The Sacramento area received its third television station – behind the original Channel 40 and Channel 10 – with the debut of KCRA-TV Channel 3 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 1955. The station officially began with a 2 p.m. telecast from the State Fair, which was then located at Stockton Boulevard and Broadway.
In being that television was still in its pioneering days, attendees of that year’s fair were educated by KCRA-TV as to how television worked.
Among those who visited the 1955 fair was Gov. Goodwin J. Knight, who, like other visitors, was shown his own image on television sets in KCRA’s fair booth.
KCRA had been scheduled to begin its telecasting during the evening of Sept. 2, 1955, but technical difficulties prevented that goal from being met.
The Sacramento Bee, in its Sept. 3, 1955 edition, described the broadcast delay as being caused by the failure of a hoist motor that was intended to be lifted onto a 14,500-pound antenna atop the station’s 573-foot transmitter tower at 310 10th St.
Preliminary broadcast test and tone patterns were conducted during the evening of Sept. 2, 1955, and were continued the next afternoon, with periodic pickups from the State Fair.
The station, which has been an NBC affiliate since its inception, began its second day of televising regular NBC shows on Sept. 4, 1955 at noon.
Also appearing in the Sept. 3, 1955 edition of The Bee was architect Grant D. Caywood’s sketch of KCRA’s radio and television studios, which were being completed at the 10th and C streets site.
A caption below the sketch noted that the completed television studio had formerly been a garage and was undergoing remodeling for its intended television purposes. The structure, which was more precisely an old, Crystal Cream and Butter Co. dairy truck barn, had 16,000 square feet of floor space.
Adjoining that unit would be a new two-story radio studio, which would include 7,600 square feet of floor space.
KCRA-TV was originally under the proprietorship of Ewing Cole “Gene” Kelly, who co-founded radio station KCRA-AM in 1945, and brothers, C. Vernon, Gerald and Kenneth Hansen, owners of the Crystal Cream and Butter Co., which had its plant at 1013 D St.
KCRA-TV’s desire to present news in a timely manner was apparent in the station’s early years.
This point is evident alone in the fact that Channel 3 has used the slogan, “Where the News Comes First,” since 1957.
During the previous year, ‘Five-Minute News’ briefs began to be presented four days per week at 11 p.m. Those news spots were called “Channel 3 Reports,” a name that would be used for many years to come.
In explaining why KCRA-TV’s news spots lasted for only five minutes at that time, Carmichael area resident Bob Miller, who spent a decade working as the station’s art director, said, “The wisdom at that time amongst management – and not just at Channel 3, but throughout the industry – was news did not sell. So, you had five minutes of news and that was about it. I think Channel 3 was the first to go to 15 minutes. They finally went to a half an hour and everybody said, ‘You’re nuts.’ But it turned out to be very popular and, of course, they were the first to go with an hour. And when they said, ‘the news comes first,’ they really meant it, and they still do (mean it).”
A 1957 KCRA-TV advertisement notes: “KCRA-TV is the number one station in the big Sacramento market. Its daytime and nighttime popularity is demonstrated by its steady rise in (American Research Bureau ratings) to nearly 50 percent share of audience in less than two years. A growing list of national spot programs and more features from more major producers have contributed mightily to KCRA-TV’s overwhelming dominance in Sacramento.
“At night, KCRA-TV reaches 13 more counties than the second Sacramento station (Channel 10), which reaches only 10 counties.
“In the daytime, KCRA-TV reaches 10 more counties than the second Sacramento station, which reaches only two counties.”
Additionally, the advertisement notes that KCRA-TV was then “the highest rated NBC station in the West.”
As presented in the Stan Atkinson feature in this edition of the Arden-Carmichael News, Atkinson, as a KCRA reporter, traveled abroad to cover news in various countries. The first of these assignments occurred in Vietnam during the early 1960s.
On Sunday morning, Oct. 30, 1960, The Sacramento Union reported the unfortunate news that Ewing, a native of Missouri, had died from a heart attack in his home at 1051 46th St. during the previous day.
With his Texas-born wife, Nina N. Kelly, who he had married in Oklahoma City in about 1926, Ewing moved to Oakland in 1929. And while living in Oakland, he became the national advertising director for the Oakland Tribune.
In 1936, the Kellys moved to Sacramento, where Ewing established an advertising agency at 1007 7th St. And as previously mentioned, he co-founded radio station KCRA-AM nine years later.
Following Ewing’s death, his son, Robert E. “Bob” Kelly became KCRA’s president, and his other son, Jon S. Kelly, took on the role of the station’s general manager.
Additionally, at that time, KCRA was also served by C. Vernon Hansen, vice president; Nina N. Kelly, secretary; and Gerald Hansen, treasurer.
Construction on a 1,549-foot transmission tower near Walnut Creek began in 1959, and KCRA-TV began its transmission from that tower in January 1962.
KCRA-TV entered a new era in April 1962, when the station began operating under the control of the Kelly Broadcasting Co.
In reporting on that moment in the station’s history, The Union, on April 19, 1962, noted that during the previous day, Robert E. and Jon S. Kelly and their mother, Nina N. Kelly, had purchased Gerald and C. Vernon Hansen’s 50 percent interest in the company for $2.8 million.
KCRA-TV made history in 1965, as it became Northern California’s first television station to use color film for its newscasts.
Many longtime Sacramento area residents recall Bob Wilkins (1932-2009), who began working for KCRA-TV in 1963, and hosted horror films on the Seven Arts Theater program from 1966 to 1970.
After leaving KCRA, Wilkins hosted the popular television program, “Creature Features,” which was televised on San Francisco’s KTVU Channel 2 from 1971 to 1984.
He also played the role of Captain Cosmic on a KTVU kiddie show and worked for KTXL Channel 40.
KCRA-TV’s commitment to presenting news became more apparent in 1971 with its introduction of its first hour-long news program.
And with its desire to better serve the community, KCRA-TV launched another program, Call 3 for Action (now Call 3), in 1974. The often successful program is dedicated to assisting local consumers who are struggling with problems related to businesses or products.
The station’s use of remote cameras for live news reports began in 1975.
In 1979, KCRA-TV caught the attention of its viewers, as it introduced the use of its news helicopter, LiveCopter 3.
Seven years later, the station began using satellite technology in an effort to expand its news coverage.
On March 16, 1989, Nina N. Kelly died in Sacramento at the age of 87.
In addition to her dedication to KCRA-TV, Nina was also the founding director of River City Bank, which she assisted in establishing in 1973.
Among the station’s many advancements occurred in 1992, when it commenced its use of Doppler radar technology for its weather coverage.
KCRA-TV began a marketing agreement with KSCH (now KQCA) Channel 58 in 1994. Six years later, KQCA was completely acquired by the owners of KCRA-TV.
As the 20th century was nearing its end, so was the era of KCRA-TV’s operations under the proprietorship of the Kelly family.
On Jan. 5, 1999, Kelly Broadcasting Co. sold KCRA-TV to Hearst-Argyle Television, Inc., which later became known as Hearst Television, Inc.
