New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 8 - Section 2

August 3, 2003

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
would love to
shadow you!
Yin and Yang
by Keith Bush
Creative disciplinarian
Mr. Radlo, Ed and Patti 
Linda Vista Elementary
School on Kirk Avenue
What colors
would you
What's Going On Here?
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Playful, Loving Kitty for Adoption


By Elizabeth Driedger

On the evening of May 20th I was startled by the sound of tires screeching in front of my house. It sounded like someone stopping quickly to avoid hitting something. Moments later I heard a sound of little whimpering meows on my front door step. I went outside where I saw a cat cowering underneath a fern plant in the corner of my porch. I brought him out some food which he immediately began devouring voraciously. I took that as my opportunity to see if I could touch him and found that he was almost literally skin and bones but had fortunately not been injured by the car. He let me pick him up and I brought him along with the food into my spare bathroom.

Although he was obviously starving he was just so tired and frightened he hid behind the toilet for the rest of the night and did not finish eating the food. He was so scared he stayed there, with his tail tucked closely around him, for another 3 days. He began eating again on the afternoon of the 2nd day even though it was hard on his stomach as is the case for anyone or any animal that has been starving. When I finally weighed him after the third day, he was only seven pounds!

I found out through the grapevine that his owners, who had lived near me, had moved away sometime last year and left him and several other kitties behind. The other kitties were apparently picked up by animal control and I don't know what fate befell them. Shadow must have wandered around the neighborhood for this past year looking for somebody to feed him until he finally ended up on my doorstep. The tufts of fur between his toe pads that are characteristic of the long-haired type cat that he is had completely worn away. His coat and tail were matted and had become frayed from being so malnourished.

Unfortunately this is a common fate of animals in my neighborhood and in other areas around our valley. Many people think that cats are automatically able to fend for themselves, but this isn't true. Even feral cats often do not fare well on their own and it is especially true for those kitties that have been handled and socialized by people from the time they were kittens. The sad results of this kind of negligence are stories like Shadow's.

Now I'm trying to find Shadow a new, loving and permanent home. Thanks to the help of Charlene and the other volunteers at the Nike Animal Rescue Foundation (NARF) and Animal Birth Control Assistance (ABC) in assisting me with getting access to rescue veterinary services, I have been able to nurse him back to health. He is approximately 2 years old and a healthy 12 pounds! He's already received a full vet exam, has been neutered, tested FIV/FeLV negative, dewormed/defleaed, and FVRCP/FeLV/Rabies vaccinated. He is also house and litter box trained (although he already came that way).

He seems to have a lot of Maine Coon qualities to him besides his physical appearance. He loves to be held and cuddled. He loves to play with string and his fur mouse toy. He loves to be scratched on his muzzle but likes his own quiet time and will let you know when he's done. He's not a shy kitty now that he has returned to health; he's friendly toward all people. However I have noticed he doesn't prefer rough petting so a house without small children would be more appropriate. He used to live with other cats so he could potentially integrate with another resident cat. Anyone who likes kitties would find that he could easily become their best friend. I would prefer an indoor home or if he's allowed outside, that he be supervised until it's known to be safe for him to be outdoors. I'm requesting a minimum $40 adoption fee to help defray some of the costs of veterinary care. If you have the heart and home open for Shadow please call at 408-929-8923 or email Please see this URL: for his flyer if you wish to print it and post it anywhere.

Further, I could not have been able to help Shadow the way I have if it were not for the assistance of NARF and ABC as Shadow is the 6th kitty I have rescued out of my Alum Rock and Capitol neighborhood since July of 2002. I, like many others, have felt the downturn in the economy and was until recently unemployed, living off my savings and feeling the financial burden of paying for all the veterinary costs.

It is also unfortunately partly due to the downturn that many rescue groups such as NARF have been inundated with abandoned cats and dogs, and kittens and puppies from unspayed females. What has been worse for these organizations is that also, due to the economy, the city and county programs that assist with low cost spays and neuters have become extremely limited as their funding has run dry adding to the burden of the animal overpopulation problem. As of June 30th of this year there already have been 834 adult cats, 1206 kittens, and 768 dogs and puppies received at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley. There is no doubt that these numbers would be higher if not for the efforts of the many rescue groups and the actions of caring individuals in the Santa Clara Valley. However, there simply are not enough homes for the cats, kittens, puppies and dogs (as well as bunnies, chickens and other more exotic pets) that are brought to these groups and the Humane Society each year. These groups and the Humane Society are in desperate need of adoptive homes, foster homes, volunteers, and donations. If you would like to open your home to adopt a pet or are interested in volunteering to foster a pet or give a donation, please see the contact information below.

NARF (Nike Animal Rescue Foundation),, 408-224-6273 for dogs 408-946-2291 for cats. NARF also can give sources for other rescue groups including help with feral cats.

Humane Society of Silicon Valley,, 408-727-3383

Click here to see a photo of Shadow.

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School Days at Linda Vista

Fifth-grader Ed gets in hot water with Patti

By Ed Allegretti

With amusement I recently looked at my old class photographs from my grammar school days at Linda Vista elementary school on Kirk Avenue. Amusing because of the memories recalled but not so amusing when I consider the now receding hairline and wrinkles that didn't exist back then! It is interesting to see that all the girls wore dresses while all of the boys wore collared shirts while some even have ties! No doubt they were slightly more dressed for the photograph but my recollection is that we certainly dressed better than the contemporaries of my stepsons who are in the first and eighth grades. My mama never allowed me to wear jeans in those days because I wasn't "going to pick prunes." Her attitude wasn't unusual.

