original name of Alhambra Boulevard), was the home of John C. Silver, a carpenter, from about 1924 to about 1925.
East Sacramento resident Theodore A. “Teddy” Kellogg operated an automobile repair shop in a building on the same site from about 1925 to about 1960. The structure was then demolished.
A building at 910 Alhambra Blvd. stood for about a quarter century, and was home to a business known as Alhambra Auto Laundry.
One of the earlier advertisements for that business, which opened in early 1945, includes the following words: “Alhambra Auto Laundry. Washing, polishing, waxing, simonizing, steam cleaning, clean radiator on car, hot tank for cleaning motors for overhaul. Free pickup and delivery service. Dial 2-6438.”
Ward N. Cooper, who resided with his wife, Tessie, at 1014 E St., was the business’s original proprietor.
Other owners of the business were Wylie B. Abney (about 1947 to about 1949); Anthony I. and Oreno J. Tonarelli (about 1949 to about 1952); Anthony I. Tonarelli, sole owner (about 1952 to about 1964); and James O. Hawkins (about 1964 to about 1966).
Wayne E. Lee was the auto laundry’s owner when the business closed in about 1969.
As for the Cycle Tune building, it was originally the structure of the Rio Grande Service Station that was then owned by East Sacramento resident Virgil M. Nott from about 1939 to about 1940.
Nott sold the business to Henry C. Bangham, who sold the business to Virgil L. Overholt about a year later.
A 1942 advertisement for Overholt’s Rio Grande includes the following words: “Just like new. We use an electric process for wax and simonizing. Try this modern method! Have your car simonized for winter protection. Coupes, $6.00, sedans, $7.50. Phone for appointment.”
In mid-February 1943, the station, according to a crime report, was burglarized and three dozen spark plugs were stolen.
By 1945, Lemuel F. Young had acquired ownership of the business.
The establishment was known as Brown Bros. gas station from about 1946 to about 1948.
A Richfield Service Station operated under various owners at different times from about 1948 to about 1957, when the future Cycle Tune building became home to the Alhambra Garage.
In about 1968, after about two years of vacancy, the building had a new tenant, Luther’s Garage, which was owned by East Sacramento resident Richard Luther. The business provided Citroën parts and services.
The building was once again vacant from about 1970 to about 1972, at which time arrangements were being made for the building to be demolished.
In about 1973, Leon Cenur began operating the MCS Volkswagen maintenance shop at that site.
And after another period of vacancy, the structure became home to the final pre-Cycle Tune business in the building – Yucon Delta House Boats. That business was owned by Jack Ferguson.
The recent demolition of the old Cycle Tune building represents an end of an era, as the structure was the last surviving building that had stood on the southwest corner of Alhambra Boulevard and I Street during a time when the Alhambra Theatre (present site of Safeway) and Helvetia Park (present site of Sutter Middle School) were a part of the area’s attractions.

Lance@valcomnews.com

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: cemeterycommission@saccounty.net.

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

county.net

Pioneer cemetery once sat at site of East Sacramento’s Sutter Middle School

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

When it comes to local history, many longtime Sacramentans can proudly tell those of younger generations how they remember when East Sacramento’s Sutter Middle School, which is located south of McKinley Park at the corner of Alhambra Boulevard and J Street, was the site of a city park. But few people today can recall seeing the site during its pre-park years.

Sutter Middle School at the corner at Alhambra Boulevard and J Street was once the site of a pioneer cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Sutter Middle School at the corner at Alhambra Boulevard and J Street was once the site of a pioneer cemetery. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

It is somewhat ironic that the only evidence at this site relating to this earlier era is a tombstone-like marker, which describes the property’s former existence as a pioneer cemetery, which included many large markers.

Indeed, a full-fledged cemetery, complete with stone and wooden headstones and large monuments, once covered the site where the school grounds are located today, as is evident by the information provided on the non-cemetery marker – which sits along the fence line of the school’s Alhambra Boulevard side – as well as a variety of historical documentations.

