Ravenous Café owner Wade Sawaya fondly remembers the wonderful dishes his mother made for her family and the love and care she added to make each meal special.
Born in the Azores Islands in Portugal, Sawaya had his first experience in the restaurant business washing dishes at the air base where his father worked as a civilian.
“When I decided to join the Air Force years later, I still had a part-time job waiting tables,” Sawaya says. “I decided to keep on that path.”
Sawaya has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years and is a certified Sommelier. Sawaya worked for the world renowned Broadmoor Hotel and many other fine establishments before buying his own restaurant. He believes what is most important is making sure the diners have a good time. Sawaya is completely dedicated to his business and doesn’t mind working 24/7.
Ravenous chef, Roberto Lainez has been preparing appetizing dishes for close to seven years and Sawaya says he is incredible.
“I can pretty much do what I want here, making my own twist on the food,” Lainez said. “If someone comes into the restaurant and wants something a little different than what is on the menu, I try to remain open to their ideas.”
Lainez is from New York and started his career there. He said he has always enjoyed trying new restaurants to see what other chefs are making and still enjoys going to new places.
Sawaya moved to Sacramento from Boulder Colorado after he bought Ravenous in August 2011. Sawaya likes the fact that Sacramento is in the heart of good wine. He said the Pocket is a great neighborhood and the people are friendly.
“This is your restaurant,” Sawaya says. “It’s Pocket’s fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere and people don’t have to drive too far.”
A specialty offered by Ravenous is the endless mimosas for $10 when ordering an entrée for Sunday brunch. The signature dish at Ravenous is the risotto. There is a different risotto every day in addition to the fish of the day. Arctic Char and Barramundi are a couple of the chef’s favorites. There is a European influence in most of the dishes prepared. Ravenous changes their menu each season to provide the freshest ingredients in their food.
“I love it!” says Karen Waring, a Pocket resident for 22 years. “This place stands up to any restaurant downtown.”
Waring said it’s nice to have a restaurant so close that serves gourmet food. There’s a good wine selection and Waring said it’s also a nice place to just order appetizers and wine with friends.
Ravenous believes in supporting small businesses and buys everything locally. As part of their wine selection, they carry Scribner Bend wines, a local winery from Clarksburg, Bella Bru bakery breads, produce from Produce Express, which are all the local farms with an 80-mile radius and their meats from Preferred Meats out of Oakland.
A native of Sacramento, Skip Lee provides the art on the walls at the restaurant. The art adds warmth. Sawaya wants people to feel cozy, like they are at home.
“I feel like I’m entertaining folks every night in my dining room,” Sawaya says. “Great music, great food and great wine.”
“Over the years I have learned the importance of beginning with the freshest ingredients, preparing them with care, and serving them with love so that people do not just have a good time at a restaurant, but they felt like they were treated like family.”
Sawaya highly recommend reservations.
Ravenous Café is located at Pocket Road and Greenhaven Drive.
The hours are as follows: Thursday through Sunday dinner 5-9 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 pm., Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday dinner (no lunch) 5 to 9 p.m. (Endless mimosas for $10 with purchase of entrée).
Ravenous is closed Mondays. The restaurant will serve a five-course prefix menu on New Year’s Eve for $75 per person. Reservations are required. Visit http://www.ravenouscafe.com/ or call 399-9309 for details.
Ravenous Café owner Wade Sawaya fondly remembers the wonderful dishes his mother made for her family and the love and care she added to make each meal special.
Among the many early Portuguese families of the Pocket area were the Antone “Tony” Luiz Silva and Joao “John” Luiz Silva families.
Both Tony and John, who were brothers, immigrated to the United States from Topo, Sao Jorge Island in the Azores Islands of Portugal. The brothers’ original surname was Avila, but they acquired the surname, Silva, after arriving in the U.S.
Tony was the first to arrive
The first of these immigrants was Tony, who arrived in America at the age of 17, and joined his brother, Joseph, who was herding sheep in Inyo County, around Lone Pine and Bishop.
In that county, Tony worked for two separate wages. One of these wages was $1 per day and for another employer, he was paid with food. However, Tony was not content working for food and after three days, using his broken English, he asked to be paid $3. The employer responded by giving Tony three kicks in his rear and ordering him off his property.
After leaving Inyo County, Tony, who was known to sign his name, “A.L. Silva,” because of his illiteracy in English, went to Sacramento County and became employed at the Elk Grove Winery in Elk Grove.
He then went to the Grant area in today’s Carmichael area and worked on a hay bailing press and farmed hay and grain.
Tony and Mary meet
While in the Grant area, Tony met his future wife, Maria “Mary” Nevis, who was born in the Azorean island of Terceira on Aug. 5, 1881. Mary had then-recently immigrated to the Pocket with her cousin, Vera Bettencourt, and lived with one of the two Costa families of that area.
Tony and Mary were married – most likely at the St. Joseph Church in Freeport/today’s Clarksburg – in April 1899.
In about 1902, Tony and Mary moved to the Freeport area, where Tony farmed and had a small dairy, adjacent to where John also farmed and operated a dairy.
Together Tony and Mary had seven children, Mary, Joseph L., Olive, Rose, Hazel, Anthony and the first-born Rose, who died in infancy. As a father, Tony acquired the nickname, “Lavafraldas,” which indicated the “washing of diapers.”
One day, one of Tony’s friends was driving by his home and observed Tony hanging up his children’s diapers on the outside line next to his house. The friend rolled down the window of his vehicle and shouted, ‘Oh, Antone Lavafraldas.’ This name became Tony’s nickname and remained with him for the rest of his life.
Tony and Mary settle down in Pocket
Sometime after the 1904 Edwards Break, which flooded the Sacramento side of the Sacramento River, mostly south of Sutterville Road, Tony purchased 102 acres of swamp land in the Pocket.
Before Tony could even begin to farm this land, the property had to be drained of its river water seepage and cleared of tules and brush.
It was also on this property that, in 1909, Tony had a 10-room Victorian constructed for him by Manuel Valine, a contractor who was known as “Calisto.” As a protection against flooding, Calisto built the home on a knoll.
In order to continue his work as a dairyman, Tony established a dairy on his Pocket property. The property also included a large orchard and a family vegetable plot.
In about the early 1920s, Japanese families began residing in the Pocket area and, in many cases, leased land from Portuguese farmers. It was during this early period that Tony leased his Pocket property to Saichi Hironaka, who was an American citizen. Hironaka then subleased the property in three parts to the Tanaka, Ishimoto and Shirai families.
In 1934, Tony acquired an additional 100 acres from Joe Rico.
Tony passed away on Jan. 30, 1945 and his entire property remained with his family in the ownership of his widow.
