California Dreaming

Visiting Graves at East Lawn Cemetery


September 17 – 22, 2009




Part I:  Flights from Memphis to Sacramento

Part 5: Santa Cruz

Part 2: Sutter Lawn Swim Team Reunion

Part 6: Monterey and Pacific Grove

Part 3: East Sacto Neighborhood and Cemetery

Part 7: To Sacramento and Flights Home

Part 4: Lodi-Clements for Sac State Fraternity Reunion

Link to 2005 Sig Bust Reunion


Updated Oct. 20, 2009


About 85 photos mainly taken during the trip by Betty Nolan are posted at in five separate albums under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email for instructions on how to access.


The six pictures taken near old Nolan family home in Sacramento plus nearby cemetery are in an album labeled “2009 – Old Sacto Digs.”




SACRAMENTO – Sept. 18, 2009, Friday   In Sacramento and drive to Lodi, CA


We spent the night in the very nice Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on the campus of the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento’s “Old East Memphis” neighborhood a couple of miles or so from the onetime, Nolan family home at 1517 41st St.


After breakfast at the hotel, Betty and I drove our rented Hyundai Sonata car to East Lawn Cemetery just off Folsum Blvd., between 42nd and 43rd streets. To the rear of cemetery are railroad tracks and a small hill where several neighborhood boys played in the 1950s and dug pretend foxholes.


I purchased several bunches of fresh flowers at the cemetery florist shop and placed them on the graves of my late mother, Garnett Elizabeth Nolan; of Anna Nolan, late wife of my youngest brother, William Ray Nolan; and in a metal rack outside the marble crypt of the late Peter Lenhart Siller. Pete was a longtime friend and fraternity brother at Sacramento State College; he was killed in Vietnam in 1968 and later interred at East Lawn wearing his beloved U.S. Marine Corps dress blue uniform.


Pete’s crypt is on the second floor of the north side of the El Dorado Mausoleum (to the left when exiting the elevator or stairs), located about chest height. His parents are entombed next to his remains.


I’ve never missed an opportunity to pay my respects to my good friend and my family members when I’ve been in Sacramento somewhat infrequently in recent years. It’s always a saddening moment for me, but at this visit at least I didn’t break down. The previous sobs came during times when my memory would turn to sharing some great moments and my profound regrets that death put an end to cherished elements of my Sacramento.

I basically left the city in the mid-1960s for college in Mississippi, found a new life and returned only rarely to visit family and a few old friends.


I had been forewarned that East Lawn no longer clears overgrown grass from the bronze markers over the graves of most interior gravesites, for economic reasons. But markers within a few feet of the winding pavement lanes through the cemetery are kept trimmed, probably for esthetic reasons. I took some pictures and shared them with my brothers, Patrick Thomas Nolan and William Ray Nolan, in the hopes that they could do something about the evident neglect. I offered to pay my share of a caretaker’s fees if that could be arranged.


It’s obvious that East Lawn is virtually full now. There have been several new mausoleums built since my last visit and several “columbariums” have been installed, where people can place ash remains in fancy vases along with a few photos and memorabilia in small, glassed compartments with sealed doors.


After decamping the cemetery, Betty and I we drove east on Folsum, past the Hilltop Tavern where I wasted a lot of time in my late teens with the help of a phony ID, and to the Corti Brothers grocery store near 55th Street, where my mother did some of her shopping. We passed the elegant streets of 44th, 45th and 46th, and its large homes where the very wealthy including a few members of Sutter Lawn lived a few blocks from the Nolan home.


Betty took a few photos of the old neighborhood of 41st Street and Folsum. The Tudor-style house likely built in the 1940s at 1517 41st Street has been remodeled and is now painted in browns and tans rather than black and white. A curving cement walk now surrounds the big American Plains tree I used to climb in the front yard. A new front door is set off by the historic, leaded glass windows in the front of the house I remember from the 1950s. The missing door over the front of the two-car garage in the back has been replaced. The once-leaking asphalt shingles – which were an annoying, top-of-the-mind problem for my mother despite repeated repair trips by roofers - on the roof have been replaced with upscale, wooden shake shingles.


I recall being told four years ago by a young woman who lives there that her family had purchased the home for $800,000. I had arranged the sale, for $150,000 through a Realtor recommended by Bob Reid following my mother’s death in 1985. Proceeds were split between me and my brothers, per her will. It gave me pleasure to walk in front of the house and bring back memories of growing up in the neighborhood that still shines.


I pointed out to Betty the nearby homes where a family headed by a chiropodist lived across the street, the home where a retired Swiss watchmaker and his wife used to pay me a dime to cut their front yard grass and a house next door where the Shred family lived and somehow made my mother feel that she was a class above her surroundings. The Overstreet family lived there before the Shreds moved in; I remember a lot of hot gossip about their teen daughter dropping out of school to marry her much older teacher at Kit Carson Junior High School.


I was reminded of the annoyance I still feel when pointing out to Betty a tall pine tree I used to climb in the Hall family’s yard a few doors up the street. My mother had given my treasured Lionel electric trains to their boy once I went off to college – without asking me. Oddly, it gave me perverse satisfaction when many years later my own son, Casey, then a lad, sweetly asked his grandmother on a visit, “Why did you give away my daddy’s trains?” She never could provide a decent answer to that innocent question. (As a postscript to this long-regretted blunder by my mother, Betty and I still have Casey’s Lionel electric trains stored in our Memphis attic on the chance that he might want them someday for himself or for any children and his beautiful wife Caroline are fortunate to have.)


Back at the Courtyard Hotel, Betty and I had an excellent lunch in the Bistro Restaurant, both enjoying a combination of minestrone soup and salad served with very fresh lettuce topped with delicious, orange basil dressing.


Following lunch, the Courtyard staff gave us driving directions to access U.S. Highway 99 South to Lodi, Calif. The drive in medium traffic took less than one hour on roadway that was eight lanes wide near Sacramento and four lanes wide near Lodi, a farming metropolis and important wine making region to the south.


Continue with Part IV, Lodi for Fraternity Reunion  /  Return to Nolan Travels