Tuesday, September 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fifty-year friendship forged in Suisun City

old_freinds_1_30_13

Old friends, from left to right, Gordene (Parkison) Pienovi, Nanciann Gregg, Emma Jo (Kincaid) Ramirez and Happy (Hallett) Marinovich all Fairfield residents, met when they lived in Suisun City in the 1950s. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page C1 | February 03, 2013 |

SUISUN CITY — More than a half-century has passed since the bonds of friendship between four local women, all now septuagenarians, were forged. Happy (Hallett) Marinovich, Gordene (Parkison) Pienovi, Emma Jo (Kincaid) Ramirez and Nanciann Gregg, all Fairfield residents, met when they lived in Suisun City in the 1950s.

There was only one high school, so the four are Armijo High School alumni from different classes (1958-1960). From childhood through maturity, they continued to share the highs and lows of life’s journey together.

Happy Marinovich – Fourth generation Suisunite

Happy Marinovich grew up on Line Street, the same street where her great-grandparents had lived. She has fond memories of enjoying a simpler time in her childhood.

“It was right after (World War II), so the boys would sometimes let us play “war” with them in the tules near the slough,” Marinovich said. “We had gangs then, but not like today. They were kid gangs. There was one called Easy Riders, another called The Tule Rats and also Skeeter’s Gang.”

Marinovich remembers loving to skate at the M & M Skateway, a roller rink built partially over the slough very near where Bab’s Delta Diner is now located.

“They had shoe skates, not the kind you strapped on when you were outside,” Marinovich said. “In high school, I was vice president of the teenage club and we got Fats Domino and Bobby Freeman and others to come perform there. They were called dances then, not concerts.”

Independence Day was a big deal in Suisun City and the parade used to come down Union Avenue and onto Main Street as there was no winding ramps, just a railroad track to cross.

“The Fourth of July was awesome. We had pie-eating contests, watermelon-eating contests, three-legged races, bicycle races and sack races,” Marinovich said. “The Suisun and Fairfield Fire Departments would have water fights where they tried to move a barrel with their hoses.”

After high school, Gregg and Marinovich were neighbors for a time and attended the same local social events. Once at a Halloween party, Marinovich and her husband dressed as Hell’s Angels and her husband roared his motorcycle into Gregg’s living room.

There were also times when friendship was focused by need.

“In 1991, my now ex-husband was going to have a bone marrow transplant and they had a huge block party for him and all my old friends attended,” Marinovich said. “It was kind of an all-day fundraiser to help with expenses, but it was really a party because he might not make it. That’s when you know you have a lot of old-time friends. He did make it and is still in the same house despite being 60 years old at the time of the transplant. I think after the party, he didn’t dare die.”

Nanciann Gregg – New kid in town

In 1955, Nanciann Gregg’s family made their way west from Ohio in search of greener pastures. Gregg’s father got a job as a Pinkerton Detective guarding the back gate at Travis Air Force Base. Being the new kid in town was hard, especially when the place they lived was viewed as “the other side of the tracks.”

“My family lived in Pierce Gardens in Suisun City, which was old military housing,” Gregg said. “My dad told us he had rented a duplex, so we thought it must be fancy and made of brick. When we pulled up in front of the clapboard-looking house, my mom’s mouth just dropped and she couldn’t even get out of the car.”

The houses were off the ground, which turned out to be a good thing because that fall there was a flood that had water lapping right up to their doorstep. The California weather welcoming committee also threw in an earthquake, the Greggs’ first.

“The metal closet doors started rattling and my sister and I thought someone was in there,” Gregg said. “My mom was in the kitchen and all three of us were screaming while my dad stood there laughing at us.”

Gregg’s family experienced financial hardship, which was compounded by her father’s alcoholism.

“The job at Pinkerton’s didn’t last long and my dad had to pawn his birthstone ring for $5 so we could have meatloaf,” Gregg said. “Then he got a job as a mailman – the first mailman in Fairfield. We had to move to Fairfield because the law then was that you had to live in the town you worked. We had been OK in Suisun, but once we moved to Fairfield, my dad started drinking.”

Gregg had felt the stigma of living in Pierce Gardens and was happy to move to Hayes Street.

“If Fairfield people found out you lived ‘over there,’ you were shunned. I remember hearing ‘white trash,’” Gregg said.

