Note: “Ordinary Folk History,” written snapshots of local residents, will appear periodically.
A few years ago, local government access television station Channel 26 produced a series of Fairfield “My City” promo spots using longtime residents. Casting Abe Bautista in one of them was a no-brainer.
Bautista was born and raised in Solano County’s seat and was delivered by Dr. Milton Smith at the old Bunney Hospital, which used to be on Empire Street, in 1949.
“I went to Mark G. Woods Elementary School, which was a block away from my house. It seems like all of the teachers there became locally famous,” Bautista said. “Mrs. Root was my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Johnson was my first-grade teacher, Amy Blanc was my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Cleo Gordon was my third-grade teacher, and Ruth Holly was my fourth-grade teacher.”
Bautista recalls spending hours with friends on the playground at his school.
“You could play until the sun went down,” he said. “I would still be swinging on the monkey bars until Mrs. Amy Blanc, who lived across the street from the school, would come out and say, ‘Now Abe, you better go home now. It’s getting late.’ ”
Memories of the Fairfield of yesteryear are fresh in Bautista’s mind even after half a century.
“Where the city hall complex is now is where Waterman Park used to be – where a lot of military people lived. At the end of Ohio Street when it rained it would flood and me and David Rivera would ride out on rafts and shoot snakes with bows and arrows,” Bautista said.
In later life, Bautista became a businessman, but his entrepreneurship started early.
“I used to sell the Solano Republican (predecessor to the Daily Republic) with Jimmy Hasbrouk,” Bautista said. “My customers for the paper were up and down Texas Street and I also sold seeds for flowers. The reason I sold the paper is that they gave you a small return, but they also gave you tickets for movies at Solano Theater (later Fairfield Cinema I and still later, Pepperbelly’s).”
Bautista called Manuel Campos “Mr. Food Fair” and would frequent Flaky Cream Donuts, Johnson’s Bakery, JC Penney and Freitas Toggery – the only place in town at the time to get Levi’s jeans.
“One of the places I really liked downtown was Loren’s Fountain, it was just like ‘Happy Days’ – ice cream, soda jerks, kids listening to music. They wouldn’t let me in because I was still young . . . but I would sneak in,” Bautista said.
Later in high school, there were lots of things to do on weekends, such as going to Redman’s Roller Rink.
“Every Friday night there was a good fight there, but simple ones, not like today with gangs,” Bautista said. “Other times we would go to the bowling alley. That was where we had our high school all-night graduation party. We bowled all night, danced all night, had lots of food, and it was in a controlled environment.”
Bautista loved sports and played quarterback while at Fairfield Elementary School, but when he tried out for the high school football team, so many of the other kids had grown over the summer he could no longer pass the ball over their heads. He switched to tennis at Armijo High and excelled.
Although Bautista graduated in 1967, the watershed “Summer of Love” in the counterculture movement, his infatuation with the flower children met cold reality.
“Me and my best friend decided we wanted to be hippies so one day we skipped out of school and went to San Francisco,” Bautista said. “I realized I could not be a hippie because there was no way I could walk barefoot in the street. I was worried about catching some disease.”
In later years, Bautista made a name for himself locally on the school board, through decades of service with Holy Spirit Catholic Church and as a musician. Recently he has persevered over numerous health issues, all with his wife of 40 years, Remy, by his side.
The Fairfield of Bautista’s youth holds an almost magical appeal when he speaks of it.
“It was my ‘Leave it to Beaver’ time,” Bautista said. ”Those were very happy times.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at email@example.com.