New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 11 - Section 2

November 2, 2003

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
 City Council
Member Nora Campos
New Alum Rock Park Supervisor Mike McClintock Santa Clara County
Supervisor Pete McHugh
in our neighborhood. 
Was he here to get tips
on good Italian Restaurants?
Showing the
Boccardo Trial
above Alum Rock
Park to a hiker 
How we felt
after meeting
on the Historic
 Alum Rock Park Cafe
This is where
Ed Allegretti bought
candy and played
mechanical games
ARP Mineral
Spring Fountain
Gazebo - Ed
says the water
tasted awful!
Riding in Alum Rock Park Alum Rock Stables Barn Interesting Items
in the Stables
Water Fall
in Alum
Rock Park
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A Tale of Two Mikes

Mike Will won't be the supervisor of Alum Rock Park

Mike McClintock will

Alum Rock Park seems to be a "Mike magnet!" Recently, longtime park supervisor Mike Will was transferred to Emma Prusch Park and passed the mantle of responsibility for the park over to Mike McClintock. Mike #2 visited NNV and sat down for an interview one morning in mid-October.

Mike McClintock isn't really new to Alum Rock Park. His parents lived in the White Road/Mabury area and Mike frequented the park as a boy. He has always been an Eastsider and attended both James Lick and Independence High Schools. Mike and his wife (a fourth grade teacher at Holly Oak School) and two kids, a girl 13 and a boy 10, lived for a while on El Campo Avenue off Alum Rock before they moved a few miles away - back to the area where Mike grew up.

So how does one grow up to be a park supervisor? Well, first one becomes a park ranger and in Mike's case this meant studying Park Management at West Valley College. In 1980 when he was ready for his first ranger trainee assignment he found himself at Kelley Park and on his old home turf, Alum Rock Park. Since those early years he has rangered at Almaden Lake, Lake Cunningham, Prusch Park and Kelley Park where he most recently finished up eight years as Parks Facility Supervisor.

NNV asked Mike what differences he would expect between managing Kelley Park and Alum Rock. Kelley Park is a more manicured city-style park with Happy Hollow Zoo, the Japanese Friendship Garden, Leininger Center and the History Museum on its grounds. While Alum Rock Park once upon a time had a zoo (whose animals became the core menagerie when Happy Hollow opened, incidentally), swimming pools, and some carnival-like attractions, it has been allowed to return to a much more natural state since the 1960's.

Mike relishes the construction projects which he will be able to lead in his new position. His passion is improving parks "and doing it right," he told NNV. He is looking forward to working with Penitencia Creek which he says is a clean, healthy creek. Coyote Creek which runs through Kelley Park reflects the years of city run-off and dumping which have made it less than pristine. Talking with Mike gave NNV a new appreciation of "our" creek.

Mike's first challenge at Alum Rock is to guide the construction project at the Penitencia Creek entrance. Expected to last through February, the result will be a major improvement to the parking area. Some of the old road will be removed and thirty striped parking stalls will be created - all (hopefully) while maintaining traffic flow into and out of the park. With the Alum Rock Avenue entrance closed by landslide damage, the Penitencia Creek entrance is the only viable entrance so they will have to work out the logistics of keeping traffic moving. They plan to move the entrance-booth so there will be some free parking further inside the park during the construction. A new entrance sign will go up and a gate will be installed as this project is completed.

This is just one of the construction projects we'll see soon in Alum Rock Park and Mike is looking forward to managing all of them. He wants to continue to keep Alum Rock Park a natural and usable facility where people want to come for hikes and picnics and other family events. He'd like to hear your concerns and issues so he can respond to them. Don't hesitate to e-mail him at or call (408) 277-3267.

Mike wants to work with the San Jose Councilmembers responsible for the park - Chuck Reed (District 4) and Nora Campos (District 5) to improve the park. Click here for Chuck Reed's latest article on the City's plans for the park.

As he was leaving, Mike said he volunteered to be the supervisor of Alum Rock Park. We think that, like Mike Will, he'll be a good, people-friendly supervisor. Let's all work with him to improve the park.

Click here to see Mike McClintock by the Alum Rock Avenue entrance to the Park.

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A Wild Time at the YSI Wildlife Festival

Alum Rock Park event draws kids of all ages

Animals "basked, wriggled and lolled"

Just as YSI's invitation promised, a gloriously "wild time" was enjoyed by hundreds of Alum Rock Park goers at their Wildlife Festival on Sunday, October 12th. The enormous variety of exhibits, presentations and programs kept every kid (and inner kid) absorbed right up until the 4:00 PM closing time. Of course, it didn't hurt that the occasion happened to be held on what was probably the finest Sunday of the year!

There was indeed a lot of wildlife. Inside the YSI Nature Center the usual characters basked, wriggled and lolled in their glass-fronted cages. The native hawks and owls peered down from their second-story perches - drawing many shrieks from visitors when they discovered that those big birds up there were real - and they were alive - and they were staring right back at the visitors!

Outdoors, there were YSI volunteers in saffron T-shirts "demonstrating" snakes and raptors and readily answering every kid's profound questions. An "Animals Around the World" presentation included an arctic blue fox (in its white mode), a golden eagle, a sloth and one very large African porcupine - plus an overview of the relationship and responsibilities humans must embrace to be good members (and stewards) of the animal kingdom.