The friendships that Gregg made with Marinovich, Pienovi and Ramirez in high school helped her cope with growing up with an alcoholic father, and later they would end up at the same social events.

“When we had children, they went to school together – my daughter and Happy’s were the best of friends,” Gregg said. “Emma Jo’s kids went to Fairfield High, but they were all acquaintances because whenever there was some function, they were all there.”

Over the years, working on high school reunions cemented their already strong bond of friendship. In 1989, they began planning Armijo High School’s centennial celebration, which took place two years later, and those who participated eventually formed the Armijo Alumni Association.

The four share a friendship that can go from zero to intimacy with just a phone call.

“We don’t go to lunch every Wednesday, but there is a bond and you know they have your back,” Gregg said.

Emma Jo Ramirez – Memories in a door

Emma Jo Ramirez was an only child and while her family was not rich, she never felt in need.

“We lived in Cannery Camp when we first came to Suisun. Right across from the railroad tracks there was a seasonal Del Monte cannery and for a lot of people it was the only place they could afford,” Ramirez said. “Then we moved to Solano Street and paid all of $18 a month rent on a little house that was probably no bigger than my living room and kitchen now.”

Ramirez remembers first being friends with Happy Marinovich as they went to Crystal School from kindergarten through eighth grade. While she understands the feelings of Gregg, she never really felt the stigma of living in Suisun City.

“The one thing I do remember really well is Friday night when you went to the Solano Theatre in Fairfield. When you walked in, all the Fairfield kids sat on the right and all the Suisun kids sat on the left. I don’t think it was a separation thing, just something we did,” Ramirez said.

Emma Jo married her husband Gilbert Ramirez in 1958 and they moved to Fairfield. That house contains a vivid reminder of living in Suisun City.

“My childhood home had burned down many years ago and once we were visiting some friends and walking around the vacant lot and my husband found a door. I asked him if it said “219 Solano Street” on it and he said no and I said maybe it was an interior door. So he brought it home,” Ramirez said. “He varnished it, kept the same doorknob and went to the hardware store and put “219” on it. It is now my bathroom door.”

Gordene Pienovi – Healing waters

Teens who got pregnant, married, divorced and then had their children raised by grandparents, was rare but not unheard of in the 1940s and 1950s.

After divorcing, Gordene Pienovi’s mother moved them from Nebraska to Solano County, where they stayed in several poor areas. They started out at Chabot Terrace in Vallejo, moved to Cannery Camp in Suisun City and then to the Waterman Park federal housing project, where the Fairfield Civic Center now sits. After that, they stayed in Suisun City at the decrepit Newbold Hotel, formerly a brothel.

Pienovi wouldn’t go so far as to describe her mother as an alcoholic, but settled on a “party girl” who had gotten pregnant much too young.

“Emma Jo’s dad was a bartender at Sterling’s and my mother was a good customer,” Pienovi said. “My grandmother would send me to the bar to get my mother and walk her home. I was, like, in the fourth grade.”

Pienovi moved to Fairfield on Bell Avenue in 1951, but the stigma struck with her from those who knew where she’d came from. When she met Ron Pienovi in 1961 – she’s been married to him since 1965 – his family, who lived in a historic home on Suisun Valley Road, weren’t exactly thrilled.

“They were very upset that he was marrying a lowlife from Suisun,” Pienovi said.

Of her three close friends, Pienovi knows that they are only a phone call away.

“If you have some sort of deep trauma, you know that they can talk you through it. I can call Happy, for instance, and she can tell me just how I should deal with something,” Pienovi said.

Pienovi is glad places that carry bad memories, such as the Newbold Hotel, are long gone. Still, Suisun City holds a special place in her heart. She goes to Bab’s Delta Dinner every Sunday for breakfast.

“When I go to Babs, I feel like I’m in front of the M & M Skateway,” Pienovi said. “When I walk along the waterfront – it’s the same water that was there before, and it’s beautiful.”

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at getthelowdown@sbcglobal.net.

