New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 21 - Section 2

October 31, 2004 (November Edition)

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Welcome to
Vista Vineyards

Grapes are
grown here

Other things also grow
at Vista Vineyards

It's lots
of work

There's also time
to enjoy the view

And you get to have
your own label!


Bobcat sighted in
Alum Rock Park

Olsson and

Carol Schultz at
a library meeting

Horse in
big trouble

Strange place for
a new Bus Stop


This is the real
SJFD Truck 2


Native Mixed Border



A new store on
Alum Rock Avenue

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Girl Aids in Local Holdup

Picnic is Followed by Robbery in San Jose’s Park

San Jose Evening News, Friday, June 28, 1935

(From historian Carol Schultz)

An attractive blonde “gun moll” and a male companion, who wore a United States Marine Corps uniform, were sought by police today after holding up, beating and robbing two local men in Alum Rock Park late last night.

The two victims, Nick Erwen, 75 North Third Street, and James Ingram, 87 North Third Street, were casual acquaintances of the girl, whose identity they told police they didn’t know. The two men accepted an invitation extended by the girl to accompany her and her male companion to Alum Rock Park on a picnic.

After eating a picnic lunch and having several drinks, Erwen and Ingram prepared to leave in their automobile, which they had driven to the park while the girl and her escort used another car.

As Erwen and Ingram were stepping into their car they looked up to find the girl covering them with a revolver. She ordered them to hold up their hands as the man in the marine’s uniform stepped forward and started searching their pockets.

Beaten with Bottle
Erwen had yielded $5 and his watch to the bandits when Ingram lunged at the man believed to have been a marine. Snatching up a heavy wine bottle, the man in uniform clubbed Ingram savagely with it, inflicting severe cuts and bruises.

Erwen was also beaten by the girl’s companion, but was only slightly bruised. After the robbery the bandit pair fled in their car.

The girl was described as about 23 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing about 120 pounds and wearing a red skirt, a white blouse and a white hat.

Click here to see what the newspaper looked like that evening.

NNV Note: Does this sound like “Bonnie and Clyde” – or what? (Their escapades ended about a year earlier - maybe they were an influence?) Can’t you just picture Warren Beatty in a Marine uniform? Do you think the moll’s hat was a beret? We want to know who paid for the picnic lunch. Five bucks and a measly watch sounds about right for a picnic in the park with wine, in 1935 dollars. If Ingram had just stayed cool, he and Nick could have kept their names out of the evening news! Do any NNV readers recognize any of the characters involved in this story? Guess you wouldn’t admit it anyway, huh?

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YSI Supporters Enjoy Lavish Treat at the Deckers' Gorgeous Craftsman Home

Afternoon event benefits nature programs

Generous Deckers underwrite all expenses

Sandy and Gil Decker have managed a singular design triumph in the update of their 1907 Queen Ann Craftsman home in Los Gatos. Featured at the Youth Science Institute’s "Autumn Afternoon" benefit on the last Sunday in September, the house revealed its treasures – room by room – as about seventy avid guests enthusiastically explored.

Gil Decker led tours upstairs and down. He showed us his office (Sandy calls it his “War Room”) which features artifacts and mementos from his many years in the defense industry. He served in Washington, D.C. as Under Secretary of the Army during the Clinton administration and there is evidence of the varied defense projects in which he was involved. There are models and commendations and plaques enough for several outstanding men!

In the dining room, brightly painted, intricately carved, wall molding rings the room below the ceiling. Above the molding, charming hand-painted frescos illuminate the corners. A Chinese lacquered chest dominates one wall. An assortment of gorgeous amethyst glass vases sits casually on top of a chest. Sandy Decker’s design style seamlessly blends her beautiful collections into rooms which accommodate everyday living.

Upstairs, the guestrooms are furnished with treasures from the Deckers’ years in Virginia (for example, an ornately carved bedstead and dressers in one) accessorized with an eclectic mixture of Southwestern pottery and bright Native American craft pieces. Under Sandy’s sure hand, the unusual marriage of old, new, priceless, simple, sacred and mundane all works to great effect. Any guest would love to hop into one of those luxuriously dressed beds and savor the bright whimsical eye candy arranged for optimal optical fun.

The guest baths are serene in neutral ivories and beckon visitors to step back into an early twentieth century ambience for a long soak in a warm (scented?) bath. Not to worry about the lack of draperies, curtains or blinds at any of the windows. Gil assures us that no one can see in – and besides his neighbors would not be so crusty as to look! There are some strategically etched panels in the windows of the master bath.

The master bedroom and bath are in a part of the house in which the Deckers have reworked the floor plan. The inlaid blond wooden floors are new; generous closets have been added. The room has large, beautiful windows which look over the gardens below. In a windowed alcove sits a magnificent glass vase (this one surely should be called a “vahz”) right at sill level. Words can’t possibly do it justice so click here to see it in all its whimsical, colorful, glory. The adjoining sumptuous modern master bath is sleek with marble in contrast to the others which reflect the original style of the house.

Gil led us down to his cool wine cellar which is “cool” in every sense of the word. Of course, bottles of wine line the walls, but in the middle of the room is its most important appurtenance, a game table where Gil and his friends play long card games – and no doubt do a bit of “tasting.”

In the living/family area, the motif is taken from the green chevron-patterned leaded windows – very Frank Lloyd Wright in style. Gil himself found the old windows while he was accompanying Sandy in one of her quests for just the right accoutrements for the restoration of their home. The character of these windows felt just “so right” that the Deckers had the chevron pattern replicated throughout this comfortable area as its theme. Looking at the long leather sofas and comfortable chairs, a fellow guest was heard to remark, “I feel like I could just make myself comfortable in any of these rooms!”

And, so that would be the hallmark of Gil and Sandy’s house. Its lines and spaces are all scaled perfectly to fit human beings. While the art and artifacts are stunning, they are all carefully integrated so that the house’s occupants can simply live among them and enjoy them. Some of the pieces might be overwhelming under a less sure hand, but Sandy smoothly incorporates the unusual variety of her collections. As well as being a skilled designer, Sandy also demonstrated "people skills" and organizational skills when she was mayor of Los Gatos. Gil is her greatest fan and cheerleader.

Besides the YSI connection to the Eastside via the nature center in Alum Rock Park, there are more East Side antecedents for the Deckers. Gil says that his three children were raised in our neighborhood when their family lived on Rica Vista Way off Miguelito many years ago. His kids attended Linda Vista, Joseph George and James Lick High School. They grew up with the nature programs of YSI. Gil Decker says he’s happy to be able repay the Youth Science Institute for the science education it gave his offspring. The Autumn Afternoon event was his and Sandy’s way of doing so.