Erudite, earnest, ecology experts offered their knowledge of water, soil, plants and critters. A large, diverse collection of "fire guys" shared ideas on fire safety in wildland interface areas such as the Alum Rock Park area. The San Jose Fire Department even brought their shark engine and their superb three-dimensional relief map of the area surrounding the park. They let the kids climb on the shark engine and allowed at least one member of the Lick High School Project Earth team to try on a real fireman's uniform - heavy stuff! A PG&E representative demonstrated the importance of planting "the right tree in the right place" in order to avoid fires caused by trees growing too close to power lines.

Representatives of the CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council handed out detailed literature showing people how they can make their homes and families safer from fire. Seven members of Lick's Project Earth club were on hand to help accompanied by their mentors Nella Henninger and David Porter.

There were wild stories by a Native American storyteller and even wilder Aztec dancers wearing magnificent feather headdresses (and not much else!). Down at the Visitors' Center there were talks on spiders and bats. Wild!

This was the 18th annual YSI Wildlife Festival in Alum Rock Park and the visitors came from areas all over the valley. Kids touching a snake or climbing on the shark engine were, no doubt, forming memories which they will share with their kids twenty years down the road.

NNV hosted a table at the festival as promised. Not wild, exactly, but definitely gratifying! Many folks, curious about the New Neighborhood Voice signs hanging from our patio umbrella, came up and introduced themselves and went away with our flyers, magnets and NNV visors. At least two visitors are interested in writing for NNV! A bunch of current NNV writers were on hand to meet festival guests: Ed and Connie Allegretti held down the fort for a while. Meaghan and Brad Clawsie were there - as was Gerry Stasko. Cycling aficionado (and writer) Tim Schacher came by. Writers who were wearing other hats at the festival - such as YSI's D.J. Johnson and Ann Dunham dropped by as did Nella and Alan Henninger. For being "the new guy on the block," New Neighborhood Voice held its own as a first-time Wildlife Festival participant - after all, many of our articles feature Alum Rock Park, YSI, and the ecology and history of the area.

Click here to see some photos from the YSI Wildlife Festival.  Click here for the YSI in Alum Rock Park Web site.  Read more about Alum Rock Park in Ed Allegretti's story just below.  Click here for our history of Alum Rock Park series.

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Recollections of Alum Rock Park - Part 2

The Alum Rock Park of my youth

By Ed Allegretti

NNV Note: This is Ed's second story on Alum Rock Park. Click here to read last month's article on Ed's Recollections of Alum Rock Park as told to him by his great-grandmother and her sisters.

It is good to recall those stories from my relatives but for me it is more meaningful to think of the Alum Rock Park of my youth. It is not possible for me to remember my first visit to the park since this occurred when I was only a few months old during the many, many picnics my family had there. Yet, I fondly remember the many amusements that existed in the park for the pleasure of children.

As a very small child I think riding one of the two small carousels in the old café had to be my favorite activity. After enjoying these rides I could walk over to the adjoining room where cotton candy and other sweets were sold. In this confection room were also the equivalent of today's arcade games as can be found in most malls. However, the games then weren't electronic but rather mechanical. My favorite game was where one, for a price of course, could move the various levers that controlled a mechanical helicopter that lifted various prizes for those skilled enough to operate it!

Outside of this building and aside from the good food always prepared by my mother and barbecued by my father, were other amusements. For relaxing, we could listen to the municipal band (in which my grandfather previously played with other local businessmen) perform on the old platform. I was always happy to be taken to the deer paddock, the aviary (now a covered picnic area) and to the cages where the lion and bear were kept. These walks were good but didn't use up the energy I had as a child. However, I don't complain because the many swings and playground equipment more than took away my excess energy. Those old swings seemed like they were a couple of stories high, the many manual merry-go-rounds would make us all dizzy yet we all still tried to spin them faster, and maybe enjoyed most of all was the see-saw that went "back and forth" instead of the others that went "up and down."

After so much fun in the hot summer, there was always the children's outdoor wading pool to help cool us off. This pool, despite its allure, was insignificant compared to the real pool located in the old natatorium. I can still recall the echoing sounds of many voices in that large room, the strong smell of chlorine, the ladies in their bathing caps, the men jumping off the high diving board, and watching the crowds of people from the upstairs bleachers.

Although no doubt today's "open minded" and "multicultural" city officials would no longer tolerate the large, or any size, nativity display that was once at the old natatorium, I would like to think that they would not allow the destruction of these historic buildings as did their predecessors over thirty years ago.

Like my grandmother and other relatives, most of my memories of the park are very pleasant. Despite these good recollections there are some that aren't so pleasant. For a time many out-of-towners came to the park, which previously was only used by San Joseans. Many of these respectable families no doubt had the same good intentions as we locals but some of the youths were rebellious and very offensive. That was another time and place which I am glad is over.

Even more strongly recalled is the trick my elder brother and sister were always able to play on me. Each time we were in the park they would take me to the gazebo where there were four drinking fountains, two of sulfur and two of soda water. Always I would say I wasn't thirsty because I could smell the bad odor and vividly remember the bad taste from my previous visit. Yet, my brother and sister were again able to convince naïve Ed that the water was now "normal" and that I could drink it with no bad taste. Happily I would go to drink the water and very unhappily discover it still tasted bad!

