Congratulations to our very own: Lance Armstrong

The Sacramento County Historical Society will recognize Valley Community Newspapers’s very own historical writer, Lance Armstrong, at its annual dinner, to be held Tuesday, March 25 at 6 p.m. at the Dante Club, 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd.

Lance Armstrong was born at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento and has had a lifelong interest in the rich history of his native city and region.

At a very young age, Lance excelled in English courses and writing proficiency and creativity, and as a teenager, he was awarded a special medal for his excellence in creative writing by the San Juan Unified School District.

It was also during his teenage years that he created his own single-page newspaper, which he distributed to friends in various states. And because of this fact, occasionally Lance has humorously told people that by the time he was 16 years old, he was the editor of a national newspaper.

Lance’s early interest in history led to his many years of researching local histories and preserving historical documents, photographs and other historical items from throughout Sacramento County and other areas of the Golden State in his vast personal collection, which is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

His local history articles have been positively recognized by various newspapers and organizations.

For instance, in a review of local newspapers in the Jan. 8, 2009 edition of the Sacramento News and Review, one of that publication’s writers, Cosmo Garvin, wrote: “Lance Armstrong’s writing on Sacramento history is always interesting.”

In 2006, the Elk Grove Historical Society presented Lance with an honorary lifetime membership for his continuous articles and other efforts in preserving the 150-year history of the Sacramento County city of Elk Grove.

Lance, who is also a member of the Sacramento County Historical Society, received another honorary lifetime membership six years later from the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society (PHCS) for “his work in documenting the lives and contributions of the many Portuguese and Portuguese descended persons who were instrumental in developing the Riverside-Pocket area of Sacramento.”

In commenting about the latter honor, PHCS President Mary Ann Marshall said, “We are very appreciative of the many Portuguese-related articles that (Lance) has written for the Pocket News and we are pleased with the opportunity we have to archive them for future generations to have access to them. Lance did a wonderful job in making these stories come to life.”

In another honor, Lance received national recognition from the Grand Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, in 2011, for his article, “Elks Lodge No. 6 has extensive history in Sacramento.”

The article, which was first published in the January 7, 2010 edition of the Pocket News, was selected as the country’s best newspaper article written about the Elks that year.

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.

His other endeavors include his regular contributions as a professional newspaper photographer and volunteering as a judge at the annual Camellia Society of Sacramento Camellia Show Photography Contest. He is also a public speaker, a musician and an avid music memorabilia collector with an emphasis on collecting concert posters and LP records, ranging in genres from rock and blues to jazz and country.

Sacramento area played roles in television pioneering history

Grant Technical College offered a television course during the 1940s and 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Grant Technical College offered a television course during the 1940s and 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Editor’s Note: This is part three in a series about local people connected to the early days of television.

In addition to celebrating local people who had roles in the pioneering days of broadcast television, this series also serves as a record of the histories of early Sacramento television stations.
And in presenting those histories, it is certainly beneficial to include some of the beginnings of television in the Sacramento area.
But prior to arriving at that point, it should be of interest to many readers of this publication to learn a little about the development of television.
Various 19th century and early 20th century experiments and developments led to the invention of television, and television itself had many pioneers.
The year, 1884, is an important year in the story of the evolution of television, as it was in that year that a German university student named Paul Gottlieb Nipkow patented the concept for an electromechanical television system.
Among the earlier press reports regarding television appeared in an article in the April 3, 1924 edition of the British film industry trade newspaper, Kinematograph Weekly.
F.H. Robinson, the author of that article, mentioned that he had visited the laboratory of the Scottish electrical engineer John Logie Baird (1888-1946) in the town of Hastings, England.
In writing about his observations of Baird’s electric device, which was referred to as a “Radio Vision” machine, Baird noted the following: “I myself saw a cross, the letter ‘H,’ and the fingers of my own hand reproduced by this apparatus across the width of the laboratory. The images were quite sharp and clear, although perhaps a little unsteady. This, however, was mostly due to mechanical defects in the apparatus and not to any fault of the system.
“Moving images may be transmitted by this means and distance is no object, merely depending on the power of the wireless transmitter and the sensitivity of the receiver employed.
“Undoubtedly, wonderful possibilities are opened up by this invention, its very simplicity and reliability placing it well to the front of many of the various complicated methods which have been evolved to do the same work.”
America’s first prototype home television receiver was introduced in Schenectady, N.Y. by the Swedish-American electrical engineer, Dr. Ernst Frederick Werner Alexanderson (1878-1975) in 1927.
The first intercity transmission of scene and sound was accomplished by the Ives telephone group on April 7, 1927.
The images and voice of Herbert Hoover, then-secretary of commerce and future U.S. president, were carried over telephone wires from Washington, D.C. to New York.
In 1928, a variety show was transmitted a distance of about 200 miles, the first regular programs aired on the General Electric station, WGY, in Schenectady, and the first transoceanic broadcast – a still photograph – was sent using shortwave radio from Purley, England to Hartsdale, N.Y.
On June 28, 1929, The Sacramento Bee ran an Associated Press article that focused on the topic of color television.
It was noted that another “step of that infant science” had been presented during the previous day in the auditorium of the Bell telephone laboratories in New York.
The demonstration involved a woman who stood at one end of the auditorium and presented several objects such as a pineapple, a glass of water and a colored ball.
In a darkened area at the other end of the auditorium, images of these items were reproduced in natural colors.
It was also in the late 1920s and early 1930s that experimental television stations emerged in different U.S. cities.
Unfortunately, none of the stations’ signals were strong enough to create sharp pictures on television sets.
In 1936, the BBC made history, as it transmitted the world’s first regular high-definition (405-line resolution) television broadcast.
During the same year, the Summer Olympics in Berlin were presented to the public via cable television, as the games were broadcast live to stations in the greater Berlin area in Germany. Viewing stations were made available for those who did not own a television set.
On April 30, 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to appear on television, as he spoke at the opening ceremonies of the World’s Fair in New York.
Although television gained additional notoriety with the American public during the latter part of the 1930s and early part of the 1940s, the United States’ involvement in World War II interfered with its major progress.
At the end of the war, there were only six American television stations, none of which were located on the West Coast. The only networks at that time were CBS and NBC.
But by 1948, those networks were joined by ABC and DuMont, and collectively the networks broadcast daily on more than 128 stations.
In regard to local television history, in the late 1930s, long before the first commercial broadcast of television in the Sacramento area, a young man named Vincent L. Calligori, Jr. headed off to study at the American Institute of Television in Chicago.
He was one of only three students to have been selected by ATI scouts at Sacramento High School as a prospect to receive instruction toward becoming a television technician. And he was the only one of the three selected students to accept that offer.
According to a 1938 Sacramento Union article, the idea behind the ATI training was to prepare “men so that when television becomes an accepted thing, there will be no difficulty in getting technicians.”
The main purpose of the article was to announce that Calligori had returned from ATI, and built Sacramento’s first privately-owned television set.
Calligori’s set was located in a workshop behind his father’s macaroni factory at 2927 L St., and he was being assisted by Harold L. Fiedler of 1224 I St.
The Union article noted that because the range of television was short, many stations and relays would be required.
In a separate article, which appeared in the Oct. 30, 1938 edition of the Montana Standard newspaper of Butte, Mont., Calligori, who was referred to in that publication as an “electrical wizard,” was quoted as saying, “My ambition is to build a television transmitter that will entertain the city of Sacramento.”
The article in the Standard also noted that regular telecasts were being made in New York and London at that time, but equipment was then “too expensive for popular usage.”
Additionally, it was reported in the Standard article that many people in America were then unaware that television existed.