Like most children I certainly enjoyed recess time. Yet, I always enjoyed the start of each class day with the Pledge of Allegiance and with all the patriotic songs that we would sing. I recall fondly singing "God Bless America" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee." Recently it was my pleasure to be a Junior Achievement teacher for a day at Noble Elementary School. It was sad to me that we didn't say the Pledge of Allegiance nor did we sing those patriotic songs.

In my school days there were not Junior Achievement volunteers unfortunately. However, many mothers did volunteer their time to help with various projects. My mama always was available to help. One year our class was doing a study of Japan. The teacher, Mr. Cain, wished to have a display in class about the culture and history of that country. My mother was happy to help and we took a ride to Japantown, which in my youth was still called Chinatown by native San Joseans, to visit a Japanese gift shop. There my mama purchased some great items, including a lovely fan, to be displayed in our classroom. Another time, my mother helped with a Christmas project. We were required to make Christmas candle holders by attaching various fragments of colored glass to the outside of a drinking glass. A candle would be inserted into the glass. All of the students were asked by the teacher to bring in old bottles and pieces of colored glass. When it seemed that there wouldn't be enough, my mama went to Fontaine's Glass shop and they kindly donated several large sheets of various colored glass. My mother was particularly fond of this teacher and one day surprised the class with a birthday cake for his birthday. This gentleman certainly was an excellent teacher and deserved this special attention.

Mr. Radlo, who was my fifth grade teacher, truly was good at teaching. He was equally good at disciplining children. One boy in our class, I very much recall, always was getting into trouble. Unfortunately for him, he one day spoke some mild profanity in class. In addition to very much shocking all of us children who weren't used to hearing such language, we learned very quickly not to make the same mistake.

Mr. Radlo walked up to the boy, picked him up, set him in the trash can, and pronounced, "If you are going to talk like trash we shall treat you like trash!" This discipline in those days wasn't in the least inappropriate. After all, our principal, Mr. Pierce, walked around with a wooden paddle drilled with holes. On one occasion I heard, through his office door, this paddle administered on one boy's rear! Mr. Pierce was always careful to obtain parental permission before spanking. At the start of each school year a form would be sent home to the parents asking if they wished to give him permission or if they wished him not to use corporal punishment. My mother always let me know that she signed the form granting him permission! Fortunately I was then quiet and shy so escaped the paddle.

Well, I wasn't always so perfect. In my fifth grade class the girl who sat in front of me enjoyed wearing pony tails. Of course I enjoyed frequently pulling them! This girl, Patti, tried many times to politely stop my pulling. After not succeeding, one afternoon she walked to the back of the class where Mr. Radlo was working while we were supposed to be reading. I knew she was going to tell on me and I awaited the unknown results. After she came back to her seat the teacher repeatedly and loudly cleared his throat. This, of course, caused all of the students to stop reading and to focus their attention on him. He then said, "Mr. Allegretti, I'm told that you are having difficulty keeping your hands to yourself." He continued, "Really, this is no way to treat your wife!" Wife! He actually, in front of my classmates, called Patti my wife. Such humiliation and such laughter from my fellow students stopped me from ever pulling those pony tails again!

I don't recall many field trips in those days. In 6th grade we did have a trip to the newly opened Oakland Museum which was exciting. Something we enjoyed, though, was the weekly visit from the music teacher. She would come to our class for an hour or two each week. We had fun singing songs, hearing music and learning to play on some small flutes. In addition to the weekly music lessons, we were also allowed to attend Religious Release. This program allowed students to receive Christian instruction, Protestant or Catholic, for about one hour per week. It was my pleasure to attend the Protestant classes. It was fun to walk down the street to Alum Rock Covenant Church where our classes were held. We heard many interesting talks, had many interesting activities and I very much enjoyed playing the role of Joseph one year during our Christmas play!

With much fondness I recall my school days. The teachers were firm but caring, parents were involved, we were taught respect, we learned the basics, and the school encouraged patriotism and church attendance. My feeling is that the East Side schools today would do much better if they returned to those old ways.

Click here to see Ed, Patti and Mr. Radlo - and the rest of the class.  Click here to see Linda Vista Elementary School and Alum Rock Covenant Church.  Click here for more information on Linda Vista School and the Linda Vista Eagles.

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School Days in the 1940's - First in a Series

Unlike Ed (above), she really did "pick prunes" 

By Gerry Stasko

Things were different back then. My family moved from Pennsylvania to East San Jose in 1946 - the weekend before school began. I was starting fifth grade and my brother sixth. The first week of school (mid-September) they put us on buses and took us to the County Fair. I don't remember which grades went. Pala School (then called Alum Rock School) was a K-8 school and the only school on the East Side. The name didn't change to Pala until 1949 or 1950 when two other schools were built and we became the Alum Rock School District.

The following summer we found that a high percentage of the East side students worked during the summer. We mostly picked prunes, apricots and walnuts. Of course, we also cut the apricots and shelled the walnuts. One year school started a week late because the students were needed "to get the walnuts in".

By about my second year of high school, my friends and I refused to pick and shell walnuts any longer. No matter what kind of gloves we wore we still managed to get black hands. Can you visualize today's kids going to school with black-stained hands?

