Early 1900s1901This picture shows the graduating class of Armijo High School in 1901.1902In 1902, a new town called Cement was constructed between the area of our district and Fairfield. By 1907, the Pacific Portland plant was producing 6,000 barrels of cement a day and was one of the largest cement plants in the western United States. Much of the cement was shipped through Suisun's embarcadero. Suisun Slough was deepened in the 1900s to accommodate shipments from the plant.
Adjacent to its factory, Pacific Portland erected a town for the 500 people regularly employed at the plant. The town, known as Cement, contained 50 cottages for married employees, dormitories for single workers, a large hotel, a company store, a hospital, a school called Cement School, and a recreation hall.This is a photo of Cement Hotel from that time.In the early years of the 20th century, the importance the plant was reflected by the popular Cement Ball, one of the most important social functions in our area, which was held at Cement Hill. People came from as far away as San Francisco. For $5, a couple could have a multi-course dinner with dancing to a full orchestra. The invitations, shown below, were in the shape of cement bags. Each lady had a card listing all the dances for the evening. Dance partners wrote their names in pencil next to their chosen dances.For a few years the supply of limestone for the plant came from travertine deposits near the plant. High production used these up rapidly, and increased demand required the company to bring limestone by rail from the company's mountain quarries near Cool, El Dorado County. The latter deposits supplied most of the limestone used at the plant from 1910 until 1927, when the cement plant was closed down and dismantled.
The major use of the travertine was in making cement; however, it was used prior to 1900 for smelter flux at Selby lead smelter, and for road material and concrete aggregate.
Today, the extensive ruins of the former cement mill remain, including the company ranch buildings where livestock were raised for meat and eggs; the short line railroad trestle supports and grade; and the rock crusher foundation known locally as The Castle. The site of the Cement company town has been partially redeveloped, with subdivision houses on top of the old town's area.Clay Bank Road now runs over what was once Front Street, reserved for company officials, foremen, and their families. Half of Back Street, where the workers and their families lived, is located on the east side of Clay Bank Road where it curves west. A large foundation, possibly that of the three-story Golden Gate Hotel, is located at this point. Facilities that used to be located in town included a hospital, bar, livery stable, post office, telephone exchange, park, baseball diamond, general store, and grade school. Two of the company homes were relocated to 512 and 518 Davis Street in downtown Vacaville after the Cement property was shut down and auctioned off.1903In 1903, Fairfield incorporated as a city.Orville and WIlbur Wright flew a plane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was the first successful flight of a manually controlled, fixed wing, motorized aircraft. The flight was 120 feet long, which is a foot shorter than the cargo bay of the C-5 Galaxy planes that currently fly out of Travis AFB.This photo shows the Woods family. From left to right are Wilbur Woods, Lillie Woods, Robert Woods, Warren Woods, and Inez Woods. Wilbur is dressed as boys were typically dressed in the 19th century. They wore dresses and had long hair until they were 6 or 7 years old. This Smithsonian article has additional examples of this style.Warren Woods was appointed to serve as Suisun's Postmaster by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, and appointed again in 1912 by President William Taft. Robert, called Bobby, grew up to become the clerk of Solano County Bank.This is an unusual picture of Inez Woods with her terrier. It is an unusual photograph because she is wearing pants. Photographs were uncommon in the early 1900s, and girls were dressed carefully in their best dresses for formal portraits. Sadly, Inez died of diphtheria on July 2, 1904, when she was 10 years old. There are reports of a large number of diphtheria cases in Northern California in 1903 and 1904. Diphtheria is no longer a threat to children in the United States because vaccination is required. The D in the DPT shots all children get now stands for diphtheria.Symptoms of diphtheria include upper respiratory tract illness and a sore throat. There is a low grade fever, usually lower than 102 degrees Fahrenheit. A gray membrane forms over the back of the throat, and glands swell. Between 10% and 20% of cases are fatal in children, from respiratory failure related to the membrane and swelling in the throat or heart and organ problems from a toxin produced by the bacterium causing the disease. By 1900, there was an antitoxin available that could be used in serious cases.1904Cherry crops came in first each year, and crops in the Vacaville area ripened earlier than others. Weather was a problem because if it rained, some of the cherries split, and and the split cherries had to be sorted out from the rest of the crop by hand before the crop could be sent to market.1905In 1905, California Legislature established a farm school for the University of California (Berkeley was the only campus at the time). The school was established at what was then called Davisville. In 1909, 40 UC Berkeley students came from UC Berkeley to the University Farm. This picture shows the creamery and horticulture buildings.1906What did students have to learn in 1906? Check out this booklet published by the County Superintendent of Schools. Course of Study: Elementary SchoolsCan you pick out the little white building in the foreground of this picture? That was Vacaville's first jail, located