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.”
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.
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.
Utility Blues: Like a lot of residents in Pocket-Greenhaven, Chris Kleckner keeps an eye on her utility bills from the city of Sacramento. Unlike many folks, Chris has a long memory. Back in 2003, her utility bill averaged $73 per month. By 2008, it was running about $103. Today, that bill averages $144. Same Chris. Same house. Same city. Twice the bill.
Chris began to think about the raw deal she’s getting from the city. Her regular street yard clipping “claw” service is gone. Ever optimistic, Chris figured the city must be doing something wonderful with all the extra money. To find out, she called her elected official at City Hall. That was four weeks ago. She’s still waiting for the return call — so at least we know City Hall didn’t buy more phones with the windfall. Local officials “don’t seem to be connected with people who live here,” Chris says. And she’s still wondering why her utility bill doubled in 10 years. …
Sweet Heat Beat: Wingstop, a local favorite for hot wings in the Lake Crest Center, has rolled out a new flavor, Mango Habanero. Manager Andrew Chao describes the new taste as, “Sweet meets heat and it is a flavor that follows you. I have received a lot of positive feedback past few days.” Past flavors have been used on a trial basis, Chao says. Flavor decisions are made by corporate honchos, but local wing champ Chao hopes Mango Habanero sticks around. Customer feedback counts at Wingstop (unlike certain City Halls), so if you like the place where “sweet meets heat,” let Andrew know. …
International Eats: St. Anthony’s Church on Florin Road will hold its annual Parish Fair on Saturday, Sept. 7, from noon to 9 p.m. A favorite of this column, the Parish Fair will feature exotic food from international destinations to highlight the cultural diversity of our community. If you’ve never attended the Parish Fair, the event comes highly recommended. Volunteer Jim Henderson says, “The St. Anthony Parish Festival is a great Pocket community event, with something for everyone, young, old and in-between. I especially like the food booths, which make it possible to take a culinary trip around the world without leaving the parking lot!” …
Cell-less: Brendle Wells, the librarian at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library — “The Robbie” for those in the know — may be the last person in Sacramento who does not own a cell phone. This was brought to our attention when Wells became the subject of a story on www.saclib.org. Brendle chooses not to be connected, and seems perfect fine with the decision. In the library’s profile, she says, “This astonishes some people … It really, really does! Their jaws drop, their eyes get wide.” Wells insists, “I do not miss a thing and I save a lot of money.” She doesn’t even miss the sales pitches from hustlers who are more efficient than the NSA at finding everybody’s cell number. …
Happy Birthday: Under the terrific leadership of President Kathi Windheim, over 100 children and many happy parents helped to celebrate our neighborhood’s literary lending library gem – The Robbie’s third anniversary on August 24. Ice cream treats were enjoyed by all. Much sugar but no dental emergencies. …
Lawman Waters: The Sacramento Bee has been doing a series of stories about Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme’s attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in Sacramento in September 1975. A federal judge released President Ford’s videotaped trial testimony. One of the law enforcement personnel working the case was then Sacramento Police Lieutenant Robbie Waters, who ran the homicide division – way before having our local library named after him. Waters participated in Fromme’s interrogation. Recalls Robbie, “Watching her in the interrogation room, she pretended to pick butterflies off the walls and pet them as she knew we were watching through a two-way mirror.” Waters went on to be elected as our Sheriff and City Councilmember. He will participate in a forum about the Fromme case at the Federal Courthouse on September 24th. We are fortunate that such a respected law enforcement leader lives right here in the Pocket. …
Kings History: Our neighbor and author R.E. Graswich is finishing up a book about the history of the Sacramento Kings. Did you know they got their start in Rochester, N.Y., as one of the NBA’s original teams? Called the Royals, the team has had a very colorful, sometimes checkered history. Says Graswich, “The book is a basketball book with almost no basketball. There were only two seasons worth exploring deeply: 2002, when the Kings were robbed against the Lakers, and 1951, when they won their only championship. The book is all about people, intrigue, politics and money.” An e-edition of the book is expected in September, with print edition to follow. …
Little Kicks: The Greenhaven Soccer Club hosted its annual in-house tournament called “Just for Kicks” on August 17th. Some of the club’s youngest players (ages of six to nine) participated to prepare for the upcoming season. Under 8 Boys “Tigers” coach Jamey Nye sounded like a World Cup aspirant when describing the Tigers in action: “We still need more touches on the ball. Some of our lineups will be more similar to a first-year team than a second-year team, but I definitely think they’re ready to play.” We are thankful for the many great volunteers and community leaders that have helped the upcoming soccer season possible. Let the kicking begin! It’s fortunate that community volunteers can keep such sports programs afloat despite declining City support for sports fields & other services.