Like my mother and grandparents before me, I too enjoyed riding horses in Alum Rock Park. Unlike my family who owned horses, I had to rent those available at the Alum Rock Stables. During my high school days I enjoyed learning to ride Western and English at the Highland Riding Academy (at the stables) and somewhere still have my old certificates to attest to these former good abilities. Riding Western style was generally preferred by my friends and me but certainly was easy compared to the skills required to ride English style. One sunny afternoon, at the "academy," I was walking down to the stables to saddle my regular horse. My instructor informed me that I would be riding Russian that morning. "Russian?" I asked, "Is this anything like riding English?" "No," she amusedly replied, "Russian is the name of your horse!"

Despite wishing I could again play in the park of my youth, I'm still very much thankful for the wonderful hiking trails and museum that we have today. My wife, step-sons and I regularly walk from our house to the park. Although Cindy, the old porcupine that was previously resident for many years at the museum, and the former zoo animals can no longer be seen, there are many other animals to be viewed. On one recent trip we saw an eagle watching us from an old, dead tree, two grand bucks, and over two dozen wild turkeys!

Click here to see Ed's photos and old post cards for this story.

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James Lick Death Valley Field Studies Program

Does your kid's high school have a program like this?

By Nella Henninger

NNV Note: OK, parents, listen up! Before you send your kids off to that expensive private school, just ask them if they have a Death Valley Field Studies Program. James Lick High School does! NNV asked Nella Henninger to tell us about it. She replied that she's done the trip so many times that she could write about it in her sleep.

The James Lick Death Valley Field Studies Program is a week long outdoor, hands on, eye opening experience offered to James Lick juniors and seniors who meet the grade and discipline screening. It was started more than 30 years ago by a local kid turned teacher, Jim Cope. The program was based on the San Jose State Death Valley Field Studies, just fine tuned to a high school clientele. I had several foreign exchange students attend the program and when I started teaching at Lick I made it clear I'd like to join the faculty for the trip. Twenty years later I have led the trip 15 times.

The program goes like this: We leave James Lick at 3:30AM on a November Saturday morning and make the long (10-12 hours) trip south to Bakersfield, over the Tehachapis and north to Death Valley. The students unload the dozen or so vehicles and several trailers that haul all the paraphernalia needed to house and feed 50 to 70 teenagers and adults for a week. Camp is made - tents set up, the food tent stocked and its time for dinner. The students are organized into cook groups of their choosing. They pick up the makings for the meal at the food tent, take them back to their area and prepare, eat and clean up for that meal. That evening includes a trip to the Furnace Creek Resort swimming pool for a swim or shower. Lights out and quiet is 10PM. Each of the next three days the first year students go on basic lessons in biology, geology and history.

Over the years these lessons have evolved with some changes and additions, however the basis is the same. The students are driven many places in the area and at each stop, as they see, smell, feel and taste what they are learning, they gain a unique understanding of this fragile and beautiful ecosystem. Plant and animal adaptations and a transect (count) of plants and animals at different elevations is the meat of the biology lesson. Students travel to 5000 ft. at Dante's View and make their way down to below sea level near Badwater with stops along the way to see how the surroundings have changed with the elevation. Measurements are made of temperature and humidity. The students then make some conclusions about the effect of elevation on what lives there. This lesson ends with a five mile hike down beautiful Golden Canyon. The hike includes some sheer drops down eroded waterfalls (dry) which the students help each other navigate.

The history lesson starts at the Visitor Center where students can see a great relief map of the area and get oriented to where they are and where they are going. Then it is out to Westside Road and an area called Devil's Golf Course where the rapid evaporation of water from the salty ground has caused a very rough surface of crystallized salt. The students are given a piece of jerky and told to start walking across it - just like the 49'ers who got lost in and later named Death Valley must have had to do. They don't have to walk much more than a half a mile when they catch up with the vehicles. Then it's out to Tule Spring where it is believed the lost pioneers stayed while waiting for rescue. That story is related there. They are challenged to find water in the jungle of plants and taste the water when they find it. Back to the highway and over the pass to Ash Meadows and Crystal Spring. This area has desert pupfish - the first endangered species designated by Congress. Since we have been coming in November, we see the pupfish here (three different species in three different springs). The Salt Creek Pupfish are nowhere to be found except in spring.

The Geology lesson starts at Harmony Borax Works with a review of the rock cycle. As the students work their candy bar model,* they can look around them and see the results of the cycle everywhere. The mountains (virtually devoid of vegetation) give up their geologic features easily. Students learn about faulting, the deepening of the "valley" and the more rapid filling in from erosion off the mountains. Next stop is Salt Creek where we used to find pupfish but no more. We look anyway and taste this running creek that is 7 times saltier than the ocean!

Another candy model* of folded and twisted mountains awaits the students at the end of the boardwalk. On to the sand dunes where first the students learn where this sand comes from and what it is made of including magnetite, which they collect with magnets. The big hike on this lesson is to the top of the tallest dune and back. The lesson ends in spectacular Mosaic Canyon which has been carved out by countless flash floods. This erosion has exposed and polished great chunks of one kind of rock embedded in a finer base.

Those are the three basic lessons. The fourth day students hike down an extinct volcano - Ubehebe Crater - then visit and tour Scotty's Castle.

Each evening there is some sort of activity: at least one star walk to check out the skies, ranger talk, campfires or volleyball at the resort. Many students choose to sleep outside the tents on tarps and often get informal star talks as they are going to sleep.

