Ask Me: Fresno Motorcycle Club still roaring

The Fresno BeeApril 12, 2014 

Longtime member of the Fresno Motorcycle Club, Wayne Sumner, 79, in his 60-year-old business, Sumner's Motorcycles, Thursday, April 10, 2014. He stands by a 1952 Triumph.


Question: I've been told that my grandparents, Ruth and Carl Wilkins, were charter members of the Fresno Motorcycle Club and that my family was involved in the club in the 1960s. What is the history of the club and is it still in existence?

— Virginia McAllister Riding, Sanger


The Fresno Motorcycle Club was established by Ed Sumner and Jim Riley in 1939 and held its first meetings at Riley's home on Cherry Avenue, according to a history on the club's website.

After World War II, the club met in an old garage owned by local Triumph motorcycle dealer John Chakarian. "The garage had an old wood-burning drumlike stove used for heat," the history says.

Club members went on rides almost every Sunday. "The club was very family oriented and the women held a strong presence in the club at that time," according to the history.

The club's women's auxiliary was called the Fresno Cyclettes, according to longtime member Wayne Sumner, whose late father Ed helped found the club. "I was born into it," says Sumner, whose father owned an Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership. Sumner started working at his dad's shop in high school in 1949, "sweeping up and stuff like that." After his father's death, Sumner took over the shop.

In the early 1950s, Cyclette members Myrtle Sumner (Ed's wife) and Mildred Green found a 10-acre parcel at Chestnut and Clayton avenues for the club.

The club bought the land with proceeds from drag races held at the old military base, Hammer Field, now Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The women's group obtained city permits to hold the races, charged admission and ran a concession stand. They also helped build the clubhouse.

A motorcycle racetrack was constructed on the 10 acres, but the club no longer holds races there. The club once had more than 100 members and while the membership is now smaller, the club still meets and holds motorcycle activities.

Q: Can you tell me anything about Jacque's photography studio which was on Abby or Blackstone in the 1950s and 1960s?

— Cleo Montague, Fresno


John E. Wilson opened Jacque's Studio at 1033 Fulton St. in June 1945, according to the Heritage Center at the downtown Fresno County Library.

Fresno city directories list Jacque's Studio at 1939 Fresno St. in 1949. The 1951-52 directories list the studio at 155 Blackstone Ave. The last listing for that address was in 1978. Jack Wilson is listed as retired in the 1981 directory and the studio is shown as vacant the following year.

A newspaper advertisement from the mid-1940s for Jacque's Studios lists two locations, 1033 Fulton St. open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with "No Appointment Necessary," and at 415 Belmont "By Appointment Only." Both studios were open evenings and Sundays by appointment, according to the advertisement which features a picture of a chubby-cheeked baby.

Photo sittings could be done in the home and there also was a studio at 1314 Seventh St. in Sanger — phone number 68.

Wilson offered the following customer service: "If you are not satisfied with your proof you are not obligated to make any purchase. All sittings are taken at our expense."

Q: What is the history of Rossi's Pizzeria?

— Terry J. Ferrell, Fresno


Anthony and Mamie Rossi opened Rossi's Pizzeria in the Plaza Shopping Center at Tulare Avenue and Divisadero Street in 1947. It was one of the center's original tenants.

Mamie Rossi ran the restaurant. Her husband, a native of Italy, helped out, as did their sons Carl and Cal when they were young.

Rossi's featured about a dozen Italian dishes and sandwiches, specializing in sausage, calzone, lasagna, stuffed peppers and ravioli, as well as pizza. According to a Fresno Bee story, Mamie credited herself with introducing pizza and calzone to Fresno.

In 1959, the A.T. Rossi Co. opened the family's second restaurant, Nino's, at the Manchester Shopping Center, serving continental and American food.


Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to 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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