Pocket author Kathey Norton releases new rock-and-roll novel

Set in the early 1960s to late 1980s, “What Becomes a Legend Most,” a new book by Pocket resident, Kathey Norton, follows the story of Cassie Hamilton, a singer and rock musician. The book details her past as a sexually abused child, her time spent on the road with a British heavy metal band, bad relationships, her struggle to overcome drug and alcohol problems, her fight against sexism and the attitude during that time period that female musicians could not compete with male rock musicians, and her rise to the top and all the positive and negative aspects of fame. This book is for anyone who loves music and enjoys reading about the lives of musicians.

Intrigued by the lives of musicians and having always wanted to be one herself, Kathey said writing the book was her opportunity to live out a little fantasy of what it would have been like to have been a woman fronting a rock band in the 1970s and ’80s when women were still not respected as musicians, or taken seriously by their male musician counterparts or the music industry in general. In an interview with the Pocket News, Kathey discussed more about the impetus for writing the book: “I’m fascinated by the lives of musicians and the fact that some of them don’t have any boundaries or set limits for themselves when it comes to living life. It has always amazed me that they can venture out to the very outer edge of what society considers the norm and have these incredible experiences that most of us can’t even imagine, and if they live to tell the tale, all the better.”

Kathey said the inspiration behind the book came about after listening to Lou Reed’s song called “What Becomes a Legend Most.” “I started thinking about that song and it translated in my mind to a woman who had ambitions of her own, but she lost them along the way and now just feels very used up by the male musicians who pass in and out of her life.”

Listening to a lot of music when she writes, Kathey actually sees everything like a movie in her head. She said she knows exactly what music she would have in each scene and how she would shoot the scene. She said she knew how to write plays in the 80s, but didn’t know how to write screenplays so she wrote novels instead, always thinking she would eventually learn how to write screenplays and direct the films for her own books. She said she would still like to do that and learn how to score the music for the films, too. She’s adapted screenplays for about three of her novels.

“I’d love to get this book to director Cameron Crowe. I’ve even written a screenplay that is a sequel to the original ‘Dirty Harry’ film, but so far I haven’t had any luck getting it to Clint Eastwood. I’m such a fan of that series and really wanted to write one last movie to tie up that entire series. If he could just read my screenplay. It would be awesome!”

“What Becomes a Legend Most” is Kathey’s first book to be published, but the fourth novel she said she has completed. “I hope to get the other novels published, too. It’s a very writer thing to say and it almost makes me cringe to say it, but I feel like I owe it to all my characters to have their voices heard and their stories out there. They spent many, many years in my head and kept me company on many lonely nights, so I think it’s my responsibility to give them an opportunity for others to either love or hate them. They’re all very flawed in one way or another, but I love putting characters into conflict and seeing how they respond to that.”

The book’s now availability is a long time coming for Kathey who wrote the draft in 1989, but unfortunately due to her mother’s declining health, her writing took a back seat. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when the budding writer was in her early 20s, just as she started getting poetry and articles published – a time when she could write a novel every three to six months. “When (Mom) got sick, it changed everything, and as her primary caregiver, I had to juggle working full time, taking a full-course load at college, and caring for her, so the things that fell by the wayside were my ambitions to be a writer and desire to improve my music skills enough to start my own band.”

But fast forward, in 2010, Kathey decided to dust off all her old manuscripts and take a fresh look at her body of work and start trying to reawaken the writer in her that was apparently in some type of coma during all those years caring for her mother.

Kathey grew up in Downtown and also lived all over Midtown, when there were only a few restaurants there and not the scene that’s there now. She lived across from New Roma Bakery and Washington Elementary.

Reminiscing her childhood, Kathey said: “In the early ’70s, the Sacramento City Unified School District decided to bus poor and minority kids to Caroline Wenzel (Elementary). So, being a poor kid paid off for me because I was given the opportunity to attend a wonderful elementary school. The bus ride every morning into the Pocket area was cool because there were a lot of open fields, but for all of the new houses that were being built, it seemed like they all had swimming pools. It was a different reality than I was used to, but I loved the school and had great opportunities there.
“I remember that Mr. Bone was the principal and he was so kind to my mother and me. When I broke my thigh during first grade, he made sure the school provided a private tutor to me. My mother couldn’t afford to do that, but he made that happen and I am very nostalgic about Caroline Wenzel. I also attended Theodore Judah Elementary, Sutter Middle School, and Sacramento High, where I was so shy I couldn’t look anyone in the eyes, and I went on to earn a bachelor’s of arts in communication studies and a master’s in government from CSUS (California State University, Sacramento).”

