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Traveling up Fairmount Avenue on the north side of the street, in the middle of the first block above San Pablo, was a large building that was later moved to the southwest corner of Central and Kearney Street which belonged to the J. W. Shoute family. The family members were old time residents of this county and did a lot to improve the city. This building still stands at the corner of the intersection.
Then came the home of Forest H. Wright who came to El Cerrito and purchased a couple of lots in the Tapscott Tract, where he built his home. The family liked this area and Mr. Wright started selling property for Mr. Tapscott around 1911. He located many families here and was named tract manger for the company. He saw this city grow.
In about 1924 Mr. Wright was appointed city marshal and tax collector and was a very efficient officer who took a great interest in the welfare of this community. He was also superintendent of streets, which kept him fully occupied.
The Forest Wright family consisted of seven children, Vaughn, Otto, Pearl, Apperson, Harriet, Margaret, and James. "Pop", as everyone called him, worked for the city as treasurer until he retired. He has since passed away. His home on Fairmount Avenue at Lexington Street has been torn down to make room for a service station.
Mr. Wright was a native of California, being born in Tehama County on June 21, 1873, and in 1897 married Nellie Apperson. Mr. Wright came to Oakland in 1906 where he followed teaming with horses and later engaged in delivering and selling milk on his own. Then he decided to come to this village, now El Cerrito. Mr. Wright also served as a Trustee of Stege School for several years. Pop was very well liked in this community and no one ever had a bad word for him.
Just east of the Wright property at Liberty Street was the Marion and Raymond Boles property where they made mint wafers and later the building was used for the library. Next door was Mr. Evans' marble business where he supplied tombstones.
Across from the Wright property was an old chicken ranch where they sold fresh eggs and chickens. The buildings were later demolished and one portion moved to the northeast corner of Lexington and Potrero Avenues.
Behind the Victor Castro adobe one could see the old orchard where children would gather to pick fruit and take it home to their parents for canning. Between the orchard and Fairmount Avenue was a big field where the gypsies would meet once a year. Children were often afraid to go near them as older folks had warned them that they would be kidnapped.
Next to the tracks on the south side of Fairmount was the corral where cattle were stored for shipping by rail or were to be driven to the slaughterhouse on Central Avenue near Belmont.
Later on in years across Fairmount on the north side was a large gravel business and they had a railroad siding where they unloaded gravel cars that had been shipped in by rail. The gravel was raised by conveyor buckets up into the various large bunkers. They stored the gravel until trucks arrived to pick up the gravel for road projects.
At the northeast corner of Richmond and Fairmount stood the Monkey House Saloon whose owner had a couple of monkeys within the building inside of cages.
Near the corner of Behrens Street on the west side stood the Home Dairy operated by W. A. Hinds who in 1926, became the first fire chief and police judge. Across the street from the Home Dairy stood the Eckhart Dairy.
Further up Fairmount between now Ashbury and Colusa on the north side was a large pear orchard that on the property of the Sunset Dairy. This dairy belonged to John Balra who had his ranch building just north of the cemetery above Colusa Avenue.
Along about 1909 one could see Mr. Curry at Fairmount and San Pablo helping the ladies in their ankle length dresses and broad brim hats and men in their derbies, getting into the high passenger coach that he drove from the cemetery, at the end of Fairmount down to San Pablo Avenue to pick up passengers. The coach would carry six people and was rather high off the ground. It had two large wheels at the rear and two smaller on the front with a surrey type top that covered the passengers and driver in case it rained or to protect them from the sun. This spotless coach was pulled by two well-groomed horses who seemed to know every chuckhole up this unpaved street, which was known as Road 4 in those days.
The children would stand around San Pablo Avenue in hopes that he would have no passengers to haul back to the cemetery. If he had no passengers, he would let them ride back with him and Mr. Curry would always give them a chance to drive the team, which was a great thrill to them.
On May 30th (Decoration Day), for years there would be a parade up Fairmount Avenue and services were held on the cemetery grounds. On this day extra help was hired and extra equipment used to haul the hundreds of passengers, who chose this day to honor their loved ones, up to the cemetery.
Later when the automobile became the common means of transportation the cemetery eliminated the horse and coach to be replaced by the touring car which made this trip for years up the hill. They abandoned this service when transportation was no longer a problem.
Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
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