S: Lois Mary Irwin Bruno
FC: The Story of Lois Mary Irwin Bruno | as told to us in her own words | October 24, 1923 September 4, 1993
1: The Story of Lois Mary Irwin Bruno as told to us in her own words
2: It is August 6, 1985, this is Lois Mary Irwin Bruno. This is a letter to my grandchildren and I would like to tell you a little about my life as I remember it. I was born on October 24, 1923. My mother was Helen Mary Argenti Irwin and my father was Melvin Thomas Irwin. I was born in Alameda, California in a maternity home. A maternity home is a place where pregnant women go to have their children. When you go there they have a midwife who delivers the child. This particular maternity home the midwife happened to be a nurse. A midwife is a person who knows how to deliver a baby. She would go to the pregnant woman'Â’s home and assist her with the deliver of her child. This was the birthing practice for the majority of women in those days. Some women did go to a hospital but they were few and far between. My mother went to a doctor before she went into the maternity home for her routine checkups. The woman who ran the maternity home it was her actual home and converted a few rooms for her midwife practice. The few women who were there had excellent care. They would stay in her home for ten days following the birth of their children. Women would remain flat on their backs during their recovery period in those days where as today they have their child and within two days they are home. It was very different back when I was born, in fact, it was that way when I had Carol. When my mother was ready to go home she went to her parentÂ’s home. Her mother was Rena Mentasti Argenti and her father was Antonio Argenti. She stayed with her parents for six months and did very little believe me. She had her cousin, Agnes DeLuchi, who came in and give me my bath and do whatever had to be done. All my mother had to really do was feed me during those six months. A lot different compared to today. During those six months, my dad was up in Martinez working at the Associated Oil now known as Tosco. On the weekends he would travel to Alameda to spend time with my mother and me. My motherÂ’s parents lived in two-story old-fashioned Victorian home located at 740 Pacific Avenue. I dearly loved that home. I have many, many, many good memories of it. | My parents Mel and Helen Irwin | My grandparents Antonio and Rena Argenti
3: As you walked up the stairs, and I recall there was about twenty or so stairs to get up to the front door. There was a big old-fashioned porch with benches around the porch for sitting. As you went through the front door you would come into a very large entry hall and to the right of that was the living room. Their living room was always kept spotless. Guests were always received in the living room. I can remember in the living room there was a Victrola. A Victrola was a phonograph that you wound play by means of a crank on its side. You would insert this round disc into the top and rotate the crank. Every time the music would drone down you would go over to the Victrola and spin the crank to bring the music back up to the proper speed. Not electric at all. Behind the living room was the dining room. This is the place where most of the living was done. I remember in the center of the dining room was this big round oak table that everyone sat around to visit or play cards. Then there was a wooden stove and I remember they had a couch over on the side of the dining room. The end of the couch would raise up so elevate your head should you wish to recline and rest. Behind the dining room was this big Italian kitchen. Off to the side of the kitchen was this pantry where you would wash your dishes and shelving for your dishes and drawers for your silverware. To the left of the dining room was the front bedroom. Off to the front bedroom was the bathroom. The bathroom contained only a sink, a toilet and I believe there was a shower in there, but I am really not too sure about that. Beyond was another bedroom and behind that bedroom was a third bedroom where my Uncle Richie slept. There was another toilet in the house. You would go down the stairs located by the kitchen and go into this room that had only a toilet. It was a great home. We had a lot of fun in that home. Lots of parties and family gatherings were held there. There are days I will never forget in that home. If you ever go to look for this house it is on Pacific Avenue. It is in west Alameda. To get to the house you take the Possy Tube which will have you on Webster Street. Turn left onto Pacific Avenue. Go one block and you will come to Concordia. Grandma ArgentiÂ’s house is the third house on the right. | My mother Helen (left) with her brother,Richard Argenti
4: My Father, Melvin Thomas Irwin | My Grandmother, Mary Gauley Irwin, | My Grandfather Thomas Melvin Irwin.
5: Me with her Grandpa Argenti | Me with my mother, Helen | My grandmother, Rena Mentasti Argenti | Priceless Treasures
6: The reason my mother stayed with her parents for six months is because she always lived in the city. She was born in Oakland and I guess when she was a young lady they moved to Alameda. When my mother became of working age she worked in Oakland and San Francisco. When she married my dad and moved to Martinez it was like coming to a foreign country. She didnÂ’t know anybody and had no friends up here and Martinez was a very small town in those days. She came to Martinez in 1924 when I was six months old. When my mother came to Martinez in 1924 there was still wooden sidewalks at that time. My mother was a very upset woman for quite a few months before she got adjusted and acquainted with some of the people in town. My mother jumped at any opportunity that arose to go home to Alameda to visit her family. Her family was very close and she missed them terribly. When we moved to Martinez we live on the 1100 block of Main Street at the corner of Pine Street. It is where the County Administration Building is today. Main Street was about 5 blocks long in those days. Taking a stroll down Main Street as set in the memory of my mind, the first thing you came to was the jail. The Court House was right next to that. As you went to the next corner you came to the Martinez Gazette. On the corner of Ferry Street and Main was HoffmanÂ’s News Stand. Down from HoffmanÂ’s is a Martinez institution called the College Lane a bar which has been there many, many years and many of us have had many, many good times there. Across the street from Hoffmans was the Bank of Martinez which in those days was the main bank in town. Next to the Bank of Martinez was Steves Restaurant, a Greek man, who now lives in Athens, Greece. | My MotherÂ’s Family Left to right: her brother, Richard, her father, Antonio, her mother, Rena, my mother, Helen. In the back, is her Uncle Richardo
7: Across the street from the bank was a drug store that was run by Bill Sears. His drug store had a soda fountain in there and he would serve lunch to the people who worked in the county buildings. He had great ice cream sodas and besides he was a great guy. Behind the drug store was Dr. MerrithewÂ’s office. He was an institution himself in Martinez. Everybody and their brother knew Dr. Merrithew. Coming back to the other corner across from Bill Sears was another drug store run by Ralph Downey and the Kellers. Behind the drug store was Dr. FitzpatrickÂ’s office. In those days was our family doctor. On Main Street next to the drug store was the Martinez Hotel and it was a good size hotel for those days. It was two or three stories which is a tall building for Martinez. You go down behind the Bank of Martinez there was a barber shop run by Ray Taylor. Then was another soda fountain that was strictly another soda fountain. It was run by Jim and Caroline but I can not recall their last names. Above Ray TaylorÂ’s shop was Dr. Fogerty, the dentist. Dear olÂ’ Dr. Fogerty scared every kid in Martinez. I was afraid of a dentist for years and years to come. He was by far the roughest dentist I have ever known. Above the soda fountain was an apartment and our friends Peggy and John Combs lived there with their daughter, Peggy. You will hear more about the antics of the younger Peggy and I later on. Next to the soda fountain was a butcher shop that was run by Ben Winkleman. Next to BenÂ’s was a shoe store operated by Mr. Tatalini. Going back up the street from Bill Sears there was this show I think was called the Melody. Down from there was this building called the McNamara Building. The McNamara building had three stores underneath it and apartments above it, an early day version of Two Worlds in Pleasant Hill. Next to this building was the City Hall which housed the police department and the fire department. The police department faced Main Street. There was this big lawn in front upon which sat this huge Christmas tree. It must have been 100 feet tall and every Christmas the fireman would come out and decorate it with lights. This was the main attraction in Martinez during the Christmas season. At the back of City Hall was the fire department that had three fires engines at that time. It was a volunteer fire department. When there was a fire they would ring a bell and all volunteer firemen would report to City Hall climb on the fire truck and go to the fire. If they were late in arriving your house could have burnt down.
8: At that time Toddy Bruness was the fire chief. Harry Ferner, Bosco Bartolomi and Clarence Viera were regular fireman. There was a fifth man but I do not recall his name. As I said they would have to wait for the volunteers to arrive in order to go to the fire and put it out. Getting back to the police department, at that time there was Charlie Palmer who was the police chief. Bill Redder was an officer as was Steve Nielsen. Those are the only ones I can recall. Martinez was a small quiet town and really did not need any more than that. Next to City Hall was the Library (where the Bank of America is now). This is where all the kids hung out. If you ever wanted to meet somebody you went to the Library. Behind the Library was the Water Company. Behind the Water Company was the bandstand. Now this bandstand was Â“Saturday Night LiveÂ”. Martinez had a municipal band and every Saturday night and Sunday afternoon they would go down and give a concert and everybody in town would be there. There were a lot of trees there and there were a lot of benches around for people to sit and congregate. It was really a lot of fun. All the kids would get together and just hang out. Next to the library was a store where there was so many things that I canÂ’t recall which was there at this time of my life. Next to that was HilsonÂ’s Department Store that stands there today. Across the street from Tatalini'Â’s shoe store was the Bank of Italy that is known today as the Bank of America. It was the Bank of Italy in those days because the owners name was Giannini. Going down the street was Pardini'Â’s Bakery. Poor old man Pardini there was more stories going around this poor man about how dirty he was but he managed to make a darn good living here in Martinez. As you went down the street was SabaÂ’'s a womenÂ’s dress store. Further down the street was a delicatessen named Martilacci'Â’s. Your great aunt, Phyllis Bruno Lewis, worked there when she was going to high school. Down the street from there was another Downey and Keller drug store. Across the street from there was Montgomery Ward. I am not sure when Montgomery Ward came to town. Further down the street was another grocery store (Castro and Main) and in the center of the 600 block of Main Street was this grocery store run by the Costanza brothers and your great uncle Butch worked there. There was a menÂ’s store Middleton and Marchi'Â’s and beyond that was another drug store run by Bob Sellers. Kitty corner from Bob Sellers was the Travelers Hotel which is the River House Hotel today. LetÂ’s go back up to Ferry Street and Escobar stands the McMann Building that has been there many years. Ferry Street Station, a restaurant is in the bottom half and on the top part there was a theater where plays were performed. Behind that was the funeral home which was run by Mr. Curry.
9: Another funeral home was run by Jack Connelly he came after Mr. Curry. His funeral home was located on Ferry Street across from Suzanna Street Park. As we go up Ferry Street to where Ward Street is you will find the State Theater which was a good sized theater for those days. Across the street from the State Theater was a pool hall where all the kids would congregate. Kids thought they were big stuff playing pool. Down to Castro and Green Streets was LasellÂ’s Grocery Store. It took up the entire block. Not only did they sell groceries but had a hardware store on one side. Aunt Phyllis went to work there and this is where she met Uncle Lou. Going up Alhambra Avenue, up on Alhambra and Haven Streets was PaulÂ’'s Restaurant. Everybody in the East Bay knew of PaulÂ’'s Restaurant. He had people coming from all over to dine at his place. Paul ran the restaurant with his wife, Tina Pagnini, which I will tell you about later on. On Escobar and Berrellesa was another restaurant called ArmandoÂ’s. It was an old home and in the bottom was a restaurant and above he rented rooms out. Armando was a great guy. In those days they had trucks and Mr. Cornelia had a vegetable truck and he would go around town and sell fresh vegetables off this truck. He made a very good living with this. Also they would deliver ice to your homes as well since we did not have refrigerators in those days but ice boxes. You would put the ice in this insulated box to keep the perishables from spoiling. The ice man in those days was dear old Pete Gotelli. He was a great man. He would always give the kids a chunk of ice to cool them in the hot weather. This was a big thing to us kids. The ice company was across the street from the jail at Escobar and Pine Streets. It was the Union Ice Company in those days and they would actually make the ice right there. I would love to go over there and watch them fill the containers. Down the street from there was the Avalon Theater. At one time Martinez had three theaters and today they have none. When we came to town in 1924, Martinez was the county seat, which is still is today. All your county buildings are located here. Sheriff Veale at that time was sheriff of Contra Costa County. He ran the jail and was the law enforcement in the unincorporated areas of the county and in towns where they had no police department. LetÂ’s go back up to Main Street where we lived by Main Street and Pine. We did not live on the corner but three houses up. On the corner lived Eleanor and Frank McGee who were one of my parentÂ’s dearest friends and like another mother to me. Next to McGeeÂ’s lived Mrs. Mayer who ran a boarding house. A boarding house in those days meant that you were able to rent a room and meals would be provided to you. She had a son by the name of Buster Mayer who was a very nice guy.
10: Then there was our house and next to our house was a vacant house. Next to the vacant house was a fourplex. Behind the vacant house was the Curry Mansion. This estate took up the other half of the block on the Escobar side. At the Pine and Escobar corner of the estate was filled with roses. It was so beautiful when they were in bloom. There was every kind of rose you could possible think of. Beyond the garden was the house itself and it was an immense house and it was truly tremendous. The house was owned by Mr. Curry who ran the funeral home that I told you about previously. He and his wife and her sister lived there. After Mr. Curry died the two sisters remained in the mansion. I remember spending many, many happy afternoons with the two sisters. They would ask me to come in and they would give me milk and cookies or whatever goodies they had. They were two very kind wonderful old ladies but I am sure they were probably not as old as I thought they were because as a child everyone seems old. Across the street from our house lived the McNamaraÂ’s. I truly and dearly loved to go over to the McNamaraÂ’s. They also had what in those days was called a mansion for they owned half of the block. They had huge trees in front of big white stately home. In the yard they had a garden swing. This garden swing had a seat on either side where you could seat and push back and forth. That was my high light to go over there and sit in that garden swing and swing back and forth. It was truly very elegant. Across from the McNamaraÂ’s was the Tinning home. It was not as big as the McNamaraÂ’s home and only took up a quarter of the block but it was a nice home. Mr. Tinning was a lawyer. Mrs. Mayer would often babysit for my parents whenever they would go out to a party or wherever they had to go and I would stay at her house over night if my parents were going to be out late. When I would stay over night, Mrs. Mayer would spoil me rotten. No matter what I asked for I received. As I grew older I was not the best child in the world as you will soon see. Every time we would go downtown or any place, please would stop my mother and say, "Â“Oh, what a beautiful child you have!"Â” and I think eventually it went to my head. You would say I was a bit spoiled. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I had met Peggy Combs, who I told you about earlier. We became vast friends and big Peggy would bring little Peggy up to our house where we played to our hearts content during the day. Remember me telling you about the vacant house next to our house? One day a construction crew of two or three men came over and started to repair and remodel the place for occupancy. Little Peggy and I would often go over there and talk to the workers and became friendly with them. This one workman had a 1928 Ford with a rumble seat in the back. I can remember it to this day it was a tan Ford with orange wheels. I will never forget that car. Well, this fellow would allow Peggy and I to go out and sit in the car and make like we were driving here and there. One day we were in our imaginary world in the car and spied the manÂ’'s lunch box sitting in the back window. The two of us decided rather quickly that we were starving to death and proceeded to eat this manÂ’s lunch.
11: At noon when the man came out to the car to get his lunch he found his lunch box totally empty except for the wax paper wrapping. Knowing that we had been in the car he came to our house and asked my mother, Â“"Did Lois and Peggy eat my lunch?Â”" My mother came in to question Peggy and me about this little caper, "Â“Did you eat this manÂ’s lunch?Â”" Being the honest kids that we were we said, Â“"Yes. We were hungry and so we ate it!" My mother was absolutely mortified. She could have killed us. Fortunately Mrs. Mayer lived next door with her boarding house so my mother went over to ask Mrs. Mayer if she could feed this man lunch. Mrs. Mayer was more than happy to oblige. Well you can imagine what happened to Peggy and I. My mother told us that she was going to call the sheriff's office and have them come to arrest us for stealing and take us to jail. Peggy went into hysterics weeping and crying at the thought of going to jail. I intervened with, Â“Peggy, "Don't cry. We wonÂ’t go to jail for I know all the deputy sheriffs and they wonÂ’t put me in jail.Â”" Peggy and I were sitting by the front window where she continued to cry her eyes out when Rupe McNamara, who was a deputy sheriff, came walking down the street. I thought Peggy was going to die she was so upset and scared. Of course I was the big shot who knew all the deputy sheriffs and I was going to protect my friend Peggy from these guys. "Â“Oh Peggy, stop it. Rupe wonÂ’t put us in jail!Â”" With that my mother went out and started talking to Rupe and with that I became a bit concerned that my mother was arranging for my detention in the county jail. As they finished talking Rupe walked on and went on to work. My mother came in the house and said, Â“"Rupe has to go down and sign in at work and then he will come back to pick up you two criminals. You have broken the law and must be punished for it.Â”" With that Peggy really went crazy, weeping, crying and carrying on. Needless to say, Rupe never came back to arrest us but we were punished and punished severely for Peggy and I were forbidden to see each other for quite some time. Now being that we were the best of friends that almost killed us. Now it came time for Peggy and I to start school. We were in kindergarten and we only went to school for half a day. In between that half a day they would give us a 10 minute recess. During recess Peggy and I always wanted to go on the bars but the older kids would never give us a turn. This one day we were determined to have our turn on the bars. When the bell rang to end recess the children marched into the classrooms while Peggy and I stayed outside and our fun on the bars with no interruptions. When our class returned to the room our teacher started taking roll and when she discovered that two of her charges were absent she became quite concerned. Immediately she called our mothers and told them that we were not in school and didnÂ’t know where we were. Of course, our mothers became quite worried and started to look for us all over town not suspecting for a moment that we would be in the schoolyard. Peggy and I were having a ball on the bars while our mothers searched for us. Finally our mothers were on their way to the school to tell the teacher that they were unable to locate Peggy and me when they see us on the bars out in the schoolyard. Needless to say, Peggy and I were in trouble again. They punished us, they did everything, they tried to scare us but Peggy and I did not scare to easily at that time.