next to Ulatis Creek. One night, a pair of drunks were arrested and put into the two cells in the little building. During the night, they took a section of the flimsy building apart, and neatly stacked the boards before they escaped.Early one morning in 1906, the jail was found in the creek, where it had been pushed. People made jokes that the town's improvement society had decided to get rid of it. The town realized that a better jail was needed, and Vacaville Town Hall, which included a much more effective jail constructed of masonry, opened in 1907.1908This 1908 map shows our area. Our district is in the Cement-Vanden-Cannon area.1909Yearbooks from Vacaville High School (The Ulatis) and Armijo High School (La Mezcla) for years ranging from 1901 to 1933 can be found online at the Solano History website.1910The Solano County Courthouse was built in Texas Street in 1910. The exterior is granite, and the interior used white marble.1911Check out the Solano County Course of Study 1911. Notice that 5th graders studied fractions and decimals just as they do now. The curriculum also required a great deal of informational reading along with literature, just as the modern Common Core State Standards do now. Textbooks cost between 15 and 95 cents. If inflation were the only factor increasing costs, modern textbooks would cost about $12. However, books now cost about $80.1912This picture shows the school in Cement. It later became a post office and business center, and the school moved to the old post office.1913The Northern Electric railway began operating freight service between Suisun City, Fairfield, and Vacaville. During 1912-14, the first state highway was built through Solano County, going through Fairfield at Texas Street, leading to retail development there and damaging Suisun City’s previous prominence.In 1913, the area was blanketed with snow.
The top picture shows sisters-in-law Bertha Klusman and Mary Klusman out enjoying the snow. The lower picture shows Amy and Ruby Brady building a snowman.1915Solano County published an informational booklet, touting the area's location between San Francisco and Sacramento, agricultural productivity, and proximity to transportation, both rail and water.This photo shows the old Armijo High School.Mr. Leslie Gordon's description of life at Armijo High during this time period:"I started going school in 1915 at the new Armijo High School building on Union Avenue in Fairfield. I took manual training in the old Armijo building, metal work and carpentry. Part of the building was used for a basketball court. Our graduating class had 26 students. I took four years of English, one year of German, and I played basketball."1920This photo shows Cordelia School. Most local schools were small, with either a single, multi-grade classroom or two classrooms, with one for younger children and one for older children. Most of the schools were K-8.Suisun Valley School
Fran Peterson of Fairfield remembers teaching in the early 1900s:
I taught at the Alamo School in Vacaville for one year in 1919. Then I taught two years (1920, 1921) at Union School, then I married in 1921. My children Rose Ann and Chester attended school at Union School.
I taught all grades in one classroom. There were grades one through eight. And every day I taught each class. When I taught one class, the other seven classes would study. Arithmetic was the first class of the day. Then the first and second grades got their English and phonics.
Friday was test day. On Fridays, I’d test all the grades on the work they had done that week. After the tests, we would have singing and spelling bees. One year I had six first graders and one second grader. Sometimes I’d call on an 8th grade student to help instruct the younger children. During our spelling bees, everyone competed. Different grades would play each other, with words being selected appropriate for each grade.It was a privilege to ring the bell on top of the schoolhouse. The student with the best marks during that week was permitted to ring the bell at lunch and at the beginning of school each morning. School started at 8:15 a.m. The smaller children just loved it when it was their turn.During the early 1920s, a rodeo was held in May. One of the annual events was the winding of the May Pole. Girls rode astride rather than sidesaddle as they usually did. The 20 girls moved their horses in a carefully choreographed pattern, leading to the weaving of the ribbons around the pole. The rodeo was one of the most popular events, drawing 2,000 people each year.1921This photo shows the original Nut Tree. Josiah Allison, a pioneer of 1854, planted the black walnut in 1860. The nut had been picked up by his niece, Sally Fox, when she went through Arizona on her westward journey. In this picture, the famous nut tree was 61 years old.The Nut Tree business opened in 1921 on old U.S. Route 40. Helen and Ed "Bunny" Power built a small roadside fruit stand near the site of Helen's childhood home (Harbison House, built in 1907). The Powers purchased the house from her parents after they were married in 1920. The photo below shows the Nut Tree in 1940, when it was 80 years old.The Nut Tree grew as the area developed and US 40 evolved into Interstate 80. At its peak, there was a restaurant, and outdoor eating area, a bakery, a gift shop that sold rocks in addition to the usual tourist items, a toy shop, and an airport. The Nut Tree was famous for the Nut Tree Railroad, where families could ride on a small train. It had a family-friendly popular restaurant with parrots in an atrium inside.1928
Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. He showed that penicillin, a mold, produced a substance with antibiotic properties, which he called penicillin.1930During the 1930s, the rise of automobile transportation led to a gradual phasing out of the multi-grade country schoolhouses which dotted Suisun and Green Valleys.