Students who attend as seniors and also went as juniors get some special trips and lessons. Some of the adventures have been Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, Augeberry Point, Darwin Falls, Death Valley Buttes climb, Eagle Peak climb, Titus Canyon with its spectacular narrows, Echo Canyon and Inyo Mine. They have seen petroglyphs, toured Death Valley Junction Opera House and visited the ghost town of Rhyolite. The "repeater" lessons are planned with the particular makeup and wishes of the students in mind.

The last full day is highlighted by the total group hike into Grotto Canyon. While not a long hike, the several dry waterfalls they have to get up, then down requires the help and trust of all participants. At the end, The Grotto, the students have a group test, by study group, to show what they have learned.

Then it's back to camp to pack up because, the next morning, early, we head back to San Jose. The last night the cook groups present skits for everyone's entertainment. Since the tents are all packed, everyone sleeps outside, under the stars, on tarps. Come 4:30, everyone quietly gets up, finishes packing and loads up the vehicles.

There are so many lessons learned on this trip, not the least of which is what they learn about themselves, their classmates and the adults on the trip. Many have not been away from home or outside this much. They learn to cope with the weather, with sharing cooking and cleaning chores, with dust and dirt, with wind (sometimes) and with people they never thought they'd learn to like. Over the years the trip has encountered challenges, joys and adventures - a flash flood, a head-on collision (luckily no one seriously hurt), a longer than expected hike turned into overnight, wind so strong we couldn't keep up the tents, 126 degree temperatures and so on.

Through it all, the people involved have always risen to the challenge and come through with wonderful memories.

* NNV asked Nella to elucidate on the "candy bar model." Here's what she wrote:

The candy bar model for the rock cycle works like this: Take a tiny Hershey bar (should be relatively cold, so it's brittle), take off the wrapper and put into a sandwich size Ziploc bag. Break it up into as small pieces as possible. This represents sedimentary rock.

You can tip the bag and move it around for erosion. Then warm it up with your hands and compress it together to make metamorphic rock (still can see the sedimentary parts). Now put the bag under your armpit or sit on it or set it out in the sun to melt the chocolate, if only partially and you have igneous after it has cooled. The "rock" can then be eaten if you dare!

Plate movement and the interior of the earth can be shown with Milky Way bars - fun size. Make a crack in the outside chocolate covering and pull the two parts gently apart (divergent plate) then push back together to show a convergent boundary (mountains form and sometimes trenches). The outside chocolate is the crust, the caramel is the mantle and the inside is the core. A sweet way to learn and hopefully to remember!

Click here to read more about Death Valley. Nella plans to take photos during this month's Death Valley Trip and NNV hopes to run them in our December edition.

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NNV Briefs

bulletPrusch Park Harvest Festival by Joyce Baker
bulletVolunteers Needed for Boccardo Trail Patrol by Lori Raymaker
bulletAlum Rock Youth Center Ribbon-Cutting
bulletCity of San Jose "Friends of the Library" Groups Meet to "Regroup" by Joyce Baker

Prusch Park Harvest Festival

By Joyce Baker

If you were there, you know what a great time was had by all. Starting with my favorite display "Play with your Food," the children of our community made amusing and ingenious displays of sculptured monsters, animals, boats and other familiar objects - all composed of vegetables (well, a few miniature marshmallows for eyes were included).

Meantime the parents were picking up free packages of Renee's Garden seeds at the Master Gardener stand while they had the experts solve their gardening problems. Thank you Mr. Goodwin for leading me step by step on my favorite topic: "how to get rid of gophers" (P.S. there is no easy way) while I drank a cup of free apple-juice.

The rare (unusual) fruit booth was busily handing out samples of fruit, especially paw-paws. Yes, the trees grow very well here (confess if you have one) and are frost resistant while the fruit tastes somewhat like a banana. Many of the children busily colored pictures with paper and crayons provided by OUR CITY FOREST, who are a great source of free trees for community groups Alongside were displays of water conservation and free booklets on pest control and guides to backyard bugs.

At the Barn, which houses up to 100 animals and is the "home" of local 4H and FFA, we got close to sheep, pigs, a feisty steer and goats while other children were taking pony rides. There were 47 acres to cover with many exhibits and information experts so we enjoyed sampling the great food available which ranged from Clam Chowder and Coconut prawns to BBQ and Texas snowballs and then sitting down to be entertained.

Where else could you enjoy a dancer from Nepal, in her native costume, perform the dances and songs of her country to be followed by the Mariachi Sol y Luna group in their dazzling costumes and heart-warming dances? What a great show.

Yes, there was a Giant Pumpkin contest (eat your heart out Half Moon Bay) and I overheard one couple who were admiring the floral displays remark, "This is better than the County Fair" and I don't think they were referring only to the free parking.

The day took me back many years to times when a celebration was "home-grown" and not a commercial venture. My thanks to the Master Gardeners (all volunteers) whose work made this a great success.

Prusch Park is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
Future classes which require pre-registration. To register, call (408) 926-5555 weekdays. 

    Nov. 15     9 a.m. to 12 noon     Herbs for Winter Health (18+)     Fee $25 

    Dec. 6      10 a.m. to 12:30        Holiday Houses (ages 6-12)         Fee $20 
                                                   Make houses of candy, materials supplied.

SPRING GARDEN MARKET featuring 70 varieties of tomato plants plus many varieties of peppers will be held on April 3, 2004 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Click here for the Emma Prusch Farm Park Web site.