In addition to such aforementioned people as Stan Atkinson and Bob Miller, among the many people who contributed their talents as employees of KCRA-TV during various years were: Harry Martin (news anchor/entertainment reporter), Tom DuHain (weather forecaster, co-host of “The 7:30 Show” television newsmagazine program, etc.), Bob Whitten (news anchor), Carol Bland (anchor/reporter), Creighton Sanders (sports director), Gary Gerould (sports anchor), Walt Gray (news anchor/reporter), Harry Sweet (photographer), Gary Tomsic (photographer), Ed Sweetman (photographer) and Joan Lunden (news anchor/television special host).
Today, KCRA and KQCA share a studio and office facility at the address of 3 Television Circle, off D Street in Alkali Flat, just west of the former Crystal dairy plant site.
The Sacramento area received its third television station – behind the original Channel 40 and Channel 10 – with the debut of KCRA-TV Channel 3 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 1955. The station officially began with a 2 p.m. telecast from the State Fair, which was then located at Stockton Boulevard and Broadway.
The history of cemeteries in the Sacramento area is undoubtedly an extensive topic, even from an approach of presenting a relatively short summary of each cemetery. This point can be quickly understood when considering the number of cemeteries that have been located in this area throughout the years.
According to the Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission, “there appear to be more than 60 cemeteries in Sacramento County, plus more (local cemeteries that are) no longer evident.”
In concluding this series about local cemeteries, the history of one of those “no longer evident” cemeteries is presented as follows:
A vacant piece of property lies at the northwest corner of Meadowview Road and 24th Street, but most people who pass by the site today are unaware that the land’s history includes the existence of about a two-acre, pioneer cemetery.
Established one and a half miles northeast of the town of Freeport in the old Franklin Township, this “no longer evident” cemetery appears to have had interments from 1860 to 1884. However, the property may have a lengthier history as burial grounds, in that it could have had interments both prior to 1860 and after 1884.
Records show that at least eight burials occurred at the cemetery.
In 1860, John W. Martin, who was 32 years old at the time of his death, was buried in the cemetery, which was at various times identified in records as the Freeport Cemetery and the West Union Cemetery.
It was also recorded that the Franklin family had sufficient burials at the site to lead to the parcel being unofficially referred to at times as the “Franklin family cemetery.”
Members of that family to be interred in those grounds included William Franklin (1834-1869), who was born in Denmark and came to the Freeport area in 1857.
Another record of the cemetery indicates that the twin daughters of William and Louise Franklin were interred at the site on Sept. 6, 1864. The infants died only six hours after they were born.
In January 2003, members of that Franklin family, including Pocket area resident Edward Franklin and midtown Sacramento resident Florence Huebner, told The Bee that they recalled seeing grave markers that had since disappeared from the Meadowview Road and 24th Street site.
Other people to have been recognized as being interred in the old burial grounds include Thomas Ricker (died in 1865), David Crum (died in 1867), William D. Sperry (1866-1868) and Annie E. Harris (1874-1875).
This narrow strip cemetery, which was recognized on quadrangle maps in 1909 and 1939, had various owners at different times.
In March 1870, a Pennsylvania-born rancher named Lafayette Shepler declared through a deed to the old West Union School District that the “parcel of land shall be kept and used as a grave yard (sic) and for no other purposes what so ever (sic), and should the same ever be abandoned as a grave yard (sic) and used for other purposes this contemplates by this deed, then the same shall revert to and become property of the party of the first part.”
The deed, which was accepted on April 12, 1870, also noted that a fence should always surround the burial grounds.
Shepler, who came to Sacramento in the late 1850s and operated a south area cattle business, passed away from heart disease at the age of 48 on Jan. 12, 1875. He became the first member of his family to be interred in the old city cemetery in the area that would become known as Land Park.
The 1972 Bee article, which had the headline, “Grave undertaking,” noted that, at that time, the district was in charge of maintaining a cemetery that had not had a burial in three quarters of a century.
In regard to the existence of any markers at the site, there was then only one shattered headstone, and the name on that stone, which was created for a deceased 4-year-old child, was no longer legible.
The old graveyard was described in the article as having been “abandoned for all practical purposes.”
In 1972, the district deeded the site to Dorothy Skelton Edwards, who acquired an interest in the property through previous deeds. The Skelton family sold the property for $85,000 in 1992.
The Bee, in its March 7, 1999 edition, noted that Hmong and Laotian immigrants from the adjacent apartment buildings cultivated vegetables on two vacant lots during the 1980s. Part of that garden was planted on the old burial grounds.
Last week, Sacramento County Cemetery Advisory Commission Co-Chair Howard Sihner spoke about the situation that led to the old burial ground being taken off the list of local cemeteries.
“The cemetery commission had been contacted because the Franklin family wanted to remove the remains of two stillborn children in that cemetery,” said Sihner, whose employment career included serving as Sacramento County deputy coroner from 1961 to 1965. “So, we started the ground penetrating radar type thing (in January 2003) to locate the graves. We originally assumed that there was something like 13 burials there. The ground penetrating radar and the cadaver dogs and things didn’t find anything. We dug up some (wooden) casket pieces and found some teeth that the anthropology people told us belonged to a 7-year-old boy. And unfortunately, we don’t have any records of a 7-year-old boy being buried there.”
Sihner explained that it is possible that the remains of those buried at the site could have completely decomposed.
“What’s going to decompose in the soil depends largely on what type of soil they were in,” Sihner said. “If it was an arid, desert-type thing, maybe that wouldn’t happen. But (in today’s) 24th (Street) and Meadowview (Road area), that was big farm country at one time in history, and assuming that moist soil and everything, everything is going to decompose.”
The Bee, in its Jan. 16, 2003 edition, reported that if human remains had been discovered on the site, they would have been “moved to the west end of the lot and marked by a memorial, per (a) Sacramento Superior Court order.”
Sihner said that because no remains were discovered in the old burial grounds at the present day, northwest corner of Meadowview Road and 24th Street, through a Superior Court order, the parcel is “no longer recognized as a cemetery.”
As mentioned in the last article of this series, nearly 16 months after the Federal Communications Commission lifted its freeze on granting new television licenses, the Sacramento area received its first television station: KCCC Channel 40.
Ground was broken for that UHF station’s studios and 510-foot-tall, steel transmitter tower on the Garden Highway on August 28, 1953 at 2:30 p.m.
Among those present at the ground breaking ceremony were Mayor Leslie E. Wood (1897-1974), William Lawrence Greer (1902-1975), president of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, and other members of the city council, as well as members of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
Frank Maloney was the general contractor for the construction of the station’s headquarters. His business’s headquarters were located at 1915 S St.
The television building project was completed in three stages, with the first of those stages being the erection of a basic operations unit, with its reception, control and projection rooms. The second stage of that project was the construction of the studio, and lastly, the third stage consisted of the erection of an office building.
KCCC made national news, as the word spread throughout the country that construction on the station’s structures were completed in only 34 days.
As for the placement of the transmission tower, that endeavor was also completed in a relatively short period of time, as the tower arrived on Sept. 22, 1953 and was installed within three days.
The completed television studios building was a single story structure, measuring about 50 feet by about 124 feet.
It was noted in the Aug. 27, 1953 edition of The Sacramento Bee that it was hoped that KCCC would make its debut on Oct. 1, 1953.
The station was introduced to the community in the Sept. 30, 1953 edition of The Bee through a full page advertisement, which featured the words, “Sacramento’s first television station, KCCC Channel 40 now on the air!”