The fact that the cemetery was established in the 1840s as the burial plot of Sutter’s Fort is sufficient enough information for one who has at least a general understanding of Sacramento’s roots to realize that the school sits on one of the city’s most historic sites.

Referred to in some references as being initially called the “Sutter Fort Burying Ground,” this former, private 20-acre cemetery, which was renamed the New Helvetia Cemetery in 1850 in recognition of its location within Captain John Sutter’s Mexican land grant by the same name, became the burial place of deceased pioneers of the area.

According to an article in the Nov. 12, 1873 edition of The Sacramento Union, after some confusion as to who was the first person to be buried at the cemetery, it was determined that this notoriety belonged to Major Cloud, a paymaster in the United States Army, who died in July or August 1847 – a day after falling off his horse about a half-mile southeast of Sutter’s Fort.

Also significant in the cemetery’s history was the existence of a burial site that included the remains of many of the victims who died during the city’s cholera epidemic of 1850.

In the northeast corner of the cemetery was property designated for Chinese burials.

This area was divided into four, 50-foot by 50-foot sections, two of which were surrounded by iron fences and the other two with wooden fences. And in each lot was a furnace for burning clothing and property of the deceased and incense.

The cemetery was purchased from Sutter by Dr. R.H. McDonald in 1850, and seven years later, it was sold to J.W. Reeves.

During Reeves’ ownership of the New Helvetia Cemetery, in 1860, it was reported by The Union that the cemetery had totaled 420 interments.

Reeves later deeded the cemetery to the city of Sacramento for use as a public cemetery.

In 1885, the cemetery was overhauled, as very large trees that were believed to detract from the beauty of the burial grounds were removed, smaller trees were trimmed, weeds were cut down, driveways were improved and aging redwood markers were refurbished.

A year after the cemetery’s major facelift, however, the Sacramento Record-Union reported that the writing on many redwood markers had been “obliterated by the rains of succeeding winters” and in one corner of the property, headboards “blackened with age” stood so close together that they had the appearance of a “stubble field” – a field where plant material such hay has been cut and left with short stubble.

On May 12, 1887, the Record-Union described the cemetery as being under the management of Nicholas Mohns, who was reported to have prided himself in “keeping everything scrupulously neat.”

During the same time, Mohns, who resided at 2830 O St., was also in charge of the Jewish cemetery, which was established on the opposite side of J Street in 1850.

Although there is no complete record of the interments of the New Helvetia Cemetery in existence, various records reveal the names of those who were buried at the cemetery.

This c. 1909 photograph shows the gravesite of the Rev. Elijah Merchant, a pioneer preacher and pastor, who had his ashes interred in the New Helvetia Cemetery in 1857. / Photo public domain

This c. 1909 photograph shows the gravesite of the Rev. Elijah Merchant, a pioneer preacher and pastor, who had his ashes interred in the New Helvetia Cemetery in 1857. / Photo public domain

For instance, preserved in the 1909 “Souvenir History of the First Methodist Episcopal Church” – a book written for the 60th anniversary of the church – is a biography of the Rev. Elijah Merchant, a pioneer preacher and pastor whose ashes were placed in the New Helvetia Cemetery 153 years ago.

A rare photograph from the cemetery appears in the book and features Merchant’s old headstone, which was engraved with the words: “Elijah Merchant, member of the Cala Conference, Died at Los Angeles, Oct. 26, 1857, aged 28 years, ‘I have fought a good fight.’”

The book also notes that the ashes of other preachers who participated in the annual “California Conference,” which was referred to on Merchant’s headstone, were consecrated within the same plot at the cemetery.

Additionally, the 1909 First M.E. Church book refers to a then-current and now historical part of the cemetery’s history, the possible removal of the cemetery.

Due to flooding during the cemetery’s early years and eventual development in the area, discussions regarding the abandonment and potential elimination of the cemetery continuously resurfaced.

The cemetery officially operated until 1912, despite the fact that the city had previously discouraged any future burials at this cemetery and suggested that many of the existing remains at this site be relocated.

