Back in the Day: This is my 500th Back in the Day column! – Fairfield Daily Republic

Posted: October 15, 2021 at 9:12 pm

Back in May 2011 I joined the I Grew Up In Fairfield Too Group, or IGUIFT, Facebook group that Fairfielder Rick Williams started in 2009. Soon thereafter I was inspired to write a fictional nostalgic piece for my Monday The Last Laugh column. It was called Back to the Future of Fairfields Past. It was about me taking my moms old Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, outfitted with a flux capacitor, which everyone knows is what makes time travel possible, back to when I first came to Fairfield in the summer of our nations bicentennial.

Tony Wade: Back in the Day

I wove into the column references to numerous places that old-time Fairfielders would instantly recognize, like Wonder World, Eucalyptus Records, Fosters Freeze and Smorga Bobs. I couldnt help mentioning the Fairfield Area Rapid Transit or FART buses, which I later found out werent around in 1976 oops.

That column resonated with a lot of folks and I subsequently pitched an idea to DR managing editor Glen Faison about doing a separate column that was kinda, sorta based on local history. Back in the Day was launched in June 2011. I now call Back to the Future of Fairfields Past my column zero (https://bit.ly/ColumnZero) in my ongoing Back in the Day series.

I remember at first really worrying that I would not have enough material to write about and initially it was a bi-weekly affair until Glen asked me to do it weekly after 50 columns.

Well, today is my 500th Back in the Day column!

I have taken my identity as an accidental local historian to heart and just put one foot in front of the other and tried to write columns that I would like to read. The one thing that I wanted to do was make them participatory like the Facebook group and include quotes from locals. That was truly a no-brainer because so much of what they posted in the IGUIFT group was thought-provoking or poignant or hilarious and often a combination of the three.

The DR used to do a thing called Dial-A-Bio where they would call up random local people and tell their stories in an article. Sometimes they were fascinating, sometimes they were not so much, but they were always interesting.

I stole, er, borrowed that concept, but didnt do it randomly. I started to incorporate written snapshots of locals into Back in the Day columns in a feature I call Ordinary Folk History. Thus far they have included ones on Warren Sheldon, Judy Anderson Engel, Yolanda Elmo Messer, Abe Bautista, Susan Macy Luckenback and others.

Other locals whose stories Ive written include first African-American Fairfield police officer Cleo Patton, community theater legend Barbara McFadden, vocal coach/actress/singer Connie Lisec, educator/first principal of Fairfield High School Sam Tracas, Fairfield-raised Sacramento attorney Melinda Guzman, funk band Con Funk Shuns frontman Michael Cooper, dentist/director/philanthropist Dr. Philip J. Rashid, Judge Ramona Garrett and many more.

While the emphasis has always been hyper local Fairfield Ive also written columns about every city in Solano County, including ones about The Wooz (Vacaville), the M & M Skateway (Suisun City), the Zodiac killer (Vallejo), Dixie the Dinosaur (Dixon), the Mizner boys (Benicia) and Humphrey the humpback whale (Rio Vista).

Here are some mosts:

Most popular: Weirdly enough, I would have to say that the one about a horrific 1928 mass murder in Fairfields Chinatown takes that honor. I dont do many columns on true crime, but people eat that stuff up.

Most controversial: I wrote a column about my friend Nanciann Greggs grandmother, who belonged to a womens auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan. Nanciann is a bajillion years away from that and some wondered why I would write it. Uh, because it is something I would like to read.

Most fun: This is a tie. The ones I truly enjoy are those where I get to be an amateur detective, like determining why exactly all the Sambos restaurants, including Fairfields, closed (it was not political correctness; bad business decisions), and the others are ones I wrote about were hysterical gossip columns that used to be in the Armijo High School newspapers back in the 1940s.

The natural progression from the column was to write my book, Growing Up In Fairfield, California. The response to it has been wonderful and I am thrilled that so many have been touched by it. I have had an absolute blast selling and signing copies for people and I am genuinely grateful for the many folks who have stopped by and told me how much they enjoy my writing.

My last big selling and signing event of the year for my book is going to be from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at Joes Buffet. While having William Shatner, Capt. James T. Kirk himself, actually go into space this week was so meta, if you want to go deeper, what could be more meta than having lunch and hanging out at Joes in Fairfield while getting a book about Fairfield that has a chapter that highlights Joes Buffet in Fairfield?

If your head wont explode, I would love to see you there.

Thanks for reading!

Reach Fairfield humor columnist, accidental local historian and author of The History Press book Growing Up In Fairfield, California Tony Wade at[emailprotected].

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Back in the Day: This is my 500th Back in the Day column! - Fairfield Daily Republic

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