The dramatic stock crash of October, 1929, is often cited as the beginning of the Great Depression, but the prolonged economic downturn began in our area at an earlier date. The Pacific Portland Cement Plant was closed in 1927, and Cement Hill was soon abandoned to a few stray cattle.
The following year, the economic downturn hit fruit growers hard as east coast buyers stopped their luxury purchases of fresh fruit from California. Prices fell, and expensive hill and terrace orchards near Vacaville became uneconomical. Not only did prices fall, but there was also a disease problem with apricot and cherry trees. Local fruit packing plants and canneries closed.
The loss of cement plant and agricultural jobs led to unemployment that also impacted retail trade as residents had no money to spend. Federal Works Progress Administration projects helped somewhat, as WPA sidewalks were constructed in Suisun City and Fairfield.1931With the dedication on October 5, 1931 of the new Spanish Mission-style library in Fairfield, on the corner of Union and Texas Street, the Solano County Free Library was once again ready to grow.
From its inception, the Free Library had worked in collaboration with the University of California Agricultural Extension program and the Solano County Education Music Department. The staff of the county's agricultural commissioner now shared the building with the Free Library.
At the time of moving the library operations from their temporary home to the new building, the staff consisted of Miss Gantt, her assistants Mary Ethel Goodfellow and Josephine Ramage, and Maryalice Howe Maxwell as school assistant. All were graduates of the U.C. Library School and they were joined on the staff by Anne Maddsen and Mrs. Mary Guernette, daughter of former Senator Rush.
The move to the new building was conducted between August 31 and September 5, 1931. County Librarian Miss Gantt recalled the move in her final report, allowing a glimpse of the enormous task of moving and shelving close to 100,000 books in five days:
"The movers with their trucks worked 2 1/2 days while the library kept two extra men on until September 5th. The School Department had been packed in boxes (the regular shipping cartons) weeks before we expected to move in July but were held up by the shelving which was not completely installed until the last of August. The school rush had already started with the books in boxes, thousands of books in great masses. Every box was labeled with the contents so the boxes were arranged by the men in the new building according to the proposed arrangement on the shelves.
"The books of the general collection were carried out on book trucks loaned by the State Library, big heavy trucks with side guards which were rolled onto the movers (sic) trucks and rolloff (sic) on to our loading platform. These books had to be taken from the stacks at the Legion Building (the library's temporary home in Suisun), the stacks taken down (partially) and moved out to the School Department and set up before the work of arranging this department could go forward.
"There was no delay once the moving started forward and at one time an extra moving truck was put on to keep the trucks going with no delay. The two extra men employed for work in handling the books at both ends of the line and who stayed on for 2 1/2 days after the movers had finished, helped with the placing of the books on the shelves and with a good deal of shifting, which was necessary, for the Fairfield Branch had moved from the garage building (its temporary home) the middle of July to save rent and with just two fifteen foot stacks. The extra four stacks were then put in and the books shifted. The staff worked like Trojans just as they had after the fire and during the inventory, and in a week the place looked occupied and workable, though it was some time before the general collection was in perfect shape."
Besides the reference collection and the general collection, the School Department was one of the major service components of the Free Library. Elementary School districts joined the library, turning their allocated moneys over, so that a specially trained librarian could purchase books and educational materials. These materials were on loan to all schools. Special emphasis was placed on reaching out to the county's rural schools, where children did not have easy access to a branch library.