YSI was grateful that so many Eastsiders, many of them members of the YSI Guild, made the trek to Los Gatos to support the event. Among them were Karen Tatro, Nancy Volpe, Marge Honore and Dianne and Eric Doughty (plus your editor and her husband). A luscious buffet was prepared (and served!) by Diane Rose, the chef/owner of Crimson, a fine Los Gatos restaurant. Working in the Deckers' beautifully equipped kitchen, Diane's staff created delicious aromas and hors d'oeuvres which matched the ambiance of the occasion.

Click here for photos from this event.

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Notable Neighbor Dennis Nahat

Artistic Director of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley

Those who live in the East foothills/Country Club community know what a special place we live in and are not surprised to find a San Jose performing arts luminary happily ensconced here – enjoying the view, of course. Dennis Nahat moved from downtown to a home on Mount Hamilton several years ago and only wishes that he had done so sooner. A transplanted Midwesterner, Dennis equates California living with having a view, and he’s reveling in his.

It’s not difficult to divine Dennis Nahat’s arena. He is tall and slender and moves with a dancer’s grace. His friendly, gracious personality seems a natural extension of his physical charm. NNV found much commonality with this “dancer’s dancer.” Not that we dance – far, far from it. Dennis’ roots in Detroit and his work in Cleveland parallel our Michigan/Ohio backgrounds. We had no trouble understanding the nature of the cities which influenced his experiences and work.

Dennis began doing acrobatics and tumbling at age eight, “the usual stuff,” he says. However, by the time he was eleven, he was such an accomplished dancer, he could (and sometimes did) lead dance classes when the teacher was absent. He left the desolation of Detroit for New York and entered the Juilliard School of Music at age seventeen for a full scholarship in dance with a minor in music. He trained under all the “greats” of dance and performed with the City Center Joffrey Ballet and later with American Ballet Theater where he danced as a principal.

Going out on a limb in 1971 as a very young man, Dennis impetuously bought a dance center in Cleveland. The next year, he co-founded the School of Cleveland Ballet. He also co-founded (with the late Ian “Ernie” Horvath) the Cleveland Ballet which debuted in 1976 and was a welcome complement to the mighty world-class Cleveland Orchestra. In 1983 he became the sole Artistic Director.

Dennis arranged an artistic union between Cleveland and San Jose in 1985. The Ballet Guild of San Jose wanted to establish a ballet company here. “They wanted classically eclectic ballets which people could relate to – not as contemporary as ballet in Los Angeles, for instance,” according to Dennis. So the guild searched throughout the country and was beguiled by Cleveland’s talented company. Thus began the fourteen year co-venture of the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet (or the San Jose/Cleveland Ballet - depending on one’s perspective, of course).

Interestingly, the stage of San Jose’s Center for the Performing Arts was too shallow for ballet at that time and generous Steve Wozniak came to the ballet’s rescue, gallantly underwriting a renovation which included a new deeper stage. In 1985, the company put on its first San Jose ballet, a completely sold out “Nutcracker” choreographed by Dennis himself.

The combined effort worked well with ninety performances given each year by the commuting dancers until Cleveland decided to change its focus around 1995. Wishing to put more resources into its orchestra, they decided to reduce support for the ballet. They wanted San Jose to pay a larger share of the ballet’s expenses. The co-venture terminated in 1999 and Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley was born in late 2000.

Today, our ballet is a thriving concern. Cleveland opted for a smaller, less expensive ballet which unfortunately is playing to empty seats and losing money.

BSJSV is now the second largest theatrical and dance organization in California after San Francisco. There are almost four hundred students enrolled in their professional dance school. The number of dancers employed by the ballet ranges from twenty-six to thirty-two per performance. There are forty-nine members in the ballet orchestra which draws heavily from Symphony Silicon Valley. The ballet will present forty-five performances this year including their extensive outreach program to the children of San Jose.

The new season begins later this month with a company premiere, Pirates of Penzance, which of course is based on the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta of 1879. Four comic onstage vocalists will be featured. Like Dennis’ ground-breaking “Blue Suede Shoes” (set to 36 songs of Elvis Presley), this is a ballet with an extra hook for those not-yet-balletophiles. December 16th –26th will see the Nahat-choreographed “The Nutcracker” back for the holiday season at the CPA.

Another premiere this season, this time a world premiere, will be presented February 10th-13th, 2005. “Middle Kingdom - Ancient China” features a collaboration between choreographers (Dennis with Yong Yao) and between our ballet company and the Chinese Performing Artists of America. Click here and scroll down to see the entire season schedule.

Lest the reader conclude that Dennis Nahat is just about ballet, we asked him to share his passions. He lists “Cooking, gardening, computer work (graphic), working with children, entertaining, music, piano playing (when there is time), news watching, talent scouting” and, he says, the list “could go on and on.” We asked about other members of his family and he wrote, “My brother is a musician (composer and guitar player), sister is a skin care cosmetologist and has her salon in Phoenix, my elder sister is a cook and care giver in a big way, my mother is like light around everyone who knows her and is a master cook in her own right. I have many cousins and in particular a wonderful Aunt Julia who all live in San Francisco. (I have) relatives everywhere in the world and across the United States. My nephew is a dancer, was a dancer in this company and now teaches dance in New York City, (he) opens and manages NYC’s top restaurants, travels the world as guest teacher and restaurant advisor.” Obviously an accomplished and talented family!

Now that you’ve met our neighbor Dennis Nahat, and you can put a face with his name, perhaps you’re ready to take the plunge into his world of theatre and dance. You won’t be disappointed – this is world class fare. And, taking after his mother, Dennis is “like light” in our community.

Click here for photos of Dennis and Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley.  Click here for their Web site. Note "Supernumerary Men needed for The Nutcracker!" Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley is searching for men to join the ranks of other 'Super Men' in their beautiful winter story ballet, The Nutcracker. "We are not looking specifically for dancers, but if you can count to 8, have confidence and enjoy being part of the most beautiful production of Nutcracker in the Bay Area, then you really must join us at Ballet San Jose."