Actually, the station was located about three miles outside of city limits, but was nonetheless most beneficial to the people of Sacramento. In that regard, it was undoubtedly a Sacramento station.
The advertisement in The Bee was presented by the new TV company’s builders, suppliers and installers, which were entirely Sacramento area businesses.
Those businesses were listed as follows: Brighton Sand and Gravel Co., Jackson Road, quarter-mile east of Perkins; Luppen & Hawley, Inc., 3126 J St.; Dolan Building Material Co., 3030 P St.; The Ellis Co., 1923 Stockton Blvd.; Thomas F. Scollan Co., 2518 B and C streets alley; John R. Reeves, 16th Street at the American River Bridge; Vacher & Brandon, 2316 Alhambra Blvd.; Lentz Construction Co., 2416 Sutterville Road; California Manufacturing Co., Inc., 1716 Alhambra Blvd.; Breuner’s, 604 K St.; Wilkins Draying Co., 601 1st Ave.; Ernest D. Francis, 1012 J St.; Vance Smith, 411 16th St.; The Palm Iron & Bridge Works, 1501 S St.; and W.P. Fuller & Co., 1725 10th St.
The aforementioned advertisement also included the following words: “The owners of TV station KCCC deserve the thanks of the great Sacramento area for bringing television to our community. Here is television at its finest…the very newest development in the field of telecasting equipment.”
The station was originally led by Harry W. McCart, president of the Capital City Television Corp., which operated the station. He was already known in Sacramento for his work as president of the wholesale liquor distributing firm, James P. Keating Co., at 1607-1609 E St.
Frank E. Hurd became the Capital City Television Corp.’s vice president and the Idaho-born Ashley L. Robison (1913-1990) was named its secretary-treasurer.
Hurd and Robison’s contributions to the station also included their acquisition of the permit for the station under the name Cal-Tel Co.
It was also in the station’s early days that Clarence P. Talbot was appointed KCCC’s director of public relations.
Furthermore, George E. Ledell, Jr., former accountant executive with Los Angeles’ KHJ-TV Channel 9, was appointed as KCCC’s special station representative for the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.
Although KCCC was licensed to operate with 10 kilowatts of power, the station initially operated with only 1 kilowatt of power.
The station originally had affiliations with the television networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and DuMont.
KCCC made its debut with the airing of the opening game of the 1953 World Series on Sept. 30, 1953.
In that game, the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers (known today as the Los Angeles Dodgers), 9-5, at Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 69,734 spectators. The Yankees would eventually win the seven-game series in six games.
Episodes of the now classic sitcom, “I Love Lucy,” featuring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, were also shown on KCCC. The station began its schedule of presenting the show on Oct. 9, 1953.
On Aug. 31, 1956, Lincoln Dellar, owner of radio station KXOA 107.9 FM, announced that he would be purchasing KCCC from McCart and Robison, pending FCC approval. The sale price, which included assumptions of liabilities, was $400,000.
At that time, Dellar owned the radio stations KHMO 1070 AM in Hannibal, Mo. and KXL 101.1 FM in Portland, Ore. He was also co-owner of KJR 950 AM in Seattle.
It was not until the following October that the sale of KCCC, which was then solely an ABC affiliate, was completed.
With that sale, Dellar appointed Al J. Richards, general manager, and Ralph Guild, sales manager.
Dellar also named Thomas J. MacBride, local attorney and state assemblyman, to KCCC’s board of directors.
Others associated with the station at that time were William Furnell, program director, and Harry Bartollomei, chief engineer.
The station remained licensed to the Capital City Television Corp., but it was controlled by Sacramento Broadcasters, Inc., the licensee for KXOA.
As previously mentioned in this series, in 1957, KOVR Channel 13 became an ABC affiliate, as it acquired that status from KCCC.
KCCC made its final sign-off on May 31, 1957 at 11:40 p.m.
But nine months later, plans for reviving the Channel 40 were announced.
Around that time, the FCC was asked if it would move Channel 12 in Chico to Sacramento, and establish a Channel 11 in Chico.
Nonetheless, Channel 12 would remain in Chico, where it has operated as KHSL-TV since 1953. Its call letters derived from the initials of Harry Smithson and Sidney Lewis, who established radio station KHSL-AM in 1935.
The Bee reported on Oct. 6, 1959 that plans had been made for Channel 40 to return to the air on the first day of the following month.
Additionally, the article noted that test patterns were being shown and temporary studios had been leased in the Women’s Building on the grounds of the State Fair, which was then located at Stockton Boulevard and Broadway.
The transmitter for the soon-to-be-launched station was located at the old city dump off 28th Street.
Known as KVUE, the reemerged Channel 40 was a short-lived endeavor, as it first went on the air on the aforementioned date of Nov. 1, 1959 and continued its broadcasts until March 21, 1960.
According to the Jan. 2, 1961 issue of Broadcasting, a weekly magazine dedicated to television and radio business, KVUE went off the air due to financial difficulties.
The focus of the article was to inform its readers that the station had asked its creditors not to press for payments, because its owners desired to “recapitalize and go back on the air rather than declare the station bankrupt.”
The article referred to a letter to creditors from Melvyn E. Lucas and Henry P. Deane, who held stock proxies for KVUE.
It was mentioned in the letter that KVUE’s financial difficulties were attributed to its position of competing against two other UHF stations.
The letter also claimed that the FCC was still contemplating the possibility of moving Channel 12 from Chico to Sacramento.
Although KVUE made a latter attempt to renew its license, the station never broadcast again.
The demise of KVUE caused only a temporary loss of Channel 40 in Sacramento, as the FCC would grant a license for that channel to a group known as the Camellia City Telecasters later that decade. The group was led by Jack Matranga (1925-2012), a 1943 Sacramento High School graduate, who was one of the founders of radio station KGMS 1380 AM.
The Telecasters established KTXL Channel 40, which first broadcast on Oct. 26, 1968. The station, with its affiliation with the Fox network, is commonly known today as Fox 40.
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.
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.
The collision took place on Riverside Boulevard at Swanston Drive on Thursday, Feb. 13 at about 10:50 a.m.
According to a Sacramento Police Department on-the-scene, post-accident video, the driver of a Mercedes-Benz was heading north on Riverside Boulevard and crashed into a Toyota Avalon, which was reported to have been turning onto Riverside Boulevard in a northwardly direction.
The Mercedes-Benz was determined to have been traveling at a rate of speed well above the 30 mph speed limit. And although it was not officially confirmed, some residents in the area spoke about the Mercedes-Benz as having been traveling at a speed of about 70 mph.
Linda Shaw, 66, who was the driver of the Toyota, was pronounced dead at a hospital later that day. A man in his 60s who was a passenger in the same vehicle was seriously injured.
Floyd Martin, 57, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz, was hospitalized in the University of California, Davis Medical Center, where he remained until March 6 when he was released into police custody.
According to an article in The Sacramento Bee, Martin was “booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.”
The Land Park News was at the scene several minutes after the accident occurred and it was observed that the police had closed Riverside Boulevard, between Swanston Drive and 4th Avenue, to automotive traffic.
It was also found that debris from the vehicles were spread a great distance and in many directions, and the Mercedes-Benz did not come to halt until it reached the vicinity of 4th Avenue.
Ninety-year-old Mary McLane, who resides on 4th Avenue, said that she feels fortunate not to have been walking on Riverside Boulevard at the time of the accident, considering the amount of debris that made its way to the sides of that street.
