New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 12 - Section 2

December 7, 2003

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Who's this kid?

Walter, The Water
Witcher (and Mavis)

Eileen Parks -
the Realestatelady
(and Tom)

Where are Yin
and Yang now?

A Native California Garden (thinking ahead to next May)
Welcome to Japantown
Farmers' Market
 Open Year Around!
Beckman's Bakery
at the
Farmers' Market
Coffee Cup proprietors
have java for you!
(original sense)
And the crowd outside is saving
a couple of chairs for you! - or not!
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New San Jose Fire Department Wildland Program Manager

We live in a Wildlands Urban Interface Zone - here's great advice!

By Fire Captain Ralph Ortega, San Jose Fire Department

In September I became the new Wildland Program Manager for the San Jose Fire Department, replacing Captain Joseph Carrillo who was promoted to Battalion Chief. I've been asked to address some wildland issues, for the San Jose area, so I've decided to start with our Automatic Response Policy during wildfire season.

Our city has been divided into zones. When homes are built in wildland zones we call them, Wildland Urban Interface Zones (WUI). WUI's describe where our wildland areas meet residential areas. Firefighters have identified homes, in the WUI area, as Threat Zones since the homes in these zones have to deal with the threat of wildfires. During wildfire season (approximately May through October) San Jose Fire will automatically send two engines and one Battalion Chief to any fire-related call in these areas, as opposed to the single engine response that we send during the off season. This enables us to have a quick response, with the necessary resources, when minutes and seconds are crucial to saving lives and property. We train our officers and firefighters to Not wait before calling additional resources when an incident is occurring in these threat zones.

Foothills fire goes to a "Tier 3" Response

To give you some idea of how this works, I was at station 31 at Ruby and Aborn when the bell struck for a fire in the East Foothills. Upon leaving the station the captain saw smoke in the hills and immediately called for a Tier 1, then 2, then a Tier 3 response, and he did this all before reaching the end of the street. Good call!

By the time we reached the incident, the fire had grown to about three acres. It had started to burn a beautiful three story home under construction and was endangering two other houses. The first two engine companies on the scene were sent directly to the home in the fire's path. The crews executed a (very dangerous) frontal attack saving the home. The remaining companies were sent to contain and control the rest of fire. CDF arrived with engine crews, helicopter crews, air tankers and a bulldozer in time to make a very difficult stop at the head of the fire. The fire front burned into a ravine on a very steep hillside. It was threatening to break through our containment lines to the next hillside where dozens of homes were at risk. We did a good job that day and as firefighters say, "We made a good stop." No one got hurt and we saved some homes.

Some factors that could have made this fire unmanageable are, Time of Day, if the wind had been stronger, or if CDF resources were unavailable. For example, the recent wildfires down south diminished the state's ability to assist elsewhere. Wildland firefighting relies on training, communication, teamwork, good equipment and most of all having a plan that is well practiced.

Here is a breakdown of our "Tier" Reponses;

  1. Tier 1 dispatches 3 engines, 2 brush patrols (BPs), 2 Battalion Chiefs and activates BP groups, other stations move up to cover more area and we advise the California Dept of Forestry (CDF) that a Tier incident is occurring.

  2. Tier 2 dispatches 3 engines, 4 BPs, 1 water tanker, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 Duty Chief, 1 Safety Officer, 1 Wildland Officer, 1 Medical Officer, the Incident Dispatch Team and advises CDF that SJFD can't send any mutual aid to assist them at this time.

  3. Tier 3 dispatches 2 engines, 3 BPs, 1 water tanker, a request for assistance to CDF, 1 Public Information Officer, 1 Mechanic, station move-ups and notifies Santa Clara County Fire District of possible mutual aid requests.

In total 53 fire vehicles and 91 personnel were used. Five fire stations had to be moved to cover more area. In all, the fire consumed approximately 30 acres. The Wildland Urban Interface Zones and the Automatic Responses for them are just some of the tools that we have learned to use to protect our residents and their property.

Fire prevention measures you can take to protect your family and property:


Have a plan and practice it (without one you won't know what to do)


Become more aware of your surroundings (think fire safety)


Post your address so that it is clearly visible (on your house, beginning of your driveway, or both)


Have available a ladder that can reach the roof


Consider shutters or fire resistant drapes


Have what we call a defensible space around your home, which means an area clear of combustibles around your home to a minimum of 30 feet (footage increases if property is located on a slope or surrounded by heavy vegetation)


Trim any tree branches hanging over your roof


Space trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart (choose plants that are fire resistant)


For trees taller than 18 feet, prune the lower branches to at least 6 feet from the ground


Trim any branches within 10 feet of chimney


Make sure the chimney has a ½ inch wire mesh cover and cover all vents and openings with ¼ inch wire mesh (to prevent flying embers from entering)


Keep roof and gutters clear of leaves and needles


Consider a fire resistant roof when you install or replace your roof, class C or better (this alone may save your property)


Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet away from all structures


Locate LPG tanks at least 30 feet from all structures and give the tanks at least 10 feet of clearance


Use ½ inch fire resistant mesh screen under porches, decks, house, and floor areas (keep weeds and grass from growing under them)


Identify at least two exit routes from your house and neighborhood (try to travel away from the fire's path)


If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

The items listed above are just some easy ways to safeguard your home. It doesn't mean that you must have bare dirt around your house. You have the option to use ornamental fire resistant vegetation to beautify and give your home the best chance possible to survive a Wildfire. What I want you to know is, if you live in a wildland area, you can (and should) try to make your house and surrounding area as fire safe as possible.

Your local fire station has literature on these items and other issues concerning wildland areas. Please feel free to visit your local fire stations to learn more about becoming fire safe.

Captain Ralph Ortega
Bureau of Field Operations
San Jose Fire Department

Click here for the San Jose Fire Department Web site.  Click here to see the SJFD Shark Engine at the YSI Festival in Alum Rock Park.

NNV Note: Captain Ralph Ortega and Battalion Chief Joe Carrillo also participate in the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council.  Click here to read more about the FireSafe Council and here for their Web Site.

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Alum Rock Youth Center Ribbon-Cutting and Grand Opening

We really have something grand for the young people in our neighborhood!

If you missed the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the brand spanking new Alum Rock Youth Center on Monday, November 17th, you probably have not yet feasted your eyes on the Alum Rock area's most wonderful eye candy. NNV had written about the nearly-completed building in the September edition, but your editor must confess to being totally charmed (and blown-away) by the reality of the finished product. We really have something grand for the young people in our neighborhood!

The ribbon-cutting took place at 7:30 AM, which is well before your editor and her camera could arrive at the scene. However, it seems there were hundreds of people on hand to celebrate the occasion, so it was just as well that NNV came along stylishly late around 11:30 AM when Ed Solis, the community-coordinator-in-charge, could share some of his thoughts for NNV.

First of all, NNV readers need to know that Ed Solis is definitely the right man for the job of coordinating this complex youth center for the community. He has great enthusiasm and layers and layers of talent which have been going into the start-up of this facility and which he's ready to dedicate to making an outstanding success of it. Ed Solis grew up in East Los Angeles so he knows lots about deprived kids and what it takes to engage, inspire and motivate them. He's only 35, but he has five years in the U.S. Army under his belt as well as a degree in Kinesiology (that's "Physical Education" to us old geezers) attained at Rio Honda College in Whittier and Cal State Fullerton. He wrestled in college and eventually turned writing about his sport into editing the student newspaper at CSUF. (Obviously this is one rare man - he is a very fine writer, eloquent speaker and thoughtful planner - would you believe he's also a musician?)

Ed spent quite a few years working for the Boys and Girls Clubs before coming to the Bay Area. His wife is a San Franciscan so she convinced him to settle here so they could be near her family. They added their first child, a baby girl, to their household late in October.

So what is this "eye candy" of a facility to which Ed has devoted himself? The Alum Rock Youth Center is the building which the neighborhood has been watching metamorphose at 137 N. White Road on the edge of the Pala Middle School campus. During its construction there was a sign on the premises which said "Pala Youth Center," but that was just a working name because this facility is for all the middle school and highschoolers in our area, not just for the Pala kids. The PACT (People Acting in Community Together) people who conceived the idea for the center 12 years ago positively bristled when that "Pala" sign was installed!

