This year, the Land Park News has enjoyed bringing you stories about your neighbors and about the history that has made up the community you call home. What follows are summaries and excerpts from some of our favorite stories from the past year. Also, see some of the best photos of the year on page 19. Additionally, movie reviewer Matias Bombal shares with readers the top five movies he has reviewed for Valley Community Newspapers since he started writing for us in 2014. Without further adieu, here are the top stories and columns selected by staff this year.
Sincerely, Monica Stark
Over the Fence: Political Sign Season by Greg Brown: Some folks feel so strongly about a candidate they put a political sign in their front yard for the whole neighborhood to see. It’s a political endorsement. I’ve seen them all over. Vote for Fong. Cohn for Assembly. JAY for City Council – political clutter dotting the tree-lined streets of Sacramento.
But what if you were out and about all day and come home to a political sign staked in your front yard without your approval?
Some local residents have told me they have had people from the Kevin McCarty campaign sneaking lawn signs in their front yard without prior approval or knowledge. Council member McCarty is running for State Assembly against his fellow City Council member Steve Cohn.
Local real estate agent Matt Bistis, who lives in Hollywood Park, told me he and his wife were running errands one day and when they arrived home somebody had stuck a bright yellow McCarty For Assembly sign on their front lawn. Matt told me he “doesn’t do political lawn signs”….especially in his line of work. He had to pull it out and toss it in the trash.
Perhaps it’s an innocent mistake or just sloppy campaign work. But it doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident.
A woman named Melanie from Curtis Park, who didn’t want her last name used, told me she had left for a couple of hours on a Saturday and came home to find a Kevin McCarty sign staked in her front yard after her husband specifically told McCarty’s campaign representative “We are NOT OK with signs being placed in our yard.” Since the McCarty camp ignored the couple’s wishes, they picked it up, took it apart, and placed it in the garbage. She added, “A shame and a wasteful campaign practice…I will not be voting for McCarty!”
Another person who got a McCarty For Assembly sign she didn’t ask for was Michelle La Grandeur. She actually has one for Jay Schenirer. Michelle said, “The McCarty team came around with leaflets and such. I took one and said I’d probably vote for him, but they didn’t ask if I wanted a sign, and I didn’t ask for one either.”
Michelle got a McCarty For Assembly sign on her lawn last week and promptly removed it.
My wife reminded me that WE got hit by the rogue McCarty sign placers when he was running against Roger Dickinson in the last election. We never asked for a sign, but my wife had contacted his campaign. No yard sign was ever discussed.
I called McCarty campaign headquarters and asked a woman named Kathryn why would residents get lawn signs they never asked for? She told me, “They got it because that address was on a list of people who have requested yard signs.”
I told her none of these folks requested lawn signs. She replied, “We are human. Humans do make mistakes. That’s why God invented erasers. That’s why we put the note on the porch.”
The McCarty campaign usually leaves a note that says “If you didn’t request this lawn sign and this is a mistake, please call us and we’ll pick it up.”
I left a voicemail with McCarty’s campaign manager, but she never returned my call.
So if your neighbor has a McCarty sign in their front yard…don’t assume they’re voting for McCarty. They just haven’t gotten home from grocery shopping.
Veteran hotel proprietor, William Land, accumulated fortune in Sacramento by Lance Armstrong: In being that William Land Park and the Land Park community owe their names to former Sacramento Mayor William Land (1837-1911), it seems logical that from time to time, the community’s newspaper, the Land Park News, pay tribute to this locally legendary man.
Land, a New York native who came to California in 1860, once worked as a sweeper and a busboy at the Western Hotel on K Street, between 2nd and 3rd streets. He later became one of the city’s most successful and wealthiest residents, as his estate would be eventually valued at about $2 million.
The kindhearted nature of Land will always be remembered, especially with his greatest gift, the $250,000 he bequeathed for what would eventually become William Land Park.
During his tenure as mayor from 1898 to 1899, William Land loaned the city $80,000, interest-free, for the purpose of reducing taxes and retiring city bonds.
Local artist created famous artwork for Van Halen album by Lance Armstrong: C.K. McClatchy High School graduate Margo K. Nahas has accomplished many things in her life as an artist, but none of her achievements in that field have brought her more attention than her artwork that appears on the cover of the album, “MCMLXXXIV” (Roman numerals for “1984”), by the globally famous rock band, Van Halen.
In being a milestone anniversary year for the release of that album, which reached number two on the Billboard magazine album chart behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” it is quite timely to share a few details related to that album’s cover.
During her interview with this publication last year, Margo provided behind the scenes information regarding the creation of the artwork that would eventually appear on the “MCMLXXXIV” album.
And as part of that segment of her interview, she noted that her famous Van Halen album cover artwork of a mischievously looking cherub holding a cigarette was not originally intended to be used as cover art for any album.
“How it came about was my girlfriend (Colleen Helm) – my best friend – her son (Carter Helm) was about 3 years old and I just wanted to take a picture of him,” said Margo, who graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in 1967. “He was like the perfect model. He was just as cute as could be. I went over to their house (in Malibu) with my camera, lots and lots of candy, especially candy cigarettes, and my Dippity-do (hair styling gel). And so, I went in to style his hair and he immediately had a tantrum. But my girlfriend, knowing so much about babies, she said, ‘Just wait a minute and he’ll be fine.’ We waited a minute (and) I styled his hair in what I thought was a Mohawk (hairstyle) for a baby. You know, it was kind of a 1950s Mohawk, without shaving it. We went outside in the backyard and I gave him candy, which he absolutely loved. He never smoked a cigarette, of course. They were all candy (cigarettes). And I set it up and it was perfect. I got the perfect shot.”
After taking her ideal photograph of Carter, Margo went to work on her project to create an illustration, which unbeknownst to her would later become recognized throughout the world.
In being that Margo was already well known for creating artwork for album covers of many well known rock bands, it was not an usual situation when she was asked to create the cover artwork for Van Halen’s sixth studio album.
Congratulations to our very own: Lance Armstrong: The Sacramento County Historical Society recognized Valley Community Newspapers’ very own historical writer, Lance Armstrong, at its annual dinner on Tuesday, March 25 at the Dante Club, 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Lance’s early interest in history led to his many years of researching local histories and preserving historical documents, photographs and other historical items from throughout Sacramento County and other areas of the Golden State in his vast personal collection, which is recognized as the Lance Armstrong Collection.
After graduating from California State University, Sacramento with degrees in journalism and music, Lance began his professional writing career, which includes his work for local newspapers such as the East Sacramento News, Land Park News, Arden-Carmichael News, Pocket News, Elk Grove Citizen, The Sacramento Union, Capitol Weekly, Sacramento Downtown News, Sacramento Midtown News, Old Sacramento News, Natomas Journal, The Folsom Telegraph and the Sacramento News and Review.
Lance, who is presently employed by Valley Community Newspapers, has used his knowledge, researching abilities and personal archives in the process of producing local history articles for each of these publications.