“I came down here for a walk (on Riverside Boulevard) about an hour (after the accident occurred),” said McLane, who is a 37-year resident of the neighborhood. “There wasn’t very much going on (at the accident scene), but there were a lot of neighbors who were talking about (the accident).”
Sherry Deangelis, who provides home care for McLane, said that the sidewalks along the boulevard are used quite frequently.
“There are a lot of people that walk and jog here,” Deangelis said. “And elderly people who walk around here, it’s their exercise. You can’t walk around this block without walking into at least one person, if not more.”
Adding to the concern of any vehicle being driven at an excessive speed along the boulevard in that area is the fact that Crocker/Riverside Elementary School is located at 2970 Riverside Blvd.
Last week, Daniel McCord, principal of the local elementary school, spoke out against those who speed along Riverside Boulevard.
“Obviously, anyone going over the speed limit concerns me, especially at that rate of speed, whatever it turns out to be,” McCord said. “It’s a huge concern and that was just born out by the results of the accident unfortunately. I can’t imagine there’s just one person who speeds up and down through there. At the same time, there’s a stop light right there at the school. We have flashing lights up to there, letting people know it’s a school zone. We have a crossing guard who has got her stop sign. We’ve made sure our parents and the students know: do not cross the street unless you’re in the crosswalk. So, I feel comfortable with those steps. At the same time, that doesn’t necessarily stop people from speeding.”
After being asked what message he would like to give to those who speed in front of the school, which is located in a 25 mph – when children are present – zone, McCord said, “I would say, be considerate of the children. We’re very much a family school. It’s not just students who are 5 to 12 years old that come to the school, but a lot of the younger siblings. Sometimes their parents may not have the hand right on them. I can’t imagine how somebody would feel if something happened that involved a student, let alone somebody, as it just happened with the woman, who was killed.”
McCord added that it is not uncommon for people to exceed the speed limits posted on Riverside Boulevard.
“I see how much of a challenge it is for me and many of our staff and parents for that matter to pull out of the school onto Riverside (Boulevard), not just because it’s congested, although that can certainly be the case (generally during morning and evening hours), but because there are people who go at a higher rate (of speed) than I would hope that they would go,” McCord said. “And just where I travel (on the street), I can see where people are traveling at a higher rate of speed. I just know the flow of traffic is certainly much higher than 30 (mph).”
Michael Neff, an 11-year resident of Land Park, estimates that the average speed of vehicles traveling along the boulevard in Land Park is 40 to 45 mph.
“Most people go 40 to 45 (mph on the boulevard),” Neff said. “I’m in the bike lane (on his bicycle) all the time and they’re moving by pretty quick. I would say it’s not that safe. Does it scare me? Yeah.”
In offering his own suggestion to slowing down the traffic flow on Riverside Boulevard, Neff said that he would not mind seeing a few more stop signs.
Troy Magness, who resides with his wife, Katherine, on 3rd Avenue in Land Park, also shared his views about decreasing the speed of traffic along the boulevard.
“I almost like the idea of maybe stepping up the presence of law enforcement, like black and whites, that sort of thing,” Troy said. “I’m not exactly an advocate of more government intrusion. Speed bumps? I think they’re pretty effective. I don’t think there’s any stretch along here that a roundabout would be appropriate, but that’s a good way to try to curb (excessive) speed, as well.”
Another local resident, Maya Walters, said that she has had discussions with others in the community about different ways that traffic could be slowed down on Riverside Boulevard.
“We need something to slow down (the traffic),” Walters said. “We were saying there should be police officers around giving tickets, but we haven’t seen any. But that’s a temporary fix. We’ve all been trying to talk about what we’re going to do to let people know (to slow down).”
Eric Baldwin, who resides on 2nd Avenue, spoke about an entirely different accident – a car versus wooden fence collision, which occurred on Riverside Boulevard, between Vallejo Way and 3rd Avenue, on Saturday, March 1.
“I was walking (on Riverside Boulevard) on early Saturday (morning),” Baldwin said. “Another guy actually teed me off to it. He was walking (in one direction on the boulevard) and I was walking (in the other direction). The front end of the car was kind of smashed in and the bumper was down and I would assume whoever had been driving realized what happened and left it there.”
Ericka Jones, who also lives in the area, remembers seeing the same vehicle.
“I saw a car up on the lawn, and the whole front of the car was busted up,” Jones said. “Everyone evacuated the car. I don’t know who was in it.”
Jones added that she feels safe when she regularly jogs along Riverside Boulevard, and is “indifferent” when it comes to the idea of taking any measures to slow down the flow of traffic.
Another local resident Hoshi Fujioka has a different opinion on that topic.
“I know the speed limit here (is 30 mph), but you would never know it,” Fujioka said. “I think they should be more strict about that. People go too fast here.”
With the beginning of the Pocket Little League season only about a week away, the timing is right to pay tribute to a former, local journalism legend: William Richard “Bill” Conlin.
After all, it was Conlin, a former writer and editor of the sports sections of both The Sacramento Union and The Sacramento Bee, who was memorialized with the naming of the youth sports complex where the league’s teams play their home games.
Five baseball diamonds (including a T-ball field that will become a dog park later this year), two soccer fields, a concession stand, bathrooms and a picnic area with barbecue grills currently make up the Bill Conlin Youth Sports Complex at 7895 Freeport Blvd.
It was 10 years ago that this facility, which is located within the city council’s District 7 boundaries, received its present name. The complex had previously been known as the Freeport Shores Youth Sports Complex.
The site was purchased by the city’s Department of Utilities nearly 40 years ago for its originally designated use of providing a water treatment plant.
But due to the low number of playing field facilities in the south area and no immediate plans for the construction of a water treatment plant at that site, it was later decided that the site would be made available for a sports facility for at least 10 years. That facility carried “the option of extended use based upon future assessment of city water needs.”
In providing an update regarding that clause, Pocket Little League President Dave Starnes noted that the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the Bill Conlin Youth Sports Complex three months ago.
“Darrell Fong (the city’s District 7 representative) just let me know this week that (the parks and recreation department) turned (the complex) into a full-fledged park and that we don’t have to worry about losing the fields to a water treatment plant or another use,” Starnes said.
The 1993 master plan for the Freeport Shores Youth Sports Complex called for the construction of three 90-foot diamonds, two 60-foot diamonds, two regulation soccer fields, an intermediate soccer field and a bantam soccer field, as well as a concession stand, restrooms and other improvements.
During the early summer of 1998, the complex’s first phase, which included two ball fields, a soccer field, walkways and a portion of the parking lot, was completed.
On Aug. 1 of the same year, the complex was dedicated. The event included team exhibitions and skill demonstrations by local youth leagues.
In addition to the Pocket Little League’s enthusiasm for the then-new complex, Pocket Girls Softball (which no longer uses the complex) and Greenhaven Soccer benefitted from the opening of the facility.
The proposal to memorialize Conlin through the naming of a sports facility was initially presented to the city in 2002 by a group of local citizens, including Charlie Coyne, R.E. Graswich, Randy Paragary, Gordon Robinson and Jean Runyon.
In responding to that request, city staff members recommended the following locations: the Airport Little League fields, the Sacramento Softball Complex or any of its four fields, a baseball diamond or the then-new jogging/walking path at William Land Park, or the Freeport Shores Youth Sports Complex.