Alvin L. Gregory was head of Grant Technical College’s radio and electronics department, which offered a course in television. He was also the director of the school’s television camera project. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Alvin L. Gregory was head of Grant Technical College’s radio and electronics department, which offered a course in television. He was also the director of the school’s television camera project. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Television was the focus of a Jan. 7, 1946 article, which had the headline, “Sacramento television center of coast?”
The article, which was published in The Union, noted that the Westinghouse Electric Co. had planned experiments toward making Sacramento the center of broadcasting for a 400-mile radius.
From three broadcasting methods – coaxial cable, point-to-point relays and Stratovision, Westinghouse selected the latter method.
Stratovision, as was explained in the article, involved the use of planes that would fly 30,000 feet and relay signals that had originated on the ground.
In continuing, the article noted: “Planes would be sent aloft over New York; Pittsburgh; Chicago; Kansas City; Curtis, Neb.; Leadville, Colo.; Salt Lake City and Sacramento. This would give a coast to coast chain, while other planes stationed above Dallas, Memphis, Atlanta and Durham, N.C. would blanket part of the south and southwest. By adding six more planes, the company believes all but the most sparsely settled sections of the country would receive television broadcasts.”
The article concluded with the following words: “Should experiments prove successful, Sacramento (would) be the hub of the West Coast from Washington to the Mexican border with the drone of B-29s sounding over the city daily and with the best television broadcasts being received by local residents.”
In 1950, however, Stratovision, which was introduced as an idea by Westinghouse engineer Charles E. Nobles, became obsolete.
In another local television pioneering event, which was reported in The Bee on May 7, 1948, 60 students at Grant Technical College (the predecessor to today’s American River College), built the Sacramento area’s first television camera.
Alvin L. Gregory, who was head of GTC’s radio and electronics department and the director of the television camera project, told The Bee that the public should not respond to the school’s accomplishment by purchasing television receivers, since the camera had been built for training and demonstration purposes only.
In a preview to its daily television broadcast exhibit at the 1948 State Fair, GTC presented the Sacramento area’s first television broadcast at the auditorium on the Grant Union High School campus on Aug. 27, 1948 at 8:30 p.m.
The initial broadcast’s technical director was Gregory, and Lillian Allan was that broadcast’s program director.
During that evening, shots were taken from the stage and transmitted to a television screen in the auditorium.
On Feb. 5, 1952, The Bee ran an article with the headline, “Sacramento TV broadcasts may not come until ’53-’54.”
According to the article, the city had been “full of rumors indicating Sacramento television stations (would soon) flash their Westerns, epics, documentaries.”
Unfortunately, such rumors held no validity since the FCC had announced a freeze on new television licenses on Sept. 30, 1948. The purpose of the freeze was to allot the FCC time to study the new industry in an effort to lessen interference between stations and achieve the maximum use of the available channels.
The freeze, which had been intended to last less than a year, would continue for nearly 3 and a half years.
According to the aforementioned Feb. 5, 1952 Bee article, 304 applications were on file with the FCC at the time the freeze began. Among those applications was that of the McClatchy Broadcasting Co., which had its offices at 708 I St.
The article concluded that the more than 5,000 Sacramento families with television sets would have to solely rely on the not always reliable reception of San Francisco stations until the freeze was discontinued by the FCC and a Sacramento station could be built.
In another article, which was published in the Feb. 10, 1952 edition of The Union, it was noted that through the FCC, “Sacramento (had) been allocated three commercial channels on ultra high frequency, and two (channels) on very high freqnecy (sic), with the stipulation that one channel on UHF be reserved for educational purposes.”
Beyond McClatchy Broadcasting Co.’s request for a television station, Sacramento radio stations, KCRA, KFBK, KROY and KXOA, were among the applicants vying to acquire a license to operate a television station in the Sacramento area.
The FCC, by 1952, had tentatively assigned Sacramento with VHF Channels 6 and 10 and UHF Channels 40 and 46.
Furthermore, KCRA requested that VHF Channels 3 and 8 be approved, and KFBK asked permission for Channel 3 to be added to the city’s allocated television stations.
It was speculated in the 1952 Union article that Grant High could become the site of the Sacramento area’s first television station, and that the station would be dedicated to presenting educational programs, as opposed to entertainment programs.
According to the same article, Grant was then in the best position to acquire a station, considering that it owned about one-third of the equipment that would be necessary to operate a station, and if it applied for a channel, it would face no opposition and could possibly be in operation by the end of 1952. But such action did not occur.
The FCC’s freeze on granting new television licenses ended on April 14, 1952, and Sacramento’s first television station, KCCC Channel 40, went on the air 15 and a half months later.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery: A place of memories

St. Joseph’s Cemetery is located at 2615 21st St. Photo by Lance Armstrong

St. Joseph’s Cemetery is located at 2615 21st St. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part six in a series regarding Sacramento area cemeteries.

The 149-year-old St. Joseph’s Cemetery on 21st Street, just south of Broadway, is one of the city’s oldest existing cemeteries.
Regarding that cemetery and an earlier established Catholic cemetery, on Sept. 8, 1864, The Sacramento Union published the following words: “Several years ago, a tract of land was purchased on the Lower Stockton Road, four miles from the city, by the St. Rose Church for burial purposes, which was afterward known as St. Rose Cemetery. On account of the distance from the city, it was finally determined to abandon that locality as a cemetery and purchase a new one, more conveniently situated. A week or two ago, a tract of land was purchased, and yesterday the first interment in it took place. It is located south of Poverty Ridge and embraces about twenty acres. The ground was formerly known as Russell’s ranch, but was recently purchased of L. Stanford and others. No name has yet been adopted for the new cemetery.”
The first interment at St. Rose Cemetery was that of former Sacramento County Hospital steward Martin Kennedy, who was buried on November 18, 1860. The cemetery grounds were consecrated on May 12, 1861.
As part of the establishment of the new Catholic cemetery, which would become known as St. Joseph’s Cemetery, arrangements were made for the remains of those who were buried at St. Rose Cemetery to be transferred and reinterred at the newly acquired site.
A reference to the Catholic cemetery on today’s 21st Street appeared in an article in the April 21, 1893 edition of The Union.
It was noted in the article that the rails for a 21st Street branch of the electric railroad, which would extend south to St. Joseph’s, were in transit by ship and that the branch would be constructed as soon as the rails arrived.
Another 19th century article provides evidence that vandalism and thievery are far from new topics when it comes to cemeteries.
On Nov. 22, 1898, The Union ran an article, entitled “Graveyard raids.”
It was noted in that article that the headboard from the gravesite of the Silva children, who burned to death three years earlier, had been stolen during the night of Nov. 20, 1898 and then discarded in Capitol Park, where it was later discovered.
Also mentioned in the article were occurrences of the thievery of flowers from multiple Sacramento cemeteries.
Among the gravestones at the cemetery are those of priests and nuns, Civil War veterans and athletes.
One of the great tragedies on the Sacramento River involved the steamer Washoe.
While the Washoe was traveling about 35 miles below Sacramento on Sept. 5, 1864, about half of its 175 passengers were killed as a result of a boiler explosion on this vessel, and about half of the survivors were severely injured.
Among those who were killed by the explosion were Irishmen James O’Hara and John Cluney.
Two days following the Washoe explosion, O’Hara and Cluney became the first people to be buried at today’s St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
In another local tragedy, an automobile carrying four men was struck by a train on Feb. 1, 1925.
The collision proved fatal for the car’s passengers, Marian Sabich, 41, his cousin Mate Sabich, 29, John Puljiz, 41, and Marijan Bitanga, 28.