Kathey now works for the State of California as a manager in the policy division and used to be a marketing director for a private law firm and loved it. She was laid off at the end of 2007, and she said that made her realize that she needed to find employment with more job security.

“I’m very lucky to work with very dedicated people and who allow me to be the crazy writer, aspiring musician chick. I sleep only two hours a night, so I can fit in all my creative interests around my work schedule.”

Kathey has an aunt and some cousins in Sacramento, but “that’s it,” she said when asked if she has family in the area. “Both of my parents and one of my older brothers passed away. I have another older brother who lives in Oklahoma, and he sounds like he’s from Oklahoma now even though he grew up in Sacramento, too.”

Kathey is a strict vegetarian and is active in animal rights issues and politics. “I really care about the Pocket area and I have a friend who calls me the ‘Pocket Area Activist.’ I’ve toyed with the idea of running for District 7 City Council one day. “Councilmember Fong has been so nice and patient in putting up with all of my complaints and issues over the years. I want to thank him for that. Rick Jennings doesn’t know what he’s in for with me.”

Kathey really loves this area and enjoys walking around the neighborhoods. When she first moved to the Pocket, it felt like the country to her after having grown up downtown. “I have learned to appreciate the peace and quite, and I enjoy petting all the dogs in the neighborhood. I may not remember your name, but I’ll definitely remember your dog’s name. I really love the idea of Nextdoor.com. We have a very active group here in the Pocket and we don’t always agree on everything, but it’s great that we discuss issues that affect our community. I’m also taking voice lessons and guitar lessons with the idea that I’m still going to start that band that I never got to start. So I apologize in advance to my neighbors who will have to listen to my garage band one day very soon. I refuse to let that dream die. It’s just something I have to do before I leave this Earth.”

Riverview II social club has rich history in Carmichael

The old Riverview clubhouse is shown in the background of this early Riverview club photograph. Photo courtesy of Riverview II

The old Riverview clubhouse is shown in the background of this early Riverview club photograph. Photo courtesy of Riverview II

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series about the Riverview and Riverview II social clubs.

Riverview II, a social club, which has always maintained its main objective of having fun among friends, was founded in Carmichael in 1953.
Its roots, however, date back to the 1920s, with the establishment of the original Riverview social club.
In memoirs written in 1959 by Glenn W. Bowen, one of the earlier groups founding members, Bowen explained how the original Riverview club was organized.
Bowen, a real estate man who resided at 1032 37th St., recalled a time, in 1925, when he and another real estate man named Carl Klein were asked to sell a house at 1716 7th Street, near the old Sacramento Bee building.
“George (Hammond) said, ‘If you boys (Bowen and Klein) sell this house, I’ll give you a cash bonus and the best dinner in Sacramento,’” Bowen wrote. “I sold the house. We never got the dinner, but I kept reminding George of the same.
“One day, he came to the office and invited us to a 6:00 o’clock dinner at the yacht club – just a boat house (sic) on the Sacramento River. We didn’t know any of the members and they couldn’t see us – after the first half hour. We didn’t swim – had a good liquid dinner and steak, I think, at least so they told us.
“Carl and I went home early, when the card game began. On the way home, we decided the evening was wasted, except that we did get an idea. Why not find a place on the river and form a family club for ourselves and friends.”
After discussing their idea to form such a club, Bowen and Klein, who was a resident of North Sacramento, called a few of their friends to invite them to join them in that endeavor.
With a few of their recruits, Bowen and Klein began meeting to discuss their intentions of forming a club.
During one of those meetings, a suggestion was made that Bowen and a new group member, Byrl Babock, who lived at 1235 ½ V St., begin searching for a club site along the American River.
Bowen recalled that venture in his aforementioned memoirs, as follows:
“We spent several days walking the river bank between Fair Oaks and Sacramento. Late one evening, tired and discouraged, we climbed the hill at the end of Stanley Avenue and came to a bluff on the American River. Below us was a natural park. Beautiful oaks, green grass and the river, with a beach. All this and a view, too. Best of all, we met Mary Deterding, the (property’s) owner, and one of the best known and most respected women in Sacramento County.
“Byrl painted a picture of our group of outstanding young couples, most of who (sic) didn’t even have a yard nor a dollar, but with big ideas and the best intentions. Mrs. Deterding liked the idea – mostly she liked Byrl – and finally agreed to consider our proposition.”
The group’s next move was to visit the site, and after arriving to the area with their children and dogs, they left with a grand vision of establishing club grounds complete with a hotel, golf links, boating and swimming.
But the group soon realized they needed to downsize their plans due to financial reasons.
Although the group, which then consisted of 10 men and 10 women, would face various challenges in establishing their club grounds, they would not be discouraged.
It was quickly understood by the group that they would need to create a road on the hill and steps down to the site.
Additionally, Deterding told the group that they had selected a location that was situated in a flood zone.
Nonetheless, the group made an arrangement with Deterding to lease the site for five years at a cost of $10 per year.
The lease, which was drawn by Deterding’s attorney Evan Hughes, included the stipulation that the group was not to possess or serve liquor on the premises.