NNV Note: Gerry Stasko is a 1954 graduate of Lick High School and a long-time Instrumental Music teacher in the Alum Rock School District. She is very active in the San Jose - East Valley Lion's Club where she is a past president and current secretary.

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Notable Neighbors: Spaulding Norris

A good neighbor and a good friend to all

By Kathleen Cahill & Trudi Burney - Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

If at any time in the past seventeen years you saw a pickup truck pass by with a man at the steering wheel, a black and white dog riding shotgun, and multiple animal carrier cages in the truck bed, chances are you encountered Spaulding Norris. Spaulding has a long history with both the Humane Society and the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. He and his wife, Gail, began volunteering at the Humane Society in 1986, following their retirement. They wanted to find a community experience they could share, and as they both loved animals the Humane Society seemed a natural choice. They worked for the wildlife extension of the Humane Society before it separated in 1993 to become the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. In 1986, the wildlife department was very small, unable to house all of the animals brought in by the public. To cope with the overflow, or to prevent some animals from being raised or rehabilitated in isolation from other members of their species, some wildlife was sent to other rehabilitation centers. Spaulding and Gail's job was transporting the wildlife, driving all over California in this endeavor. Until just a few months ago, Spaulding was still at this job, though in recent years his jaunts have been shorter. Transport duty today is limited to picking up wildlife dropped off at the Santa Clara Humane Society and delivering it to WCSV.

In addition to working with wildlife, Spaulding also developed and was active in the Hug-a-Pet Program at the Humane Society, in which individuals and their companion animals visit facilities such as convalescent hospitals and homeless shelters. Over a ten-year period, Spaulding and his dog, Fella, visited 20,000 people. Fella, a border collie/Great Pyrenees mix, was inseparable from Spaulding and could always be seen riding along in his truck, either when delivering animals to rehab centers or en route to seeing thousands of people in need of some comfort.

Spaulding does not limit his assistance to people and local wildlife; Spaulding rescued both of his dogs, Fella the therapy dog and his current dog Penny, a terrier mix. Actually, Spaulding would not say that he found them. Rather, they picked him. One day, when driving to his church to do volunteer work, he saw a dog sitting in the parking lot, in good condition but with no collar. He went inside to work, but when he came outside some time later, the dog was still there. With no home or owner in sight, Spaulding said, "Come along, then", whereupon Fella hopped into his truck where he would enjoy many rides over the next decade. In 1987, Penny came into Spaulding's life when he found her abandoned in Penitencia Creek Park.

Spaulding was one of the founders of WCSV, and over the years has been a very generous and caring member of the Center. His favorite memory actually goes back to his very first transport job, when he discovered that working at the Center does not only help animals, but people, too. On this occasion, Spaulding had to deliver a western grey squirrel to a center in Walnut Creek to join other members of its species. He learned that a Bay area family, while on a road trip in the Sierras, found the squirrel on the side of the road. They picked it up and cared for it while they were on the road, taking it to WCSV when they arrived home. Having a wildlife rehabilitation center available was valuable to that family. They learned how important it is to provide an animal with the appropriate care; the children had a chance to bond with that animal, perhaps broadening their compassion for all living creatures; and the family had the experience of knowing that they played a crucial role in saving that squirrel. Spaulding saw the entire circle, that that one circumstance changed several people and perhaps any animals they may encounter in the future. A point worth remembering from a volunteer worth remembering.

NNV Note: Many thanks to Janet Alexander, the Director of Operations for the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley for this story. Spaulding Norris lives in the East Highlands. The WCSV Web site is outstanding - click here to see it.

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

NNV Newsmakers

JLHS Valedictorians Guadalupe Bonilla, Brent Nichols and Carly Ramirez

Congratulations to James Lick High School's three Class of 2003 valedictorians Guadalupe Bonilla, Brent Nichols and Carly Ramirez. NNV salutes the entire '03 graduating class and sends best wishes to all!

Assemblyman Manny Diaz (D- San Jose) statement on the state budget

Assemblyman Manny Diaz issued a press release explaining his recent vote on the state budget. Click here to read the press release. NNV will publish selected press releases of interest to our readers.  A complimentary copy of NNV is sent to the six state legislators representing our area and to many local government officials. Click here for our Government Contacts page to find and contact your local and state representatives.

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NNV Briefs

bulletNNV will be on TV!
bulletOur Green Cathedral Hosts Marriage Proposal - ARP setting for excellent surprise!
bulletYin and Yang - In Our Neighborhood?  Yang's lap beckons you
bulletEast Hills "Revival" - Not quite what you'd think!
bulletEast Side FISH - Serving those in need in seven zip codes by Joyce Baker
bulletEast Highlands Triangle to be Repainted - Volunteers and donations solicited

NNV will be on TV!

Roy Avila of KICU's "Q & A" community affairs show has invited NNV to be on his show Sunday, August 17th at 9:00 A.M. An NNV reader who knows Mr. Avila suggested to him that our community newsletter would be a good topic. One day out of the blue, an e-mail floated in with just this message: "I want New Neighborhood Voice to be on my show!"

So, if you have always been curious to see the folks who edit, organize and publish NNV, here's your chance. If your curiosity hasn't been piqued and you don't give a fig who does this stuff, you may still want to watch Q & A on Sunday mornings (hint: start on 8/17, if not before!). If you watch, you've got to promise not to laugh at us trying to explain a Web site on TV. And thanks to all you great writers and photographers who have helped us develop NNV to the point that someone actually wants us to be on TV!