Editor’s note: This is the first article of a two-part series about the fire that destroyed the original Edmonds Field.
Sixty-five years ago, one of the darkest days in the history of baseball in Sacramento occurred as a community treasure, the original Edmonds Field, at the southeast corner of Riverside Boulevard and Broadway was destroyed by fire.
The fire at the roughly 11,000-seat stadium, which was home to the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Solons baseball team, was reported to have been discovered by Fire Battalion Chief Peter Mangan shortly before midnight on Sunday, July 11, 1948. Carl Murphy, the stadium’s assistant manager, had been the last person to leave the ballpark when he departed at about 9:15 p.m.
The stadium, which was originally known as Moreing Field, was constructed in 1922.
In its July 13, 1948 edition, The Sacramento Union described the loss of the mostly wooden stadium, which was built at a cost of $50,000, as a “gaping wound in the heart of the city’s sports world.”
Also lost as a result of the fire were the nearby homes of Roy Milner at 2605 Riverside Blvd., Clarence N. Baker at 2609 Riverside Blvd. and Harold Jordan at 2613 Riverside Blvd.
The Sacramento Bee reported that residents within a four-block radius of the stadium fought flying sparks and bits of smoldering wood with water emitted from garden hoses.
And The Union noted that at one point, “spewing flames, cinders and huge chunks of burning wood” fell upon the streets on both sides of the stadium.
Jack Dyer, who co-owned The White House restaurant at 2633 Riverside Blvd., where today’s Riverside Clubhouse restaurant now operates, lost his parked automobile after it caught on fire on Riverside Boulevard, 100 feet south of Broadway. Another car parked in the same area also caught on fire.
Nearby telephone and power lines collapsed, three transformers blew out and fear built regarding further danger due to a possible disaster if the gas station across the street from the stadium caught on fire.
According to The Bee, embers from the fire were carried in the wind more than a mile away.
Charles McDonnell, who resided at 2401 13th St., told The Union that he discovered cinders in his car in front of his home during the morning of July 12, 1948.
The Union also reported that “others said there were ashes as far north as Capitol Avenue.”
The blaze, which would eventually include flames that reached about 500 feet tall, drew an estimated 50,000 people, who were eager to view the spectacle that would ultimately level the majority of the ballpark. Only the outfield fence, a section of the left field bleachers, the scoreboard and the stadium’s lights were left standing.
The magnitude of the scene was partially described in The Bee, as follows: “As the flames shot upward, the entire section of the city in the vicinity of Broadway and Riverside Boulevard was as light as day for more than an hour.”
Others spectators, also numbering in the thousands, arrived at the site to view the charred ruins that were left behind after the fire was extinguished.
The Union noted that the onlookers, who observed the scene as “morbid souls gathering around a dying giant,” were “seemingly unable to believe their eyes at the twisted wreckage and waste of the grounds.”
Bill Conlin, The Union’s sports editor noted in his column that even members of the Solons, who were then managed by Joe Orengo, made their way down to the stadium site after the fire.
Conlin wrote: “The players, each of whom lost $100 to $200 in personal belongings, were visibly stricken over the dilapidated grandstand, which they had come to regard as home.”
Also lost in the fire was a collection of baseball photographs that had been hung on walls in the stadium’s press room, and Solons majority owner Oscar Salenger’s ornate office furniture.
Fire Chief Terence Mulligan was reported to have fractured his right wrist at the stadium while he directed a large firefighting force, and four firemen and a policeman suffered burns of various degrees, but no human casualties were reported.
Twenty-eight prized chickens in the backyard of the aforementioned Harold Jordan, who was the scoreboard operator at Edmonds field, were burned to death.
But fortunately, the baseball club’s cat, Alta, was eventually found to be a survivor of the fire.
Although it was never determined exactly how the fire began, a strong speculation was that it was caused by a possible smoldering cigarette that had been left behind following a game.
In its July 12, 1948 edition, The Bee reported: “It is believed a cigaret (sic) carelessly dropped in the stand during yesterday’s (last) doubleheader game may have started the disastrous blaze.”
A day later, The Union published the following words: “Day after day, patrons were warned to be sure to extinguish their cigarets (sic) to prevent just such a fire.”