In the midst of the well-publicized efforts to transform the cemetery into a park, the city purchased the Chinese portion of the cemetery for $3,020 in 1917 and the Chinese remains were removed.

Work to eliminate tombstones from the old cemetery for a future park resulted in only 15 tombstones being present at the site in early July 1918.

Although the park plan was approved by the city’s park board in January 1920, efforts to replace the site’s monuments with small markers was a lengthy process, as nine graves still had monuments on them as late as July 1922.

This tombstone-like marker provides details about the New Helvetia Cemetery, which once sat where Sutter Middle School is located today. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

This tombstone-like marker provides details about the New Helvetia Cemetery, which once sat where Sutter Middle School is located today. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The remaining tombstones were eventually removed and the park became known as Helvetia Park.

However, the fact that most of the graves were still located at the park was not entirely lost, as the park remained a cemetery, included markers, and many of the city’s annual directories listed the site as Helvetia Cemetery Park.

The site remained a park until the early 1950s, and in the mid-1950s, the remains of 5,235 people were removed from the park and relocated to other local cemeteries, in anticipation of the construction of Sutter Junior High School – presently Sutter Middle School – at 3150 I St.

Greek Orthodox Church has long history in the capital city

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation has a rich history in the capital city, including nearly 60 years in East Sacramento.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation has been a part of East Sacramento since its opening in 1951. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation has been a part of East Sacramento since its opening in 1951. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Many East Sacramentans are familiar with the large, Byzantine-style church and its accompanying Hellenic Center at the northeast corner of Alhambra Boulevard and F Street, across from McKinley Park. But the church’s history in Sacramento predates this historic site.

But taking a step back prior to the church’s establishment in Sacramento, county records indicate that Greeks had a presence in the city as early as 1890.

From 1910 to 1920, no more than 50 Greek families resided in the Sacramento area. And of these families, the majority of the men were employed by the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific railroads.

Although there was no Greek church in the city during this time, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church – the mother church of Greek orthodoxy in the West at the time – served as a relatively nearby active presence for the church.

Also during this era, liturgy was occasionally celebrated in Sacramento through clergy of San Francisco and later Los Angeles, with the first of these liturgies being held at Red Men’s Hall at 716 I St.

 

Constructing a church

The first official step toward establishing a Greek orthodox church in Sacramento occurred with a Jan. 18, 1920 meeting, which was held at the Pythian Castle at 831 I St.

Tom Mantis, president of Elpis, a then-6-year-old, independent Greek fraternal organization in Sacramento, initiated the meeting, which was designed to organize the Greek Orthodox Community of Sacramento.

By Dec. 20, 1920, the community had been formed and members of its first board of trustees were elected.

The following year, the first Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation was constructed at 620 N St.

The first liturgy in the new church was held on Dec. 25, 1921, under the direction of Father Sardounis.

A Greek school was established at the N Street site in a two-story Victorian in the mid-1920s.

The school, which was held following classes at local elementary and middle schools, was located on the ground floor of the building.

East Sacramento resident Penny (Anton) Kastanis recalled attending the school during the late 1940s.

“The school had desks that we sat at like in a regular school room and the classes were quite often taught by the priest or the priest’s wife,” Penny said. “Father Econome was one of my teachers. We all had books that we would purchase and they were all in Greek. They were like a first grade book with things like the alphabet, stories and poetry.”

The priests of the church resided on the second floor of the school building.

Additionally, the second floor of the school building was home to Nicholas Terzakis, the church’s caretaker during the 1920s.

Penny said that she continues to remain friends with former students of the school and added that the site of the original church and the school was very much “the center of both religious and social activities for the Greeks of Sacramento.”

Helen (Sady) Psihopaidas said that she remembers a unique aspect of the old N Street church.

“They had singing birds on both sides of (the nave of) the church,” Psihopaidas said. “They were hanging in regular-sized bird cages and there were about five on each side of the room. It was quite a unique sight.”

Penny, who also remembers the birds, said that the birds, which she suspects were canaries, were covered during liturgies, so that they would not interrupt the chanting, singing and other parts of the liturgies.

