OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
John was born February 26, 1921 in Fresno, California to Nishon and Mariam Shamshoian. John was the youngest of six siblings, having three brothers, Ralph, Mike, and Barkey and two sisters, Ruth and Zary.
John attended Emerson Elementary, Longfellow Junior High, and Roosevelt High School, where he was very well liked and developed friendships that have endured throughout his life. John was chosen as the most “Outstanding All-Around Student” of his 1940 graduating class of Fresno’s Roosevelt High School.
With his brothers, John owned a service station at the corner of Fulton and Cherry Streets. In 1941, upon hearing of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the brothers sold the station and enlisted immediately in various branches of the service. John’s choice being the United States Coast Guard. His service began as an apprentice seaman, earning $18.00 per month, and worked his way up to Chief Signalman on the troop ship U.S.S. General William M. Black. They were at sea many months at a time, transporting troops over seas, and bringing back the wounded and the prisoners of war. By this time, he was earning $175.00 a month, sending it all home for his mother’s living expenses. John proudly served in the Coast Guard until the war ended.
Upon returning home in 1946, John discovered that his mother had saved all of the money he had sent home for her. She was a very unselfish and loving mother who knew he would need everything he could get to begin his future as a civilian. It turned out that one of his mother’s friends, Mr. and Mrs. Karfesian and their two daughters, Queenie and Virginia, had a dry cleaning business they were interested in selling. They offered John the opportunity to work with them and learn the business. There was no pay of course, but he did eat lunch with them and got his cleaning for free. Six months later, Mr. Karfesian felt that John was ready to go it on his own. This new challenge was accepted, and the cleaners at the Northeast corner of Ventura and Maple had a brand new owner and name, Shams’s Cleaners.
As his business was being established, John invited his brother Ralph to join him in a partnership. Eventually they expanded and built several small businesses a block and a half west of their dry cleaners. A clothing store (Sham’s Men’s Store), a barbershop, and four small apartments in the rear of the property. They were located just across from the Fresno Fairgrounds on Ventura Street.
In 1947 John met his future wife Dorothy Kachadoorian, at Holy Trinity Apostolic Church where they were both members of the Young Legion, a youth club of the church. John and Dorothy have been married fifty-five plus years and have three beautiful children, Marilynn, John Jr., and Arlene. They have given them five lovely grandchildren, Lisa, Sara, Shannon, John, Paul, and Robbie.
John continues to be an active and loyal member of Holy Trinity, where he served two terms as President of the Men’s Society. He is active with the youth and Sunday school, and has been a trustee the past eight years.
As his children were growing up and attending Sanger High School, John was very active in the athletic program. He served as Booster President for many years, working with the parents to raise money for these programs.
John and Dorothy live on ten acres, where John still enjoys cultivating the land for his crops of pumpkins, cotton, watermelons, and green bell peppers. They have chickens and white homing pigeons, which he enjoys flying.
John has been a volunteer docent at the Legion of Valor Museum since April 2001, where he enjoys giving tours and working amongst the history of militarily, “The Best of the Best.”