12: Parents did not worry as much in those days as they do now for then Martinez was a small town and everybody knew everybody. When kids were out in the street playing the people would look out for each otherÂ’s children. Today you are afraid to let them out of your sight but in my childhood we would roam around going to this oneÂ’s house and that oneÂ’s house without any fear of anything happening. There were times when things would happen in Martinez but it was so seldom that there was nothing to be afraid of. Peggy and I got into a lot of little trouble together but we were only about 5 or 6 years old at this time so what big trouble could we get into. Time will tell. Now I am going to tell you about your great grandfather, Melvin Thomas Irwin. When we moved up to Martinez he was working at Associated Oil. He quit Associated Oil and went into the laundry business. In those days the laundry business was a door-to-door business. You went to the person'Â’s home and picked up their laundry and then he would take it Oakland to the Manhattan Laundry Company. He would drop off the laundry and the personnel would proceed to wash, clean, mend or whatever needed to be done. My father would go back in a day or two and pick up the laundry and return it to his customers. In those days there was a lot of pick up and delivery of services and goods like milk, ice, vegetables, eggs, fish and of course, laundry. Now my dad was a volunteer deputy sheriff in those days. My mother was into card playing and would often have her friends over in the evening for a game of cards. One evening when my mother was having a card party with many of the deputy sheriff'Â’s wives and few other friends. I was tucked in bed for the night. As my mother and her friends were peacefully playing cards when suddenly they were interrupted by a thunderous noise. Bombs began to explode. Bullets were flying from guns. The women panicked and began to seek shelter wherever they could find it. Some ran behind the upright piano. Some dove under the table. Some ran into the closet. They were so scared not knowing what was happening or why. Finally two of the women decided that they were going to be brave and find out what all the commotion was about. As they went outside they discovered this renegade band of deputy sheriffÂ’s lobbing cherry bombs onto the roof of our house. We were lucky that the house didnÂ’t catch on fire. Upon this discovery my mother was ready to kill these deputy sheriffs as were the wives of this guilty band of mischief makers. It was total pandemonium as you can well imagine. There was this other time when the same group of women were playing cards up at May MackÂ’s house which was located on Willow Street. Her home sat on the side of a hill. There had to be a good twenty steps to get up to her house. Same group of Â“bad boysÂ” decided to play another practical joke on this unsuspecting group of women. The men went down to Jack ConnellyÂ’s funeral parlor and obtain a body basket. Now this basket looked like a mummy basket and they would use it to remove dead bodies and take them back to the mortuary.
13: After obtaining this body basket they laid out your great grandfather since he was the lightest. So they quietly walked up the stairs and placed the basket on the front porch of May MackÂ’s. With giggles of anticipated delight, they rang the door bell and took their positions in hiding. When the women came to the door and saw the basket there it startled them and they opened the door and being that MayÂ’s front porch was narrow it knocked over the body basket and off it went sliding down the long, long staircase. It was a long rough ride for your great grandfather and he wound up having a lot of bumps and bruises all over his body. My mother thought he deserved each and every lump and had no sympathy for him whatsoever. At this time, my parents were doing quite well financially. I guess I was around six years old when they decided they were going to build their own house. So they bought a piece of property on Brown Street. And they went ahead and built this home. Oh, God, how I loved that home. It was on the side of a hill not a big hill but a slight hill and in Martinez there is a lot of adobe land and so you have to be very careful as to where you built and how you built. So what they did for the foundation they went and got some railroad ties and cut them in half. They put the railroad ties into the foundation to keep the foundation from cracking and splitting and then they went ahead and built the home. Well this home was my idea of a home. I dream of it to this day and I do mean dream when I sleepmany of times do I dream of it. It was around 936 Brown Street. And you went up these stairs and as you went into the front door you entered a small foyer that is a small hallway. Off to the right was the living room with a big fireplace. We always had a fire in it. I remember my dad would get those fires so hot that it would drive us out of the living room. In the back of the living room was a formal dining room that had a lovely dining room set in it. Oh, we used to have so much fun in that dining room. Behind that was the kitchen. It wasnÂ’t a large kitchen but it was a good sized kitchen. To the right of the kitchen was a breakfast nook where you had your table and chairs and maybe a little china cabinet in the corner where you put your dishes. To the other side of the kitchen was an alcove there that my dad used as his office for his laundry business. Then as you went down the hall from the front door you went to your right was two bedrooms and the bathroom. If you went straight ahead down the hall from the front door you would go upstairs to an attic. You would not believe there was more parties up in that attic than I can remember,. They had some dillyÂ’s. Of course, in those days it was prohibition where you could not buy liquor so you had to make your own liquor. In those days they would call it "hooch". Dad was in with the deputy sheriffs at that time, he was a volunteer deputy and some of the deputy sheriffs, I will name a few that I can remember, Joe Josephs, Rup McNamara, Mort Veale, Steve Nielsen, Jack Connelly and Cappy.
14: Cappy. What a dear man he was. He was the greatest guy that ever was. He worked at the SheriffÂ’s office and he was a combination of dispatcher and jailer. I would go over the jail when we lived on Main Street many, many times to visit Cappy. I really enjoyed being around him. I will never forget how great he used to treat me. He never really treated me as a little girl or a child. LetÂ’s get back to Brown Street. Like I said, we had many of parties. Well, I will never forget this time that the American Legend had a picnic. My dad was very active in the American Legend in those days. To raise money they would have picnics, dances and vaudeville shows at the State Theater. Well this one particular time they had a picnic and I canÂ’t remember where it was. When they decided to have this picnic they were going to raise some money so they decided to get a pig and roast it and raffle it off at the picnic. So they asked Armando if he would fix the pig. He agreed to do so and so he went out and got this pig. It was the whole pig - head and all. So he fixed the pig up and it was a beautiful pig, if you can call a pig beautiful. Well in the American Legend when they went to a convention, or any place else, they didnÂ’t do a little drinking they did a lot of drinking; beer, wine, whatever they could get their hands on. Well at this particular picnic Armando came with this gorgeous roasted pig. This pig was glazed to perfection with the biggest shiniest apple stuck in his mouth. So the pig was put aside until the end of the picnic. The intent was to sell the tickets and raffle the pig. The end of the picnic came and everyone went home everyone but the pig. They had gotten so drunk they forgot to raffle off the pig. So here was the American Legend stuck with this huge pig. What are we going to do with this pig? Someone got the bright idea to go up to IrwinÂ’s and have a party. You would think that they had enough partying but, no, they were fit to party some more. So off to my house they all go with the pig in tow. In the attic my dad had long tables set up on sawhorses. Everybody went up into the attic, the kids and everyone. The kids were always there. Kids were very much a part of the family in those days. No matter what the party was or where the party was, the kids were always invited. Of course, when they got up to the attic they had to have a few more drinks. Now it comes time to carve the pig. Who is going to carve the pig? One looked at one guy and then to the other but they were so drunk that they couldnÂ’t carve the pig. Even if sober, I doubt that anyone had the know how on how to carve a pig. Well if you ever wanted to see a mutilated pig you should have seen that one. They butchered the hell out of this poor pig. The pig was almost in strings by the end of the evening. Everybody had their fill of pig and everyone had a great time. There was another party at our house. The reason for it I cannot recall. Whenever we had a party up there all the deputy sheriffs would be there Â– it could be almost anybody there,Â– you just never knew. Included with the forenamed deputies who were in regular attendance as was dear old Mamie. At this particular party there had to be about 50 people there.
15: At about 3 or 4 in the morning someone decided it was time to go home. Outside as they were about to enter their car they discovered that they had a flat tire. They came back into the house to seek some assistance in changing the tire. True to form all were well liquored up and, of course, everybody had a desire to help their friend in need and fix the flat tire. Now Mamie was a vaudeville singer. She went outside and told the fellows that they she was going to fix the tire. Mamie had no clue as to how to fix a tire she was a vaudeville entertainer and she is going to fix this tire. She goes out and gets the pump. In those days they had to use a hand pump that went up and down. Mamie was a big woman she was probably as big as I am or maybe bigger. Well, she is out in the middle of the street at this early hour of the morning trying to fix the flat tire and singing at the top of her lungs. I can not recall what she was singing but I am telling you that you could hear her all over Martinez. The people next-door were quite reserved people and did not appreciate our parties one bit. Every time we had a party they would call the police because this gang was not quiet believe me. They proceed to call the police and the police would come up. It was kind of ridiculous for them to call the police because the police were often guests at our parties. Well, the police would show up for they had to do their official duties so they told us that their neighbors would appreciate their quieting down so they could get some rest. That was all Mamie had to hear and she proceeds to tell the police off like you would not believe. It ended up where the police came in and joined the party. That party was a fun party no one was hurt, everybody had a good time. In fact, all our parties were fun parties. We never had any trouble at none of them. Then I can remember another party, I think it was after one of the vaudeville shows at the State Theater that the American Legend put on. They decided that they would have a party at Jack and Bernice AhearnÂ’s. Everybody went up to Jack and BerniceÂ’s and, needless to say, they had all been drinking before the party started. Like I said it was a very drinking crowd. Jack and Bernice lived up on Green Street where Carmelo Carone is now living. Well we went up there and as usual it was the same crowd. I recall Steve Nielsen was there and he was a policeman for the City of Martinez. He was scheduled to work the graveyard shift and he was so drunk he could not even stand up let alone go to work. They had put Marie Ahern and me to bed earlier in the evening. When it was time for my parents to go home they got me up and we were walking out the door with Steve in hand. They were literally carrying Steve out. At the same time up the street comes Bill Reeder in the police car. At that time the police car was an old Model A sedan Ford, I will forget that car. Everyone knew that Bill was coming for Steve for he was BillÂ’s relief. They throw Steve into BerniceÂ’s garden. Bill Reeder knew the party was going on and asked, "Â“Have you seen Steve Nielsen?Â”" Â“"No, we havenÂ’t seen Steve all night. DonÂ’t know what happened to him but he didnÂ’t come up here.." Little did Bill know that Steve was ground cover in BerniceÂ’s garden. Poor Bill was stuck doing a double shift. Steve was finally taken home and God only knows what happened at the police department. There will be more about this party later on.
17: ME and my Mom and Dad
18: Eleanor and Frank Mc Gee had move up to Alhambra Avenue in a house across the street from the county hospital. We had gone up there for dinner and my dad had to go home to fix the leaking water heater. There was a knock at the door and Blum Rogers, the constable, was standing there looking very, very sober. Blum was not that kind of fellow for he was always jovial and happy. When we saw him this gave all of us grave concern for Blum was never like this. Blum came into the house and we knew something was terrible wrong. He wanted us all to sit down. We were all scared wondering what happened and for a moment I thought my dad had been in an accident. My dad had not been drinking at this particular time. After we were all seated, Blum said, "Â“I have some very tragic news to tell you.Â”" Now you remember me telling you some time back about Tina and Paul Pagnini owning this restaurant. Blum proceeded to tell us that Tina had been murdered that night. Of course, all of us were stunned, shocked and upset Tina was a wonderful, wonderful woman who was loved by everybody. She had a personality that you would never forget. It seems like this friend of theirs who was from Crockett was madly in love with Tina. He had come up to the restaurant and there was a screened porch on the side of the restaurant and Tina was out there. He had gone out to the side porch and declared his love for Tina and asked her to run away with him. Tina said no that she was very much in love with Paul and had two children and had no intention of running away with this guy. With that he takes a gun out shots and kills Tina and then turns the gun on himself. It was a very sad, sad tragedy. When we heard this nobody knew what to do. I was only eight years old at the time so I surely didnÂ’t know what to do. I can remember the adults sitting there in a daze looking ahead and then looking at Blum in disbelief. Â“Come on, Blum, this is nothing to horse around with.Â” Blum was not horsing around. It actually had happened. About that time my dad had returned to EleanorÂ’s house and we informed him of what had happened. He was just beside himself. Immediately he went down to PaulÂ’'s but before getting to the restaurant he stopped at St. CatherineÂ’s and picked up Father Bill Riley. Together they went over to PaulÂ’'s to see if there was anything they could do to help Paul. At that time of night there was very little they could do. They decided to wait until the next day to get their plans together. The next day, I remember that Melvin and Lillian Pagnini, Tina and Paul'Â’s children, were staying with some relatives in Clyde. So Father Bill, my dad and I were going to go out and tell the children that their mother had been killed. It was the hottest day of the year. It was so hot that Father Bill had taken his collar off. In those days a priest would never remove his collar in pubic. Father Bill always had a sense of comfort with my family so he took his collar off because it was that hot. My dad and Father Bill had a relationship much like mine and Father Coffey.
19: We get out to this house in Clyde; I remember a big porch on it. Father Bill told the children what had happened to their mother. The children were devastated and started to cry. They were so little at that time that I really did not comprehend all that was happening. We all came back home. We all attended TinaÂ’'s funeral and tried to console Paul the best we could but under the circumstances how could you console the grief he was experiencing. You just go about and do what you can by being a good friend. It was about this time that Eleanor McGee was expecting a baby. It was not too long after this that she had a baby girl and she named her Patricia. She is now Patty McGee Metrulas. Patty and I were raised as sisters almost. We were just like sisters to each other anyhow. Eleanor was my mother dearest friend here in Martinez as was Frank to my dad. They were together all the time. So Patty was quite a thrill to me. I treated her as if she was my baby and my little sister being that I was the only child in my family. I always wanted a baby sister or brother, a baby of my own, which I never had, of course. I always regretted that I didnÂ’t have a brother or sister. I felt it more so in later years when I started losing my family. It is then that you need a brother or sister to confide in. Yes, I had relatives; I had a lot of relatives. But it is not the same. It really is not the same. That is why I always said that when I got married I would never raise a child alone. I would always have two children so they could be a comfort to each other as they were growing up. Having a brother or sister I think is the greatest thing in the world. For there was so many a time that I wished I had someone to talk to when I couldnÂ’t talk to an adult. That is why you kids are so lucky. Vernon and Vince to have each other, and for Krista and Kory for you to have each other. I know Vince and Vern at this particular time probably know what I am talking about being that they just lost their father. I hope you kids will always remember that you have a brother or sister to go, to talk to, and to confide in. It means so much, it really does. You may not realize it now but in years to come you will. You will realize it an awful lot. That is why I treated Patty McGee like a sister because I was so desperate for a sister or brother. Yet in my adult life I seldom talk to Patty much. I havenÂ’t talked to anybody. I have kept more to myself and that is not good to do. Kids donÂ’t do it. If you ever have a problem that you can not go to an adult about go to your brother or your sister. DonÂ’t ever bring a child up alone if you can help it. It is very lonely out there by yourself. Believe me I know. It was about this time that my mother and father decided to put me in a private boarding school. Why they did this I never knew and to this day I really do.n'Â’t know why.