Click here to read more about Roy Avila's community affairs show.

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Our Green Cathedral hosts a Marriage Proposal

Alum Rock Park setting for an excellent surprise!

If an e-mail can be ecstatic, Brooke Willard's early June message to NNV certainly was! It seems that she and her boyfriend of 3 ˝ years, Tim Jones, went for what she supposed was a very ordinary May picnic in Alum Rock Park. "We sat in the sun, enjoyed our food, and then took a short catnap on the grass," she wrote. When they woke, they took a walk up to Inspiration Point.

"When we got there, I saw a beautiful boulder in the ground that had our names sandblasted on it with the date and a small live oak planted next to it. He proposed right there! It was really a magical moment and I still get butterflies thinking about it today."

Now it would seem as though Tim must have blown through a bunch of park regulations, but, actually, he had the complete cooperation of Mike Will, the Alum Rock Park Supervisor. The chiseled boulder was "imported" - not a native of the park. It is an utter no-no to desecrate, or remove, any of the park's native flora, fauna or geologic formations. "Tim made a donation to the park that allowed the tree and boulder to be placed in the park," according to Mike.

Brooke characterizes herself as "such a romantic at heart" that she knew that a story such as this would put a smile on her face, so she wanted NNV to share it "to brighten the day of some of your readers."

Something else that might also brighten your day is Mike Will's message explaining the park's wonderful new endeavor. Like Tim and Brooke, you can now celebrate or memorialize an important occasion (or a beloved person) by sponsorship of a marker boulder, park bench, or tree (the expected donation ranges from $400 to $500). The placement of these items will need to be approved by Mike and also will depend on the park's needs. Your donation will support the park's operations and the care of the animals in the Visitor Center. Sponsorship of the animals is another way one can help support them. If you're interested or want more information about these two programs, you can call Mike Will at (408) 277-4539 or e-mail

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Yin and Yang - In Our Neighborhood? 

Yang's lap beckons you

Sculptor Keith Bush has begun a figurative series using the "positive" and the "negative" aspects of a large steel figure he has created and installed on home turf. Walkers-by in particular can now see "Yang," a seated figure, dangling his feet over a sewer grate smack in the middle of Keith and LaJune's front lawn shrubbery. Drivers can't really focus on Yang because he sits back in a little niche, but those on foot can stop and get acquainted. Keith says that viewers can even sit on Yang's lap (and take a photo?) if they like. He cannot vouch for Yang's behavior, however, and says that Yang is not always polite.

Yang's counterpart standing alongside the driveway, "Yin," is the "negative" left when Yang (the "positive") was cut and released from his half-round sheet of steel. Keith has found a way to "release" a figure from its material that Michelangelo (who was famous for releasing figures from the stone in which they were imprisoned) may never have thought of!

The Bushes' front yard and driveway are, for the time-being, an outdoor sculpture garden well worth a trek up Alum Rock Avenue and Brundage Way to Highland Drive. From that intersection, jog left and Yang will be on your right. Keith's latest addition to this figurative family is called "The Art Critics" and it stands at the top of the driveway. 

Keith has received much acclaim this year from at least some art critics (see the Notable Neighbor piece on Keith in the January edition and the NNV Newsmaker piece about his works in the Santa Clara show in the May edition).  Click here for Keith's Web site.

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East Hills "Revival" - Not quite what you'd think!

The East Hills Community Association is planning a REVIVAL -- reviving itself! Tanya Freudenberger says, "We are going to hold a meeting on Wednesday, August 6, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the Joseph George Community Center. We are inviting all interested parties to generate ideas for new officers and organize special interest teams like traffic & other safety issues, use of youth/community center, community events, fund raisers/grants, beautification, support for schools, classes (like ESL, computer or Moms & Tots), etc. We need to define the area more tightly so we can better serve our community needs."

Generally, the Association will draw residents mostly from around the Cureton Elementary and Joseph George neighborhoods, the East Foothills, and Mt. Hamilton Road as well as some of the area around Linda Vista since a lot of those families are connected to Joseph George. Both the City and County community liaisons and City Parks & Recreation staff are eagerly looking forward to supporting whatever this community needs and wants.

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East Side FISH - Serving those in need in seven zip codes 

By Joyce Baker 

When I tell people I volunteer with East Side FISH, I see a glazed expression on their faces. "No", I hasten to reassure them, "it has nothing to do with boats, Izaak Walton or bait." FISH is a volunteer organization (no paid employees) eager to help people through tough times. It began in an English church in 1961 when parishioners were challenged to get their religion off its seat and onto its feet. Our group started here in East San Jose about ten years later and has had the pleasure of joining with people from several churches and other groups.

So how does it work? We have a detached room at Alum Rock Covenant Church (Kirk Avenue) where we set up after we outgrew our original home at Alum Rock Methodist. The room is stocked with staple items of food (beans, rice, canned goods) from the Second Harvest Food Bank. In addition volunteers pick up donated bakery goods and vegetables from local merchants. Monetary gifts are used to finance utility bills and for insurance. We are registered (Federal and State) as a non-profit organization.