Lisa (Vierra) Turrentine places flowers at the grave of her great-grandmother, Maria Silveira Fuzila, at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Lisa (Vierra) Turrentine places flowers at the grave of her great-grandmother, Maria Silveira Fuzila, at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The resting places of these men, who were all local railroad workers, are located side by side at St. Joseph’s and include nearly identical gravestones.
Another person to be interred at St. Joseph’s was Antone Rodrigues Perry, who was born as Antone Rodrigues Pereira in Faial in the Azores islands on March 26, 1831.
In the early 1850s, Perry became one of the earliest, if not the earliest of the Portuguese to settle in today’s Pocket area.
Perry farmed in the upper Pocket area and during his early days as a farmer, he operated a freight produce business, in which he delivered fruits and vegetables to miners in mining communities northeast of Sacramento.
At the age of 34, Antone married Maria Gloria Silva and together, they eventually had 10 children.
In 1868 and 1869, Maria’s godfather, Manuel Da Rosa, and Antone purchased about a 44-acre parcel, which included the site of today’s Lewis Park at 6570 Park Riviera Way in the Pocket area.
Antone passed away on May 2, 1917, and in honoring him, as well as Maria, who died on Jan. 30, 1909, and five deceased infants and children of their family, during the late 1990s, several of his descendents worked on a project to have new markers placed at the Perry plot in the old section of the cemetery. The markers were installed on Dec. 9, 1999.
Sacramento native Lisa (Vierra) Turrentine, who has her own Portuguese heritage, is quite familiar with St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
In continuing the former work of her mother, Billie (McKinney) Vierra (1923-2006), Turrentine delivers flowers to the gravesites of her deceased ancestors at St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s and East Lawn Memorial Park about nine days per year.
“My grandmother [Uva (White) McKinney] went to pay homage to her ancestors and relatives at East Lawn, because they contributed so much to our family. I know she took flowers there. Following in her footsteps, my mother would take flowers to East Lawn, as well as St. Joseph’s. I started going with my mother to the cemeteries after my father (John Vierra) passed away in 2002. I go to visit all of the different gravesites, because I just don’t think that those people should be forgotten. My daughter (Katie Roberts) occasionally goes to the cemeteries with me and I hope that she will (one day) take the torch and carry on the tradition.”
Turrentine, who graduated from Burbank High School in 1973, said that her cemetery visits eventually led her to the discovery of her great-grandmother’s gravesite at St. Joseph’s.
“When I was taking flowers to my grandmother’s (Maria Silveira Vierra) grave, there was a large tombstone next to her (gravesite) that had the name Maria Silveira Fuzila on it. I asked my uncle about it and he had never heard the name, Fuzila, before. The more I looked at it, the more curious I became. I always had an interest in my family history. I suspected that it could have been an aunt of my grandmother’s. I knew that her parents had both died when she was very young and she was raised by one of her aunts. So, I finally went downtown to the recorder’s office and requested a death certificate for Maria Silveira Fuzila. They asked me if it was a relative and I told them that I didn’t know and it could possibly be my great-grandmother. The clerk pulled up the death certificate and when she handed it to me and I saw the names on the death certificate, I knew that it was my great-grandmother. And I just literally got chills.”
Turrentine added that the confusion with the name on the tombstone was she knew of her great-grandmother solely as Mary Perry. Maria Silveira Fuzila was the daughter of Jose “Joseph” Pereira Beirao, who immigrated from Sao Jorge in the Azores islands to the United States in about 1854 and commonly used the Anglicized surname Perry.
With her initial success in discovering the burial site of her great-grandmother, Turrentine continues to expand her genealogical research and has also discovered that her aforementioned great-grandfather is buried in an unmarked grave next to her great-grandmother.
In regard to the latter years leading up to the opening of St. Mary’s Cemetery, The Sacramento Bee reported on Oct. 5, 1917, that during the previous night, the Curtis Oaks Improvement Club had made a decision to request that the city commission close St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
The article noted that Alfred J. Argall, the club’s president and a resident of 2208 2nd Ave., near the cemetery, would name a committee to appear before the city commission to present its opinions that the Catholic Cemetery Association should find other grounds for burials somewhere out in the country, and that further burials at St. Joseph’s should be discontinued.
Additionally, the article noted that the poor condition of a section of the old Freeport Boulevard, including the cemetery’s frontage area, was “retarding the development of the West Curtis Oaks and Curtis Oaks communities.”
The article mentioned that that section of the road, which was a main artery into the city, had been declared as one of Sacramento’s worst streets.
About 11 years would pass before a new Catholic cemetery site “out in the country” would be acquired and developed. That cemetery – St. Mary’s Cemetery – had its first burial in 1929.
St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which still has occasional burials, presents many opportunities for people to learn about Sacramento’s past. The cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

‘Cap’n Mitch’ reminisces about his pre-TV cartoon host years

Mitch Arguss and a group of Cub Scouts are shown on the set of Arguss’s television show, “Cap’n Delta, Skipper of the Valley Queen.” Photo courtesy of Mitch Arguss

Mitch Arguss and a group of Cub Scouts are shown on the set of Arguss’s television show, “Cap’n Delta, Skipper of the Valley Queen.” Photo courtesy of Mitch Arguss

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a series about Mitch Agruss and other kiddie show hosts, who brought joy to many young television viewers in the Sacramento Valley.

Although many years have passed since Mitch Agruss served as a popular, local TV cartoon host, he remains a legendary figure to thousands of people.
Mitch, who turned 90 years old last summer, won the hearts of children and others in East Sacramento and throughout the valley with his endearing presentations as Cap’n Mitch, and Cap’n Delta, “Skipper of the Valley Queen.”
In agreeing to be interviewed for this publication about his cartoon host days, Mitch also expressed a desire to speak about the oftentimes lesser known parts of his career.
“The people in this television market remember me for the hosting of the children’s cartoon shows, and that’s it,” Mitch said. “But that was, in Sacramento, from 1961 to 1989. From 1941 to 1961, I was back East. I was graduating from drama school, I was in New York, I was doing Broadway shows, I was doing off-Broadway shows, I was (working) in the live television era.”
While motioning toward a stack of old books sitting on a table in his home, Mitch said, “Those are ‘Theatre World’ books, in which either my name appears or my pictures are in from plays that I’ve done in New York,” Mitch said.
And in pointing out a particular page in one of the books, Mitch added, “That’s the page in which I appear in the same play with Katharine Hepburn.”
In that play, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Hebpurn played Beatrice and Mitch appeared in the role of Conrade.
A preview for that play, which was held at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Conn. from June 22 through Sept. 8, 1957, included the following words: “Mitchell Agruss appeared on Broadway in ‘King Lear’ with the late Louis Calhern (1895-1956), and in ‘At War with the Army.’ He played in the off-Broadway productions of ‘The Clandestine Marriage,’ ‘The White Devil,’ ‘The Carefree Tree’ and ‘The Duchess of Malfi,’ appeared in all three festival productions last summer, and at the Phoenix (an off-Broadway theater in New York City) this winter.”
In further reminiscing about his early work in live theater, Mitch said, “It’s wonderful to realize that there was a time when I did those things.”
Mitch, who was born in Barnes Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish Hospital) in St. Louis, Mo., was the son of Nat and Rose Agruss. The family’s history in the United States began with Nat and Rose’s parents, who immigrated to America from Eastern Europe in the 1890s.
The Agrusses, Mitch noted, resided in “a very tightknit Jewish community in St. Louis, orthodox at the time.”
Mitch said that his interest in theater began while he was attending Clayton High School in Clayton, Mo.
“I got interested in theater when I was in high school, because I had a very encouraging teacher, mentor (named Blandford Jennings),” Mitch said. “(Jennings) encouraged me and was instrumental in having me go to the State University of Iowa (which is commonly known today as the University of Iowa) between my junior and senior years of high school to a special theater class to see how I took to it. He recommended and referred me – since I didn’t know the first thing about it and where to go to college – to what was then called Carnegie Institute of Technology. It’s now called Carnegie Mellon University. (The institution, which is located in Pittsburgh, Pa.,) has one of the country’s premier drama departments.”
In 1941, following his freshman year at Carnegie Tech, Mitch returned to his St. Louis home, where he received a telephone call from a classmate named Garry Davis.
The classmate – whose father was Meyer Davis (1893-1976), who led one of the nation’s all-time notable dance bands – told him that he was at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. and should join him working on the crew building sets and providing other contributions for the summer stock shows.
Mitch told his classmate that he could not afford to engage himself in that project. But Mitch quickly learned that the work was not unpaid labor, and instead would earn him $15 per week.