20: There was this boarding school over in Benicia, St. Dominic’s, and run by the Dominican Sisters. It is where Father Kevin Carr is today. Vince and Vern, you know what Dominican Sisters are all about. I was put in this school in the second grade. It was a very disturbing time for me for many reasons. One was that I didn’t know anybody over there. Secondly, I didn’t know why my parents had put me there. I kept wondering “Don’t they love me any more?” “Are they trying to get rid of me?” Many things went through my mind. I am sure none of them were right. I knew my parents loved me but I couldn’t figure out why my parents put me there. I would live there during the week and come home on weekends. I never really became friends with any of the kids there. I was kind of a backward child, not really backward but more of shy child. It was hard for me to make friends. If a child did not come up to me and offer their friendship, I was the type that would not go up to them. It was a lonely year and I was there for one full year. I often wanted to ask my mother why they had put me there. I never did. It was dumb. I should have asked her. Many of nights I would lay and cry my eyes out wondering “Why am I here?” “Don’t my parents love me anymore?” “What is the reason for it?” “I am sure they didn’t put me here because they didn’t love me.” To a child in the second grade and at eight years old thought all kinds of things especially when it is not explained to them. “Why are you doing this?” “What reason are you doing this?” “I am sure there is a reason for it.” I just never asked. I received my Holy Communion there. I can’t remember too much about it. I can remember sleeping in the dorms and having a fairly good time. The kids would get out of bed when the nuns went to sleep and stand around and giggle. I can remember the horrible food. I think that is why I don’t like soup today, no, I don’t think, I know that is why I don’t like soup. They gave us soup, I swear to God, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyday there was not a day that went by that did not have soup. Sometimes in the morning we would have cooked cereal or mush or whatever you wanted to call it and it was horrible. That was a bad year in my life now that I think about it. At the end of the school year I was taken out of school and it was at the time of the Depression. I guess my mother and dad did not have the money to keep me there any more so that they had no choice and had to take me out. When the Depression hit we lost the Brown Street house. We had to give it to the bank or whoever my mother and father had borrowed the money from we had to give it back to them. We moved to an apartment on Talbert and Main Street which is still standing there now. Up until this time from the time my mother married my dad until now she didn’t work but when the Depression hit my dad was out of job, we had no money, so we had to move into this very small apartment on Main and Talbert. We had a front room, a bedroom, and a kitchen. That was all there was. I had to sleep in a pull down bed in the living room. It was then that my mother had to go to work at Wards. The reason she got the job at Wards was because she had so much experience before she married my dad working at Livingston’s in San Francisco and stores in Oakland. My dad was working as a door-to-door
21: salesman selling vacuums, tools, anything in order to bring a dollar into the household. Things were very rough in those days. If it weren't for my mother, we would have had nothing. I remember this one day when I had a argument with my mother. Seems like I wanted to go to the show. In those days the show cost 10 cents to get in. During the Depression 10 cents was a lot of money. My mother said, "No!" I couldn't go for she did not have the money. I got very upset. I told her that I was going to run away from home. My mother gave me permission to go. I walked out the front door and got outside and got to thinking, "Where am I going to go?" Here I am at nine years old and where was I going to go? Jack and Bernice Ahern lived about three blocks from us so I decided to go over there and I will make my mother worry a bit. So I went over to Jack and Bernice's and walked into the house and they had no idea what was going on. Marie was going to go to the show that day and they asked me if I was going to the show. “No, my mother wouldn’t give me any money to go to the show.” The Ahearn’s agreed to give me a dime so I could accompany their daughter Marie to the movies. Jack had been working McMann’s driving gravel in a truck so he had a steady job. Marie and I went to the show. In the meantime my mother started calling around to find out where I was. Jack and Bernice told her that Marie and I had gone to the movies. I truly thought I was putting something over on my mother. When we came back from the show I had to think fast. I couldn’t stay at Jack and Bernice for they would think something was truly wrong so I decided that I would go home and pretend that nothing had happened. I went home and walked up the flight of stairs leading to our second floor apartment. When I went in there was my mother with a suitcase in her hand. “Where are you going?” I asked. “I am not going anywhere. I just packed some clothes for you to leave. You told me that you were going to run away from home so I thought I would help you.” replied my mother. Oh my God, I didn’t know what to do then and where am I going to go. I knew the Ahearn’s would not be too thrilled to have me stay there because I was in the wrong. It turned out that I apologized to my mother for putting her through this ordeal. In spite of my apology I was punished for what I did. Sunday school in those days was similar to CCD but held in the summer time. They held it in the churchyard. The old church was on the same property where the present church St. Catherine’s is today. The churchyard used to be where the new church was erected. I can remember the yard was filled with olive trees. Under the olive trees they would set up these long tables. They would have some religion like CCD and they would have crafts. You would make holy cards or whatever they had on hand for the day. It was a lot of fun to go over there – the kids really enjoyed it. I went for about two or three years until I started to go to my grandmother’s in Alameda for my summer vacations.
22: My mother was working at Wards and didn't want me running around town by myself for I was only nine years old. Following summer school, I was sent to Alameda. I had many, many nice summers in Alameda with my grandparents. I really enjoyed going down there. I had some friends who live one house up from my grandmother's. Their last name was Curtzwater. There was Sis, Frances, Imogene and Charlie. We were inseparable during the summer. We were together constantly. We would go down to Washington Park and go swimming at the beach accompanied by my grandmother. We would had a ball. Summers were always good. My grandmother was older than the average grandmother but she was so good hearted and took us kids everywhere. She would take us to the beach at Washington Park or to Neptune Beach. She took us to a lot of places. This went on for two or three years until I got to be twelve years old. The summer of my twelfth birthday, we were pretty much on our own by then. We would go to Washington Park or Neptune Beach just handing around the area there. Going to Neptune Beach was really a lot of fun and we all enjoyed it very much. Neptune Beach was very much like Santa Cruz is today with all the amusement rides. It also had three huge swimming pools and I mean they were BIG. Bigger than the Olympic sized pools they have today. We would go down there and go on the rides and the rides in those days were 5 or 10 cents depending on the ride. We had to pay 10 cents to get into Neptune Beach. We had no intention of paying the entrance fee for that would mean one or two less rides for us. Out in Washington Park there was a jetty. We had heard that out at the end of the jetty there was a wire fence in the water that separated Neptune Beach from Washington Park. And in that fence there was a hole. So we decided that would be our means of admission to Neptune Beach. The jetty was a slab of concrete and out to where the hole in the fence was some dredgers had dug three or four big holes in the water. It was dangerous to swim out there. There was a huge sign saying, "DANGER! NO SWIMMING!" The undertow would drag you down into these huge holes. We had no fear of these holes and I couldn't swim. I would have been a goner. That didn't bother us kids - nothing was going to happen to us. We would get out on the jetty and slip through the hole and into Neptune Beach free of charge. We would get in there and go on the rides. We went so many times and were there so often that we became acquainted with some of the kids that worked there. I guess these kids were around 16 and 17 years old. We decided that we were going to get a boyfriend with the guys that ran the rides figuring that they would give us free rides all the time. Well, we did. I remember at the time I was madly in love with this fellow named Snow. The reason his name was Snow was because his hair looked like it was bleached platinum but it was his real color. Snow ran the Little Dipper. The Little Dipper was a small roller coaster. We would buy one ticket and we would get 10 to 15 free rides - we would ride until we got tired of riding.
23: One of the other girls had a boyfriend who ran the Swings. The swings are seats attached to a chain and then would be propelled around this huge mast. We were not too crazy about this ride because one day as were waiting to get on the ride one of the chains broke on the swing and it scared us to death. Fortunately, the guy on the ride wasn't killed because right next to the swings was one of these huge swimming pools that I told you about earlier. When the swing broke it landed in the swimming pool. This was fortunate for the guy on the swing. He was shaken up quite a bit but exited with his life and some bruises. Another one of the boyfriends ran the Giant Dipper that was another roller coaster. At that time I don't think this was worst one in the United States. But it was bad. As a rule we would always get into the last car. On this particular day, the last seat was taken, so we had to take the next to the last seat. When you get into these cars there was seat belt that they would use to strap you in. On this occasion, the guy occupying our regular seat on the Giant Dipper was drunker than a skunk. The Giant Dipper ride had a very sharp turn toward the end of the ride. This sharp turn would cause the riders to jerk from one side of the seat to the other. This guy was trying to be a big shot and showing off. He unbuckled his seat belt and stood up as we neared this sharp curve. All of a sudden he lot his balance and flipped out of the roller coaster crashing to the rocks below. I was never so shaken up in all my life. There was no way to stop this roller coaster until it came to rest at the station. When we got back to depot everyone on the roller coaster was hysterical at what we had witnessed. The ride operator seeing our hysteria tried to calm us down down and find out what was going on. Finally, we got control of ourselves and were able to tell him what had occurred. Immediately, he called Security and the head of Neptune Beach, Mr. Strubel, who in turn called the ambulance. When they reached this man out on the rocks they discovered he was dead. Falling 150 feet from the ride onto the rocks would do that for sure. It was quite some time before we went back on that ride. Seems like every ride we went on we had some type of accident or tragedy. I remember one day when we had gone on the Little Dipper. The difference on the two rides was that the attendant could ride in the back seat. From there the attendant was able to control the speed of the ride ,as well as, make it stop and start. Along the route of the rise were warning signs warning about keeping your arms inside the car at all times. This day there was this young girl who was trying to impress her friends by standing up and showing off. Snow, the ride attendant, kept yelling, "SIT DOWN! STOP! KNOCK IT OFF!" This young girl refused to listen to Snow.
24: Suddenly we see her put her hand out to the side of the fast moving car. Her hand made contact with this 6"x6" post. Going that fast the damage was immense to her arm. It broke both bones and was hanging limp like a piece of string from her shoulder. Snow stopped the ride immediately. Snow then got out of the car and walked the track and the girl to calm down so he could place her dangling arm in her lap. Snow then took the ride to depot. Snow then called Security and Mr. Strubel who then called the ambulance that took the girl to the hospital. I can guarantee that if this young girl ever rode the Little Dipper again she did not put her arm out. So you kids, if you ever get on these rides, please do so with caution and obey any signs that are posted. They are there for your safety and protection. They are not posted to ruin your fun. Don't believe for a minute that you are beyond being hurt or killed. I have witnessed both and I don't want this happening to you. GRANDMA'S HOUSE | My Aunt Sylvia Argenti and son, my cousin, Harold Argenti. | At this time when I was staying with my grandmother, Uncle Richie was living at home. He was divorced from his wife, Sylvia. He was fairly young probably somewhere in his thirties. Uncle Richie was the biggest tease you would ever meet. He would tease me unmercifully. This one day Uncle Richie was at his best with his teasing. Krista, I was very much like you and I didn't like to be teased. Uncle Richie continued non-stop with his teasing of me on this occasion. I, on the other hand, was yelling at him to stop his teasing and tormenting me. That plea fell on deaf ears. My patience snapped. Uncle Richie had two eggs sitting on the table. He was standing at the stove and he was preparing to cook the two eggs for his breakfast. I went over to the table and picked up these two eggs and walked to the other side of the room and hurled those two eggs right at his head. One egg spattered against the wall. The other egg hit my target - Uncle Richie's head! To say Uncle Richie was surprised was being quite modest. He was so shocked he didn't know what had hit him.
25: My grandmother on the other hand was angry. Here were these eggs splattered all over her immaculate kitchen. It was on the floor, on the walls, on the cupboards, on the ceiling - it was everywhere!!! My grandmother directed the majority of her anger at my Uncle Richie for she too had asked him to stop teasing me. He refused to heed her plea as well. This teasing routine would continue throughout the summer with me mad at him. In spite of all the teasing, I knew that Uncle Richie really loved me. I figured that he would have ignored me if he didn't care. I just wish the attention he paid to me could have been a little different but it wasn't. In spite of it all, I loved Uncle Richie dearly. Friday's was market day. Uncle Richie would take grandma and me earl in the morning to market. I swear, we were at the front door when the market firsts opened and it was still dark outside. It was the Sixth Street Market on the corner of Sixth and Harrison in Oakland. Close where Jack London Square is today. We would go through the market and buy all the groceries for the week. This market had every vegetable, fruit, cheese, poultry, fish and meats you could ever want. I loved to go over there This was still during the Depression. | My grandparents were able to keep ahead of the Depression. My grandfather was a shoemaker. He had a specialty making shoes for crippled people. He had his shoppe down in the basement of their home. The crippled people would have a special needs for instance, a person would have a leg shorter than the other, my grandfather would make a shoe with a platform on it and raise the shorter leg to be even with the normal leg. My grandfather had customers from all over the United States. His customers would come to his shoppe and he would make a mold of their foot. Whenever they wanted a new pair of shoes they would write to my grandfather and tell him what they wanted and he would fashion the shoes to meet their special needs. Then he would mail the new shoes to his customers. With this trade, he was able to stay one step ahead of the Depression. | My grandfather, Antonio Argenti, in front of his store. My grandfather was a brilliant man. He was very artistic. He was very skills with his trade.
26: Let's get back to the market. My grandmother and I were looking at all the goods. My grandmother was a very frugal person. First, my grandmother and I would purchase all the food we needed at the Sixth Street Market. Then we would walk up to the Tenth Street Market on the corner of Tenth and Washington. The Tenth Street Market was very similar to the Sixth Street Market except that it had a larger clothing department. We would make our purchases as needed and from there we would walk up to the Washington Market which was between 13 and 14th Streets on Washington in Oakland. There we would buy our grandfather's cheese.. He loved cheese like you would not believe. The more it stunk the better he liked it. He just adored his cheese. We would go up to the Washington Market and get grandpa's cheese and whatever other purchases we needed to get. Then we would take the groceries and go back to the car dealership where Uncle Richie worked. We would leave the foods that were non-perishable with him and he would bring them home when he came home for lunch. Grandma and I would take the perishable items with us on the bus. We would arrive at the Sixth Street Market around 7:00 a.m. and it would be around 12 noon before we arrived home. That was the weekly routine for our Fridays - it was like I was still experiencing it even today. OPENING THE POSEY TUBE There was the opening of the Posey Tube. The Posey Tube runs from Oakland to Alameda. A tube is an underwater tunnel. I think it opened in 1928 but it was quite an accomplishment when they finished the Posey Tube. It was the first tube to be built either in the United States or in California. Prior to the tube the island of Alameda was connected to Oakland by means of a draw bridge over the Oakland Estuary. Whenever the ships needs to pass through the waterway the bridge would be raised to allow them passage. With the construction of the Posey Tube the need for the drawbridge was removed. There was a big celebration when the Posey Tube opened. I can remember walking through the Posey Tube on the day it was opened. The tube is approximately two-miles long. Opening day was reserved to pedestrian traffic only. On each side of the tube were walkways provided for pedestrians for when was open to vehicle traffic. Often there were times when we kids would walk through the Posey Tube in order to go to a movie in Oaklnad but most importantly to save the 10-cent bus fare. In those days, you always dressed when you went to Oakland. You put on hat, gloves and your finest shoes. I can recall this one day when my grandmother had dressed me up and we were going to the show and she put this white coat in a waffle weave on me. All of us kids walked through the tube. By the time I got to the other side, my white coat was a dingy black. My grandmother was not at all thrilled by my appearance when I returned home. Fortunately, my grandmother was able to clean the coat and make it new again.
27: In the evenings we would always go down to one of the relatives homes, either Aunt Julia or Aunt Del. They were really my great aunts. We would go down and visit and play cards with them. I loved being around the two of them. In fact, Aunt Del, who was the youngest of the sisters, would go shopping with me and we always had a great time. We would visit with Aunt Del the most. At the end of the game time, our hostess would bring out coffee and tea and they would always have a goodies - a pastry, a cookie, a cake, or custard. We would all sit down and have our evening snack. Then we would get up and walk home. This might be 9:00 or 10:00 at night. We would have about a mile to walk. Aunt Del lived on 9th Street down by the water and my grandparents lived on Pacific Avenue. My grandfather and grandmother loved to play cards, oh, how they loved to play cards. They could play Pedro every night of the year. They would have the next door neighbors join them on many occasions to play Pedro. This is where I learned how to play Pedro at the age of 12 and I played very well. If my grandparents only had three people playing then it was my lucky night and I got to be included in the game. When they played Pedro everyone would have their glass of red wine sitting next to them. They never got drunk that I can recall but they would always have their glass of red wine every evening. My grandfather made his wine out in the garage that was typical of many Italian families in that era. He had a wine cellar in the basement. It was the best wine cellar I had ever seen. You would do a lot of visiting back in those days. Not everyone had cars and there was no television. Our lives centered around the nucleus of the family. It was always family with us in Alameda. Whatever we did or planned it always included the family. | Having a car in those days, you were considered indeed wealthy. I will never forget that Uncle Richie had a car, a Ford, because he worked for the Ford dealership in Oakland, and Louie Bruzzone had a car, a Chevy, because he worked for Cochran and Celli in Oakland. They each had a company car just like your dad, Vince and Vern. Louie and Lena Bruzzone and their sons, Keith and Leland, would come over on the weekends and pick up my grandfather, my grandmother, and me and take us out for our Sunday ride That was a big occasion to be able to get into a car and take a leisurely drive on a Sunday afternoon. | An Argenti Family Outing
28: There was many a Sunday afternoon that we would take a ride back here to Martinez where Lena's Uncle Andrew had a ranch on Taylor Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road. We would love to come out to Uncle Andrew's. He had a big bocce ball court, a huge barbecue pit and a mammoth barn - it was just super out there. Sometimes we would come out in the afternoon and then there were times we would come out in the morning and spend the entire day. How the men loved to play bocce ball! They would get out there and have the biggest darn arguments you could ever imagine over who had the ball closest to the palino. It was really one big, happy time. My summers were never dull. I always had some to do or somewhere to go. with my summer days with my grandparents. I loved being with my grandparents. Sometimes we would go out to Hayward to purchase fresh flowers from the hot houses that were out there. We would get our flowers and then go visit the cemetery and place them at the graves of deceased relatives. Going to Neptune Beach, having picnics, playing with the Curtzwater kids, hanging around the house or going to the homes of relatives made my summers so very pleasant and full in Alameda. I would go to Alameda every summer until my 13th or 14th year. At that age my mother figured I was old enough to stay at home without too much supervision. I would have to check in with my mother frequently during the day while she worked at Montgomery Wards and keep her appraised of where I was, who I was going with, and when I planned to be home. From Talbart Street, we moved to Mr. Ventimiglia's apartment on the corner of Estudillo and Thompson Streets. It was a three-room upstairs apartment that had a kitchen, a bedroom and living room. Again, I got the pull down bed in the living room. I seldom had a room of my own while I was growing up. It was still the Depression and my father was still out of work and my mother was working at Wards. I felt so sorry for my dad. He would try to do his best as a door-to-door salesman but people just didn't have the money to buy anything that was not absolutely necessary. If it was not for my mother and her job, we never would have made it. Across the street from where we lived, where the Oil Workers Union is now, used to be the IDS Hall. Inside there was a skating rink. In my dad’s younger days he was quite the skater. One night, after having a few drinks, he decided to go over to the rink and dazzle everyone with his skating ability. My dad at this time was around 40 years old. He goes over and proceeds to get on the rink and he soon discovered that he was not as good as he was in the good old days. The wheels went one way and he went another and before long he was spread out flat on his face. Blood was gushing from his newly broken nose. My mother was very upset by his antics. It was becoming more and more apparent that my dad was having a drinking problem.