Twelve acres of Tony’s former Pocket property was donated in 1960 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento for the construction of a new church and parochial school. These 12 acres were exchanged for a 5-acre site on Florin Road, where the church was built and named St. Anthony Church in memory of Tony.
John immigrates to America
Tony’s previously mentioned brother, John, who was born on Jan. 10, 1879, immigrated to America in 1896. He arrived in New Bedford, Mass., where two of his sisters resided and then lived with them there for some time before joining Tony in California.
John was later hired to work at the Sacramento Brick Co. on Riverside Road (now Riverside Boulevard). He maintained this employment for several years.
On Dec. 17, 1904, John married a 20-year-old, Faial, Azores Islands-born woman named Inacia “Nancy” Silva at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. For their honeymoon, the couple traveled on a riverboat to San Francisco.
After returning to the Sacramento area, John and Nancy settled on rented property that was owned by the Glide family on Babel Slough in Yolo County. On this property, John operated a dairy with his brother, Tony.
The brothers grew alfalfa for feeding their cows and potato and beans to feed their families, which included John and Inacia’s eight children who were born on this property. Altogether, John and Inacia’s family included nine children: Mary, John L., Jr., Madeline, Tony, Anna, Joaquim (“King”), Manuel, Dolores and Emily.
In 1916, John purchased about 100 acres in the Pocket area from Frank Rico. Included with this purchase were two houses, three barns and a large orchard, which was located between the houses. Orange trees were among the trees of this orchard.
Also within John’s Pocket property were various crops, including alfalfa, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, sugar beets, spinach and milo.
John farmed his property into the 1950s, at which time he retired and his sons continued the operation of the farm.
Just prior to John’s death on July 7, 1970, part of his acreage was sold to developers.
Nancy died on Dec. 3, 1976, and the remaining part of the property was sold by her family in 1979.
The historical St. Elizabeth Portuguese National Church building at 1817 12th Street has been a part of the Sacramento community for nearly a century. And throughout the existence of the church, many residents of the Riverside-Pocket area have been members of this parish.
Prior to St. Elizabeth’s founding, many Portuguese in the Riverside-Pocket area attended Masses and other religious services at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 11th and K streets, St. Rose Parish at 7th and K streets and St. Stephen Parish at 3rd and O streets.
Parish established in 1909
The beginnings of the St. Elizabeth parish date back to early 1909, when Bishop Thomas Grace was petitioned by the Portuguese community to establish a church to meet their needs for the conducting of Portuguese services, as well as other traditions.
These traditions mainly included the annual Festa do Espirito Santo (Holy Ghost Festival).
Soon after the request was made for a new parish, property was acquired and plans were completed for the construction of what would become the St. Elizabeth church or “Igreja de Santa Isabel” to its early members. The name of the church was selected in honor of the beloved 13th century queen of Portugal.
Plans for the church were made at Manuel S. Williams’ grocery store at 1630 11th Street and the property for the church was donated by Manuel and his wife.
Early reinforced concrete structure
The church, which was one of the first reinforced concrete buildings constructed in the capital city, was designed by Frank Shea and John Lofquist of San Francisco.
Shea and Lofquist designed the building to resemble the 15th century Igreja de São João Baptista (Church of St. John the Baptist) in the island of Terceira in the Azores Islands of Portugal.
Selected to construct the building was the well-known Sacramento building contractor Charles A. Vanina, who resided at 2022 M Street (now Capitol Avenue).
During the time that the church was being built, the parish was already in existence.
The parish began at St. Stephen Parish with the October 24, 1909 baptism of a Portuguese child named Joseph Viega.
St. Elizabeth’s first pastor was Father Joao (John) Vieira Azevedo, who was born in the Azorean island of Pico on Nov. 25, 1880.
When he was 21 years old, Azevedo came to California to finish his studies for the priesthood.
After being ordained two years later, he completed assignments in Yreka, Fort Jones and Sutter Creek.
Azevedo was later assigned to Sacramento to establish the St. Elizabeth parish.
On May 10, 1948, Azevedo was bestowed the title of monsignor by Bishop Robert J. Armstrong.
Although he appeared stern and was recognized as being strict in the discipline of the children who he tutored, Azevedo was very well liked and respected by all members of his congregation. He remained active as the church’s pastor until June 1955.
In addition to assisting in the planning process for the church, Azevedo was involved in the dedication of the church on Feb. 2, 1913. Azevedo presided over the dedication with Bishop Grace.
An active dedication day
On the day of the dedication services, the first wedding at the church was also held, as Joseph Valine and Rosa Neves were married inside the new structure.
Also occurring at the church on the same day was the church’s first baptism, that of Mary Alvernaz.
Several years after the church was constructed, various features were added in the church’s basement.
Among these features were a community center – known as the “social hall,” where plays and other entertainment were presented – a kitchen and a unisex bathroom.
Also in the basement was a stage, which was initiated by Azevedo to accommodate his first communion and confirmation classes.
Two years following Azevedo’s service as the church’s pastor, Father Valdemiro Machado Fagundes, whose secondary education had been financed by Azevedo, became the church’s second pastor.
Fagundes’ experience leading up to his years as the church’s pastor included serving as St. Elizabeth’s associate pastor from 1951 to 1955 and the church’s administrator from 1955 to 1957.
A sad moment in the church’s history occurred on the morning of Tuesday, April 2, 1957, when Azevedo passed away.
Fagundes, who was born in the island of Terceira in the Azores Islands, had a much different appearance than Azevedo.
His youthful looks, which were enhanced by his crew cut haircut, high energy and young behavior caused parishioners to initially question his readiness to become the church’s pastor.
As Fagundes matured, he gained the respect of the parishioners, and his willingness to intervene in their welfare and financial problems endeared him to his congregation.
Fagundes, who was also appointed monsignor, retired as the church’s pastor on January 1, 1985.
A retirement party for Fagundes, who passed away on Sept. 26, 1996, was held at the Elk Grove S.E.S. (Sociedade do Espirito Santo or Holy Ghost Society) Hall on Jan. 13, 1985. The event was chaired by Al Balshor of Balshor Florist.
St. Elizabeth’s next pastor was Jose F. Ribeiro – of the Society of Jesus – who served the church from 1985 to 1991.
Ribeiro, who was born in Penude Lamego, Beira Alta, Portugal on Sept. 15, 1935, had previously served in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Following Ribeiro as St. Elizabeth’s pastor was Eduino T. Silveira, who served the congregation from 1993 to 2005.
For two years prior to his pastorship at St. Elizabeth, Silveira, who was born in Fenais da Luz in the Azorean island of Sao Miguel on Aug. 10, 1955, served as the church’s administrator.
Januarius Rodrigues, a retired pastor who was born in India and speaks fluent Portuguese, became the church’s temporary pastor on Feb. 24, 2005.