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Volunteers Needed for Boccardo Trail Patrol Above Alum Rock Park

By Lori Raymaker, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority

Whether you're an accomplished outdoor enthusiast, or someone whose hiking boots or mountain bike are still clean, you are invited to join the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority's Volunteer Trail Patrol. This group of volunteers will patrol the Authority's Boccardo Trail, which begins at the top of Alum Rock Park's North Rim and Todd Quick Trails. The Boccardo Trail is a strenuous 1.5-mile route with a 1,100-foot elevation gain (6 miles round trip when you include the Alum Rock Park Trails). This is a great opportunity to spend some time outside, learn about the wonderful open space lands that are preserved in Santa Clara County, and help educate other hikers, bikers, and equestrians along the trail. Click here for photos of the trails and here for a virtual tour of the trail.

As part of the Authority's Volunteer Trail Patrol, you will help to monitor open space lands, provide maps and other written and verbal information to other trail users, educate visitors about proper trail use, trail safety, and trail etiquette, and provide Authority staff with information on trail usage and conditions. Not only will you be outside among beautiful open space lands, you will also be giving back to the Authority by helping to manage these public lands.

The main requirements to join the Trail Patrol program are interest, enthusiasm, and a desire to help the Authority in protecting the open space lands it maintains on behalf of the public. Trail Patrol Volunteers will attend two training sessions provided by the Authority, and periodic Trail Patrol meetings. All of these sessions are guaranteed to be fun and informative, and will help each volunteer to become more familiar with many aspects of the Authority's open space lands. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age, and are asked to commit to patrolling for a minimum of four hours per month, for a one-year period.

The training dates are November 8th and 15th. You must attend both days in order to qualify to be a patrol member. For full details and registration, contact Lori Raymaker at (408) 224-7476, or visit the Authority's website at

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Alum Rock Youth Center Ribbon-Cutting

7:30 AM Ceremony Planned for November 17

Preparations are being made for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our neighborhood's outstanding new Alum Rock Youth Center on Monday, November 17th. You're invited to hear speeches by Mayor Ron Gonzales, Councilmember Nora Campos, Assemblymember Manny Diaz and a representative leader of the St. John Vianney LOC of PACT. The center will be open all day for your visit. Refreshments will be served and demonstrations will be given of the classes which will be offered at the center.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony and presentations begin at 7:30 AM (no, that's not a typo, folks) with entertainment by the Overfelt High School Jazz Band. The event is planned for the front entryway on White Road, but, in the event of rain, it will be held in the lobby of the building. You can tour the facilities on your own all day - guided tours will be available from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. This is truly an excellent opportunity for the community to become acquainted with this marvelous resource which is expected to be a neighborhood mecca for our young people and ourselves.

Watch our Community Bulletin Board for more information on this and other events.  Click here to read more about the Alum Rock Youth Center and here for some photos of the center under construction.

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City of San Jose "Friends of the Library" Groups Meet to "Regroup" 

By Joyce Baker

On Saturday, October 20, I attended a meeting of the Friends of the Library from all San Jose branches at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Library. Was I an interloper? Well, that never stopped me before and I reasoned that as a "Friend" of Alum Rock Library, which is still a County Library, we should be looking ahead to our new building when we will be magically transformed into a member of the San Jose City Library system.

It was interesting to meet with volunteers at libraries from all areas of San Jose and share the problems and solutions experienced. Some groups are low-key and only gather when there is a major book sale; others keep a constant watch on the book donations and organize visits from authors. Biblioteca Latino Americana on First Street is a leader in this area while at Evergreen Library they not only sell donated books at the library but take them to community gatherings (last week it was Cunningham Park). It seems that one's group can do as much as the volunteers' enthusiasm permits.

So we can dream and plan for the day when Alum Rock Library has more available space to both display books and plan events and we encourage people to join us (give your name to the librarian if you are interested).

At the meeting, we also learned the present San Jose parcel assessment ($25) passed in 1994 only had a 10 year life. It has accounted for two-thirds of the annual Library Materials budget and has added 1.7 million items to the collection since 1994. We may expect a new proposition to renew this expiring funding sometime next year.

If you want to express your opinions on our new library plans, be sure to speak up and let your opinions be known. For example, do we want an Internet Cafe serving coffee when we have Rafiki's on the opposite corner? Or could that proposed space be put to better use? Our local representative on the Library Commission is John Ramos, call him at (408) 923-5128 or (408) 294-1237 and leave a message or E-mail

Finally, my favorite statistic from the meeting: San Jose libraries logged more visits from July 2002 to June 2003 than the combined attendance at the S.F. Giants and Oakland A's games. We do need our libraries.

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Powerhouse, Trolley Station, Speakeasy, Restaurant, Bar, Dance Hall or Boutique?

What IS behind the covered bridge on Penitencia Creek Road?

A friend suggested that NNV should write about "Boesch Hall." I'm afraid that your editor responded pretty stupidly, "Huh?"

Well, it turns out that our neighborhood has a marvelous old artifact of turn-of-the-last-century history sitting big-as-life among us, albeit well hidden behind "the covered bridge" on Penitencia Creek Road close to Dorel Drive. Probably most everyone who drives by that one-of-a-kind bridge at the edge of Penitencia Creek has wondered why it's there and what lies beyond it. NNV is excited to share this story with all of our readers - except those who have been in the neighborhood long enough to have shopped for holiday trappings at The Covered Bridge Boutique which was an annual fixture for some years up until the early 1990's. However, even those folks who became acquainted with Boesch Hall and the boutique or those who remember dancing there earlier, will probably be surprised at some of the history which has revealed itself.