Riverview club members gather together along the American River. Photo courtesy of Riverview II

Riverview club members gather together along the American River. Photo courtesy of Riverview II

In May 1926, the group was officially established and named Riverview, due to the selection of its meeting place along the river.
Klein was named as the club’s first president, and many other men followed him in that role.
Other original officers included Babcock, vice president; Arthur S. Hackett, treasurer; Gordon Lilly, secretary; and directors, Bowen, Jack H. Leam, John H. McMahon and Emil N. Ott.
Although the club did not allow women to serve as presidents, women could hold the position of social chairman. Mildred Leam was the first person to hold that position in the club.
The club established its own constitution and by-laws.
An excerpt from the club’s original by-laws describes the organization’s purpose, as follows: “To encourage and cement friendship to the mutual benefit of all its members, to the end that each member and his family shall have a place to meet his friends, rest and enjoy himself and the outdoors at its best.”
With the founding of Riverview, work began on the construction of the group’s clubhouse.
The clubhouse was certainly completed in a short time, considering that Bowen’s memoirs included the following words:
“Next came the flood of 1926-27. Most everything along the river ended up in the ocean. Two noble oaks saved our beautiful clubhouse from floating away. Of course, we did not know this was the first of many floods to come. This was not serious. We worked out a system – 1) Levee an assessment; 2) Spend all spare time working on club; 3) Get new members with money and strong backs.”
Bowen also commented that following every flood, the clubhouse and its furnishings would be improved.
He also noted that the Depression nearly caused the club’s existence to come to an end.
According to Riverview’s records, at one point during that period of misfortune, 21 of the club’s 32 members had failed to pay their dues.
As for Riverview’s membership, the club was solely opened to married couples.
Efforts to increase Riverview’s membership total was a three-fold project, which featured random calls using numbers from a telephone book, door-to-door inquiries and on-street contacts.
Eventual improvements to the club’s grounds included a kitchen and croquet court.
In 1953, with their desire to have Riverview activities continue for many more years, senior members of the club met with some of the members’ children. That meeting led to the establishment of the “Junior Riverview” club, which is known today as Riverview II.

Lance@valcomnews.com

A woman’s drive to make Tahoe Park streets safer

Tahoe Park resident Adelita Espinoza is on a mission to make Tahoe Park streets safer.

Tahoe Park resident Adelita Espinoza is on a mission to make Tahoe Park streets safer.