On following July 1, Rodrigues was replaced by three fathers – Giancarlo Mittempergher, Antonio Luiz Madeiros and Edwin E. Limpiado – from the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata.
Presently, Mittempergher, who is St. Elizabeth’s first non-Portuguese pastor, and Madeiros serve as the pastors for both the St. Elizabeth parish and the Holy Cross parish in West Sacramento.
An important moment in St. Elizabeth’s history occurred on Feb. 18, 1983, when the church was designated as a “Point of Historical Interest” by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
A bronze plaque recognizing this designation is located on the west tower of the church, near the edge of the stairway leading into the church.
Today, St. Elizabeth Portuguese National Church is recognized as the oldest Portuguese national church west of New England.
The designation of a Portuguese national church is rare, as altogether there are only three of these churches throughout the United States.
The Catholic Church infrequently grants this designation for churches in certain areas with large ethnic populations.
A centennial for the parish, which included a Mass with Bishop Jaime Soto and a candlelight procession, dinner and dancing at the Portuguese Hall in the Pocket area, was held on October 10 and 11, 2009.
Many people associated with the church are hopeful that a centennial celebration honoring the dedication of the church will be held next February.
Among the earlier Pocket pioneers was Joseph C. Nevis, who was the first member of his family to settle in the Pocket area. His family eventually grew to become one of the area’s largest early-day families.
While conducting research regarding the Nevis family during the early 1980s, Riverside-Pocket historian Dolores (Silva) Greenslate interviewed Clarence Nevis, son of Manuel Nevis, Jr. and grandson of Manuel, Sr. and Mary Nevis.
Greenslate related a detail about the family’s surname that she encountered while working with Clarence.
“In researching the Nevis family name, I accidently discovered that the Nevis name was originally Silva,” Greenslate said.
This earlier family name was determined through a family picture with a letter behind it and original deeds to the Nevis family’s Pocket property that were in Clarence’s home.
In recalling this discovery, Greenslate said, “Clarence could not believe that his family’s original name was Silva, but it was a fact since all of the evidence was at his fingertips and he did not realize it.”
The name “Neves” is actually the spelling of the birth name from the family’s ancestral Azores Islands and this spelling of the name was often changed to “Nevis” after members of the family came to America.
In the case of Joseph Nevis, his surname was changed from “Neves” to “Nevis” to avoid confusion with his cousin who also had the surname “Neves.” This cousin resided on the same property as Joseph and the name change occurred for the purpose of assisting with the proper distribution of mail.
Another detail regarding Nevis family members is that all of the men of the family used the middle initial “C.,” which represents the surname Correira, which was also a family name.
At St. Joseph’s Cemetery at 21st Street and Broadway, the tombstone of Joseph C. Nevis reads: “José C. Das Neves, 1-28-(18)94, aged 64,” thus indicating that he was born in 1830.
According to the 1890 book, “Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California,” Joseph C. Nevis is recognized as “Joe Silva.”
The book also shows that he was born in the “Western Islands” (Azores Islands) in 1822 and immigrated to California in 1855.
However, information that was provided by Nevis family members references Joseph as having been born in Faial in the Azores Islands in 1830, as the aforementioned cemetery tombstone indicates.
Joseph first engaged in mining for gold at Negro Bar, near Granite City – now Folsom and according to the 1890 book, he experienced success in this endeavor.
On Sept. 14, 1864, Joseph married Mary Norsement in Sacramento and then relocated with Mary to an area known as “the Grant,” which was located east of Sacramento in today’s Carmichael area.
Joseph worked as a farmer in “the Grant,” where both of his sons, Manuel and Joseph were born.
The June 1870 Sacramento census for Sutter Township lists the members of the “Silva” family as Joe, “Gianner” (Portuguese for provider), 38; Mary, “keep house” (housekeeper), 27; Joseph, 5; and “Manwell” (Manuel), 3.
On Aug. 28, 1868, the eldest Joseph relocated with his family to the Pocket area and leased the 95-acre Read ranch, which he farmed. He continued leasing this property until he purchased the ranch a decade later for $2,000 in U.S. gold coins.
The legal document for the ranch reads: 1 deed, 4 leases, 2 mortgages for Joseph Silva and son, Manuel C., and Mary Neves Nevis.”
The Pocket ranch
The Nevis’ Pocket ranch was located across Riverside Road from Faustino Silva’s slaughterhouse, which operated just slightly south of the beginning of today’s intersection of Riverside Boulevard and Park Riviera Way.
The property extended from the river to across the old Riverside Road and consisted of 29.21 acres. The eldest Joseph also owned 14.7 acres across Riverside Road.
Faustino Silva later purchased the Nevises’ properties to enhance his slaughterhouse acreage.
While under the ownership of the Nevises, the ranch was operated by the eldest Joseph and his two sons, who farmed vegetables and had dairy cows.
The cream was taken to Sacramento and most likely sold to the Crystal Cream and Butter Co. and vegetables were sold to local produce businesses or contracted with other brokers.
Libby, McNeill & Libby of Sacramento purchased the ranch’s acreage of spinach and tomatoes.
Following the death of the eldest Joseph, his sons ranched together before eventually dividing the ranch’s land into two equal parcels.
The younger Joseph, who at the age 25 married 15-year-old Maria du Luz (known by Maria Correira, later known as Curry) in 1890, ranched his parcel until his death in about 1928, at which time his sons Lloyd and George began to operate the ranch.
Manuel, who married 18-year-old Mary Dutra in 1896 when he was 28 years old, ranched his portion of the original Nevis ranch until about 1940.
Following his time living on the ranch, Manuel moved to a home off Franklin Boulevard. He died at the age of 81 on July 21, 1948 and Manuel passed away about 20 years earlier.
One of the original Pocket area Nevis homes, where Clarence Nevis lived with his twin sister, Lorraine, for many years, is still standing today.
One of Sacramento’s largest families
The Nevis family obviously expanded greatly, as Manuel and Joseph’s sister, Mary Nevis, who married a Manuel Nevis, who was no relation to the featured Nevis family, in 1894, was presented with her very large family in a photograph in The Sacramento Union on Dec. 25, 1957.
In the photograph, Mary, who was 80 years old at the time, was shown gathered in front of a Christmas tree with more than 80 members of her family, including a few in-laws. At At the time that the photograph was taken, members of Mary’s family, which was actually even larger, included her 11 children, 32 grandchildren and 56 great-grandchildren.
The Union noted that the Nevis family was “one of the largest, if not the largest, in this area.”
With the Pocket having experienced many changes and having a much different, built-out appearance today, the history of the Nevis family’s existence in the area is now only a memory of days gone by.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series about Sacramento resident Mannie Viera.
