Q: I’m curious why the lights of the giant G on the Guarantee Savings building downtown used to change colors. We would drive from the Fashion Fair area to my grandmother’s home on C Street so I would see it often.
Terri Pitton Dickey, Marina
A: The iconic giant lighted G atop the 12-story Guarantee Savings building at Fresno and Fulton streets in downtown Fresno served as a weather beacon, changing colors depending on the forecast.
In 1961 Guarantee Savings acquired the original Mattei Building at 1177 Fulton St., which by then was known as the Fulton-Fresno Building.
Guarantee installed the 15-foot weather beacon in 1965. The G would “change color to indicate impending weather changes,” according to a Fresno Bee story.
If the lights were green, that meant cooler weather ahead, while red lights signaled warmer weather was coming. White lights meant no change in the weather was expected, but if the lights were flashing it meant “a storm is on the way,” The Bee said. A 6-foot-tall time and temperature sign was also installed on the roof.
Guarantee merged with Glendale Federal Savings and Loan in 1987. The G went dark in 1994 due to costs, according to the Roadside Architecture website. Power was restored in 2003, but the sign was lit only with white lights.
The building was recently purchased by the State Center Community College District, which plans to move its headquarters there.
District spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz said the acquisition is so new that there are not yet plans for the iconic weather beacon. “We’re exploring all options,” she said, adding that if someone wanted to start a GoFundMe campaign to restore the sign it would be welcomed.
The district’s new home was constructed in 1921 by Andrew Mattei, a pioneering Fresno winemaker and real estate developer.
Mattei came to Fresno from Los Angeles in 1890, planted vineyards and began making wine. Within 10 years he owned just over 1,000 acres. According to The Bee, “Before the time of Prohibition, in 1919, he was known as the king of the wine industry in California,” producing up to 1 million gallons annually.
Mattei invested profits from his wine business into Fresno real estate and owned several businesses. Around 1917 he purchased two pieces of land at Fresno and Fulton streets for $55,000. A two-story brick building sat on the front half of the parcel and tall wooden water tanks – Fresno’s first water tower – were on the back half.
After the building and tanks were demolished, construction began in 1919 on a reinforced concrete building designed by Fresno architect Eugene Mathewson. The Mattei Building was designed in the Sullivanesque style, named for Chicago architect Louis Sullivan and characterized by masonry walls and terra-cotta ornamentation of vines, leaves and geometric figures.
Stores occupied the ground floor with office space in the floors above. Mattei’s mahogany-paneled corner office suite was on the 11th floor.
Mattei lost his namesake building and his other downtown buildings during the Depression. He died in 1936.
Q: I would like to find information about the first guilds of Valley Children’s Hospital – who started them, where they met – any information would be wonderful.
Sue Graham, Oakhurst
A: Several guilds were formed in the late 1940s and early 1950s to raise funds for Valley Children’s Hospital, which opened at Shields and Millbrook avenues in 1952.
The Llanada Guild was the first group, organized in the spring of 1949. By October of that year the guild presented a check for nearly $5,745 to hospital officials, the proceeds from a barbecue held in September at the Giffen ranch, according to The Bee. It was the first fundraiser held by any of the many guilds formed to help build a hospital for children.
Llanada drew its members from the city of Fresno and from Fresno County’s west side. In presenting the check, Llanada’s president, Mrs. T. Wayne Simpson of Burrell, said, “We on the West Side are proud to be the first large donors to the much-needed Valley Children’s Hospital,” The Bee reported.
Llanada’s officers in 1949 were Simpson, Mrs. J.D. Sample, vice president, Mrs. Frank Diener, secretary and Mrs. Louis Merrill, treasurer. (It was customary at the time to refer to a married woman by her husband’s first name instead of her own.)
The Llanada Guild is not among the guilds listed on Valley Children’s Hospital website today.
During the fall of 1949 four other guilds were organized: Los Rancheros, Los Ninos, La Feliz and Pleasant Valley.
The Clovis-area Los Rancheros Guild was organized on Oct. 13, 1949, during a meeting at the home of Mrs. Frank (Betty) Heath, who was elected president of the new guild. Other officers were Edna Sample, vice president, Jean Wilcox, secretary, Libby Forbes, treasurer, in addition to Patty Davis, Gene McFarland and Bette Childers, according to the Valley Children’s website.
The Los Ninos Guild had been “newly formed” when the group met at the home of Mrs. Rolland Patterson of Pico Street to plan the guild’s first fundraiser, an appearance of the San Francisco Straw Hat Players, “a comedy revue,” according to a Nov. 26, 1949, Bee story.
The Valley Children’s website says La Feliz Guild was also founded in 1949. A Jan. 18, 1950, Bee story said the guild had been organized at a “recent meeting” at the home of Mrs. Joseph P. Collins on Huntington Boulevard. The guild’s officers were Mrs. Gerald F. Thomas, president, Mrs. W.A. (Agnes) Crocket, vice president, Mrs. Ralph Rehorn, secretary, and Mrs. Edward Goodwin, treasurer.
The Pleasant Valley Guild, organized in the Coalinga area, held a dinner dance each February, according to a 1982 Bee story on the 18 guilds in existence then.
During the 1950s, 11 more guilds were formed, with eight organized in 1950 alone. These were the Alegria, Corcoran, La Caridad, Las Madrinas, Panoche, Selma, Sequoia and Tenaya guilds, followed by the Holiday and La Tienda guilds in 1952 and the La Comida Guild in 1953.
The Kings Guild, which was organized in 1949, joined the Valley Children’s guilds in 1955.
The Holiday Guild began its fundraising efforts selling Christmas cards and in 1963 opened the year-round Holiday Boutique at 1772 W. Bullard Ave., which is still in operation.
The La Tienda Guild still operates a thrift shop at 708 Olive Ave. in the Tower District.
The La Comida Guild held its first holiday home tour fundraiser in 1954 and continues the popular event today.
The Padrinos Guild, a men’s guild, was formed in 1964. The Las Amigas Guild was organized in 1979. Other more recent guilds include the La Sierra Guild formed in 1999 and the La Visionaria Guild in 2007. The most recently-formed guild is the Color of the Skies in the Modesto area, formed in 2017.
Valley Children’s moved to Madera County in 1998. Although some of the original guilds no longer exist, today 15 guilds continue their fundraising efforts to support the hospital.
Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.