Adelita Espinoza strides quickly through the crosswalk on Broadway and 53rd Street.
“Tahoe Park is where I was raised and where my mother brought me home after I was born,” says the attractive, 40-something activist who works intermittently as a film producer on documentaries and television pilots.
A graduate of St. Francis High School, the vivacious woman has lived in New York, San Francisco and Stuttgart, Germany but keeps her house in Sacramento for time spent “between jobs.”
Adelita, who currently lives on Broadway, a couple blocks away from the 53rd Street crosswalk, says that the raised median and street markings are entirely unsafe. “Cars don’t hesitate to drive right over the center median in the middle of the crosswalk,” she says.
A broken sign post in front of the concrete island or median once warned drivers to be cautious as they drove through the crosswalk. Recently, though, the sign was destroyed by a vehicle and has not been replaced. A remaining sign is bent and twisted from car collisions. The median curb, as well, is scuffed by tire marks and appears to be crumbling.
“Seniors from the apartments on the north side of the street use the crossing all the time,” says Espinoza.
While standing near the intersection I notice an elderly couple attempting to cross the street. They both have to raise their arms to try to get cars barreling down Broadway to slow down or stop in order to walk to across the street. Even with the crossing marks and the median, going across Broadway seems to be a difficult proposition.
“In the morning,” says Espinoza, “kids going to Tahoe School are in a dangerous situation because cars routinely go right over the curb.” She notes that the bike lane along Broadway abruptly comes to an end at the 53rd Street crosswalk. “The kids that walk to school need the extra space all the way to Tahoe Elementary,” she explains. Cars, she adds, often go over the graded curb which joins the sidewalk to the street.
Perhaps, she says, bike lanes can be extended and a “rotary” or driving circle can be constructed at the 53rd Street and Broadway intersection that effectively stops traffic and makes it both safe for children and seniors.
Espinoza says she has formed a group, The Tahoe Park Preservation Association Initiative (or TPA for short) to look at this and other safety issues that beset the neighborhood area.
A TPA meeting and walk audit has been set for Saturday, June 28 at the Tahoe Park Collaborative Center at 5959 8th Street so residents can “make their voices heard by citing streets of concern” in the neighborhood. The gathering starts at 10 a.m. and the walk will continue along the busy streets of Tahoe Park. The estimated end time is 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, Espinoza is not entirely content with just having the upcoming meeting on June 28. Before then, she explains, she has arranged a meeting at the Mayor’s office to voice her concerns. In addition, she has tentatively identified a “fiscal partner” which will help provide seed money for TPA.
Along with dealing with safety concerns, she says, she would like to work with Tahoe Park residents to preserve interesting and outstanding architectural features that make Tahoe Park unique and special. In her activist work, she expresses the fact that she has “reached out” to the current neighborhood association but has decided that she could focus on problems more quickly (especially on the Broadway concerns in the Northwestern corner of Tahoe Park) by forming a new organization.
For those wanting more information about TPA, the provided contacts include tpacomm@gmail.com or the website at tpacomm.wix.com/tpa-1.

If you go:
What: The Tahoe Park Preservation Association meeting and walk audit
When: Saturday, June 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Meet at Tahoe Park Colonial Collective, 5959 8th Street

Pocket residents celebrate 25 years of priesthood by Father Martin

About 700 people attended the silver jubilee celebration for Father Martin Brusato at St. Anthony's Church in the Pocket area on Sunday, May 5. Photo by Stephen Crowley

About 700 people attended the silver jubilee celebration for Father Martin Brusato at St. Anthony's Church in the Pocket area on Sunday, May 5. Photo by Stephen Crowley

In spite of the suffering from a head injury that took place about 20 years ago, Father Martin Brusato continues to the community, inspiring all who know him.

Celebrating his silver jubilee anniversary at St. Anthony Parish on Sunday, May 5, he was joined at a special Mass and community meal afterward with about 700 people, including his father Ronald Brusato, his four sisters, and their families, Sacramento Diocesan Bishop Jaime Soto and 25 fellow priests from the diocese.

Born on July 14, 1958, Father Martin and his family were parishioners of St. Anne Parish in South Sacramento and he attended St. Anne Parish grammar school.

After high school he joined the Oblates of St. Joseph religious community in Santa Cruz to study for the priesthood but eventually left that community. He later was accepted by the Diocese of Sacramento to study for the priesthood and attended St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park. He was ordained a priest on April 22, 1989 by Bishop Francis Quinn in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento.