Boesch Hall was not always Boesch Hall. Once upon a time, in the early 1900's when trains and trolleys carried people around our valley, the property behind the covered bridge was home to "the West Coast's largest gasoline-fueled electric powerhouse." This marvel produced the energy for the expansion of the electric narrow-gauge railroad all the way to Alum Rock Park's gazebo. According to Kent Boesch, a grandson of the owners of the property since the late 1950's, what is now called the hall, was originally the building which the powerhouse occupied. And, according to Mike Will, an ex-supervisor of Alum Rock Park, the hall is thought to have become a resting place for trolley riders. He'd heard that there was a trolley "turn-around" on the property also and there is indeed a huge, flat, vacant area in front of Boesch Hall which could very well have served that purpose. Part of the trestle system which can be seen in the park is also evident behind the hall.

When cars replaced public transportation as the major mode of transportation to Alum Rock Park, the hall was turned into a restaurant and bar which, for at least part of its history was called "Caddy's Villa." Sometime during a major renovation of the De Anza Hotel downtown, its Art Deco bar was sold to the restaurant's owners. That old neon-lit bar, along with its mirrored backbar and a large mural, still adorns one wall of the hall. Rumor has it that the bar was open for business during Prohibition. It's quite believable because the "revenoors" would have had a hard time finding the place.

After the failure of the prohibition experiment, Caddy's Villa became a respectable neighborhood restaurant and bar again until a kitchen fire ended the restaurant business and the hall became a bar and neighborhood meeting place. Playful murals illustrating Munro Leaf's "The Story of Ferdinand" (the little bull who would rather sit and smell the flowers than engage in bullfights) were painted on the three walls not occupied by the bar. They're still there.

Enter the Boesches. Ulrich and Martha Boesch, (the name was anglicized from "Bösch" with an umlaut over the letter o, to its American pronunciation of "Bush") who were Swiss immigrants, owned a large dairy farm on the land which today is bordered by Capitol Avenue, Jackson Avenue, Alum Rock Avenue, and Story Road. A story in the Mayfair newspaper at the time of its sale said that the farm was 144 acres. Around 1956 that land was rezoned for commercial use and the Boesches decided to get out of farming and out from under the sudden fivefold increase in property taxes. They moved further out into "the country," buying the Caddy's Villa property which included a lovely custom-built brick ranch house close to Alum Rock Park.

The Boesches didn't establish another bar, (Granddaughter Kathleen Boesch Tirri says they were "tired and retired" at that point in their lives) but they rented the hall out for parties. They added an ornate upright piano and an enormous shiny old juke box - exact era unknown, but it offered ten cents a play or four for a quarter - to one end of the long room. The roster of song choices remind us that our neighbors danced to "Tea for two cha cha cha" and "My baby just cares for me" by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, "If I give you my heart" by Kitty Kallen and "If I didn't care & Old Shanty Town" by the Ink Spots. There were numbers by Johnny Cash, Frank Yankovic, Crazy Otto, Dinah Washington and Billy Vaughn, too.

In 1969, Ulrich and Martha's son Walter Boesch and his wife Dolores bought the property and raised their family there. They have both passed away and daughter Kathleen and her siblings own the property. Kathleen lives in the Piedmont Road area and is a crossing guard for Laneview Elementary School. She graciously gave NNV a wonderful tour of the property and shared photos to augment those taken during our tour.

The 2+ acres property is for sale now, including old Caddy's Villa/Boesch Hall with all the nicks and dings acquired over the many years it has served the neighborhood. Its history is written all over it; it was home to Lions Club and Investors Club meetings, wedding receptions and more parties (and partying) than we could ever imagine. It's not hard to picture lovers of our grandparents' and parents' generations dancing cheek-to-cheek (and doing the cha cha cha!) to the tunes on that old juke box. Boesch Hall's next incarnation will be in the hands of its next owner. What an exciting prospect!

Click here for the photos of Boesch Hall.

Many helpful neighbors shared fragments of long-ago memories for this story.  Thanks to everyone who contributed. NNV has to piece together parts of sometimes conflicting recollections for a story like this. We check references if we can but, if you can fill in a blank from your family lore or if you think something is not correct, please let us know. E-mail

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You Dig It?

Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with East side gardening and related topics here.

November Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 299-2638 with your gardening and pest questions. Also check out for local tips and events.

Poisonous Plants: As we approach the holidays, there are questions about indoor flower arrangements and poisonous plants. Fortunately, many of these plants have a very bitter taste that limits the amount of the plant eaten. Poinsettia and mistletoe should be kept away from curious children, but the list includes other flowers and plants such as azaleas, calla lily, carnation, daffodil, foxglove, hydrangeas, iris, lantana, narcissus, poppy, sweet pea and tulips. Different parts of the plant may be toxic. For more detailed information, see

Citrus Bud Mite: Have you ever seen weirdly shaped lemons or oranges that appear to have 'fingers' coming from one end of the fruit? The Citrus Bud Mite attacks newly forming flowers and fruits. The mite is very small, elongated and yellow with four legs that appear to come out of its head. The mites feed inside the buds, killing them or causing a rosette-like growth of the subsequent foliage and distortion of flowers and fruit. Control by natural predators is recommended. Previously recommended oil sprays have not proven effective in commercial orchards. For more information, see