Whether there is any truth to the matter in relation to the fire, the late Bee columnist Stan Gilliam, during his latter years, would often relate a story about how he believed it was his own cigarette that caused the stadium fire.
The idea that the ballpark was destroyed as a result of a random cigarette was not the only words that were being spoken around the city regarding the cause of the fire.
Two weeks prior to the fire, the insurance policy for the stadium had been raised from $140,000 to $250,000, causing some people to utter the dirty word, “arson.”
Furthermore, two days earlier, the stadium was the site of another early morning fire, which was quickly extinguished by local firefighters.
Fire investigators recorded the cause of the disaster as “undetermined.”
Because the then-last place Solons became homeless due to the fire, the team took on the role of a traveling club for the final 11 weeks of the season, playing at various times in San Diego, Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Francisco, Oakland and Portland.
In an effort to keep the Solons’ home games in the Sacramento area, Hughes Stadium in the Land Park area and the North Sacramento ball fields at Grant Union High School and Dixieanne Park were speculated upon in local newspapers as possible alternative home field playing sites. However, such temporary sites never materialized.
Yubi Separovich, the club’s general manager at that time, told The Bee that there was no grandstand in the Sacramento area that could accommodate a PCL crowd.
In order to maintain its franchise, the Sacramento Baseball Association, which had been formed four years earlier, acted quickly in its efforts to have a new stadium constructed either at the Broadway and Riverside site or somewhere else in the Sacramento area.
Shortly after the fire, Separovich spoke to The Union regarding the club’s intentions to have a new baseball stadium built in the Sacramento area.
“I am confident that we can count on 100 per cent (sic) support from Coast League directors,” said Separovich, who opened a post-fire, temporary office at 2422 13th St., which is now the site of Iron Steaks restaurant. “I mean full and complete help that will start us on our way to building a modern, concrete grandstand that will seat 16,000 or 18,000 persons. We must keep the Sacramento franchise in the Coast League and we must have a new park by 1949.”
As hoped for by the Solons ownership, fans and others associated with the team, construction of a new Edmonds Field, albeit built without financial assistance from the league, was completed at the site of the former stadium in time for the home opener of the club’s 1949 season.
Editor’s Note: This is part 16 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.
When it comes to the history of the Sacramento River, in relation to the Riverside-Pocket area, the river received its most concentrated attention from residents of that area on Feb. 27, 1904.
This fact is undeniable, as it was on that day that a break in the levee at the sharp turn in the river, near Sutterville Road, about three miles south of the old Y Street (today’s Broadway) levee, caused floodwaters to inundate an estimated 10,000 acres in the Riverside-Pocket area.
The levee break became known as the Edwards Break due to its location at the ranch of local farmer Eustace Richard Edwards (1849-1931).
Eustace, who was the oldest of the children of Welsh native Thomas C. Edwards (1816-1877) and Massachusetts native Sarah W. (Lincoln) Edwards (1822-1897), was born in Massachusetts.
According to the 1870 U.S. Census, Eustace was then residing with his family in the Sutter Township, which included the area that would become known as Riverside.
Eustace resided in this general area for the remainder of his life, with his final address being 3225 Freeport Blvd.
The Edwards Break occurred shortly after noon, and less than three hours later, the break had grown to about 100 feet wide, and was continuing to expand.
While a reporter for The Sacramento Bee was interviewing county surveyor Joseph C. Boyd, about 10 feet of the levee was washed away, along with a massive oak tree that had been derooted by the floodwaters.
Although Boyd said that it would take two weeks to repair the break in the levee, The Bee then-reported that because of the protection of the Y Street levee, there was “absolutely no danger in the water entering the city (which then had its southern boundary at Y Street).”
A Feb. 29, 1904 report in The Bee, in part, read: “The Sacramento River is steadily falling (from 27.9 feet on the day of the break), registering 25.9 feet at noon to-day (sic). So far, as Sacramento is concerned, this fact is of merely passing interest, for there never has been a time during the present high water that the least fear from flood has been felt. The levees about the city offer absolute protection.”
However, on another page of the same edition of The Bee, it was reported that some city residents feared that the floodwaters from the south might spill over the Y Street levee.
While the city avoided floodwaters from the river, the previously mentioned chaotic flood scene transpired to the south of that area.
With news of the break, rescue crews were quickly organized and efforts were made to bring various south area residents to safety.
Many curious residents of the city set out on excursions to view the changes in landscapes that occurred as a result of the levee break.