Ultimately, it was the latter site that was selected as the most suitable place to name in honor of Conlin.
Among the early, influential supporters of the renaming of the Freeport Shores Youth Sports Complex was Robbie Waters, a former city councilmember who represented District 7 from 1994 to 2010.
During its Nov. 7, 2002 meeting, the Parks and Recreation Citizen’s Advisory Committee voted in favor of renaming the complex in honor of Conlin.
Nineteen days later, the city council, which then consisted of Waters, Mayor Heather Fargo, Steve Cohn, Lauren Hammond, Dave Jones, Bonnie Pannell, Sandy Sheedy, Ray Tretheway and Jimmie Yee, approved the motion to rename the facility by a vote of 9-0.
The rededication of the complex under its new name was set for Nov. 8, 2003. But due to rainy weather, the event was postponed until the spring.
The rescheduled rededication was held on March 27, 2004 at noon. And considering that the original rededication was postponed due to wet conditions, the gathering was oddly advertised by the city as a “rain or shine” event.
But the selection of that date was not random, as it coincided with the Pocket Little League’s opening day.
For those who are not familiar with Conlin or have limited knowledge about his life, he was one of the more notable journalists in the city’s history.
If he was alive today, Conlin would be 100 years old, and, if healthy, he would possibly still writing for a local newspaper.
Conlin was born in Sacramento, but he moved with his parents to the Marysville area while he was still an infant.
While residing in that area, Conlin’s father introduced him to the publisher of the Marysville Appeal, a paper that would merge with the Marysville Democrat in 1926. Through that connection, Conlin was presented with the opportunity to write his first article for the Appeal when he was only 11 years old.
He would continue writing while he was a student at Yuba Junior College and Stanford University. He graduated from the latter school with a degree in economics in 1934.
Three years later, Conlin was hired as a writer with The Union, which was unaware at that time that the hiring launched the professional career of a man who would become one of Sacramento’s all-time most notable newspapermen.
Conlin’s wife, the former Olivia Moore (1917-1982), who he married in 1939, was also well known in the capital city. She was the owner of Cassandra Antiques, the first antique shop established in Old Sacramento.
During World War II, Conlin served in the Navy and wrote letters back home. Some of those letters were published in The Union.
Conlin, who had strong interests in baseball, horse racing and boxing, was well known for his regular column, “It Says Here.”
In one such column in the Sept. 2, 1949 edition of The Union, he focused on a then-recent report to demonstrate the continued popularity of horse racing in the state.
Many people remember Conlin for his work as the sports editor and a sports writer for The Union and The Bee, but less people are aware that he also spent time serving as The Union’s editor and assistant to the publisher.
Conlin became employed by The Bee in 1976, and with that publication, he continued to write his “It Says Here” column, as well as other articles.
Despite retiring nine years later, he continued to contribute his writings to The Bee until the early part of 1997.
His career as a Sacramento sports writer spanned so many years that when his byline first appeared in a local paper, the Sacramento Solons had not yet won their lone Pacific Coast League pennant (1942), and when he ceased writing for The Bee, both editions of the Solons had departed (1961, 1976) and the Sacramento River Cats were less than three years away from making their 2000 debut.
While Edmonds Field was still in operation at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway, Conlin was among those who urged the Solons’ owners to open the ball park to Little Leaguers on opening days.
He also wrote many articles in support of establishing lighted baseball fields in Sacramento, and he argued that because youth in other communities had superior facilities, they had better opportunities to excel as athletes.
Additionally, Conlin promoted and supported the annual father-son baseball banquet, which drew hundreds of Little League players and their fathers, as well as professional baseball players from Sacramento during the 1960s and 1970s.
In a 2002 city document that focused on the subject, “Request to Rename the Freeport Shores Youth Sports Complex the Bill Conlin Youth Sports Complex,” Conlin was described as “a tireless advocate for quality sports and recreational facilities in Sacramento (who) believed that Sacramento youth deserved such facilities.”
Editor’s Note: This is part five in a series about Mitch Agruss and other kiddie show hosts, who brought joy to many young television viewers in the Sacramento Valley.
Mitch Agruss, who was featured in the first four parts of this series, was once described in an article in The Sacramento Bee as “the dean of Sacramento children’s show hosts.” And in tribute to other local television kiddie show hosts of the past, the following summaries are presented:
As previously noted in this series, Agruss was known in East Sacramento and throughout the valley for his endearing presentations as Cap’n Mitch, and Cap’n Delta, “Skipper of the Valley Queen.” In November 1966, after five years of working as Cap’n Delta, Agruss resigned from that position at Channel 13, and he was replaced by Fair Oaks native and lifelong Sacramento County resident Charlie Duncan.
Duncan, who had experience reading children’s stories on the radio, was asked by Channel 13 to temporarily fill the void left by the departure of Agruss.
Duncan explained that his position as Cap’n Delta grew into a permanent role.
“I went in on an emergency basis, so I just kind of picked up Mitch’s style and interviewed kids, gave away prizes and just enjoyed myself,” Duncan said. “I loved the kids and I had no problem with them at all. I ended up (as the show’s host) for four and a half years, almost five (years).”
In 1970, Eleanor McClatchy selected Duncan, who was a graduate of Sacramento State College (today’s Sacramento State University), to serve as the curator of her historical collection. He eventually worked at the Sacramento History Center, which opened at Front and I streets in Old Sacramento in 1985.
In recalling his work for McClatchy, Duncan said, “She was very interested in history and in drama, and I was in over 30 plays at the Eaglet Theater (which operated next to the Music Circus). I just kind of stayed in touch with television for about five years, and Eleanor McClatchy wanted me to become the curator of newspapers and printing (archives). Eleanor had a tremendous collection of old newspapers and early California and Sacramento artifacts and it was my job to display them. I spent another 20 years working for her, and 42 years with KFBK and KOVR.”
Duncan, who has two sons and a daughter who were born at Sutter Memorial Hospital in East Sacramento, retired in 1995 and now resides with his wife, Shirley, in the old Arcade area of the city.
James Henry “Jim” Keating
Following Duncan’s time as Cap’n Delta on Channel 13, James Henry “Jim” Keating replaced him in that role.
Jim, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who was a former child actor, television announcer and radio disc jockey, came to California in the early 1960s and worked for KOVR from 1967 to 1987. His Cap’n Delta tenure lasted until the show’s cancellation in 1973.
His son, who is also named Jim, recalled having the opportunity to be a guest on his father’s show.
“I was actually on the show one time,” the younger Jim said. “I believe I was about 6. I was in first grade, I think it was. When you got done, it was great. You have a TV personality who’s your dad and does a kid show, and we were kids. There was all this excitement and the prizes. You had the treasure trove. Everybody went home with something, and it wasn’t just one thing for you. It was one for you and one to share with a friend. It was fantastic. All of a sudden I was on this show, and a friend of mine went on the show after that. (Other kids would say), ‘You’re Cap’n Delta’s son.’ Well, that lasts until you’re in about the third grade, then from then on it was a little teasing. But it was like I had this idol for a dad.”
Later in his life, the eldest Jim performed in nine musicals with the Stockton Civic Theater and won three Willie Awards for his work as the best leading and supporting actor.