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 4 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Rich GiddensFebruary 02, 2013 - 11:32 pm

    This is an excellent story showing how this community and its people have changed over the decades. Its very interesting to hear the perspectives and views of all our seniors who we love so much. Outstanding! Thanks Tony!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • doug rodgersFebruary 03, 2013 - 12:53 am

    Tony, Great article. I have met all of them either at the Lawler House or through the Alumni Association or at Gordene's propery through the Vacaville Heritage Council. They are walking and talking history books of the area and are a delight to listen to them talk about early Suisun/Fairfield. Nice article on them, and well deserved to single them out. thanks.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Patty Goodman StumpFebruary 10, 2013 - 8:12 am

    tony, I enjoyed the article very much. Clearly one's identity isnt defined as where you live and how unfortunate those prejudices touched anyone living in suisun, where my own father grew up. Every time I return to Fairfield-Suisun I feel embraced by the past, warm and comforting. And I was always proud to have Suisun on my postal address, though I understand that no longer exists for those living in the valley. Thank you for you contined dedication to keeping the past alive in our community. patty goodman

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Tony WadeFebruary 10, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    Thanks so much. It was a blessing to get to tell part of their individual and collective tales.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Weather for Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

Police investigate deadly Vallejo shooting

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
 
 
Police report missing man was found

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Support group to host domestic violence event

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A5

 
Lake Berryessa hike set in October

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Work scheduled for Rio Vista Bridge

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

.

US / World

California wildfire crews brace for weather shift

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Reserves narrowing for California water wholesaler

By The Associated Press | From Page:

LA County sheriff’s deputies testing body cameras

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Bear suspected to have killed New Jersey hiker

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Poll: Support for gay marriage may be leveling off

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Islamic State militants kill 40 Iraqi troops

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Sierra Leone, Liberia brace for new Ebola cases

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Islamist group kidnaps Frenchman in Algeria

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Pennsylvania governor confident ambush suspect will be caught

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Focus on UVa employee in student’s disappearance

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

State police: 3 missing Afghan soldiers in custody

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Prosecutor: 800 rounds found in intruder case

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Islamic State offensive poses problems for Turkey

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Study links changing winds to warming in Pacific

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Crews work to clear debris from Shasta mudslide

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Editorial cartoon for Sept. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page:

 
Still searching for the bottom in Iraq

By John M. Crisp | From Page:

Academia needs to act to protect college women

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page:

 
Question of the week: Will the drought end this year?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
My daughter doesn’t like my cruise plans, but she ignored me first

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page:

Community Calendar: Sept. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Kris Jenner files to divorce Bruce Jenner

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Alaska TV reporter quits on air to promote pot

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Shonda Rhimes lays claim to Thursday nights on ABC

By Frazier Moore | From Page: | Gallery

 
Giuliani to help fight Noriega’s video game suit

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

‘The Lion King’ earns record box office

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Eric Lynch, Howard Stern’s diminutive foil, dies

By The Associated Press | From Page:

TVGrid Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
.

Sports

Giants get closer, beat Dodgers 5-2 in 13 innings

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Prep boys water polo: Mustangs go 3-0 in Dixon tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Prep boys soccer: Mustangs hold Indians to 0-0 draw

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
MNF: Bears hold on to beat Jets 27-19

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Jeff Samardzija pitches A’s past Angels 8-4

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Nebraska’s Abdullah: Jameis Winston must grow up

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Raiders have to settle for moral victory

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Home of 49ers lineman Ray McDonald burglarized

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Undisciplined play sends 49ers to 1-2 start

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Kicking game: It is called football, after all

By Barry Wilner | From Page:

US Soccer stands by Solo decision

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
FIFA ethics judge hesitates on World Cup

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Braves fire GM Frank Wren after missing playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Royals beat Indians 2-0, gain on Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Bettman says NHL proactive about off-ice conduct

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Silver: NBA will review domestic violence policies

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Concern over McIlroy, McDowell more about results

By The Associated Press | From Page:

NFL vetting process: There are no sure things

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Owner: ‘No misinformation’ by Ravens on Rice

By The Associated Press | From Page:

This date in sports history for Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Kent creates scholarship for Cal women’s athletics

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Treasury to unveil steps to curb tax inversions

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Tesco suspends execs over inflated profit report

By The Associated Press | From Page:

GM expert says 21 deaths eligible for compensation

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Apple: 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sold

By The Associated Press | From Page:

US existing home sales fall in August

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Investors fret Yahoo’s future, stock dips

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Businesses and investors pressing for green policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Garfield Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Zits Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Pickles Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
B.C. Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts Sept 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6