Father Martin’s first assignment was to Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Sacramento as parochial vicar or assistant priest. His next assignment was as parochial vicar at St Joseph Parish in Elk Grove. He was then assigned as Bishop William Weigand’s secretary and worked with the bishop at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Sacramento.

During the time he served as secretary to Bishop Weigand, Father Martin lived in residence at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento. One night in the early hours of the morning a man suffering from an overdosed of drugs broke into the residence at the cathedral through an unlocked window on the second floor of the house. In the process of the break-in, he attacked Father Martin who was asleep in his room by smashing a bottle on Father Martin’s head. The attack did serious neurological damage to Father Brusato’s brain which began a serious of consequences that affect him to this day.

After his initial recuperation from the attack, Father Martin worked in the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal for a short time and then was appointed pastor of St Christopher Parish in Galt where he served from 1996 to 1999. In 1999 he had to give up his pastorate because of health related issues from the cathedral attack.

Father Martin was on medical leave until 2010 when he returned to part-time parish ministry for a few years. He served at St. James Parish in Davis from 2010 to 2011 and then at St. Clare Parish in 2011. He was forced to return to medical leave again in 2011 to the present.

In an interview with the Pocket News, retired St. Anthony’s Parish Father John Boll described the extent of the consequences as follows: “He suffers still greatly. He’s had a number of surgeries. Since the attack, he began to be affected by the damage to his brain. It initiated a series of consequences that makes him unable to serve in a parish at this time. So he suffered greatly for that. It’s been very unfortunate because he loves to serve in the parish community. Because of his limitations, it’s very hard for him to do it.”

“Sometimes he does very well. Other times it hits him. He’s had a number of surgeries for his back. It’s just set up a whole series of sad and serious consequences for him. He tries to move forward but it’s caused a great dealing of suffering for him.”

Some of these setbacks are due to the medication, which can cause him to fall asleep in the middle of the day. He also has fallen in his home. Due to occasional seizures, he’s not been able to drive, so he relies on his family, including his four sisters and father. His mother died some years ago. So he has to depend on them to get them where he needs to go, further curtailing his freedom.

Despite the trauma that still affects him today, Father John has made a heroic effort to serve the people of God in the Church of Sacramento in spite of the terrible setback he suffered when brutally attacked at the cathedral.

Father John said the Church is praying that God will bring healing to Father Martin and restore him to health once again. “Because of his great desire to serve the community in spite of his physical setback, Father Martin is an inspiration to all who know him,” he said.

Kennedy High alumnus discusses new local dinner theater, other endeavors

Steve Masone is enjoying his role in bringing new dinner theater productions to the Sacramento area. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Steve Masone is enjoying his role in bringing new dinner theater productions to the Sacramento area. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Note: This is part one in a series about 1970 John F. Kennedy High School graduate Steve Masone.

