From: Gary Archer
To: Marilyn Pearce
Subject: Winter Afternoon Thoughts on a Fair Oaks upbringing
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2009

Marilyn, we spoke by phone in early December regarding my grandparents, Horace and Elizabeth Massey, as well as their two children - Vivian Massey Archer (my mother) and Robert Massey (my uncle). My intention is to provide you with substantive information; I have not had the time to dig into family records as yet. It will happen; I simply need more time.

Today, a few thoughts come to mind: my grandparents married in the early 1900's in Portsmouth, NH. She was raised Elizabeth Locke; he was raised Horace A. Massey, Jr. Following their wedding they drove across the country in a Cadillac touring car. I have old photos of them changing a tire on what was known as the "beer bottle trail" (in Colorado, I believe). They settled on a ranch in Fair Oaks on Sunset Avenue. Their west coast "inspiration for migration" came from an advertisement in the Pacific Monthly, later to become Sunset magazine.

My grandfather worked the ranch and was a U.S. Post Office mail carrier for many years - all delivered by car to rural route addresses. My grandmother worked on the ranch; was an avid bridge player; enjoyed Grand Jury work; you could hear her holler for a mile; she swam every day in the summer months, which I found hysterical as a kid growing up in Fair Oaks, as she was, in my eyes, "old". They housed and boarded members of the military in their home during WW II. Interestingly enough, neither of them ever returned to New Hampshire. My Grandmother took her first airplane ride in the early 1960's; that ride included a TV interview with Dick Cable on (Channel 10??). My mother attended Fair Oaks Schools, matriculated to college in Chico and U.C. Berkeley. Upon graduation she taught at the School for the Deaf in Berkeley.

In the late 1930's Vivian was, by design of Dr. Bramhall and his wife Eleanor Bramhall, introduced to Dr. Norton A. Archer, "the new dentist in town", at a swim party and dinner held at the Bramhall home on the bluffs of the American River in Fair Oaks. They married, honeymooned at Lake Louise; built a home on Toyon Avenue, where they raised 4 children. I am the oldest; followed by sister Patricia (South Lake Tahoe); brother Russell (Portland, OR) and another sister Barbara (Bend, OR).

My dad practiced dentistry in Fair Oaks from the mid-1930's until his retirement in about 1978. In the mid-1940's my dad and Earle Blunden, M.D. built and were partners for some years in the Fair Oaks Medical Building in historical downtown Fair Oaks. My dad bought Earle out; expanded the building in the early 1950's and into town came William L. ("Bill") Mahon, M.D. and his wife and family. Bill practiced in the building for a period of years, along with Earle, and for a period of time Dr. David Applegate. Dr. Applegate later moved into the building that at one time housed Callaghan's Department Store - just east a few doors from George Scott's old Fair Oaks Barber Shop. (Earle Blunden is a completely separate story; a man who fascinated me; he had a telephone in his Buick; he had attached to his house at Phoenix Field a hangar for his staggered wing Beechcraft airplane, and he and his wife Gladyce's daughter Joanie landed a job at Channel 3, which ultimately took her to New York as Joan Lunden on Good Morning America.

In high school I babysat for Joanie and her brother Jeff. My dad's assistant during about the last +/- 15 years of practice was Beryl (Heighting) Massey, the wife of my uncle Bob Massey. Beryl passed away on December 30, 2008. My mother passed in November 1981. My father passed in August 1985.

My parents were long-standing members of the Fair Oaks Federated Church. This church split up by vote in the early 1950's and my parents voted to affiliate with and become Charter Members of the Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. Reverend Eugene Nelson and his wife Lydia were friends of my parents and their children played with my youngest sister and my brother growing up.

My dad loved dentistry; he had a diverse set of patients; many were "family" to him. He counted among his patients Governor Earl Warren and his family. The only Warren family member who did not go to my dad was Mrs. Warren. The family home exists today at 8197 Toyon Avenue.

Onward: My uncle Bob Massey was a "cat skinner" (heavy equipment operator) when I was a kid. He contracted polio in about 1950, which scared the living hell out of my mother. She was not easily rattled, however the fact of polio in those days was terrifying to parents. My uncle moved on into various endeavors in the ensuing years, finally seeming to settle in the role and the persona of "Farmer Bob". His obituary in the Sacramento Bee in November 2008 made brief mention of his life, but did include the fact he was known as "Farmer Bob". He taught me how to drive a Jeep, which was cool because it had 4-Wheel drive and could go ANYWHERE. He also taught me how to operate an International track-layer tractor with a hydraulic blade on the front. That was extremely cool as I was 10 years old, and my mother was not at all pleased about the matter. I only wish I could find pictures of those days - a kid on a tractor in Fair Oaks.

As Fair Oaks kids, we were "free" in the best sense of the word. We ran all over the place; we played outside (what a concept) after school; we typically headed toward home by 5:00 p.m. to listen to Sky King; Straight Arrow; the Long Ranger; The Shadow; Bobby Benson and the B Bar B; etc. on the radio. Our imaginations ran wild; we built forts; we made campfires; we learned how campfires can smolder and catch trees on fire (of all things.); we learned what a lecture from Fair Oaks Fire Chief George Payne meant - including the lecture received later on at home. We ran and bicycled up and down the streets; up and down the creeks in the area; we played in, on and around the American River. Rattlesnakes were common, particularly in and around the "rock piles".

Along with Bob Cacciari, Lynn Cacciari, my sister Tish and I, we delivered the Sacramento Bee - an afternoon paper in those days. Our route was about 60 subscribers; the papers were dropped off in wired bundles at the corner of Winding Way and Toyon Avenue. We delivered and we collected subscription $$$ at the end of each month - our introduction to business accounting and the art of a kid attempting diplomacy while gracefully groveling at various and sundry front doors and porches for probably about $1.50 a month to subscribe to the Bee. Some folks were tough to collect from; others paid like clockwork; some had unhappy dogs; some didn't seem to want to turn on the front porch light; some gave you a tip. As I recall, County Sheriff Don Cox paid by the year, AND gave a tip. Acts such as that really made a positive impression on a Fair Oaks kid in the late 40's and early 50's.

Aerojet came to the area and things started to change a bit. Eventually the Olive Plant (cannot recall it's real name at the moment) disappeared, as did Pacific Coast Aggregate; the Natomas (dredging) Company; etc. etc. So, here we are - a few quick reminiscences on a cold January afternoon. Will try to get you something with dates, substantive material, etc. sometime later in the month. Kindest regards in the New Year 2009.

Gary Archer.

Ps/ I cc Bob Cacciari on this as he is my oldest friend; a year ahead of me in school; we started playing together before we started Fair Oaks Grammar School. He will be able to quickly spot and correct any historical inaccuracies as some of my thoughts above have not crossed my mind in decades. More particularly, I hope he gets somewhat of a kick out of reading this "stuff" and that it brings a few old memories to the frontal lobe.