At 88 years old, Sacramento’s Manuel J. “Mannie” Viera, Jr. has experienced many things in his life, including growing up as the son of a railroad worker.
While sitting inside his home in Sacramento last week, Mannie spoke about his father, Portuguese immigrant Manuel J. Viera, Sr. (1892-1962).
“My dad came over (to the United States) from Faial, Portugal by himself when he was about 12 years old and he had a sign on him that (read), ‘California, Sacramento,’ and a loaf of French bread,” said Mannie. “I guess he had enough money to travel (to Sacramento) by train. When he got here, he lived on the corner of 6th and U (streets), right across from Southside Park. He never told me much about that time. All I know is that from then he went on to work at the (Southern Pacific) shops. He would go over there and work on the engines and stuff like that. And later on when I got older, I went to the work for the railroad, as well. So, I worked on Front and J (streets) and he worked over (at 4th and I streets) at the shops.”
Manuel Viera Sr. married Goldie Mae Dias (1893-1974) in about 1920. Mannie was born in San Francisco, and moved to the capital city when he was about six months old, when his parents adopted him.
Mannie said that his father was well known by many locals for his ownership of Viera’s Place, a bar at 1914 3rd St., between S and T (streets), in the Southside Park area.
He added that during that time, the Southside Park area was populated with people of different cultures.
“There were a lot of Portuguese, Italians and Slovenians who all lived right there in that area,” Mannie said. “There’s a lot of history down in that neighborhood.”
Although Mannie said that he does not know exactly when his father established the bar, he said that he believes the business was actually open and selling “beer and wine and stuff like that during the bootlegging days” of Prohibition.
Additional information regarding Mannie’s father and his bar was discovered during research for this article.
The 1921 city directory, for instance, shows that Manuel J. Viera, Sr. was already associated with 1914 3rd St. at the time, but was then operating a grocery store at that address.
However, it is possible that the grocery store was then doubling as a bar, despite the fact that Prohibition had already gone into effect.
Mannie said that his father closed the bar in 1923 due to the risks of running an alcohol vending business during Prohibition.
Following the repeal of Prohibition, Mannie’s father reopened the bar on April 14, 1933.
From senators to goats
Included among the clientele of Viera’s Place were Senator Earl Desmond, who served in the Legislature from 1933 to 1958, and other senators and assemblymen.
Mannie said that one of the more unusual customers at his father’s bar was a goat.
“This customer of my dad’s, he used to come in after work and have a beer and he’d bring his goat into the bar,” Mannie said. “And my dad said, ‘What about your goat? Do you want to buy him a drink or do you want to be a cheapskate?’ And (the customer) said, ‘Why? Do you want to feed him a beer?’ So, my dad got a bottle of beer and the goat came up on the bar and my dad had a beer bottle opener, of course, and he put (the bottle) in the mouth of the goat and the goat drank the whole darn bottle of beer. So, that was a ritual every day. When the fellow came off of work, he’d stop by my dad’s bar and he’d get a bottle of beer (for the goat) along with his order.”
When asked whether the goat showed any effects from drinking beer, Mannie said, “No, he cut him off at one bottle.”
Mannie added that the bar was also a place where people would pick up their paychecks.
“My dad owned a rooming house at (nearly) the same address (as the bar) at 1914 4th St.,” Mannie said. “A lot of their checks would go to my dad’s bar and since it was only a block away, they’d come pick up their checks.”
In addition to the barroom, Viera’s Place also included a kitchen, an office and restrooms.
While looking at a vintage photograph of the inside of the bar, Mannie pointed to a picture that was hanging on the wall to the left of a clock and said, “My dad always had a picture of Will Rogers on the wall. He liked Will Rogers.”
Rogers’ popularity in Sacramento reached a higher level in 1935, when he came to the capital city for the filming of “Steamboat ’Round the Bend.”
Mannie said that he was among the people who went to the banks of the Sacramento River to view the filming of the movie.
In addition to his previously mentioned employment, Manuel earned money by participating in boxing matches at the old L Street Arena at 223 L St.
“He would go down there and box whenever he needed some extra money,” Mannie said.
Land Park move
When Mannie was 6 years old in 1929, he moved with his parents from 430 ½ T St. to 3200 Riverside Blvd., across the street from where Vic’s Ice Cream opened 13 years later.
The Vieras property was one of four lots in the vicinity on the west side of the street.
‘Nothing but hayfields and Japanese gardens’
Mannie recalled a very rural area from his vantage point on the boulevard at that time.
“(The area) wasn’t very populated at all back then,” Mannie said. “My dad had chickens and he had rabbits and he had dogs, cats, a regular menagerie. And at that time, when we lived there, you could look from there over to where Holy Spirit Church (at 3159 Land Park Drive) is now and there was nothing but hayfields and Japanese gardens. A lot of strawberry farms were out there at that time. The Swanstons rented the land out to Japanese (strawberry) farmers. And (Sanford A.) Woodruff, the guy who had a house a block down from ours (at 3300 Riverside Blvd.), had a stable (at 2643 Riverside Blvd.), right by where the Riverside Clubhouse is now (at 2633 Riverside Blvd.). He had horses he rented out and people used to ride them out by the levee and come down by Riverside Baths (the old public swimming pool at 3640 Riverside Blvd.).”
Among the early day families of the Pocket area was the Rodgers – later Rogers – family, whose history in the area dates back to 1865.
It was during that year that Albert, Joseph and John Mendes immigrated to the United States from the island of Pico in the Azores Islands of Portugal and made their way to the Pocket area.
Upon their arrival in America, two of these brothers had their surnames changed, with Albert becoming Albert Rodgers, and John becoming John Potter. Joseph, however, continued to use his birth-given last name.
After making their way to the Pocket area, the brothers began working as laborers, most likely on local ranches, with their goal to accumulate sufficient money to buy their own property.
The Albert Rodgers family
In 1880, Albert, after purchasing his own property and establishing his own ranch in the Pocket area, married 16-year-old Rose Gear, who was born in the Azorean island of Terceira.
Since Rose Gear – a name obtained from descendents of the Albert Rodgers family – is not a Portuguese name, this name was possibly derived from the Portuguese name, Rosa Agear.
Together, Albert and Rose had the following children: Emma (1883-1889), Albert, Jr. (1885-1977), Willie (1887-1898), Mary (1889-1890), Emma (1892-1920), Margaret (1893-1978) and twins Frank (1896-1980) and George (1896-1984). The couple had two Emmas, as it was a common practice to reuse the name of a child, who had died at a very young age, when the next child of the same gender was later born.
Spelling change to ‘Rogers’
Albert Rodgers, Jr. was the only member of his family to continue using the original spelling of his family’s surname. Otherwise, the spelling of this surname was eventually changed to “Rogers.”