 

Parish and parishioners

With the founding of the church in Sacramento, a popular annual Greek picnic was established in 1922.

Terry Kastanis holds an original running tape of contribution amounts collected for the construction of the East Sacramento church. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
Terry Kastanis holds an original running tape of contribution amounts collected for the construction of the East Sacramento church. (Photo by Lance Armstrong)
By the early 1930s, the event, which was held at Helvetia Park in West Sacramento and included food, games and a beauty queen contest, was drawing about 2,000 Greek-Americans from Sacramento and beyond.

Another Greek event was the Greek Independence Day ceremonies, which honored the Greeks’ freedom, as a result of the 1820s war that eliminated the Turkish control of their land.

In Sacramento, the event was celebrated every March 25 with special liturgies, banquets and dancing.

During World War II, members of the church supported the Greek War Relief and the Red Cross.

An article in the Dec. 9, 1940 issue of The Sacramento Bee, for instance, showed that by this time, Greeks in the Sacramento area had raised as much as $10,000 to assist war victims in their native land.

Eventually, the old N Street church became inadequate to meet the needs of the growing parish and efforts were made to establish a new church building and recreation hall, known as the Hellenic Center, on property that the church purchased across from McKinley Park.

In 1949, George E. Johnson, who many longtime Sacramento residents remember for his Del Prado Restaurant, organized a fundraising drive, which resulted in the collection of about $48,000.

The Hellenic Center, which is located to the south of the Alhambra Boulevard church, was the church’s first building constructed at the site.

Shortly after its construction, this building, which has hosted many events throughout its history, was temporarily used for church liturgies and the offices of the priests.

 

Charting growth

The new church was completed in the fall of 1951 and held its first liturgy in the building with its pastor, Father Nicholas Karas.

Penny Kastanis sings during an event honoring a bishop’s visit in about 1954. The event was held at the Hellenic Center, which is located just east of the church. (Photo courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation)
Penny Kastanis sings during an event honoring a bishop’s visit in about 1954. The event was held at the Hellenic Center, which is located just east of the church. (Photo courtesy of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation)
New church offices were also constructed along N Street in the 1950s.

Many of the icons and other important pieces from the original church were placed in the new church.

These pieces included various paintings that are still located in the church today.

Overall, the cost of the land and its buildings was $318,211.

And this was money well spent, considering that the church has operated for well more than a half a century at this site.

In recent years, a drive to construct a new church building to replace the current church building in Sacramento has thus far been unsuccessful.

A plan to build a church in South Natomas fell short in 1993 and the property was subsequently sold.

Through this sale, the property’s former owner, Angelo Tsakopoulos gifted the church $1.1 million, which was used to purchase the remainder of the block at the Alhambra Boulevard site.

Prior to this purchase, the church owned half the block.

 

Expanding and exploring

Currently, members are split between the options of demolishing the present church building and constructing a new church in its place or building a new church on an 8-acre site in the 48-acre McKinley Village development, just east of the current church.

Terry Kastanis, the parish’s librarian who met Penny at the Alhambra Boulevard church and married her a year later in 1961, said that no matter what its members decide, the current economy has the new church project on hold. However, the church did move forward with a plan to construct a preschool and childcare center at the church site. The center is now open and operating 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information on the preschool, call Annette Chavez (916) 231-9173.

Undoubtedly, the Greek community is not only known for its historic East Sacramento church complex, but also for its Greek Festival, which is held each year at the Sacramento Convention Center.

This year’s edition of the festival, which is the city’s third largest drawing event, will be held September 3 through 5.

Eugene Fotos, 77, who was raised in East Sacramento and attended both locations of the church, said that he is proud of the church’s long history in the capital city.

“We’ve been here for a long time and have grown a lot since we were on N Street,” said Fotos, whose nephew, Father James Retelas, is the current pastor at the church. “We used to have about 40 people come to the church on N Street and now we get about 200 on average and sometimes about 300. I look at it as a big family and you don’t have to be of Greek descent. We welcome everybody.”

 

E-mail Lance Armstrong at lance@valcomnews.com.