Sooty Mold: Aphids, scale, mealybug and whitefly exude sticky honeydew that is colonized by sooty mold fungi. By itself, the fungi cannot kill the plant but it can coat the leaves to the extent that sunlight is prevented from reaching the leaf surface. The mold can be washed off fruit with mild soap and water. Ants protect the sucking insects in order to eat the honeydew. Keep ants out of trees and away from honeydew-producing insects by applying a sticky compound around the trunk and trimming limbs touching buildings or other access points. Baits such as ant stakes placed under trees and shrubs may help reduce ant foraging in some cases. A strong stream of water will wash the mold off leaves. For more information on Sooty Mold, see For ant information, see

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Comments on Earlier Gardening Article

By Arvind Kumar, Publicity Chair, California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter

Dear Editor,

I was pleased to learn about NNV because I live next to Lake Cunningham Park and have been looking to network with environmentally minded neighbors. I was particularly pleased to read Marci Hayden's article on how to attract wildlife to your garden.

To her excellent article, I would add one other point. People may want to increase the natural "carrying capacity" of their gardens by planting native shrubs and trees. California's birds, butterflies, and insects have coevolved with California native plants over thousands of years. They support each other naturally, without requiring additional irrigation, fertilizers, or pesticides.

In the two years since we landscaped our Hidden Glen garden with California native plants, we have begun to notice a steady increase in the number of birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects in our garden. Of course, we get the occasional scale or aphid manifestation, too, but the birds keep their populations in check, and we have yet to lose a plant due to pest damage.

The local chapter of the California Native Plant Society is a wonderful resource (, as is their Gardening With Natives group ( 

Arvind Kumar, 
Publicity Chair, California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter

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Official Visit to East Foothills by President of Province of Florence, Italy

Many local dignitaries attended farewell dinner at San Jose Country Club 

By Ed Allegretti, Commissioner, Santa Clara County Province of Florence Sister County Commission

With much festivity The Honorable Michele Gesualdi, president of the Province of Florence, Italy, visited the East Foothills on October 7th. He was in our neighborhood attending the farewell dinner held for him and his delegation at the San Jose Country Club.

President Gesualdi, his chief of cabinet, Dr. Roberto Bartolini, and the six members of his council made up the delegation which visited Santa Clara County for the previous week. The six council members were: Davide Filippelli, Fabrizio Cecconi, Francesca Comes, Tiziano Lepri, Massimo Marconcini, and Peirgiuseppe Massai.

This delegation from the Province of Florence was invited to Santa Clara County by the Santa Clara County/Province of Florence Sister County Commission. The purpose of this commission is to oversee the official relations and diplomacy between our two counties. While here the delegation was pleased to tour many of our county's museums, civic sites, business complexes, parks, and more.

As a thank you to the delegation and as an opportunity for the public to meet these officials, a farewell dinner was held at the San Jose Country Club on October 7th. San Jose City Councilmember Judy Chirco proudly represented the City of San Jose while County Supervisor Pete McHugh, along with the commission members, represented the County of Santa Clara. Aside from a wonderful dinner and much good conversation, many kind comments and gifts were exchanged.

Of most importance and interest to the commission members was the official signing of the memorandum of understanding between the Province of Florence and the County of Santa Clara. This document, signed by President Gesualdi and Supervisor McHugh, outlines the future exchange opportunities between our two counties that were discussed and agreed upon during the previous week. As a result of this visit, programs will be established to: arrange student visits between our two counties, have "pen email" programs in place between students of several schools, arrange visiting art exhibits between our two counties, have a jointly sponsored fashion show (concentrating on Italian fashions, of course) in San Jose, and establish business relationships.

Click here for some photos from this event.  Click here for the Santa Clara County/Province of Florence Sister County Commission Web site.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletWhat ARE those black spots on the sidewalks in the Alum Rock "Village" area?
bulletWhat happened to all that new graffiti under the Miguelito Creek Bridge?
bulletWhere are the Alum Rock Falls?  Why can't we go there? By Ed Allegretti
bulletHow can we get an "animal crossing" sign on Alum Rock Avenue?
bulletAre the Cub Scouts still collecting old, used printer cartridges as a fundraiser?
bulletWhy can't I find NNV at the Alum Rock County Library?
bulletWhose idea was the new traffic light at the corner of McKee and Toyon?

Q. What ARE those black spots on the sidewalks in the Alum Rock "Village" area?

A. J.E. Blanton, long time owner of Foothill Printers, Lick alum and Eastside guru, called NNV and left the following message. "I read most of the articles in the paper (NNV) this time. The black spots in the article about the Village happen to be gum. I have cleaned a great many of them up. It behooves the other business owners to do the same. Thanks for your good work." Thank you, J.E.!

Another reader (also a former Lick High student) e-mailed us and said, too, that the spots are gum. He suggested that rather than complaining about them, complainers should clean them up! He pointed out that while he was at Lick, he was part of a group of ecology students who regularly cleaned up the mess. It looks as though it will take a concerted effort to spruce things up … perhaps "it takes a village" to keep a village tidy. Click here to read Tanya Freudenberger's report on the PACT meeting with Councilmember Nora Campos for more on this topic.

Q. What happened to all that new graffiti under the Miguelito Creek Bridge?

A. There has been a recurrent problem with LOTS of graffiti under the Miguelito Creek Bridge and, now under the new pedestrian bridge as well (sigh). The County Roads and Airports folks have come out and painted over the stuff at least twice that NNV has noticed. It appears that the taggers know that the bridge is in unincorporated Santa Clara County and that their tags won't be obliterated so quickly as they would be if they were done on property in the City of San Jose. Well, perhaps they might just be wrong about that!

