January 11, 2005
Nestled between mountains and surrounded with creeks and streams lies Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento. It is a small town, but it holds treasures lost in the larger cities, when passing people may not even look into your face. In Fair Oaks, however, everyone passing by has a smile and a nod even for the strangers. Fair Oaks boasts thousands of ancient oak trees for which the town was named. Matt Lehtonen, a native of Fair Oaks, says proudly, “We are one of the top ten cities with the most trees.” Driving along some of the older streets, he says, you cannot even see the sky for all the branches from the oaks.
Fair Oaks is a mostly residential suburban area, with close to ten high schools in the surrounding area and many elementary schools. The demographic is mostly middle aged, with many retirees also taking up residence for the beauty and old town atmosphere Fair Oaks offers. The weather is enjoyable to most, as it is mild for the better part of the year, going to extremes seldom. In summer, it is known to climb to an excess of one hundred degrees, and for a short time in winter, thirty degree weather is standard.
Most of the houses have a long history, and driving around one may see many different styles of architecture. The oldest house in Fair Oaks was built in 1849 and is still inhabited today. When asked if this is the type of town to return to, Lehtonen gave an emphatic affirmative, saying that this town has everything one would want. “Everything is close,” he told me. “Lake Folsom, which was the closest to a beach we had, the mountains, San Francisco, and the delta. We went to the delta a lot, since we had a summer home there. And I just love the people.”
When one brings to mind the small towns that our parent’s parents grew up in, one envisions the kinship that the residents felt with each other. Neighbors dropping by for coffee, maybe bringing some type of homemade sweet, were common occurrences in the towns of those golden days. This type of community is still alive in cities such as Fair Oaks. According to Lehtonen, there are too many people for you to actually know everybody, but “groups of people stuck together, like from the different high schools.” Matt told me about being at his friends houses when people would be coming and going through all the time, “and we’d know all of them. Chances were,” he said. “That if you said a person’s name from one high school, we’d either know them, or know somebody else that knew them.” When asked what his favorite part of living in Fair Oaks was, Matt didn’t hesitate when he said “The fourth of July.” The tradition, it seems, is for the town’s youth and more adventurous adults to climb onto rubber tubes and floating docks built weeks in advance and float down the American River. “There were so many people, and everybody was having a great time. Splashing each other, trying to knock each other off the docks. It was so fun.” Matt remembers fondly.
Every town has its problems, though. Fair Oaks is no different, but the issues facing this town are small, and mostly can be attributed to young people just trying things and growing up. “Therewere no gangs,” Matt says. “Drugs were pretty minimal; I mean people smoked marijuana, but there were no hard drugs. I guess drinking was the biggest issue.”
There is a street that runs through Fair Oaks, by the name of Winding Way, which personifies the whole atmosphere of the town. A drive or walk through the street will exhibit the immaculately manicured lawns in front of sprawling, old-fashioned homes. The road is lined with oak trees and their branches reaching up to the sky obliterate all sight above their waving arms. Its name is apt, as it has many tight turns and winds back and forth through its length, making it seem that the street is shorter than in truth. The whole town is rather hilly, but this area in particular rolls with ups and downs. Part of the attraction of this way is that all the houses rest on a different elevation, giving the illusion that some houses reside in the branches of the oaks that surround them.
Many towns’ inhabitants do not relish the place they live in. Many, in fact, despise it and wish to leave and never return. Fair Oaks is not one of those places. The people living there are proud of the fact, and look forward to returning after time away. This is a type of town that many people dream of, a veritable Pleasantville from the movie screen come to life. It leads one to think, if every town was more like Fair Oaks, people would be happier to be alive[SM1].
[SM1]I like this last paragraph; it expresses the feelings I’ve had about San Luis Obispo. Nicely executed revision which makes this A-