Ask Me: U-shaped building was home, office for Fresno surgeon
Question: What is the history of the house at 544 Fresno St.?
– Tammy Dailey, Fresno
Answer: The U-shaped building was the home and office of pioneering Fresno surgeon Dr. George K. Hashiba and his wife, Ayako.
Hashiba was born in Japan in 1884 and came to San Francisco as a child. He studied at the University of California at Berkeley and earned his medical degree at Stanford University in 1917.
After post-graduate work at Columbia University in New York City, Hashiba opened his first practice in Watsonville. He came to Fresno in 1920 and opened a general and surgical practice at 935 E St. in 1922.
In about 1927, Hashiba began teaching at the Fresno County Hospital — the forerunner of Community Regional Medical Center — and was elected president of the staff in 1939.
In 1937, Hashiba built the single-story, 13-room, frame and stucco U-shaped structure that covered two addresses on Fresno Street near Waterman Avenue. Hashiba’s office, examination rooms and surgery occupied 544 Fresno St., while he and a staff of three nurses lived in the other side of the building at 540 Fresno St. The $25,000 structure was designed by James S. Arnet and the contractor was L.H. Hansen.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, Hashiba and hundreds of other local Japanese-Americans were relocated to the Fresno Fairgrounds. During World War II, Hashiba was interned at the Tule Lake camp in Modoc County, where he was in charge of a 250-bed hospital.
In 1943, Hashiba married Ayako Tanabe, who had been his head nurse since the late 1920s. He was 59 and she was 35.
According to Hashiba’s obituary in The Fresno Bee, he remained at the camp “after he could have left, to help treat some of the thousands who needed his help.” Hashiba returned to Fresno in 1946 and resumed his practice.
Hashiba was a pioneer in thoracic surgery. According to “Recollections,” a history of the Fresno-Madera Medical Society, Hashiba was the first to perform spinal disk surgery and the only surgeon in Fresno doing such surgeries until the late 1930s or early 1940s. He was described as “a legend respected for his talent and devotion to medicine.”
Hashiba retired in 1972 due to failing health and died in 1976 at age 92. Ayako Hashiba died in 2003 at age 95.
Q.: What is the history of the large tortoises at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo?
– Patti Mitchell, Fresno
A: There are currently two Galapagos tortoises at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, said Harold Mountan, assistant curator.
The oldest is Jennifer, who zoo officials believe is in her 80s. Her age is an estimate because she was taken out of the wild, Mountan said. Jennifer came to the Fresno zoo in 1989.
She and the male tortoise, Knobby, in his 50s, each weigh about 400 pounds, Mountan said.
It’s not unusual for Galapagos tortoises to live past 100, so Jennifer “is getting up there now, but she’s still doing really well,” Mountan said.
The tortoises are kept in heated bunkers when the weather is cold. They are let into their exhibit when temperatures are above 50 and conditions are sunny, Mountan said.
A statue of a boy riding on the back of a Galapagos tortoise stands outside the enclosure. “Anything that’s giant, kids tend to love,” Mountan said.
More about Murray’s Ice Cream: After the answer to a question about Murray’s Ice Cream ran on Nov. 7, Elaine Fairburn of Clovis sent an email with memories of the store.
“My father had a print shop and printed a German newspaper every Thursday,” Fairburn wrote. “We all had to help get the paper out and my job was to fold the paper.
“When we were done, we headed to Murray’s. The ice cream was so good and they seemed so huge,” said Fairburn, whose sister worked at the shop on Belmont Avenue.
Fairburn’s father, Herman Tober, published the German-language California Forward from 1922 until about 1936. His shop was at 440 F St.
Tober, a native of Poland, died in 1942 at age 58. His wife, Natalie, died in 1938, Fairburn said. They had two other daughters and three sons.
By Paula Lloyd