A House, a Family, and a Bit of Davis History

My father came to Davis in 1917 to join the Animal Husbandry Division at the UC Davis Farm, as it was then called. Before long he met my mother (June Plant), member of a Davis pioneer family. Her paternal grandparents crossed the plains in covered wagons and ultimately settled in Davisville in 1868. Their descendants have since been in continuous residence in Davis.

Mama lived in her family home on 1st Street, the big yellow house - elegant and unique in its time. Built in 1915, it had 3 spigots of running water at each basin- one for cold water, one for hot water (the first in Davis!), and one for rain water which was stored in a big cistern in the back yard. They were married in the little white wooden Catholic Church at the comer of 3rd and J Streets, to which a priest came once a month, from Winters, to say mass.

Papa's specialty was breeding purebred livestock and, in addition to his teaching, he bred Duroc hogs and Holstein Fresian cattle. He rented a small farm in the triangle of land where the man-made Canal made its way to the Delta and Putah Creek went on its meandering path northeast through the UC Campus. Papa had some college students build a little house - basically 4 rooms, a sleeping porch, and a utility porch - and it was to that farm that he brought Mama as a bride. They were idyllically happy there - untouched territory, surrounded by nature, birds galore, rabbits, beavers along the canal, wild geese in season. Paradise. And then the babies started coming.

When the first of these children reached school age, a serious problem arose - how to get them to school!

  • There were 7 gates to open and close to keep the livestock in on the adjoining ranches between ours and town.
  • In the winter Putah Creek was a raging torrent and one cave-in of the road hugging its bank could mean sudden death.
  • The horse which pulled the buggy, which my mother drove, was afraid of the water and shied in a most unpleasant and dangerous way on getting anywhere near it.

"We can't stay here any longer," said Mama. 
"I'll find another farm," said Papa.
"But what about our darling little house?" 
"We'll take it with us."

So the house movers were called in and off trundled the house - down the road, along the creek, through the 7 gates - to Davis!

But of course it didn't stop there - through the town down 2nd Street, across the north bound railway tracks at the SP Depot, down the country road east, over the tracks again at Swingles Crossing, and finally to its new home 4 miles east of Davis along the Lincoln Highway. 

People in town, most of the 2000 population at that time, gathered to watch its progress. The electric lines were lifted to let it through. Flagmen stopped the train to let it pass.  My three older siblings sat in the open back door, swinging their feet, and watched the world go by. My mother cooked the family meals on the wood stove in the kitchen, as usual. The trip took 3 days. It covered 8 miles. It was a great event and a grand adventure.

My two younger siblings and I were born at our new home, June Acres Stock Farm, named for my mother. Sometime along there, a new bedroom was added to the house and the sleeping porch was converted to a proper bedroom, to accommodate a family with six children. And there I lived extremely happily for the first 12 years of my life.

Around 1934, four major events happened which dramatically changed our lives.

  • My father was appointed Postmaster of Davis by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 
  • My father had a major heart attack (age 46) and was invalided for several months. 
  • My mother gave birth, with serious complications, to their sixth and last child.
  • My mother and father, with great reluctance and greater sadness, sold the ranch, the purebred livestock, the equipment, the tools, everything.

What about the house?" Mama asked. 
"We'll take it with us," said Papa

So in came the movers, back on the same route to town came the house, the new bedroom sawed off and moved separately, Papa watching the saw come through the wall even as he lay in bed convalescing. Over the tracks it came at 5th Street and north one block on G where it was set down in its present location, put together again, repainted and refurbished, the very first private home to be located on the east side of G Street. Along the railroad tracks behind it were the Plant Grain Warehouses which belonged to my mother's family and which she managed for several years thereafter.

Life began anew but for me it was never the same. I didn't much like being a city kid. I missed the country. It was a little bit of fun to be able to just walk downtown. If you had a penny you could buy a Queen Anne lollipop at the Varsity Sweet Shop. If you had a dime you could buy 3 quarter-pound candy bars at the original Lee's Drug Store. I walked to Junior High School, one class each of 7th and 8th grades, located in the far west end of the red brick High School building, now the City Hall. I walked to the Hattie Weber Library and read every book I could get hold of, and I fiercely protected my little brother and sister from the ravages of the much bolder and aggressive neighborhood kids.

I've lived in Davis all my life. Oh sure, I went away to college, the University of California at Berkeley, and I taught away for 5 years. But my home and heart were in Davis, so I never really left it. My 5 brothers and sisters went off to college, got married and left home. My father died very suddenly on my 19th birthday. My mother was appointed Postmaster in his stead and served for the next 22 years. I moved home to teach. Finally no one was left in the house but me. And there I am to this day. One of the only two old-timers in Davis who still live in the house in which they were born and raised.

On the comer of 4th and G is a little gingerbready building which houses The Secretariat. Underneath the remodel is my grandfather's office. On the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture building at 5th and G is a bronze plaque in commemoration of my mother's family, "pioneers to Davis and former owners of the land on which this building stands." On lst Street is my mother's family home, now quite trashed by fraternity use. The only trace of our first ranch is one old walnut tree which marks the site of the house. A couple of trees mark the site of June Acres Stock Farm; the impressive cow barn and horse barn - handsome, solid old buildings which could have stood forever - were maliciously set afire and burned to the ground some years ago.

All that remains that gives continuity to my life is our house, twice moved, thrice remodeled, through which were cycled 6 children, made possible only by the 20 year difference between the ages of the eldest and youngest. And I don't plan to leave that house until they carry me out, feet first.

By Mary Ellen Dolcini
November 16, 2000

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