Who gets the food? We serve all those in need north of the 101 freeway and to the Milpitas border - 7 zip codes in all. The Food Bank faxes us a list of eligible names daily of those in need (unemployment checks not received, purses stolen, women leaving violent homes, etc.). The box we provide contains a two day supply of whatever is available and only one visit per month is allowed. Our volunteers are there from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday all year long and although the names change over the years, there are some who have been with the group for many years. Stop by and visit if you can. Donations of time or money are greatly appreciated but not a requirement for a friendly visit.

NNV Note: Joyce Baker has been a volunteer at East Side FISH since 1972 and currently holds the office of Secretary/Treasurer.

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East Highlands Triangle to be Repainted

Color suggestions, volunteers and donations solicited

The Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition (ARNC) will be repainting the East Highlands triangle on Saturday, September 6. We will meet at the triangle at 9 AM. We are also looking for suggestions for colors. If we get a good turnout, the entire project should be over by noon.

We certainly could use donations for paint. If you can't donate your time, monetary contributions are greatly appreciated. Let us know if you are planning to donate time or money. Please call ARNC at 408-926-8125 or e-mail Steve Pollock at to suggest a color scheme or to volunteer or contribute.

Click here to see the East Highlands triangle now.

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Alum Rock Park's Avian Carpenters

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 trees and birds 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.

It's already July and the dog days of summer are upon us. The Buckeye Trees are beginning to turn yellow and will soon drop their leaves in preparation for the hot, dry days ahead. The morning avian chorus that was so captivating in the spring has decreased to a murmur as the claiming of territories and wooing of mates has been accomplished for this year. The varied raucous calls of the Stellers Jays carry the day. There is however, plenty of activity in Alum Rock Park. Young Robins and Jays are testing their wings and quickly learning what is good to eat and where to find it. Many birds are on the nest raising young. Just recently on a mid-day walk I was lucky enough to locate an active Acorn Woodpecker nest. I watched two adults foraging in an oak tree and followed them as they flew to an adjacent old Sycamore. Into a gnarly snag flew the two woodpeckers who were greeted most enthusiastically by a nest of hungry young. I could just barely see the tip of a baby's beak as it received food from the adult bird.

Acorn Woodpeckers are one of the more common species of woodpeckers in the park. A walk along the Creek Trail in the vicinity of Oak Trees is sure to produce at least one or two of these big black birds with flashy white patches in the wings and rump. They fly with the characteristic undulating flight pattern of all woodpeckers. A lively gregarious bunch, they are often seen flying back and forth across the canyon vocalizing their common waka, waka, waka call as they go about their daily activities.

Acorn Woodpeckers are unique in California in that they maintain year round communal colonies consisting of at least one breeding pair and young from previous nestings. These non-breeding birds assist the breeding pair in raising the young, like a huge extended family. Acorn Woodpeckers like all of their relatives use their ears, eyes and their long tongue to probe bark and wood for insects. Unlike most other Woodpeckers they form large caches or granaries to store acorns for use during the winter. Some granaries have housed as many as 50,000 acorns. The oak trees in front of the ranger station and the Eucalyptus Trees on the other side of the canyon are good places to find these Woodpeckers. There is a small granary located in an old snag just below Live Oak Picnic Area.

Woodpeckers are amazing birds. Not only can they run up and down trees but even under branches without falling off. They can create wonderfully symmetrical holes in trees without giving themselves a concussion in the process. Nature of course has provided woodpeckers with all the adaptations needed to successfully negotiate their vertical world. A very stiff, pointed tail supports moving birds and acts as a brace for stationary birds engaged in foraging, cavity building or "drumming" (woodpecker communication). The feet also aid in supporting these birds. Instead of three toes forward and one back as in "perching" birds, woodpeckers have two forward and two back. Their bills are strong and pointed and they have an enlarged brain case to cushion their skull from the pressure of pounding and excavating wood. The tongue is barbed and sticky for probing and extracting insects and grubs from bark and wood.

The really fun thing about Woodpeckers is that most of the species found in the park are permanent residents and can be seen all year around. A short walk along the Creek or North Rim Trail usually reveals one or two species that can be seen, heard or both.

The other large woodpecker found in the park is the Northern Flicker. This impressive bird has salmon colored under wings visible in flight, a barred back, a strong dark bill and black breast band. The males have a red moustache stripe on the face. Their noticeable call sounds like a piercing keew and their song a strong series of kwikkwikkwik. These birds love to eat ants and may be seen foraging on the ground underneath trees and logs. They use their nearly 5 inch long tongue to probe cavities and holes for their prey. They will forage for fruits and berries in fall and winter. These birds are common in the park. They are often seen sitting at the top of snags or open branches. A flash of salmon color or their strong vocalizations will alert you to their presence.

The other common permanent resident is the Nuttall's Woodpecker. This small black and white woodpecker is a California specialty usually found where oak trees grow near riparian areas. You will probably hear this bird before you see it. The call is a sharp rattle similar to the Belted Kingfisher. It likes to forage among the trees along Penitencia creek and in the oaks along the North Rim Trail. Nuttall's Woodpeckers, like their relatives, nest in cavities excavated into trees with their strong chisel like bills. The average time for cavity construction is 10 days. The Nuttall's prefers riparian trees such as Sycamore and Willow for their nests. The plumage is basic black with white bars across the back and two white stripes on the face. Males have red on the back of the head.