Only a few of the eventual amenities of the building weren't installed by the grand opening date. The landscaping was in, but it was so fresh that it still had yellow caution tape surrounding it. Artist Ries Niemi's art work was installed just in time. It consists of a variety of laser-cut steel sculptures in several configurations ranging from flat grill-like pieces, to large pierced steel bas reliefs and the artist's principle piece which is suspended in the huge "oculus," the magnificent oval skylight which illuminates and defines the entryway.

The computer room is state-of-the-art with eighteen computers. The wireless technology was donated by 3Com. This room is on the east side of the building and, like the lounge, game room and community meeting room also on that side, it is amazingly well lit by the large windows and square skylights. It is expected that the utility bills for ARYC will be extremely reasonable for a 17,000+ square foot structure. These rooms also share a unique passive ventilation system which draws outdoor air into the rooms through louvered panels. The louvers even allow cool nighttime air to be drawn into the building overnight without jeopardizing the security of the facility.

The lounge has clubby, chubby overstuffed sofas and chairs in solid and print rust, blue and yellow upholstery. In general, the color scheme of the building is built around the warm, varied grays of the block walls with the major accents of rust and buttercup yellow. And, if the reader thinks that gray block walls don't exactly "sing," NNV wants you to know that these are not just plain old cinderblock. According to the architect, Heinz Rudolf of Boora Architects in Portland, OR and his associate, Chris Roberts, these blocks are special split blocks which have open "pores" to trap noise and the gray surfaces are made up of many subtle colors. The effect is simple, clean and strong.

NNV really lucked out to run into the architects and enjoyed their commentary. They are enormously pleased with this project and their pride was obvious. They pointed out the "green" aspects of the building including the fine-looking maple gymnasium floor which is not the top grade usually used. Instead, it is a lower grade which is equally serviceable, but utilizes much more of the lumber. Ordinarily, gym floors use only the most clear, bright parts of the lumber and there is much wood wasted.

Ed Solis' philosophy for the optimum use of ARYC is based on using the facility for much, much more than as a "recreation" center. He wants to see the kids move beyond basketball and foosball and do things creatively and spontaneously. There will be dance classes and play producing. Also coming soon will be many special programs including "Guitars - Not Guns," "Therapeutic Recreation" for kids with disabilities, youth intervention services, and the STAND program (Striving Toward A New Direction) to help "at risk" youngsters. NNV met Dan Greeley and Liz Best who administer the Therapeutic Recreation program and Danny Perez who is the center's "outreach specialist." To find out how you or someone you know might get involved in these special programs, you can call Dan Greeley at (408) 251-4449.

For future reference, the facility will be available to rent out for special (but non-alcoholic) events such as receptions. There's also a community meeting room available - with all the amenities. The Alum Rock Youth Center is a dream come true for our neighborhood - thanks to the concerted efforts of PACT, the City of San Jose, the Alum Rock Union School District and current City Councilmember, Nora Campos and her predecessor, now-Assemblymember Manny Diaz.

Click here for photos of the Alum Rock Youth Center on opening day and be sure to read Ed Solis' vision for ARYC just below.

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Alum Rock Youth Center - The Model Program for Youth

We have many opportunities for volunteers!

By Ed Solis, Supervisor, Alum Rock Youth Center

When you look around the new Alum Rock Youth Center, three things really stand out. The first is the beauty of the facility itself. Adorned with its curious shape and amazing artwork, the center looks almost out of place flanked by the older school structures. The second is its proximity to both James Lick High School and Pala Middle School. The center is actually wedged in between them. The third and most important; the potential of the center. What amazing things are yet to happen in this center? Think about the years it will stand to serve kids and community members from one of San Jose's most recognizable areas. What will it be like?

That's the question I ask myself everyday I come to work. As the newly assigned supervisor to the Alum Rock Youth Center, my job is to make sure that every young person who walks through the doors of the Alum Rock Youth Center is exposed to positive adult role models who are ready and trained to engage them in programs and events that will both enrich their lives and help them grow.

This is a challenge I have faced many times in the past. For nine years prior to moving to San Jose, I earned my way as a youth professional in Los Angeles with Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The last six of those nine years were spent rebuilding the Eastside Boys and Girls Club in East LA. What I hope to achieve here is a very successful youth center that will provide youth and families a broad spectrum of programs and services. What I learned from my time with the clubs was this: I can't do it alone.

I feel the Alum Rock Youth Center is truly a place where all youth can come and find a common ground to grow and learn with each other. But we are in serious need of volunteers who can help with special skills or folks who would just like to come and help us answer phones. Although the city and the state are in serious financial times, giving an hour of time to youth costs you nothing, but pays back in ways you can never put a price tag on. There are plenty of opportunities for volunteers at the new youth center. Please call 251-5757 and let us know you are interested in helping and we will direct you to the right person who can get you started.

I am very excited and hopeful for the future. I know there are many challenges we will face, but with the support of our community and the City of San Jose, I know good things are coming our way. I would like to invite you to come and visit the Alum Rock Youth Center. We are located at 137 N. White Road. Hope to see you soon!

Click here for photos of the Alum Rock Youth Center on opening day.

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To run your ad in New Neighborhood Voice, E-mail or call (408) 272-7008

Mark the New Spot for Mark's 

Famous hot dog stand satisfying pent-up wienie passion

The grand re-opening of our nostalgic old neighborhood landmark, Mark's Hot Dogs, was such an important event that it merited two days of special celebrations. On Sunday, November 16th, a small group of historic preservationists were treated to a private opening event practically before the Big Orange's shiny paint was dry.

Owner Demos Pantelides worked his way through the little crowd welcoming everyone back to the eastside's most whimsical eatery and thanking them for their help and support in achieving the Orange's move from Alum Rock Avenue to its new home on Capitol Avenue south of Alum Rock. Led by Bonnie Bamburg and Ellen Garboske, the history buffs and landmark aficionados expressed their appreciation for Demos' unfailing enthusiasm, perseverance, and extreme patience in wading his way through the red tape and leaping over the zoning hurdles to bring Mark's back.

The main opening event was held the following Wednesday. Of course, hot dogs were served at both occasions, but only at the latter party were the lines so long that the media interviewed folks who had happily stood in line for more than an hour. It seems Mark's has long had a strong following of hot dog connoisseurs who had worked up a big appetite for these very special wienies!

During the Sunday event, NNV was pleased to encounter Jim Arbuckle, the son of the late Clyde Arbuckle, San Jose's most illustrious historian. Jim doesn't consider himself a historian in the same league as his late parents but he would modestly call himself "an assistant historian" because he took over his mother Helen's unfinished manuscript of the book she was working on when she died at age 91 in 1998. Clyde's famous tome, The History of San Jose, included few items about women and Helen set out to right those omissions by writing her own book, San Jose Women: Colonial Days to the 1970's, A Brief History. Jim finished the book and published it earlier this year. It has been such a success that it's gone into multiple printings. Jim has never been an Eastsider (he lives in his old family home in Willow Glen), but he said that he "loved the whole show there at Mark's" because "it captures an essential part of San Jose." He's modest about his qualifications as a historian, but Jim decidedly inherited his family's writing genes - he's made his living as a technical writer. You can contact Jim at

Click here for our great photos of the Mark's Hot Dogs reopening events taken by photographers Dan Gentile and Elizabeth Driedger - and a few we took ourselves.

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The Early Days of Mark's Hot Dogs

How did it start? Why is it an Orange? Did it ever serve O.J.?

From Roy Terrell, previous Mark's owner

I guess I should start at the beginning ....... believe it or not, it was a love story.

My grandfather, Mark Yeram (the "ian" was dropped from his last name so nobody would know he was an Armenian immigrant), a tailor, lived in Oakland, Ca. in the early 30's near another family of Armenians named the Casperians. The Casperians had a business (they have several more now) called Caspers Hot Dogs (they too dropped the "ian"), which was doing great.

In 1936, my grandfather saw that hot dogs might be a good thing and opened his first Mark's Hot Dogs in San Jose at 5th and Santa Clara St. He wanted to open a second location and remembered when he was courting my grandmother, Roxie, in the early 1900's, while driving from Oakland to Sanger, Ca. (near Fresno) down Hiway 99, he saw many "oranges" dotting the road. These were private citrus growers that would squeeze fresh oranges and sell juice to hot and thirsty passersby - maybe one or two were calling themselves "Orange Julius" but this is questionable.