He was also a lead singer with the Stockton Portsmen Chorus.
The eldest Jim passed away on July 31, 2012, about a month shy of his 86th birthday.
Billie M. “Tiny” Moore
Billie M. “Tiny” Moore achieved his greatest fame as a country swing mandolinist, contributing to recordings and live performances of such musical artists as Bob Wills and Merle Haggard. But he also obtained notoriety as a kiddie show host.
During the pioneering era of television, on Channel 10, Moore became involved with a live music show called “The Ranch House Party.”
The show was cancelled after a 13-week run and Moore was asked to host a kiddie show on the station.
Moore, who was born in Hamilton County, Texas and moved to Sacramento in the early 1950s, accepted the offer and took on the role of the guardian of the trees, Ranger Roy.
Joining Moore on the show was a little monkey named Anna Banana and a donkey known as Ten Chan.
The Ranger Roy show aired from 1956 to 1960, when the program ended due to a labor dispute.
Moore’s life in music also included teaching music at Ye Music Shoppe in Town and Country Village, operating Tiny Moore Music Center at 2331 El Camino Ave., teaching group guitar lessons at the YMCA at 2228 21st St. and making college-level music instruction videos. He also won the senior division of the prestigious National Fiddle Championships in Weiser, Idaho, in the summer of 1987, and was the original choir director of the First Baptist Church in Carmichael.
Moore, who was humorously, yet affectionately known as “Tiny” due to his large size, died on stage of an apparent heart attack during a performance in Jackpot, Nev. on Dec. 15, 1987. He was 67.
Norman L. Bales
In addition to attending night classes at the McGeorge College of Law (today’s McGeorge School of Law), Norman L. Bales hosted Channel 10’s children’s television show, “Diver Dan.”
This 1960s show featured the helmeted diver, Diver Dan, played by Bales, and a school of talking marionette fish.
The set of the live show was a sunken boat known as the “Channel Tender.”
Diver Dan’s sidekick on the show was O.U. Squid, a marionette squid character that was operated from atop a ladder.
A consistent part of the show was Diver Dan’s adventures in overcoming the evil Baron Barracuda and his sidekick Trigger, a turtleneck sweater-wearing, cigarette-smoking fish character.
Bales spent 12 years on Channel 10’s staff before graduating from McGeorge, passing the state bar exam and becoming a Sacramento County public defender.
Bales, a Texas native who moved to Sacramento with his family when he was 8 years old, passed away at the age of 50 on Sept. 17, 1981 after suffering an apparent heart attack in his home.
The milestone was actually achieved on Nov. 10, a century after more than 125 local citizens met at the O.D.E.S. Hall on W Street, between 5th and 6th streets, to officially work as a unit in securing needed improvements for the “South Side” section of the city, which was then described as being located from Front to 15th streets and from R to Y streets.
Although historic newspaper accounts recognize the Southside Improvement Club as operating for about a decade prior to its Nov. 10, 1913 anniversary date, the organization had not yet been incorporated during those earlier years.
On Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1913, The Sacramento Star published an article entitled “New improvement club is formed.”
The article noted that the objective of the club was to clean up and improve the south side of the city.
The Sacramento Bee’s Nov. 11, 1913 report on the same topic noted: “It was agreed that any person owning property on the south side (of the city was) eligible to membership” and that “the club (would) fight for desired public improvements.”
Charter members of the organization included Ben Adams, J.V. Azevedo, F. Butler, Daniel H. Carroll, William A. Carroll, J.T. Connor, Cornelius C. Conrad, William A. Durant, Joe Enos, William S. Gloria, R. Arthur Leiva, John B. Martin, Joseph McDermott, Peter J. Nusbaum, Charles S. Ralph, William L. Rose, Elwood Santos, J.G. Thomas, Elmer O. Walker and Charles W. Walser.
During the aforementioned Nov. 10, 1913 club meeting, the following officers were elected: Ralph, president; Rose, vice president; Nusbaum, treasurer; and Walser, secretary.
The club’s constitution was read and approved during the organization’s following meeting, which was held on Nov. 24, 1913.
Early activities and improvements instituted or supported by the club included the development of Southside and William Land parks, the repairing and removal of levees, the construction of the Robert E. Callahan Memorial and improvements to local streets.
The club was also influential in the efforts to have the current swimming pool constructed at Southside Park 60 years ago.
The 100th anniversary gathering began with an installation of officers presented by the club’s President Joe Waters.
These incoming officers are Larry Budney, president; Manny Perry, vice president; Steve Silva, second vice president; Robert Salerno; secretary; Michael Budney, treasurer; and Judge Jerry Bakarich, sergeant at arms. These men will officially begin working in these positions in January.
In discussing his upcoming role with the club with the Land Park News, Larry said, “We have basically come from a political lobbying type of club (with) concerned citizens that were looking to improve and beautify the city, and certainly that probably still exists in people’s hearts here. But the reality is we’re getting older and politics is really complicated nowadays, and I’d rather just focus on doing something that’s a little more practical and focusing on how we can be helpful to the community. In that way, we can work with individuals, like if you know a kid who needs scholarship money or if we’re going to help a family and improve their life maybe by giving them some extra money for Christmas gifts or whatever. In that way, we would be more philanthropic. It’s also going to require that we think about it. I’m going to throw it out there to the guys in my first meeting (as president) and say, ‘Okay, we’re called the improvement club, so in reality, what are we really improving? What is it that you really want this club to do that would be meaningful?’”
The next portion of the Dec. 5 gathering was a historical review of the club by Judge Jerry Bakarich.
Bakarich then introduced the club’s historian, William Burg, who presented a slide show featuring historic photographs of the club, the south side area and other scenes of Sacramento.
The event, which was the club’s second ladies’ night of the year, also included a brief speech by Larry Budney and comments by Dr. Herbert Yee, a rib-eye steak and chicken dinner prepared by Joe Semon and his crew and a raffle for prizes that were donated by club members. The raffle was conducted by Jerry Balshor.
The club also had a collection area for donated coats for the News10 Coats for Kids drive.
In celebration of last week’s special gathering, several members of the club shared details about the organization and their memories about the club and its anniversary.
Portions of the comments of these members are presented, as follows:
Al Balshor: “I think it’s great (that the club is celebrating 100 years) and we’ll keep it at $3 a year (for) dues. We’ve had many, many dignitaries in office – mayors, city managers, supervisors. The old club, if you didn’t go through the Southside, you never got a job. The old dignitaries (who were members of the club included) George Klumpp, Frank Seymour, Jim Garlick. Bartley Cavanaugh was the city manager (and a member of the club). We (formerly) met back for many years at the Southside Park clubhouse. (The club) used to have, all the way from the early 1930s or so, fireworks in the park. The city would pay for the fireworks. It cost them $2,500 and we would put it on with entertainment at the Callahan Memorial there. I’ve been president (of the club) twice. I was president in 1954 and 1997, and each (term was) two years. I didn’t join (the organization) much long before (1954), because I was under 18. You have to be 18 to get in. I think there are about 12 left of (the surviving) presidents (of the club). (Among them is) old Manny Perry. He’s of my age. We meet on the third Thursday of each month at St. Elizabeth Church at 12th and S (streets), and occasionally we’ll take bus trips. We’ll go to Reno, (etc.). We have a ladies’ night twice a year. It’s still a men’s club, but we’ll bring them as our guests.”