Thousands of people visited the city cemetery at the present day address of 1000 Broadway to observe the submerged area south of the city.
Graves on the low ground and the southern and southeastern portions of that cemetery were submerged in water due to the break.
In its Feb. 29, 1904 edition, The Union described the Odd Fellows plat along Riverside Boulevard as a “lake of water,” which, in part of that area, was being used as a thoroughfare for rowboats during the previous afternoon.
Sightseers on foot and in buggies and other types of vehicles made their way along the road atop the Y Street levee from Front Street to 25th Street to view flooded scenes, which included St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which was halfway submerged with floodwaters.
The Union described the scene at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, as follows: “The highest points of the cemetery were not submerged, but in the northern section, not even the gravestones showed above the flood.”
In describing the southward view from the Y Street levee, The Union noted: “Standing on the levee and looking south, the inland sea stretched as far as the eye would carry. Here and there a clump or grove of trees waved in the south breeze; here the tops of a row of fence posts marked a division line: there a house, submerged to the windows, looked the acme of desolation. A big cattle barn, submerged halfway to the eaves, stood sturdily in one direction, in the other, a hop house looked out over the watery waste.”
A line of people could constantly be seen on the bridge connecting Sacramento with Washington in today’s West Sacramento during the daylight hours.
Several hundred of the city’s more courageous residents walked southward down the Front Street levee to obtain a close view of the break in the levee.
In its February 28, 1904 edition, The Union encouraged the public to view the flood from the Capitol, as follows: “As the submerged district is of unusual extent, the sight from the Capitol dome is one well worth seeing. The view from the first and second balconies surrounding the dome is preferable from that obtained from the cupola, as there is plenty of room in which to move about and take in the panorama in all directions. The Capitol cupola will be open for visitors to-day (sic), says Secretary of State (Charles F.) Curry.”
The Bee reported that floodwaters were still rushing through the “great crevasse” with “undiminished force” two days after the levee broke.
The same report noted that “the roar of the rushing torrent could be heard a great distance away.”
Although the loss of human life seems to have been limited to a man who was killed at the site of the levee break, many animals, including livestock, perished in the floodwaters and large amounts of crops were destroyed.
Several weeks passed before the floodwaters finally receded and people were able to return to their homes.
And despite the fact that the levee was eventually repaired and many flood-free years followed, the images of the great flood of 1904 would never leave the memories of Riverside-Pocket area residents of that era.
Editor’s Note: This is part 15 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.
This summer marks the 75th anniversary of one of the largest attended events in Sacramento history – a grand race between the steamboats Delta Queen, representing the capital city, and Port of Stockton, which plied the waters for the city of which it was named.
On June 26, 1938, these majestic paddlewheelers participated in the competition that was held as a result of a challenge made by city officials of Stockton.
The challenge was Stockton’s response to Sacramento Mayor Tom Monk’s statement that capital city boats could beat any nearby riverboat.
A coin flip, which was won by Sacramento, determined whether the race would be held on the Sacramento River or the San Joaquin River.
Both of Sacramento’s major dailies announced the event a day prior to the race, which would be a revival of the early day steamboat races on the same river.
The Sacramento Bee, in its edition for that day, noted that the race would “bring to a climax the rivalry between the two inland ports of Sacramento and Stockton.”
Included on another page of the same edition was a photograph of two local, young beauties, Margaret Piccardo and Justine McDougal, who were shown perched on the railing of the Delta Queen.
A caption noted that the women would be “cheering for the Delta Queen in the Sacramento vs. Stockton race tomorrow on the Sacramento River.”
On the day of the race, about 10,000 people stood on the then silver-colored, less than 3-year-old Tower Bridge to get a glimpse of the boats.
Thousands of other spectators lined the banks of the river to view the happenings.
At the helm of the Delta Queen was Capt. William L. Cooley and piloting the Port of Stockton, which was originally known as the Capital City, was Capt. George H. Malone.
Those who desired a more intimate view of the race paid 50 cents each to be a passenger aboard the Delta Queen. The Sacramento Union reported that 9,000 people paid the fare to ride on the boat.
Also riding on the Queen on that special day were Monk and other city officials, as well as county officials.
After departing from The River Lines dock area, just south of the Tower Bridge, the boats traveled to the race’s starting point at the foot of Y Street – now Broadway.
The race began with the loud sound of a gunshot and the boats then proceeded toward the first turn in the river.