Anyway, Mark saw that the orange drew the eye of the customer so, in 1947, he and a few friends built "the Orange" at 1920 Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose. He in fact did sell fresh squeezed o.j. for the first few years (also sold beer!) but hot dogs made from a special recipe at Stephens Meats in San Jose were his mainstay.

When Mark became ill in the late 50's, he closed the first store at 5th and concentrated on "the Orange." He died in 1960 and my grandmother leased the business to another family for 15 years. Many customers swear that this family, the Condons, were the owners. Not true and in the mid 70's, my parents, Roy and Violet Terrell, took over the family business once again. Then in the 80's my parents passed away and I started running the business.

I would probably still be running Mark's if not for the estate tax burden put on me and the timing of the City's landmark status designation, which I tried fighting. I would have never demolished "the Orange" on my own but I had to sell the property it sat on to pay my taxes. This is when it really got bad for me and we don't have enough time to even touch the surface ......

I do have some other fun and interesting stories. Bing Crosby's kids ate at the downtown store when going to S.J. State but I was too young to remember myself. And it used to be "the" cop hangout.

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Notable Neighbor: Ed Allegretti 

A Renaissance Man if there ever was one!

As New Neighborhood Voice begins its second year of publication, it seems appropriate that we shine our "Notable Neighbor" spotlight on our own most prolific writer, Ed Allegretti. Of course, he's not really "our" anything. We don't have employees and we don't pay any of our writers or photographers, so our relationship with our writers is strictly one in which volunteers help volunteers create a neighborhood newsletter. NNV believes that, if any of our writers has created a niche with our readers, it's Ed.

When we first sent letters asking for neighborhood response to the idea of a newsletter to take up where East - The Neighborhood Voice left off, a stranger named "Edward Allegretti" responded immediately - practically while the glue on the envelope was still wet! In a writing style we've come to think of "Edwardian" he ventured "Pleased I am" that someone was thinking of starting a new means of communication in the neighborhood. His quaintly formal writing style led us to believe that he was "an older gentleman" who, we hoped, might have lived in the East Highlands area long enough to be able to personally remember the history of the Miguelito Bridge which was the burning topic of the moment.

The "older gentleman" invited us to lunch at the Country Club to discuss the "improvements" scheduled for the bridge. Your editor and Meaghan Clawsie, the first NNV volunteer writer, found no grizzled old chap waiting at the door, but a slender, spritely forty-year-old with a friendly twinkle in his smiling eyes! "This is Edward?" we simultaneously wondered.

We shouldn't have supposed that it would take a septuagenarian to be an expert in the history of the area. Ed Allegretti has made the collection and preservation of local lore one of his primary hobbies. Actually, he has made a hobby of just about everything worthwhile he has come across in his young life. He has spent almost all of his life in the East Foothills and it seems he can remember every second of it! (Well, close to it!)

And, best of all, he loves to write. Ed Allegretti can whip out a story on his word processor before the average bear can think of a theme! He clearly doesn't need to labor over his paragraphs, they seem just to tumble out fully formed, well-organized and coherent. NNV readers who have been on board since December 2002 have seen articles by Ed relating tales of his childhood and youth in the 1960's and 70's, his own family's many-generation California lore dating back to the 18th century, old businesses and homes in our neighborhood and Alum Rock Park - and, he has provided photographs, old post cards, and documents to illustrate his stories. There has been at least one article by Ed in the last ten editions of New Neighborhood Voice!

Most recently Ed has been wearing his Historic Preservationist hat for NNV because he is on the County's Commission for preserving historic sites and buildings in the county - and this is the topic du jour in the newsletter. This is not the only commission for which Ed serves. He has been involved in more commissions than we ever knew existed! He is (or was) a church usher and greeter, a volunteer organizer for political campaigns, a ballroom dancer, a lap-swimmer, a Civil War buff, and a conscientious friend, son, husband and step-father. Ed puts his talent and energy wholeheartedly into every organization to which he belongs. Recently he has vowed to be a little less involved in the future; only time will tell if he can be content just being an "average Ed" hangin' around home doin' "honey-do" stuff.

With developing another story in mind, (but NOT knowing that he himself might be the subject of a Notable Neighbor story) Ed shared some school mementoes with NNV last month. They tell the story of the euphoniously nicknamed "Eddy Allegretti," son of John and Shirley Bernal Allegretti, and his ventures as a budding junior high and high school scientist. Much of his research revolved around the geology and fauna of Alum Rock Park. His piece de resistance "Fossils of Alum Rock Park," won him high honors in the National Science Talent Search. He was the only student from San Jose so honored. Ed entered San Jose State as a freshman in 1980 with "Honors at Entrance" status. Four years later, he graduated with a B.S. (with Great Distinction) in Business Administration. Ed lives up to that billing!

Speaking of "billing," Ed works for Rosendin Electric as the Director of Credit. He sometimes chafes at the liberal attitudes which are characteristic of the Bay Area and would like to see a return to earlier times when "honor," "tradition," "values" and "commitment" were the order of the day. Ed is a "capital R Republican" and would be the first to tell you that he is really conservative. He and his wife Connie think they would "fit in" better in a community where their values are shared and have even house-hunted in Mississippi and Louisiana. NNV thinks that the Bay Area is a really big tent, that there is room for all points of view here, and that San Jose would be a poorer place without the elegant and chivalrous Edward Allegretti.

Click here for photos of Ed Allegretti. 

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Autumn in Alum Rock Park

By Dorothy "D.J." Johnson - Youth Science Institute

NNV Note: This story links to many other Web sites where you can see photos of the birds (and other animals) and, in some cases, listen to their songs. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition. Some of these photos may take a long time to download unless you have a broadband connection.

Aahhh, it's fall, a wonderful time of year. The summer heat has faded to a fall chill leaving the air fresh and crisp. The summer crowds have dissipated and Alum Rock Park has begun to rest and recover from the attentions of its adoring public. It is a time for reflection and anticipation of the coming winter. The park animals and birds however have little time for rest or contemplation. Preparation for winter is in full swing. It's time to find food, fatten up, find shelter and keep those genes alive for the next breeding season.

It is breeding season for the resident Black-Tailed Deer. This is the only time of year we get to see the big bucks down in the canyon floor, cruising the park with their majestic antlers held high. Females and young of the year are foraging on acorns, old leaves and grass, as this is the lean time of year for them. The anticipated rains will bring succulent new growth that will fatten them up and nourish developing fetuses, next year's crop of fawns.

The Raccoon quadruplets now on their own, are exploring the park, checking out trashcans and the YSI kitchen for gustatory delights. Our Red Fox Squirrels are building their leafy winter nests up in the trees and Acorn Woodpeckers are busily storing acorns, their woodpecker insurance policy against a rough winter.

Meanwhile, thousands of birds are arriving from points north and east, searching for suitable accommodations in which to spend the winter. White and Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Fox Sparrows, Hermit and Varied Thrushes, Red-Breasted Sapsuckers and others will call Alum Rock Park home for the next seven months.

Take a walk along the Creek Trail and keep your eyes and ears primed for soft chip notes, calls and other activities of our wintering birds. After the sun warms the canyon floor in the morning many birds will come to the creek to drink, bathe and eat. This is a great time to observe them in their daily routine.

One of the most sought after winter birds in the park is the American Dipper or Water Ouzel. Although it doesn't migrate out of the area, it will disappear into the hills to breed along secluded creeks and streams. After breeding, Dippers move to lower elevations to spend the winter. Birders start looking for this very aquatic little bird in October along Penitencia Creek. Dippers can be seen flying up and down the creek bed, foraging or sitting on rocks bobbing up and down, (hence the name "dipper"). They forage by wading through the water and submerging their heads while searching for aquatic insects, larvae and other inverts. In deeper water they paddle like a duck, diving to the bottom using their wings as flippers and strong legs and toes to grip the substrate. These plump, charcoal gray birds can remain submerged for up to 30 seconds and can negotiate currents swift enough to topple a human!