Mitch Arguss, aka Cap’n Mitch and Cap’n Delta, entertained thousands of children in East Sacramento and beyond with his role as a local TV cartoon host. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Mitch Arguss, aka Cap’n Mitch and Cap’n Delta, entertained thousands of children in East Sacramento and beyond with his role as a local TV cartoon host. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Soon after that conversation, Mitch borrowed money for train fare from his parents and headed to meet his friend in New Hope.
Mitch was surprised to learn that Bucks County Playhouse was one of the nation’s most celebrated summer straw-hat circuit theaters of that era.
“All the big names worked there,” Mitch recalled. “It was in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country, where so many famous theater people have their summer homes. And I was just an 18-year-old kid stepping off a train and walking into the most glamorous world any young theater person could be interested in. The people that were there were all fantastic. All summer long, I met so many people and I became one of the pets of the company. The theater moved because of (World War II) gas rationing into the ballroom of the Belleview-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, so I spent (the summer of 1942) working there. Each time I got a little bit better parts to play, as well as being a crew person, building sets and running the shows and stuff like that. My best part was in ‘Elizabeth the Queen,’ with a (British actress) named Flora Robson (1902-1984).”
Like many people, Mitch put his dreams on hold to serve his country during the war.
After joining the Army Air Corps and serving in California, he spent the last two-thirds of his three years of military service in Biloxi, Miss.
In 1946, Mitch was honorably discharged from his service and he once again attended Carnegie Tech, where he graduated a year later.
He then returned to Bucks County Playhouse, where he became the assistant stage manager.
Mitch said that it was during that time that he also obtained his Actors’ Equity card and began obtaining better roles in plays.
“I did a myriad of plays with very, very nice parts with more and more important people,” Mitch said. So, my summers were full. I worked with people who are maybe not well known now, but they certainly were well known then. Luise Rainer (1910-present) and Shirley Booth (1898-1992) and Moss Hart (1904-1961) and George Kauffman (1889-1961) and Harpo Marx (1888-1964), and Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) of all people. The summers were full and I was married there, as well, to (Katharine Thompson) who I had met in school.”
In 1948, Mitch and Katharine moved to New York, and Mitch began working in the aforementioned Broadway play, “At War with the Army,” which was later made into a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film.
Agruss said that he was offered a role in that film, but added, “Whatever they wanted to pay me, I couldn’t afford to go from New York to California to do it.”
In reminiscing about that time in his life, Agruss said, “It’s amazing for a kid in New York (in) his first year to hit Broadway and be right there in the center of activity at the Booth Theatre, which is like the heartbeat of New York’s Broadway theater scene. That show had moderate success. We were there for about three or four months, then we toured in Chicago and here and there. We did something called the subway circuit in theaters. For months we did this in Brooklyn and the Bronx, in Queens and New Jersey and all around.”

East Sacramento native shares family history

Tony DeFazio is the only living son of the late East Sacramento grocer Louis DeFazio and Christina (Tolerico) DeFazio. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Tony DeFazio is the only living son of the late East Sacramento grocer Louis DeFazio and Christina (Tolerico) DeFazio. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