These informative and entertaining articles provide a valuable resource for the present and future understanding of the area’s rich history.
The majority of Lance’s local history articles include oral history quotations from his interviews with people from various levels of society.
In addition to his hundreds of local history newspaper articles, Lance is the author of Echoes of Yesterday: Elk Grove – the first book in his Echoes of Yesterday history book series.
In 2007, Echoes of Yesterday: Elk Grove was recognized as the nation’s top regional history book for that year by the American Authors Association. Lance is presently nearing the completion of several comprehensive history books about Sacramento from the times of Captain John Augustus Sutter to present.
Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery was founded more than a century ago by Lance Armstrong: Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery at 2720 Riverside Blvd. is among the city’s historic cemeteries, as it dates back to the early part of the 20th century.
But that cemetery’s history links directly to earlier established burial grounds: the Odd Fellows plot at the old city cemetery, which is officially known today as the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery.
In telling the story of Odd Fellows burial sites in the capital city, it is perhaps best to present a brief introduction to the existence of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Sacramento.
General A.M. Winn, who would eventually become Sacramento’s first mayor to be elected under a state charter and the founder of the Native Sons of the Golden West, is recognized as introducing Odd Fellowship in the city as early as August 1849.
According to the 1913 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” Winn desired to form that local, informal organization of Odd Fellows for the “purpose of affording relief to the sick members of the order, as well as to others.”
The same book praised the early work of the Odd Fellows, noting, “Their noble deeds should never be forgotten, for they spared neither time, work, nor money in relieving the distress and sickness that were prevalent at that time.”
Like the neighboring Masonic Lawn Cemetery, Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery is not limited in use to those associated with a respective fraternal order. Odd Fellow Lawn’s manager Anthony F. “Tony” Pruitt assured the community that Odd Fellows Lawn has a stable future.
“We are here forever,” Pruitt said. “Basically, as a fraternal organization, which owns this property, nothing is going to happen to this property. It will stay here and stay here. There are other (Odd Fellows) organizations that will take over for us, if we’re not here (some day). We have people in Stockton and in Yuba City, Shingle Springs, Placerville. It will always be Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery.”
St. Joseph’s Cemetery: A place of memories by Lance Armstrong: The 149-year-old St. Joseph’s Cemetery on 21st Street, just south of Broadway, is one of the city’s oldest existing cemeteries.
Regarding that cemetery and an earlier established Catholic cemetery, on Sept. 8, 1864, The Sacramento Union published the following words: “Several years ago, a tract of land was purchased on the Lower Stockton Road, four miles from the city, by the St. Rose Church for burial purposes, which was afterward known as St. Rose Cemetery. On account of the distance from the city, it was finally determined to abandon that locality as a cemetery and purchase a new one, more conveniently situated. A week or two ago, a tract of land was purchased, and yesterday the first interment in it took place. It is located south of Poverty Ridge and embraces about twenty acres. The ground was formerly known as Russell’s ranch, but was recently purchased of L. Stanford and others. No name has yet been adopted for the new cemetery.”
The first interment at St. Rose Cemetery was that of former Sacramento County Hospital steward Martin Kennedy, who was buried on Nov. 18, 1860. The cemetery grounds were consecrated on May 12, 1861.
As part of the establishment of the new Catholic cemetery, which would become known as St. Joseph’s Cemetery, arrangements were made for the remains of those who were buried at St. Rose Cemetery to be transferred and reinterred at the newly acquired site.
A reference to the Catholic cemetery on today’s 21st Street appeared in an article in the April 21, 1893 edition of The Union.
Prospecting through The Prospector: A look into early pages of McClatchy High’s student newspaper by Lance Armstrong: The Prospector, C.K. McClatchy High School’s 76-year-old student-run newspaper, is as old as the school itself. And with a prospecting approach, this article delves into some of that paper’s early editions to pluck out a few of its nuggets – pun intended.
For those in the community who would have trouble figuring out that pun, it is best to review a bit about the school’s yearbook, The Nugget, which was first published in 1938.
The Dec. 15, 1937 edition of The Prospector includes a front page article about the school’s annual.
While taking this ride down memory lane in search for golden kernels from times gone by, it became apparent that presenting selections of McClatchy High memories from the earlier years of The Prospect is a worthwhile endeavor that need not end with one article.
And with this understanding, readers of this publication should be on the lookout for similar articles in this paper in the future.
Remembering the Riverside Baths by Lance Armstrong: For decades, the Congregation B’nai Israel and Brookfield School have operated on property on the west side of Riverside Boulevard, between 11th and 13th avenues. But present day Sacramentans who are aware of what popular business previously operated in that area are undoubtedly of the minority.
In 1909, locals contributed to efforts to establish a swimming destination spot called the Riverside Baths, on the old Riverside Road at 11th Avenue.
With the assistance of community members who purchased stocks toward the construction of this local swimming center, the dream of that establishment became a reality.
The indoor pool was constructed through the Sacramento Riverside Bath & Park Co., which had its headquarters at 430 J St.
For many years, the center, which would later be known as the Land Park Plunge, provided an alternative place to cool off for many Sacramentans during the warmer months of the year.
Advertisements for Riverside Baths often noted that the site’s 65-foot by 120-foot pool was filled with artesian water from a half-mile deep well and that the pool was emptied and cleaned each night.
According to a 1936 article in The Sacramento Union, the artesian water was highly mineralized, carried 600 percent less bacteria than approved drinking water and had a natural temperature of 82 degrees.
Certainly, one of the pool’s greatest attractions was its 60-foot-tall swimming pool slide.
Various swimming competitions were held at the baths during the business’s early years.
Like many local amusement sites of earlier generations, the Land Park Plunge is but a distant memory, as it was closed in the mid-1950s.
But despite its absence, for most who remember it, Riverside Baths remains one of the most cherished recreational sites in the city’s history.
Mary Healy memorialized at the Sacramento Zoo by Monica Stark: Just outside the gates of the Sacramento Zoo, a solemn moment of silence filled the air on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 9 for the passing of Mary Healy, the zoo’s longtime director who died on Thursday, Aug. 7 while en route from Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. She suffered a cerebral aneurysm, and later that day she was declared brain dead and then suffered a massive coronary heart attack.
Mary was a leader in the community and a passionate advocate for animals. As was evident on Saturday, she is greatly missed by zoo staff, colleagues, supporters, the larger zoo community as well as neighbors from the Land Park area.
Saturday’s moment of silence came on the heels of the already planned unveiling of three sculptural bike racks, one resembling Mary’s favorite zoo animal – the giraffe, as well as a chimp and cheetah (which dons a gold medal around his neck) that were planted behind, as if they were chasing the 9-foot African mammal.
While Mary’s death occurred on a trip doing what she loved – learning about animals in their natural environments – she was also saddened that her vacation was scheduled at the same time of the unveiling of the bike racks, Jane Richardson of the Land Park Community Association told the Land Park News on Friday.
