Pocket Life November 2021
By Corky Mau
She watched the boats and saw history
Birthday cake is on the Thanksgiving menu at Lynette Bell’s family gathering in Wilton. Her mother, Dolores Silva Greenslate, was born Nov. 23, 1924. She’s one of the few people who can tell us what Pocket was like in its early days.
In her 97 years, Greenslate witnessed many changes in Pocket. She saw farmland transformed into housing, shopping centers, schools, parks and Interstate 5. Lewis Park sits on property once owned by Greenslate’s great-grandfather, Antone Rodriques Perry.
A century ago, Pocket was farm country, worked mostly by Portuguese immigrants from the Azores. Greenslate lived with her extended family on an 80-acre ranch. The household included her parents Victor and Mamie Silva, brother Marvin, and grandparents John and Clara Machado.
The ranch was located where the Sacramento River makes its turn to begin Pocket, just north of The Trap on Riverside Boulevard. Victor Silva was known as Pocket’s premier boat builder. One memory for Greenslate involves standing on the levee with her family to watch large ferryboats maneuver the tight turn in the river. “Boats came so close, I could talk to the passengers,” she says.
Farm homes in those days were often two-story wooden structures built by Portuguese neighbors. Water came from a hand pump. There was no indoor plumbing. Families raised cows, chickens, pigs and rabbits for food. “We grew our own vegetables and fruit trees. To this day, my favorite fruit is Bing cherry,” Greenslate says.
he fell in love with her future husband, Norman Greenslate, as a teenager. Both attended California Junior High, McClatchy High School and Sacramento Junior College. Norm’s second love was baseball.
The St. Louis Cardinals were interested in Norman, but World War II interrupted his baseball plans. He served in the Army as a combat engineer. He was photographed at the Battle of the Bulge—a photo Ken Burns used when putting together his documentary film and book “The War.”
In those days, Dolores Greenslate grew a victory garden and volunteered with the USO and at hospitals where soldiers were recuperating. She is featured in the Burns film, recalling how she took a pin-up photograph and sent it to Norm.
They married in October 1946, after Norm was discharged. He played in local leagues and was inducted into Sacramento’s La Salle Baseball Hall of Fame. Norm died in 2017 at age 93.
In 1962, Dolores and Norm were among the original residents of the Greenhaven 70 development, south of The Trap. She was a founding member of the Portuguese Historical and Cultural Society.
For many years, she wore traditional Portuguese attire and visited local schools to describe the region’s history to children. Materials from her interviews with Portuguese families are included in two editions of the book “Portuguese Pioneers of the Sacramento Area.”
Family birthday parties are still a tradition for Greenslate. “Grandmother always made my birthday cake,” she says. “It was layered with whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit from our yard. She’d make vanilla ice cream, too.” The kids drank root beer. Adults enjoyed the Machado’s homemade wine.
This Thanksgiving, she’s looking forward to another birthday and family gathering. Even if the cake isn’t exactly the way Grandmother made it, I know the memories will be sweet.
Here’s a belated birthday cheer to Mickey Yamadera, who turned 100 Sept. 24. A resident at ACC Maple Tree Village, Yamadera’s family joined staff for a party.
Gifts included a congratulatory card from Rep. Doris Matsui and a key to the city from Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Yamadera was a longtime volunteer at ACC. Happy birthday!
Corky Mau can be reached at email@example.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.