Anthony “Tony” DeFazio was once among East Sacramento’s larger families, as he grew up in the area’s Italian section with his parents and his eight brothers and sisters, Bill, Jim, Margaret, Louis, Jr., Richard, Marie, Eleanor and Bernadine.
But with the passing of years, only three of these 11 DeFazio family members are living today. And Tony is the last male member of that immediate family.
Last week, Tony, 81, sat down in his Sacramento home to discuss details about his family’s history.
Tony said that his father, Louis DeFazio (1901-1949), was born in Utica, New York, where he was raised by his parents, Calabria, Italy natives Joseph DeFazio (1860-1955) and Bernadine DeFazio (1867-1939).
“(Joseph) came out to California when he was about 14 or 15 years old, because Uncle Frank, his older brother, and my grandparents were already here,” Tony said.
The 1917 city directory mentions Louis as then residing with his father and his brother, Frank, on Park Avenue (now 5th Avenue), near today’s 59th Street.
By the following year, Louis, Joseph and Frank were living at 5930 2nd Ave.
In speaking about his grandfather’s early years in Sacramento, Tony said, “He originally had a little ranch along S Street, which is now near the SMUD building. (The ranch) was owned by the Davis family. My grandfather used to raise vegetables there and they would sell them at the market.”
Tony said that his father’s first job in Sacramento was working for the Southern Pacific Co.
“(Louis) went to work for the SP,” Tony said. “If it wasn’t for the Southern Pacific, we would have had nothing.”
Frank also worked for the Southern Pacific, as he was employed as a blacksmith for the company.
In 1928, Louis, who was still living on 2nd Avenue, became the proprietor of the Elmhurst Cash Market at 1531 7th St.
Another location of the store was located in the Elmhurst neighborhood at 4905 U St. That store was then owned by William J. Morris and Manuel J. Cordoza, who were also the original owners of the 7th Street store.
Louis’ brother, Antone – who was also known as Tony, but will be referred to as Antone to avoid confusion with the featured Tony of this article – worked as a clerk at the 7th Street market in at least 1929 and 1930.
In 1931, Louis opened a grocery store at 4900 J St. and Antone opened a grocery store at 5859 5th Ave.
Predating Louis’ operation of his 49th Street business, the structure had housed a grocery store owned by Andrew G. Christensen in 1926 and the building had afterward sat vacant until the opening of Louis’ store.
By 1932, Frank was working as a clerk in the 49th Street store. But by at least 1935, he was once again employed by the Southern Pacific, this time as a spring maker.
Frank’s son, Joseph, was also working in Louis’ store as a clerk in 1932.
And as a family business, Antone and Louis’ youngest brother, Peter, also began working at the 49th Street store during the 1930s.
Antone, who also worked for Louis during the 1940s, eventually became the produce man of Louis’ grocery business.
In 1935, Louis continued to operate his J Street store while opening a second store at 601 15th St.
By the following year, the 15th Street store was closed and Louis was operating another store at 2121 J St.
In 1937, Louis’ 4900 J St. store was his only business, and by 1938, he had replaced that store with a larger store with a basement at 4768 J St.
In the spring of 1938, the DeFazios moved from 5930 2nd Ave. to 2715 59th St.
Antone ceased working for Louis in 1943, when he was hired as an employee at East Sacramento resident Joseph J. Jacobs’ automobile dealership at 1500 K St.
About a year later, Antone began operating his own gas station at 4801 Folsom Blvd.
Tony said that his father closed his 48th and J streets store in 1944, and then took charge of a grocery store in Sloughhouse.
In another interview for this article, East Sacramento native Willie DaPrato said that he was a former business partner of Louis.
“I started working for (Louis) when I was about 14 years old,” DaPrato recalled. “When I came back from the service, that’s when we started (as business partners at a grocery store on 15th Street in West Sacramento). He promised to set me up in business. That’s what he wanted to do and he did it. I was there for 30 years.”
DaPrato added that the West Sacramento store opened on Jan. 31, 1949 and that he became the sole owner of the store upon the death of Louis on Sept. 8, 1949.
In continuing with the story of his family, Tony said that his mother, Christina (Talerico) DeFazio (1901-1982), was a native of southern Italy.
“My mother came from the (Italian) province of Catanzaro,” Tony said. “She worked in the mills in New York as a young kid. She was (later) a homemaker. She was a hard working person. She stayed home and sewed all of our clothes. Back in the days when poultry feed would come in a cloth bag – we had chickens – she would take those cloth bags and wash them and make clothes out of them, or make diapers, mainly, from those feed sacks. She would actually make kids clothing out of feed sacks, because the feed sacks were good material then in those days. That was during the Depression. It was an economic thing. Everybody had to deal with it. Everybody was in the same boat, so to speak.”
Louis and Christina’s oldest child, Bill, was born in New York, and like all of his siblings, he helped his father in his grocery business.
Bill was training to play as an outfielder for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League when he was drafted to serve in the war.
Tony said that Bill, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was reported missing in action.
“We were informed that he was missing and finally he showed up,” Tony said. “He was in a hospital in England and we finally got word that he was there.”
When he returned from the war, Bill assisted Willie at the West Sacramento store before establishing his own grocery store in the Carmichael area.
The DeFazio children eventually had children of their own.
Altogether they had 47 children, with Bill, who married Anna Rose Masi, fathering 10 of those children.
Tony DeFazio sits on his first horse, Gennie, in front of his father’s Sloughhouse grocery store in about 1946. / Photo courtesy of Tony DeFazio

Tony DeFazio sits on his first horse, Gennie, in front of his father’s Sloughhouse grocery store in about 1946. / Photo courtesy of Tony DeFazio

Tony briefly spoke about his other brothers and sisters, as follows:
Jim: “During the war, Jim (did not) go in the service. My father got a deferment for him, because he needed him (for the store). He was the only one who could drive a vehicle at that time. (Jim) met Inez (Fernandes, whose parents were natives of Spain) and got married and had nine children.”
Margaret: “She worked for the state of California as an accountant. She was the (family) historian. She had a good memory and she was accurate with all the dates and everything. She ended up marrying a fellow named Raymond Jacobs, who worked at the (old Sacramento) Signal Depot for many years.”
Louis, Jr.: “He died at 12 years old of meningitis back in 1941. He had such charisma that as a 12-year-old, he was so mature. He would work in the store and he got along with people so well. He would watch over the little girls and everything. When we were little kids learning our prayers, he knew them all very well. He was very bright. Everybody loved him.”
Richard: “He was given the nickname, Scratch, when he was a teenager. I never could figure out why they called him that, but he picked it up somewhere. Scratch got called up to play (baseball) in the California League, and he got mad and quit after a couple of seasons. He played with Fresno (in 1952 and 1953 and Visalia in 1955) and they won a pennant (in 1952). He was a good ball player. He (eventually) worked as a batch man for a big cement company in North Sacramento. Scratch later bought my parents’ old house (at 2715 59th St.).”
Marie: “Marie lives in Paradise, above Chico. (During the 1940s), in Sloughhouse, the Gypsy kids (of some of the farm workers) would come in there and stay for a week during the harvest season. (Marie) would gather up the kids and she would get the water hose and wash them up and put clean clothes on them. Some of them expected it and some didn’t. She was like a little mother hen taking care of the little kids.”
Eleanor: “Eleanor married Royce Hodgkins and lived in Napa. She worked for a school district in the Napa area for a while and her husband was a (California) Highway Patrol officer.”
Bernadine: “Bernadine married Don Thayer and she lives in Anderson, near Redding. She taught school near Red Bluff and later went into the meat business with her husband.”
As for Tony, who graduated from Sacramento High School in 1949, he was known by the nicknames of Hambone and Swede. He received the latter name, since he had the lightest complexion of the DeFazio children.
Tony eventually spent many years riding horses and working as a horseshoer and a truck driver, first hauling freight and then gasoline for the Richfield Oil Corp./later Atlantic Richfield Corp. – a company that became a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based BP in 2000.
From the union of Tony and his wife, Shirley, who he married 60 years ago, came their three children, thus adding to this notable Italian family’s history in the Sacramento area.

United Way’s Day of Caring comes to Arden and Carmichael

United Way volunteers help build a community garden for Health Education Council's project at Grant High School. United Way is gathering volunteers for its Day of Caring on Sept. 13 to complete 26 volunteer projects across the region, including three in the Arden-Carmichael area.

United Way volunteers help build a community garden for Health Education Council's project at Grant High School. United Way is gathering volunteers for its Day of Caring on Sept. 13 to complete 26 volunteer projects across the region, including three in the Arden-Carmichael area.

As many as 70 volunteers will descend on Arden and Carmichael on Sept. 13 as part of United Way California Capital Region’s Day of Caring. The volunteer extravaganza sponsored by Nationwide will include 350 volunteers and 26 projects across the region to celebrate United Way’s 90th anniversary, kick off the fall fundraising campaign and help United Way reach its goal of completing 90 volunteer projects in 2013.

Local residents can spend one day caring for the Arden-Carmichael community by signing up for one of three Day of Caring projects taking place in the area. Atkinson Youth Services, which helps foster children, needs help painting bedrooms and moving furniture in one of its group homes in Carmichael.

WEAVE, which helps people who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, needs help sorting items at its thrift store on Arden Way after a weeklong clothing and household goods donation drive.

Those interested in supporting people with developmental disabilities can help the Developmental Disabilities Service Organization by painting the inside of the gym and exterior walls at its St. Marks Way campus.

Nationwide, which is based in the Arden area and is sponsoring Day of Caring, will be sending 100 volunteers across the region, including the project at Developmental Disabilities Service Organization.

“Day of Caring is a great opportunity for our employees to make a powerful, tangible difference for our community in just one day,” said Ramon Jones, Nationwide regional vice president. “We hope the rest of the community will join us to make real change happen.”