At that point, the Port of Stockton pulled aside and allowed the Queen to pass her and take the lead. “Ladies first!” The Union would later exclaim.
The paper also noted, “Probably any good racehorse can be trained to wait for a slower opponent.”
Due to sandbars and turns in the river, the boats were unable to pass one another until they approached the Freeport Bridge.
It was then that the Port of Stockton edged past the Queen en route to a portion of the river that was described in The Union as being “well beyond Clarksburg.”
Despite being intended to settle the question as to which boat was faster, the race instead ended with much controversy.
Initially the race was determined to be a tie, but it was later announced that the Port of Stockton won by nine seconds.
In the following day’s edition of The Union, writer Lindsay Arthur wrote: “We doubt if the timekeepers even had a watch, but they finally got together and announced that the Stockton boat had won the 14-mile race by nine seconds.”
The Bee, in its coverage of the event, reported that the Delta Queen led “most of the way, but lost the race on the Sacramento River yesterday.”
Despite the victory for Stockton, many Sacramentans, including City Manager James Dean, felt that the Stockton boat had a significant advantage against the Sacramento boat, since the Queen carried hundreds of people and few people rode on the Port of Stockton during the race due to its no passenger license.
Furthermore, many of the people adding weight to the Delta Queen and apparently slowing its progress were visitors from Stockton.
Then there was the aforementioned portion of the race when the Port of Stockton allowed the Delta Queen to pass it, thus aiding to the race’s close finish.
Although it is only speculation, this act may have been completed for the benefit of staging a more competitive event for listeners of a live radio broadcast of the race and for audiences of later shown film coverage of the event.
Cameramen from six newsreel companies had cameras mounted on the Port of Stockton and another camera filmed the race from an automobile on a river road.
Arthur described the race as a “great ride, but pretty much of a lemon for competition.”
Additionally, Arthur noted that although the Port of Stockton, which was built 17 years before the Queen was constructed, could be considered an “old hulk,” she retained an important part of her assets.
“She still has speed and that’s what it takes to win a race,” Arthur wrote.
But with no definitive conclusion as to what city was truly the victor, Monk challenged Stockton to another race.
The challenge was accepted and it was eventually determined that the race would be held on April 22, 1939.
However, the event would not be held as a true rematch of the 1938 race, as the race would feature the Delta Queen, representing Sacramento, and the Delta King as Stockton’s representative.
Additionally, the course of the race was changed to begin at the Port of Stockton and end at Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.
An article about the race on the following day’s front page of The Union carried the headline, “King beats Queen by 150 yards in revival of river racing.”
Under the command of Cooley, the Queen left the Tower Bridge at 8:25 a.m. and later met with the King, which was under the direction of Cpt. William J. Atthowe.
During the race, which was broadcast from the deck of the Queen by radio station KFBK, the King and Queen traded places in the lead several times, and the race remained close until the King built a substantial lead during the last 15 miles of the race.
Editor’s Note: This is part 14 in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.
It may be one of the city’s smallest parks, but East Lawn Children’s Park at 1510 42nd St., at Folsom Boulevard, certainly draws its fair share of daily visitors.
Once a part of the grounds of East Lawn Memorial Park, this 153-foot by 99-foot park provides plenty of space for its young visitors, who enjoy spending time in its tot play area.
Encompassing the space of about three single-family home lots, the park, which is a tot in its own right when compared to the majority of the city’s parks, is sufficient in size for the neighborhood it serves.
Efforts to have a city park constructed at the site date back to December 1985, when the owners of the nondenominational cemetery first considered donating the property to the city.
In August 1986, East Lawn’s owners finally made an official offer to the city, as they agreed to deed the property to the city, build a park on the site and operate it for 10 years.
East Lawn’s only stipulation for the donation and construction of the park, which had an estimated value of $150,000, was that it be allowed to name the park.
Prior to East Lawn’s announcement, many residents of the area had been concerned that the site, which had sat undeveloped for decades, might be used for an apartment complex or office structure.
Although many neighbors of the site also demonstrated strong opposition to the then-proposed park, it was reported in the Oct. 17, 1986 edition of The Sacramento Union that their tone had changed and that they had become hopeful that the city would accept the cemetery’s offer.
The neighbors’ early concern, according to The Union, was that the presence of a park at the site would attract “rowdies to the quiet neighborhood.”
The property’s eventual use as a children’s park with the lack of amenities such as picnic tables, tennis court and restrooms represents a compromise to those neighbors’ concern regarding the site’s establishment as a park.