Commissioned by the LPCA, the animals are the latest bike racks by midtown welder Gina Rossi as a donation to the Sacramento Zoo. Made from hundreds of horseshoes from various northern California ranches, Gina said she wanted the bike racks to be made from recycled materials and when the idea came to her to use old horseshoes she thought how perfect it would be that they were once attached to an animal. “I was fascinated from a historical end – the rebirth of something that once was. It was challenging to think outside the box.” But as the saying goes: “Someone else’s junk is someone else’s treasures.”
Jane recalled Mary’s excitement over the bike racks during the conception phase. “Mary wanted the bike racks not to be necessarily interpretative of those at the zoo. You could never play with them (the live animals). (Gina’s) creation is interactive. It’s unique. It is art that is structurally sound and you could use it for your bike.”
Upon speaking about the process of nailing down which animals she was going to make bike racks to resemble, Gina recanted a tour of the zoo she had with Mary Healy. “When she gave me a tour around the zoo, she was passionate about the giraffes. Mary really loved the giraffe. It was one of her animal must-haves.”
Born in 1953, Mary began her career in the zoo profession as a bird keeper at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in South Carolina. Years later, after a stint with a Disney animal park, she made her debut as the Sacramento Zoo Director in December of 1999. Under Mary’s direction, a full-scale veterinary hospital was built at the Sacramento Zoo and renovations for new habitats have been completed for lemurs, Thick-billed Parrots, Giant Anteaters, Ground Hornbills, Burrowing Owls, Yellow-billed Magpies, Tamanduas, giraffes, Red Pandas and North American River Otters.
Mary would come to the quarterly neighborhood association meetings and Jane recalls speaking with her at least once a quarter. What comes to mind in regard to Mary, Jane said: “She had such intelligence and was such a leader too. She was a very powerful communicator and (exhibited) the passion for what she did with the animals and zoology. (Mary’s passion) went much beyond the zoo. She planned on having many new things happen at the zoo. From new exhibits to train excursions (from Old Sacramento to the zoo), she was full of ideas. She was not only passionate, but she led her vision to fruition.”
Adding symbolism to the late zoo director’s love of giraffes and the appreciation Gina has over Mary’s dedication to the animals at the Sacramento Zoo, the artist wrote in paint on the giraffe’s red heart, “Mary Healy 1953-2014” on the front and a testament to Mary’s impact on the zoo on the back: “Inside of (the giraffe) it has a 6-inch by 6-inch heart on a chain. I put the whole message of who she is on that heart. (Mary) is the heart of Land Park, the heart of the Sacramento Zoo and I want her to feel it. I am going to put neat things about her passion,” Gina said.
On a chain, the giraffe’s heart has constant movement, which Gina likens to Mary’s spirit floating through William Land Park.
Gina said she remembers one day when she was about 8 years old she, her mother and her brother were walking around the perimeter of the zoo, trying to peak through the cracks in the fencing. “We couldn’t afford to get in. One of the people let us in. They were really, really sweet. They figured it out. It was really neat because we got to hang out in there. No matter how bad (life) was, it was OK (at the zoo). Animals don’t know anything. They only know love. It’s weird when I was in third grade I went there; now I am the one who gets to imprint something. That zoo had touched so many people’s lives. That zoo does so much for people. I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s just a neat thing.”
A nurse for Kaiser Permanente, Gina said she puts in 20 hours a week at the hospital after deciding in 2009 she wanted to open up an art studio and not further her career in the medical field. “I had to decide if I wanted to become a physician’s assistant or weld.”
And, well, she’s a self-proclaimed scrapper who went to Oakland to figure it all it. “I became certified as a welder and decided I wanted to teach our youth, our kids, retired people – anybody who wanted to pick up a hobby and not pay high crazy prices.”
Gina writes on her website (in the second person) that her childhood was laced with many difficulties: “Although her experiences may not have been entirely unique, her response to these challenges definitely sets her apart.” Asked for this article to describe her challenging childhood, she said, “In a nutshell, my mom was schizophrenic, and my brother has a handicap. That’s why Sacramento means so much to me. The moments like that – there are all these challenges and what do you do with those? How do you turn to something cool that will make a difference? Whether it be with wives, battered kids – I do pro bono pieces. I bring them into the studio. I get them to feel and believe again that there is possibility – doesn’t matter (one’s background).”
Gina is a self-taught artist, and one who has embraced those less fortunate to participate in the creative process of creating the zoo’s new bike racks. “(Homeless people) would sit there and clean off the rust (on the horseshoes). We have that rapport. It was a neat experience. We’ve had conversations. At the end of the day, they felt needed. They felt they were doing a service. You got to know their story. They always have a back story.”
As important as it was to listen to their stories, Gina was drawn to learning about the history behind the hundreds of horseshoes she welded together to make the bike racks. Recognizing the fact each horseshoe has had its own journey, Gina said one of the farmers she received boxes of horseshoes from, Samuel, “a little old man” told her the stories behind a few of the horseshoes. Recanting those conversations between she and Samuel, Gina said: “(Samuel) is the coolest little guy. I got to eat his apples. He had about 10 dogs, and a cat. He talked about the journey of the horseshoes and the lives they touched before they got ready to weld. A few of (the horseshoes) were from the 1950s, for sure. You can just tell the different work on each one. There’s writing on them. (One read) London. They have this inscribed stuff on them. Samuel was trying to educate me on the metal work back in the day.”
Samuel’s stories, stories about Mary’s love of animals, Gina’s artistic talent – all comes full circle and will be enjoyed for years to come as visitors arrive to the Sacramento Zoo.
Despite Daisy Mah’s retirement, she still dedicates time to the WPA Rock Garden by Lance Armstrong: Daisy Mah, whose name has become synonymous with the rock garden in William Land Park, certainly has a story to tell about her longtime dedication to the garden.
Despite having retired last year from her many years as head of the garden, which she named the WPA Rock Garden in the mid-1990s, Mah has not entirely left the garden.
Although Duane Goosen became her replacement at the nearly one-acre garden in January 2014, Mah can still be seen working in the garden, generally twice per week in the morning hours.
In discussing her continued involvement with the garden, Mah said, “At the end of July, I returned (to the garden). They call me a utility worker, which is a temporary parks employee. I am currently still at that position and I try to limit it to twice a week. I’m still helping with the maintenance.”
Mah, who was born in the capital city and raised in Walnut Grove, added that part of her work in the garden has been sharing her knowledge about the place with Goosen.
“There are a lot of unusual things that I’ve planted and it’s hard to know what they are,” said Mah, who graduated from Delta High School in Clarksburg in 1971. “There are no labels to speak of, and so Duane is truly interested in knowing what’s out there. He’s a very good photographer, and I think he has pretty much identified all of the plants.”
Mah explained that throughout the years she learned many things about maintaining a successful garden.