United Way’s Day of Caring will start at 8 a.m. with a breakfast and rally at Cal Expo. Volunteer projects will begin at 10 a.m. To sign up, visit

“We’re excited to watch companies, volunteers and nonprofits come together for an amazing day transforming our community through volunteer projects,” said Victoria Kosha, interim United Way president and CEO. “We can’t think of a better way to celebrate 90 years of service in this community than to keep doing what we do best – joining hands with people across the region to make sure everyone has the building blocks for a good life.”

For 90 years, United Way California Capital Region has actively worked to address the community’s most pressing issues, now focusing on innovative solutions related to high school graduation rates, household financial stability and obesity. United Way’s team of nonprofits, businesses, donors and volunteers are working together to provide positive, measurable results on these issues through United Way projects: STAR Readers, $en$e-Ability and Fit Kids. Community members can give, volunteer and advocate in support of the causes they care most about, benefiting United Way and hundreds of nonprofits in Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. United Way is an independent, local affiliate of United Way Worldwide. For more information, visit

The future of Sutter’s Landing: Open space, solar park, BMX park, or McKinley Village thoroughfare

Sutter’s Landing sign welcomes visitors to the beautiful park

Sutter’s Landing sign welcomes visitors to the beautiful park

Sutter’s Landing is at an important crossroad and visions for its future are aplenty. There are the environmentalists and nature lovers who want it preserved as open space with a nature-centered park. There are BMX-ers who would love to see the old landfill a 5-acre BMX track. Ideas of soccer fields and solar panels have been thrown around. And most recently, the Sacramento Bee reported that Caltrans is looking to either Sutter’s Landing or McKinley Village sites as possible places for developing a new railyard and maintenance facility.

But how can all or some of these visions be combined and shared? How can the community work together to come up with a shared vision?

Community meetings have been held, one recently at the skatepark on Wednesday, June 19, where about 200 concerned citizens who are interested in helping set the direction for future park development gathered to discuss their vision.

Rather than placing solar panels atop the old landfill, some people have recommended increasing the amount of shade in the dog park and picnic areas by moving additional solar panels there instead.

Late last year, the city received a $1.5 million grant by the California Natural Resources Agency, which is meant to be used to improve Sutter’s Landing Park. Sacramento was likely chosen because of the site’s historical significance and the wide community support for one of the City’s most valuable amenities.

Councilmember Steve Cohn stated then that they were successful landing this grant “because the community spoke with one voice on the need to restore the natural river habitat at this unique location.”

Specifically, the money will be used to extend the multi-use Two Rivers Trail three-quarters of one mile from the Park east to the Union Pacific mainline tracks next to the Business 80 highway.  (Currently, the City’s Two Rivers Trail starts at Tiscornia Park and ends at State Route 160, a total of two miles.) At the end of the trail, there will be a turnaround loop with interpretive panels and seating. The City expects a future phase will connect the trail from the railroad tracks to CSU-Sacramento.

The dog park at Sutter’s Landing
The dog park at Sutter’s Landing
The project will restore more than three acres on the banks of the American River with native understory vegetation, and provide interpretive signage. The project will serve as an historic gateway to the 31.5-mile American River Parkway, which sees about eight million visitors per year.

According to a 2006 survey commissioned by the City, local residents have strong opinions about how the future park and recreation properties should be developed. Top priority included “large habitat areas for walking and hiking, where interpretive and educational programs can take place; 71 percent of the community at-large and 68 percent of registered voters selected that as their number one priority.

“Second priority is to develop parkways and areas along the American Riverbank that can accommodate large groups of people, picnics, and family-oriented attractions; 66% of the community-at-large and 74 percent of registered voters.

“Third priority is to construct amateur sports complexes for all ages that would make possible regional, statewide, and perhaps national events, such as state play-offs in soccer, baseball, etc.”

To the Friends of the River Banks, Sutter’s Landing is the only place where Sacramento has the opportunity to preserve such natural beauty in the heart of the city. “It could be an
exciting regional nature park, the Gateway to the American River, with gathering places, trails for hiking and biking, canoe/kayak launch, amphitheater, nature center, and much more,” wrote Laurie Litman in an email to members of the group. “Future generations will thank us,” she said.

To FORB, soccer fields and solar panels can be placed anywhere but this special riparian habitat along the American River, home to all manner of wildlife, cannot be re-created.

The fact that Sutter’s Landing was a landfill will put constraints on the site, but landfills have been converted to nature preserves in other places and FORB urges the city to explore new technology and innovative, creative techniques to do that here.

According to the group’s website,, they have been collecting information on species found around the Sutter’s Landing area for five years. At least 102 species of wildlife, not counting all the amazing invertebrates (including insects) have been documented there. This includes 81 species of birds, 15 mammals, 6 reptiles, and 3 amphibian species.

To avid BMXers group, having a 5-acre BMX track atop the old dump is something that will provide youth to enjoy. As Bob Horowitz encouraged the city: “Please do what you can to accommodate the pump track (a modified BMX style dirt track). The city needs more healthy activity for local youth. A pump track is a perfect fit for Sutter’s Landing.”

Upon agreeing with the need for more activities for youth to do, River Park resident David Moffatt noted how Sacramento has a very healthy and active cycling community. “If done properly, this area (Sector 12) could be a regional destination … Developing for use by bikes will help take pressure off of the bike trail and offer a healthy alternative to young people looking to express themselves in an individual manner.”

American River

American River

Moffatt also criticized the possibility of solar panels going up if they will impact the said “I’d like to go on record by stating I am concerned that the proposed ‘photovoltaic park’ does not constitute what one might consider to be defined as the intended use of a park or open space. I’d like some clarity on how this designation ‘photovoltaic park’ falls into the category of a park.”

Litman said it’s not that the group is anti-BMX. “It’s that our concern about a BMX track is that, like we’ve seen with the dog park, once people are in the vicinity they don’t stay at the facility but come down to the river and off-road bikes are already causing a lot of damage to the river habitat. We just think there needs to be an overall vision that protects the natural resources and the amenities at the park should be appropriate to that vision.”

Life in South America after growing up in Land Park

Editor’s note: Best friends Peter Ferguson and Matt Miller of Land Park have been living in South America since last year. What follows is a letter Peter wrote to a few conservation groups and organizations down in the Patagonia region (which is shared by Argentina Chile) and in the Bay Area. The letter describes their journey and their aspirations in making the world a better place. See the next issue of The Land Park News for a piece by Matt.

Good morning,

My name is Peter Ferguson and today is my 23rd birthday.  While this birthday is generally another random day out of the year, it couldn’t come at a more meaningful time.  I am spending it in the small township of Lanco, Chile with the Noriega’s, a family of characters whose intricacies you can’t write and whose hospitality can’t be matched.  More importantly I’m spending it with my best friend, Matt Miller.  My friendship with Matt goes back to the middle school days.  But seeing as we were never enrolled in the same schools, much less colleges on the same coast, our journeys had simply crossed until now.  At the present, they have merged and joined in a way that no one could have foreseen when we were both the ripe age of 13.

A bit of context – as my graduation day loomed last May, classmates felt the need to have an answer to the incessant question, ‘What are you doing next year?’ I, too, felt the pressure to have a response but mine was much more uncertain than any specific job.

That is to say, it was a destination.  I wanted to go to South America for a while — to live, to work, to play, but most of all to learn.  Something I knew I could gain through an immersive experience.  As luck would have it, my foot in the proverbial door to Latin America was a position teaching English in Chachapoyas, Peru for September.