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NNV Briefs

bulletAlum Rock “Who’s Who” Turns Out for 1st Anniversary Celebration Breakfast at ARYC
bulletNeither Rain Nor Mud … YSI Wildlife Festival defies the elements
bulletCounty Historical Commission - Less onerous Preservation Ordinance by Edward Allegretti
bulletOSA/Boccardo Trail Christmas Bird Count Scheduled for December 19 by Lori Raymaker
bullet On the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue) - Blinders for the horse
bullet On the Road (McKee Road) - The bus stops, we all stop
bulletComfort’s Country Club Heights Parlor Meeting - “Buzz” for the new Alum Rock library
bullet Renaissance Academy - A New "Small School" on Joseph George Campus
bulletQuail Hollow Bridge Replacement Underway in Alum Rock Park - Working in the rain

Alum Rock “Who’s Who” Turns Out for Breakfast at ARYC

Candidates, Kids, Educators, Politicians, Firemen, Civic Leaders dine and schmooze

The Alum Rock Youth Center turned one year old recently and its first birthday celebration was a hugely successful Pancake Breakfast and Fundraiser held on Saturday, October 23rd. Perhaps as many as two hundred folks ate flapjacks and sausages at large round tables set up in the gym. The cooks and servers were from several different avenues with many East San Jose Kiwanians wielding turners and tongs, ARUSD trustee candidates flipping and frying, and PACT members from St. John Vianney and Alum Rock Methodist organizing and beaming. It was the PACT folks (People Acting in Community Together) who saw the need for a youth center in the Alum Rock neighborhood – nearly twenty years ago! With much cajoling, wheedling, nagging and plain old hard work, the PACTians rolled the project along from one administration to the next until finally this excellent facility became reality in October of 2003.

This being election season, all sorts of elected officials and wanna-be elected officials were circulating among the diners. At the risk of omitting someone’s name, NNV won’t attempt to report all the candidates and luminaries who were in attendance. We’ll just say that if you were a candidate and you weren’t there, you blew a great opportunity to network with the core movers and shakers of Alum Rock.

Besides the $5 all-you-can-eat breakfast, visitors enjoyed an entertaining program featuring neighborhood notables, a raffle and a holiday book “faire.” NNV was pleased to meet parent/volunteer Renee Perry manning the cash register at the popular book sale in the “College Room” of ARYC which ordinarily houses the college counseling program which is a feature there. Renee is a great example of an involved community member who obviously “gives back” to Alum Rock. Renee is a James Lick graduate and “just loves our area.”

Click here to see photos from this big event.

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Neither Rain Nor Mud ...

YSI Wildlife Festival defies the elements

When the big rains came in during the night of Saturday, October 16th, some participants of the YSI Wildlife Festival scheduled for the next day, went to bed wondering whether this 19th annual event would be cancelled. Would they be spending their Sunday cozily at home watching the rain sheet down their windows – or would they be dodging the squalls at Alum Rock Park?

Silly question! It would take more than a drizzly day to daunt the intrepid spirits of the leaders, staff, members and volunteers of the Youth Science Institute. After all, these are folks who respect everything that Mother Nature cares to dish out. A little rain? Pish-tosh! Get out your boots and slicker and join us slogging through the drippy shrubbery. Never mind your wet socks and blue fingernail-beds; there will be plenty of time to warm up later – after you’ve spent the day learning about birds of prey, snakes and reptiles, carnivorous plants, bats, spinning and weaving, fire prevention, and respecting the environment.

And so it was. The event was a bit different than in past years - as many participants as possible fitted their displays and wares under every eave and umbrella. The moisture did not deter the young families who come out every year for a day of communing with Nature, lunching on hotdogs, burgers and popcorn, getting faces painted, and learning about the wildlife which shares our territory. There were fewer picnickers wandering casually onto the scene, however.

The San Jose Fire Department Shark Engine didn’t make it this year due to the weather but the firefighters from Station 19 were there and let kids “drive” Engine 19. SJFD, CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), Santa Clara County FireSafe Council and PG&E all had representatives and exhibits. SJFD Battalion Chiefs Jose Luna and Alan Anderson from Station 2, as well as SJFD Public Information Officer, Captain Allison Cabral, were there to talk to the kids and their parents.

NNV was very grateful to find its assigned table under a canopy located next to the City Parks’ own space. Ranger Jane Lawson confided that she was trying to ensure “good press” in New Neighborhood Voice. Whether she was pulling our leg – or not – we were so happy to have a dry locale (many other participants struggled to keep their powder er…..exhibits dry) that we will forever be in their debt.

Lots of NNV writers braved the elements and manned or visited the table. D.J. (Dorothy) Johnson was there (of course – she’s the curator guru at the YSI nature center), Bracey Tiede and Arvind Kumar (NNV gardening writers) were there, restaurant reviewer Robin Edwards (aka “Yes dear, the engineer”) was there with his wife Fiona, occasional writers Alan Henninger, Anne Dunham, Gerry Stasko and Tim Schacher stopped by and contributor (also ARUSD board candidate) Tanya Freudenberger made a whirlwind appearance toward the end of the afternoon.

There really was very little grumbling about the weather. Most everyone was so happy to have the rains extinguishing the 2004 fire season, cleaning the smoke out of the air, and giving plant life a luxurious taste of natural rainwater that it was as much a celebration of Nature as a fine day would have been.

Click here for our photos from this event.

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County Historical Heritage Commission Meets Again

Less onerous Preservation Ordinance discussion interrupted - again!

By Edward Allegretti, Member, Historical Heritage Commission of Santa Clara County

The Commission will again be reviewing the proposed Historical Heritage ordinance at the December 9, 2004 regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 PM in the Board of Supervisor's chambers. We hope to advise staff on outstanding issues so that a final draft can be completed and a public hearing scheduled for early 2005.

The ordinance was not discussed at the October 21, 2004 meeting due to other issues. There is no regularly scheduled meeting in November as the commissioners will be attending a workshop.

Click here for the Santa Clara County Planning Office Web site for the proposed ordinance and here for the meeting agendas and archived reports. Click here for our October article on this subject. Comments or questions can be e-mailed to Ed Allegretti at or to the Historical Heritage Coordinator, Dana Peak, at Watch our Community Bulletin Board for the latest information on the HHC meetings.

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OSA/Boccardo Trail Christmas Bird Count Scheduled for December 19

By Lori Raymaker, Resource Coordinator, Open Space Authority

The weather today reminded me of some of the past Christmas Bird Counts! So, I thought I would send an early CBC reminder so that you can keep your calendars free for the counts that you are interested in. This year, the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority will participate in both the San Jose and Calero counts.

The San Jose count will be on Sunday, December 19. Once again we will begin our count on OSA property on the south side of Sierra Road and work our way down the Boccardo Trail.