Our one winter woodpecker is the Red-breasted Sapsucker. This attractive bird is well adorned with wine red feathers on the head and breast, black wings with a long white stripe and a black and white barred back. These woodpeckers drill into living trees to produce sap wells. The woodpecker visits each well every day to ingest the sap and perform necessary repairs to keep the sap flowing. The wells also attract ants and other insects, which are eaten by many species of birds including the sapsucker. In the winter these birds frequent the Pepper Trees on the paved portion of the North Rim Trail and the Deodar Cedar just beyond the YSI building. Old sap wells are visible on the trunk of the cedar.

If you have large trees in your neighborhood and lots of insects, fruit and berries you may find that woodpeckers have taken up residence in your area. All of these birds require mature trees or snags in which to construct their nest cavities. They will produce a new nest cavity each year. Competition for the old cavities can be fierce. Many species of songbirds and small owls rely on these cavities for their own nests. Watch for cavity laden trees in your neighborhood. You too can enjoy the wonder of woodpeckers.

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Alum Rock Park Update

By San Jose City Councilmember Chuck Reed

NNV Note: If you read the following update and have a sense of deja vu, you're right! This is essentially the information Chuck provided in January with updates on the progress since then. We like elected officials who can remember what they said previously and update us on their commitments! We included the repetitive information below so all the information is in one place. Click here if you'd like to compare this with the January version.

Alum Rock Park is the oldest city park in the state and it certainly is one of the best. However, it needs a lot of care and improvement just to recover from the damages suffered in the floods of 1998. Those damages include the landslide that forced the closure of Crothers Road and Alum Rock Avenue. I have been working on the Alum Rock Park slide and road closure problems since before I was elected and these issues remain high on my To Do list. Part of my job is to make sure that we follow through on the commitments made by the city to improve Alum Rock Park. Here is the status of some of those efforts.

Stabilizing the Slide

When the creek turns into a raging river every few years, it chews on the toe of the slide and the slide begins moving down the hill. By protecting the toe from the creek, we should be able to remove one of the factors causing the slide to move. We cannot do much about the other main factor, the underground water level, but if we can protect the toe, maybe the slide will stabilize enough to allow us to reopen the roads.

We hope to protect the toe of the slide through bioengineering the area around the toe. My non-technical explanation is that we will install appropriate native plants on the toe of the slide and move the streambed away from the toe of the slide by allowing it to erode the other side of the bank. The contract for the consultant to look at this solution has been approved and preliminary design work has been done. We are now working with other government agencies to get approval for modifications to the streambed.

Alum Rock Park Entrance

As a result of the closure of Alum Rock Ave. Park entrance, the City designated Penitencia Creek Road as the new main entrance for the park. This summer the City will improve the appearance of the new park entry by providing improved traffic circulation, a ranger entry station, electric gates, paving and landscaping. Construction will begin in October and last until early next year.

Quail Hollow Bridge Replacement

This project is on schedule to be awarded this summer with construction starting by the end of the year.

Improving the Creek Trail inside the Park

This project is to improve the trail from the entrance parking lot and includes replacing the stairs with a more gradual ramp. Some erosion control and landscaping/irrigation is also included

Connecting the Trail into the Park

The Board of Directors of the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority has approved our request to spend $400,000 of OSA funds for the acquisition of land to allow San Jose to build a trail from Dorel Drive into Alum Rock Park.

This section of the Penitencia Creek Trail is the only section between King Road and Alum Rock Park that is not in public ownership. The proposed trail will run generally along the north edge of Penitencia Creek Road. It will add a much needed and safer pedestrian access into Alum Rock Park and will allow us to link the Penitencia Creek Trail with the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Environmental impact assessment and design work remain to be done, and we have to find funding for the construction of the trail.

Storm Drainage Repairs

Winter storms in 1998 resulted in high water flows from Penitencia Creek which damaged many of the creek-bank rock protection walls. The State Office of Emergency Services prepared a damage survey Report identifying several sites along the creek bank in need of repair. At the June 24th Council meeting, the council approved the final phase of this project. Construction is expected to be begin in August and be completed in November. The scope of the project includes grading, placement of rock walls, repair of mortared rock walls and other miscellaneous creek bank restoration.

If you would like periodic updates on what is happening in District 4 and notices of community meetings, please send me an e-mail message so we can add you to our distribution list. The e-mail address is


Chuck Reed is the San Jose City Councilmember for District 4. His district is generally north and west of our area and includes Berryessa, part of Alum Rock Park and Alviso. Visit the District 4 Web site at to learn more about Chuck and what he is doing. Click here for an illustration of the landslide. Click here for more about the history of Alum Rock Park. You can use the NNV Contacts Page to identify and contact your local and state elected representatives. NNV

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The Sheriffs - Part 2 

Another run-in for the notorious Ed

By Ed Allegretti

Recently I had another occasion to chat with members of the sheriff's department. On the night of this chat, Connie and I had invited over a few friends and their children; including ours there were actually seven children in total. After supper we adults enjoyed talking in the front room while the children enjoyed playing games and such in the family room.

As the evening progressed some of the children decided to visit the Country Club during the late evening hours. It was my duty (with some fun involved!) to obtain these miscreants and bring them back home. Fortunately the five escapees were found and after a short visit to the clubhouse bathrooms they all were following me for the walk home back up the hill. After walking past the gates and realizing that only three children were with me, I waited for the other two. After a long wait these other two still did not appear.