While walking up the creek looking for Dippers, listen for the typewriter like chattering of the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet in the trees and shrubs around you. Down from the coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada where it breeds, this avian ball of energy can be seen zipping from leaf to leaf, branch to branch searching for insects, larvae and eggs. If you are patient it might come close enough for you to observe the yellow-green plumage, white wing bar and short black bill that characterize this lively little bird. On a cold day or if the bird is excited you may get to see the ruby red crown of the male.

As you continue along the creek, watch for quick flashes of yellow that will alert you to the presence of the equally small and lively Yellow-Rumped Warbler. This diminutive bird breeds in the coniferous forests of the Sierras and other mountain ranges where it feeds on insects and other invertebrates. One of our best known warblers, it is one of the few species that remain in North America during the winter, because of its ability to eat and survive on berries. There are two forms of this attractive warbler, the western "Audubon's" and the eastern "Myrtle," both considered separate species at one time. As the name suggests, both forms have a bright yellow rump. The Audubon's has a bright yellow throat, more obvious in the male and the Myrtle a white throat. The Myrtle form can be seen in this area although it is not as common.

In brushy thickets on the sides of the canyon and on the canyon floor you will probably see flocks of sparrow-like birds on the ground searching for seeds. Look for the black and white crown stripes of the adult White-Crowned Sparrow, one of the first winter residents to arrive in the park. I know it's fall when I can hear these birds singing from my bedroom window behind Los Gatos Creek. Listen for the long clear whistles that end with a series of buzzy trills on different pitches. This striking sparrow is common throughout the west. Some populations of this species breed in the tundra and boreal forests of Canada and Alaska while others are resident along the California coast and in the Sierra Nevada. Ornithologists have been very interested in the dialects of the different populations. Experts can identify which population an individual White-Crowned belongs to by listening to its song.

As you travel further up stream to the confluence of Arroyo Aguague and Penitencia Creek look for the Madrone Trees along the creek bed. Here in the more moist, secluded parts of the canyon, if you're quiet and observant, you may see robin-like birds moving through the under story, foraging on berries, fruits and seeds. But, look closely, they are not Robins. You are looking at the secretive and beautiful Varied Thrush, a close relative of the Robin and similar in shape and coloration. These birds breed in the humid forests of the Pacific coast and migrate south to spend the winter in forested areas along steams and creeks. Males sport an orange eye stripe, orange throat, black breast-band and orange wing stripe. Females have a gray breast-band. Listen for a long clear whistle on the same pitch. Successive songs are given on different pitches. This is the easiest way to locate the Varied Thrush.

Follow the South Rim Trail up the side of the hill. As the canyon floor falls away below you, listen for a soft chup chup emanating from the underbrush around you. Look closely and if you are lucky you may see the reddish tail, gray-brown back, bold breast spots and white-eye ring of the Hermit Thrush another relative of the Robin. This shy, dainty little bird feeds on insects and berries. It is the only thrush that regularly winters in the U.S., again because of its ability to survive on berries. In the early spring you may be treated to its beautiful flute like song just before migration back to the Sierras and other mountain ranges where it breeds.

As you continue up the switchbacks to High Meadow and back down to the canyon floor, you will see many more species of birds, both winter migrants and year around residents. Here they will spend the winter months foraging for food, enduring inclement weather and avoiding the waiting talons of hungry Cooper's and Sharp-Shinned Hawks. The hardiest, with luck, will survive to breed again next year.

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Well! Well! Well! "Walter the Witcher" finds Water

And a Christmas gift not to be forgotten!

From Comfort Olsson and Kathleen Boesch Tirri

After reading last month's story on Boesch Hall, Comfort Olsson called to tell NNV about her recollections of "the Boesch Brothers" - Walter and Willy. Seems theirs was a family of water diviners and Comfort and her husband David had occasion to use their gift more than once. NNV asked Kathleen Boesch Tirri to comment on Comfort's story and she added many interesting details including that her dad Walter was known as "The Water Witcher."

When the Olssons moved out to the "country" on Crothers Road, one of their first needs was to have a well dug. Where to dig it? Call Walter Boesch! Walter, it seemed, had inherited his mother Martha's special talent for divining the location of underground water. Comfort remembers that Martha Boesch herself had such a strong reaction to the pull of the water under ground that it almost knocked her off her feet! Kathleen says that her grandmother taught her dad water witching, but that he didn't really expect "he would be witching wells like his mother did."

Somehow, after his mother had died, the 45-year-old Walter suddenly began having an "itch to witch" and found that he could strike water on the first try - saving people much time, money, frustration and hassle.

When the Olssons decided that their farm was too large for them to handle, they subdivided their acreage into several plots. (One of them became the home of the Zoroastrian Temple, by the way.) Each plot needed its own well and Walter handily found just the right sweet spots as though he could see that water down there!

From Comfort's and Kathleen's recollections, NNV learned that Jack Fischer, a friend of Walter's and the owner of Three Springs Ranch, (and, incidentally, also the owner of Darling and Fischer Mortuary on Santa Clara Street) used Walter's services extensively. When Jack Fischer went to subdivide his Three Springs property to build custom homes there, several "experts" told him that they couldn't find any good wells. Walter to the rescue!

Of course Walter's talent came through and Fischer credited Walter's wells with making it possible for the Three Springs Ranch neighborhood to be developed. He was so delighted and appreciative that he and his wife gave the Boesches a very special Christmas gift in December 1980.

A couple of weeks before Christmas the Fischers visited the Boesches and brought a box of See's candies topped with a card. Later, the Fischers phoned several times to ask whether their card had been opened yet, but Walter and his wife Dolores and their family never opened gifts before Christmas so the card stayed attached to the candy box until Christmas Day.

On Christmas the Boesches finally opened that card and found tucked inside a gift certificate for round trip travel for two to Switzerland - or anyplace else of their choosing! Walter and Dolores at first felt they could not accept such a generous gift, but Jack Fischer convinced them that without those Three Springs wells, his venture would have been kaput. He must have been convincing because the Boesches did eventually use that certificate to travel back to their ancestral home. Kathleen relates that the three-week trip in the summer of 1981 turned out to include herself and her eleven and twelve year old sons fulfilling her personal lifelong dream.

Kathleen says that her dad "witched" over 250 wells from Milpitas to Mount Hamilton "and didn't miss a one." She adds that he was very proud of that.

Click here for a photo of Walter, the water witcher, AND mother Martha, his mentor. 

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A Heartwarming - and True - Kitty-Cat Tale

Where was the cat for two weeks? Simon never says!

Once upon a time, actually in 1989 when housing prices in Silicon Valley were unfortunately at one of their ridiculous early apexes, an empty-nester couple moved from Orange County to San Jose where Mr. Nester had been hired for a new job. They came in a rented panel truck just big enough for the stuff that wouldn't fit into the moving van - plus three cat-carrying boxes.

The cats in the boxes sang and hollered loudly - sometimes in unison, sometimes in rondo fashion - for the duration of the trip. Simon, Alexander and Kippy made sure that the Nesters were quite aware that they resented being uprooted and stuck in cramped boxes in what seemed to them to be an interminable trip to see the veterinarian. The Nester felines failed to see the charm of moving out into the country in the east foothills of San Jose.

Being careful kitty-cat parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nester released the cats from their boxes only after they were safely inside their new house. The cats, spoiled by being outdoor cats in Orange County, begged and begged to go outdoors. Gritting their teeth and resolve, the Nesters ignored the sad faces and plaintive cries until, after many days, they decided that the cats were past their hysteria and could safely join them in the fenced back yard - just for a few minutes. Yes, the reader is correct, these folks were babes in the woods when it came to cat management!

Kippy and Alexander twined themselves around the Nesters' legs and dogged their every step. Simon, however, hung around just long enough to put everyone's mind at ease before he raced up the sloping yard and hightailed himself over the fence before Mr. and Mrs. N. could frame their lips around anything like a coherent order for that cat to STOP! So, they put Kippy and Alexander back into the safety of the house and yelled themselves hoarse imploring Simon to please come back over the fence. They walked around the block calling and calling fruitlessly. There was no sign of Simon. The Nesters went to bed that night with heavy hearts. Alexander and Kippy, narcissistic to the core, couldn't have cared less that Simon was gone and wondered what the fuss was all about.