The Morgan Hill/Calero Count will be on Sunday, December 26. Yes, that is the day after Christmas! But it was the only weekend day available that didn't compete with other CBC within the county. OSA will be counting along Casa Loma Road and onto our Rancho Cańada del Oro Preserve (it feels good to say that!!)

If you are interested in counting in the Boccardo Trail or the Rancho Cańada del Oro areas, please e-mail me at or call (408) 224-7476. If you are interested in counting in other areas, please contact the Audubon Society at (408) 252-3747.

For photographs of last year's Christmas Bird Counts, click here for the Boccardo Trail area and here for the Rancho Cańada del Oro area.

Click here for more information on the bird counts (it may still have last year's schedule) and here for the Boccardo Trail Web site. 

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On the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue)

Blinders for the horse

This month’s scenic photo of Alum Rock Avenue features one of the multitude of horses’ heads sitting on top of the wall at the house on the northwest corner of Alum Rock and Mountain View Avenues. This particular horse’s head also serves as an informal trellis for a rambunctious vine which occasionally grows over the poor horsey’s face obscuring his vision. NNV featured this horse last April and mentioned that he could look out onto Alum Rock Avenue and dream of his ancestors pulling wagons up the street on their way to Mt. Hamilton Road. Not so today! This guy would have a hard time looking anywhere!

Click here to see him.

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On the Road (McKee Road)

The bus stops, we all stop

The eastern-most stretch of McKee where it abuts Alum Rock Avenue has always been a busy place, but, boy, it has gotten busier since this summer! When the VTA eliminated the bus stops on Alum Rock east of McKee, the folks who live along McKee inherited the #64 bus route. NNV feels sorry for the people whose house is on the east side of the street between Ste. Catherine and St. Laurent Courts. How would you like to wake up one day and realize that smelly buses are going to stop just feet from your front door? And, what a dumb idea to create a route in which the bus must hold up Alum Rock traffic to negotiate a left turn onto McKee during busy traffic times!?

Click here to see the Bus Stop.

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Comfort’s Country Club Heights Parlor Meeting

Moist folks gather to learn about “buzz” for the new Alum Rock library

“Opportunities for giving” outlined

On the dank and rainy evening of October 19th, Comfort Olsson hosted a “Parlor Meeting” to support the San Jose Public Library Foundation (and ultimately our new Alum Rock City Library Branch) at the club house of Country Club Heights, the lovely town homes above Alum Rock Park.

About fifteen library fans braved the intermittent downpours to listen to Foundation Director of Development, Eleanor Dickman, explain their vision for “A partnership of support” for our new library branch. Balancing hors d’oeuvres, Comfort’s homemade cookies and wine on their laps, the damp listeners chuckled as Eleanor assured them that everyone in the neighborhood must calm down and realize that the yellow insulation we’re seeing on the unfinished library building is not part of the ultimate color scheme.

Each of the new library branches which are currently under construction or renovation will need about $500,000 to outfit it with fixtures, furnishings, equipment, technology, and supplemental collections, Eleanor explained. And that’s where we library users come in – they’d like our advocacy and financial support to bring in some of those dollars for the new state-of-the-art facility. She’d like us to “create a buzz” about our library to generate enthusiasm for what will be our “non-shush-y” library. Of course, there will be quiet areas for grown-ups to relax, but the atmosphere will decidedly be up-beat, youthful and even competitive with Barnes and Noble! The plan is that, by providing distinct areas for the different groups of library users, it won’t be necessary to have schoolmarm style librarians intimidating youngsters with non-stop “shushing.”

A few details which emerged from Eleanor’s presentation are that the new library will be almost four times as large as the current County Alum Rock branch. There will be 67 parking spaces created when the old library is demolished. (NNV would like to insert here, that improved parking alone, would make the new library a Godsend. Earlier on the day of Comfort’s get-together, the parking lot of the existing library was a sea of water and all parking spaces were occupied. And your editor had to back out of the lot which, of course, is a frightening prospect.) The collections will double. The seating will quadruple. The community room will seat up to 109 people and will be available to local groups for meetings.

There will be a “café” which serves coffee (etc.) as well as an “Internet Café.” And, yes, most probably, the concession for the coffee will be negotiated with Rafiki’s across the street.

All these amenities cost money. The funds which build the building do not cover the furnishings. Our community can help. How about if you or your business or your group donates $1,000 and is honored on a permanent Donor Recognition Wall in the lobby? Got more to spend? There are all sorts of very special donor recognition opportunities ranging from $5,000 (for the Friends’ Book Alcove) to $100,000 (for the Community Room). Can’t scrape up the big bucks? Special recognition will also be given to all those donating $100 or more. And, of course, donations of any size are welcome and will be immensely appreciated.

If you’d like to make a donation or if you’re still thinking about hosting a parlor meeting for your neighbors or friends, call Eleanor at (408) 808-2081. Also, take a look at the Foundation’s web site at and/or click here for the San Jose Public Library page for the Alum Rock Branch Library (there are lots of photos of the construction).

Click here for our photos from the "Parlor Meeting."

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Renaissance Academy - A New "Small School" on Joseph George Campus

PACT brings “small autonomous schools” to ARUSD

Your support for supplies would help this new venture

The new Renaissance Academy sharing the campus at Joseph George Middle School is one of three “small autonomous schools” new in the ARUSD this school year. The independent school has a focus of Arts, Sciences and Social Justice. Renaissance has 110 students, six teachers and its own principal. Students were chosen by lottery and come from all over the district, but primarily from the Joseph George attendance area. Renaissance really is a “small school” compared to George which has about 550 students.

PACT (People Acting in Community Together) was the catalyst for the small schools effort in the district and has worked diligently for the last several years to bring this model to our community. It has been discovered in other similar diverse communities that students achieve better academically when they are in a small, intimate setting. The other two new small schools are elementaries and are on the Mayfair and Cesar Chavez campuses.

Since it’s a new start-up, Renaissance Academy needs some equipment for its programs. They are asking our community to help out with donations of the following items:

• For the Band: music stands, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, bass clarinet

• For Physical Education: softballs, basketballs, gloves, stopwatches, volleyballs

• For School Events: big jump rope, small jump ropes, balloons, plastic spoons, rubber balls

• For Science: beakers, flasks

• For Math: tile separators, manipulative blocks

• For Language Arts: dictionaries, thesauruses

• For Social Studies: Junior Scholastic subscriptions

• For the Office: copy machine, copy paper, random office supplies

• Miscellaneous: theater arts props and costumes, uniforms for students

For more information or to make a donation, call (408) 928-1957.