Back into the club I went to find them. As I walked through the parking lot one of the parents of these children, who was also a supper guest, drove down to find out where everybody was. From one of the children who were with me we learned that the two missing boys had run up the hill to the third tee to hide. The parent who drove down asked all of us to get into his car and carefully proceeded up the golf cart path to capture these escapees.

With no issue, and thankfully no damage to the course, we found the two boys, ordered them into the car, and drove down the hill back into the club parking lot. Much to our surprise at least a half dozen sheriff's cars were awaiting us. It seems somebody in the clubhouse thought some teenagers were driving onto the golf course to cause damage. After enduring bright lights, much questioning by several deputies and strict orders not to leave the vehicle, these sheriffs realized that two fathers were there only to pick up some children who were having innocent fun. We, of course, were released without incident and with much laughter by all. Yet, as a club member, I was appreciative of the concern and quick response provided by our sheriffs.

NNV Note: If Ed can keep his nose clean, there will be no more tales regarding this topic. However, knowing Ed, who is a deputy-magnet, you can look forward to more of his encounters with law enforcement in future editions of NNV. If you missed it, click here to read the first story in this series.

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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.

August 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.

Ants: The first step of ant control is clean up any food crumbs or spills that might attract the ants. Store food in tight containers. Next, keep the ants out by caulking cracks and crevices. Use boric acid bait stakes or stations. Place baits in locations that are not accessible to pets or children. Control with baits can take several weeks. Sprays containing pyrethrin (not synthetic pyrethroids) can be effective if the directions are followed precisely. If ants are a problem in trees, control them by applying a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot on top of a tree wrap of tape or fabric. Check every two weeks to renew. The UC IPM pest note is found at

Yellow Jackets and Wasps: These insects can be solitary or live in group nests above and below ground. Yellow jackets can be aggressive when defending their nests so avoid the area where possible. Paper wasps on the other hand will avoid contact. When eating outdoors, keep foods well covered. One strategy is to put out bait such as a piece of meat or an opened soda can some distance from the table before setting out the human food. Trapping the queens in the spring and workers during the summer can reduce local populations. See the thorough UC IPM pest note at

Pantry Pests: Do little moths fly out of your cupboards? Are there small beetles in the corn meal or cereal? These pantry pests can be brought into the home in packaged food and spread to open packages of other foods. Both the insect and its waste products contaminate the food. There is no chemical control. Pheromone traps exist for the Indian mealmoth only. The traps do not attract beetles. Carefully inspect all food packages in the pantry and toss out those with any sign of infestation. Wash shelving with soap and water. Vacuum crevices to remove all insect bits. Store rarely used items such as pancake flour in the freezer or in an airtight container. The pest note has more at

Mites: The dusty days of midsummer are when mites get active especially after the homeowner applies insecticide that may kill mite predators. Although they look like insects, mites are actually arachnids related to spiders and ticks. Mature mites have eight legs but young only have six. Webspinning spider mites suck nutrients from the undersides of leaves, making for a silvery or stippled appearance. Some webbing may be seen, the leaves will turn yellow and drop off. Water-stressed plants are more susceptible. Spider mites have numerous predators including lacewings, assassin bugs, damsel bugs, minute pirate bugs, bigeyed bugs, and sixspotted thrips. Predatory mites are larger, pear-shaped, and without spots evident on the spider mites. See further information at

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Could Salvia be your garden's salvation?

An NNV reader, (another Master Gardener, actually) has suggested that some plants of the salvia family are excellent candidates for our problematic "hot, dry, windy west-facing slopes" and recommended the Web site for our edification. Salvia is in the mint family and includes all the plants we call "sage." Many are drought tolerant, so take a look!

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletWhat's going on at the old boarded-up buildings at White and Alum Rock?
bulletAre those County guys ever going to finish work on the Miguelita Creek Bridge?
bulletWhat were all the fire trucks doing on Chula Vista Drive on Saturday, July 19?
bulletDoes anyone know the name for the new youth center by Pala Middle School?
bulletWhy was a loud helicopter flying over East Highlands on Tuesday evening, July 29th?

Q. What's going on at the old boarded-up buildings at White and Alum Rock where the new library branch is going to be built? There seems to be a strange combination of "pseudo-graffiti" and fire trucks there.

A. Well, what looks like a pleasant but graffiti-style message thanking the City of San Jose is just that. The City has donated the use of those old buildings to the San Jose Fire Department until they must be torn down to make way for the library - probably in December. The fire department is very happy to have empty old buildings in which they can simulate disasters and practice their response. They particularly like the westernmost building because it even has a basement which they can use - basements are a rare commodity around here it seems.

What the fire guys particularly want to do is practice rescuing their own. This project could be called "Rescuers rescuing rescuers". More than one hundred American firefighters die in the line of duty every year particularly in structural collapses of buildings in which they are fighting fires. Captain Glen McGuire of Station #2 down the block on Alum Rock is heading a Rescue Survival Training project in those old buildings. RST techniques are being taught including the use of tools to free trapped, downed fire personnel under the most dangerous circumstances. All seven fire stations in Battalion 2 will train in the buildings and eventually other battalions will be invited as well.

Captain McGuire explained that simulations would include firefighters having to crawl through holes in the drywall to free a fellow firefighter pinned under heavy beams or trapped in layers of wire. NNV asked him if this meant that they would be using dummies to represent the fallen person and he drolly answered, "Only if you consider me a dummy!" He personally assumes the role of a trapped man because, he says, working with a dummy is just not the same as working with a living, breathing human being and the experience of being in a position of entrapment is a learning experience as well.