29: My mother had a very nice singing voice. Before her marriage to my dad, my mother had taken vocal lessons for opera and classical songs. When she came to Martinez she wanted to continue singing lessons to keep her voice in shape so she could sing in the church choir at St. Catherine’s. My mother and Jack Ahern would often sing at the funerals for deceased Martinez residents. My mother would often get paid for her singing at a funeral or a wedding. The money my mother earned with this talent came in handy during those Depression years. My mother continued to sing in the church choir at St. Catherine’s until the time she left Martinez and moved back to Alameda. During this time there were two parish priests, Fr. O’Connell and Fr. Bill Riley, who became very dear friends with my parents. Fr. O’Connell was the pastor and Fr. Bill was a very young priest. Both of them lived in the old parish house and when I say, old, I do mean old. It was located where St. Catherine of Siena school is now. Fr. O’Connell was bound and determined that he was going to build a new parish house and he did. After the house was built, my family would go up there frequently to visit with them, much like we did with Fr. Coffey. Up in the pastor’s room was a hidden bar behind this wall. You would touch it in a certain spot and the wall would swing around and expose the bar. It was different in those days not like today where priests drink openly in public. Priests were revered and respected like great white gods back then. Fr. Bill became very close to our family. My father and Fr. Bill would do a lot of things together. My dad often helped the parish priests with fund raising events. My father loved doing things like that. Fr. O’Connell thought that St. Catherine’s was going to be his life parish. One day notice came that Fr. O’Connell and Fr. Bill were both being transferred. Fr. O’Connell was so upset about having to leave Martinez. Fr. O’Connell decided that he was not going to be transferred as a priest so he became a monk. He remained a monk until the day he died. Fr. Bill decided that he was not going to be transferred either. He went to school for five years in order for him to go to work teaching those that had speech and hearing impairments. Fr. Bill returned to the area and founded St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf and Dumb in Berkeley. Later Fr. Bill became the pastor of the church on 40th and Grove Streets where he remained for quite a few years before returning to St. Joseph’s. Fr. Bill had his mother come and live with him. She was well up in her years and she was so cute and so sweet. Fr. Bill passed away around 1965. Fr. Bill was my friend and my confidante – someone I could go to anytime and tell him anything. He would sit so patiently and listen and then give me advice in a gentle loving way.
30: My grandfather Irwin passed away in 1933. I really never got to know my grandfather Irwin too well. Grandpa Irwin was a streetcar conductor. My grandfather had the Ashby line that ran through Berkeley. The streetcars were furnished with cowcatchers. The cowcatchers were used to remove debris from the tracks so the streetcars wouldn’t derail. One day was Grandpa Irwin was putting the cowcatcher in place it hit his knee. The injury was so severe that he had to have his leg amputated. He was unable to work following that accident and died soon after when gangrene set in on his amputated leg. It was soon after the passing of Grandpa Irwin that Dorothy Irwin came to stay with us during a vacation period. My family was still living on Estudillo Street. | I recall this one day that Dorothy and I got into this terrible fight, which we seldom did, but this one day we really had it out. Dorothy was so mad at me, and I truly don’t recall the reason, but she went into the kitchen as we were yelling and screaming at each other and she went over to a drawer and pulled out a knife. I looked at her with great caution for I was sure she was going to come at me with this knife in her hand. I was scared to death. I didn’t know what she was going to do. About this time my dad came in the door. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was about to be rescued from this crazy cousin of mine. Dorothy gained her senses and put the knife down. My father never did know that Dorothy had taken a knife to me for even as mad as we were with each other we never told on each other. This was truly an unusual situation for Dorothy and I for on the norm we got along very well – even to this day we are still good friends in spite of the fact that we don’t see other that often. It was around this time that we moved down to Ferry Street. We moved into the Prosser Apartments. It is across the street from Le Beau’s and upstairs from the Antique Store at the corner of Ferry and Marina Vista (which was then Howard Street). | My cousin, Dorothy Irwin, and me | As you now know we were very close to the railroad station and the tracks. Every time a train would go by it would shake the entire apartment. If it were not for the rumble of the train, you would think it was an earthquake.
31: One this one occasion, Peggy Combs came to spend the night with me. We were in our usual three-room apartment – the front room, the bedroom and the kitchen. As usual I got the pull down bed in the living room. Another name for a pull down bed is a Murphy bed. Peggy and I were sleeping in the front room when around 3:00 a.m. this freight train came through. It must have been really loaded for it shook the building terribly. I being used to the swaying of the building at all hours of the day or night was not fazed by this train but poor Peggy who was so unaccustomed to such shaking woke up and sat straight up in bed. Picturing her in mind to this day brings me to laughter. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she is shaking me awake. “Lois. Lois. Wake up! There’s an earthquake!” “ “No, Peggy, it is not an earthquake.” “Then what is it that is rattling this house?” demanded Peggy. “It’s a train,” I said reassuringly. Peggy could not believe that a train could shake a house to its foundation such as this one did. Well Peggy and I got the giggles which was not unusual for us to do. You could drop a pin the wrong way and we would go into wails of laughter. Peggy and I giggled and giggled and giggled. I was getting tired and wanted to go to sleep but Peggy wanted to stay up and complain about the train. In those days they heated the apartments with steam heat. Mr. Prosser would get around 4:30, maybe 5:00, to start the boilers up that would heat the apartment house. By the time the tenants in the apartments woke up steam would be coming through the pipes and the apartments would be heated. The steam would travel up to radiators that were located in each individual apartment. The steam as it heated up the expanding pipes would make a banging sound. Well on this particular night Peggy had no sooner gotten to sleep when Mr. Prosser had gone down to light the boilers. Shortly after he lit the boilers the radiator in our apartment starting banging. The radiator was located right next to the bed right next to Peggy head. When the banging commenced up shot Peggy in bed again. Her eyes were again wide with fright and confusion. Following my explanation about the noise intrusion, Peggy and I again collapsed into our routine giggles. | Me, and my dearest friend, Peggy Combs
32: THE WALSHS There was a family called the Waltzes. They lived in the SP Section house. A Section house was a house where the foreman for the Southern Pacific railroad would live. He was the supervisor to workers who would go along the railroad tracks to be sure that the tracks were in good condition and if repairs were needed they would take care of them. Most of these workers were of Mexican descent. Pete Walsh would go out on the section of tracks that he was responsible for and be sure that they were safe. His daughter, Mary and I, became very good friends. We attended the same school and we were also in the same class together. We spent a lot of time together. The Walsh’s had a good size family. Mary’s brother, Timmy, Mary, and I were all around the same age. Our favorite pass time was touch football right on Howard Street. Back in those days there was very little traffic on Howard Street. The street did not extend to the Shell Oil Company as it does today. We would play touch football for hours and hours. I think that is why I love football to this day. I was addicted when very young. Often we would go down to the Walsh’s and play games. Because of the size of their family, there were lots and lots of games available to play. When Mary and I wanted to go to the store and Mrs. Walsh had no money in the house she would send Mary down the tracks in search of her dad. Sometimes we would have to walk as far as Port Costa to find him and obtain the 10-cents necessary to go to the show. I can recall that Mrs. Walsh cooked with kerosene. She would light this kerosene stove to cook her meals on. Mary Walsh and I have been friends ever since. That is close to 50-years ago. We are still friends to this day. Mary Walsh used to run The Trestle Market, a little store at the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Alhambra Way. Vince and Vern, you might remember her for she would load you up with candy each time you would go there with me. | My Friend, Mary Walsh
33: SUMMER CAMP I will never forget the summer that my mother decided that it was time for me to go to camp. There was this camp up at the Russian River at Mount Rio run by the nuns. They were going to send me for two-weeks up to this camp. I was supposed to be very happy over this and real excited. My parents take me up to camp after weeks of preparation. I knew from the moment I got there that I was not going to be a happy camper. They left me and the minute they left me I got homesick. I decided I would stick it out for the two week being the good kid I am. They had little cabins and they assigned four kids to a cabin. They were nice individual little cabins. I was assigned to this one little cabin. Homesick – I was never so homesick in my life. We would walk two miles down into town. Every time we would walk to town I would call my mother and tell her I want to come home that I did not like it up here and plead with her to come and get me or I will leave on my own. My mother kept reassuring me to wait a couple of days until my dad got time off and I will come and get you. I would wait a couple days and call her again with repeating my previous threats. This went on about three times on the phone. My mother finally got the point - this was not the camp for me. I would go in and lay on my bed and cry my eyes out. I wanted to go home and that was all there was to it. Finally my mother got the message and she sent my dad up. I had my clothes all packed from the minute I hung that phone up. When the nuns saw my dad they couldn’t figure out what was going on. “Mr. Irwin what are you doing here?” “I am here to pick up Lois.” “Pick up Lois? Why?” My dad explained that I was very homesick and the nuns were very upset that I didn’t tell them how upset I was. It was just that I was terribly homesick and I wanted to go home. | Just me High School Days
34: PARENTS SPLIT You recall when I told you that my dad had been drinking quite a bit. Socially at that time and it got to the point where it was not social anymore. He was drinking for any reason that came along. It got to the point that my mother would not take it anymore. My mother and father separated. My mother and I moved into an apartment next door to the apartment we were living in. It was a two-room apartment that consisted of a front room and a kitchen. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. Unless you have gone through it nobody knows what it is to have your parents split up. I remember one day when my dad was calling for me from the next apartment. I was not afraid of my dad but I did not like it when he was drinking. I would pretend that I didn’t hear him. This particular day he kept calling me and calling me. I finally stopped to listen and realized that it was a call for help. Mustering as much courage as I could I ventured next door to find out what he wanted. I opened the door and walked in and discovered that my dad was in bed and he was far from being drunk. I can see him to this day lying in that bed barely breathing. Dear God, what is the matter with my dad? My mother was working so I ran over to Mrs. Prosser’s apartment and told her that something was wrong with my dad. I asked permission to use the phone and I immediately called my mother at work and told her that she had to come home immediately that something was wrong with terrible wrong with dad. She got time off and came home and called the doctor. The doctor told my mother that my dad had double pneumonia. My dad being a veteran of World War I and he hadn’t been working and could not afford to go into the community hospital so it was arranged that he would go in the hospital at Fort Miley in San Francisco. This was about 1936, 1937. I can remember the ambulance coming and taking him out and being young I couldn’t understand it all. I just remember that I was heartbroken. For a while there it was touch and go and we didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember we were at my Uncle Richie’s for Thanksgiving. My Uncle Bert came to pick me up and take me over to the hospital to see my dad. My dad was there for quite a while for well over a month. When he was discharged from the hospital, my dad had no place to go. He and my mother had talked things over and my dad promised that he would not drink anymore and they went back together again. We were fortunate enough to get our old apartment back which was much more spacious than the one my mother and I occupied. It was around this time that my dad got a job at Shell Oil. Things were going pretty good for some time after this.
35: One day in 1938, my mother came home and told me that my dad was back in the hospital. He had burnt his legs from his ankles to his knees. He was working the graveyard shift and in those days they did not have the safety precautions that they have today. He was a gauger and there was this ditch in which they would run hot oil that was not going to be processed. There were platforms going over these ditches of hot oil. Somehow my dad fell into this ditch of hot oil and I mean hot boiling oil. This ditch was anywhere from 18” to 24” deep. He burnt his legs with third degree burns. It was terrible. They took him up to the hospital and Dr. Taylor had just gotten out of the Navy at the time and he was at the hospital when my dad was admitted. Dr. Merrithew took one look at my father’s legs and he wanted to amputate both of his legs. My father being a stubborn Irishman said, “You are not amputating my legs no matter what.” Dr. Taylor came by and assured my dad that there was no reason for his legs to be amputated. Dr. Merrithew wanted to know what treatment Dr. Taylor would use on legs that had nothing left on them but bone. Dr. Taylor told him that he saw all kinds of horrific burns during his tour with the Navy and he knew he could save my dad’s legs. When I think of the treatments my father endured during this time I get chills up my back. They were putting this jelly on his legs and leave it there for a couple of days until it got very crusted. Then they would pull the scabbing off. This was quite painful and you could hear my dad screaming in torture all over the hospital, if not Martinez, when this procedure was going on. This went on for some length of time but in the end my father did not have to have legs amputated even though there was hardly any skin on his legs. Throughout the rest of his life he had to be very protective of his legs and always wore knee length socks. I guess this is why I admired Dr. Taylor so much and had faith in any thing he told me. After this experience, which was a very trying for my dad, he started to drink again. Of course, he was not working due to his legs and my mother would not put up with the drinking. Again my mother told him that she was leaving that she could not stand this any longer. My mother and I moved in with Frank and Eleanor McGee on Main Street back to the old neighborhood where we lived when we first moved to Martinez. I can remember my dad coming down and saying good-bye to me. He was going to Oakland to live with his mother for he could not afford the apartment.
36: Cousins are people that are ready made friends, you have laughs with them and remember good times from a young age, you have fights with them but you always know you love each other, they are a better thing than brothers and sisters and friends cause there all pieced together as one. | Being an only child the cousins of my youth, Harold Argenti and Dorothy Irwin, were my best friends ... but I can not exclude my mischief making friend, Peggy Combs | ME | Me | Imogene Curtzwater and Me | Harold and Me | Dorothy, friends and Me | Puppu and Me
37: "There is no friendship, no love, like that of a mother for her child."
38: He told me how sorry he was that he was putting me through all of this. I can remember trying to be so brave because again my family was splitting up. It is terrible things for a child to go through believe me to have your mother in one spot and your father in another. It does something to a child that no one will ever understand unless they go through it. My dad was not a bad person, he was a wonderful man, truly a wonderful man but he just had a weakness that he did not know how to control. Dad went off to Oakland and I didn’t see him for two to three weeks. It was killing me. I mean literally killing me. I kept thinking, “What’s the matter doesn’t my dad love me any more? Why doesn’t he call? Why doesn’t he get in touch with me?” Little did I know that he had gone to a detox center to get cured of his drinking problem. In the meantime, we were living with Frank and Eleanor McGee and they split up due to Frank’s drinking. There was a lot of drinking going on in those days due to the Depression. Lot of men were out of work and the pressures got to them and they would drink. Frank and Eleanor were the agents for the San Francisco Chronicle and they would oversee the delivery of the newspaper to the homes in Martinez. Frank would work on the papers in the garage behind their house. Eleanor, Patty, my mother and me moved up to this house on Haven Street where we lived for a couple of years. I was starting junior high at that time. This was one reason Patty McGee and I were so close. We were as close as sisters. We had some good times at the Haven Street house but I did miss my father terribly. My dad was a good-hearted man. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was a very jovial person and very free with the money. Finally Frank straightened himself out and my dad straightened himself out. Eleanor went back to Frank and my mother and dad were back together again. I was jubilant with delight. It was then that we moved to an apartment on Pine and Mellus Streets that is located across the street from the new the new jail. We graduated to a four- room apartment that sported a front room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. We still had a pull down in the living room but this time a cot was placed in the dining room for me to sleep on It was about this time that I started going over to Lafayette and spend my summers there. Peggy Combs and her mother, father, and brother, Jack, had moved over there. They ran the Round Up bar which is still in Lafayette. Oh, the fun we would have together over there for such a small town. Lafayette in those days was only two blocks long.