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Quail Hollow Bridge Replacement Underway in Alum Rock Park

Crew working on rainy Sunday

On the way out of Alum Rock Park on that rainy October Sunday of the YSI Wildlife Festival, NNV stopped to take a look at the men, machines and mud at the site of the old, often submerged, Quail Hollow “Foley’s Folly” bridge. Hikers will remember the old flat slab of a bridge which often was under water due to its vent pipes being plugged up with debris. In rainy times, flood waters surging around the sides of the bridge eroded the creek banks so severely that crossing over Penitencia Creek at that point was impossible.

The City is replacing that old bridge with a prefabricated pedestrian and bicycle bridge which will rise high over the creek. One can see large new concrete abutments have been constructed on either side of the creek now. The work can only be done during a certain window of opportunity which is determined by the Fish and Game Department to be non-disruptive to the habitats of the park’s creatures and the creek’s endangered species. The Sunday work was authorized to help get this part of the work done before the “window” closed.

Click here and hum a few bars of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head."

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San Jose Fire Station 2 – Part 3

History of Station 2 and the Empire Engine Company

Why is the Engine Company called the “Empire Engine Company”?

NNV Note: This is a continuation of our articles on San Jose Fire Station 2 on Alum Rock Avenue, which started in the September edition. Click here to read the first article and here for the second article. This article includes links to other Web sites. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.

The Empire Engine Company
To understand the history of the Empire Engine Company, we have to go back more than 150 years ago in San Francisco when:

On June 4, 1850, “A fire department is formally organized in San Francisco. The first engine is the Empire Engine Company No. 1.” (

“This engine was by no means new. It had served as “Old 41” of the New York Volunteer Fire Department as early as 1820.” (Clyde Arbuckle’s History of San Jose, p301)

In San Francisco, “The havoc made by the first great fire of December 1849, aroused the people to the necessity for protection, but the fire department was not formally organized until June 1850, when the Empire Engine Company, No. 1 was formed, with David C. Broderick as foreman. The Empire was immediately followed by Protection No. 2, and Eureka No. 3.” (

San Jose buys Empire Engine Company from San Francisco
A Hunnerman hand pumper with sufficient hose and other equipment (was) purchased from the City of San Francisco for $1,800.” With hose and other accessories, “the total cost came to $2,546.25.” (Clyde Arbuckle’s History of San Jose, p301)

“On July 24, 1854, a hand-pump fire engine was purchased from the San Francisco Fire Department, along with 400 feet of riveted leather hose, and the Empire Engine Company No. 1 was formed” (in San Jose).

Over the next three decades, the fire department kept pace with San Jose’s growth with the acquisition of steam-powered engines and the horses to pull them. In 1876, the formerly volunteer department became a professional one. According to Vice-Mayor (Pat) Dando, the first paid fire department received $100 a month, and the operating budget was less than $8,000 a year. Today, the San Jose Fire Department’s operating budget is $107 million.” (

“The purchase of the Empire Engine Company’s $6,125 Silsby steamer in 1867 ushered in a new era in firefighting for San Jose, and announced the decline of the Hunnerman hand engines. As the use of steam power increased, one company’s old engine might become a hand-me-down of another, a practice that more or less continued until seven steamers were in service. Photos of beautiful three-horse teams pulling these smoking giants became symbols of security and heroism …” (Clyde Arbuckle’s History of San Jose, p305)

Also in 1876, “a firehouse was erected on Lightson Street, functioning as the only firehouse in the community until the increased equipment storage space problem called for the construction of another building in 1869. Known as the Empire Firehouse, the new headquarters at 375 Second Street housed Empire #1 Engine Company and San Jose's first steam fire engine. For 23 years, the Empire Firehouse served the City of San José until it was destroyed in a fire that consumed several blocks of the downtown area in July 1892.”

The History Park at Kelley Park includes a reconstruction of the facade of the Empire Firehouse located at 375 Second Street from 1869-1892.  Click here to see it.

After you take your kids to see The Empire Engine Company at Station 2 you can take them to see the Empire Fire House at Kelley Park (or vice versa). They’re both part of the same history.

But why were they named the Empire Engine Company and the Empire Fire House? This may give us a clue:

“During those Gold Rush years, following the acquisition of California and other Mexican provinces by conquest, they (Americans) described their greatly expanded land as an "empire" just as a Briton might speak of (Queen) Victoria's far-flung possessions. Newspapers used the word constantly in editorials, poets in patriotic verse, authors in books (the most successful best-seller in 1852 was Bayard Taylor's El Dorado, or Adventures in the Path of Empire). Almost every town and mining camp in the Far West boasted an Empire House hotel. San Francisco had an Empire House, an Empire Saloon, an Empire Brewery, an Empire Oil Works, and a volunteer fire company called Empire Engine Company No. 1.” (

Station 2 on Alum Rock Avenue
Now let’s jump to the history of Station 2 and then we’ll bring them together. Let’s start with a piece of the history of the Santa Clara County Fire Department.

“In 1947, two agencies - the Cottage Grove Fire District and the Oakmead Farms Fire District - were consolidated to form the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District (now known as Santa Clara County Fire Department). This consolidation was the result of the California Division of Forestry withdrawing from the valley floor when its contract with Santa Clara County was terminated in 1947.”

“It was about 1948 that some new stations were added: ‘Alum Rock Station’ located at a dehydrator in a trailer at Capitol Avenue just south of Alum Rock Avenue, then later moved to the Pala School, at Gay Avenue and White Road. The trailer was finally moved to Alum Rock Station's present location to await the completion of the present building.

Ultimately, the City of San Jose annexed five stations. On September 4, 1977, the stations annexed included Cambrian, Tully, Alum Rock, Burbank and Almaden. Seventy employees made the move to San Jose Fire Department. The annexation was supported by both departments with the understanding that better service could be provided at a reduced tax rate.” (

Click here for nine pages of historic photographs related to Station 2 and here for a 1950 map of the Alum Rock Area Central Fire District (PDF file). Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.

The Empire Engine Company Moves to Station 2
After the SJFD acquired Station 2 on Alum Rock from the County, the Empire Engine Company was moved to this new Station 2 from the old SJFD Station 2 at 6th and Julian Streets. The new section at the left of Station 2 for the Truck Company was added by the San Jose Fire Department in 1982.

We can hope to see a new fire station on Alum Rock in the next few years. There are plans underway to replace the present 50-year old Station 2 with a new, modern Station 2.

More History?
Want to learn more history? Start here for more historic photographs and here for more references.

Remember that we showed you a photo of a "replacement" Truck 2 in our last edition?  Click here to see the real Truck 2. Click here for the SJFD Web site.

