Corinne Collins Oestreich
Corinne’s home has been owned by six generations of the same family. At first it was built on stilts because the river came right up to the wooden sidewalks. Her father, Robert Roy Collins, who went by Roy, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a painter. Her mother’s name was Ethel Harvey Collins and she was a housewife and had also worked at Schafer’s Variety Store on Main Street. Corinne was an only child. She spent a lot of time reading books at the Rio Vista Library which was a two story building with a water fountain and two palm trees out front. It housed the library and the office for the City of Rio Vista, plus the Pythian Sisters and Pythian Brothers met there as well. She remembers her great grandfather, grandfather and father painting the building. She attended Bruning School on Montezuma, which was K through 3rd grade. Her teachers there were Muriel Hassler, who would become Mrs. Bushnell, for 1st grade, Miss Morrison who died at age 100 in 2006 for 2nd grade and for 3rd grade Mildred Green who married Ralph Pezzaglia. She then went on to Riverview School and her teachers were Miss Stipes for 4th grade, Mrs. Totman for 5th grade, Miss Gallatin for 6th grade and Mr. Harry Alley for 7th grade. The Riverview school principal was Peter Jacobs, who was a neighbor and family friend. During school Corinne’s favorite subject was recess, playing baseball and kickball.
After school she worked on her homework and then played baseball, kick the can, statues, hide and go seek, bicycle riding or roller skating. She had chores like feeding the chickens and rabbits, though she didn’t get an allowance because she was allowed to go to the theater three times a week. It cost .25 cents to get in and her favorite movies were Westerns. The family enjoyed listening to their crystal radio, and then later a regular radio. Some of her favorite programs were Fibber McGee and Molly, The Lone Ranger, and The Green Hornet. “Give me a bouquet of roses” by Eddy Arnold and the Andrews Sisters, “Rum and Coca Cola...” are a couple of her favorite songs from the 40’s. She also remembers listening to the radio when President Roosevelt announced the war and newspaper vendors in the streets also announced “Hear ye, hear ye, we are at war.” Her cousins John Henry and his brother Harry Stanley were in World War II. John Henry Cole still lives here in Rio Vista.
On Sundays her family ate pot roast with potatoes, carrots and celery that her father cooked so that her mother could have a day of rest. He cooked all of this in an iron pot also known as a Dutch oven. Her first job was cleaning a house for .35 cents an hour. She had pneumonia quite often, and also had chicken pox, mumps, and measles. There were two doctors in Rio Vista, Dr. Thompson and Dr. Simmer; though it was Dr. Simmer she always saw when he came to her home. For Christmas her family traveled to Los Angeles to her grandparents’ home where they always had a big decorated tree. Dinner would be a turkey or ham. They were only allowed to buy one another one present each. Her presents were usually homemade dresses, farm sets, race car sets, tea sets, tables and chairs, and dolls. They would go by car to get to other cities, often times all day trips. To get to Sacramento to shop they would cross the Rio Vista Bridge to Wood Island and from there to the levee road. Once in awhile she took a bus from Rio Vista to meet her Aunt in Courtland, and into Sacramento to shop. To get to Lodi or Stockton they would take Thornton Road.
She remembers downtown Rio Vista as having more stores then now. They had 7 grocery stores, 7 beauty parlors, 2 barber shops, 8 bars, 5 service stations, 3 hotels and many churches. Corinne can name them all. The Rio Vista Park had a gazebo, rose bushes and benches. On the weekends the Rio Vista Band played in the gazebo. Her grandfather Johnny was the band leader, and other locals played in the band. The band traveled and played in other towns around Solano County. The mayor back then was Mayor Allender who owned the ice cream parlor on Main Street. Next to that was Yory’s Bakery and at 2nd and Main there was a miniature golf course. The Delta Queen picked up passengers at the Rio Vista Wharf and took them to San Francisco. Johnny Howard was constable of Rio Vista and he would walk around town and the waterfront wharfs. During the Depression Rio Vista had a Chinatown on North Front Street which included a three story hotel and a Chinese Laundry run by the Toy Family. She remembers when a new baby would be born they would string firecrackers over the street from the laundry to the hotel and set them off. Mr. Toy worked ranches on Ryer Island, and the government was going to have him burn the onions and potatoes. Mr. Toy loaded up his truck and bought them to Rio Vista and handed them out to friends and acquaintances.
Some of the most memorable changes in her opinion are “We went from scrub boards to electric washing machines,” and “You wouldn’t dare play kick the can in the streets now. They’d arrest you!”