“Eventually I kind of turned my nose to some of the plants that were in the garden,” Mah said. “Over the years, you realize that some of the plants that you thought were so common were actually very good plants to have. I also learned that (the garden) was subject to people running through and breaking things and stealing plants. I learned that if you cleared out plants too early and tried to replant, your chances of survival are really bad. I learned to appreciate that there was something there to build upon, instead of eradicating it and starting from scratch.”
In explaining how long it took her to reach her first overall satisfaction with the garden, Mah said, “It took a long time. It was a big struggle to get things to survive. And it probably was about 12 years ago, (when) I finally could admit that things were looking the way I wanted (them) to look. It wasn’t completely the way I wanted it, and part of it was keeping plants maybe longer than I should. (It) was a very challenging area.”
Mah, who resides in midtown Sacramento with her husband, John Hickey, who she married in 1979, added that she eventually became involved in attracting wildlife to the garden.
Overall, Mah, whose present activities include home gardening and her involvement as a member of the Sacramento Perennial Plant Club, finds the garden to be a place that she feels proud of having restored and very satisfied by the joy it continuously brings to its visitors.
“(People) find (the garden to be) a beautiful place and I think they have found a lot of satisfaction from it,” Mah said. “And personally, it’s been a source of unending challenges and pleasure.”
Land Park artist’s latest works dedicated to his late father by Lance Armstrong: Sacramento artist Jeff Myers, whose studio is located in Land Park, last fall presented a solo art exhibition, titled “The Nature of Droids & Machines.” The works of the show are dedicated to his late father, Tom Myers, who was a national level photographer.
The oil on canvas and oil on wood exhibition debuted at the Alex Bult Gallery at 1114 21st St. with preview and opening night receptions, and continued through Dec. 6. In an interview with this publication, Jeff spoke about the relationship he had with his father and the impact that he made on his life.
“(Tom was) the most dominant character in my life in a positive way, and I spent just hundreds and hundreds of hours with him going all over the West on different photography assignments,” Jeff said. “And, of course, he built this remarkable photo library of the West from politics (to) animals. And together, he would take me on these photo journeys. One day would be for photographing like the tallest redwood for National Geographic and then next, we would be photographing (in) Salt Lake City in a helicopter for some magazine or for our own files. So, his adventuresome (personality), his curiosity, his humor (and) his love for people in life, just absolutely sustained my own life with those aspects. And that is just invaluable, and I can’t believe he’s gone. It was just an awesome relationship. (Tom was a) remarkable human being. I know that relationship has ended, but I feel like I lived twice because of him. I painted this entire body of work after his passing. He passed on April 7 and I painted this body of work between April 7 and now.”
Jeff, who attended Crocker (elementary) School (at 1616 Vallejo Way) and graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in 1986, also spoke about his early involvement with art.
“I kind of grew up in a family environment that revolved around visual creativity,” Jeff said. “I can’t remember a certain starting point. Growing up with them, I had a camera in my hand very early on. Before that (part of his life), I had probably a paint brush in my hand. But I started very seriously (with painting) about 30 years ago. I had my first one-person show (in 1984), when I was 15 years old, (at DeVille’s Desserts at 2416 16th St.). I started very young, very serious. That’s all I did after school was paint.”
Jeff, who resides in midtown Sacramento with his wife, Sonja, noted that his current exhibition, which features 21 works ranging in size from 16 inches by 16 inches to 66 inches by 59 inches, represents “the relationship between land, technology and humans.” The subjects of these works are motorcycles, tractors and droids.
Happy 90th birthday, Al Balshor by Lance Armstrong: Sacramento native Antonio Alberto “Al” Balshor, a man known for his longtime ownership of Balshor Florist on Riverside Boulevard, just south of Broadway, celebrated his 90th birthday last November.
Al, who was born on Nov. 22, 1924, grew up in a large family in a home at 315 U St., near Southside Park.
Al was educated in local schools, as he first attended the very integrated Lincoln School, was a student at William Land Elementary School before returning to Lincoln School for the 7th, 8th and 9th grades.
Next, Al attended Sacramento High School, where he played on the school’s football team and graduated in 1942.
Al continued to speak about his many years of working, noting that he once had three Sacramento Bee routes, sold programs for boxing matches, pitched watermelons at the Sacramento Farmers Market, washed bottles at Jones Howell pickle works, and worked as a motorcycle courier. After being drafted into the Army in 1943, Al was sent to Camp Carson (now Fort Carson) in Colorado. Six months later, Al went to Nashville, Tenn. Then in December 1943, he was sent to Camp Kilmer, near New Brunswick, N.J.
In 1946, Al became one of the charter members of Southside American Legion Post 662.
Al, who is also a longtime member of the Sacramento Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Southside Improvement Club, the American Portuguese Club and the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society, also spoke about his wife, Marie, who he first met on her family’s farm in Dixon in 1934 when he was 9 years old and Marie was 6 years old.
“(Al’s sister), Lucille, and Marie (who had developed a longtime dislike for Al during an incident in Dixon that ended in a water fight) went to the Pelican Club (at 2231 10th St.) one night,” Al said. “(Marie) happened to go there with my sister. So, we ended up there, had a couple of drinks and then we went to the Swing Club at (541 N. 16th St.). They had a band and Marie and I were dancing. When the dance was over, I gave her a kiss on the cheek and we’ve been in love ever since. We used to have bands in those days. That was in (April) 1947 and we got married on Jan. 1, 1948, on New Year’s Day. We got married in Dixon at St. Peter’s Church.” The couple eventually had three children, Judie, Al, Jr. and Jerry.
While dating Marie, in 1947, Al went to work at Relles Florist at 2220 J St. by way of the GI Bill.
In 1950, Al opened the original location of Balshor Florist at 730 O St.
Twenty-two years later, a plan to redevelop the site forced Al to relocate his business to its present location at 2661 Riverside Blvd.
In describing his business, Al said, “We’re a certified, all-around florist – a full service florist. We do weddings, parties, we do funerals, anything. We’re just a full fledged florist. We’re qualified to do anything we need to do.”
Sixty-four years after establishing Balshor Florist, Al remains very active in the operations of his business.
“I got out of the service on Nov. 4, 1945, and I opened my shop up on Nov. 4, 1950,” Al said. “And I still work every day, six days a week. That’s what keeps me young.”
Over the Fence: Look, up in the sky, it’s a drone in Land Park by Greg Brown: Some drone videos showcase remote Alaskan ice caves, cascading waterfalls in Costa Rica, even earthquake damage in Napa. Sacramento resident Tim Pantle showcases the beauty of the Sacramento area with his aerial photos and drone videos on his blog, “Love Where You Live.”
I hung out with Tim while he was getting aerial views of the Urban Cow Half Marathon that was held in William Land Park recently. He also filmed some nice shots of the golf course, Fairytale Town and the Sacramento Zoo.
We spoke about the good, the bad, and the ugly of quadcopters. Drone videos have been somewhat controversial but Tim is the “Mister Rogers of drone video operators.” He does nothing nefarious — just good, wholesome, fun videos of the Sacramento area.