The Rodgers children were raised on the family’s 18-acre ranch, which was located where today’s Park Rivera Way intersects with Pocket Road.
All of the children of Albert and Rose attended the original, converted barn Lower Lisbon School in the lower Pocket area.
The old school was washed away in the area’s 1904 flood and the lumber from this school was hauled by horses and wagons to the Rodgers ranch. With this wood, a shed-type building was constructed for a temporary school until the new Lower Lisbon School was built.
The Rodgers also owned an additional 11 acres on the opposite side of the then-Riverside Road.
The 1908 Sacramento County Reclamation District 673 surveyors map clearly distinguishes this parcel, which extended from the levee across the old Riverside Road to not far from today’s Florin Road.
Albert passed away when he was 74 years old in 1923 and Rose died when she 41 years old in 1905.
Ranch land divided
Following Albert’s death, seven acres of his property remained in the family, as this land was divided amongst his children.
Frank had one acre, bordering Riverside Road to the west on the levee side of the property, and George built his home on the adjoining acre on the opposite side of the parcel.
Furthermore, Margaret kept four acres, which included the old home.
The other, seventh acre was located across the old Riverside Road, which was then considered a “wagon road,” and became the property of Manuel “Parola” Perry, Sr. The Perry home was situated on the opposite side of the road from the Frank Rogers parcel.
Margaret, who was married on two separate occasions, was first married to Manuel Lee and then to Tony Machado.
The children of Manuel and Margaret, in order of birth, were: Laverne, Agnes, Gertrude and Dorothy.
Margaret and her second husband, Tony, did not have any children together.
The second-born Emma of Albert and Rose married Joseph Souza, who was known by the nickname of “Joe Bonnie.”
Joe Bonnie’s ranch was located south of the town of Clarksburg, where Joe Bonnie and the second Emma resided.
In a ceremony held on Dec. 16, 1916 at St. Joseph Church in Freeport (now Clarksburg), George married Anna “Annie” Fagundes, who was born on Oct. 6, 1897.
Mildred Rogers, who was born on May 17, 1919 and died on July 30, 1941, was George and Anna’s only child.
George’s employment included fishing commercially for catfish at the old brickyard – present day Lake Greenhaven – to Clarksburg.
Additionally, George owned a trucking business, which included three trucks that hauled produce for the Libby, McNeill & Libby cannery from 1930 to 1950.
George, who passed away on May 15, 1984, also was a Pocket/Riverside school bus driver and a driver for the American Crystal Sugar Co. in Clarksburg. He worked for American Crystal for nine seasons, upon which time he retired in 1961.
Like his brother George, Frank established his own family. He married Mary Agnes Silva (1900-1971), the daughter of Antone L. and Maria Silva of the Pocket, on Nov. 12, 1917.
This union produced two daughters, Lorraine, who married Joseph Lester Valine, and Aileen, who married Richard Cabral.
Many locals are familiar with Joseph and Lorraine Valine’s son, Roger Valine, who served as the chief executive officer of Vision Service Plan, which was recognized as the nation’s largest eye care wellness benefits provider.
Establishing his own long employment career, Frank, after marrying Mary Agnes, began a trucking business that included six trucks. These trucks were used to haul hay and produce.
Frank purchased a 43-acre ranch, adjacent to and north of the John M. “Joao Maria” Silva ranch, where he planted asparagus and later sugar beets, tomatoes and alfalfa.
Unfortunately mixed in with Frank’s many positive moments in life was his serious hunting accident near the Sacramento River .
During a July 1979 interview with two of his family members, Frank described the accident, as follows: “I rowed the boat across the river and I couldn’t get it to the right place where there was a path and the wind (pushed him farther down river than desired)…and I tied (the boat) up. And I was climbing up where it was kind of a tough place to go. And I was going up the levee and I had the barrel of the gun like this (he took the microphone and showed it pointing upward) in my hand, going up the levee. And the gun happened to slip and I went and I grabbed the gun and grabbed it at the point of the barrel. At that time, both of my feet slipped and I leaned on the gun (and when) I leaned on the gun, it went off.”
Although Frank injured his left hand, he was nonetheless able to mostly overcome this handicap and lead a relatively normal life.
Frank’s 43-acre ranch was part of the historic McGee Ranch. This ranch was first sold to Anna Leonora Garcia Pimentel and then later purchased by Joe Sarmento and Frank “Capitao” (“Captain”) Perry.
Frank Rogers eventually purchased the property in an auction after the property went into foreclosure.
During the late 1960s, Frank sold his property to a real estate firm for development.
The real estate firm later sold a portion of this acreage to the city of Sacramento for the purpose of creating Garcia Bend Park and its boat launch ramp.
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part history series regarding Manuel Silva Nevis and his local wineries.
Historically, one of the industries that stands out in the Sacramento area is wine manufacturing. Among the city’s wine manufacturing businesses were the Eagle, California and Pioneer wineries, which were associated with Manuel Silva Nevis.
The Eagle Winery
At the age of 33, Nevis became the first proprietor of the Eagle Winery, which opened in 1881. Nevis was an immigrant from the island of Pico in the Azores Islands of Portugal. He lived in the town of Freeport in the historic postal area of today’s Clarksburg in Yolo County. He resided at 1830 21st St. during the latter part of his life.
The Eagle Winery was established on the south half of the block bounded by 18th, 19th, O and P streets.
According to the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society, many Portuguese people who were residing in the Pocket area during this era made their own wine for general consumption.
Festa wine demands
But when it came to needing large lots of wine for the Holy Ghost Festas at the original St. Joseph Church on the Freeport/Clarksburg side of the river, they relied on wine from Sacramento – including wine produced at the Eagle Winery.
The main structure of the winery was a two-story, 66-foot by 120-foot, brick building with a corrugated iron roof and a basement. It was built by Nova Scotia native Nicholas Harvie, a notable local carpenter and contractor, at a cost of $9,000.
A Harvie-built sherry room with brick floors, concrete ceilings and walls and steam pipes throughout was located to the south of the main building.
Enter the father-in-law
Nevis’ father-in-law, Joseph S. Miller financed the construction of the winery. Miller was reputed to be the first Portuguese person to settle in the Freeport/Clarksburg area.
Miller was born Joseph Souza Nevis in São Jorge in the Azores Islands. He acquired the surname, Mello, when he was bonded to a John or Antonio Mello at the age of 13. Later, he changed it to Miller.
Like many immigrants in 1849, Miller heard news about the California Gold Rush, purchased mining equipment and headed out in search of riches.
This endeavor proved to be unsuccessful, but his early time in California led to other Portuguese, including members of his family, joining him in the Golden State. Among these Portuguese people were some of the earliest residents of the Pocket area.
