Roy Jeans: A Man Who Painted the Town
By Deborah Zamaria
July 2018 Martinez Historical Society Newsletter
Roy Armand Jeans was born on November 9, 1946 in the Martinez Community Hospital. Dr. Fitzpatrick was the delivering doctor.
Roy’s father, Glenn Whitmore Jeans, was born in a small mining town in Arizona that no longer exists called Hayden, and his parents brought him to Martinez as an infant. As an adult, Roy’s father was an industrial valve salesman in Martinez, selling his wares to Shell and Bechtel, among others.
Roy’s mother, Tina Louise Olmeda, was born in the small town of Nichols, which also has ceased to exist. Her father, Armando, was a professional chef. As an adult, Tina Louise was a seamstress and worked for several of the women’s apparel shops in downtown Martinez, including Marie Goodman’s shop.
Roy’s parents both attended Alhambra High School and met there when the team mascot was a panther. They married shortly after high school and then Roy’s dad enlisted in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a gunnery sergeant in the infantry. Although he didn’t speak of it much, this important battle was a significant event in his life and he was proud of his participation.
Upon Glenn’s return home, Roy’s parents moved into a home next to Paul’s Place on Alhambra Avenue. It was while in this home that Roy and his brother, Robert Whitmore Jeans, were born. The Jeans family were related to the Pagninis, and Roy has many fond memories of going over to his uncle Paul’s restaurant with his mom and brother (his dad was often on the road selling his product). The small family would go to one of Paul’s banquet rooms and have a delicious dinner. Roy was very fond of his uncle and admired the way he greeted the customers at his restaurant. Paul treated everyone like they were his best friends. (Later, Roy would emulate this welcoming behavior in his own establishment.)
Roy remembers moving with his family, when he was eight years old, to a home in Forest Hills. Graduating from Alhambra High School in 1965, Roy was drafted into the Army. Because he wanted to be a crypto operator, he signed up for one more year. A crypto operator is essentially involved in decoding sensitive messages. He needed some good references and approached George Gordon, an attorney for whom the Community College District building on Escobar is named, and Lou Martin, a U.S. Marshal who had been appointed by President Kennedy. These references gave Roy the top tier clearance he needed and he was assigned to a post in Germany for 31 months, doing his job and thoroughly enjoying all that the German culture had to share.
He was honorably discharged in 1969 and attended Chico State University, graduating in 1972 with a B.F.A. With degree in hand, he returned to Martinez and opened a gallery on Marina Vista. He gave it the moniker “Harbor Smell.” It was essentially a frame shop, and as one shop wasn’t enough to pay the rent, he opened others as well. One was in the building that was to eventually house Rumsey’s—the little restaurant owned by Dorothy Rumsey Miller, mother of our own George and Laura—and one was in the old Traveler’s Hotel, which is now the River House. He featured local artists as well as some of his own work, but he moved a lot around Martinez.
When he was 31 years old, he ran for City Council against Jim Thelan. Jim was the incumbent and although Roy didn’t win, he came to really respect Jim. Two years later, Roy ran again, and this time it was against six or seven people who were in competition for two seats on the Council. Again, he came in third, but found himself to be oddly relieved because he really didn’t want to make enemies.
Roy met his first wife, Victoria Brown, and they had two children. Daughter Martina currently lives in Placerville and she, like her father, is a housepainter. Their son, Hazel, is also a housepainter, and a fine artist as well. When his children were small, Roy met James Benney, a high-end housepainter in the Piedmont area. Roy found that he enjoyed this work and made enough to take care of his family.
During this time, Roy was known by many in the much younger set in Martinez as “Major Manners.” Having been raised by parents who were, as Roy described them, “very proper,” Roy felt that more manners should be taught to grammar-school-aged children. He developed a 20-minute presentation with a sound track on eight-track tape that taught etiquette to children. He provided this free service for two or three years in the Martinez schools and it was really well received. At first he wore an all red suit that he had had made, but eventually he shifted to a more military type of costume, complete with epaulets…hence, Major Manners was born.
During this time, Roy continued with his housepainting business, but then decided to start a club downtown called “Armando’s.” He had met his friend Eloise Cotton while attending Chico, and they teamed up and opened the club.
Roy built the original stage, painted many chairs, and decorated with posters, and the club immediately became very popular. They were serving beer and wine, but the Chief of Police at the time, Dave Cutaia, pointed out that it was illegal to do so without a license, so Roy ponied up and purchased the license. Maria Muldaur was the first person of note to play at Armando’s but since then many well-known groups have livened up our town, such as Dan Hicks, Chuck Prophet, Pete Escovedo and the California Honeydrops, to name a few.
Robert Perry was Roy’s first soundman, to be followed by Thomas Martin, Joe Vorderbrueggen and finally the current soundman, T-Bone. The bands love playing at Armando’s because of the great sound system. Although Roy used to live upstairs from Armando’s, he now lives in the old Wainwright mansion on Ward.
Roy loves Martinez and loves painting the old houses. When pressed for a recipe, he remembered one that he made up and fed frequently to his kids.
Dice the uncooked chicken breast. Place the pieces in a frying pan with lots of butter and lots of minced garlic. Cook all until browned. Dice the potatoes and place them in a microwave for 3 minutes until soft. Make a “hole” in the center of the frying pan with the chicken and place the soft diced potatoes in this hole. Salt everything and cook until potatoes are slightly browned. Put everything on a plate with a vegetable of your choice. Voilà!
Martinez Historical Society
1005 Escobar Street - Martinez, CA 94553 (925) 228-8160