What spurred Tim’s quadcopter hobby is he wanted to start a blog of some kind. One day, he saw a picturesque drone video of the old Fair Oaks Bridge and he was hooked. “I’ve always been that tech-geek and used to be really into photography,” Tim said. He loves the challenge of “getting the good shot.”
He was getting plenty of good shots of the Urban Cow Half Marathon and William Land Park the day we got together.
At the start of the half marathon, the announcer told runners to “wave to the drone,” as Tim’s Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter was filming over head.
When Tim was filming on the fifth hole at Land Park Golf Course, a golfer took a practice swing from the fairway then turned around to smile and wave. The drone makes a loud buzzing, swarm-of-bees sound, so I was surprised the golfer let the quadcopter bother him. Most golfers demand complete silence before hitting a fairway wood on a par 4 hole.
The Phantom 2 Vision reminds me of the Starship Enterprise from the old Star Trek series. It has a similar look. If you can operate a joystick, you can certainly operate a quadcopter. Tim syncs it up with GPS. It’s the ultimate in tech gadgetry for a photographer. If the battery goes dead, or it loses connection with his remote it’ll fly back to where it started and land. It has a brain! The controller has a WiFi extender that allows the drone to send a signal to his phone so he can see what the camera sees.
The Phantom 2 Vison has quite a few different names, including an aerial drone, quadcopter, UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The term drone came about because the vehicles sounded like worker bees known as “drones.”
Tim’s a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and he thought the quadcopter or drone would be a great aspect of selling real estate. “Unfortunately I can’t use it for real estate because of FAA rules of no commercial, at the time that I bought it that rule wasn’t in place.”
There are a few rules when it comes to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The laws are still trying to catch up with the technology.
You cannot use it for commercial purposes. You can’t go above 400 feet. It’s also a big “no no” in national parks. Yosemite National Park has banned drones after they became a nuisance to vistors of the park. Another rule is you can’t fly within three miles of an airport.
Whereas Tim uses his drone for good, clean, wholesome fun, other drone operators aren’t as level headed and responsible as Tim.
There have been many publicized incidents of aerial drones causing problems. One drone operator flew over a nude beach in Hawaii that created an online stir.
Technically, there’s nothing illegal about being a “creepy pest” because it was a public beach. When the operator was confronted by one of the sunbathers he accused him of breaking the law by being nude in public, which is technically illegal in Hawaii.
Got that? Being nude illegal, filming people nude, legal.
One man actually shot down a New Jersey man’s drone after it hovered near his home. He blew it out of the sky with his shotgun. Kaboom! The guy who shot down the drone was arrested and charged with Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose and Criminal Mischief. Oops.
Then there is the case of a 17-year-old teen who was innocently filming the shoreline of a beach in Florida. A woman became enraged and assaulted him because she thought he was filming bikini-baring beach goers. The video of the confrontation is quite disturbing. The woman called the police; but, after they viewed the I-Phone video from the teen’s camera, she was arrested for assault.
Tim told me he thinks “some of the news coverage is overblown.”
I spoke with Rob Watkins at RC Country Hobby on Folsom Boulevard and he said, “I’m more concerned in the type of person and how they’re flying them than the quadcopters themselves.”
Rob mentioned an incident where a guy was flying his drone over the Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It caused the grounding firefighting aircraft.
“We sell a lot of them here and they’re fun to fly. It just concerns me what people are doing with them,” Rob said.
What Tim is doing with his drone videos is making people feel good. The feedback Tim gets is all positive. His most popular drone video is the Del Campo High School campus. He’s actually from the graduating class of ’86. His quadcopter gives an aerial documentation of the campus as it slowly glides over the mighty oak tree that is at the center of the campus. The aerial video ends on the newly build Cougar football stadium. He also has an ethereal soundtrack that plays during the video. It elicited quite a few emotional responses on a Del Campo High School reunion page. Gregory Hansel, a class of 1984 alumni said, “Am I the only one who got a bit emotional seeing that? School hasn’t changed much. A lot of memories.”
Tim also has an enchanting drone video of the Sacramento River at the Tower Bridge. The quadcopter glides right over the golden bridge to reveal an aerial shot not many people have seen — the tip top of the Tower Bridge. It’s accompanied by some Joe Satriani-style guitar riffs. He also filmed a video of the American River near the Fair Oaks bluffs and bridge, another picturesque drone video of the area Tim calls home.
If you search You Tube, there are numerous beautiful, edgy, and just plain magical videos of nature’s beauty. These drone videos, by far, outnumber the irresponsible and innocuous ones that tend to get headlines. Waterfalls, cliff diving, and amazing Alaskan glacier views are just some of the subject’s drone videos have beautifully captured.
Drone videos are also publicizing social justice like the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong. There is an aerial drone video of hundreds of thousands of people in the street peacefully protesting.
There’s also aerial drone videos by The Swandiri Institute, an organization focusing its research on the political-ecology and social-ecological analysis of environmental change happening in Indonesia.
Drones are even helping to save the whales. The Ocean Alliance is a group that uses aerial drones to collect a broad spectrum of data from the whales without disturbing them. From the data, they advise scientists and policy makers on pollution and how to prevent the collapse of marine mammals and other sea life.
See? Aerial Drones are being used for good.
Which brings me back to Sacramento’s drone video photographer, Tim Pantle. He takes great pleasure in making drone videos that people have an emotional connection to. Tim also uses his common sense. “I don’t fly over people’s houses and if somebody shows any inkling they’re upset, I just leave. I’m not looking for any trouble.”
Tim is very careful and cautious with his quadcopter. When we were together, his plan was to fly over the Sacramento Zoo, but he was also a bit hesitant. Tim said, “I don’t know if I could fly over the zoo because it might disturb the animals. Common sense says, don’t bug the animals.”
He did manage to get some aerial footage of the zoo and no animals were disturbed.
Whether it’s Sacramento parks, historic bridges or our beautiful waterways Tim only uses his quadcopter for good. He also takes pride in giving Sacramento a bird’s eye view of the city he loves.
To check out all of Tim’s videos go to www.LoveSacramento.Blogspot.com
Don’t call it a Mcmansion/dumping the dish by Greg Brown: There’s a new McMansion being built in Carleton Tract just North of Hollywood Park. Well, it’s not exactly new. The palatial two-story house with over 3,600 square feet is getting a complete makeover since it was sold in August of last year. The new owner says she wants to “flip it” and already has some interested buyers.
A residential care home? A halfway house? A frat house? She wouldn’t say.
The new owner, who’s also a contractor, is really fixing up the property on the corner lot. Sparing no expense, everything is new — granite countertops, shiny silver appliances, new tile and fixtures…the works! There’s a whole new outside, too. There are structural changes as well as new landscaping to replace dead grass in the front and the back.