So I graduated from school with some savings in the bank to return to my native California to save some more while living in my folks’ place.  Towards the end of my summer swim coach job, Matt landed himself couch ridden in our hometown, Sacramento, when he was hit on his bike in the middle of a cross-country tour somewhere outside of Missoula, Montana.  Convincing Matt to join me South after his own December graduation only took suggesting it.  What remained of the summer was ample time to map out and scheme and dream.  The possibilities were seemingly endless.  We were opening a blank book.  Starting a chapter of our lives with the pen in our hands.  Neither our folks nor our bosses, those that had groomed and socialized us for so long, had a hand on the wheel.

I took off for Peru and Matt went back to school, anxious as ever to get abroad.  In order to support weekend trips throughout the mountainous department, overflowing with natural beauty and ruins, I taught English during the week.  As I had hoped the pattern of an informal education developed.  Sure, I was learning Spanish but through the relationships I formed I gained more insight than simply a language.  Friends worked in NGOs and local and departmental government.  Each had different experiences, which led to different opinions about land use – it’s protection, recuperation, potential for sustainable cultivation and even ecotourism.  I noted the distinct relationships between the NGOs (national and international), their conclusions and understandings of land conservation, as well as their approaches to local communities, and the varying outcomes.

After the New Year, I moved to Cochabamba, Bolivia to split time between language classes, an after school program, and a community/ urban farming project.  The informal education continued as the nerdy sociology major in me deconstructed class struggle and ethnic tension between campesinos and mestizos.  The campesinos were coming from an indigenous background, which the lighter skinned city folk labeled as ‘backwards.’  I learned about the potential of urban farming as well as processes of fostering community through seed and food exchange.  To complement both my time in Peru and Bolivia was this concept of the Andean Cosmovision, which I had not been exposed to before.  I did my best to deconstruct my own worldview to try to wrap my head around a different experience of reality and therefore a different relationship with nature.

And then, at the end of April, came Chile.  After his own few months woofing in Ecuador and Peru, Matt joined me in Cochabamba as my 90 days in country began to run out.  The highly anticipated reunion had finally come and we were each bursting with enthusiasm to have a friend, someone who knew the other’s story and where they’d been, to accompany them for the journey.  We saw the Salar de Uyuni, which played tricks on our eyes, before crossing the border into the arid Atacaman desert.  When we reached Santiago, we made use of a friend’s apartment floor as a base to center ourselves, our thoughts, and our plan.  We rather quickly came to the conclusion that Santiago was not the Chile we wanted to experience so we took off with our sights set on Parque Nacional el Morado to the southeast of the suffocating capital.
That park, amongst the high desert of the glacial valley, is where we found our rhythm, our peace, the part of Chile we came for.

After some further research, we realized how naïve we had been in thinking that we could trek any of the parks further south during the winter months without the proper equipment. Coinciding with that was a restlessness that couldn’t settle.  An appetite to trek that was far from fulfilled.  We decided to chase what was left of fall and on May 1, restarted our journey South.  For the three weeks that followed, we bussed and hitch hiked and walked from park to park w/ our worldly possessions strapped to our back.

Signs of winter were everywhere and inclement weather seemed to haunt us.  We were rained on for two days in Parque Nacional Laguna de Laja – seeking refuge in a cavern, whose pool of water grew pushing us into the gale force winds and sheets of rain in a search for some cover to dry our soaked bodies.  The basement of an abandoned house that we named ‘Old Blue’ because of her sky blue painted walls was our savior that second night.  But that third morning was a sight.  It was a Christmas morning of sorts.  The clouds had lifted and steam flowed into the wind off the trees, welcoming the sun.  We embraced the good weather and found a trail, who’s trailhead we had fortuitously missed just days before, that led us over ridges and lava flows and volcanic sands.  What we found on the other side affirmed our thought that sometimes you have to hike through the crap, suffer a bit, to enjoy the view from the top.  On the other side was a sheer rock face that scanned up to a glacier, hanging between some of the more unforgivable peaks we’ve laid eyes on. Fed by the glacier melt were eight separate waterfalls flowing down the awe-inspiring face.  There was no way we could take it all in at once.  That amount of natural beauty in one panorama overwhelms the senses.

Flying high after those last few sunny days, Matt and I were unexpectedly deflated by a CONAF ranger at our next stop, Reservas Nacionales Malalcahuello and Nalcas.  The seasons were changing and we were risking hiking in snow.  But just as I have yet to learn to duck my head when I pass through the low set doorframes of the Noriega house, I had yet to learn to heed the warnings of a ranger.  We set out and had four days of weather that only beckons being outside.  We ran the trails and rivers, mouths agape at the monkey-puzzle forests, birded and just breathed.  But then, on the fifth morning, we awoke to the thumping of rain on our taught rain fly.

Despite the drumbeats, we were surprisingly slap happy and beyond stoked to start our fifth day.  While we prepped some coffee and rib-sticking oats in the tent, we made wise cracks and packed our bags.  I embraced getting wet in a way.  Like the truly foolish gringo that I am, I donned some shorts.  We took off, leaving our site as we had found it, and within thirty minutes were sopping wet.  Our extremities numbed rendering our fingers useless.  And that was all before the pass.  Again, we pushed on after warnings of snow and sleet from an eccentric Chilean, who offered us a ride.  I can only imagine the adjectives that came to mind when he saw us trudging up the service road.  Better yet, someone in shorts that hardly grazed his knees.

Before this trip, we committed to hike until we hit snow.  We were not expecting for snow to hit us.  We added some layers, all of which were soaked shortly thereafter, and continued the creeping climb in elevation.  We passed the tree line leaving us exposed in a brutal landscape of volcanic sands.

I had puddles in my boots and pockets as we marched onward and upward.  The wind increased to a speed that whips the snot right out of your nose and steals your words away, no matter the volume.  As boots crunched over snow, US history lessons of the Donner Party flashed through my mind – half as a joke, half as a concern.

The rain cover on my backpack had blown off with the wind and acted as a parachute only adding resistance as I acutely leaned into the gusts. Once the road beneath our feet began to decline we began a kind of motivational chatter to keep things moving.  Snow turned to sleet, which turned to rain, and, hypothermic and delirious, we talked of ending day in a lodge somewhere with a fire and whiskeys waiting for us.  Buildings came into view through the torrential conditions and then a few cars — all of it fueling the delirium.  But the hopeful decent from the pass was met with disappointment as we found the buildings under construction or in disuse.  We caught a break when a friendly engineer exiting the construction site stopped for these two sorry looking fellows.  He generously offered us a lift into town.  Soaked to the bone, we shivered in his backseat and tried to recount what we had just overcome.  He took us to a tiny, family-run hospedaje in the town at the foot of the park.  We had the place to ourselves to dry out and warm up by the fire in the bunkroom.  Matt and I were dumb struck.  We were beyond grateful but in a state of utter disbelief from our morning and how we had come to arrive in front of that fire.

We finished the three week run trekking through Parque Nacional Huerquehue and a private reserve, El Cañi, both outside the town of Pucon.  At Huerquehue, we hiked above the snow line into forests kissed by winter – trees and trails covered with a few inches of fresh snow.  At El Cañi we similarly hiked to a fantastic vista point with snow resting between the rocks.  We had to admit to ourselves that it was time to rest.  And while our souls weren’t ready for it, our bodies and bones welcomed the reprieve.