39: We would go down to the schoolyard and every kid in Lafayette would be there. Peggy, Jack and I would spend hours upon hours down there playing. There was a church across from the grammar school going out to St. Mary’s that had a youth club. Every Saturday night there was something going on at this youth club – a party, a dance, a hayride, or anything. The kids that belonged to this youth club were a very diverse group. There were kids who came from very wealthy homes, very poor homes and homes in between but all were treated equally. The rich kid would look at the poor kid as if they were brothers. There was no discrimination at all. It was truly amazing how well we all got along. I couldn’t believe it. One of the prominent families was the Tuttle’s of Tuttle cottage cheese fame. The Tuttle’s would call all the kids that were in the group and have them out to their estate for simple things like hot chocolate and marshmallows. We would have other spontaneous outings at the Tuttle’s estate where would play ping pong or go swimming. The Tuttle’s lived on Upper Happy Valley Road in Lafayette. They had a black maid who would fix our hot chocolate for us and we thought this was fantastic being waited on. The butler would greet us at the door. They were the most wonderful people. Then there was the Frank’s that lived way up on the hill and they too would often have these spontaneous parties. Then there were the McNair’s. These were people who had the big money in those days. The McNair’s summer home was located toward the Walnut Creek side of Lafayette. I recall this one particular day when Mrs. McNair told all of us kids to come out to their house early in the morning. We got up and got dressed and went out to the McNair’s and had arranged an all day swimming party. She had hot dogs, hamburgers with all the trimmings. We had all the soda pop and punch you could want. They also had a stable of about twenty or more horses. That night we kids decided that we were going to go horseback riding. We went out riding on this gorgeous moonlight night accompanied by Mrs. McNair for about an hour and a half. When we returned to the house we all jumped in the pool and swam for a while before we loaded up into the cars and were driven home. Lafayette had about ten families that were that generous. It was the greatest place and the greatest time of my life. It was at this time that I fell madly in love with Tony Machado. His parents owned a dairy farm in Lafayette. Mary Machado, their daughter, was going around with the chauffeur of Rheem Manufacturing, Bill. We would often go out to the Rheem estate to see Bill but Mrs. Rheem was not the most gracious person in the world. Mary and Bill broke up. Mary married a Ginocchio in Concord. Every year Lafayette would have a rodeo. Like I said Lafayette was a very small town. They had this bar and restaurant, a meat market and drug store, a plumbing store and the fire departmentnot much at all but they would have rodeo. They would have a parade before the rodeo.
40: Remember now that Johnny and Peggy ran the Round Up bar in Lafayette. They would build these slat platforms and covered the floor of the bar so that the cowboys could ride their horses into the bar and get a drink. Then we would all go down and watch the rodeo. In the evening there was this huge dance at the Town Hall. The dances were held on the second floor of the Town Hall. The Town Hall is still standing in Lafayette. It is on your way out to St. Mary’s on Moraga Road just beyond the grammar school. I remember one time Peggy and I had gone down to Oakland for some special event for the Oakland Oaks baseball team. Peggy and I were going to ride on this Wells Fargo wagon. They had put us up for the day at the Lemington Hotel where we were able to change into the costumes that we were going to wear for the parade. They had this driver that was going to drive the horses and coach and the organizers told us that we were to go down and have lunch. Peggy and I thought it would be nice to bring the driver along with us to lunch. And so we did. We felt so sorry for this poor guy because he didn’t know what a knife or a fork was. He came in and sat down looking clueless at the elaborate table setting. His discomfort was immediate for he looked scared out of his wits. Along with a stash of silverware was a finger bowl. A finger bowl is a small bowl filled with water with a hint of citrus to cleanse your fingers in the event that you were served something sticky or best to be eaten with your fingers. This poor man took one look at the finger bowl and picked it up and drank the water. Peggy and I were mortified and wanted to crawl under the table to hide our embarrassment. We went out to the Oakland Park which was out by Emeryville in those days and got all dressed up in our costumes and rode around the park. After the days events we had a special dinner and then came on home. I had many, many a good time in Lafayette. The OAKLAND BAY BRIDGE The Oakland San Francisco Bay Bridge was opened in 1936. What a wonderful event that was. Before the bridge there were ferryboats that would run from Oakland to San Francisco, Alameda to San Francisco and from Richmond to San Francisco. It was quite a trip to get to San Francisco in those days. When my mother was working at Livingston’s in San Francisco she would have to get a bus or trolley in Oakland and go to the ferry cross the bay, and the weather could sometimes be so cold, and then board a bus on the San Francisco side to take her to her work place. The ferry would also transport cars on the bottom portion of the vessel while the passengers would ride on the upper decks where there was usually a snack bar where a passenger could obtain a hot cup of coffee or breakfast while they rode across San Francisco Bay. When the Bay Bridge was complete it was a big feat and event for all in the Bay Area for within ten or fifteen minutes you could be in San Francisco.
41: I don’t know how many people were killed while building the span. People would fall off into the bay. Opening day of the Bay Bridge only allowed pedestrians to cross to marvel at the engineering genius of this water crossing. Simultaneously to the building of the Bay Bridge the Golden Gate Bridge was also being built. The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937 and we thought it was one of the wonders of the world connecting San Francisco to Marin County. To celebrate these two openings of the bridges, the Bay Bridge in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, they were building Treasure Island. Treasure Island is like a little peninsula off of Yerba Buena Island that is located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Treasure Island is a man-made island that would become the home of the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. In 1939 the Golden Gate International Exposition opened. That was the most exciting time I could ever remember. It was like a Disneyland by the Bay. It was so gorgeous with all the lights and beautiful buildings and the spectacular displays – truly unbelievable. All the big bands would be there and I will never forget this one day when I was dating Frank Martini that we saw Benny Goodman one afternoon in the one of the many Pavilions. That night we went to another Pavilion and saw the performer who made “Me and My Shadow” so famous, I think it was Ted Lewis. They had an aquacade that was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. The whole world was at peace and every country on the globe was represented there. It was one of the most visually and uplifting experiences of my life and we would go there every chance we would get. When the fair closed in 1940 they kept the big buildings and then the Navy moved in. It was now a military operation for a long time. There used to be a ferryboat that ran from Martinez to Benicia. It was the same type of ferryboat that went across the San Francisco Bay. Car would drive on the bottom and the passengers could then get out and go on the top deck to enjoy the view and obtain a snack or a beverage. The ride was only about twenty minutes and it did not afford you the luxury of breakfast. On Sunday’s many residents of Martinez would board the ferry for I think it was a dime and ride over to Benicia and take a stroll in their downtown and then come back across the straights for another ten cents. People just loved riding the ferry. When I was at the convent in Benicia that was my means of transportation to come home for the weekend. Someone would take me to the ferry and I would ride across the water to Martinez where my mother or father would pick me up on the Martinez side and then we would go home.
42: There were train ferryboats as well. This was before the Southern Pacific train bridge was built. They would load up the train cars on the ferry and go across the water from Benicia to Port Costa. Then they would take them off the ferry and place them on the tracks and then off they chugged. This was way back in the late 20’s or early 30’s. They were big, big ferryboats. I have some pictures of these big ferryboats. It was really interesting to watch them loading and unloading the trains from the ferryboat. Once the Southern Pacific train bridge was built the train ferry service was aborted. Around this time I was going out with Tony Cola. The Cola’s lived out in Vine Hill on top of this knoll. They were a great family – Pete, Mary, Tony, Sal, Rose Anne and we would go out there and have a great time. It was a very close family and gone to heaven. She only had two costumes so of course we were going to choose the prettiest one. One we were sure that she would had knit family who would frequently get together for family gatherings. It was a neat fun time for all. Tony and I thought we were serious about each other but it just didn’t work out. He is now happily married as your grandfather and I are. There are a lot of fun times that I recall out at the Cola’s. Pete Cola had a piano and would love to sing. I forget who would play the piano but Pete would get up there and sing. He loved his opera! I remember the big long tables that Mary would put up and they would be filled with family from one end of the table to the other. It always made me feel good to be around the Cola’s. MARIA MONTEZ You remember me telling you about your great grandfather putting on these picnics and shows for the American Legend. It was about this time I would say 1937 or 38 that my dad had put on this show for the American Legion for some special benefit. I do recall it was a real big deal. Years gone by in Martinez they would have a festival or parades or three day happenings that would start on Friday and continue on for the weekend. This particular year my dad decided to that during this three-day festival on Saturday they would have this vaudeville show at the State Theater. We prepared for this show for at least one year. There was this fellow on KFRC that had an amateur show and his stage name was Budda and his show was Buddha’s Amateur Show but his real name was Dean Maddox. Your great grandfather decided that he was going to get Buddha to put on the show for he was quite popular in those days. We had to go to the radio station a number of times getting this show put together. On one visit to the radio station your great grandmother, Helen, sang. She had a very lovely voice. Came time for the vaudeville show and it was a big deal not only in Martinez but in the surrounding communities as well. Dean Maddox had gotten this entertainer from Hollywood who was a dancer by the name of Maria Montez to perform. She had been in a number of movies with Bing Crosby in some of his road pictures and that was a big thing to have this movie star in town. Dorothy and I would not let her out of our sight for the entire time. Everywhere Maria went so went Dorothy and I. In the back of the State Theater on the side were these dressing rooms and one was assigned to Maria. She was great to Dorothy and I treating us like adults and friends of hers and when it came time for her to get dressed and go on stage she
43: turned to Dorothy and I and asked “What costume do you think I should wear?” Dorothy and I thought we had died and gone to heaven. She only had two costumes so of course we were going to choose the prettiest one. One we were sure that she would had chosen to wear but it made Dorothy and I feel extremely important just to be asked. She performed and did very well and after the show everybody was going to go to Paul’s restaurant for dinner and a party. At this time my dad was not drinking for after the last time my mom and dad split up over his drinking my father never took another drink until the day he died. My dad would go and order his soda and have a great time. We had all gone to Paul’s where they served dinner and had live music and dancing. While all of us were at Paul’s someone had broken into Dean’s car and stolen Maria’s clothes, costumes, and music. The discovery did not come until Dean and Maria had arrived back in San Francisco. Maria was very upset for her costumes alone were quite costly being that they were heavily sequins and beaded. The sequins and beads had been hand sewn by her sister so there was a lot of sentimental value to the costumes plus the music had been written strictly for her. Dean had called my dad to tell him what happened and my dad was very upset that this would happen in Martinez. In those days parades in Martinez would last two to three hours in duration and every one in the city would come out to view and participate. My dad invited Maria to come back to Martinez and during the parade to get on the loud speaker and ask if anyone knew who took her possessions. A handsome reward was offered for anyone who would help her find her costumes and music. Unfortunately, no one came forth with any information or her possessions. Prior to the parade, Maria came up to our house and had lunch with my dad and mother. Dorothy and I were beside ourselves to think that we had a Hollywood star in our home. That was something that Dorothy and I never got over – it made us feel like movie stars too. Maria was a young woman and she wanted Dorothy and I to stay with her wherever she went. She had a great personality and she did not have to treat us as she did and I will never forget the experience of being with her and the privilege of knowing such a fine lady. It was a thrill that I will never forget to know her and to spend that time with her. To this day Dorothy and I talk about it. JOY RIDING During my last year of junior high or my first year of high school, my dad had to go on a business trip to Los Angeles. His legs having healed from the accident at Shell, he had gone back to work there. We had this old Plymouth that my mother would drive to work and park on the side street. I would go down to Montgomery Wards and find out if there was anything that my mother needed as far as groceries, errands, whatever. One day I went down and she needed some items from the grocery store. Coming back I asked my mother for the keys to the car so I could put the groceries in the car. Wanting to learn how to drive so badly, I decided this was as good of an opportunity as ever to teach myself how to drive this car. I get in the car and started it up. I knew how to shift and I knew I had to put the clutch in but didn’t know how to take the clutch out so the car wouldn’t bounce across the street.
44: Well I got in and started the car up and put the car in low gear and I went to take my foot off the clutch and it jerked clear up the street. I had moved this car! Now how was I going to get it back to it’s original position? So I thought I would try it again. So I got the hang of pulling the clutch out slowly didn’t jerk the car so I got it going enough that I could go down a block of two and turn around and come back and park the car in the spot where I had found it. Boy this was OK! I will try this again some time. As was customary I would go down to see what my mother would need from the store and as always I would go and put the groceries in the car but now I would take the car for a spin visiting all my friends. I was such a big shot knowing that I could drive. Rosie Light and I went over to Mary Richie’s. We got in the car and started out and Rosie said, “Gee, I didn’t know you could drive. You do good.” We went over to Mary Richie’s which was about three blocks from Montgomery Wards and we went into Mary’s and asked “Who’s car is that out there?” I replied, “It’s my mother’s.” “But you don’t know how to drive,” said Mary. “Don’t worry about it,” I responded. Mary had to go downtown and generous me offered to drive her there in my mother’s car. She wanted to walk but I insisted upon driving her since I had to take the car back. Hesitantly Mary got in the front street with me and Rosie got in the back seat. We went down to Berrellesa and then to Escobar went beyond to Howard Street (now Marina Vista) and in those days it was a two way street. All of a sudden Mary starts shouting, “STOP! STOP! It’s the police!” I ignored her not knowing that the police had gotten a new car. I kept on driving and Mary kept telling me that police were behind us. I looked into the rear view mirror and saw the red light flashing and I pulled over to the side of the road. Bob Reeder and Roy Nichola were in the police car. Roy Nichola was the new cop in town and he and I never did get along very well. Here was his opportunity to show his authority. I looked at him questioning why he was stopping me. You are in a stolen car. What do you mean a stolen car? This is my mother’s car! I am not in the habit of stealing my parent’s things. I was furious and indignant. Well it has been reported as a stolen car. It is not stolen it is my mother’s. Well your mother reported it stolen. When he said that I almost diedI thought boy am I in for it now.
45: Nicola tells me to drive the car over to the police department. Now my dad had been a deputy sheriff long enough for me to know a few of the laws and I told him “OK.” I started to drive over the police department with the police behind me. There was a very narrow road between city hall and by the library, where every kid in town congregates, and I kept thinking how I was going to drive into that narrow road. When we got there I successfully negotiated the narrow passage but my passengers Mary and Rose were so scared that they didn’t know what to do. Steve Nielsen is now the Chief of Police. When we walk in to his office Steve says, “What do you have to say for yourself?” “What do you mean? I have nothing to say for myself. Your office accused me of stealing my mother’s car and I don’t appreciate it one bit.” “Lois, your mother reported it stolen.” “I don’t care what my mother reported, I did not steal that car.” “Did your mother give you permission?” “No. I just borrowed it.” “Well that is the same as stealing it.” By this time my dander was up and flying as a fifteen year old would do and I reminded him of the law that says that a fifteen year old cannot drive a car. He agreed. I said, “You had better retrain your officer’s. Roy Nicola after he stopped me did not ask me for a driver’s license, he knew I was under aged and yet he had me drive my mother’s car here to the police station. Now what would have happened if I would have had an accident or hit someone on my way here?” Steve Nielsen just about died with my logic and wanted to kill Roy Nicola. Steve Nielsen didn’t know what to do and Roy Nicola sat there red faced for being humiliated by some fifteen year old snot nosed kid in front of his chief. I didn’t stop there. I reminded Steve about the night up at Bernice Ahern’s when he was so drunk that he was unable to go on duty. He could not believe that I would remember all that. I told him that I remember Bill Reeder driving up in the Model A Ford and the remainder of the story. The tide turned and with that there was not enough that he or Roy could do for me. Steve went out and bought hamburgers for me and both of my friends with all the trimmings. They let Mary and Rosie go however my mother had other plans for me. She asked Steve to keep me at the police station until she got off work. That was the last thing Steve Nielsen needed was for me to stick around the police station all day. I must admit that I was in the wrong and was punished by my mother even though I can’t remember what the punishment was. When my dad returned from his business trip he was furious with me. There was very few times in my life that my father got angry with me but this was one of them. He reminded me over and over again that I could have killed someone with the little knowledge I had in driving a motorized vehicle. My lack of coordination of the clutch and the brake alone could have created a very unpleasant situation for driver, pedestrian and vehicles occupying the same thoroughfare as me. I, like many other teenagers of today, did not think of the consequences of my actions. Today as I reflect back I thank God that nothing happened to harm anyone. I would like to tell you more about my friend Mary Richie. We are in high school. There was a group of us that hung out together. It was a great group. We had more fun together.