The big two-story house on the block has seven bedrooms and six baths. Sounds like whoever moves in will have plenty of bathrooms to choose from. A home with six bathrooms is unheard of in Carlton Tract. Most of the homes nearby are two or three bedrooms, one bath with 1,200 square feet of living space. One of the neighbors remarked: “This house is bigger than some of the homes in Land Park.” It even has two staircases leading to the upstairs. “One to go up and the other to go down” as one neighbor put it.
The house and its residents have a colorful history. Let’s just say “The Brady Bunch” never lived there. It’s “more like the Addams Family” did, as one of the neighbors told me. The house was moved in the late 1960’s from Hollywood Park to an empty plot of land on 20th and Attawa. It was located right behind what is now Mak’s Gas Station on Freeport. This is according to one of the neighbors who wanted to remain anonymous.
The old man who relocated the house died in the early 90’s and that’s when things went downhill. His family took over. One of the neighbors deemed them “The Addams Family.” They mentioned the pale-faced “high-stepper” who would walk the neighborhood like a drugged-out zombie. There were all types of strange people crashing at the house. It turned into a flophouse.
The house was eventually sold around 2003 and it subsequently turned from Flophouse to Party House with flashy cars coming and going and big parties every weekend. According to one neighbor, there were “nasty-looking toothless hookers in and out”. One of the neighbors told me there was “a lot of stuff going on.” I asked him, “What kind of stuff?” He said, “Nothing good”.
The guy who owned the house allegedly ran a counterfeiting operation. He always had a big wad of cash and was always flashing the Benjamins. “He thought he was Tony Montana.”
Soon it all came crashing down. The counterfeiter guy had one of the neighbor’s sons do some work for him. The son never got paid. He got stiffed. He decided to let the local police know of the fake money he was printing up.
That’s when the Police and SWAT team moved in. Battering Ram and all. They told all the neighbors gathering to “get back inside your homes now!”
The counterfeiter guy is now living in an even bigger house…with bars on the window. The home should be ready for sale in the coming month.
Good Brew News!
There’s a new brewery coming to Hollywood Park on 24th Street. It’s just what the neighborhood needs, a local gathering spot where people can eat, drink, and be merry.
It will be called The Fountainhead Brewery. One of the owners, Mark Bojecsu, was thinking “water theme” and his partner Daniel Moffatt was thinking literary titles or characters. “We eventually came across the Ayn Rand novel that seemed to cover both of those,” Daniel told me.
Maybe they’ll have an Ayn Rand Ale!
Fountainhead Brewing is going to take over the TS Auto Repair shop on 24th street. Neighbors received the notice and were ecstatic to hear there would be a new gathering spot within walking distance. Although, the owner of the auto shop Sam Lee was caught by surprise by the news. I’m sure he’ll find another spot to fix cars. Besides, the neighborhood is thirsty! There are a voluminous amount of auto repair shops in the area. Sacramento breweries are a Sacramento institution. Auto shops are a dime a dozen.
They’re going to turn the old run-down auto repair shop on 24th Street into a unique gathering spot where local folks can taste an IPA or Imperial Ale and hang out.
Daniel is the brewer. He’s very experimental. One of his most popular craft beers at the Shack during Beer Week was the coffee porter. It’s one of Daniel’s personal favorites and one he runs out of the most. “It’s for the dark beer tasters out there,” he said.
He also brews an IPA with four different kinds of hops. “It’s pretty straight forward and not overly aggressive like you’re chewing on hops,” Moffat added.
They’ll also brew some Imperials, Daniel likes Imperial reds a lot. Belgiums and barley wines, sours too. So like the neighborhood, the craft beer selection will be eclectic.
In the back of the property there’s a spot where they’ll have outdoor seating and a nice pergola where people can sip the suds of their favorite new brewery. It will be family friendly as well as dog friendly.
They also will be serving food. They won’t have a full kitchen but they’ll have some fryers and also serve up some sandwiches. “We definitely want some choices other than a random food truck once in a while. More stability and reliability,” said Moffatt.
They should be open by July. USA! USA! USA!
Fountainhead Brewing is very excited about coming to the neighborhood. They have been talking with Panama Pottery to partner up for events. The folks from Panama Pottery came to one of their tasting events at The Shack and “we had a lot of fun, they’re super nice people,” Moffatt said.
The guy with the hot rod shop next door who’s got a thing going on every Thursday in the summertime. “So they’ll be some activity over there.”
It’s a narrow lot so we’re debating on how we’ll either do parking or make it a social area. We’ve already talked to the city about trying to get parking on the other side of the street since there’s no parking on either side of 24th Street.
Daniel told me it’s a dream come true. “We’ve talking about this for over two years and it’s finally coming to fruition. We are beyond excited.”
Sounds like it will make a great addition to the local brewery scene. New Helvetia, Track 7 and now Fountainhead Brewery. A trifecta of tasty craft beers.
Over the Fence, featuring Cactus Pete by Greg Brown: I’m a little late to the party on this one. Eddy’s Deluxe has moved from its East Sacramento location on J Street to a new warehouse location right next to Track 7 Brewery in City Farms. This all happened last September. Again, late to the party.
Better late than never, right? And the kick in the dungarees is, it’s right next to Track 7!
It’s now just a one-woman show at Eddy’s Deluxe. One woman, one barber chair, same retro barbershop theme. “If no one shows up, it’s just me,” owner Rea MacSems said. She now takes appointments. While I was there, a few guys wandered in accidentally looking for Track 7 Brewery. One guy even had a growler in his hand searching for a refill. She’s gonna get a lot of accidental business. Spillover you know? It’s ingenious!
The warehouse location on Pacific Avenue is where Rea has her Cock Grease hair pomade empire. She’s also been slapping together some cool live music shows a couple times a month.
Get a haircut, get a Panic IPA. Rea told me, “The shows have been pretty sweet, too.” They just rolled up the metal doors to see what would happen and folks just came filtering in.
“The shows have been low-key and fun. Very people friendly,” Cruz Ordonezy, who was getting his hair coiffed and cut by Rea, said. They actually met over at Track 7 when Rea told him about her new barbershop location next door.
Back in February, they had the Booze Bombs all the way from Germany, as well as, the Twilight Drifters. Coming up on March 23, they’ll have another free show with The Hucklebucks performing some New Orleans Blues.
They were having a real hootenanny at the Cock Pit when I dropped by recently. A fun little record party at the Pit. Cactus Pete, a soft-spoken gentleman, came by to spin ‘78 and ‘45 vinyl records for a few hours. He’s a big collector of Old Country, Boogie Woogie stuff from the 30s, 40s, and hot jazz.
Then he put the needle down on Struttin’ With Some Barbeque. “It’s an old classic,” Pete said.
He followed that up with a song called “Trucker Boogie” from Arthur “Guitar” Smith. Cactus Pete added, “When you’re middle name is Guitar, it means you must be awfully good on guitar”.
People were dancing along to Cactus Pete’s hot jazz tunes and putting some cash in his tip jar. There were quite a few couples dancing to the Lindy Hopper’s Delight, too!
