It was lunch time on that Friday. The weather was hot. The prediction by the meteorologist was that it would cross the 100-degree mark. Typical for a summer in Fresno. I didn’t bother complaining because summer in Fresno is hot.
My errands were all complete; I had nothing to do that hour. Typically, I would take a stroll down the Fulton Mall and chat with the antique dealer, Ralph, whose shop is right on the mall and along my walking path.
I wasn’t up to taking “the stroll” that day, so I decided to stay in after eating my packed lunch from home. As I began to dive into the previous night’s leftovers, two recent people who had been in the news came to mind.
The first was William Saroyan. A few days prior, local writer Mark Arax wrote in The Bee about Saroyan’s last house. The plaque from the wall identifying the house had been stolen and the house had been sold in foreclosure.
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I thought about Arax’s piece and it made sense. Why didn’t a few of us get together and purchase it to turn into a museum? It could have been done. It didn’t sell for much and the sentimental value would have outweighed the cost hundredfold.
The next person I thought about was Kirk Kerkorian. He had passed away a few days prior and, because he was so uninterested in the limelight, few people knew his story. He always impressed me because of his sharp business instincts, humble appearance and Fresno connection.
He was a billionaire but many people have told me that he had a simple car and would drive himself everywhere until his later years. Just a reminder that his net worth in 2015 was $4 billion. That equals a lot of zeros.
Although they are gone, their legacies live on. Both achieved the American dream. They started with nothing and reached the top of their industries.
When he passed, there were some good biographies of him I read several times.
Of course, anyone who knows the truth about his humble beginnings is probably long gone now. As my daydream came to a close, it was time to go back to work. A little after 5 p.m. and on my way home, I passed the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in downtown Fresno. The church is on Ventura and M streets, diagonally opposite from Selland Area.
One of the articles about Kerkorian mentioned that he lived down Ventura Street in Fresno’s Armenian town.
In the same article, the author talked about how he “always walked 80 miles an hour” and that his mother walked to that church. I parked my car, walked to the front of the church and looked down Ventura.
As I looked east, I envisioned a young kid with greased-back hair marching toward me with a stack of newspapers. Two accounts suggest that Kerkorian sold newspapers to help his family pay bills.
As I looked west, I envisioned a time period a few years earlier and another young boy named William Saroyan (who was nine years older than Kerkorian) approaches me on the same street. He, too, with a stack of newspapers in his arms that he sold to help his family pay bills. If only I could go back in time and tell both of them how they would impact the world and motivate many people.
One helped shape Las Vegas, the world’s most famous resort city, and another touched people around the world with writing that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Although they are gone, their legacies lives on. Both achieved the American dream.
They started with nothing and reached the top of their industries.
I walked toward my car that evening and wondered how many other people walked along Ventura Street prior to going on and making a difference in the world. Probably more than we think.
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of San Joaquin Spotlight on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and CMAC television.