Early the next day, a Monday, Mr. Nester went off to work leaving his wife to figure out how to get that darned cat back. Mrs. Nester (let's call her "Judy" for the purposes of this story) started out right after breakfast and walked around the hillside neighborhood in ever-widening circles self-consciously calling, "Siiii-mon, heeeeere kitty-kitty!" (Remember, Judy was new to the neighborhood and would not have particularly been comfortable calling for an invisible cat in front of her new neighbors - if given her druthers.) As it happened, few neighbors were in evidence and Judy found herself explaining her quest to just one lady several blocks from ground zero.

On Tuesday, Judy worked around her front and back yards hoping that Simon would hear her familiar gardening noises and perhaps feel comfortable about coming back over the fence. No Simon.

On Wednesday, Judy made posters which said, "LOST, Orange Neutered Male Tabby Cat - 'Simon' - call 272-7008" and stapled them to the telephone poles in the neighborhood. She didn't include the information that Simon was the tall, regal-but-befuddled four-year-old kitty who her son had named "Simon Funge" after his British-born friend of that name who also had red hair and freckles.

On Thursday, Judy cut up a packing box and, after hunting through all their moving boxes, found a big fat marking pen so she could make an enormous cardboard sign which she tied to a palm tree at one end of the big East Highlands sign. It said "Desperately Seeking Simon" in huge letters and included the rest of the important information. What it left out was that Simon was the best-tempered cat west of the Mississippi and that the Nesters would have traded four or five Kippies (a snicky, persnickety, snooty, untouchable, ingrate of a girl-cat) for one Simon.

On Friday, Judy visited the Humane Society where she looked at all the found kitties. "Was your cat wearing a tag?" asked the helpful lady. "Well, no, I had taken the cats' tags off because they had just Orange County information on them," she said, realizing how stupid that decision had been.

On Saturday and Sunday, Judy's ad appeared in the want ads, "LOST……." (you sadly know the rest.) Someone called, but she just wanted to talk about lost cats. Sigh.

On Monday, Judy went back to the Humane Society. No luck.

The rest of the week went by with no signs of Simon. Judy grieved for the first cat she had ever loved. He was a cat who submitted to being held like a baby and relished having his tummy kissed noisily - or maybe he was just gallant enough that he tolerated such embarrassing shenanigans, but Judy liked it lots.

And then, one night, Judy forlornly decided to sit on the front deck and moon sadly with the moon. Simon was a cat-of-the-past. It was time to get a grip.

Suddenly, "Clunk, chunkety-chunk," the gate latch rattled. Judy squinted into the shadows to see if a ubiquitous raccoon was coming over the gate after raiding the catfood bowl in the backyard. Not this time.

A sleek, tiny gray fox streaked out of the darkness, across the deck and down the front steps! It was gone in such a flash that Judy's mind hardly had time to register "fox" when, "Clunk, chunkety-chunk," went the gate latch again. And there was Simon. He walked over to Judy, rubbed his cheek against her leg - not in a needy way, not in an "I've-been-lost" sort of a way - and he was just back.

It seems the fox brought him home. If this story sounds to the reader like an Indian legend, perhaps it is. But it really happened. On Highland Drive.

Next day the Nesters briefly saw that gray fox casually strolling down the street as though such a sight was an everyday occurrence. Long time neighborhood dwellers saw it, too, and related that it was the first time they had ever seen a fox in the neighborhood.

No one will ever know if Simon brought the fox home or if the fox brought Simon home, but they were buddies that night - and perhaps for the two weeks that Simon didn't come home.

NNV note: Simon is now 18 ½ years old and has never run away again. Alexander and Kippy each used up all nine of their lives. Schuster joined the family 10 ½ years ago. The Nesters are pleased to report that Simon and Schuster use their "literary" box most faithfully ….. usually.  Click here for a photo of Simon at 18 1/2.

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Biology Major Marries Med Student

Who knew she'd become the "Realestatelady"?

By Eileen Parks

NNV Note: NNV Founding Sponsor, Eileen Parks of Windermere Silicon Valley Properties lives up to her motto, "When the follow through counts, call Eileen." Our community has seen much evidence of that follow through attitude. Like our previously interviewed sponsor, Ellen Rauh of Lifestyle Properties, Eileen is a true blue neighborhood cheerleader and supporter. Among many, many endeavors, she has been the driving force behind the Home Tours which benefited Foothill Presbyterian Church's preschool as well as putting our community on the map.

Eileen responded to NNV's request for biographical data with a full-blown story written in the first person. Here's her story.

I was born in Long Island, New York I can't tell you how many years ago. I remember being in a science class when Sputnik went up and all the teachers telling us we needed to become engineers. I thought that was a great idea until I found out you had to like math. So my focus and real love became the natural sciences. I studied at Tufts University in the Boston area and got a degree in Biology. The idea of Med school was too overwhelming by the time I graduated, so I worked as a tech in medical research at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research for about 5 years. I worked in the brand new field of Immunology with some very well known people which was pretty exciting at the time. My first patient was a horse, gradually scaling down to rabbits and mice! The career was interrupted by a fortuitous blind date with a local medical student. We met, married and moved to California.

My current passions are definitely: first my family; We have 3 gorgeous and brilliant grand children, under 5, who live nearby and whom we see very regularly. Golf and travel are also passions. We began traveling with regularity in 1987, and have been to some grand places. That experience has really been enlightening and we feel very lucky for the opportunity.

I started selling real estate in the area in 1987 as the children were stirring to leave the nest. My husband had been buying rentals for several years, and I was very much involved in the process, although only on the buyer's side. It seemed a natural place for me to go since I had no desire to play with mice again. We have lived within the same one mile radius for 30 years here in the east foothills, so that was also an obvious choice to concentrate in the area. Over the years, of course it is natural to gain experience with areas all over San Jose, but my focus is still the east side. My husband is involved only in so much as his encouragement over the years to "do my own thing" and that he thought I would be good at it. What he didn't realize is how much I would love what I do. It's been 16 years and it still gives me a high to see a buyer find the right home or a seller move on to his next venture.

The experience and volume of sales for me has risen steadily each year since 1987. My highlight was just this year closing over $3,000,000 worth of sales on one day. That was a career day.

The current downswing in real estate is certainly not specific to our area. We on the east side, however, have always been the step-child in the valley and that is reflected in our real estate market as well. If the market goes down everywhere, we go down first and come back last. It has been a constant effort to educate people to realize that this is a wonderful area to live in. We need visibility, although I think that has improved in the last several years. With higher prices, people have branched out to more areas and discovered very nice neighborhoods on the east side. I think the Home Tours went a long way in educating people from out of the area too. I also think the Country Club is a great place for that discovery to be made. We get lots of people moving here from other areas because they come to play golf and discover a whole new world over here.

What I would like to see in our neighborhood to make it a better place to live:

  1. In order to make our area more desirable, we desperately need better schools with a change in perception from the public that we are working towards improving and care very much. The articles in NNV about James Lick High School have been great and I would love to see them published on a wider scale.

  2. Certainly the village is looking good, but I wish they would finish all the buildings. It is the entry to our area and is only ½ done.

  3. We need a fun neighborhood restaurant with an outdoor area. Wouldn't the enclosed parking area behind Peters Bakery be a fabulous pedestrian courtyard if it was dressed up with brick floors, plants, restaurant service, and weekend music? We can do this type of thing in our area!

I think it's very important for residents to take an interest in their community and get involved. We need parent involvement in schools. We need citizen involvement in the community.

Click here for photos of Eileen and her husband, Tom, and their grandchildren.

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Japantown Farmer's Market - A Great Place to Shop

Sunday AM Market open all year, easy to park nearby

By Pat Accorinti

For an alternative to the seasonal farmer's markets that are held during the week, Japantown hosts a Farmer's Market every Sunday, rain or shine, year-round. The market is located on Jackson Street, between 6th and 7th Streets. There is plenty of free street parking close by. The market opens at 8:30 and runs till noon. One of the longest running markets in San Jose, the Market opened over 12 years ago. It is sponsored by the Japantown Business Association, but its energy comes from Bill Furukawa and his wife Peggy, who show up every Sunday morning to make coffee for the 17 regular certified vendors from as far away as Fresno who bring a variety of fruit, vegetables, flowers, nuts, olives and baked goods for sale. Bill runs a watch repair shop in Japantown, but market is his "baby." He and Peggy, along with long time volunteer, Marilyn Rawlings, sell coffee and soda and will gladly answer questions about the market and Japantown.