Miller was a prominent landowner in the Freeport area and was a member of the Sacramento Society of California Pioneers – those who arrived in California prior to 1850. The society also included James W. Marshall, who is recognized for discovering the gold that led to the great California Gold Rush, James McClatchy, the second editor of The Sacramento Bee, and James Lansing, a former Sacramento chief of police, sheriff and county assessor.
Miller married an Italian immigrant, Josephine Therese Paravagna, who gave birth to Manuel Silva Nevis’ wife, Emma Nevis, on Aug. 3, 1865.
Desirable wine, brandy
During Nevis’ second year of operating the Eagle Winery, he placed an advertisement in The Sacramento Union, which noted that his winery had acquired “a very enviable reputation” and that his product was increasingly in demand.
The advertisement also described the winery as having various brands of wine and grape brandy that were offered at prices that would “defy competition.” Furthermore, the winery offered free deliveries to customers in any part of the city.
The success of the Eagle Winery, which used wine grapes from Sacramento, Yolo and El Dorado counties, led to the June 5, 1884 establishment of a branch of the business at 420 J St.
An advertisement published in The Union regarding the opening of the branch noted that “Mr. Nevis’ knowledge and experience in the making of wine, in both this and other countries, places him in possession of advantages enjoyed by but few men engaged in the wine industries of California.”
To the disappointment of Nevis, the branch closed about five weeks later, because he felt a need to devote his working time exclusively to his main winery site.
State Fair recognition
The following year, the winery, which at the time offered port, sherry, white wine, Riesling, claret, zinfandel, Angelica and grape brandy, achieved additional notoriety when it was awarded a State Fair gold medal for “Best Display of Wines.”
Enter the cousins
Nevis remained the sole owner of the business until 1888, at which time he sold a two-thirds interest in the winery to his cousins, Manuel Joaquim Azevedo and Joaquim Leal Azevedo, who were immigrants from the Azores island of Faial.
Both Azevedo cousins arrived in the United States in the 1850s.
Manuel, after sailing as part of a whaling fleet out of Boston for two years, mined for gold for five years in Butte County. Through his success in mining, he was able to purchase property in Freeport – where he would eventually farm for 12 years.
Joaquim arrived in the Sacramento area in 1852. He also farmed in Freeport.
The Azevedos returned to Portugal, but made their way back to America to engage in the wine making business in the Sacramento area.
Shortly after becoming the majority owners of the Eagle Winery, the Azevedos purchased Nevis’ one-third share of the business in 1889. At that time, about 20 different kinds of wines were manufactured at the winery.
According to the Aug. 20, 1888 edition of The Union, Manuel Silva Nevis, in the time since he established the Eagle Winery “without a cent in his pocket,” earned $200,000 through the winery and increased his business’s annual wine production from 35,000 gallons in its first year to 150,000 gallons in 1887.
One of midtown Sacramento’s oldest businesses, Relles Florist, is presently celebrating a special anniversary, as the longtime popular florist recently reached its 65th year in business.
Jim Relles, who has been a proprietor of the florist since 1972 and has maintained sole ownership of the business since 2008, said that such a celebration was made possible through a commitment to customer satisfaction that began with his father Ross Relles, Sr.’s founding of the business on Oct. 19, 1946.
“It’s a pretty distinct celebration – 65 years in business,” Jim said. “(Customer service) hasn’t changed since my father started the business. It’s just listening to the customers’ needs and working real hard to get what they want with quality product in a timely manner of their order, and not promising things that we can’t do and promising things that we can do. Customer satisfaction is following through on promises you made to the consumer. You need to follow through and do it and be honest with the consumer. If you can’t do something, then you need to tell them up front or offer alternatives.”
Jim added that like many businesses, Relles Florist, which has been voted “Best Florist” by Sacramento Magazine for the past 11 consecutive years, has survived through its willingness to adapt to changes.
One of the major changes, Jim explained, has been the growing importance of the Internet.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have a Web site and we didn’t sell over the Internet and now probably 30 or 40 percent of our business is over the Internet, where 10 years ago it was zero (percent),” Jim said. “We now have a Web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Most of the younger generation is doing all their business from their smartphones, so we’re in the process of getting a floral app (application). If you want to stay in business, you just have to keep adapting.”
Roots of the Relles family’s florist
During his meeting with the East Sacramento News last week, Jim, who is a cousin of Marty Relles, who authors the series, “Janey Way Memories,” in this publication, shared information about his father’s beginnings as a florist.
“My dad, growing up, worked for (G. Rossi and Co. florist at 1026 8th St.),” Jim said. “He also worked for Hires (Bottling Co.). They were down on 21st and R (streets). It was the prelude to Norcal (Distributing Co. at 424 17th St.). He (later) went to Arizona State (Teachers College, as Arizona State University was then known) and got his teaching degree, but he came back to Sacramento and he just looked at the business side (of teaching) and decided he didn’t want to become a teacher. Then World War II broke out. After he got out of the war, he worked for Senator Florists (at 1014 11th St.) and I guess about a year later – I think he wanted a raise (from Senator Florists) and they said, ‘No,’ – he decided to go out on his own and open up his own flower shop.”
Five locations of Relles Florist
Although Relles Florist operates at two locations – 2400 J St. and 801 Howe Ave., north of Fair Oaks Boulevard – these current business sites are not the only places where a Relles Florist shop has been located.
Ross Relles, Sr., who gathered additional early experience in his field when he worked as a delivery person for McElhaney’s Florist in Phoenix during his time at Arizona State, established his first florist shop at 2220 J St., within the Meril Studio shops, about 15 blocks from the main downtown business district.
The site suited the business well, since it was located on what was then one of the two main streets connecting East Sacramento, Carmichael and Fair Oaks with downtown Sacramento.
Jim said that the site was also ideal due to the fact that it was located within a short distance from several funeral homes, including the N.G. Culjis Funeral Home at 2231 J St., Citizens Mortuary at 2301 J St., Miller and Skelton at 1015 20th St., W.F. Gormley and Sons at 2015 Capitol Ave., James R. Garlick Mortuary at 2001 P St., Cippa and Nicoletti at 1501 28th St. and Harry A. Nauman and Son at 2021 28th St.
On July 11, 1953, Ross Relles, Sr. opened his second shop at 2210 J St. in a two-story house, with a raised basement, that he had purchased and remodeled to accommodate as both his business and his home.
Although this relocation proved to be a worthwhile endeavor for the business, Relles Florist eventually outgrew its original space at this site, as it expanded to the structure’s top two floors and basement.
As was the case with its second location, Relles Florist did not have to concern itself with costly moving expenses, as it relocated a very short distance away to its third site at 2320 J St. It was at this site where the first Relles Florist shop to be built from the ground up was constructed.