46: My cousin, Dorothy Irwin, my friend, Mary Ricci, and me
47: Memories of Me!
48: There was Mary Richie, Dorothy Child, Dale Allen, Wynona Edison, Rosie, and my friend, Mary Giannini. Mary Giannini was older than the rest of us and a great friend. We had a great time in high school. We did everything together. We went to the show together. We went to parties together. We did about everything that was to be done – we did it together. In the summer, my cousin, Dorothy Irwin, would come up and spend three to four weeks with us. In those days, the Alhambra Alumni was a big organization. They would have dances, picnics, football teamthey had everything. They were quite THE organization. I will never forget this one picnic they had out at Castle Rock. Dorothy and I were bound and determined that we were going to this picnic. Dorothy talked me into to telling my mother that we were going to the show. Dorothy and I went out to the Alumni picnic at Castle Rock – I can’t recall how we got there but we did. During the picnic, Dorothy and I got bored and we decided that we were going to walk from Castle Rock, which is over by Northgate High School, over to Marsh Creek which is well beyond Clayton. In those days, and even today if you were walking, it would seem like it was over a hundred miles. I didn’t want to go but Dorothy insisted and we started walking. I wanted to kill Dorothy, literally, I could have killed her. As we started walking some kids came by in a car and asked us where we were going. We told them our destination was Marsh Creek and as they said it was their destination as well. I was leery at getting into a car with strangers. Dorothy was accepting of the ride and so I got in the car with her. We were fortunate that these kids were true to their word and took us to Marsh Creek. They dropped us off and we went off to do our thing while they went off to do theirs. Now my mother and father were supposed to pick us up at the State Theater. It is getting close to the time that the show would be letting out and here is Dorothy and I at Marsh Creek. How are we going to get back in time to Martinez? I begin to panic because I know that we are not going to be outside the State Theater at the appointed time. I tried to call them on the phone and nobody was there. I thought, “Oh boy, if I thought I was in trouble before, what kind of trouble I am going to be in now?” My fear is transferred to anger at Dorothy. I was furious at her for having suggested that we go to the stupid picnic. I did not want to admit at the time that it was just as much my fault as it was hers. All I wanted at that moment was to get back to Martinez, down to the State Theater, in time for my parents to meet us. My Uncle Bert and Aunt Helen were very lenient with Dorothy and she didn’t have all this stuff to worry about.
49: Dorothy suggested that we hitchhike back to Martinez. “HITCHHIKE! Are you crazy?” Who will pick us up? What might happen?" But as time drew closer and closer to my parents picking us up at the State Theater, Dorothy’s suggestion sounded better and better. Moments later Dorothy and I are standing out in front of Marsh Creek with our thumbs pointed toward Martinez. Scared? I was never so scared in all my life. We waited and waited for some car to come by. In those days March Creek Road was not as well traveled as it is today. Fortunately, a car finally came by and stopped. Much to my relief the occupants of the car were an older couple. They asked where we were going and we told them Martinez. They started peppering us with questions as to why and how we got way out on Marsh Creek Road. We told them of our day’s adventure. The couple’s destination was Concord but fearing for our safety they agreed to take us all the way to Martinez. Arriving in Martinez, we had the couple drop us off on Main Street, and thanked them profusely for their kindness. After being dropped off on Main Street, Dorothy and I walked the short block to the State Theater. A groan of despair escaped my lips when my mother and father were no where in sight. Dorothy and I began our journey home on foot. This afforded Dorothy and I the opportunity to think of what we were going to tell my parents. When we got home, both of my parents were sitting in the living room. I was so scared. My knees were knocking so hard that I was sure they sounded like cymbals crashing together. We walked into the house all prepared to deliver the story we had concocted on our way home. My parents greeted us and asked us what we had been doing? Playing coy, I responded, “Oh nothing. We went to the show.” My mother questioned, “You did? What was the show about?” This line of questioning was completely unexpected and Dorothy and I were totally unprepared. I came up with some explanation as to what the movie was about and my mother just soaked it up until she came back with, “Well you girls must have seen a different movie than we did.” With that Dorothy and I looked at each other and GUILTY seemed to be stamped across our foreheads. My mind was racing for an explanation while my mother continued her line of questions. Logic told me that I had better come clean with the truth and so I did. My parents sat there and listened to our events of the day. They didn’t get mad but they gave us a speech about the danger we put ourselves in that day by taking rides from total strangers. They emphasized over and over how fortunate we were that the people we encountered that day were kind and meaning no harm. The outcome from our escapade was that Dorothy and I were grounded for a whole week! At fifteen, being grounded for a week seems like a year! Dorothy and I learned the lesson – of course, the hard way. In those days, my dear grandchildren, it was nothing compared to what is occurring today. Nothing. I do mean nothing in comparison.
50: Today a couple of girls seen hitchhiking would be considered girls with low morals and have little regard for themselves or their safety. They are looking for trouble. Or on the other hand they may be armed to the teeth with weapons to protect themselves against any type of advances or assault. In either case, I would surely not pick them up for any reason. In my day, you didn’t have to worry so much about being raped or killed or being assaulted in any way. Believe me there is no way would I have hitchhiked in today’s world. Take heed – be careful of what you do and be careful of who you are with. VINCE BRUNO During my sophomore year in high school I met your grandfather. It was the summer of 1939. I met him at the wedding of Joe Cimataro’s. It was held at the IDS Hall. I had known your grandfather before but for some reason we never got together. It was at this wedding that we met and got together and started going out together. We went together for two years before we were married. We used to have to walk to school in those days. We didn’t have buses for the kids in town only for those who lived in the valley. I would go down and meet Mary Ricci and our other friends and we would walk to the high school. We would walk from Main Street up to E Street where the high school is located which was about two miles away from my home. It was quite a walk especially when the weather was cold or wet or both. When Vince and started dating he would come up to the high school and pick us up whenever his work schedule would allow. Everything was fine until the high school put in some new rules that no one was allowed to pick you up. Well you know how I am about rules – new or old. This one-day Vince came to pick us up and the whole gang was in his car. Mary, Dorothy, Peggy, and a lot more. Two or three blocks from the school Officer Roy Nicola stopped us. My good friend and buddy Roy Nicola. He approaches the car and asks Vince, “What are you doing?” “I picking up the girls and taking them home,” replied Vince. “You know that is against the rules?” said Officer Nicola. Now my Irish came up and it didn’t take much when it came to Officer Nicola. I leaned across the car and got up close and personal with Officer Nicola’s nose. “Hey, wait just a minute! My mother has given Vince Bruno permission to pick me up from school and you or nobody else is going to stop us from going home with him!” | Vincent and Me
51: Roy tried to carry on a conversation with Vince but each time he opened his mouth to speak I cut him off with the sharp sword of my tongue. Finally, Officer Nicola gave up trying to reason with me and let us go but not without a warning to Vince that he could not pick us up anymore because of the school rule. When I got home I was still fuming. When my mother got home from work I told her the entire saga of our encounter with Officer Roy Nicola that afternoon. She wrote a letter to the high school and told them that Vince had permission to pick me up from school on any given day and things got smoothed over quickly. During our high school year’s we had a good time. We really did. We all stuck together. No matter what we did we did it together. There was the Alumni Association and their events. Football season. There was a lot of activity centered around our life at the high school. My high school years were good however I didn’t complete high school. In 1939, my uncle Richie had come down with a very serious disease. To this day I don’t think they know what caused it. Uncle Richie’s skin broke out in what looked like impetigo on his foot. He started treating it as if it was impetigo but it started to spread. So Uncle Richie went to the doctor and they discovered that whatever it was that he had was worse than impetigo but unable to diagnose what it was. Uncle Richie was referred to a skin specialist and they discovered that it was a very rare skin disease which I can not recall the name of. What eventually happened was this skin disease went all over his body. The wounds would ulcerate and his body was scabbed all over. By the time Uncle Richie died in January 6, 1941 his entire body was nothing but one scab. I think this was one of the worst diseases I have ever seen or ever hope to see. Poor Uncle Richie suffered the tortures of hell and it was truly a blessing when he passed away. My poor mother was beside herself. Her only sibling died. She felt as I did that in her later years when she would eventually lose her mother and father she would have her brother there to fall back on. Of course, that did not happen, for her brother passed away before her mother and father. My mother was devastated but she had her shop, Tiny Tot Shoppe, on Pine Street to keep her occupied. As I stated, my mother came from a very close-knit family. Very close. | My Uncle Richard Argenti
52: My grandfather Argenti was heartbroken at the loss of his son. He could not get over the fact that his son had preceded him in death. Richie’s death just ate away at my grandfather’s health and well-being and on April 8, 1941, he suffered a heart attack. GRANDPA ARGENTI I can remember to this day as if it were just yesterday the events that transpired that day. We were living on Pine Street at that time and we didn’t have a telephone in our home at that time. At 9:00 a.m. that morning, Vince and his mother, Virginia Bruno, drove up to our house. When I saw them drive up, I couldn’t quite figure out what they were doing there that early in the morning. Knocking on the door, I opened it. Coming in Vince said to me, “We just got a telephone call from your grandmother in Alameda. Your grandfather just had a heart attack.” I knew by the looks on their faces that it was worse than a heart attack. I asked, “Is he dead?” “Yes,” they replied. I was distraught. I truly adored my grandfather. Just dearly loved him. I didn’t know what to do. I knew all too well how my mother would react. Fortunately, my father was home. My dad came out and seeing the looks on our faces knew the news was far from being pleasant. I told my dad what happened and he too was shocked and startled by the news. My dad was insistent that we not tell my mother the news of her father’s death until we got to Alameda. He felt there was no sense to getting her upset for he knew, as I did too, that she would be hysterical when she heard. We all agreed that this would be the best way to handle a very unpleasant situation. I went in and put on a dark navy blue polka-dot dress and a navy blue straw hat. In those days, you wore a hat whenever you went to Oakland or San Francisco. | My Grandfather, Antonio Argenti
53: My mother came out and asked, “Where are you going?” I looked pleadingly at my dad to help me. My dad told my mother, “Your father is very sick. He has had a heart attack. I think we should go to Alameda immediately.” My mother needed no more explanation. She was dressed in a flash and off we went to Alameda. In our drive to Alameda, my mother was naturally upset and worried over the fate of her father. I rode in the backseat and was trying desperately to contain myself. Finally we arrived in Alameda and my dad told my mother that her father was dead. My mother absolutely went out of control. You had to have seen her reaction to believe. She was furious that she was not told before. She lashed out at both my dad and me for withholding this information from her. What could she have done? We got down there as quickly as possible. Finally, she calmed down enough to go into the house to face her mother. My poor grandmother told us what had transpired that day. My grandfather was in bed and woke up that morning with pains in his chest. He was having a heart attack and by the time my grandmother had gotten the doctor he had died. My mother rose to the occasion but was never again the mother I once knew. My mother went into state of anxiety and mild depression. She was emotionally spent and we could not console her. Here she had lost her brother in January and four short months later lost her father. She would cry at the slightest thing. She would sit for long periods of time crying over the memories of her father and brother. I remember the funeral of my grandfather when we had taken him out to St. Joseph’s Mausoleum and we were saying our last goodbyes, my mother literally collapsed. Frank Bruzzone and my dad picked my mother up and carried down the long steep flight of stairs leading to the mausoleum. She was put into the limousine for the ride home. My mother was literally a mess. My grandmother took it ten times better than my mother. My mother dearly loved her family – just dearly loved them. In May of 1940, my mother opened the Tiny Tot Shoppe. It was clothing for children from infancy up to size 7. It was located on the corner of Pine and Suzanna Streets in Martinez. There were two or three other businesses in the same building. You can still see those shops to this day. | Last known picture of the Argenti family. Left to right: Uncle Richie, his wife, Lena, my mother, Helen, my grandmother and grandfather Argenti.
54: True love is more than spoken vows, Or promises to keep. The test of love come everyday- Some simple and some deep. When two hearts are committed To share Life's ebb and flow. As days become a lifetime, The bond of Love will grow. | US
55: Trocodera, Hollywood, CA January 26, 1945
56: Thank goodness she was in the process of opening her store when her father died. She knew she had to do well with the business for she and my father had invested all their money into this store. My mother did quite well, in fact, very well with her business. My mother opened the store for Montgomery Wards had gone on strike. Instead of fooling with the union and meeting their demands, Montgomery Wards simply closed their Martinez location and moved to Concord. Martinez’ children had no outlet to purchase their clothes without having to go to Concord. She made a very wise decision and like I said she was very successful with her business. Your grandfather was working shift work at Shell Oil Company at that time. When he was working the 4 to 12 shift he would stop by my house after he got off work to say good night to me. Half the time my parents didn’t know that your grandfather was coming over in this manner and they would have probably killed me had they known for I was still going to school at the time. When your grandfather and I were going together, we had so many good times. The Alhambra Alumni Association was a big part of our lives in those days. We would go to dances, or go to a movie, or take a ride to Pittsburg to visit with Aunt Frances and her family. We did a number of good things – nice things – so many wonderful memories. On Sunday’s we might take a ride over to San Francisco, to Oakland, down to my grandmother’s in Alameda. We were always doing something. Soon after the death of my grandfather, your grandfather and I became engaged. Your grandfather had asked my dad if we could get married and of course, due to my young age there was a lot for my parents to consider. I was a junior in high school. I had not yet graduated. I was their only child. My parents told your grandfather that they would let him know in a day or two. My parents stayed up all night talking about the pros and cons of me getting married to your grandfather. The next day my dad tells your grandfather that we could get married but we could not have a big wedding. The Italians as you well know love to have big weddings and invite all their relatives and friends have a dance, a dinner or buffet. My wedding was not going to be such an affair. My mother was still in mourning over her brother and father and she was just not up to a wedding of any size to be truthful.
57: Your grandfather and I totally understood their reasoning so your grandfather and I decided that we were going to get married at Mass. I wore no bridal gown. I wore a plain suit. It was a teal blue two-piece suit with a fur collar and a rust colored hat. That hat looked like it was going to take off for the moon. Your Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Butch were our maid of honor and best man. Father Maurice Hannagan officiated the Mass on August 30, 1941. After the Mass, everybody went back to my parent’s home for a breakfast. This dear friend of the family, Rena Clara, cooked the breakfast for us. It was just our immediate family’s that came to t he wedding. Your great grandfather Bruno was not able to attend since he was fishing in Point Reyes at the time. My two grand- mothers were present in addition to your grandfather’s grandmother Lucido, his mother, and his brothers and sister. After we had our wedding breakfast, your great Aunt Frances Davi from Pittsburg and her family came down to join in on our celebration. When it came to the honeymoon, your grandfather and I had Saturday night, Sunday and Monday because your grandfather had to be back to work on Tuesday since it was Labor Day weekend. We had $65.00 to our name to have a honeymoon. We decided to go to Santa Cruz for our honeymoon but without reservations in the summer and especially on Labor Day weekend there was no room at any of the hotels. So we decided to go to Monterey and stay with Uncle Vince and Aunt Lucy Cefalu. Aunt Lucy welcomed us with opened arms. She was thrilled that we chose to stay with her and Uncle Vince. Vince and I had the best time and felt like royalty the way we were treated. We were wined and dined to be sure. Uncle Vince and Aunt Lucy did everything they could to make our honeymoon special and memorable. Vince and I got back from our honeymoon and set up house in an apartment on the corner of Ferry and Mellus Streets. It was a nice three-room apartment. We stayed there for about six months.