Even though we are no longer on the move, Matt and I haven’t ceased our scheming.  Our restlessness also remains.  Inertia doesn’t seem to be in the vocabulary.  We are poised to get back out into the thick of solitude – under night skies full of an unfathomable number of stars and surrounded by a desolation found in only the wildest places.  The dreams continue with the passing of each day – most recently it’s the hope for a beater car that could carry/ house us in the spring as we continue south.  The simple prospect of investing in a car rather than paying for intimidating bus tickets speaks to this point in time in our lives.  The conversation sheds light on this shared outlook – one that dreams bigger and chases uncertainty.  An uncertainty from which we will most certainly be challenged but also will grow.  And so to us, it’s more than an adventure.  You could call it that.  And many will.  But it’s an invaluable journey, chalk full of follies and lessons and hope.

Now, we hope that this email does not fall on deaf ears or worse, get lost in spam.  We hope that this email might find someone in the Southern Cone willing to meet with two curious and happy-go-lucky 23 year olds.  As goes for whoever this may find in Sausalito, learning about the kind of advocacy your group does and hearing about others practicing simple, sustainable living in different parts if the world would be a treat.  That same curiosity got us wondering about the accessibility of the Parque Nacional Corcovado.  The film, 180 Degrees South, which featured the wild scenery of Corcovado, was a source of inspiration for Matt and me.  One of those dreams we’ve worked up is to see that coastline with our own eyes and run a few of the rivers that the park protects.

For now, we’ve hunkered down at the Noriega household behind their liquor shop.  Through a college acquaintance, Matt arranged somewhat of a work exchange while we wait for the seasons to shift in our favor.  In reality, we’ve been taken in as sons with our bellies always content and the drink as free flowing as the conversation.  The proximity of the store keeps abuelo’s remedies close at hand, taking a bit of wine or whiskey throughout the day to help warm his body and keep our glasses full.  We look forward to hearing back from your end.  Meanwhile, we’ll be anxiously waiting for the spring to chase that uncertainty, continuing the journey and everything that comes with it.

Peter And Matt

Sacramento’s annual ‘Juneteenth’ celebration comes to William Land Park, June 14-16

12th Annual Sacramento Juneteenth Celebration will be held on June 14-16 at William Land Park. Seen at center is 2012 Juneteenth Talent Contest winner, Reyna Armour.

12th Annual Sacramento Juneteenth Celebration will be held on June 14-16 at William Land Park. Seen at center is 2012 Juneteenth Talent Contest winner, Reyna Armour.

Hundreds of attendees will grace the grounds of William Land Park on June 14-16 when the 12th Annual Sacramento Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom comes to town.
Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, Juneteenth is the annual observance of the end of slavery in the United States.
Specifically, the observance marks the date of June 19, 1868 that Union soldiers adhered to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; freeing all remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas.
The festive Sacramento celebration will include a host of live music, activities, and a plethora of good eats cooked up by some of the best local restaurants and independent proprietors.
The event also features the popular “Juneteenth Talent Show,” where the best of the best in dance, spoken word, and song compete for prizes.
The inception of the event was the brainchild of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Multicultural Affairs division, which focuses on supporting and creating the community’s cultural and ethnic festivals.
The department decided to coordinate an occasion to commemorate Juneteenth, as there wasn’t one of its kind being held locally.
“We originally put it together as a show of love to the community,” said department director Gary Simon. “It’s now grown to be ‘the’ festival to celebrate Juneteenth in the Sacramento area.”
The family orientated event will include children’s activities, such as face painting, magic shows, and water slides.
Attendees will be able to enjoy a fishing derby, the Juneteenth Educational Theater that will focus on the historical time-line representing the African slave trade, a health and wellness area providing on-site health screenings and healthy cooking demonstrations, and plenty of vendors offering arts and crafts throughout the weekend.
Local soldiers will also be honored with awards at the event.
Simon noted that the multifaceted celebration aims to feature something for everyone, as it was created for all people to enjoy.
“Juneteenth is a part of American history not just ‘African American history,’” Simon said. “Defeating the confederacy gained freedom not just for African Americans, but for Americans in general.”
The spacious, shady park will be filled with festive fun on June 14, when several of the Sacramento area’s best gospel artists perform at the celebration’s official kick-off event, Gospel Under the Stars.

Seen are children enjoying the fishing derby at last year’s Juneteenth celebration.

Seen are children enjoying the fishing derby at last year’s Juneteenth celebration.

The soiree will take place from 7:30-9 p.m.
Activities on June 15 will run from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. beginning with the Freedom Walk fundraiser.
The one-mile walk will benefit St. Hope public schools; participants from age 8 and up can take part in the event.
Registration is open at
The Emancipation Proclamation Parade will follow the walk at 11 a.m.
Attendees can groove to local jazz and R&B artists, including Prophecy, Ayanna Charlene, Jackie Bryant, Shawn Raiford and Saxual Chocolate, and Karla Fleming, will perform on the Main Stage throughout the evening.
The big weekend will conclude on June 16 with a golf tournament at 7:30 a.m.; team registrations will begin at 6 a.m.
Golf enthusiasts will be awarded with trophies and prizes at the event.
William Land Park is located at 3800 Land Park Drive.
For more information about the Sacramento Juneteenth Celebration, visit

Janey Way Memories No. 88: Remembering My Father

With Father’s Day approaching, I want to take the time to share some memories of my father, Martin Relles Sr., who inspired me in ways I can’t overestimate.

Dad was born in 1915 in Chicago, but soon moved to Sacramento with his family.  He lost his dad at the age of five in the great Spanish flu epidemic.  His mother re-married soon after that.  Being a stepchild is never easy, but it proved particularly hard on dad.  His stepfather often disciplined him.  One day while he played in his front yard on 14th Avenue, his step-father became so angry, he hit dad on the back with a piece of wire.

When that happened, a doctor who lived across the street came over and said this to his stepfather, “If I see you do that again, I will have you put in jail.”  Thankfully, dad never suffered that kind of treatment again.

As with many children, sports provided a healthy outlet for dad and his older brothers, George and Ross. They preceded him at Sacramento High and excelled at football and baseball. So when dad entered high school, he had high expectations to live up to.  He took that to heart.

When he arrived at school on the first day, he wore a sweater emblazoned with the following slogan:  “Another great Relles comes to Sacramento High.”  Fortunately, he lived up to that hoopla.  We still have clippings from the Sacramento Bee describing dad’s football triumphs.

Another memory of my dad dates back to 1990.  I had just married for the second time and bought a home in College Glen.  That winter, rain came pouring through the roof. I was pretty broke, but obviously had to fix the problem, so I told mom I was coming over to Janey Way to borrow some money.

When I got there, I parked the car and came, head down, up to the house.  Mom let me in.  Dad was sitting at the table with his checkbook in hand.  As he wrote the check, he looked up with a smile and said, “I was hoping you would ask.”  My father was nothing if not generous.

My final memory is from 1999, the year my father died.  On the night of his passing, my sister and I called all of the family to let them know what happened.  Soon the aunts, uncles and cousins came over to give their condolences.  As I stood on the front porch, my aunt Leone came up, gave me a hug and said sincerely and lovingly, “he was a wonderful man.”  He was that and I am fortunate that he was my father.

A few days later, at the funeral, I stood on the altar of St. Mary’s church and eulogized my father. At the end of my speech, I looked up to the heavens and said softly, “uncle George and uncle Ross, you had better make some room up there in heaven, because there is another great Relles coming to join you.” That was 14 years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about dad.  It’s another heart rending Janey Way memory.