This shop, which opened on July 26, 1971, proved to be the last Relles Florist site operated by Ross Relles, Sr., as he passed away on Jan. 15, 1972.
Relles Florist, which opened its Howe Avenue shop in February 1978 and its present midtown site on Sept. 26, 1981, has built a reputation as a strong, family-owned business.
Jim said that altogether about 25 Relles family members, including his brothers, Ross, Jr., Tom and Ronald, and his mother, Margaret, have worked at Relles Florist at various times.
In addition to Jim, his sister, JoAnn (Relles) Bradley, works at the midtown shop, where she has continuously assisted with its success since June 1975.
Also quite notable in the business’s history is former Relles Florist employee Al Balshor, who opened Balshor Florist at its original location at 730 O St. in 1950.
Twenty-one years later, another former Relles Florist employee, George L. Procida, opened Procida Florist at its now former location of 1315 J St.
Relles family history
The Relles family’s history in America began with Jim’s grandfather, an Italian immigrant, named Saverio Relles, who arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor on Feb. 4, 1907.
Jim said that like many immigrants arriving in the United States during this era, Saverio had his surname changed at Ellis Island, since the person who wrote down his last name at this famous inspection station wrote “Relles,” instead of the correct spelling of “Reres.”
Saverio married Helen Sclafani – born Elena Sclafani – in Chicago Heights, Ill. on June 12, 1910.
Although Saverio died on April 16, 1918, he had three sons – George, Ross, Sr. and Martin – with Helen prior to his passing.
Eighteen months later, while residing in Santa Clara, Calif., Helen was remarried, as she was joined in matrimony with Rosario “Ross” Petta, who was a laborer in the construction industry.
Helen and Rosario, who together had four children, Vito, Alice, Katie and Margaret, were living in the capital city at 523 ½ 14th St. by at least 1922.
And as a result of Helen and Rosario’s move to Sacramento during this time, when Relles Florist celebrates its 75th anniversary in a decade, the Relles family will possibly also be celebrating another anniversary – their 100th year in Sacramento.
For additional information regarding Relles Florist, call (916) 441-1478 (J Street shop) or (916) 920-4911 (Howe Avenue shop) or visit www.rellesflorist.com.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding Victor Silva, a former resident of the Riverside-Pocket area.
In his spare time, former Riverside-Pocket area resident Vitorino “Victor” Dias Silva enjoyed making scale models of sailing vessels using his trusty pocketknife. And the more Victor worked on this pastime, the more he developed his skills and gained a reputation for his quality models.
Victor picked up this hobby while living and working on the Argyle dredger on the Sacramento River for six years, beginning in the late 1910s.
During summer nights and on any Sunday – his only day off work – that he was not visiting with his family, the 5-foot, 9-inch-tall Victor, who during his childhood worked on the Capital City riverboat as a deck boy, would spend many hours working on his hobby.
The first model-making project, which Victor dedicated himself to completing, was a model of the Argyle.
Victor’s emphasis on the intricacies of the Argyle model’s features was so closely related to the actual dredger that the bucket below the boom had the same number of rivets as the actual Argyle bucket.
Furthermore, the Argyle model included functioning equipment.
Upon the turning of a key, a centrally-located gear on each side of the deck platform would operate the movement of the boom from one side to another and the gear on the other side of the model operated the opening and closing of the dredger’s bucket.
Victor also carved a large table and benches for the galley, which could be observed from the door opening on one side of the deck.
Because his models often required much planning, Victor would often say, “Just let me sleep on it. I’ll know the answer by the time I wake up in the morning.”
Although Victor was able to create the Argyle model with much detail, his limitations when it came to carving tools and materials caused him to enlist the assistance of a friend who was an iron worker. This friend created the bucket portion of the model.
Following its completion, Victor’s Argyle dredger model was placed on display at the 1924 California State Fair.
Simultaneously exhibited with the Argyle model at the State Fair was Victor’s small tugboat “Glenn” model, which he constructed specifically for that exhibit.
Although the Argyle model can presently be viewed by the public at the Sacramento History Museum in Old Sacramento, unfortunately the existence and location of the tug model is a mystery, since it unexpectedly went missing from the fair exhibit 86 years ago.
Following his marriage, Victor resided in the original home of his father-in-law, John Joseph Machado, in the Riverside/Munger Lake area.
In the barn yard and garage area of this property, Victor set up an area to construct small boats and repair the boats of local farmers.
In his spare time, Victor would make models of racing boats, which he would transport to Southside Park and race in the park’s lake against similar models that were made by other Sacramento area residents.
Due to the superior craftsmanship of his boats, Victor won practically all of the races in which he participated.
Victor constructed three such racing boats and continuously improved upon the balance and speed of each boat.
Another one of Victor’s models was his Coast Guard cutter model, which he began to build after World War II.
The Nunes Bros. boat building company in Sausalito (formerly of Sacramento) had been commissioned to build three, wooden Coast Guard cutters for the United States Navy during war time and this scale model was an exact replica of the original cutters.
Victor, who was considered one of the finest local shipwrights, had an advantage in building this model because he been the superintendent and foreman for the construction of the three cutters.
The next model that Victor built was a larger scale model of the tugboat Glenn.
The Glenn, which like many other tugboats was named after a California county, was used to move barges and dredges, including the Argyle, along the Sacramento River.
With the assistance of his brother, John, who was serving as superintendent of the Sacramento River Lines, Victor acquired the original plans for the tug.
The creation of the larger Glenn model helped fill the void that Victor had felt due to the loss of his first Glenn tug model.
With his attention to detail and creating accurate scale models, Victor, in building his second tug model, meticulously hand-carved the wheel and fashioned the seats in the pilot house, created small furniture for the galley and bunks in the crews’ quarters.
In 1968, Victor began the most extensive model project of his life, his model of the Capital City.
The Capital City and Fort Sutter paddle wheelers were the forerunners of the famous, steel-hulled, twin river liners, the Delta King and the Delta Queen.
Initially, Victor had intended to create a model of the Delta Queen, but he opted to build the Capital City model after his efforts to locate the original plans for the Delta Queen were unsuccessful.
Fortunately, Victor was able to locate the original, 1910 plans for the Capital City at the Port of Stockton, where all four of these aforementioned river liners were assembled.
After explaining his project at the Port of Stockton, Victor was presented the plans, which he used to build the model.
After the construction of the paddle wheel of the Capital City model, Victor made the boat’s driveshaft and attached it to the paddle wheel.
By manually moving the driveshaft horizontally, one was able to turn the paddle wheel.
At that point, Victor began adding the two upper decks in the pilot house.
The metal bracing wires over the top of the boat represented the actual Capital City’s “hog wires” that braced the wood-hulled ship together.