Your NNV editor could not have been greeted and treated in a more friendly manner by Captain McGuire and his boss, Chief Jose Luna. Chief Luna even remembered my name and greeted me with a comment about NNV (which he reads - not a surprise since he lives in the NNV neighborhood). Your awkward editor may accidentally have called Chief Luna "Captain" for which she is quite chagrined. Sorry, Chief!

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Q. Are those County guys ever going to finish the work on the Miguelita Creek Bridge and remove their signs and porta-potty? Maybe this is the County's version of the classy public johns in downtown San Jose?

A. The County Project Manager for this project, Hosalli Gangadhara, reported on July 16, 2003 that the remaining work on the Miguelita Bridge project is to touch up paint on the barrier rails (the paint was scratched in some places while pavement grinding was being done) and general clean up and portable potty removal. "The Contractor has told us that he will complete this work in the next few days."

We've heard all that before and thus NNV prefers to fantasize that we have spotted a conspiracy in the making here. Is this indeed the County's first Public Toilet installation and should we be looking forward to Supervisors Pete McHugh and Blanca Alvarado visiting the Miguelita Bridge again for the "Porta-Potty Ribbon-Cutting and Opening Ceremony"? And might we not expect the ribbon to be a roll of toilet tissue? We plan to take a picture of Pete opening the door for Blanca (and vice versa).

As Eric Carlson reported in Soft Underbelly of San Jose, those elegant downtown Public Toilets cost a lot, "The toilets cost $250,000.00 each, not counting installation. The city is actually leasing the toilets for $65,000.00 per toilet per year. If my math is right, that comes to $780,000.00 a year for 12 toilets."

Of course, we can't expect the County to spend money like that in our neighborhood during these tough economic times. There is certainly an opportunity for advertising here to pay for the maintenance of the Miguelita Creek Public Porta-Potty (MCPPPee). NNV would try to be the first to place an ad on the door so our Web site address would be prominently displayed for all who come and go.

If the Construction Ahead signs and porta-potty are still there when we write the next edition of NNV, we'll know that our conspiracy theory was more than a fantasy!

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Q. Why was there an enormous number of fire trucks concentrated around Chula Vista Drive on Saturday, July 19?

A. It wasn't your imagination that there were lots of trucks climbing the hills and descending on Chula Vista Drive that Saturday. The SJFD Communications Department reported that the responders included about twelve vehicles representing three different fire stations - of course Station 2 on Alum Rock sent a full complement, Station 19 on Piedmont Road sent theirs as did Station 23 which is at Capitol and Via Cinco de Mayo.

Why such a large response for what turned out to be a fairly minor house fire? Fortunately for this area, the SJFD doesn't hold back when there are fires near Alum Rock Park. Especially during this time of year when the fire danger is high, they believe in taking no chances that a fire could spread and involve the park with its high fuel quotient.

NNV learned that the fire was a cooking fire which, lucky for the home's owners, went up the kitchen flu into the attic and out through the tile roof. It did not spread to other rooms of the house. Neighbors whose homes surround the burning house were blessed that their cedar shake roofs did not ignite, thanks to the quick response of the San Jose Fire Department.

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Q. Does anyone know whether the name has been chosen for the new community center which is being built at the front of the Pala Middle School campus? When will the center be open?

The name has been chosen! Loads of names were submitted. Tanya Freudenberger alone gathered 300 suggestions! Among the names seriously considered were:

Alum Rock Youth Center
Eastside Youth Center
Easthills Youth Center
Diversity/Culture Youth Center
Francisco Jimenez/the Circuit Youth Center
Al Cementina Youth Center
Pala Youth Center

And the winner is (or soon will be) ….. Alum Rock Youth Center - an inclusive name which represents the area well. At a recent community meeting, the San Jose Parks and Recreation Council voted to accept Alum Rock Youth Center as the name they would bring to the City Council for final approval. The name is strongly promoted by the members of PACT, who were also the catalysts for getting this much-needed community resource built.

Why not just call it Pala Youth Center? Using that name implies that it is only associated with the middle school when, in reality, it is meant for young people from Lick High School and Sheppard and George middle schools as well as students from Pala. According to PACT, it is very important that the name does not seem to exclude other kids.

The opening is tentatively planned for October.

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Q. Why was a loud helicopter flying (seemingly endlessly) over the East Highlands neighborhood on Tuesday evening, July 29th?

A. NNV isn't sure why the helicopter scrutiny was necessary, but we want to give a preliminary report on the information which has come our way. Allegedly, a young man who got off the bus by the Country Club was followed up Edgemont Drive by a car full of young men. The people in the car got out and set about beating up the victim. Apparently this was not a random crime as the victim and the attackers are acquainted.

It's important to know that this is not an example of a hapless bus-rider being accosted by lurking strangers. It's also important and gratifying to know that several residents on Edgemont came to the aid of the victim, got the miscreants' license plate number, called the sheriff and otherwise demonstrated real neighborliness and caring. The bus driver actually hopped on his own bicycle and rode up Edgemont to help! He was able to identify the car also. If details are revealed which characterize the crime significantly differently than above, NNV will report this in the September edition. Meanwhile, we would hazard a guess that it's still probably quite safe to walk in the East Highlands.

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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, 2004 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 5/11/04.

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