Meet Fran Lemos, American Canyon's unofficial historian

We met up with 89 year old Fran Lemos at the house her late husband built.  The same one she's lived in for more than seven decades since before American Canyon was American Canyon.

"It was nothing it was nothing literally nothing," Lemos explained that back then she was simply a resident of Vallejo.

But even back then she says being a part of Vallejo didn't make sense.  "I love Vallejo.  Vallejo is a beautiful city, it's because we are in Napa County.  We wanted to be our own destiny we were tired of being the stepchild to Napa so we incorporated. It took three times to be incorporated but we did that."

But the changes she sees these days are a welcome site.

"All these old timers like me are so happy to see people who love American Canyon. We are friendly we are diversified we have a beautiful school and we worked 50 years to get that school."

Lemos is active in the community still volunteering at the local thrift shop and giving unofficial tours to really whoever wants one.

"I don't getting anything out of it except satisfaction from people seeing how wonderful our city is."

Lemos describes American Canyon with love, saying "You stop at a stop sign and the other car will tell you to go and  I mean they are very polite and friendly and it just makes my heart feel good to see that in our city."  

For her giving back has always been a part of what she has done.  She's volunteered for 25 years at a local thrift shop, has worked for the Boys and Girls Club and even the fire commission. And she credits that commitment to service to her dad. She says he was so proud to have immigrated to this country.

"My dad loves this country and  he always said if you are honest even if you dug ditches so you are honorable so he kind of instilled in my whole family we are all givers," she told us. 

Even now she and her friend Beth are sometimes the only ones in attendance at the city council meetings.

 "I like to go for myself I like to know what's going on, we are there they like to see us," she said.driving

Her tour is a driving tour, in a big old car that she loves.

"It's big its roomy but I have to have the windows down because the air conditioning isn't working."

The first stop was Oat Hill, so we could look over the entire city, but Fran takes pride in every stop. From the wastewater treatment plant that sits on property that was once her family's to the industrial park where it seems she can name every business and brag about them as if they were her own. 

We saw Oat Hill and Cookie Hill, nicknames with unknown origins but both with beautiful views.

And our trip took us to the wetlands where the tide was down and the trails meandered as Mt. Tamalpais loomed in the background.  Wetlands Fran knows it would be a mistake to miss.

"People go out there with their dogs leashes. This wetlands goes through the whole city, goes through the whole city of American Canyon."

But where she gets really excited it at the ruins.

She laughed when I asked why they were called the ruins simply saying, "We call it the ruins because it's the ruins."

The graffiti covered cement pillars that reach to the sky are indeed just that.  Sitting among weeds behind a lock gate they represent history.

As Fran explains, "This is the old cement plant and during the earthquake in San Francisco they supplied all the cement for the city.  After 1906 and then Bay Salt bought it and Bay Salt had it for a number of years and then in the 70's I think they closed it down because they didn't need it anymore."

But its not the past that thrills her but the potential the spot on the hill holds for the future.

"When we had incorporation we always figured this was going to be our town center we were going to have kind of like Sonoma Square. We are going to be on the map with the building when it gets built. This is going to be the town center they are going to use these arches and up on the hill they are going to build a hotel. It's only been fourteen years in the making."

There is no sign of construction now but Fran can see it the school, the parks, the hotels and the homes in those plans. And she says the plan is to save the graffiti covering these ruins.  It's a part of it she says.

It's taken a long time but with her 90th birthday coming at the end of July she's ready to celebrate.

This year the party will be at her house.  But maybe one day soon.  She'll have a birthday party at the ruins.