As many readers know, I’ve been spending many hours lately taking advantage of the many historical files, records and oral histories in the Hoppy Hopkins Research Library located at 4th & B Streets. One of the “golden nuggets” I’ve discovered in this “treasure chest” is the biographical file of native son, Ed Fratini.
Guy Kovner in his remembrance article about Ed (3-5-1989), stated that Ed remembers Petaluma with no commuters. In fact, there were few automobiles, no freeways and no bridges across Fan Francisco Bay. In the early 1900s, the days of Fratini’s youth, “Petaluma was a “sedate country town” with cobblestone streets and troughs downtown.”
Ed lived all his life in Petaluma for 87 years, went to local schools and worked in various banks for 46 years, as well as serving Petaluma as its official historian. Another columnist, Bonnie Bard, referred to Ed as the “Pack rat keeps track of Petaluma history” (4-3-1982). Fratini was designated the city’s historian during the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. Ed’s interest in history started as a child and and his historical knowledge is based upon first-hand experiences. His father worked for a local railroad, so he naturally liked railroads. He went to business school in Santa Rosa (1918) everyday by the Petaluma & Santa Rosa Railroad’s electric train. He also remembers how busy the Petaluma River was with barges, scows, steamers, and paddle wheels. Ed believed that the biggest single event that changed Petaluma was the transition from horse and buggy to automobiles during the WWI era.
Although the 1906 earthquake caused heavy damage in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and San Francisco; Petaluma experienced very little because so many buildings were ironfront structures. Natural disasters nor modernization has changed Petaluma’s downtown that much. Ed served as manager of the Spartans running team and participated in many San Francisco Bay to Breaker races; even when he was 78 years old.
Fratini was an early supporter for a museum in town. He considered the opening of the Petaluma Museum in 1978 as one of his greatest pleasures and was fortunate that it happened in his life time. Ed’s historical collection of records and photographs is on display and is stored in both the Petaluma Museum and the Petaluma Library history rooms.
In memory of Ed Fraini’s interest in preserving the history of Petaluma through his extensive historical collections, I am designating one of the new categories for this blog site – “Lest We Forget.”