58: WORLD WAR II In December, we had gone to Pittsburg for a dance along with Jenny, Mary, Sarah, and the rest of Vince’s cousins. When we got out of the dance it was so foggy that you could not see your hand in front of your face. We went back to Aunt Frances’ and she insisted that we spend the night with her for she would worry herself sick if we drove home in the grey mist. So we did. The next morning we got up and turned on the radio and we got the shock of our lives. Repeated over and over again and again was PEARL HARBOR HAS BEEN BOMBED! This was December 7, 1941. We all looked at each other dumbfounded. What are they talking about? They’re crazy. Pearl Harbor was bombed? We just could not comprehend the truth of what we were hearing. And then the fear factor set in that if they bombed Pearl Harbor what would stop them from bombing us here. All day long we sat in shock by the radio soaking up every morsel of news regarding Pearl Harbor. The President came on and told everyone how Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the fleet was destroyed. He told America the numbers of servicemen that had been killed. He tried to reassure us that we were not in harms way. It was truly a day of infamy. Later that afternoon Vince and I got the courage to leave Pittsburg and make our way home to Martinez. Having no radio in the car, we heard no further news, and the ride home was quiet due to the uncertainty of the future. Arriving back in Martinez, we went directly to my mother-in-law’s. All of the Bruno family was gathered around the radio. They were sat in disbelief of the news they were hearing. Everyone had the same thought on their mind – Where do we go from here? The next day the President came on the radio and told America that we had declared war on Japan. After that everyone was on edge. Every time a plane flew overhead people would run outside to see who’s plane it was. In the days that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor the world was in turmoil. Nobody really knew what to do. The Defense Department tried desperately to get organized and have due to the circumstances suddenly thrust upon them. In about a week’s time the United States of America were ready to roll up their sleeves for the war effort.
59: In Martinez we had what was known as Block Wardens. All residents had to blackout the windows of at least one room in their home to prohibit light from shining through them during the darkness of night. In the event of an air raid you were to go into this room and close the drapes. You were able to keep a light on providing that it did not seep through into the night. There were no exceptions. It was the responsibility of the Block Warden to walk the neighborhood during an air raid to be sure that there was no light seepage from the homes in his district. Along the ocean in San Francisco they had painted the streetlights that faced out to sea black while the side facing land was untouched. This was to prevent an enemy submarine or plane out at sea from detecting land. We certainly didn’t want to give them a target to shoot at. In the beginning of the war there were quite a few air raids. Several times there were unidentified airplanes that flew overhead and the sirens would sound. The wailing would pierce through the stillness of the night. The timing was never expected and quite sporadic. When you were sleeping and the siren would sound you would wake with a start and listen and wonder, “Was this it?” This went on for the duration of the war. During the day you would head for the nearest shelter should the sirens signal the possibility of enemy attack. If you were at home during the day you would stay in the house for it was the safest place to be. Two or three weeks into the war food and gasoline were rationed. It was a small sacrifice to be able to serve the war effort in this way. In order to obtain food or gasoline you had to use coupons. Each family was given a certain amount of coupons to meet their family needs. You could buy meat, coffee, butter but you had to have a coupon in order to purchase them. Silk stockings were impossible to obtain. You were allowed only a restricted amount of gasoline per car. When you would go to the store or to the gas station you would have to pay with these coupons or you would not get any goods. This was a necessity to collect these coupons for in order for the store to restock their shelves with goods they had to give the Office of Price Administration (OPA) the coupons they received. The OPA would then give the stores the stock for their shelves. It was quite an ordeal during this time.
60: Falling in Love
61: Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage | Because being together is enough
62: Victory gardens sprung up in every yard it seemed. Since meat and other commodities were rationed, pantries were full of fresh fruits and vegetables. When your grandfather worked shift work at Shell I would walk to Borden’s Creamery, the soda fountain downtown, to be with my friends and to hear the latest information on the war effort. Mary Giannini was working there at that time. It was THE gathering place for all the local kids. Your grandfather and I lived up on Ferry Street about one block from Susanna Street Park. Anna Prado lived about a block down from us. She and I would always walk home together. I can’t tell you how many times she and I got caught in an air raid. You never saw two girls run for their lives like Anna and I. When your grandfather was working Anna would often come and stay with me until your grandfather got home. Those blackouts were a weird feeling. A terrifying feeling. You would look out and not see a single light. It was pitch black. It was one of our planes going overhead but it did not lessen the fear you felt. Another time we were across the street from the Shell Clubhouse on Pacheco Boulevard. Dale’s Drive In was up there at that time. The military were using the Shell Clubhouse for their purposes in protecting the refinery and other military facilities from enemy attack. There was Port Chicago Naval Weapons Station, the Benicia Arsenal, plus the oil refineries. We had a lot to be concerned about. I will never forget one evening when all were up at Dale’s Drive In when the sirens sounded. We were scared. We were far from being the bravest people in the world. The soldiers would often come over to the drive in to get a soda or a cup of coffee. Well this did make us feel a little safer to have the Army so close at hand. I often wondered just how affective these soldiers would have been with their rifles when facing a few hundred pound bomb. How would they shoot an airplane out of the sky? We had the Coast Guard based down at the Marina. I remember they had three boats down there. I do remember the 401 but do not recall the other two. They had huge guns on them that were big enough to blow a boat out of the water.
63: IIt was at this time that your grandfather was commercial fishing with his father. We would go down to the wharf when he was due to come in to see what he had caught. Sometimes we would have to wait about hour and sometimes longer. During this time we became quite acquainted with the guys from the Coast Guard. There was this one guy, Bob Price that we became very friendly with. Bob’s girlfriend, Dorothy, was planning to come out from Denver to visit him. While Dorothy was here she and Bob got married. Your grandfather and I became very good friends with Bob and Dorothy. We did everything together. Bob and Dorothy had moved into an apartment on Talbart Street. The same apartment building that we had moved in to. They lived in Martinez for almost a year before Bob was transferred to Oakland. We became vast friends and to this day Dorothy and I communicate with each other. Last summer I got the surprise of my life. One day I got a telephone call and this man said, “Is this Lois Bruno?” I replied, “Yes, it is.” He said, “Well you will never guess who this is?” I didn’t recognize the voice at all. Finally the voice revealed himself, “This is Bob Price.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was never so pleasantly surprised in all my life. I asked, “Bob, where are you?” He said, “We are down the street trying to find out how to get out to your house to visit you.” That was the first time I had laid eyes on Bob and Dorothy in over 40 years. What a wonderful reunion! Getting back to the Coast Guard they had about 25 fellows down there on the ships and being that we were so friendly with Bob and Dorothy we became friends with the rest of the crew. Dorothy and I were down there all the time.
64: One of the crew became Chief of Police in Concord. Ronald Orrin. He was a great big guy. He was chief boatswain mate over this 401. The chief was Emmet. There was another guy from back East – Nick Nicoletto. He was more fun. What Nick didn’t think of doing is not worth mentioning. These guys are in the service and they don’t know what is going to happen to them from one minute to the next. They made the most out of every minute of their lives. War was full of surprises. I can remember how your Great Great Grandmother Lucido was not yet a citizen of the United States. She was still an Italian citizen and we had declared war on Italy. They had all those who were not US citizens move out into the country. This would lessen the opportunities of these non US citizens from spying on the United States. Your Great Great Grandmother Lucido, who was close to 70 years old, her daughter, Frances Davi, and your Great Great Grandmother’s sister, Catherine were moved out to Clayton where they lived in this compound. Those of Japanese ancestry were sent to Tulle Lake. Every weekend we would go out to the compound and visit with our relatives. It was so sad to see them jailed as it was. None of them had any husbands and their threat to the United States was well let’s say minimal to non existent. Now we were wondering who among our family members would be going into the service. Uncle Butch was the first one to enlist. He went into the 4th Armored Division This was a tank division. Men were being drafted right and left. They would leave by bus from Ferry Street. We are saying good-bye not knowing if we would ever see these guys alive again. The departures were very emotional. I can remember your great grandmother Bruno. She was so broken hearted when her sons left for the war. She was like so many of the other mothers having to say good-bye to their child or children. Butch did not go overseas for some time. He was first stationed at Fort Knox and went to a lot of other bases in the United States before he was sent to Europe. | Nonna Sarah Lucido and my mother-in-law, Virginia Bruno
65: Frank graduated from Alhambra High School in June of 1942. Frank wasn’t out of school for more than three months when he was drafted into the Army. He went in and he was in the medics. He would go out into the fields and pick up the wounded and bring them back and give them treatment. Barney went into the service in 1945. He was a military policeman during his service years. He did not see the war action as much as Frank and Butch. He was eventually sent to Japan. Butch saw a tremendous amount of action during his war years. I have often wondered how he ever got out of the war alive. Frank had gone over to Europe and was not there too long before VJ Day. Butch came home because he was one of the first to go over when war was declared. Frank came home and then was shipped him over to Japan to where Barney was. They were fortunate enough to see each other quite frequently. Frank came home after VJ Day for I remember he was home when Papa died. I can recall how upset Frank was that he was unable to save his father’s life. Here he had been in the war and was able to save all these men but was unable to save his own dad. I think it was in the latter part of 1946 that Barney came home. | Barney | Frank | Butch
66: Our family was very fortunate to have all of our boy’s home. There were an awful lot of kids from Martinez that did not come home. You could tell by the flags that hung in the windows of the homes. There would be a blue star for each child you had in the serving our country affixed to the flag. If your child was killed in action you would put a gold star on the flag. As you drove around Martinez you would look for these flags. When you saw the gold star you would feel so sorry for that person knowing they had lost a child or a loved one. It was a terrible time in our lives, believe me. Your grandfather was exempt for he had ulcers. At that time there was no way they have allowed him to serve with that condition. Joe was too young to go into the service. Your grandfather and I moved in with his mother about six months after our marriage. We lived with her for 11 years. We moved in with her for her sons were going off to war and she was getting quite depressed. So your grandfather and I moved in so as to fill the house up again. Your great grandmother had six children. Three had gone off to war. One was married. Phyllis and Joe were still at home. So our decision was made to move in the Mama. The house is located at 235 Howard Street (which is now Marina Vista). It is a very big house. Upstairs there were five rooms and your grandfather and I had taken three of them for us. It was like a little apartment up there. Phyllis had one of the other rooms but seldom occupied it for she slept down at Grandma Lucido’s. Grandma Lucido had a home a block away on Buckley Street. Grandma Lucido and Phyllis slept in her house while Barney and Joe occupied the other. Barney had not as yet left for the war zone when we moved in. When we lived with your great grandmother she insisted that she do all the work. She was a hard-working woman. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. | 235 Howard Street (Marina Vista) Martinez, California
67: When I was young and my mother was working I did all of the housework. I did all the washing. I did all the ironing. I did the dishes. I shopped for the food. I prepared the food. I did the cleaning – the dusting, the polishing, the vacuuming. There was nothing that I didn’t do. In those days when you did washing you did it basically by hand. Nobody had washing machines like we do today. You would wash clothes either in a wash tub (if you had one) or you would wash them in the bathtub. You would scrub them on scrub board not at all like today where you put them in the washer, toss in some soap, turn the dial and off you go. If you washed clothes in the bathtub they had a metal plunger that you would use. God, I can still remember that today. You would put this plunger in the bathtub. Then you would run the water, put the soap in, and then put the clothes in the bathtub. Then you stand at this plunger and pump it up and down. The agitation created by your pumping would circulate your clothes. Then you wring the clothes out by hand as hard as you could and put them aside. Then you drain the soapy water from the bathtub and put in fresh, clean water and then throw the clothes back in and repeat the plunger procedure to remove the soap from the clothes. After the soap had been removed from the clothes, you would again take the clothes out, wring them out, put them aside, drain the water from the bathtub, fill it again with fresh, clean water, and do the plunging procedure over again. You did this as often as necessary until the rinse water was clear. Then you would go outside and hang them on the clothesline and let them dry. In the winter you would have these hanging racks that you would set up in your homes to dry your clothes on. It was hard work and an all day chore just to wash clothes. I remember in those days you would wash all day on Monday and then iron all day on Tuesday. I was a young kid and having to do all this work. So when we moved up to your great grandmother’s I was ecstatic when she offered to do all the washing. Even though your great grandmother had a washing machine she also had a big household. In 1943, I was pregnant with Carol. My mother and father still lived on Pine Street. It was at this time that they decided to go into a bigger store and thus moved into 702 Main Street. It was a lot bigger location in the McNamara Building. They rented from Bee McNamara.
68: At the time of the move, my parents store was doing extremely well indeed. The war was still going on and people were making money hand over fist. Money was very plentiful during this time. People didn’t save too much money. Perhaps it was due to the war and the uncertainty of live that they spent so freely. People were buying just about anything. This affluence forced my parents into a bigger store for they just could not keep the shelves stocked for they just was not enough room to meet all the demands for children’s clothing. I can recall helping my parents with the move even though as was a big as a house with my pregnancy. My parents were so worried that I was going to hurt myself or worse yet, the baby. Finally the store was ready for opening day. The store did terrific in this spot. Christmas time found the store filled with people buying, buying, and buying. It was a mad house. The Navy was stationed in Port Chicago. The sailors would come in and shop until they dropped buying up huge amounts of clothes and toys for their families. Business was getting to the point where the bookkeeping was overwhelming my mother. My dad was still working at Shell and he helped my mother by taking over the bookkeeping but all too soon that became too much for him so he resigned from Shell. Now he and my mother were working full time together at the store. They were doing so very well financially. They decided to buy this little house on Court Street. It was a small cottage with three rooms. It was a darling little house. I was so happy that my parents finally had a place of their very own. I was talking about the war but I forgot to mention the USO (United Service Organization). They would have these places located throughout the country where servicemen could stop by and get beverages, sandwiches, or donuts. This was all free to our servicemen. In 1942, with volunteer help a USO was built on Ferry Street. It was located next to Amato’s down by the train depot. It was a nice building nothing fancy but very suitable for the need. It was furnished with nice lounge chairs and table. A counter was made. The service organizations in Martinez would take turns and volunteer their time to go down and wait on our service personnel. It was the hub of a lot of activity.
69: The Martinez train depot was transfer spot for our military. While waiting for their next train to arrive, the soldiers would go the USO to relax and get refreshments. Many towns across America had a USO. Hollywood had a huge one that was frequented by the movie stars who would go down and entertain the troops. America was at war. Her men were ready to risk and lay down their lives for freedom. Americans responded with open arms and open hearts with their gratitude. Some of the service personnel that came through looked so home sick and down hearted. Many of the service personnel were very young. Many were drafted right out of high school and into the military. 18 year olds back then were not as grown up and mature as the teens are today. They were literally kids. Some had never been on a train before. Some came from the Midwest – farm country – and now they were thrust into action to serve their country and sent off to parts of the globe that they never even heard of. The USO was home base for many a young serviceman. The USO would also send troops overseas to entertain the servicemen. Some of our biggest stars of our day went over there. They would help lift the morale of our troops and encourage them to fight on. Bob Hope is most memorable for his efforts in this arena. He continued with the USO even after World War II was over. He went to Korea and to Viet Nam during those conflicts to entertain our troops. He would often bring a bevy of other stars with him. Bob Hope made Christmas so special for the troops privileged to see him and his shows. Around this time your Aunt Phyllis was working for LaSalle’s. Uncle Lew’s parents ran the meat counter in LaSalle’s. Uncle Lew had come home on a furlough and meet Aunt Phyllis. They soon fell in love and he returned to the action of war. On November 14, 1945 they were married. | My mother-in-law, Virginia Bruno, Armine Lewis, Phyllis Bruno Lewis, my father-in-law, Gaetano Bruno, and, of course, Carol Ann Bruno.
70: .In the fall of 1942, I became pregnant with Carol. Carol was born May 27, 1943. Of course, it was right in the middle of the war. There were a lot of children born during that time. I guess God has a way of seeing that life goes on. War took thousands upon thousands of our servicemen and this was His way of replenishing His world with people. Carol was born and she was a darling baby. The whole family enjoyed her. She was the first grandchild for both sets of parents and the only girl other than your Aunt Phyllis. Aunt Phyllis was grown now so to have a new baby girl in the family was truly a celebration. . She was the second girl born into your great grandparents Bruno’s family in over 20 years. You can imagine how Carol was spoiled We lived in a house with her Uncles Barney and Joe, her Aunt Phyllis, her grandmother Bruno, her grandfather Bruno, and her great grandmother Lucido and her parents so no wonder Carol was spoiled. Carol was spoiled, very spoiled. What Carol wanted, Carol got. It got to the point where I really had to put my foot down. Grandma Bruno would take Carol downtown and whatever she saw that she wanted she got. Carol not only had her Grandmother and Grandfather Bruno to meet her every need she also had my parents to appease her every want or whim. The one thing I didn’t want was a spoiled child. I can’t stand a spoiled child or a bratty child. Thank goodness none of you kids were that way. | Back row: left to right: my maternal grandmother, Rena Argenti, my paternal grandmother, Mary Irwin, my aunt Rena, me holding Carol, my Aunt Julia. Front row: My mother-in-law, Virginia Bruno, and my mother, Helen Irwin
71: This one day I had taken Carol downtown and we were in Coronet’s 5 and 10. I was with Grandma Bruno and Carol saw something that she wanted on the counter. I told her she couldn’t have it. Grandma Bruno said that she would buy it. I told my mother-in-law that she was not going to buy this item for Carol. Carol can’t get into the mode that every time she comes into a store she can get what she wants. My goodness every time Carol would go into my parents store whatever she wanted she got no questions asked. I was bound and determined that I was going to break her of this habit. On this particular day when I told Carol “No!” she proceeded to scream and yell and carry on like you would not believe. I was furious. I was about ready to crown her. I picked her up, right there in the store, and turned her over my knee and swatted her butt until it was red. My mother-in-law was mortified that I would treat her precious granddaughter in this manner. Grandma Bruno was so mad at me. Boy was she mad. But I wanted Carol to learn that she could not have everything she wanted whenever she wanted. I can tell you one thingCarol never pulled that stunt again with me. Carol was a well-behaved child. She was polite child. I was proud to take her anywhere. I was never ashamed to take her wherever I went for she was truly a delight. Carol was the best-dressed child in Martinez. Anytime anything new would come into my parent’s store, I would go down and pick out an outfit and put it on a charge account. Needless to say, that charge account was never paid. My poor parents dressed Carol and later, Donna, until they could no longer fit into the sizes their store had.