A lot of the folks were taking advantage of the Track 7 brewery next door and the food truck parked outside, too. The sliders from the Krush Burger food truck were being devoured while people listened to Cactus Pete’s Record Roundup.
Eddy’s Deluxe is a marvelous addition to the new vibe over at City Farms. Perhaps, it will spur even more coolness to the neighborhood.
A little bit of country in the midst of a little bit of controversy by Monica Stark: Habitat to local fauna Regional Transit’s tracks between Sutterville and Pocket roads are overgrown with lush greenery and natural beauty. It’s just a little bit of country in our backyard. The South Land Park refuge attracts neighbors who enjoy taking walks with friends and family, and, of course, the family dog. With signs like – “You forgot to pick up your dog’s poop? Oh, my gosh, really?” – or landscaping with plants like golden poppies, and cacti, the greenbelt is a beacon of neighborly do-goodery – one that has been saved, at least for the time being, from having trains run on the tracks again.
At an Old Sacramento State Historic Park General Plan meeting, which was held Tuesday, April 15, inside the Stanford Gallery, 111 I St., representatives from the department clarified an important piece of information. The part of the proposal to use the RT tracks has been cut from the plan, which was voted on by the California State Park and Recreation Commission on Friday, May 2 at the State Natural Resources Building auditorium. What remains in the plan now is the potential use of the rail line right-of-way from Old Sacramento to the Sacramento Zoo and from Pocket/Meadowview roads to the town of Hood, with views along the way of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
In an interview with this publication hours before the April 15 community meeting, project manager Steve Musillami said the plan will include improvements to the railroad museum, depots, as well as the rail yards and “some property state parks owns around the Sacramento River. It’s a visionary plan for next 20-plus years, but all proposals are based on funding issues. As far as between The Zoo and Pocket Road – we don’t own (the railway). That’s up to Regional Transit. It could be reintroduced as another rail line again. It could be paved a trail line. It could be a rail trail.”
Congratulations to Jonah Eldridge CKM rugby star by Monica Stark: Jonah Eldridge, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School, is a nationally-ranked rugby star. Eldridge made the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament, the largest rugby competition in North America, and performed so well he was selected to captain the second side, shocking tournament organizers by taking third place in the Jan. 24-26 Las Vegas event.
In an interview with the Land Park News, Eldridge described the competition “Sevens” referring to having only seven people on the team. “It’s meant for smaller people, unlike the usual set up with 15 versus 15 on the field at a time. So it’s a lot more running, benefiting the smaller, quicker people, me I guess.”
Jonah plays the position of scrumhalf, which, in rugby, is the link between the forwards and the backs. They’re similar to halfbacks in football. A difficult position to master, scrumhalves have to be able to pass with both hands, which Jonah likens to a “quarterback doing a 10-yard up and out play on passing it 10 times perfectly with his right hand and doing the exact same play, throwing it with his left hand.”
Is the young man gifted as being ambidextrous? Well, it’s hard to tell. “Past rugby I can’t write with my left hand; I can’t hold sticks with my left hand; I can’t do anything with my left hand but I’ve been doing rugby for so long, it’s like second nature at this point,” he said.
Jonah has been playing since sixth grade when he turned 10 years old, which was a much frowned upon thing to do since most of the players were at least in the seventh grade. But he joined the Motley Land Park anyway. “I was a 10 year old playing against 14 year olds, so, that’s how it all started.” Then Jonah went to McClatchy where he “kept on playing, kept on playing. Then, if you play well, you get invited to All Star Teams and that’s where you get sucked into the next level.”
Asked if competition has been too easy for him, he said: “NorCal has the best in the nation, so the competition is great.” And he said it’s not just that but the sport itself is very much a team sport. “Not just one person can take over a game.” As such, he explained how typically there are 15 players on the field, lending itself to a lot of action between multiple players. “It’s not like basketball where the best player of the team can score 30 points, rugby is a team sport contributes their part.”
So rugby being such a team oriented sport lent itself to the obvious question: How do officials choose who will be on the U.S. Rugby Team? That’s a good question, said Jonah. “You have to be invited to the camp in Arizona and then they just pick people from there. If you have what they’re looking for you’re invited or if you fit their mold, then you get invited.”
His grandmother Paula Ridgeway had a different explanation: “He’s just the best, that’s all there is.” She went on to describe her admiration for the way he plays. She said, “He can control that ball. It’s like a flip ball. Jonah throws it in a tight spiral.”
Among the more memorable experiences Jonah has had playing rugby, was when he was in the eighth grade when the Land Park Motley had a great season, as he recalls making it to the finals. “The team worked on a sequence where one of the players kicked the ball deep into a corner and our big four tackled him out of bounds and we balled in and scored. That’s what we worked on in practice. In the opening kick off, it happened. There was a feeling that went right so how much worse can the rest of the game be? We went out winning the game, so I went out in eighth grade as a NorCal champion, so that was fun. It was a good experience.”
The fact that Jonah started playing in sixth grade didn’t seem to matter too much as the coach and his teammates knew his age. “There wasn’t a rule against it. If your parents signed a waiver, you could do it but it was frowned upon because I was only 60 pounds at the time, so the average seventh or eighth grader weighed maybe 120 (pounds). They were double my size,” he said.
No, he didn’t double his weight in a year, in fact he has always been small, but just recently he has been able to slightly catch up. His second year, he was maybe 80 pounds tops and he came in as a freshman at 105 pounds. “I’ve never been on the big end; I’ve always been the little guy and not much has changed.”
A senior at McClatchy, Jonah wants to continue playing in college, though he’s undecided where. He’s talking to colleges, seeing what his options are. As he said, “I am just feeling it out.”
Batting cage debacle brings other maintenance issues to light by Monica Stark: C.K. McClatchy varsity baseball coach Mike de Necochea sat down for an interview with the Land Park News to discuss maintenance issues on campus, including problems with the sprinkler system, dog waste and litter.
Because the school doesn’t have a gardener on staff and because the Sacramento City Unified School District has had to cut janitorial and maintenance services by nearly 50 percent over the last two years, it recommends coaches and staff fill out and submit a work order form to the maintenance department.
“Just turn in the forms into to Tommy they would always tell me, but no one knew he retired,” de Necochea said.
District spokesman Gabe Ross said the district prioritizes what the work is. “If there is a fire sprinkler that goes out, that may get to the top of the list,” he said, adding that SCUSD Landscape/Labor Supervisor said Tommy Greer has been using vacation up until he retires and there has been a temp in for him. “Given limited resources, it’s an all automated system. Somebody may have called, but it’s all prioritized by need,” he said.
Just in the 2011-12 school year, the district had 209 custodians and plant managers, compared to the 125 on staff today. Meanwhile district-wide maintenance staff (service repairs and gardeners) has seen a 42 percent decrease since the 2010-11 school year, amounting to a cut of about 90 people.
