ASK ME: Nees Avenue named for Fresno businessman

FresnoJune 22, 2013 

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The Nees Colony School at Nees and Armstrong avenues existed from 1906 to 1947. Nees Avenue and the school were named for George J. Nees, a Selma resident and Fresno businessman.

PHOTO COURTESY FRESNO COUNTY LIBRARY — PHOTO COURTESY FRESNO COUNTY LIBRARY

Question: For whom was Nees Avenue named and what is the correct pronunciation?

— Glen Westersund, Clovis

Answer: Nees Avenue was named for George J. Nees, an early-day Selma resident and Fresno businessman.

According to an obituary for Nees, he was born in Nashville, Tenn., on July 4, 1853, and came to Selma with his family in about 1885.

A 1900 census lists Nees, his wife Sarah "Sadie" Nees, daughter Norma Nees, daughter and son-in-law Georgia and Joseph Smith living at 533 O St. in Fresno.

A map for the Nees Colony agricultural area northeast of Fresno was recorded for Nees and two other landowners in 1903.

Nees Colony School was founded in 1906 and a one-room wooden school was built on the northeast corner of Nees and Armstrong avenues.

In 1912, a brick school with three classrooms and a large belfry was built near the original school.

George Nees worked as a Wells Fargo Express Co. agent and was one of the company's oldest retired agents when he died. He was part owner in the Sequoia Hotel in downtown Fresno and became a local real estate agent in about 1910. By 1930, George and Sadie were living in Los Angeles.

According to his obituary, Nees died in 1945 in Long Beach at age 92. Sadie died in 1931. They are buried in a crypt at Grand View Memorial Park in Glendale.

The Nees Colony school district merged with the Dry Creek Union District in 1947, but the school was used until 1954, when it was torn down. Bricks from the old Nees school were used to build a new Dry Creek school.

Local historians Bill Secrest Jr. and Elizabeth Laval and the city of Fresno agree that Nees rhymes with "knees."

 

Question: One of my favorite movies is the cameo-filled "Cannonball Run 2." There's a scene at an air show called the Madera Air Show. Was that scene really filmed in Madera?

— Alex Tavlian, Davis

Answer: The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website lists six filming locations for the 1984 "Cannonball Run 2" – Bisbee and Tucson, Ariz., Henderson and Las Vegas, Nev., Darien, Conn., and Redondo Beach — but not Madera.

The movie starred Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., but the large cast of cameo players was almost a who's who of Hollywood. Frank Sinatra's cameo is notable because it was his last film role.

 

Question: How was Sanger Park created, when was it built and were there any notable historical events there?

— Sue Lillie, Sanger

Answer: In 1920, Amanda Deane — described in a 1965 Fresno Bee story as a "wealthy resident" of Sanger — donated $1,200 for the construction of a bandstand in the park at Academy Avenue and Fifth Street.

Deane was associated with the Park Club, a citizens' group "dedicated to creating a beautiful park for the city."

The Bee story says the new bandstand was built in front of the city jail, "which had been on the park grounds for some years."

Land for the park had been purchased before 1916 by a group of 25 Sanger citizens who each contributed $25. The group then deeded the land to the city of Sanger.

A baseball diamond briefly occupied the land, which then became an unsightly dumping ground before the Park Club was formed.

The bandstand was suggested by Kuyler Leonard, who was Sanger's bandmaster.

Mrs. A.B. Olson, one of the founding members of the Park Club, recalled in the 1965 Bee story that "Mr. Leonard thought the bandstand would greatly improve the appearance of the park by camouflaging the jailhouse. And he was right. The jail seemed to blend into the design of the bandstand and was hardly noticed."

By about 1923, Sanger residents had helped build the concrete and rock bandstand, plant trees, install playground equipment, a wading pool, tennis courts, benches and "comfort stations," or restrooms. A large fountain was donated by the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

Weekly concerts were held at the bandstand every summer until about 1950.

The jail was used until about the same year. Both were torn down in 1965.

Dignitaries who spoke from the bandstand stage include then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and former presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sunday of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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