The True Heart of Martinez
(Editor’s Note: At this time in our history when so many people, so many families, are needing and receiving help and support in Texas and in Florida because of two terrible hurricanes, it seems appropriate to celebrate the best of the generous spirit of people even in small and unheralded ways and even when it’s not an emergency. It is also a reminder that a generous act is never forgotten by the recipient. The story which follows was known to only a few people, most of whom are now deceased, until Frances Delevati Hall’s memorial service in July of this year. There was hardly a dry eye in the house after it was read.) HJB
Until just a few years ago, Granshaw’s Florist was one of the oldest businesses on Main Street. Established in the 1920s by Dunstan Granshaw’s father, it was bought in 1957 by local residents and Alhambra High School sweethearts Wilbert and Frances Delevati Hall. They operated it successfully even through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s when Martinez stopped being the shopping center of central county and many businesses moved to other locales or ceased to exist.
Fran and Wil worked hard. A florist’s life revolved around the unexpected such as funerals, the expected such as weddings and the known holidays that focus on flowers like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Fran vowed to many of us that the first Mother’s Day after they retired, she and Wil were going to be in Hawaii no matter what. And they were.
They were active in the community, particularly in Lions and Lioness helping with many projects to benefit youth and the town as a whole. They were also generous to the many organizations that came asking for donations for fund raising events, even though Fran admitted that the number of requests was occasionally overwhelming for a small business. And they supported their children, Linda and John, in all their activities.
That’s the public record of generosity. The private record was revealed at Fran’s memorial when a letter written especially for the service by Martinez resident Dorothy Sims Wright was read. It told a story that even most of Fran’s lifetime friends didn’t know.
ONLY IN MARTINEZ
“Hi, my name is Dorothy, Marcus Wright’s mom.
“I decided (at one point) that I could raise my children better alone, or at least try. So we moved back to Martinez. Marcus has always loved sports. At one house we lived in the front yard was turned into a baseball field would be on the porch from dawn to sunset with bat, ball and mitt.
“Back in Martinez I still had a hard time making ends meet. I was working long hours but the children were happier than in years, especially Marcus. He was playing sports year round, school and summer league.
“One day a lady by the name of Maxine Price came to the house. She was a member of the Alhambra Booster Club. She had made a scrapbook for Marcus with all his sports activities. This was the first of five more books to come. There was a trip to Los Angeles for the team coming up. The only time he ever said he needed money was to buy new cleats. Maxine called me and said ‘Dorothy, all you have to do is pack his bag and toothbrush. His airplane ticket and hotel reservation are all taken care of.’ To my surprise, that afternoon she dropped off a bag with new socks and underwear. Of course I thanked her and every time I saw her I would thank her.
“By the time Marcus graduated from high school, he had 20 trophies and six scrapbooks. Then about a year after he graduated, I got a telephone call from Maxine inviting me to her house for coffee and doughnuts. There was something she had wanted to tell me for years. I learned that she charged $25 for the scrapbooks she made for each team member. When Vince Albanese’s mom would pick up his, she would always leave the money for Marcus’s too and say ‘don’t tell Dorothy’. The airplane ticket and hotel reservations were taken care of by Frances Hall. For years the coaches knew Frances as Marcus’s mother. She paid for all his expenses and would just say ‘we don’t want Dorothy to ever know.’
“I left Maxine’s house thinking only in Martinez could you have this feeling of friends and family.
“Thank you, Frances, for being a mother to my son. You provided him with the things I could only wish or dream of during those crucial years in a boy’s life when his environment helps shape the man he will become. I hope he made you proud. Thank you, Linda, the big sister, for the food and the trips cruising the Creek on Friday nights. Thank you, John, brother gone too soon. Wil, you never missed a game. Thank you, Dad. The memories he shared with you will never be forgotten. You will always be his family and mine too.
“Many thanks to Frances Hall, Josephine Albanese and Maxine Price. Enjoy your home in Heaven.
July 10, 2017”
Dorothy Sims Wright first came to Martinez as a 13-year-old, She was the only African-American student at Martinez Junior High and Alhambra High School. She recalls that people were nice to her and that there were ‘no distractions’. Dorothy graduated in the Class of 1949 as a certified clerk-typist. However in the days before the Civil Rights Act, jobs were not easily available for an African-American. She got married instead but as she said in her letter, there came a point where she felt her children would have a better chance if she raised them alone. So she brought them back to Martinez.
“Martinez felt like the best place to raise the children,” she recalls. Her main goal had been to live in a community with good schools which she achieved. She mainly did domestic work eventually becoming cook and housekeeper for Msgr. Joseph Deans, the priest at St. Catherine’s for 20 years. Meanwhile her youngsters, including Marcus, flourished in the open setting where the only thing that mattered was how hard you worked and how much you took advantage of merging your love of something like sports with all opportunities to participate.
As Dorothy looks back on her 87 years, she notes that she lived in Martinez about three different times. “I kept coming back. There’s something about Martinez. It feels like home.”
The late Josephine Caldarazzo Albanese was born here, part of a large fishing and restaurant family in a flourishing Italian community. A 1950 graduate of Alhambra, she worked for Bank of America’s Martinez branch and later for a regional bank operations office. A widow at a fairly young age, she raised two boys, one of whom, Vince, was a classmate, teammate and close friend of Marcus Wright. In the late 1980s, the Gazette produced a special Columbus Day edition each year which featured stories of the Italian fishing community. Josie was one of the best sources of tales of growing up on Howard Street (now Marina Vista) and the neighboring Grangers Wharf. Her Balestreiri nonnie (grandmother) cared for her and her cousins while their mothers and fathers worked. Nonnie didn’t put up with any nonsense, Josie recalled. When the kids wouldn’t stop acting up, she would take off one of her 100 percent cotton scuff slippers with fabric soles and throw it towards the youngsters. The kids would scatter but the slipper would reach them even as they left the room. Josie always swore “that slipper had eyes!”
The late Maxine Price was a longtime resident of Martinez. An avid Alhambra Bulldog fan, she was also an artist of some note, known principally for the huge mural of Martinez she painted on an entire wall of the Martinez Boys and Girls Club, formerly the Martinez Grammar School, later the Martinez Police Department and the first location of the fledgling Diablo Valley College in the late 1940s. As a member of the Alhambra Boosters Club she spent hours over the years making scrapbooks for team members of all the newspaper articles and other ephemera relating to Alhambra sports, particularly football. This writer remembers her as an always moving, always energetic, always positive booster not just of Alhambra sports but of the town as well. I am proud to own two of her paintings of the ferry wharf at the Marina.
Martinez Historical Society
1005 Escobar Street - Martinez, CA 94553 (925) 228-8160