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Young Punks Running the Town

March 4, 2013
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I’ve come to an awareness in these last few years, since I’ve started writing these little tid bits of my mountain side memories; in the late 1960s and early 70s, we were just a bunch of young punks who started some businesses in downtown Los Gatos and we just sort of took over the whole town.  We opened places like Mountain Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon, The Grog and Sirloin, the ubiquitous Porch, selling everything from Godiva Chocolates to Tiffany lamps and broadleaved palms, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with its crafts, cards and whatever sorts of art they could get their hands on. Old Town was just burgeoning over with leather works of all sorts, shiny ceramics off potter’s wheels and hand made jewelry embedded in a warm atmosphere of mellow guitar music and quirky poetry readings. The little town of Los Gatos was just boiling over with energy and exuberance to the point where some of the real old timers were often heard bemoaning the fact that we were turning the place into another “CARMEL.”

But, the point to be made here is that it was hard to find an owner or operator of all these enterprises that was more than thirty years old, for that matter, even twenty five years of age. And there was a certain vain of commonality in that all of the cute, young girls, in their floor sweeping “granny” dresses and long locks of hippy hair, had all been seamstresses for the rock and roll bands at one time or another, and all the shaggy boys in their bib overalls and handle bar mustaches had carpenter’s belts always at the ready for the next neighborhood barn raising even if their day job was in a big city law firm or accountant’s office. It was a very unique time.

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One of Mountian Charley’s annual staff pictures, displaying costume preferences

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I think I was a senior in high school before I realized something very obvious about our farm neighborhood; everyone older than me and my buddies were adults. None of us had older brothers and sisters, but we all had younger siblings. Then we started hearing the new phrase, “Baby Boomers.” We were the first generation after the end of World War II. During that war, everyone turned away from baby making for the duration. When they turned back to baby making, we were the result. It was sort of a weird awareness, I always thought. Our fathers, if we were lucky, were our older brothers. In that regard, I was really lucky, I guess. I’ve told way too many stories about my Pop.

So, when we over ran downtown Los Gatos, we re-encountered the Baby Boomer phenomenon. The old guard of politicians and business owners in Los Gatos were usually about a generation older than us and it was with them that us “young-uns” dealt with as we built up this withering, dusty old town. I distinctly remember how I backed away from one of the town elders who had served several terms as mayor, when, after my circulating a petition regarding town government, he asked me if I was after his job. With an embarrassed jolt, I told him I was just a punk kid, I’d never even talked to a mayor before, but it made me aware of how these elders viewed us, the only “next generation” that there was, here in town. And the stuff that we were doing was the only game in town.

As it were, we ended up taking on the responsibilities of the next generation. We started a whole slew of new town traditions (the Dam It Run, the Cat’s Hill Criterium, the Shooter/Scooter-Saint Patricks Day Celebration) and we enhanced a lot of older ones, among the greatest being the annual Christmas Parade. Many of our funky, little businesses matured and became town staples, like C.B. Hannegan’s and Steamer’s, the Wine Cellar and California Cafe, Number One Broadway and Carry Nation’s as well as long lived shops such as Trent Pottery, Robertson Publishing, the Maid’s Quarters, the Wooden Horse, Los Gatos Coffee Roasting and the soon to close, Indian Store. I finished my tenure as General Manager at Mountain Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon and had just only turned thirty years old myself. Shoot! I still had a couple of more careers to start and finish and I still felt like I had already lived so much of life. I know that many of my friends felt like wise, “What are we to do now?”

I put a couple of more careers under my belt, and I lived a lot more of life and now I’m at that magical age that the Beatles once sang about – “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty four?” A few nights ago I was clicking away on my keyboard in the Great Bear Coffee Shop and one of my friends, Pat, came through and settled down at my table. Pat is a good ten years older than me but he still is quite bright and full of spirit. I greeted Pat telling him he was providing a welcome break as I was tired of working and needed to bring the day to a close. Pat’s sense of humor and my sense of humor run on the same set of tracks and often times we just get going at a full tilt boogie and simply loose any semblance of decorum or maturity. We often get to the point that we start giggling in the extreme so that we can’t catch our breath or keep the tears squeezing from our eyes. That evening, as the Great Bear emptied ’til we were the only ones left, Pat and I got into a repartee frenzy which left us wheezing and jiggling in giggles and fits of laughter, behavior fit only for two year olds. He slipped into his coat and hustled his way out the door. I was still catching my breath, packing up my computer as I noticed the three young barristers staring at me, the last of the old guys who were rabid gigglers. I instantly sobered up and finished tucking the computer cords into my pack.

I curled up a brow and turned to the three young sophisticates and warned them that you don’t get any smarter after you’ve left your twenties, not smarter nor very much cooler. Mainly you just get rounder and grayer. And all the silly stuff you’ve picked up along the way, well, that just sticks right with you. In the end, we all have a large portion of giddy teenager stuck to our bones. So, make the most of the next few years, you really can do amazing things. None of these three kids were old enough to legally buy alcohol and they had no idea what I was talking about. They were all nice kids and I whimsically hoped they might just get half the chance to fill up their twenties like we did, we were incredibly lucky and blessed and I got just wise enough in my twenties to really appreciate this, right up to this very day.

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One Comment
  1. I inserted this, emailed to me by an old friend: – – – I enjoyed it, Ed, but don’t forget about The Wine Cellar, Bernie Tougas, Owner, with employees like Mike And Pete Thomas, Dennis Mathews, Dennis Corradi, and, of course, yours truly…we had live music and had some “irreverant” regulars like Tom Hendrix, owner of “Mountain Life” / Leslie Padilla, a future ballerina in The New York Philharmonic, A guy named “News” who later in life unfortunately took his own life…And where Wine Festival kind of began and ended…younger than that now, indeed… JS

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