Now that you've read the story, please don’t hesitate to take Chief Luna up on his invitation to visit Station 2.

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You Dig It?

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

November Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

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

Fall Planting
Now is the best time to pull up worn out plants and shrubs and replace them with fresh, healthy specimens. Larger plants such as perennials and shrubs need time to put down roots and settle in before they will bloom well. Here in the Santa Clara Valley, most plants do their growing in the winter with our mild temperatures and regular rainfall. This gives them a head start on surviving our hot, dry summers. Newly planted shrubs will need summer water the first few years, decreasing in amount over time.

Poisonous Plants
As we approach the holidays, the Master Gardener hotline will be getting calls on poisonous plants. Fortunately, many of these plants have a very bitter taste that limits the amount of the plant eaten. Poinsettia and mistletoe should be kept away from curious children, but the list includes other flowers and plants such as azaleas, calla lily, carnation, daffodil, foxglove, hydrangeas, iris, lantana, narcissus, poppy, sweet pea and tulips. Different parts of the plant may be toxic. See the excellent information at  

Citrus Bud Mite
Have you ever seen weirdly shaped lemons or oranges that appear to have 'fingers'? The Citrus Bud Mite attacks newly forming flowers and fruits. The mite is only visible with a magnifying glass and has an elongated yellow body with four legs that appear to come out of its head. The mites feed inside the buds, killing them or causing a rosette-like growth of the subsequent foliage and distortion of flowers and fruits. The problem is usually limited to just a few fruit on the tree. Previously recommended oil sprays have not proven effective. This is one of those pests that is best left alone. The oddly-shaped fruit is edible.

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

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Curtis Horticulture,, (408) 259-9974, CA Lic #826409

Ecological landscaping services: design/consulting, renovation, maintenance

Specializing in native and drought-tolerant landscapes. We live and work in the neighborhood.


A Native Mixed Border

Color during spring as well as summer

Requires maintenance only once a year

By Arvind Kumar (

Recently, a relative asked us to design a native planting plan for his garden in Saratoga. Mahesh and Pragati have two young sons, and lead extremely busy lives. Between soccer practice, the library commission, and a Cisco job, there is not much time left to tend to the garden. Mahesh wants a low-maintenance, unthirsty garden that also looks nice most of the year. Pragati would like to see some color in the garden other than brown.

Their front yard sits on a north facing slope. The driveway goes up the slope and curves gently to the right before ending at the garage. On the left of the driveway are some mature coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) and toyons (Heteromeles arbutifolia). It is the area to the right that needs attention.

The steeper parts of this slope are punctuated by retaining walls of 4”x4” redwood logs. The previous owner had planted trailing jasmine which has since died out. The soil looks clayey, but is humus-rich and surprisingly easy to dig. Drip irrigation is available over most of this area.

Mahesh has been growing California poppies for many years, and has recently started planting native perennials. He has been pleased with California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum canum) and California Aster (Aster chilensis), both undemanding summer bloomers that look good and attract wildlife.

This article presents a possible plan for a mixed border along the driveway. The plan provides color during spring as well as summer. It requires maintenance only once a year. The plant list consists of just five plants:

Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum polyanthum)

Rosy Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens)

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum canum)

California Aster (Aster chilensis)

Lilac Verbena (Verbena lilacena)

The plants are all California natives, with one exception. Lilac Verbena comes from Cedros Island, off the coast of Baja California, and we include it here due to its proximity to our state as well as its exceptional garden qualities: lovely flowers, long bloom period, and wildlife value.

This plan provides a space roughly 2’ in diameter for each plant, except the verbena which will grow to be 4’ wide.

During spring, the color will come from the buckwheats (alternating patches of yellow and pink) as well as the taller verbena (purple). The foliage of the aster (deep green) and fuchsia (gray-green) will provide the backdrop against which the flowering plants will shine.  Click here for the plan.

During summer, the plants will exchange roles. As the buckwheat pompon flowers fall off, the fuchsia and aster come into their own. The lavender of the aster will contrast nicely with the red of the fuchsia. Although less profuse than before, the verbena will still be in bloom. Click here and scroll down for the plan.

From spring to late summer, this border will have up to three different plants in bloom, while the foliage of the other two will help them stand out. The plan places the shorter plants in front and the taller ones at the back.

Both the aster and the fuchsia spread by rhizomes, and bind the soil. They are ideally suited for slopes and effective at erosion control.

Because the plants are native or near-native, Mahesh can count on being able to observe a diversity of feeders in action for half the year. The buckwheats will draw insects of many kinds, and wherever insects abound, birds are sure to follow. The fuchsia will draw hummingbirds, the aster bees, and the verbena butterflies.

A native garden looks better with some maintenance. In this case, we recommend an annual schedule that requires shearing the fuchsia and aster only. In late fall, after the first good rain, cut the fuchsia and aster to the ground. Expect new lush growth to follow during spring; these plants will not need further attention for the rest of the year. Deadheading the buckwheats is a matter of personal preference; they should not be sheared.

You have heard this before, and it is indeed true: The best time to plant in California is fall. The winter rains help the plants grow their roots so they can better handle the summer drought.

These plants are drought-tolerant when established. They will need summer watering the first couple of years. A 10-minute morning drip once a week is adequate for the first year. You may cut it down to every two weeks in the second year.

These plants are available at all native nurseries (see table below). I have been pleasantly surprised by the selection of natives at my neighborhood nursery: Payless Nursery, 2927 S. King Road (at Aborn), San Jose, (408) 274-7815; if you have specific questions about native plants, ask to speak to Wanda, who is extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

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

NNV Note: Arvind Kumar grows native plants in his Evergreen garden. He is a volunteer with the California Native Plant Society, and has been planting native plants at Lake Cunningham for the last two years. You can reach him at

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

Producing Wine in the East Foothills?

Family-style Vista Vineyards grows the grapes, makes the wine

Hard work + exacting care = fine local vintage

By Ed Allegretti

It is a beautiful spring afternoon. Connie and I are amongst the first guests to arrive at one of the annual parties given by Gary and Ellen Rauh at Vista Vineyards. As we walk to the side of the house to descend the steps to the back garden and deck, we stop for a moment to enjoy the lovely view of the city below and, to me, the even lovelier view of all the lush green grape vines growing in the vineyard. As we arrive on the deck we are politely greeted by the host and hostess, shown where the appetizers are being served and are offered our choice of many wonderful wines, including wine made from grapes grown on the property. We take a glass, find a place to sit and enjoy the view, spend the afternoon sampling wine, chatting with neighbors and friends, and walking along the garden paths and rows of vines. After the day is over Connie asks, “Why don’t we plant vines on part of our small quarter acre.” A good question indeed!