There are a number of vendors selling fruits and vegetables in season. Because of the large Japanese and Chinese community, there are many varieties of Asian vegetables. On the Sunday I visited, one stand had five different varieties of eggplant. Although I couldn't appreciate the differences among them, the shiny globes of purple, green and white made a lovely sight. Tom and Nancy of Nuts n'Stuff carry a line of nuts, olives, dried fruits and beef jerky. My family loves the olives stuffed with cloves of garlic.

My favorite vendor is Beckman's Bakery, from Santa Cruz. All of the wonderful breads and pastries are made entirely from scratch. The bear claws - huge, flaky pastries dusted with powdered sugar - are a must-have and the asagio cheese crusted foccacia was also a hit at our house.

Japantown is easy to get to on Sunday mornings when traffic is light. Just follow McKee into San Jose. It turns into Julian around 13th Street. Turn right at 5th Street and go down to Jackson. Parking is easy to find on 5th, Jackson or 6th Street. Open rain or shine, from 8:30 till noon, every Sunday!

Click here for Pat's photos of the Japantown Farmers' Market.

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NNV Briefs

bulletThe Founding of San Jose: Eleven score and six years ago last week … by Ed Allegretti
bulletThe Restorative Justice Program: Give wayward kids a piece of your mind!
bulletCounty Library Measure Proposed for March Ballot
bulletMilitary Academy Alternative School Proposed for James Lick High Campus

The Founding of San Jose: Eleven score and six years ago last week …

By Edward Allegretti

Did you know that San Jose is the oldest civic settlement in the state of California? It was officially founded on November 29, 1777 as a Spanish pueblo or town. There were several reasons for the Spanish to found a colony in California. Amongst the primary reasons were, 1) to prevent the Russians or other European powers from settling on this land claimed by the Spanish, and 2) to convert the local Indians to Catholicism. The three types of settlements established were presidios (forts), missions and pueblos (towns). The purpose of the forts was to protect the land from foreign invasion and Indian uprisings, the missions were established to Christianize the Indians and the pueblos to provide food for the presidio soldiers.

Occasionally the City of San Jose will have an official celebration to mark the founding of San Jose. Unfortunately for those interested in this event, the celebration of the founding isn't held every year and when it is celebrated it often is combined with other cultural events. Thus, I started a tradition of hosting a supper at my house in the East Foothills for those who are descended from members of the founding party and those local officials who are interested in joining us.

The latest such celebration was held on Saturday, December 6th. Amongst the guests were distinguished San Jose leaders, historians, descendants of the founders and a handful of fellow East Foothills neighbors. Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh and his wife Susan attended as did Superior Court Judge Paul Bernal and his wife MaryCarol. Judge Bernal is the official historian for the City of San Jose as well as being a founder descendant. San Jose City Councilmember Forrest Williams and his wife Dorothy were there. Also on hand were Dr. Greg Smestad (with his wife Leticia) and Evelyn Romero de Martinez who are both founder descendants as well as historians. Other local historians in attendance were Sir David McKinney and David Anaya. Businessman John Bumb and New Neighborhood Voice editors, Allan and Judy Thompson represented the neighborhood. All were charmed by the early Spanish music played by guitarist Lance Beeson (who is also a founder descendant) and sung by his wife, Marilyn. Many of the guests (including several young members of the next generation of descendants) joined in dancing the Virginia Reel accompanied by guitar and flute.

The men who made up the founding party of San Jose consisted of five pobladores (settlers) and the remainder were soldiers, along with their wives and children. These brave folks marched all the way from present day Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja California, to what was basically an unsettled land. In return for a small amount of pay, some provisions, and plots of land for farming, these people left their homes to which very few of them ever returned.

The founders of El Pueblo de San Jose, as it then was known, included the following men, their wives and children who came here under the leadership of Jose Joaquin Moraga: Manuel Amesquita, Ygnacio Archuleta, Manuel Ramirez de Arellano, Xavier Beltran, Joaquin de Castro, Manuel Gonzales, Joseph Higuera, Seferino Lugo, Valerio de Mesa, Gabriel Peralta, Joseph Romero, Joseph Sinoba, Phillip Tapia, Joseph Tiburcio Vasquez, and Juan Villela. The original census of these settlers interestingly gives their ages and nationalities. Most were in their 20's, 30's and 40's, with one being older at 58. Most were of Spanish blood, a requirement for being a frontier soldier in those times, while some were listed as Indians or of mixed Spanish and Indian blood.

Click here for a few photos of this celebration.

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The Restorative Justice Program

Give wayward kids a piece of your mind for neighborhood peace of mind!

Did you ever wish you could read the riot act to the wayward kids in the neighborhood who do the graffiti and petty crimes which spoil our little corner of paradise? Did you ever wish that you could just look them in the eye and tell them how their activities rob you of your peace of mind and dilute the community's quality of life? Know what? You really can do that very thing. You can personally confront those kids and help them take responsibility for their actions.

The Restorative Justice (don't those words resonate pleasantly?) Program offers citizens the opportunity to take part in what's called The Neighborhood Accountability Board which helps first-time offenders clear their slate and get back on track for a productive life. The board members are taught how to interact productively with the kids and are even paid a small stipend (well, it's at least enough to cover your gasoline expenses). The next training sessions will begin on Wednesday, January 21, 2004, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Burbank Midtown Community Center, 105 North Bascom Avenue, Suite #104. After attending three sessions, you'll be plugged into an accountability board here on the east side and you can get that warm feeling which comes with helping youngsters at a critical time in their lives. For information, please call Heidi Pham at (408) 205-2440. More information is on our Community Bulletin Board.

In the February edition of NNV there will be an article telling how the Santa Clara County Probation Department interacts with local law enforcement agencies and how the Restorative Justice Program and Neighborhood Accountability Board fit into the activities of the department. The Restorative Justice Program has offices at the Alum Rock Community Justice Center on North White Road (just north of Alum Rock Avenue).

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County Library Measure Proposed for March Ballot

The Library Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board voted on October 23rd to approve resolutions that are the initial steps necessary to place a measure on the March 2004 ballot in Santa Clara County to preserve library hours, materials and services.

The measure establishes a community facilities district and allows for the collection of a special tax, to be used exclusively for local libraries. The district includes the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.

The measure also asks voters to approve a $42.00 annual parcel tax on single family homes/condominiums, $105.00 per acre for non-residential retail, $315.00 per acre for non-retail business, and $8.40 per acre for undeveloped property.

This funding would expire automatically after seven years and could not be extended without voter approval. The proceeds raised by each community, by law, could only be used to fund that community's library for open hours, books, materials, and other library services.

A public hearing of the JPA Board was held on December 3rd. The measure was approved and will go before the voters in March 2004 and will require a 2/3 majority vote for passage.

Click here for more information on this measure.

NNV Note: The new library which is slated for the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and White Road in 2005 will be part of the City of San Jose library system. It will replace our current small Santa Clara County branch library on White Road. It remains to be seen just what differences library-goers can expect between the two systems. The Santa Clara County Library system, however, has won high praise and awards for its excellence.

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Alternative School Proposed for James Lick High Campus

Military Academy would be collaboration with National Guard

The San Jose Mercury New reported on December 4, 2003, that, "James Lick High School officials are hoping to establish a military-style academy on the East San Jose campus to keep struggling students marching toward graduation. The program, which would be a collaboration with the National Guard, could be launched with 60 to 80 students and three teachers in a wing of the high school as soon as late January."

The Mercury News went on to note, "The proposal, which would have to be approved by the school board, comes at a time when James Lick is struggling to raise test scores that are among the lowest in the district. It is the only school in the district facing sanctions for failing to meet annual targets set by the state to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act."

"East Side Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas said one of her priorities at James Lick is lowering the dropout rate. Zendejas puts James Lick's dropout rate at about 40 percent, although school officials believe it is lower." 

"Either way, she said, `We do not tolerate such numbers.'"

Superintendent Zendejas will be speaking during the Berryessa Citizens Advisory Council meeting on Monday, December 8. The meeting starts at 7:30 PM and more information is on our Community Bulletin Board.