Manuel “Mannie” J. Viera, Jr.: “My dad (Manuel J. Viera, Sr.) belonged to (the club) for years. And I got my cousin, Ricky Dias, into it, too, or vice versa. I’m not sure which. I like the camaraderie (of the club). There are a lot of people who I’ve known since I was a young man going to (Holy Angels School and Christian Brothers High School). We reminisce about those things and stuff like that. I think it’s tremendous (that the club is celebrating its centennial). A lot of clubs don’t last that long. The membership drops and they get disinterested and that sort of thing. But (the Southside club) seems to be doing a pretty good job over there, so I’m glad I’m with them.”
Ron King: “I joined the (club) about 45 to 50 years ago. Everybody at south side used to belong to it back then. They took care of everybody in south side. I lived right by (Southside) Park at 3rd and W (streets). I think (the 100th anniversary) is outstanding. A lot of old-timers went through that club, and big wheels, too. They had mayors, police chiefs, stuff like that. I get to see a lot of guys (at the club) who I grew up with. There are a lot of old-timers there who lived down by (Southside) Park. So, you get to see them and talk to them and hash over old times.”
Bob Dias: “Ron King and a lot of friends I had in there (at the club) – Gene Plecas and a guy who worked for me, Tony Viegas, and his brother, Danny Viegas – (were members of the organization). I just got interested in it. There are few clubs that have lasted as long (as the Southside Improvement Club), so you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. Financially, they never had a lot of money to operate on, but they survived.”
Joe Waters: “I joined about 20 years ago. My friend, (Tony Scalora), who passed (at the age of 78 on April 20, 2004), he and I were great fishing buddies, and he said, ‘Why don’t you come down (to the club) and I’ll pay your dues?’ It’s $3 a year. It’s the best two-bit club in America. I live in the north area. (Originally), there were no (residential) boundaries (for the club members, but today) some (members) live in the north area, some of them live in the Bay Area, some of them live in Elk Grove, Auburn, El Dorado Hills. They’re scattered all over now. When I first got out of the Air Force (in 1960), I lived on W Street (near) 16th Street. I (initially) thought (the club) was a hoot. The guys, they would get up and they would talk about baseball and what we’re going to do to help the area. (Despite its more social approach), it’s still an improvement club. We give to (St. Elizabeth) church, we give to the different schools and what have you. It’s a great club and I hope we’re going to do another 100 (years).”
St. Mary’s Cemetery, the historic cemetery featured in the last edition of this publication, is the resting place of many notable people.
Among those interred on the grounds of this cemetery, which is located at 6700 21st Ave., at the 65th Street Expressway, are the Sacramento Solons baseball greats Tony Freitas and Joe Marty.
The 5-foot, 8-inch-tall, left-handed pitcher Antonio “Tony” Freitas, Jr. (1908-1994) was undoubtedly one of the most renowned Sacramento Solons players.
His clutch performances in the Solons’ drive to winning their only pennant in 1942 were sufficient enough to earn him legendary status in the capital city.
Freitas made his professional baseball debut in 1928 with the Class D Phoenix Senators in the Arizona State League.
During the 1929 season, Freitas became a member of the Sacramento Senators, the predecessor of the Solons.
While playing for two major league teams during the 1930s, Freitas compiled a won-loss record of 25-33.
He is recognized as the all-time winningest left-handed pitcher in minor league history.
Freitas, who won at least 20 games in nine different seasons, was inducted into the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame and the Sacramento Athletic Hall of Fame, was named a member of the Pacific Coast League All-Century Team and was selected by the Society of American Baseball Research as the all-time best minor league pitcher.
Freitas returned to Sacramento and worked as a non-playing manager for the Solons in 1954 and 1955. He compiled a 282-win and 344-loss managerial record in 627 games.
A Sacramento native and a product of Christian Brothers High School’s sports program during the late 1920s and early 1930s, Marty was born Joseph Anton Marty on Sept. 1, 1913. He received a three-sport scholarship in baseball, football and basketball from St. Mary’s College of California, where he studied and played sports in 1932 and 1933.
In 1934, the San Francisco Seals, a Double-A minor league baseball team of the Pacific Coast League, acquired the rights to the then-20-year-old Marty.
Marty’s third season with the Seals was so successful that he attracted the attention of major league teams through such statistics as a league best .359 batting average, 215 hits and 17 home runs.
His five seasons in the majors included World Series appearances, one of which occurred in an Oct. 8, 1938 game, in which he became the first Sacramento native to hit a home run in a World Series game.
Marty also enjoyed success as a Solons player for seven seasons, including the 1950 season when he held the role of player-manager.
As a businessman, Marty, who passed away on Oct. 4, 1984, operated his bar, Joe Marty’s, at 15th Street and Broadway in Land Park.
Another notable former athlete to be interred at St. Mary’s was Max Baer (1909-1959).
Born Maximillian Adelbert Baer, the Ancil Hoffman-managed Baer, who fought in 84 professional fights, was not only a capital city boxing legend, but he was also inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1968, the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1984 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.
Baer, who first trained in a gym on his father’s ranch, fought his first professional match at the Oak Park Arena in Stockton on May 16, 1929, when he knocked out Chief Caribou in the second round.
Although Baer, who was known for his charismatic personality and hard-hitting punches, had many great moments in his boxing career, his greatest achievement came on June 14, 1934, when he knocked out Primo Carnera at Madison Square Garden in New York to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
One of the fights that Baer is most known for is his June 13, 1935, 15-round defeat against James J. Braddock. The match is celebrated in the 2005 film, “Cinderella Man.”
More than a decade following his 1941 retirement from professional boxing, Baer described his Jack Dempsey-like approach to the sport during a Sacramento boxing party held at Christian Brothers High School.
Baer was quoted in The Sacramento Bee as telling attendees of the event that his favorite target was an opponent’s chin.
“Boxers are always looking for an advantage and try to slip over a quick punch in the early rounds,” Baer said. “When a boxer is cold during the first or second rounds, a punch to the jaw will do a lot of damage.”
Earl D. Desmond
A Sacramento native, Desmond, who was born on Aug. 26, 1895, attended Christian Brothers and Sacramento high schools.
While attending Santa Clara University, Desmond left the school to join the Navy during World War I.
Following the war, he worked as an agent for the Florin Fruit Exchange in the old town of Florin, and later operated a 2,000-acre ranch eight miles south of the town of Franklin.
Desmond, who married Sacramento native Edna Nicolaus in 1920, attended and graduated from the McGeorge College of Law (later renamed McGeorge School of Law). He was admitted to the bar in 1931.
Eventually, Desmond became the senior member of the law firm, Desmond, Miller and Artz.
He was elected to the California Assembly in 1934 to represent the 9th district.
A decade later, he was elected to the Senate. He was reelected in 1948, 1952 and 1956.
He also served as chairman of an interim committee on water projects. The committee’s activities included taking a role in the controversial north-south water issue.
Desmond, who many people have referred to as the “Father of Sac State,” authored the successful bill to bring a four-year college to the capital city.
Gov. Earl Warren signed this bill – Senate Bill 1221 – on July 1, 1947.
He was also involved in the efforts to relocate the State Fair from a site on Stockton Boulevard to its current Cal Expo site.
