When Jerry Machado was a kid, life was good and they often played from sunrise until sunset, only stopping for meal breaks and finally coming in when mom came out to find them. They enjoyed many games such as kick the can, hide and seek, sports of all types, and anything else they could think of! They especially enjoyed playing football in the street on Montezuma between 3rd and 4th Streets, often times even throwing the ball over the house from one side to the other. Another game he recalls is where they would pull tall grass up by the roots with the mud still attached. They would then form these clods of dirt and roots into balls and make stockpiles of them in two opposing forts. They would then lob them back and forth at each other having wonderful grass clod fights.
His dad worked full time and his mom worked when asparagus was in season so he does not feel that they were affected much by the Depression. In fact, he had a lot of happy memories of playing with his big brother Joe during those years.
His mother was one of ten children and baking bread was one of her responsibilities from her childhood which helped her to make the BEST bread, and it was enjoyed with butter and fresh blackberry jam. The blackberries were huge and wild, much bigger then what you can pick or buy today. They grew wild along the riverbank, especially out near the ferry. Once when he was 9 years old his mother had not made them their lunch but instead told him and his brother to buy a sandwich in town. He was in elementary school and his older brother Joe was in high school and they met up at lunch time. Not knowing where in town to buy a sandwich they went into Mr. Mendes’ bar and asked him to make them burgers, which he did.
Often times as kids his family went to the movies. The theater was next to the Vista Fountain where they would all go to get goodies, since the theater did not have a concession stand. The shop had many big glass jars full of different types of penny candies and you would just put the candies in your pockets and pay the cashier and head off to the theater. The kids also enjoyed other treats at the fountain such as ice cream, popcorn, sodas, etc. Sometimes they went for Saturday morning serials for kids and other times they would go on Friday or Saturday nights to see movies. The theater ran many first run movies, and he recalls watching the original first run screening of both Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Gone with the Wind which he saw in 1939 at the age of 9 years old.
His mother was a devout Catholic and the family attended Sunday Mass every week. The boys had to wear nice shirts and pants, but not usually a tie, those were for special occasions. They would get their clothes at one of the two clothing stores here in town. He also participated as an Alter Boy when he was young so he had been in at least 1 or 2 Christmas Services. They could go buy a tree from Gordon Hansen’s grocery and hardware store for their homes. Some of his most memorable Christmas gifts were a chemistry set, BB guns, and a mini steam engine with compartments you would fill with water and kerosene and then light a fire inside of it that would create steam that would eventually start turning the wheels to make it go.
WWII started when he was 11 and he turned 12 two weeks after it broke out. His brother Joe was five years older and went to war as a Merchant Marine distributing back up supplies. The family had an idea of where Joe was stationed but not exact locations. His mother missed his brother very much while he was gone, they wrote back and forth as much as possible, but Jerry continued on with his boyhood activities. He does remember however the black outs when the siren would go off in town they would have to cover all the windows and turn out all outside lights. The California Guard was housed in the old Del Monte cannery housing, since the cannery closed when the war started. The guardsmen were there to guard the gas wells from saboteurs and they worked in 24 hour shifts. There is now currently a war monument downtown in front of City Hall. He knew the families of the men who are on this memorial and being an altar boy at the Catholic Church he participated in at least two funerals for military service men, but he does not recall who they were, just the services and a bugler playing Taps. At that time anybody in the Military service was considered a hero.
At the age of 14 he lived across the street from an abandoned cabin along the riverbank that he liked to hang out inside of. The cabin had no floor boards only joists and he fell backwards and hit his head, causing the need for 9 stitches. Back then there was a doctor here in town that would see you in his office, or make house calls if you were unable to make it into the office. Other then the stitches, mumps, and measles he didn’t have any other serious ailments or broken bones.
His first job was working at the gas station as a backup boy, for .35 cents an hour, but several times was left in charge of the whole place. Back then there were no under age work permits and so it was okay for him to be working there at 14 years old. At the time it was owned by Fritz Emigh, who was related to Dick Emigh who owned the Mobile Plant. Then a short time after that he had a job working at the bowling alley, located in the building that was originally a grocery store with a bar and a butcher shop that was owned by Manual Mendes who was Portuguese. In 1941 Mr. Mendes moved his grocery store and portioned up the old building, renting it out to other businesses including a drug store, a clothing store and a bowling alley. The bowling alley had 3-4 alleys and they also had pee wee bowl. Pee wee bowl had the same sized lanes but the ball was a little larger then a softball without finger holes and the pins were smaller then standard pins. The building is still owned by Mr. Mendes’ daughter and it is where the Rio Vista Bakery currently resides.
His first date was as a freshman in high school when he borrowed his fathers ’36 Oldsmobile and picked up his date downtown on Main Street. Her family lived out on Ryer Island and her parents drove her into town and waited here in town until he dropped her off back with them on Main Street. They had gone to a barn dance at the high school together and he had worn a nice jacket, pants and a tie. Other times on dates they would take their dates to a drive-in movie over in Antioch. There was also a drive-in over in Pittsburg, but Antioch was nearer and cost less to drive to during the gas rationing. They could get cokes and hamburgers and then head over to the movie which cost about $1.00. The bridge toll was about .25 cents, though when he was a younger kid it had only been .10 cents. As a freshman he also attended the Senior Prom with a senior girl. They attended Rio Vista High School that had about 200 students.