While the number of school districts varied throughout the years, the library at one time served 56 school districts. Today, many of these names are just a memory: Allendale, Armijo High, Benicia Grammar, Central, Glena Cove, Sulphur, West End, Blue Mountain, Browns Valley, Cauright, Cement, Center, Collinsville, Cooper, Crescent, Crystal, Currey, Davis Junction, Denverton, Dixon Grammar, Elmira, Fairfield, Falls, Flosden, Gomer, Grant, Green Valley, Hunter, Liberty Farms, Maine Prairie, Milzner, Montezuma, Montgomery Junction, Mountain Junction, Oakdale, Olive, Owen, Peaceful Glen, Pitts, Pleasants Valley, Rhine, Rio Vista, Rockville, Round Hill, Ryer Island, Silveyville, Solano Junction, Suisun, Toland, Tolenas, Tremont, Union, Vaca Valley Union, Willow Springs, and Wolfskill.By the 1940s, the school department housed 52,977 books, which included textbooks, supplementary readings and juvenile materials. Most of these books were in circulation at any given time. Teachers would come and select the books needed for their classes, or else write in an order and have the books shipped to them. By year's end, they were supposed to return those books to the library.After the 1929 fire, the school librarian realized that many of the school collection's books had gone out but not come back. This necessitated an inventory, where she and her staff went to every school to inventory books, conduct a recall and finally remove the cards from the school catalogs for those books that ultimately were lost.The need to reach the remote areas of the district and to maintain accountability of the loaned books resulted in the installation of a bookmobile.Maryalice Maxwell remembered in an oral history in 1988:
"So I put my mind to work and tried to figure out what we could do to get the books to the children in a better way. So that they would actually reach the children instead of being parked on the back shelf. Our librarian usually had a car, so we talked it over, and we decided we'd try putting some shelves in the back. We had our janitor, who was a very handy man, make us a set of shelves to fit inside the back of the car. We'd go down through the valley and stop at one side ... I passed books out to the children and told them stories."1933This is a picture of Hellen Davis, one of the most interesting women in Vacaville's history. In 1895, Mattie Statler, who arrived in 1888 from Missouri with her parents and attended local schools, married George W. Davis, the son of Vacaville pioneer ranchers, Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Davis. The couple had two children, Hellen and Ora Margaret.Hellen grew up on her family's ranch. In 1901, when she was three years old, Hellen hitched her dog to a wagon, and played horse race. As she got older, she hitched up and trained all the calves on the ranch, along with any other livestock she could find. When she was 8, her father gave her a horse after he caught her trying to harness up a horse from the top of a fence.Hellen was a true horsewoman. She spent all of her time, 24/7, working with horses.In 1921, Hellen entered her first race for money at the Dixon May Day Picnic, launching her 30 year career as a harness racer. She became famous nationwide when she drove her own horses to victory at the May Day races in Dixon. She was known as an innovator in a male dominated field, and by the mid 1920s, she was recognized as the only female trainer and driver of race horses in the United States.Hellen explained her success. She said horses are just like people--very nice people. They have as much character, intelligence and personality as anyone. She said there are two ways to deal with horses so that they think you are their master. One way it through bluff, and the other is through love, and you need to use both methods.She raced at both Dixon and Sacramento, where there was a mile track. Her horse Lady Belle D held the Pacific coast record for pacing of 1 minute, 1 second. She had a stable of fast horses, including Lady Belle D, Palo Cres, and Palomin, and followed the racing circuit around California, winning enough to earn a living and stay in the limelight.When it wasn't racing season, Hellen used her racehorses to deliver dried fruit for the Buck Company. The two horses above were named Sire and Dam. Hellen's physical strength is evident in the photo--she was strong enough to throw the sacks of dried fruit onto the wagon.Hellen dressed in men's clothes, which were more practical for working with horses than the long dresses worn by women, and she kept her hair short. This was considered scandalous at the time. She summed up her career by saying that it's not everybody who gets to do what they like in life. Hellen died in 1981 at the age of 83 in Fairfield.1939World War II begins.1940This Thomas' map shows the TUSD area in 1940. The whole scalable map is available online Thomas' map 1940.1941On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leading to the United States' entry into World War II. Our country declared war on Japan on December 8.Vacaville High School's newsletter included campus gossip, hot new slang, and a review of what everybody was wearing. Check it out on the Solano History website.1942Construction began on Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base. The site had been of interest to the U.S. Navy because the strong prevailing west winds kept fog away, and created conditions similar to that found on aircraft carriers at sea. At one point, the outline of the deck of an