John “Jack” Hopkins
John, or Jack, Hopkins has been living in Fairfield since February 28, 1922, the day he was born. He attended Fairfield Grammar School, and then Armijo High School, graduating in 1940 with a class of 57 students. The average classroom at Armijo had only about 20 students at a time, compared to today’s averages nearing 35.
Jack clearly remembers some of his teachers, like Ms. Carlson, the language teacher; Mr. Spawn, the biology teacher, who Jack described as “a lot of fun”; and Coach Bailey, “a very good coach”.
Jack recalled a lot of the best times during his high school career. He remembers the fashions of the time: corduroy pants were “the big things in those days.” He remembered how he and his classmates enjoyed passing the time the best. Jack was never really one for music, he was more of the sports loving kid. There wasn’t anything like Little League back then so how did he and his companions exercise their love of sports? Why, they played ball in the streets! Jack later went on to join Armijo’s basketball, football and track teams. When they weren’t playing sports to pass the time during the school year, Jack and his friends would either go to the movies for only 10¢, sometimes free because he knew the people that worked there, or go skating in Suisun.
During the summer, Jack got a job working in the valley cutting and drying fruit. Getting a job back then was a lot simpler than it is now. When Jack was in high school, everybody knew everybody in Fairfield. Jack knew the guy who worked at the fruit place and he needed someone to work for him so he asked Jack, who said yes, and the rest is history. No paperwork, no grade check, nothing. Just a simple question and an even simpler answer.
Jack had a pretty simple childhood. His father died when Jack was only 5 years old, so he was raised mostly by his mother. Naturally, they were really close. Jack has nothing but fond memories of his mother, who he described as being a “good lady.” He recalls her working hard at both her job at CP Packaging and at raising three kids by herself.
As a child Jack remembers obtaining sicknesses that were not uncommon, like the measles and whooping cough, but he never went to the hospital. Back then most families had their doctors make house calls, which was the case for Jack’s family. It only cost a dollar for both the visit and the treatment. This is just one of many examples of how Fairfield has changed, and Jack has been here for the last 86 years to witness these changes firsthand.
Most of the buildings Jack grew up around and spent his time in are no longer standing. The most important of these buildings was his first home which PG&E dismantled a number of years ago. Of course downtown still has many of the same buildings from way back when, but a lot of them have changed. For example, Jack remembers doing his grocery shopping in the store that is now Joe’s Buffet, and going to see movies at a theater that is now Pepperbelly’s.
More than just the establishment has changed around here. Fairfield back then was definitely a smaller, safer and quieter place to live. According to Jack, you’d have a hard time just counting 1,000 people living here then compared to the current population of about 100, 000. The crime rate was so low that it was practically nonexistent. There was only need for one policeman in the entire town, and whenever someone needed help with something, or had a problem they would go up to the Solano sign and press a button which would then set off a light atop the sign, alerting the officer. Jack couldn’t even recall any major crimes ever occurring.
The thing he misses most about Fairfield is that everyone knew everyone. There were no street signs back then, so if someone needed directions, he or she would just ask a fellow resident or neighbor and they’d tell them the way by listing off people’s houses instead of street names. Directions like “Make a left at the Johnson’s house, then keep straight until you get to the Lindons” were common.
Not all the changes are bad though. The only bad change Jack could think of was that “Fairfield’s gotten too big.” With that size came a lot of beneficial things, like the addition of Travis Air Force Base, which Jack actually said was “the biggest” change, and Armijo’s football field, which he said was the “best improvement”. All in all, even though Jack’s misses the familiarity and quiet of the old Fairfield, he has well adjusted to the new and ever-changing Fairfield.