Additionally, Desmond served as the secretary of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, an elementary school and high school trustee, a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Elks Lodge No. 6, the Knights of Columbus and the Loyal Order of Moose.
Desmond, who had six children, was also past state president of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, past president of Sacramento Aerie No. 9 of the Eagles and past commander of American Legion Post No. 61.
Desmond passed away in his home at 5232 Marione Drive in Carmichael on May 25, 1958, a day after he had assisted in a fundraising drive for a proposed Catholic seminary in Galt.
In commenting about Desmond following the senator’s death, Gov. Goodwin J. Knight said, “California has lost one of its outstanding legislators in the passing of Earl D. Desmond. He gave unstintingly of his energies for the benefit of his state and community, and many of our most important statutes and programs today were the product of his sponsorship. He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and constituents alike.”
Note: This is part two of a two-part series related to Pocket area resident Bart Lagomarsino and his family.
Pocket area resident Bart Lagomarsino, who was featured in the previous edition of this publication, certainly has a notable connection to early Sacramento history. And Bart’s most well-known relative was his great-uncle, Felice Lagomarsino (1854-1932).
Many longtime Sacramentans recall the seed growers and dealers business, F. Lagomarsino & Sons, which was founded by Felice and his sons, Andrew, Fred, John, Louis and Peter.
Felice immigrated to the United States from the village of Lagomarsino, near Genoa, Italy. The 1900 and 1910 U.S. Census recorded his immigration year as 1872.
Sacramento resident Sarah Lagomarsino, Bart’s second cousin and a granddaughter of Felice, spoke about Felice’s early employment years in the United States.
“My grandfather was in the United States by the early 1870s,” Sarah said. “As the story goes, he worked his way westward to Sacramento on the railroad, and then joined other Italian immigrants working in produce and providing fruits and vegetables for residents of Sacramento and beyond.”
On July 20, 1886, Felice and his adopted brother, Bartolomeo, who eventually became Bart’s grandfather and Sarah’s great-uncle, were granted American citizenship upon the testimonies of local vegetable dealer Gustavo Deluchi and local boot maker Antonio Sbarbaro.
The earliest city directory to mention Felice was the 1889-90 directory, which noted that he was working as a vegetable gardener in an area that was then four miles east of city limits.
Sarah said that her grandfather had a famous Italian friend.
“A.P. Gianini (who founded the Bank of Italy in October 1904) was a frequent visitor of my grandfather, Felice, at his ranch in East Sacramento in the 1890s,” Sarah said. “(A.P.) was fond of the cooking of (Felice’s wife) Louisa. She often made vegetable soup, homemade cheese made out of cow’s milk, home-raised chicken and bread baked in an outdoor, brick oven. The free-standing oven was still there when I was there in (the 1940s). It stood on the west side of the large backyard on the ranch and was about 5 feet tall.”
Additionally, Sarah speculated that her grandmother most likely made outstanding pastas and sauces.
A branch of the Bank of Italy (renamed Bank of America in 1928) was established in Sacramento at 1112 7th St. in about 1922, and Felice was an original board member of that branch.
In addition to the Lagomarsino family, the 1910 U.S. Census recognizes three hired workers as residing on the family’s property.
These men were Louis Ferrera, a native of Italy, Andrew Ferrera, a New York native of Italian descent, and Abel Pizzolato, a native of Italy.
By 1917, Fred Lagomarsino had partnered with Harry Benson to operate the Benson-Lagomarsino Seed Co. at 304 J St. The site is now occupied by a Holiday Inn hotel.
It has been recognized in many writings that it was also in 1917 that the aforementioned business, F. Lagomarsino & Sons, was founded.
The 1917 city directory refers to Felice as a farmer residing at 4605 H St., and F. Lagomarsino & Sons was listed in a city directory for the first time in 1918. The business was noted in the latter directory to have been in operation at 302 J St.
The establishment of F. Lagomarsino & Sons could have been connected with the fact that Fred had registered for the draft during World War I on June 5, 1917.
F. Lagomarsino & Sons, which had nurseries at 54th and D streets, in the vicinity of today’s Lagomarsino Way, relocated its store to 712 J St. in 1925.
The business, according to a 1928 advertisement, offered “vegetable, flower and field seeds, vegetable and flower plants, flowering bulbs, ornamental plants and climbing vines, roses, all varieties of fruit (trees).”
The advertisement also includes the logo for the business’s trademarked Lago brand.
Lago seeds were sold internationally to customers in such places as Germany, Holland, Japan, India and New Zealand.
A sad moment in the Lagomarsino family’s history occurred on April 10, 1932 with the death of the then-78-year-old Felice.
In December 1936, the company’s 712 J St. store was destroyed by fire.
The business occupied temporary quarters at the former Columbia Market site at 727 J St. until the Lagomarsinos could open their new store at 721-723 J St. The latter, much larger store was formally opened on June 28, 1937.
During the same year, F. Lagomarsino & Sons advertised that it sold ladino clover, alfalfa, Sudan grass and other varieties of grasses and clovers.
The business also advertised, at that time, that it purchased “alfalfa, Sudan, sour clover burs, etc.”
F. Lagomarsino & Sons once again relocated its store in 1947, as it began operating in a structure on the east side of Alhambra Boulevard, between L Street and Folsom Boulevard.
In remembering the Alhambra Boulevard store, Sarah said, “It was a nice store. It was sort of a prototype to today’s modern nursery stores, with garden equipment and other items. They even had dog biscuits and pet supplies.”
A 1947 F. Lagomarsino & Sons advertisement includes a World War II era reference to victory gardens, which are defined by the Random House Dictionary as follows: “A vegetable garden, especially a home garden, cultivated to increase food production during a war period of shortages.”
The reference reads: “We sow the fertile soils of the Sacramento Valley to bring you plump, bright seed for your victory garden.”
A notable F. Lagomarsino & Sons employee during the 1940s was its bookkeeper Helen Stafford, whose employment resume also included working as a presser at Hidde P. Weirdsma’s clothing cleaners at 2417 Broadway, a bookkeeper at Klein Reality Service at 807 J St. and an office secretary for the Westmore Construction Co. at 1906 Capitol Ave.
Two other F. Lagomarsino & Sons employees were drivers Leo Folena and Johnny Stefani.
Lagomarsino Seeds, Inc., which incorporated on Aug. 1, 1958, replaced F. Lagomarsino & Sons and operated at the old Alhambra Boulevard site until 1973, when it relocated to 5116 Folsom Blvd.
Earl Lagomarsino, who was Felice’s oldest grandchild and his only grandchild to have been born early enough to remember him, was the president of Lagomarsino Seeds, Inc.
The company’s vice president was Augustino T. “Gus” Garibaldi (1918-1993) and its secretary was Jack V. Garibaldi (1915-1989).
The now defunct Lagomarsino Seeds, Inc. last operated at 5675-A Power Inn Road, where it had been relocated to in the mid-1980s.
Gus Garibaldi, who was a native of Yolo County, a graduate of Woodland High School and a member of Elks Lodge, No. 6, began his many years of working for F. Lagomarsino & Sons as a sales clerk in about 1946, and by 1947, he was working as the store’s manager.
In Gus Garibaldi’s obituary in The Sacramento Bee, it was noted that he retired and closed Lagomarsino Seeds, Inc. in about 1991.