Ask Me

Do you remember singing the Fresno County centennial song?

The “Song of Fresno County” written by Charles L. Palmer for Fresno County’s centennial celebrations in 1956 was recorded on a 45 rpm record. The lyrics were included in a book about the centennial.
The “Song of Fresno County” written by Charles L. Palmer for Fresno County’s centennial celebrations in 1956 was recorded on a 45 rpm record. The lyrics were included in a book about the centennial.

Q: In the late 1960s, my fourth-grade teacher at Del Mar Elementary School, Blanche Jacobs, who had been in the Women’s Army Corps, incorporated aspects of military routine in our classroom. This included the flag salute and singing one of the patriotic national songs, “California Here I Come” and the Fresno County song.

I am now a consultant for UCSF working in Fresno and would love to get the words and music to that song. I recall that it had many verses, but I can only remember the first verse and the chorus.

Gail Newel, Aptos

A: The “Song of Fresno County” was written by Charles L. Palmer for Fresno County’s centennial celebration in 1956. Six verses, without a chorus, are included in the “Fresno County Centennial Almanac.” The label on a 45 rpm recording of the song lists Palmer and also Frank Nelson, a local composer, who may have written or arranged the music.

Palmer’s April 20, 1964, obituary in The Fresno Bee – where he worked for about four years – said he was a “retired newspaperman and public relations man” when he died at age 67.

“Palmer was found dead yesterday in his room at the San Francisco Press Club. Physicians said he apparently died in his sleep of a heart attack,” the obituary said. Palmer was staying overnight in San Francisco after the annual banquet of Late Watch, a group formed by veteran reporters to commemorate the city’s 1906 earthquake.

Palmer was born in Evansville, Ind. He worked for the Associated Press office in San Francisco from 1916 to 1919, “except for 10 months when he served in the coast artillery in World War I,” the obituary said. He also worked for the San Francisco Examiner, the San Mateo News-Leader, the Ukiah Times-Journal and the Tulare Daily Register.

Palmer worked as a copy reader for The Bee in 1922, the year the paper was founded, but went to the Fresno Morning Republican a year later. He returned to The Bee in 1931 but by 1934 was a “publicity man” for San Joaquin Light and Power Co.

The obituary said of Palmer: “He was an accomplished poet, pianist and artist. His hobbies included the creation of gourmet dishes and the collection of old printing typefaces.”

Palmer had a “small printing plant” in his back yard that he called the Shakespeare Press. He often used old typefaces from his collection to print menus for dinner parties he hosted. He bequeathed his collection to the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Palmer also wrote a poem titled “When Pageants End,” which is included in the Centennial Almanac. The last line reads, “But memory holds its value high, when pageants end.”

(See the lyrics to Palmer’s song printed below this column.)

More about the centennial key: After a question about a key stamped “Fresno County 1856-1956” was published on Nov. 27, Victor Kearney of Clovis wrote to say that his father’s business, Kearney Manufacturing, cast about 100 of the keys in 1956.

Kearney said a “county worker” whose name he doesn’t recall brought in a similar key and asked for copies. “I took care of the order,” he said. “We made around 100. He knew exactly how many he wanted. They were for certain people, that’s what he said.”

The key the man brought in was slightly bent, Kearney recalled. “He said to leave the bend in there. He wanted it to look original.”

Kearney Manufacturing, then at 3811 Ventura Ave. in southeast Fresno, was a foundry and pattern shop. Workers created a pattern out of wood and cast the keys out of solid brass, Kearney said.

The original manufacturing building is gone, he said. Today there are two businesses, Kearney Manufacturing and Kearney Metals, near Vine and Dearing avenues.

Ralph Kumano of Sanger also wrote in to say that his father had one of the centennial keys, but he believes they were intended for the general public.

“My dad was able to get a souvenir key just by attending the celebration and dedication of the restored courthouse at Millerton in 1956. And he was not a public figure, just an ordinary citizen from Sanger,” Kumano said. “The key found in Santa Cruz could be one of the many keys given to the public. I don’t know if they were free or sold for a price.”

More about Verrue Avenue: After an answer to a question about the history of Verrue Avenue was published on Nov. 13, Gloria White of Fresno wrote to ask if the houses on the street were also historic.

According to Karana Hattersley-Drayton, historic preservation project manager for the city of Fresno, “The term ‘historic’ is loosely applied to ‘old stuff’ rather than always specifically to properties that are actually designated on the Local Register of Historic Resources or the National Register of Historic Places, or both.”

The purpose of historic registries is to list “historic places worthy of preservation,” according to the National Register’s website. The Local Register designates properties in Fresno that have historical significance.

“A street, like Van Ness Boulevard or Kearney Boulevard, can be designated in and of itself and not include the properties adjacent to it. The only example of that is actually Kearney Boulevard,” which is on the local and national historic registers, Hattersley-Drayton said.

So far, no properties on Verrue Avenue have been determined to have historic value.

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.

Song of Fresno County

by Charles L. Palmer

(On the pediment of a building on the state Capitol grounds are these words: “Give Me Men to Match My Mountains.”)

I have men to match my mountains;

I have men to match my plains;

Men to turn my streams to fountains

Giving life to vines and grains.

I have men of strength and vision;

Men who dream a growing dream;

Men who build dreams to decision,

Make themselves and me supreme.

Men who turn their sweat and labor

Into food the world may eat –

Vine and orchard stand as neighbor

To the cotton and the wheat.

I have men who build my towers

Out of steel and stone and wood;

Men who turn my streets to bowers;

Men who serve the common good.

I have men, for I have made them;

Fed them hopes and fed them fears;

Taught them nothing could dissuade them

From the harvest of the years.

I have men to match my mountains;

I have men to match my plains;

Men to turn my streams to fountains

Giving life to vines and grains.

Source: Fresno County Centennial Almanac, 1956