A PLUG FOR
AMAZING NEW BOOK
With A Foreword by Dean Opperman:
Am I a Fresnan? Well, let’s see. I know the difference between dolma and sarma, I prefer bierocks to Big Macs and I can’t sleep at night unless there’s a fan going in the bedroom. But I’ll let you decide.
Just east of Roeding Park is a small stretch of pavement marked Tancredy Road. It’s named after my great grandfather, who planted a grape orchard there after moving to Fresno from Italy in 1916.
My grandfather had a jazz band, Nick Tancredy’s Red Hot Peppers, who were the house orchestra at the Hotel Californian and had a regular slot on Fresno’s first radio station, KMJ, in the 1920’s. He and my grandmother, Shirlee, gave birth to five daughters, Italian beauties all, one of whom is my mother, Dee.
On my dad’s side, my grandfather Paul Opperman managed Dale Brothers Coffee for 33 years. His wife, Myrtledell, was a nurse at Hammer Field Hospital during WWII.
My father, Don Opperman, was an Eagle Scout in Fresno’s Troop 3, who worked his way though school delivering the The Fresno Bee. That’s where he met my mother, who worked in the paper’s circulation department. They were in 11th grade at Fresno High School and they’ve been together ever since.
I arrived the same year as Fresno television, 1953. I made my media debut before I was in kindergarten as part of the peanut gallery on Channel 47’s Old Forty Niner and, thanks to Fresno’s Ross Bagdasarian (aka Dave Seville and The Chipmunks) could recite the complete “Ooh Eee Ooh Ah Ah” libretto before I knew my ABC’s.
When President Kennedy came to Fresno in 1962, the family went to greet him, and I got to shake his hand. It’s amazing as I look back on it now, though at the time I got a bigger thrill out of meeting Hopalong Cassidy at a Food Bank grand opening. Besides, my heroes were closer to home– Uncle Jimmy Weldon and Webster Webfoot and the funniest man who ever lived, the host of Channel 30’s Funtime, Al Radka.
Fresno’s summer heat never seemed to bother me much in those days. I was at that wonderful age when I could leave the house with nothing but a fifty-cent piece and be gone all day. My cousins, Nicky and Steve, and I tubed the Kings, rode our bikes up to Friant and surfed all the side streets in between on homemade skateboards. The only real hazards were red ants, donkey head stickers and salt loads fired by angry farmers when we scaled their barbed wire fences for sweet purple plums.
The only time we were in serious trouble was when we tried to capture pigeons by climbing the north screen of the Starlite Drive-In and the fire department had to bring a hook and ladder to get us all down. What’s amazing about that is even though the drama was covered by TV news, our parents didn’t know about it for 50 years, which proves to my satisfaction that childhood prayers are answered.
Then there was the time our parents dropped us off at Warnors Theater for the kiddie matinee. It was a new Disney film– or so they thought–called The Birds. While the folks were horrified when they realized what had happened, we kids took it all in stride. By that time, we’d been in several cars that’d locked their brakes in Tule fog and skidded to a dead stop on Highway 99– a terror far beyond anything Alfred Hitchcock ever thought of.
For Fresno boys of our generation, there was another rite of passage—a dive from the third tier of the Weymouth Pool tower, and I don’t care what anyone says–I was there and I know–the Weymouth high dive was twice as tall as the Empire State Building, and you had to be careful never to dive in a breeze or you could miss the pool completely and crash land down in Selma.
Fresno Growing Up brings it all back so clearly, you can almost feel the sting of Bactine from being in the sun all day or smell the burning maple leaves of a Fresno winter afternoon. It’s a mother lode of memories and a thoroughly delightful read!
Fresno Growing Up documents the culture of a sleepy agricultural town suddenly turning into the fastest growing city in the United States. Packed with personality and over a hundred rare choice photos it’s a cinematic travelog through the fads and the fables, the fun and the food, that made Fresno an under appreciated blast in those days and Stephen Provost captures it all in a style as delectable as the pink popcorn at Roeding Par Zoo. There’s never been a chronicle about Fresno this rich and detailed and it’s unlikely there will be again so don’t miss out! Get Fresno Growing Up direct from Quill Driver Books or from Amazon.