NNV stopped by the Community Justice Center near Alum Rock Avenue and White Road recently and picked up a brochure about San Jose's Anti-Graffiti program from Janie and Larry Tilbury who volunteer there. They ventured that we county residents can avail ourselves of this program just like city-dwellers do. Because of the Miguelito graffiti and a growing number of tags all around the East Highlands, NNV decided to pursue the City's Anti-Graffiti hotline.

The very helpful person on the hotline phone referred us to the "Santa Clara County Integrated Waste Management, Graffiti and Litter Abatement Program" (whew!). One call to Lisa Rose, the program coordinator, on a Thursday, brought a crew of a half dozen teenagers out the very next Sunday to paint out the mess. The youngsters are on probation due to the "petty crimes" they have committed and are accompanied by adults from the County Probation Department. NNV asked whether any of these kids were graffiti taggers and Lisa explained that these are NOT the taggers - taggers are sent to the City's graffiti abatement program and are not among these kids.

Lisa said that their crews go out every Sunday to clean up graffiti and have a regular schedule - ordinarily the crews come to the East Foothills area (of the County) on the first Sunday of every month and to other County areas on the other Sundays. However, they will try to respond to reports of graffiti incidents on the next Sunday following the report - rather than keeping to their usual rotation. Don't hesitate to call (408) 441-1198 extension 4450 to report tagging which needs to be cleaned up. To report tagging in progress call 911!

Q. People keep asking what and where are the Alum Rock Falls. Everyone knows you can't go up there now, but could someone please tell us what's up there and how they looked?

A. Ed Allegretti answers: There are two waterfalls in Alum Rock Park. According to the City, the trails to both falls are closed due to unsafe conditions.

As you hiked through the park and passed the various mineral springs, you continued eastward. Eventually you crossed a small pedestrian bridge where Penitencia Creek and Arroyo Aguague merge. Penitencia is the left, or upper, fork while Aguague is the right, or lower, fork. If you followed Arroyo Aguague past the point where the trail is now closed, you reached one of the falls (click here to see old post cards showing these falls). Maybe it is a quarter mile past the trail closure. In my youth I would hike past these falls where the canyon became so narrow that I could almost touch both sides. At this point is a location where many large fossilized clam shells could be found (I donated many to YSI).

The other, or upper, falls are up Penitencia Creek about a quarter mile. Previously there were several small pedestrian bridges (painted pink) that had to be crossed before reaching these falls. I'm not sure if the bridges are still there. It probably has been at least 15 years since these trails were officially closed.

NNV Note: Readers will need to continue to visualize Alum Rock Falls in their imaginations. The terrain is treacherous and there have been injuries and fatalities among visitors who ignored the "trail closed" signs. Perhaps, someday, those trails and bridges can be restored.

Q. How can we get an "animal crossing" sign near the base of Brundage Avenue by the curve in Alum Rock Avenue just before the East Highlands sign? Many skunks, squirrels and even two deer have recently been hit and killed there by speeding motorists.

A. Sonja Troncoso asked this questions and NNV put her in touch with the County Roads and Airports Department. They assigned Sue McElwain to examine the deer paths crossing Alum Rock Avenue.  Sue reported that a Deer Crossing sign WILL be installed near the intersection with Edgemont. If that doesn't help with the problem, it sounds as through the County will revisit the situation.  Ms. McElwain can be reached at (408) 494-1337.

NNV had occasion to walk around one of the beautiful does that was killed last month. Her body was lying in the pathway along the Country Club's fence. It was quite an experience to be able to look really, really closely at one of nature's most exquisite creatures. She had apparently just been hit and there were no marks on her body or delicate head. Her belly was revealed in such a way that one could see the small udder and four tiny teats. Hopefully, your editor will not ever have an opportunity to study a deer quite so closely again, but the experience was truly amazing and will be remembered for a long time.

No, NNV isn't just concerned about the deer - a sign would also help warn and protect motorists! NNV has never heard any stories about injuries (or damage to cars) that people in the foothills have suffered due to run-ins with deer. Do you have any experiences to share?

Q. Are the Mt. Hamilton District Cub Scouts still collecting old, used printer cartridges as a fundraiser?

A. No, but Foothill Presbyterian Church has taken on this small (but important) fundraising activity. They keep a box labeled "cartridges" in the church office where you can drop off your cartridges during office hours - Monday through Thursday 9 -4, closed 12-1 for lunch and Friday, 9-12. This is a great alternative to fouling the landfill with gunky old cartridges; they create ecological havoc. The church project includes recycling of the old cartridges. You can stop by the church at 5301 McKee Road, unload your cartridges and have a chat with a friendly chick named "Chick."

Q. Why doesn't NNV put one of its paper copies in the Alum Rock County Library Branch each month?

A. We have arranged to do that very thing beginning with this edition. If you'd like to read the newsletter on paper, just look for it in the periodicals section. However, the paper version does not have anywhere near as many photos as this on-line version does.

Q. Whose (dumb) idea was the new traffic light at the corner of McKee and Toyon? It surely slows down and messes up traffic!

A. NNV is biased toward that new light because we often need to make that hairy left from Toyon onto McKee at high traffic times, but we'd like to hear how other readers feel. We naïvely thought that everyone was hunky-dory with it!

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--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
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Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2003, 2004 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 10/1/04.

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