Steve Masone has been involved in many projects since he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1970. And his latest project is to bring new dinner theater productions to Sacramento.
With Steve’s assistance, the musical, “Starry Evening,” which will be performed by the Phoinix Players of Eugene, Ore., will be presented in the grand ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel at 500 Leisure Lane on July 11 and 12.
Steve said that the theater group from Oregon will be performing in Sacramento “with their eye on relocating here to establish a permanent home.”
“Phoinix Players are internationally acclaimed and known for their ability to mount seven or more musicals a season,” Steve said. “This is good news for Sacramento, if they are welcomed and supported. Word is they may also perform at Tommy T’s (comedy dinner theater at 12401 Folsom Blvd. in Rancho Cordova), and are negotiating with a Pocket-Land Park venue for shows at the end of summer. They also will be performing at the (Clarion Inn at 1401 Arden Way) next to Arden Fair mall, July 18 and 19 through Aug. 3 on weekends.”
During an interview with this publication last week, Steve spoke about details of his life that led to his current efforts to present dinner theater productions in the Sacramento area.
Steve, who was one of the six children of the Phoenix, Ariz.-born Rita Campbell, and Michael Louis Masone, a second generation Italian-American, explained that he became part of a broken family during his childhood.
“(Michael Louis) got on with the Army as a civilian because my great-grandfather was also working for the Army, and they came from Fort Huachuca, Ariz. to Sacramento to Sharpe Army Depot (then Sharpe General Depot) in Stockton,” Steve said. “They (later) came to the Sacramento Army Depot, and that’s where my mother and father parted ways.”
Steve, who was born in French Camp, just outside of Stockton, recalled that his life suddenly became more difficult following his parents’ separation.
“It got tougher because my stepfather talked my mother into putting me and my brothers into an orphanage,” Steve said. “We went back to a church-run orphanage in Phoenix, Ariz. It belonged to a church that my family had attended. We were there for two years.”
Following their time in the orphanage, Steve and his brothers came to Sacramento to live with their grandmother, who was then employed at the Sacramento Army Depot.
In speaking about his schooling, Steve said, “I was in Sacramento in the first grade, second grade, third grade, went to Arizona for fourth and fifth (grades) and came back for the rest. I attended William Land (elementary) School (at 1116 U St.), and then Freeport Elementary (School at 2118 Meadowview Road), and also Ethel I. Baker (Elementary School at 5717 Laurine Way). I went to (Baker) for a minute. I went to reform school during my freshman year to get straightened out. And, of course, I went to Kennedy (High).”
Steve recalled his early interest in music and theater, saying, “I was involved in music in high school, in theater and drama. I sort of led a double life. I would go out with the guys and then I would disappear and not tell them I was involved in theater and dance. My mom had put me in ballet and jazz when I was really young, too, so, I did that, but I didn’t tell the guys that I was in community theater.”
Steve also mentioned that while he was attending Kennedy, he was a member of the Raw Jam Blues Band.
“I started playing with them in 1968, but then in 1969, I went through a windshield in an automobile accident,” Steve said. “I was playing trumpet with them and I lost my trumpet lip. And so, then I picked up the harmonica. That’s why we phased over into a blues band because I went blues. Between the orphanage and a few other life difficulties, I learned about the blues. I could relate. I got turned on to a few blues artists (such as) Sonny Boy Williamson, the harmonica player, of course, and B.B. King, of course. And even though she was blues-jazz, Billie Holiday was a favorite of mine. Just a lot of them (blues artists). Little Walter on harmonica was another one. I styled my harmonica playing after him.”
After graduating from Kennedy, Steve was drafted into the Army.
And in recalling that time in his life, Steve said, “Of course, it was at the tail end of Vietnam. My duty station was in Fort Kobbe canal zone down in Panama. I went to basic training at Fort Ord. I went to my advanced training at Fort Polk, La. That’s called AIP – Advanced Individual Training. And I went to a specialized (training) down in Panama. I was with the JOT – Jungle Operational Training. It was run by the (Army) Special Forces. That’s where we taught jungle warfare, jungle survival to all the guys going overseas, and we also taught South American friendlies. I went over there, not actually in Vietnam, but in Laos and Cambodia. I was three and a half years in the Army.”
After leaving the military, Steve became involved in playing music again.
Steve also became involved in managing and booking bands.
He fondly recalled working as a stringer for the local deejay Bob Castle (1949-2007), aka the “Blue Whiz” on radio station KROY 1240 AM.
Additionally, Steve spoke about eventually working with Castle at a local concert featuring the popular Sacramento band, Redwing.
“My first major concert as a concert promoter in Sacramento (was with) the band called Redwing,” Steve said. “They were pretty popular. They had that big hit called ‘California Blues.’ I got (Castle) to be my co-host and I produced (the) concert with him (in the ballroom above) the old Fox (Senator) Theatre (at 912 K St.), and it was pretty successful.
“I started having some success after that, and the next thing you know, I joined George B. Hunt and Associates (of Los Angeles) as a licensed booking agent, which you had to be to work with the (American Federation of Musicians Local No. 12 in Sacramento). And so, I became the only licensed union booker in Sacramento. Anybody that was working a union gig in Sacramento had to go through me. And back then there were a lot of union gigs. And that’s where I got into the dinner theater business, also because of my background in theater.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

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.

Lance@valcomnews.com

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.

Lance@valcomnews.com

‘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.”

Lance@valcomnews.com

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.

lance@valcomnews.com