In steel-hulled boats such as the Delta King and Delta Queen, these wires were not necessary to brace these vessels.
A small intricacy of the Capital City model was its duplication of a golden eagle ornament.
The actual golden eagle ornament, which was finished in gold-leaf paint and was located at the top of the pole above the pilot house, was not a popular feature for the boat’s captain since the reflection from the eagle often reflected in the captain’s eyes.
The model also included functioning pulleys, which controlled the raising and lowering of the hand-carved lifeboats from the second tier of the paddle wheeler.
Small replicas of ladders leading from the forward deck to the place of disembarking were also located on the extensive riverboat model.
Victor’s Capital City model, which was on display at the Sacramento History Museum for many years, is presently stored in the city-county archives.
In recognition of his extensive model making work, Victor was featured in the “California Life” section of The Sacramento Bee on May 4, 1969.
The publishing of this article was a proud moment for Victor.
On Aug. 25, 1969, less than four months after the article appeared in print, Victor passed away.
Victor, who suffered mini strokes and had severe arthritis in his hands, died in Portugal en route to the airport, where he was to have boarded a plane to the Azores Islands to pay his final visit to his remaining family.
Following a Mass, which was attended by many people, including those who walked for hours to pay their final respects, Victor was buried in his family’s plot in a cemetery in the Azores Islands.
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series regarding Victor Silva, a former resident of the Riverside-Pocket area.
In the early years of the Riverside-Pocket area, the Sacramento River was a very important part of the livelihood and existence of local residents.
Since most of the people of the area were farmers, they depended on the seasons for the growing of their crops.
During the non-farming times of the year, many turned to fishing for their income.
Local farmers fished in the part of the river from the Riverside-Pocket area to Rio Vista.
With such activity, there was a need in the Riverside-Pocket area for a person to build and repair their small fishing boats, which were longer than typical rowboats, since they were intended to carry as many as three men and hold large fishing nets and the catch.
This need was eventually filled by Vitorino “Victor” Dias Silva, who arrived in Sacramento at the age of 17 in August of 1915.
Victor, who was born in Pico island in the Azores Islands of Portugal on May 18, 1898, made the trip to America aboard a steamship with his cousins Manuel Nunes – later of Nunes Bros. boat builders, which was located at the foot of Y Street/present day Broadway – and Elvira Silveira, who later married Manuel Fonts, Jr. of the Clarksburg area. They arrived at Ellis Island on Aug. 2, 1915.
During his voyage, Victor washed dishes aboard the ship to pay for about a third of his passage.
Victor, whose parents were Manuel Vitorino Silveira (later Silva) and Ana Etelvina Teixeira Silveira (later Silva), was part of a family of ship builders, who began with Victor’s mother’s grandfather, who was the founder of the ship building industry in the Azores.
In later generations, male descendents of Victor’s great-grandfather in the Azores and others who came to America followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps in the designing and building of ships.
After arriving in the Arizona area of the capital city in the area of today’s Southside Park, Victor resided with his older brother, Alfred Dias Silva, who had immigrated to America several years earlier.
Victor’s first job in Sacramento was to work as a “deck boy” on the Capital City, which was one of the two passenger boats that preceded the famous twin river liners, the Delta King and the Delta Queen.
The docking area for the Capital City and its companion, Fort Sutter, and later the Delta King and Delta Queen was located just south of the old M Street on the Sacramento side of the river.
Victor’s experience as a “deck boy” aboard the Capital City began his career of working on paddlewheelers and other boats of the Sacramento River Lines.
In September 1921, John Maria Silva, Victor’s brother, came to America at the age of 20 and then settled in Sacramento to be close to members of his family and work with his brother, Victor.
After arriving in California, John’s first job was working on tugboats and barges along the Sacramento River.
John’s desire to work with Victor became a reality in the early 1920s, when the two brothers worked assembling the Delta King and Delta Queen at the Port of Stockton. Both vessels were built with ironwood decks from Spain, shafts and cranks from Germany and hulls from Scotland.
In 1924, John became employed with the River Lines (California Transportation Co.), which had already employed his brother.
Working side by side, Victor and John repaired riverboats and passenger ships such as the Capital City, Fort Sutter, the Delta King and the Delta Queen. The brothers also constructed new tugboats, barges and riverboats.
It was also during this era and later that movies were being filmed along the river. And on one occasion, John worked as an extra on the 1936 film, “Showboat,” as he wore a top hat, long, frock coat and a fabric bow and portrayed an early day passenger in a Mississippi River boat scene.
The brothers were working together once again in 1937, as they were employed in the construction of Capt. E.A. Paulson’s Superior Boat Livery on the west bank of the Sacramento River, just north of the then-two-year-old Tower Bridge. This construction was performed by the brothers after work and on weekends on River Lines’ ways, where boats were also pulled ashore for repairs.
Prior to being employed with his brother and after his time working aboard the Capital City, Victor also worked on the clamshell (bucket) dredger, Argyle, which helped build up the Sacramento River levees to their current heights from Sutter Bypass in Sutter County to Rio Vista in Solano County.
Originally working for the Argyle Dredging Co. as a maintenance and repair laborer, Victor quickly became a “leverman,” which was the most important job – a position involving the operation of the boom and clamshell.
While Victor was working on the Argyle, he met his then-future wife, Maria Gloria “Mamie” Machado, who was introduced to him by the Argyle’s cook at the time, Minnie Perry (later Minnie Corey). Perry was acting upon Victor’s request to find a nice girl to marry.
Victor and Mamie were married at the St. Elizabeth’s Portuguese National Church at the northeast corner of 12th and S streets in January 1923.
For a short time after his marriage, Victor would commute to the dredger in his 1922 Model T truck and return home on the weekends.
An activity of some of the Argyle’s Portuguese workers was to occasionally entertain guests by playing traditional, live music from the Azores. One of these self-taught musicians was Victor, who played the viola.
Victor, in order to be closer to home, eventually began working for the River Lines again.
On Oct. 28, 1923, Victor and Mamie’s first child, Marvin, was born, and on Nov. 23, 1924, their daughter, Dolores, was born.
Although Victor continued working for the River Lines, passenger and commerce business declined on the river.
Because of this decline, Victor acquired additional employment, as he began working for the Lawrence and Erickson construction companies, which built many large buildings, including state buildings.
Victor’s expertise with these companies was specialized finish work.
In addition to John, Victor had an older brother, Joe, who also immigrated to America and moved to San Diego.
Joe’s oldest son, Joe, Jr., showed a great interest in ship building and design, and he would come to Sacramento to visit his uncle John to be tutored in ship construction and design.
Joe, Jr., who received more specialized ship construction and design training in San Diego, eventually built a ship model that was presented and accepted by the Smithsonian Institution.