This is an essay based on an interview done in May 2008, as part of the Solano County Library Remembering Project. The reminiscences cover the years 1930-1949. Richard Brann was born on December 24, 1916 and is the youngest of five children. His maternal great grandfather moved to Silveyville near Dixon in 1862 after his home on Grand Island was flooded. In 1880 his paternal grandfather decided to move to Rio Vista, and settled on a ranch west of the town. His parents Clyde Brann and Lillie Brady were married in 1910. Richard Brann’s father worked as the director of the State Farm Bureau in the 1940s. Since the close knit family lived on a ranch the children had duties such as helping with the animals, especially sheep, and the crops of oats, wheat and barley. The family made money by doing contract harvesting, and he and his brothers ran the machine and sewed the sacks for the products. His brother Bill was in charge of milking the cows and the cream then was shipped on the Railway Express for purchase. Richard looked after 1,000 chickens by feeding and sorting chicken eggs. He reminisces of the times the family drove in their pickup truck to Fairfield to deliver the wooden crates of eggs. After the delivery they all felt proud of the hard work they had accomplished.
The Brann family made sure to spend family time on Sundays after church and finishing all the farm labor. Sunday dinner was particularly special for him and his siblings. His mother spent much of Sunday preparing and cooking fried chicken with mashed potatoes. During the week Richard Brann would eat his breakfast cereal with thick cream added to it. Also, there were times when he could eat his grandfather’s cultivated blackberries with some of his meals as a treat. The Brann family had large family reunions at their ranch during the summer, events that he always looked forward to. In addition, since his birthday fell on December 24th, the family would celebrate it on Christmas. The Brann family always had time to attend and participate in church functions. He recollects the time when his sister used to play the piano, and how much he enjoyed the music and singing. As a matter of fact, he still owns an old book titled “101 Favorite Songs”. The family radio was an Atwater Kent. KDKA came through from Pennsylvania. It was the first commercial radio station in the US. Programs Richard enjoyed include Myrt and Marge, Amos and Andy, Lucy, and especially One Man’s Family, which was on Sunday evenings.
In 1921 Richard attended Canright Elementary School for one year, and in 1929 he graduated from Rio Vista Grammar School. He mentions that his elementary school principal, Peter Jacobs, presented him with a book that he treasures even today. He states that he then attended Rio Vista High School and became the president of his senior class. He enjoyed playing the clarinet in the school orchestra. The school yearbook even has a great picture of him as an orchestra member. From 1929-1933 there were only eight teachers for the entire school curricula. They all lived in Rio Vista, and knew the children’s families, which was a tremendous support for the community and for education.
There were more social activities in town than now. Neighbors had more potlucks and get togethers. His family made a point of going together to the Farm Bureau Center for the dinner meetings. These were held at the Oddfellows Hall in Birds Landing. Now the Farm Bureau has only the countywide annual dinner meeting, which Mr. Brann always attends. The Bass Derby parades were remarkable,with visiting bands and horses, and hopefully Rio Vista can reclaim some of that spirit.
In 1930 at the age of 14 Mr. Brann recalls seeing something that shocked him – at the State Fair in Sacramento he saw a woman smoking a cigarette.
During the 1930s, he and his brother Bill participated in the Boy Scouts of America with his friends, Ralph Pezzaglia, Joe Yorg and Clyde Martin. He recalls Scoutmaster Art Hansen and Leader Irving Pierce taking them on camping trips to Berryessa Valley; much of the area they camped on is now under the lake behind the dam. Art Hansen ran the town’s hardware store, and Irving Pierce owned an insurance company. The Boy Scouts held their meetings various places including the old Veterans Hall.
During the year of 1933, he earned high marks for his studies and went on to attend and graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. At the young age of sixteen he was recognized as being one of the youngest attending that prestigious university. His major was in agricultural economics and soon after graduating U.C. Berkeley he landed a job in Orland, California. Although his new job position took him out of Rio Vista for much of the 1930s and 1940s, he managed to find his way back home. On December 6, 1941, he met his future wife in the town of Salinas. In April of 1941, he was drafted into the military and served in the 7th Division Artillery as a staff sergeant. He later went to Fort Ord, Oklahoma, to become a lieutenant. He was then assigned to the 77th Division Artillery and his wartime duty was flying in a Piper-Cub for directing artillery during combat. The Division participated in the missions of Guam, Leyte and Okinawa, and in the occupation of Japan. He recalls that in 1944 his family was celebrating Easter, and they all became quickly saddened when his brother George passed away unexpectedly while Richard was en route to Hawaii. He speaks fondly of his brother and still misses him very much.
In 1946 Richard Brann returned to Rio Vista, California, and in 1951 he married and settled down. His wife and he raised four daughters. He worked off the land as a farmer with his brother Bill for thirty years, and later served four terms as the county’s supervisor from 1973-1989. He mentions that he was active in the taxpayer association, and fought for reasonable tax rates and no city encroachment. Today, he loves living in Rio Vista and enjoys staying in touch with many of his childhood friends. As a matter of fact, he is looking forward to attending his 75th class reunion this year. He will be attending the reunion with some of his surviving classmates, Hazel Davis Akers, Frances Christiansen from Stockton, and Muriel Jeffery from Sonoma.
Richard Brann has a lot more to tell about the fifties and more recent decades, but these were his recollections of Rio Vista and his life in the 1930s and 1940s.