What does it take to create a vineyard? What work is required to maintain it? What must be done to turn the grapes into wine? To me these are interesting questions and I recently was given thorough and satisfactory answers from Vista Vineyard proprietor Gary Rauh. Although the Rauhs have lived at their current house for about 20 years, Ellen and he purchased an adjacent 2.25 acres in 1997. This land was offered for sale and they thought it would be a wonderful place to have a vineyard instead of the weeds that mainly existed there before. Based upon comments they’ve received from folks in the neighborhood and those who live below, everybody agrees with them!

Gary has primarily learned about operating a vineyard from researching the Internet but did hire a professional consultant for guidance when they first purchased the land and decided to plant vines. The consultant told them that the soil first must be “ripped.” Basically, this is deep soil plowing down to about 30 inches so that the vines can easily root. Next, they disked the entire property to remove all vegetation. The hard work, though, was digging the 20 inch deep holes required for each vine (which are planted four feet apart and six feet between rows). Hand held augers were rented but these broke due to the hard soil! Fortunately a man was found with a bobcat and hydraulic auger that penetrated the stubborn ground. At its current size of 1,400 vines (about 1.75 acres) that is a lot of holes! The vines were spaced out with each being hand planted, poles being inserted at roughly one per vine, and then cordon and foliage wires strung. One would hope that now the initial work was completed because the vines were planted and their lines were in place. However, there was still a need for a proper drip irrigation system with a drip for each vine and the pre-existing six foot high fence had to be repaired and heightened to keep out deer, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and any other critters who might enjoy the lush grapes!

According to Gary the deer have been very clever about entering the vineyard. They’ve managed to crawl through gaps under the fencing as little as eight inches or less in height Some also possibly jumped over the fence before it was extended from six to eight feet. Of course, making sure the gate is kept shut also helps! Once a doe entered through the open gates and gave birth to two fawns. Birds also wish to eat some of the grapes but so far have caused only minor damage with the sparkling foil applied to the lines probably helping to keep them away.

Okay, now that the ground has been prepared, the vines planted, the poles installed, the fencing and irrigation in place, does anything else need to be done aside from watching the vines grow and the grapes appear? In brief, yes! The first real work occurs in late March or early April when the buds begin to appear. The vine shoots must be tucked into the support wires so they don’t touch the ground, shoots off the main vines must be pruned so they don’t suck needed nutrients away, weeds must be tended to (which is all hard work with slopes of 20 to 30 degrees), and wettable sulfur (so that it doesn’t blow away) must be sprayed every 10-14 days so that powdery mildew does not grow. Unfortunately, proper pruning, which allows required air circulation and spraying, was not done in 2003 resulting in an 80% crop loss! Thankfully the 2004 crop had no loss. In June the vines must be tested for nutrient levels and proper fertilization must be done in the following winter. A professional tends to this testing and the spraying of the sulfur while the Rauhs and their sharecropper friends tend to the other work, with tucking and pruning required at least every two weeks during the growing season.

Once the grapes are mature and ready for picking, the processing procedure occurs. However, the grapes must be tested prior to picking to ensure they have the correct acidity level (the total acidity level must be under 1% to give the optimum balance) and sugar content (23%-25% sugar). The wine is actually processed at Vista Vineyards which owns all the necessary equipment. The grapes are first put into a destemmer/crusher which removes most of the stems. The resultant juice is called must. The “must” is then put into fermentation vessels with sulfite in order to kill any wild yeast. Next, a wine yeast selected for the grape type is added and fermentation commences. This fermentation takes about seven to ten days, depending upon the temperature. The must next is put into the basket press. The press squeezes the wine out of the must and filters the skins and grape pulp out of the wine. The now appropriately called “wine” is then put into stainless steel (up to 70 gallons) or glass (for small amounts of about five gallons) for about three months to allow solids to precipitate out of the wine. After this period the wine is then “racked” or transferred about three times into other containers in order to rid it of any remaining sediments. Oak chips are added in the final container to give it a good oak flavor or the wine is placed in oak barrels if there is a sufficient amount to fill the barrel plus some “topping wine,” kept in glass, to top off the barrel as it loses some wine due to evaporation.. The wine is then ready when desired to be bottled which is also done at Vista Vineyards. Vista Vineyards then corks, seals, and applies their lovely label to each bottle! Quite professional and impressive indeed.

Okay, the main question! What types of wine grapes are grown? Actually there are several types. The varieties are based upon the Rauhs’ preference and that of the other eight families who sharecrop the property with them. Currently they have: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Pinot Noir. Certainly a large selection. For those interested in purchasing Vista Vineyards wines you’ll be disappointed to learn that legally, as a non-commercial family vineyard, they are not able to sell wines. They are actually limited to 200 gallons (about 1,000 bottles) per year per family. No, they aren’t producing this volume! However, those fortunate enough to be acquainted with the Rauhs or their fellow viticulturalists, know that they are exceptionally generous in sharing with all who come to visit. They also have set aside a block of cabernet sauvignon vines whose fruit they sell to home winemakers. Approximately 2000 lbs. of this cabernet is available each year.

During my chat with Gary Rauh about Vista Vineyards, Ellen was away visiting their house and property (they grow pine trees, not grapes, there) in Alabama. I was privileged to sample wine grown, processed and bottled on the property. Although I enjoyed learning about growing grapes, seeing the equipment used for the processing, and touring their wonderful 3,000 bottle capacity wine cellar, I truly was happiest tasting the excellent wines. Yes, I think the results of this hobby are well worth the work!! Tending the ground and plants, working with pleasant neighbors and friends, producing and drinking wonderful wine is the privilege of those at Vista Vineyards. We too are fortunate to have Gary and Ellen Rauh who bring this wonderful green space to the East Foothills and who are friendly, sharing neighbors.

Click here for photos of Vista Vineyards.

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LoMonaco & Company — Jewelers & Awards since 1923.  Plaques ● Trophies ● Appraisals ● Engraving ●
Executive Jewelry ● Watches ● Clocks ● Jewelry Repairs ● Custom Designs ●
Gifts Glass Engraving (New!)
2904 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose
95127.  Phone (408) 251-4100, Fax (408) 251-4450


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletSurveyors were on Alum Rock Avenue recently - Is someone thinking of widening Alum Rock?
bulletI'm still wondering which presidential candidate to vote for? Any suggestions?
bulletIs there a new resurgence of mail theft in the neighborhood?
bulletAre locking mailboxes the answer?
bulletWhat else can we do to protect our mail?
bulletWhat sort of store has gone into the “Card and Party” site in the old Wells Fargo building?
bulletWhy are there so gol-durn many pigeons around the intersection of Alum Rock and White?
bulletWill the utility-wire-pigeon-perches be eliminated before the new library opens?