aircraft carrier was painted on a runway so newly commissioned Navy pilots could practice Hellcat and Helldiver takeoffs and landings. Flying conditions were usually good. A site near Dixon had also been considered, but clouds of black gnats there made the area less desireable.As Navy pilots practiced, the Army Corp of Engineers began construction of a base for Air Corps fighters. The base was named the Fairfield-Suisun Army Airfield. The Air Corps' Transport Command assumed control of the field in May, 1943, and Fairfield-Suisun became an important take off point for Pacific-bound B-24 bombers. The area was very windy, and the wind stripped the tar paper off the roof, and the roofs had to be fixed constantly.1943In 1943, Travis Air Force Base conducted Mission 75, which included 250 C-54s. They flew occupation forces to Japan, and brought back wounded veterans and liberated POWs.1945Although the end of the war in 1945 closed many other airfields, the Fairfield-Suisun installation was expanded. None of the other airfields in California during the war years enjoyed more favorable environmental factors, such as the large expanse of flat land, long approaches free from hills or urban development, ideal wind conditions, and a near absence of summer fog.In 1945, an initial contract of $20,000,000 was awarded and work was begun on four miles of runway, new buildings, and the David Grant Medical Center. The base was very active during the beginning of 1946 as planes were returning from the Far East.1947The U.S. Air Force was established.1949The Strategic Air Command (SAC) of the newly created U.S. Air Force took over Fairfield-Suisun in May, 1949. SAC soon began a major construction program to transform the base from a mobilization facility designed for full occupancy during emergencies to a permanent base for B-36 intercontinental bombers.The base was renamed after Brigadier General Robert Travis, who was killed in an August, 1950 air crash.Brigadier General Robert F. Travis was born in Savannah, Georgia on December 26, 1904. He commanded the Eighth Air Force 41st Bombardment wing during World War II, leading his men in 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, including the bombing of a Nazi aircraft manufacturing facility. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.Travis graduated from West Point in 1928 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. In 1947, he graduated from National War College. His career was marked by regular promotions and increasing responsibility. In 1949, Travis became the Commanding General of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and later also the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, both located at Travis AFB.On August 5, 1950, Travis was killed while acting as the command pilot on a B-29 Superfortress headed for Guam at the request of General Douglas MacArthur. The plane was part of a 15-plane deployment to the Pacific at the beginning of the Korean Conflict.The plane carried the casing and high explosive portion of a nuclear bomb, but the radioactive uranium core, the part that makes a bomb nuclear, was on another plane. Policy was for the two elements to be separated when flying over the United States, with the bomb and payload traveling in separate aircraft, over separate routes, and at separate times. Five minutes after takeoff, the plane suffered a number two propeller malfunction, and the landing gear failed to retract, making the aircraft unable to climb from its 200 foot altitude.As the pilot, Captain Steffes, attempted to return to the runway, the heavily loaded aircraft lost another engine. An electrical power failure added to the problems, but Captain Steffes was able to set the plane down in a controlled crash that avoided a trailer park and saved the lives of several crew members.The left wing struck the ground, and as the plane slid forward, it spun sideways and broke apart, with the cockpit becoming separated from the bomb bay and tail section of the plane. Rescuers were able to access the cockpit area, and Brigadier General Travis was rescued alive, but died of crash-related injuries while en route to the hospital. The pilot crawled out of the pilot's window, and fell to the ground. He was rescued by members of the 9th Food Service Group who were nearby. He survived.Twenty minutes after the crash, burning fuel detonated the 5000 pounds of high explosives on the plane. The explosion was heard 30 miles away in Vallejo, and shattered windows in downtown Fairfield. Many people on the ground were injured by the blast, and debris was scattered over a wide area. The bomb explosion killed five firefighters, and two volunteers who were attempting to rescue the crew.Sergeant Paul Ramoneda of Food Services died heroically while attempting to rescue crew trapped in the burning fuselage. He had already rescued crew members from the nose section of the plane, working with the team on the ground to carry them to safety. 0.50 caliber ammunition and flares were starting to go off from the heat, and the heat from the flaming tail section was becoming intolerable. Ramoneda knew there were more survivors in the nose section, which had begun to burn. Despite people yelling that the plane was going to explode, Ramoneda wrapped his apron around his head and went back to the plane. That was when the explosion occurred, leaving a crater 30 feet in diameter and 6' deep. This accident was the worst in Travis AFB history.This photo shows a USAF Boeing B-29 in flight.