NNV wonders if an alternative, military-style school on the James Lick campus is a solution - or another problem for our community? Please let us know what you think! E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040.  Please put "Letter to the Editor" in the Subject line and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Click here for our Letters to the Editor page.

Click here to read the Mercury News article on this subject.

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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.

December Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 299-2638 with your gardening questions or check out our website at

Poinsettias: Did you keep a plant from last year? Here are the directions to have it bloom again. Poinsettias will bloom only when the hours of darkness are longer than hours of light. The plant needs 9 to 10 hours of light followed by 14 to 15 hours of darkness to set buds. The temperature should be kept about 65 degrees. Keep the plant in absolute darkness with no light at all - even for a moment. You can put the plant in a closet or a box with a tight fitting lid or a black plastic bag. Set up a schedule to help you maintain this regimen. Cover the plant at 5 pm and uncover it at 7 or 8 am. Do this for about two weeks, starting now. After the dark period bring them out into the light and care for normally.

Fruit Trees: The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers will hold its 2004 Fruit Scion Exchange at the Southside Community Center on Cottle Road in San Jose on Saturday, January 10, 2004 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be sessions on how to graft onto your own fruit trees too. A small donation is requested. For more information, you can contact Karl Gross at The Master Gardeners will also be teaching a series of six classes on fruit trees - their planting, maintenance, and varieties at the Campbell Community Center. Details will be available shortly on our webpage noted above.

Frost Protection: Frosts can kill so protect your plants on those cold winter nights. Use stakes around tender plants and cover with clear plastic or cloth such as a sheet. Don't let the plastic touch the foliage. Wrap larger plants with strings of small Christmas tree lights and cover with a sheet. Turn the lights on at night. If plants are potted, then move them to a sheltered area such as a porch, under the eves on the south side of the house or even under a tree. Be sure to uncover them during the day. Moving them indoors to a cool room would be the best if possible. Don't prune frost damage until new growth starts in spring. The dead material helps protect the plant from further damage.

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A Sense of Place: Making your garden truly Californian

By Arvind Kumar (

Some people are simply not destined to own good-looking lawns. Since moving to Evergreen in 1988, my partner Ashok and I tried to keep our front and back yards green, but between a cranky mower and an aging sprinkler system, we didn't quite succeed. Much of the time, the green in our yard came from burclover, dandelion, and sow thistle.

Finally, about four years ago, we got serious about the garden and began to research options. We wanted something that wouldn't demand a lot of time, and that would appeal to humans as well as birds and butterflies. We read countless books on xeriscaping and low maintenance gardening, but nothing really clicked … until Ashok came across an essay by Judith Lowry (author of the classic book, Gardening With a Wild Heart, from University of California Press). It was an eye-opener. In it, Lowry argued persuasively that gardening and habitat creation and ecological restoration could all be practiced in one's home garden very simply - by planting natives.

We had had some exposure to native plants. Some years earlier, at the Wildflower Show & Sale organized annually by the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, we brought home a Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). Much to our surprise, the plant took, indeed thrived, in that dry, sunny spot in the back yard, where countless ornamentals had perished. In spring, its silvery foliage was topped with spikes of lavender flowers which became magnets for local bees and hummingbirds. That success gave us confidence that even our brown thumbs could be successful in the garden; it also spoke volumes about the habitat value of native plants.

And if that weren't enough, a visit to the demonstration garden at Yerba Buena Nursery in Woodside sold us completely. California's oldest native nursery has a huge demonstration garden of mature California natives, and a visit in spring, when the place literally buzzes with the sound of native bees, when signs to the butterfly patch become redundant, is a charming experience. California gardeners owe it to themselves to see it at least once.

That was the beginning of our journey into native gardening. Today, our home native garden is two years old. We have planted scores of plants during this time, from wildflowers and perennials to shrubs and trees. We've lost some, but many others have survived and thrived. In future columns, we hope to share with you our successes as well as lessons learned.

California natives are not as uncommon as people think. Any gardener worth her salt knows about poppies, coast redwoods, Monterey pines, ceanothuses, and manzanitas. These common California natives have been in cultivation for decades, if not a century, and can be seen in many gardens. What came as a surprise was how many more California natives are equally suited to the home garden but remain comparatively unknown. These plants rate high on all the criteria of importance: they are naturally water-wise, unparalleled in habitat value, low maintenance, and astonishingly beautiful. And they give a California garden a sense of place like no other plants can.

Natives require much less work than ornamentals. Take wildflowers, for example. The wildflowers in our garden today - Seep Monkey Flower, California Poppy, Ruby Chalice Clarkia, and Elegant Clarkia - come from seed dispersed from last year's plants. In spring, our side yard lights up with pink, magenta, purple, and white blooms of Elegant Clarkia. This dense stand is now completely self-propagating and maintenance-free, requiring neither watering nor planting. Once a year, in fall, I cut down the stalks into small pieces, mulching the ground to discourage weed growth, and making sure that all seed falls back in the bed.

The native gardener is busiest during fall and winter. Fall is the best time to plant natives, when the air cools down and the first rains moisten the soil. The work consists of preparing beds, planting, and mulching as necessary. During dry spells, hand watering young plants is a must.

With a native garden, we appreciate winter more, because Mother Nature takes over the watering chores. We continue with seeding and planting whenever the soil drains sufficiently. We also spend a fair amount of time picking snails and slugs, which come out in droves during the wet season; if not controlled, they can wreak havoc on native seedlings.

By the time spring arrives, there is little to do in a native garden except watch the plants grow. The native garden is at its showiest best in spring. The below-ground root growth during winter enables the plants to embark on explosive above-ground growth in the form of new foliage and flowers. There are early blooming plants and late blooming ones; with careful selection, you can have something blooming from February through October.

Summer is the time of dormancy for California natives. The sun is at its hottest, and the moisture in the ground is at a minimum. Annual wildflowers have set seed and withered; we cut down the dry stalks for a neater look, making sure that none of the seed is lost. If you have young native plants, hand watering through summer is critically important; without it, they will fail. Summer bloomers like Buckwheats, Madias, and California Fuchsias add color to the garden and attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

If you have been thinking of introducing new plants in your garden, go ahead and give California natives a try. If you have questions, email me at I'll share what I know, or refer you to more authoritative sources. Happy gardening!

Sources of California Native Plants/Seeds:

Common natives can be found at most commercial nurseries, like Summerwinds, Orchard Supply, or Home Depot. The following nurseries specialize in native plants and carry a much wider selection.

Larner Seeds  (415) 868-9407 P.O. Box 407, Bolinas, CA 94924
Yerba Buena Nursery  (650) 851-1668 19500 Skyline Blvd., Woodside, CA 94062
Native Revival Nursery  (831) 684-1811 2600 Mar Vista Dr., Aptos, CA 95003
Rana Creek Nursery  (831) 659-4851 35351 E Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel, CA 93924
Elkhorn Nursery  (831) 763-1207 P.O. Box 270, Moss Landing, CA 95039

Click here to see some photos from Arvind's garden.

Author Info: Arvind Kumar has lived in Evergreen since 1988. His home garden was one of 29 gardens featured on the 2003 Going Native Garden Tour. He is the Publicity Chair of the California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter

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The Coffee Cup in Country Club Villa

Be there or be square!

A LaJune Bush/NNV Collaboration

A really popular neighborhood mecca has developed at the tiny Coffee Cup café in the Country Club Villa shopping center. What was once Anh Son Vietnamese bakery, wedged in between Long's Drugs and Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant, is now a major drawing spot for several bunches of morning coffee aficionados.

Coffee Cup's proprietors are sisters Michelle, Tu, and Tracy Tran who were born in Viet Nam and came to the U.S. eleven years ago. They open the shop at the crack of dawn to serve coffee and sweets to several groups of early-risers. One faithful group starts their morning at the 7:45 mass at Saint John Vianney. Usually about twenty (rejuvenated?) souls pull into the parking lot en masse after mass. The group of "everyday regulars" fills all the tables and their convivial chatter shatters the quiet of the otherwise sleepy shopping center. They would never consider missing a morning with their friends at the Coffee Cup. Usual topics of conversation include "current events" which on a recent morning revolved around one Michael Jackson. This group professes to be shy about revealing their names, but they are rowdy enough that their major claim to fame is seeing how many bodies they can crowd into one of the tiny booths.