Regardless many of the maintenance problems have gone by the wayside. For instance, problems with the sprinklers have been going since at least before school started at around the same time the previous batting cages were torn down.
“It’s been since at least August when I noticed (the sprinklers) turned off. I think it was due to the construction,” de Necochea said. More recently, he said after district staff installed the new batting cage, they happened to put in a workable sprinkler system for a small plot of sod around the structure, but failed to fix the sprinklers through out the rest of the baseball field, resulting in very dry grass.
“While the City (of Sacramento) has required residents to reduce water usage by 20 percent, we’ve been conserving since summer,” de Necochea quipped.
As part of the cuts the district has to make to the maintenance department, they’ve eliminated gardeners at individual school sites and have instead consolidated and have created district wide work crews that visit various schools on set days each week. Gardening crews man the lawns and most of the watering is automated.
“We now have a crew that works at several schools and I guess the front yard is a priority,” de Necochea said.
Undoubtedly this has affected the appearance and general cleanliness of the campus – dirtier locker rooms, irrigation problems with the fields and pool maintenance.
While the district does have an employee drive a large mower to cut all the grass on campus each Tuesday, de Necochea said the worker drives over the trash, which exacerbates the garbage clean up problem – one that he said the baseball team has to clean up. On the bright side, de Necochea said this encourages players to take pride in what they have, adding that he’s used trash clean up as a punishment for being late to practice.
“It is important for the boys to help with the upkeep. But at the end of the day, we’re the ones paying for it, using it,” he said.
Taking deliveries: South Land Park resident hand delivers donated clothing items and more to the homeless By Monica Stark
About eight or nine years ago, Regina King lived on the streets of Sacramento suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse and humiliation. Today, Regina, now a resident of South Land Park, is married to Gina Backovich, has a 17 month old son named Rex and is one semester into completing a masters degree in speech pathology from California State University, Sacramento. What changed from that dark time was the realization of who she wanted to be. Cognizant of resources around her, Regina was driven after a couple months of living on the streets to check into a county rehabilitation program.
But what she experienced while homeless was deep.
“There’s something dehumanizing. Either people don’t see you or they move away from you or they fear you. And sometimes there’s reason for that and often there’s not. There’s definitely a sense of dehumanization.”
That affect on her has been a motivating factor for her efforts over the last few years to put out a call on social media for essential winter items like warm clothing, socks, and toiletries – items that she picks up from people directly and hand delivers them to the homeless she sees during her side-street commute to and from school. By February in years past, she’s taken to donating what she hasn’t been able to hand deliver to the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.
To kick off her homeless supply drive event, she puts out a call on Facebook to her friends and for them to let their friends know she is collecting warm items for the winter. Then she takes it right back out into the community, not anywhere specific. “It’s just a matter of walking around Midtown, Downtown and whenever I just see somebody it’s just me leaving it with their stuff or asking if they need anything. I keep a stack of blankets.”
With a sense of humor, Regina joked when asked more about the process. “There’s no organization, whatsoever, none at all. It’s like, hey, you have something? I’ll put it in my trunk. It’s really, really, very basic.”
Usually, she parks her car, scopes out the people and then hands them items she thinks they might need. “I try to judge by size and gender and try to figure what they would prefer. Like today, it’s been raining and I received a big plastic poncho and I don’t even know who I left it with. It was just a person wandering around over near Panera (Bread) on Howe (Avenue) and I saw where she put all her stuff.”
Unlike previous years when she’s put notice out in October, this year she’s just getting started As of the interview with this publication last Thursday, she had only received the aforementioned poncho and two small food packets.
Regina proceeds with the deliveries without judgment, without agenda, except that of having a bit of a human interaction. “To have human interaction and human touch is really a big deal,” she said. For that reason, it’s important to her to hand deliver items as opposed to donating them to the food bank initially. Further explaining that, she said, “one of the things about homelessness is that people get really turned off by smell or lack of cleanliness and I like to be able to touch people, touch somebody’s hand or look into somebody’s eyes – just human connectedness; it’s incredibly important to me.”
Asked about the response from homeless individuals she gets upon delivery, Regina said it has been mixed. Elaborating on her experiences, she said: “I’ve had a lot of people who are really distrusting and people have gotten really upset with me for coming up to them. But I’ve gotten to hear a lot of stories of how people got on the streets and I’ve gotten a lot of people who are silent. It’s across the board.”
Regina’s efforts started in 2009 with one of her friends and has been going strong for nearly four years. “I think when I started it was just a friend who asked me, hey, do you want to help me with this? And then as time has gone on, I’ve noticed myself complaining about going from my heated house to the rain, to my heated car, into the rain, into the heated building at work or at school and complaining about that. And I’ll catch myself doing that. I have more than I could ever need. And I just think so many of us have so much. We go through our closets every year. I’ve had more jackets than I could ever know what to do with and there’s people out there really in need.”
Regina, a former volunteer at a residential treatment center for women coming off of drugs and alcohol, used to cook for the residents. The amount of gratitude she witnessed face-to-face “was such a big deal and I think I’ve been searching for that ever since. For the love of humanity, for the love of people. I think we live in a nation where homelessness shouldn’t even be an issue, so the fact that it is, breaks my heart and I feel like it’s something I can do and there’s a lot of things I feel like I am helpless about. And, this, I feel is something.”
Speaking about one donor who heard about Regina’s efforts through mutual friends on social media, Regina said, “She lived in Rosemont. I went to her house and she was wheelchair bound and she just shared her story of having had real tough times before and she wanted to do what she could to help, so she gave me boxes of hotel shampoos, and just hygiene stuff. It was amazing. So I’ve gotten to meet really great people, too.”
Gina Backovich, who works full time and helps with the household has been a great support to her wife’s efforts to help the homeless population. Describing Gina’s efforts, Regina joked, “The garage is her domain and I get to take it over for a few months, so it’s really, very sweet of her. But I try to turn things around as soon as I get them.” On a more serious note, Regina added, “She also comes with me. Last year, we filled the back of her truck with these flashlights (that her sister-in-law donated), and batteries and coats and we made lunch. My wife and a friend and her three kids – we parked the truck near Loaves and Fishes and let people come and she just did it. She’s so personable. She really gets to talk with people. She loves it. She’s really great.”
Originally from San Jose, Regina did spend some of her formative years in Sacramento, however. “I spent a few years here from when I was 10 until I was 15. My parents were split, so I stayed with my mom for a few years up here and then went back to live with my dad. And then I don’t know, somehow I just kept ending up back in Sacramento. So, I moved back here seven years ago and here I stay. I settled down, had a family.”
WHAT: Donations for the homeless: Blankets, jackets, coats, sweatshirts, socks (“a big deal, especially in the rain”), and hygiene products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, combs, nonperishable foods (anything that could be “packed up and handed out easily – water bottles, stuff like that.”)
HOW: Regina will come to you (within reasonable distances from South Land Park). She can be reached at 470-2092 or find her public event on Facebook called “Homeless Supply Drive” hosted by Regina King.