Craig Peterson, East Lawn Memorial Park manager, explained that the idea of a children’s park was not entirely well received.
“There were some neighbor ladies waving diapers on poles (near the site),” Peterson said. “They didn’t want dirty diapers in the park.”
Although their wish was not granted, some neighbors requested that the site not be referred to as a park, as they feared that the name would attract “undesirables.”
Neighbors were also concerned with the timing of the cemetery’s attempt to donate the property to the city, since that attempt was made at about the same time that East Lawn applied for a permit to add a mortuary on its grounds. Protests by neighborhood residents led to the end of East Lawn’s drive to add a mortuary to its property.
But with an eventual overall approval for the park from neighbors and the completion of a carefully written agreement, the donation of the park site was accepted by the city council on Dec. 16, 1986. The park was also approved by the city Planning Commission about two months later.
When Don Hart was named as East Lawn’s president in March 1988, the park had yet to be constructed.
During the following May, East Lawn, which had an escape clause in its pact on the property with the city, requested and was granted a delay in its donation while Hart became familiar with his then-new position.
Some supporters of the park project feared that the delay might be a sign that East Lawn would renege on the donation.
On June 23, 1988, The Sacramento Bee reported that East Lawn had decided to honor its donation, but that the cemetery was no longer offering $50,000 worth of improvements and 10 years of park maintenance.
It was also reported in the article that a pro-park campaign led by neighborhood resident Cindy Leathers influenced the cemetery board’s decision to complete its donation. The campaign resulted in about 200 postcards and a petition, which were delivered to Hart’s office. The petition was signed by about 500 local residents.
In another article, which was published on Sept. 8, 1988, The Union reported that city park officials had accepted the 42nd Street and Folsom Boulevard parcel for use as a city park. But it was also noted in the article that the property “must await development, because the city has no money available.”
An update regarding the site appeared in the June 1, 1989 edition of The Bee.
In that update it was noted that “a frenzy of philanthropy is transforming a simple patch of ground into a full-blown East Sacramento park – the East Lawn Children’s Park.”
The article noted that local businesses and neighbors contributed labor, materials and money to establish the park.
This type of action was not unprecedented at park sites in Sacramento.
For instance, similar action was taken by people in the community to establish East Sacramento’s East Portal Park and Portuguese Community Park in the Pocket area.
Donations for the East Lawn project included $20,000 from the Rotary Club of East Sacramento, $15,000 from a single fundraising event that was attended by about 150 community members, and sand for the sandboxes from Geremia Pools.
According to the article, the park’s new playground would be completed in about one to two months.
Among the improvements to the site were a children’s play area and a new fence that replaced the site’s aging, 3-foot-tall fence.
Last week, East Sacramento residents Doug Pope and Terry Kastanis, who were serving as members of the city council during the city’s involvement with the East Lawn park project, reflected upon their memories of the site.
Pope, who represented East Sacramento as a member of the council from 1977 to 1989, said, “There was a period of time (that passed) from when East Lawn said that they wanted to make the donation. Actually, preceding that donation was a lot of discussion with East Lawn about their future plans for that parcel. Those discussions ultimately led to them making a decision that they would donate it for neighborhood use.
“(Prior to the creation of the city park, the site) was actually being used (by the community for such things as touch football and fly-casting practice). I don’t remember if it was actually mowed though. It was kind of a little bit of an eyesore, if I recall right. But it was being used. (The idea) was to clean (the site) up and make it usable for the neighborhood. For a period of time, there were – and there still are, I think – young families around there. It was a good use of a piece of land, and they let the young kids go around there and play.
“I think it’s a great amenity in the neighborhood and it looks really nice. It’s kept up well. I’m not close to it, so I’m not aware that they’ve had any issues, but I don’t believe they’ve had any issues. But it looks great and you can go by and you see people using it all the time, which is what it’s meant for, so it’s really gratifying to see that occur. It’s matured just fantastic. It has turned out to be I think better than everyone envisioned.”
In remembering the process, which led to the creation of the park, Kastanis, who served on the council from 1981 to 1994, said, “It was kind of like East Lawn didn’t know quite what to do with (the property). It was just vacant land that East Lawn had. It was kind of a hangout and people were kind of congregating there. I think they started using it like a park and finally East Lawn relented and gave it to the city as the East Lawn park.
“It was a great community gesture on the part of East Lawn. They didn’t have to do that and they gave that property to the city for a park, and I think that’s commendable.”