At eight o'clock, a group arrives to fill the chilly outdoor chairs. Unlike the SJV folks, these guys are happy to reveal their names and are more than ready to divulge the topics they share. Willie T. Ribbs, Mike Orlando, Nick Scola, Barney the Farmer, Clarence Furtado (aka "the Judge"), and Lalo Pinon discuss "sex, real estate, parties, food, current events, and of course, sex." NNV surmises that the SJV regulars' current events topics actually revolve around "sex, real estate, parties and food" too - except for the food, isn't that what the Michael Jackson story is about, after all?

Around 9:30 A.M., another group comes along to fill the outdoor chairs (now nicely warmed, of course, by the fannies of Willie T., Mike, Nick, Barney, Clarence and Lalo). This next bunch of familiar faces includes Frank the Photographer, Art, Flo, Armun, Buzz, Lou & Annie, Ken, Bill and Jerry. Flo is probably the regular-est of these regulars and even has her own chair. It can be assumed that, even though they did not reveal the topics of which they speak, they talk about the same things as groups #1 and #2.

Weekends bring in groups of runners and bicyclists fueling up for their strenuous work-outs or winding down while discussing their next grueling challenges.

The Coffee Cup seems to have become the "Cheers" bar for our part of the world. This is one of those places where "you gotta be there or be square!" The Tran sisters hope you and your gang will become regulars, too. They're open every day from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M. serving "finest French Pastries" and a broad range of café specialties. Just don't try to muscle in on the regulars!

Click here to see Keith Bush's photos from the Coffee Cup.

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NNV Newsmakers: Keith Bush

"Yin and Yang" move from Highland Drive

Keith Bush has completed the installation of "Ponder," composed of Yin and Yang, in the Orange Memorial Park Sculpture Garden in South San Francisco. The sculpture was a winner of this year's "Loan Art Program." It will be on display for the next two years and will be featured in various information put out by the City of South San Francisco, CA. One photo shows Keith working with the crew during the installation. The second photo is of the finished installation. Visitors will be encouraged to sit in Yang's lap, look at Yin and reflect/ponder. Note the hill in the background which has the "South San Francisco, The Industrial City sign" on it.

Click here to see the photos of Ponder.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletDid readers report deer-related accidents following the FAQ on animal crossing signs?
bulletIs the new leaping deer sign the result of NNV's earlier item about deer being killed?
bulletHas the "Façade Improvement Grants" program survived the budget cuts?
bulletIs there some confusion over the true name of Caddy's Villa in the Boesch Hall story?
bulletWho should we thank for the classy off-white paint job of the East Highlands sign?
bulletDoes NNV know what's happening with the old Alum Rock Stables property?
bulletI think I found a broken link in NNV. Does anyone want to know about it?
bulletWhere are the Death Valley photos you promised us?
bulletIs it true that there won't be a January edition of NNV? Why not?

Q. Did any NNV readers report deer-related accidents following the November FAQ on animal crossing signs on Alum Rock Avenue?

A. Apparently our readers have been lucky in that department - no one shared any scary experiences. Our local problem of deer being killed near the foot of Brundage Way seems to be part of a larger picture according to Gary Richards' Roadshow column in the Merc. He reported early in November that more than 200 deer-auto collisions were recorded in the Bay Area in September and October. Those months make up the deer mating season and about twice as many animals are involved in collisions during those months as during any other.

In the Roadshow column, Gary Richards has an extensive list of tips for us who drive in deer country. NNV summarizes the list as follows: Deer are most active in early morning and evening hours so be especially vigilant then. If a deer freezes in your headlights, turn your lights off and then back on. If you spot a deer, brake firmly and do not swerve. If you see one deer, look for more. If you hit a deer, call 911. Do not touch an injured deer. It is unlawful to remove a deer. Your 911 call will summon help for an injured deer or the proper resource to remove a deer which has succumbed. To see the entire Mercury News column click here.

Q. Is the new leaping deer sign at Edgemont and Alum Rock Avenue the result of NNV's earlier item about deer being killed near the Country Club?

A. Yes, indeed. Reader Sonja Troncoso phoned Sue McElwain and her call was rewarded by a quick assessment of the situation and that sign was in place within a couple of weeks. Now, we'll see if one is needed for southbound traffic near the foot of Brundage.

Q. Last spring NNV wrote that there would be a resumption this fall of the "Façade Improvement Grants" which the San Jose Redevelopment Agency administers to help business owners gussy up the fronts of their buildings. Fall is here; has the FIG program survived the budget cuts?

A. Yes, yes, yes! NNV spoke with Kate Bear, the FIG guru, early in November. She assured us that the program was back in force and that a bunch of Alum Rock Avenue businesses would be sitting pretty during this current fiscal year. Most relevant to NNV readers will be the improvements in Alum Rock Village businesses, Teezers hair salon and Troung Hu, the Asian restaurant next door to it in the same block as Rafiki's Coffee Hut. As you'll recall, this program requires that the business owners shell out a significant percentage of the costs and the RDA covers the rest. Rafiki's and Kattengell's Karate Studio are two good examples of recent façade improvements.

Q. Is there some confusion over the true name of Caddy's Villa in the Boesch Hall story last month?

A. Actually yes! During the development of the story in the November edition, several different versions of the name were suggested by the people who contributed their memories. NNV heard Kattie's, Cattie's, and Caddy's. One man thought maybe it was named "Caddy's" because a group of golf caddies hung out there. That sounded as good as any other reason! Now, it seems that Kathleen Boesch Tirri heard from her 85-year-old Aunt Martha (her dad's sister) that the place was called Kattie's for the woman who ran the restaurant/bar/dance hall. As a matter of fact, Aunt Martha was served her first legal drink by Kattie in 1939. So, Kattie's Villa it was! What will it be next?

Q. Who should we thank for the classy off-white paint job of the East Highlands triangle sign? Are they going to paint the letters in a contrasting color like they were before?

A. The ARNC (Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition) crew got out their paint sprayer early in November and covered over the controversial orange-and-aqua color scheme. They have gallantly kept the sign painted for many years. Their current plan is to highlight the letters with a sort of light hunter green color.

Karen DeLong, a longtime ARNC stalwart, points out that it's pretty easy to change the color of the letters if they don't get a pleasing result. Believe it or not, it takes about $200.00 worth of paint to put a couple of coats of paint on the sign.

NNV found it quite interesting that most of the very few respondents to our unofficial "What color should the sign be painted?" poll voted to keep it orange! ARNC was ready to go with a more neutral scheme this time, however.

ARNC also plants and maintains shrubs, keeps public spaces tidy and generally helps keep our area looking good. If you'd like to help them out picking up trash some Saturday morning, give Steve Pollack a holler at If you'd like to donate funds toward paint, you can send them to Karen DeLong at 11301 Chula Vista Avenue, San Jose, CA 95127.

Q. Does NNV know what's happening with the old Alum Rock Stables property near the upper entrance to Alum Rock Park?

A. In our February edition, we hope to report on the progress of Bay Area Barns and Trails Trust (BABTT) plan for access to the stables property. Things are happening, folks!

Q. I think I found a broken link in NNV. Does anyone want to know about it?

A. Yes, we do! Just send an e-mail to and we'll check it out. There are about 1,000 links in NNV now and keeping them up to date, especially in the archives, is a never-ending challenge. A "broken" link is often caused by Internet congestion or is just a Web site that is unavailable while it is being updated. We use a link checking program to check the NNV Web site periodically to find broken links. If they don't go away soon (e.g., when a Web site becomes available again), we fix the link if we can or delete it if we can't fix it. In any case, we'd like to know about it whenever you spot an error in NNV.

Q. Where are the Death Valley photos you promised us?

A. The James Lick High School Death Valley Trip photos we promised you have been taken but they aren't ready yet - they should be in the February edition.

Q. Is it true that there won't be a January edition of NNV? Why not?

A. Yep, it's true. NNV is a seat-of-the-pants production created primarily by two old geezers who have to eat, drink and breathe the newsletter every day of the month in order to produce the end result. It's truly a labor or love, but sometimes these old geezers need to do a little less laboring and a bit more loving to sustain themselves. Look for the next edition early in February. 

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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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Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 9/3/04.

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