Sanger News

Mar 5, 2011 | Community, Hometown History

by Toni Pacini & Doris Knowlton

Below are some fun human interest stories from Sanger!

100 Years and the Life of the Party
by Toni Pacini

Joseph Fischer celebrated his 100th birthday Friday February 18th. More than forty family members and friends gathered in the sunny party room at Elderberry Apartments in Sanger where Joe lives. When I say Joe lives at Elderberry, I mean he brings life to it. At 100 years of age, Joe can captivate an audience. He dominates a room with good humor and an inspiring smile and mind, and will even show off with a few dance steps when inspired to do so by Sanger’s Mayor Joshua Mitchell who stopped by to wish Joe a Happy Birthday.

Joseph Fischer

Joe’s family came to America in 1910 and Joe was born in 1911. He was his parent’s first child and the oldest of eight children. The Fischer Family first settled in Boston briefly and then moved to South Dakota for a short time. Eventually the Fischer’s made their permanent home in Fresno’s Fig Garden area. At 18-years old, Joe joined the National Guard where he served his country for four years. Joe has been a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles for over 60 years, first in Fresno and the last five years in Sanger where he is greatly respected and always welcomed.

Sanger’s Mr. & Mrs. Farmer of the Year
by Doris Knowlton

Lee and Margaret MacDonald have been chosen by the Sanger Chamber of Commerce to be Mr. & Mrs. Farmer for the year 2011 to 2012.

The MacDonald’s roots run deep in this community. Their 25-acres of land at River Bend and McKinley has been nurtured and loved by Macdonald’ for more than 100-years. It was first homesteaded by a MacDonald in 1908 and was acquired by Lee’s father in 1938.

Lee’s father started planting orange trees right away even though they still lived and worked in Los Angeles. As a young boy Lee was proud to help his father in the orange grove and he learned the hard work and expertise required to be a successful grower. It wasn’t until 1963 that the Macdonald’s moved to Sanger and were able to work the orange grove full time. Margaret was raised in Fresno. She and Lee were married in 1969 and have one son, Ian.

Lee pursued a business career as an insurance adjuster and his work demanded moves to other states. Ian loved spending summer vacations with his grandparents at the grove and keeping this connection was an important part of their lives.

Lee and Margaret moved home to the orange grove in 1994 and became caretakers of the land. They moved into the house that Lee’s parents had built in 1968. They had wisely built their home so it would overlook an expanse of farmland and orchards with the Sierra Mountains in the background. Margaret and Lee feel blessed when they sit at their kitchen table and look at this peaceful scene and then they glance out the patio door and see orange trees nestled near by.

Lee’s background in business helped him be a success with his 25-acres. He also manages 50-acres of surrounding groves. Margaret quickly joined the Sanger Woman’s Club in 1995. Her interest was sparked by the fact that her mother-in-law, Mrs. Malcom MacDonald, loved the club and served as president 1982 to 1984. Margaret is a tireless worker and has been indispensable to the Sanger Woman’s Club, having served in various offices. Margaret is now serving as president for the second time.

Margaret was asked by Vince Karkorian to manage the V.F.W. School Awards and Margaret has organized and put on this program at the Sanger Woman’s Club for the past eight years. Margaret has cooked many delicious meals for large groups. The Sanger Historic Society greatly appreciates holding their annual dinner meeting at the Woman’s Club.

Margaret has Lee’s full support in her club work. He puts it this way, “It makes Margaret happy to put in so much time and work at the club, so it makes me happy to help her in any way I can.” Their son Ian is married and has one child. They live in Northern California and his dream is that he and his family will become caretakers of the MacDonald land in the future.

The Sanger Chamber of Commerce Award Dinner Banquet will be held at the Sanger Community Center on March 18. Margaret’s and Lee’s many friends will be there to cheer them on. For more information about the Awards Banquet call the Sanger Chamber of Commerce at 559-875-4575.

Growing Up In Sanger Depot
by Toni Pacini

Sanger’s Historical Society’s Annual Dinner Meeting was held at Sanger Woman’s Club on Friday, February 25. Jim Walton, the President of the Society, introduced their distinguished speaker, Arlene Phillips Hess, who had traveled there from Washington with her husband to speak.

Arlene Phillips Hess

Arlene grew up in the Sanger Depot and shared her memories of that time with those in attendance. She was six years old when her family moved into the Sanger Depot. An enthralling speaker, Arlene took the audience back to 1943 when she first saw the small building located almost on top of the railroad tracks in Sanger, California, that would be her home for 12 years. Arlene’s father worked for Southern Pacific Railroad and Arlene practiced her reading skills when she would accompany her father during his evening rounds of the railroad yard. He would make a list of each car on each track and she would read out loud to him the letters and numbers from the cars.

Arlene in living room in 1948

In 1943 everyone was concerned about the war, far away yet all around them. The newspapers, radio programs and newsreels brought the war into American homes everyday, and although most of the trains that came through Sanger Depot carried freight, often fruit, there were a couple of trains that carried armed forces. Seeing dedicated soldiers passing through the depot, her home, made Arlene and her brothers proud. It was a very exciting experience for a little girl in a small farming town.
Arlene’s mother worked, too. She delivered telegrams that came into the station, and that was often a daunting task as telegrams could sometimes bring the saddest news. But it was a time when a family and a country had to work together and hold the line, and Arlene’s family did just that. Her childhood years were spent at Wilson school and later Taft School, and then her graduation from Sanger High. Arlene left the depot in 1955 to go to college but the warmth of the coal stove, the ding ding ding of the signal, and the blasting sound of each passing train remained forever in her memories. Girlfriends that lasted a lifetime, the library with her mom, sundaes at the drug store, and vacations by train with her family, these memories and more went with her.
If you would like more information on Sanger Historical Society, The Sanger Depot Museum, or Mrs. Arlene Phillips Hess and Growing up in Sanger Depot, please contact:
Sanger Historical Society
1770 7th Street
Sanger CA 93657

Toni Pacini lives in Sanger where she started Sanger Open-Mic “Writers, Readers and Storytellers” Group, which meets once each month at the Sanger Library. She is an author, poet and storyteller who is writing a memoir of her childhood in Alabama called Alabama Blue.Toni covers all things Sanger.

Doris Knowlton is part of the Sanger Open-Mic group as well.



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