The following Back in the Day column originally appeared in the Fairfield Daily Republic on May 17, 2013.
By Tony Wade
“Back in the Day’ and “Old School” are subjective terms. I remember being aghast when, in a record store in the 1990s, I discovered the Bee Gees categorized under “oldies.” To me, oldies were The Coasters or Chuck Berry.
For this column, I generally consider at least 25 years ago to be “back in the day,” but again that is arbitrary. So today I want to offer a guide. It is not meant to be all-inclusive, but hopefully it is helpful.
You know you are Old School Fairfield/Suisun when:
You literally attended the old school – the former Armijo High School building that is now the courthouse.
Someone says “General Jackson” and you don’t think of Civil War General Stonewall Jackson, but instead the late Lorraine Covington’s donkey of the same name at her house near the hilltop water tower that was once on Fairfield Avenue.
Not only do you remember Big John’s Submarine Sandwiches where you ordered by number, you also remember the number of your fave (6, the pizza sub).
You scoff at people who think they are old school because they remember when JC Penney sat alone next to a field with no mall, because you remember when it was on Texas Street and the building had a pneumatic tube system.
While ordering a stack of hotcakes at Bab’s Delta Diner, the thought of blueberry syrup reminds you of the song “Blueberry Hill” and you flash back to when you saw Fats Domino perform at a dance at the M & M Skateway on that very spot – until the server snaps you out of it.
You remember when “Fairfield high school” meant “Armijo High School.”
While waiting for your car at Moorhead Automotive Center on the curve of North Texas Street, you remember when it was Kinney Shoes and can almost smell the Buster Browns and Chuck Taylor All-Stars.
You remember going to Joe’s Buffet when it was owned by, well, Joe.
You park at the Raley’s near Dickson Hill Road and have a sudden urge to hang a speaker on your window as you wistfully remember the old drive-in theater you sneaked into that used to be there.
You remember how ironic it was when you were driving by the now-demolished apartments near the Suisun Marina Shopping Center with Cheech and Chong’s “Let’s Make a Dope Deal!” playing on your cassette deck at the same time.
You go to The Original Sandy’s 101 Omelets and when Evelyn Carnes asks for your order, you catch yourself almost asking for a Sambo’s Tiger Tamer kid’s menu for your granddaughter.
You are positive that the “official” turnaround places on the Fairfield cruise were (1) West Texas Street Park and Travis Market or (2) Shakey’s Pizza and the pawn shop or (3) Foster’s Freeze and Pennsylvania Avenue or (4) The pool hall and the Bank of America or (5) Sid’s Drive-In and Hi-Fi Drive-In or (6) forty-six more completely different combinations.
Just thinking about the champagne cake that Johnson’s Bakery used to make causes you to drool like a Pavlov dog.
You know that the medieval-looking octagonal building behind the old courthouse was just the former jail’s water tower, but you get a kick out of telling Fairfield newbies it was once a dreaded torture chamber.
You are completely baffled by those odd-looking Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr hashtags (#), but when you see “HArrison 5-9905,” not only do you recognize it as an old phone number; you remember it was for Allan Witt’s Barber Shop on Texas Street.
Your grandmother’s bra is hanging from the ceiling of Thompson’s Corner Saloon.
You recently watched “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” on Turner Classic Movies and the shape that Richard Dreyfuss’s character compulsively sculpted his mashed potatoes into reminded you less of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming and more of Thrifty’s odd-shaped ice cream scoops.
You play an impromptu game with a youngster called “What Used to Be There Back When?” as you drive all over Fairfield and Suisun City and your answer to the question is the same each time: “a field.” And you are correct.