72: July 17, 1944. Carol was a little over a year old. I will never forget it was a warm night. I had put Carol to bed at her usual time around 7:00 p.m. Your grandfather was working the graveyard shift at Shell and was resting on the sofa in the living room down stairs. Around 10:20 p.m., I decided that I would go to bed. From the second floor window, I saw this red glow toward the east. I thought it was a terrible fire. As I walked over to the window to get a better view the house began to shake like an earthquake. I was really scared. First the red glow and now an earthquake? What the heck is going on? I continued toward the window and as I looked out I saw this huge mushroom cloud blast into the dark sky. I thought that a tank at Shell Oil had blown up. I went over to Carol to get her out of her crib. In those days, there was a strap that you would put babies in to confine their movement in the crib so they wouldn’t get underneath the blankets and smother to death. I unpinned Carol from the strap and just as I had picked Carol up in my arms the whole house shook violently followed by a tremendous explosion. All the windows shattered inward. Carol’s crib was filled with chards of glass. All I could think about was to get Carol out of here. Phyllis came running out of her room shrieking with fear at the top of her lungs. Together Phyllis and I ran down the stairs as fast as our legs would carry us. I had Carol upside down carrying her by her feet. Don’t ask me how she got into that position but somehow she did. My father-in-law was at the bottom of the stairs screaming at me about Carol’s upside down position while I was escaping for my life. The whole house and household was in turmoil. We were scared to death not knowing what the heck happened. We truly thought we were under enemy attack. Why didn’t the air raid sirens go off? There was so much confusion. We later found out that there was a tremendous explosion at Port Chicago’s Naval Weapons Station. Five thousand tons of ammunition in ships being loaded by black sailors exploded, sending a blast more than 12,000 feet into the sky. The explosion destroyed the pier, a train, and both ships, instantly killing everyone aboard some 323 men. 14 to 20 windows of Grandma Bruno’s home had been blown out. Glass was everywhere in the house. Your great grandfather had been outside and was walking into the house when the explosion occurred. He was smoking a pipe at the time and I don’t think we ever did find that pipe for the concussion was that great. | Carol with her grandfather, Gaetano Bruno
73: Still not knowing what had happened, Phyllis, your grandfather and I went downtown to see if we could find out what had happened. The entire town was in an uproar. My parents were at their store doing some bookwork when the explosion took place. The impact blew out both big windows in front of the store. They were thrown off their seats. Glass completely covered Main Street. I mean there was glass everywhere. The police department was in full force. All the regular officers were called out. All the reserves were called out. People literally thought we had been bombed. We thought the Japanese had come and bombed us. I had originally thought it was Shell Oil when I looked out the window. Your grandfather had to go to work. Phyllis and I remained downtown with my parents. The police station was located in the plaza by my parent’s store. So Phyllis and I walked over to a police car parked near us. Officers Bonna Costa and Jim Heflin were in the car and we stood there listening to the reports coming over the radio. There was still a lot of uncertainty as to what had happened. Almost an hour later the report came over the police radio that Port Chicago had blown up. Speculation ran wild. Still we did not know how the initial explosion was set off. Would there be more explosions of this magnitude? Everyone was beginning to panic. Aunt Verna was working for Johnny Miller at the Defense Department. A bank of telephones was set up at the Defense Department for such emergencies. Being that Martinez is the county seat all the communications system was centralized here. From this area you could dispatch police, firemen, ambulances, etc. to wherever they were needed. Minnie Viera, Verna’s mother, was a telephone operator at that time. So Phyllis and I decided that we would to up to the Court House and see if they needed our help in getting these telephones up and running. We went up to Johnny’s office and that place was total bedlam. We told Johnny that we were going down to man the telephones. Wouldn’t you knowthe telephones didn’t work. We left there and went down to the USO to see if they needed help down there. They had more help than they knew what to do with.
74: "A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take." - Cardinal Mermillod
75: Me & Mom | Harold Argenti
76: Everywhere we went people had come down to lend a helping hand. So Phyllis and I returned to my parent's store. As I told you it was right near the police station. By this time the ambulances started coming in with the wounded. They had transformed the top floor of the City Hall into an emergency ward. They were bringing the wounded in by the bus loads. Any mode of transportation they could get was used to transport the injured. Many were suffering from shock. I can still see those poor men being carried into City Hall. Some with broken limbs – other would have limbs missing. Some were severely burned. The look of pain in their eyes, I will never forget. Mare Island sent their ambulances over to start transporting the wounded, injured and burned to other military medical facilities in the Bay Area. There was so many hurt that they were stacking the men on these stretchers three deep on each side of the ambulance. We were standing there watching the horror being played out before us. As they were stacking this one ambulance, one of the bunks had broken and came cascading down to the ones beneath. The screams that came from that ambulance were absolutely bloodcurdling. Here they were hurt, needing medical attention, and now this. It was quite a night. Early the next morning the Army was brought into Martinez and the surrounding communities that were affected by the Port Chicago explosion. Marshall Law was in place. I can still see this in my mind. There had soldiers placed on every corner in the business district of Martinez. There were soldiers all over the place. Martinez lived under Marshall Law until the merchants were able to get their windows replaced and secure their businesses. This disaster can be widely reviewed in any historical media you can find. It was one of the worst disasters of this sort that has ever occurred in our times. | My sister-in-law, Phyllis with her mother, Virginia
77: Eleanor McGee’s nephew was one of the men killed in this devastation. Following the Port Chicago explosion, whenever your great grandfather Bruno and your grandpa Vince would go out fishing they would always catch parts of bodies or the ship in their fishing nets. THE STATE THEATER Article from the Oakland Tribune sometime in 1985. “The State Theater in downtown Martinez was the county’s first movie palace built in 1926. It remained a first run theater until it closed its doors in the late 1960’s. There was a brief attempt to turn the State into a concert hall but the idea was abandoned after the first concern with Frank Sinatra, Jr. sold only a handful of tickets. Although it has been unused in more than a decade no one wants to see the State disappear. A local developer owns the building and plans to remodel for use as offices. Martinez officials have expressed primary interest in turning the State Theater into a senior citizen center and community activity facility. One way or another the State Theater will remain intact for the future.” That’s another great thing that happened here in Martinez. Another local landmark seldom mentioned is the John Muir Home. The John Muir home was built in 1890 by the Stretzel family (John Muir’s in-laws) and today it is a national historical site. Vince and Vern may remember Barbara Schultz. I don’t think Krista and Kory would. Barbara is a very dear friend of mine. You will hear more about her later on. Her family bought the Muir home around 1940 and they lived there up until 1950-51. Carol was a very good friend of their daughter, Carolyn. Carol would frequently be at the John Muir home for birthday parties, family barbecues, or just to spend the night. She practically lived there. She loved that old home. I am sure Carol has many stories to tell you about her adventures in the John Muir home. They had a swimming pool on the grounds and Barbara’s mother bought it, then Barbara and her brother, Andy Kreise. They lived there with their families until they sold the property. You can go in there and see visit the site.
78: When Carol and Donna were little girls we would have birthday parties for them and they were big family events. Real big events. I would make different favors for the kids. I will never forget this one-year we had a circus theme. We made the cake into a carousel using animal cookies, which we painted, and then placed on the cake. Minnie Viera and I made clown hats for everyone. We had boxes of the animal crackers at each child’s place on the table. It was truly darling. Someday we will have to show you the movies of it. When we had these celebrations we would invite our closest friends and all the relatives from Aunt Frances’ family. Sometimes we would have 30 to 40 people here for a birthday party. Everybody would come and when their kids had a birthday party we would go there as well. We were very close to Aunt Frances’ family. Very close. Whenever there was an occasion or party we would invite all our relatives. Aunt Frances’ family would come, Aunt Julia would come, Agnes would come, it was a big affair. No matter what it was we never needed an excuse for a family gathering. It could be anything and we would make a party out of it. We had a very good happy life in that sense. The family was always together. There a deep closeness with all of us then as it is to this day. We kept these parties up until we moved out to the valley when Carol was 9 and Donna was 6. We always had big parties down at Grandma Bruno’s. I will never forget when Grandma Lucido turned 80. Did we throw a party! We had everybody there. All her children, and their children, and her great grandchildren attended the party. I have a picture of all the family gathered together for this event. It was always a lot of fun. In 1945, November of 1945, Lew was in the Air Force and he flew a B39 bomber and I believe he was a tail gunner. He came home from the service and he and Phyllis got married. Did we throw a party then! It was huge! I mean it was big party! Grandpa Bruno was still alive then. Most of the boys were home from the service the only one missing was Barney. We have one huge blowout of a party! | The Bruno Family 1952
79: In March of 1946, we had gone to bed and about 3 o’clock in the morning we heard your great grandmother calling us. Something was wrong with your great grandfather and she needed help. All of us on the second floor went flying down the stairs. I can hear Papa yet as he was gasping for breath. Literally he was gasping for breath; you could hear him all over the block. He was out on the back porch sitting on the stairs trying to get some air. What had happened is that he had woken up in the middle of the night not feeling well. So Papa got up out of bed and told your great grandmother that he was going outside to get some fresh air. When he got outside he suffered a heart attack and he was gasping for breath. All the boys dashed to their father, Butch, Frank, Joe and your grandfather, and carried Papa into the kitchen. As they got into the kitchen door, Papa went limp. Frank having been a medic in the Army told his brothers to put Papa on the floor. I can still see poor Frank to this day working on Papa. He tried so desperately to save his father. The look on his face when he finally realized that his father was gone was heart breaking. Frank said to me, “I saved so many men in the service and here I was unable to save my own father.” The death of Papa tore Frank up. He was devastated to think that all the people he had helped he couldn’t help his own father. Papa had a massive heart attack and there was literally nothing he could have done. He died at the age of 55. Needless to say, your great grandmother Bruno was totally devastated. One minute she had a husband and the next minute at the age of 49 she was a widow. I was pregnant with Donna at that time. So many people loved your great grandfather. He was a great man who was so good to everybody. He was especially good and kind to your grandfather and I. I will never forget one time when I had lost $50.00. I can remember Papa coming up to me when he heard about my loss, “Lois, are you short of money?” I told him, “Yes, but we will make out Papa. Don’t worry about it.” | My brother-in-law, Anthony (Butch) Bruno, flanked by his mother and father, Gaetano and Virginia Bruno
80: Reaching into his wallet, he pulled out $50.00 and gave it to me. “No, you take this.” I told Papa, “When Vince gets paid, I will give you the $50.00.” Papa said, “No. I don’t want it back. I can afford it this month. You just take it.” That was the type of man that he was. Papa Bruno didn’t have a selfish streak in him at all. He had a heart of gold. Anything you needed or wanted you go to Papa Bruno and it was yours. If he didn’t have it he would see to it that you got it someway somehow. I don’t how he did it but it was a done deal. My parents had once again split up. I don’t know what happened and to this day, I don’t know what happened to cause this rift and split. My mother had moved down to Alameda with her parents. Your great grandpa Irwin stayed in Martinez and his mother came up to live with him. This was the beginning of 1945. They were in the process of getting back together again at the end of 1945. April 12, 1945. We were going up to Richardson Springs for the weekend. While we were there at Richardson Springs, we heard that President Roosevelt had died. It was truly a shock to the nation. Roosevelt had gotten us out of the Depression and saw the nation through a war. He was at his summer home when he died. I told you earlier how your grandfather Vince would go fishing on his vacations with his father. We were trying to save money to buy property and build our own home. Grandpa Vince and Papa Bruno did quite well. Your grandfather and I had no vacations as a couple at that time. I would go with my mother and father some place or with Minnie and Verna some times. I remember one time when Minnie, Verna and I had gone down to Santa Cruz for one week. That would be the extent of our vacations. | Minnie Viera, Verna Viera Bruno, and ME! in Santa Cruz, California
81: I remember our taking your great grandmother Lucido with us. The community chaos scared her half to death. All the soldiers that were at the Shell Clubhouse came downtown. The Coast Guard was there. Everyone in town was there at Main and Ferry. The celebration continued all night into the wee hours of the morning. What a feeling of relief to know that the war was over and you didn’t have to worry every time you heard a siren, or a plane flew overhead. There was such jubilation! For the Bruno family there was even more joy and jubilation for we were one of the very fortunate family’s of Martinez who did not lose a loved-one in World War II. There were many families that did lose dear ones during the war. I am sure they were happy that the war was over but sad over the toll it took within their family. It was not long after that that Butch came home from the service. Frank came home around the beginning of 1946. He had gone from Europe to Japan and Barney had gone straight to Japan. Barney didn’t get home until almost the end of 1946 or the beginning of 1947 because he was doing the cleanup work over in Japan. Of course, it was in March of 1946 that Papa Bruno died. In 1940, they had built the new St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church at the corner of Mellus and Estudillo Streets. It was quite an occasion when they dedicated the new church and all. WEDDING At the end of my junior year of high school, I married Vince. It was on August 30, 1941. I always said that someday I will go back but that someday just never got here. In a way I was sorry that I did not graduate with my class and in a way I wasn’t. I have had a good and happy life with Vince. My life with him has more than made up for my last year in high school. My class has invited me to all the class reunions that my class has had so I didn’t miss too much except for the education I could have received. Education is very important, please don’t think I am dispelling how important it is but it was not so emphasized when I was growing up. Today it is critical that you have your high school diploma and more so a college degree. Mom’s tapes ended at this point...or did her legacy just begin. Mom, you are forever in our hearts.
82: Marriage -- a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters written in prose
83: Days and Moments of All Our Years!!!
84: You're a true friend, that I want you to know, Our love for each other has helped us to grow. We've been through some tough times, but we've made it through, The only one I ever trusted Was the one and only you. You helped me through anger, you've chased away fears. You held me through sadness, and kissed away tears. You stayed by my side when the world turned away. You helped me see joy when the skies were all gray. You were the rainbow at the end of the storm. You help me be different when I shouldn't conform. You held my hand when you knew we would fall. Every heartache, you saw me through it all. I'm not sure I'm always the best friend to you, I know I'm not perfect, but this much is true. When life gets you down, And there's nowhere to turn, I'll help you through and I'll share your concern. I'll try my best to return every favor, When you're sure that you'll drown, then I'll be your lifesaver; Even if we both go down. | Whether we sink or swim doesn't matter at all, Just know that I'll be there whenever you call. I'll pull you out when life pulls you under. I'll be the sun when there's lightning and thunder. And when it's all over, And we've fought every war, There's one thing I promise, Of this I am sure. When the time comes that we're put to our rest. Be sure that you know that, My friend, you're the best. And if there is Heaven, then I know you'll be there, That if you die first then you'll hear every prayer. And soon I'll join you, but just know until then. That I'll miss you each day 'til I see you again. At the end of the tunnel, you'll be my guiding light, You'll lead me to heaven, away from the night. We'll be there together, and we'll never grow old. And we'll walk hand in hand On the streets paved of gold. | Eternal Friends
85: Cherished Memories
86: A mother's love is a special place where children always have a HOME
87: 4515 Grothman Lane Martinez, CA | Vince bought this piece of property for a song and he built on it with his own bare hands a beautiful 2900+ square foot house which became the center piece for many family functions over the years. Oh, the memories that filled these rooms. The house was sold in April 2011 | HOSPITALITY ABOUND | PERFECT HOSTESS
88: 50 th Wedding Celebration
89: A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.
90: They gave us more than life... they gave us more than love... they gave us a great legacy!
91: To have to hold from this day forward...and we did for 53 years!
92: Your birthday is the perfect time to wish you nothing less than favorite memories, plans and dreams that bring you happiness. For birthdays are a link between the future and the past, reminding us to treasure most those special joys that last! Happy Birthday, Donna 2012