Q. There were surveyors on Alum Rock Avenue recently who had their equipment set up at the intersection with Mt. Hamilton Road – and simultaneously at the intersection with McKee Road. Is someone thinking of widening Alum Rock maybe?

A. No, it doesn’t seem to be anything quite so drastic. NNV asked the guys who were set up near the McKee Road junction and they pointed to the big brown house (which just sold this summer) and assured us that the crews were just surveying it. Hmmmm.

Q. I'm still wondering which presidential candidate to vote for. Any suggestions? I think I'll skip that part of the ballot. Especially since we know our vote for a presidential candidate here in California is "irrelevant" in any case since we’re not one of the “battleground states."

A. We’ve got a suggestion for you. Why not write in your spouse’s name for President? Then when you go home and your spouse asks who you voted for, you can say, “Why, honey, of course I voted for you for President.” Imagine the reaction. You’ll be a hero immediately! Of course, it may take a few minutes to convince your spouse you really did this but after that it should all be worth it (wink, wink).

It does seem reasonable to get something out of your suffrage right considering that the Electoral College usurps the popular vote, doesn’t it?

Q. Is there a new resurgence of mail theft in the neighborhood?

A. Actually, yes and no. Yes, there have been a bunch more thefts recently, but, no, nothing has changed. Joe, the mailman, says that the mail thieves and thefts never have waned. It’s an on-going problem and it’s just that we perceive the thefts sort of in “clusters.” Joe says that often, when one sees a new locking mailbox installed at someone’s house, it’s an indication that there was a theft at that house. Sort of like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen, perhaps, but NNV’s personal experience is that the thieves may circulate the same neighborhood frequently. In 2002, we had two thefts from our box about six weeks apart. (And, noo, we never do – and never did - put our flag up!)

Q. Are locking mailboxes the answer?

A. Not necessarily. According to Postman Joe, after a theft, one of our neighbors installed a locking box recently only to have it pried open and its contents stolen. Joe reiterates that we should never put our mailbox flags up which announces that we have goodies to steal. We should never put out envelopes with checks in them for the mailman to take. (Mail them instead at the post office or drop them in a collection box). We should never have our new check orders delivered to our homes by U.S. Mail. (Pick them up at your bank branch.)

And, NNV says, keep your eyes open for strangers in the neighborhood. Call 911 if you even think you see potential mail thieves. (But don’t confront a possible thief – it’s much too dangerous and we don’t want to lose even a single reader!)

Q. What else can we do to protect our mail?

A. Radio Shack sells mail-box alarms quite inexpensively. They beep inside your house whenever your mailbox is opened. As soon as you hear the beeping, you can retrieve your mail before the cretins have time to take it. Such alarms won’t work for all houses because the mailbox must be in line-of-sight with your house. One other tip which is easily accomplished is to write your checks with gel pens. Even checks written with “permanent” markers can be bleached by thieves and forged, but gel pen ink really is permanent. You can try a little test of inks by writing with various inks on a check and then soaking them in chlorine bleach. You soon will see that all the inks, except the gel pen ink, are quite vulnerable. In one of the NNV thefts, all the words including the signature, were completely bleached off leaving a blank check for the thieves to use as they wished. (And they “wished” that check from $100 to our dentist, to $850. to their fictitious selves.) Mostly, our experience has taught us to treat every check (blank, written or even cancelled) as though it is a golden key into your accounts. Sad, isn’t it?

Q. What sort of store has gone into the “Card and Party” site in the old Wells Fargo building near OSH? I miss C.&.P’s bargain greeting cards!

A. Bargain King opened its doors in mid-October and NNV popped in to take a look last week. First, be reassured that we still have a source for inexpensive cards in the neighborhood. As a matter of fact, Bargain King has several very nice collections of cards – arranged on the same wall as before - ranging in price from 99 cents to $1.49 each.

The rest of the store is packed with all sorts of items ranging from the ordinary to the exotic. It’s actually reminiscent of old time variety stores such as Woolworth’s and would be a great place to take kids for “allowance day” outings or holiday shopping. You won’t find a large choice of party goods at the new shop, but you will find a small selection. You’ll find some very inexpensive imported vases, knickknacks, dolls and packaged cookies. You’ll find some name-brand products and some knock-off brands. It’s definitely worthy of a visit and you may find yourself dropping in each time you use the ATM or nearby mailbox.

Click here for Bargain King photos.

Q. Why are there so gol-durn many pigeons roosting around the intersection of Alum Rock and White Road? The droppings along the sidewalk along the edge of the new library are horrendous.

A. One day recently, NNV happened to meet a man on that slimy sidewalk who knows the source of the problem. Would you believe that there is a guy who periodically drives up in his car and dumps bagsful of raw rice on the ground near the library driveway to feed the pigeons?

According to the man on the sidewalk, it’s become such a problem that sometimes the workers on the library site, come out and vacuum up the rice as soon as the bird-feeder leaves. His question is a good one: Why doesn’t this bird-nut feed the pigeons in his own neighborhood rather than in this busy part of town? Perhaps his own neighbors won’t let him?

Q. Is there any chance that the utility-wire-pigeon-perches will be eliminated before the new library opens? Surely we don’t want the floors of our wonderful new facility besmirched with disgusting pigeon dirt!

A. There is some under-grounding of utility wires going on around the city – witness the project recently completed near Toyon and McKee. The attendees at a recent Library Foundation meeting broached the topic and hopefully, Councilmember Nora Campos’ aide, Francis Zamora, who was there, took the message back to Nora’s office that the wires need to be removed at that corner post haste. YOU can also give Nora a nudge by contacting her by e-mail at or call (408) 277-5157.  Remind her that pigeons may be carriers of the West Nile Virus even though they aren't seen dying from it like Crows and Jays. Click here for a reference.

Click here to see the piles of ... (just kidding, we didn't really take photos of that - but we are thinking of moving the mail thief pillory at Alum Rock and White over beneath the wires).

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You can send comments or letters to the editor (Click Here to see the Letters)

E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements.  Want to take photos, write articles or essays?  Please let us know!  And don't miss our new Letters page on Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants if you'd like to share information with our readers.

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E-mail to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
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Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2004-2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/17/05.

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