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Sunday, April 03, 1983

The Easter parade

Ernest D. Wichels

For nearly 2,000 years the festival of Easter has been one of the important dates on the Christian liturgical calendar.

The ritual has seen little change. But the habits of worshippers have always changed, influenced by transportation, climate, fashions, etc.  One example: 50 or 100 years ago it seemed to be a sort of contest to see who could wear the latest or most fantastic bonnet and, in larger centers of population, the afternoon “Easter parade” was a fixture, weather permitting.

From the files of the Vallejo Evening Chronicle of March 25, 1883, the Easter of that year, we find these comments: “The Methodist Church has been appropriately decorated for Easter services   “Traditional services will be held at St. Vincent’s Church and at Ascension Episcopal Church. Naval Commandery, Knights Templar, 30 strong, will attend services at Ascension ...”

On Monday following Easter, the Chronicle reported the surprise announcement made at the First Presbyterian Church: “On Easter day, the Rev. N. B. Klink of the Presbyterian Church announced his resignation as rector after 22 years of service.”

The Rev. Mr. Klink, was one of the most influential citizens of Vallejo in those days. One of his daughters married Edward Frisbie, brother of John B. Frisbie, Vallejo’s founder and son-in-law of Mariano Vallejo.  After enduring the current rainy season, it may be interesting to note, also, that Archbishop Alemany of the - Catholic Diocese, asked all congregations to pray for rain during Easter week, As of that week, only 7 inches had fallen.

Apparently, from Chronicle and Napa Reporter columns, it was a serious drought. “The small rainfall has created quite a demand for water tanks, and D. G. Barnes is turning them out in great quantities,” From Binghampton (east of Fairfield): “Rain is very much seemed grain is heading out and is only 4 and 6 inches in height.”

“A.T. Hatch, Suisun Valley farmer, reports that fruit orchards are not affected. but the feed in the hills is non-existent.”  Also, “Charles Widenmann, Vallejo city trustee, asked the City Council not to spend any money to build wooden crosswalks on Georgia and Virginia streets because of the absence of mud.”

On March 11, 1883, Water Superintendent A. J. McPike published this notice in the Evening chronicle: “All water will be turned off except for two hours each day. Persons are prohibited from irrigating gardens: those who violate this order will have their water turned off immediately.”  Easter, April 16, 1933. This Easter, 50 years ago, was another dry year, with only 13 inches total, identical with 1883. But we had plenty of water, thanks to Lake Curry.

The Chronicle devoted considerable space to church services. Two services were held at the First Presbyterian Church with The Rev. Lester F. Eisel in the pulpit. The Rev. Louis A. Naselli held traditional rites at St. Vincent’s, as did the Rev. J.T. MaeGovern at Ascension Episcopal,  Ascension also had special musical arrangements, and soloists were Gearhart Larsen and Kenneth H. Dick.  In those days it was the Vallejo custom to hold Good Friday services at one of the downtown churches from noon to 3 o’clock, and all businesses and offices in town were closed.

The Good Friday services in 1933. were held at the First Christian Church, 737 Virginia St.; St. Vincent’s and Ascension also had afternoon services, the latter at 638 Georgia St.  Many readers will recall that 1933 was one of the Depression years, and prices reflected the economy. In fact, some readers may not believe their eyes when they read some of the downtown prices we will quote.  Levee’s was advertising ladies’ hats from $1.95 to $2.95, and ladies’ dresses from $5 to $15.

Crowley’s Department Stores had ladies’ coats at $19.50, dresses at $12.75, and Palmolive soap, 5 bars for 25 cents.  Piggly Wiggly Safeway ( 412 Georgia, 438 Georgia and 326 Virginia) had some Easter specials: pot roast, 12 cents a pound: loin pork, 14 cents a pound; peanut butter, 2-pound jar for 19 cents; two dozen large eggs for 29 cents; tomatoes, 2 pounds for 19 cents; apples, 7 pounds for 25 cents, butter at 20 cents a pound, and Rice Krispies for 9 cents a package.

But it wasn’t all good news. Easter week in 1933 brought the headlines: “Dirigible Akron wrecked in the ocean of New Jersey ; 74 perished; three saved.” Among those who perished was Rear Adm. William A. Moffett. By coincidence, two days later, the Mare Island commandant went to the peninsula when they dedicated the “Sunnyvale Air Base.” A short while later it was renamed “Moffett Field.”