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Keeping your nose clean, politically

May 4, 2012

 

Almaden Valley — 1964

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Almaden Valley — 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.                           (Taken from approximately the same spot, different cameras)

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I found myself in a very interesting situation this morning. I was riding the bus into the downtown of Los Gatos with just two other people, a “twentys something” driver and a single, overly talkative rider, sloppily dressed with a baseball cap and an unkempt but clean beard. When I stepped onto the bus they were discussing comedy clubs in the area. The young driver mentioned that he avoided a certain club located in downtown San Jose because he always felt threatened and ill at ease in the downtown area of San Jose. I feel the same and I perked up my ears. The older rider agreed but was telling the younger man how much worse downtown was in earlier days, which I also had to agree with.

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As we approached Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street, the driver diverted the chatter away from comedy clubs and noted how he really liked to drive the Los Gatos bus routes. This seemed like a nice, quiet, calm little town. His comment brought a mild smile to my lips, thinking “if you only knew,” me thinking of the “Whiskey Gulch” days. Sure as hell, the older rider perked up and told the young driver all the gory details of the Achilli murder, many of these detail being very inaccurate according to what I had read in the newspapers. This made my skin crawl. I am so tired of half baked Los Gatans making this very, over-exposed topic the center of some half baked universe of Los Gatos’ most charming aspects. The gossip mongers and the newspapers made their mark; blood, guts, romance, intrigue, stupidity and guns. What more could they ask for? Maybe an exclusive Jerry Springer show. At least have enough class to let Achilli (a person who I, personally, never met) rest in peace.

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Of all the things to remember this town for, why do amateurs always bring this affair up, first and foremost? I wasn’t living in town when this whole thing went down and I never really paid much attention to it even as it ran its course, it was just very distasteful to me. And the one thing that really made me uncomfortable was that most of the players in this fiasco weren’t even from Los Gatos, they were imports from San Jose and other distant locales. The stain that is left, however, is on Los Gatos, like it or not.

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When I think of the Achilli murder, so often I find myself recalling a wholly unrelated period of Los Gatos history, the “Enough is Enough” era. While having nothing to do with ugly people, this era did have lots to do with ugly feelings. Memories of this era are also very distasteful to me. I guess it’s this distastefulness that is the commonality between the two, disparate events.

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“Enough is Enough” was the campaign slogan of two candidates for town council in the late 1970s. While I have never been one for politics, I can get really passionate about specific issues. One of my personal hot buttons is land use. If I had my druthers, land would only be used for trees, grass, squirrels and cows. Screw people, their houses and their businesses. These two politicians were selling themselves as no-growth candidates; super-limited land use. At the outset, I was all for these guys, but as I listened to them, it wasn’t my sort of limited land use. After doing a little homework, I came to view these two as “Johnny come latelys.” They had moved into town some years earlier and now they wanted to keep everyone else out, this is how I saw it, and lots of other people. However, what was even worse, they wanted to be able to control what multi-generational families could do with their long held property as well. I would have none of this, the other side of the land use coin; land ownership.

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The farmer who we rented our house from was fifth or sixth generation on his parcel of land. A. P. (Dutch) Hamann drove this farmer, as well as thousands of others, off of his bountiful Santa Clara agricultural land with the use of “legal” tax scams and over-exuberant eminent domain. But good ole’ Dutch let him keep like three acres. Dutch was appointed San Jose City Manager in 1950.

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When you are a farmer, three acres is not much to work with. You can’t grow enough of anything to feed your family, let alone make a living. So, the farmer decided to put a gas station on his corner of Almaden road, something he could hand down to his progeny to ensure they could make a decent living, as his father had done for him. Simple and decent enough. But no.

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As it was put to me in my teenage years, the politicians and developers and rich business owners who lived up at the Almaden Country Club, went to Dutch Hamann and put up every road block imaginable to stop the construction of this gas station on the corner. A good portion of the “fortune” the farmer made from the forced sale of his land was spent on lawyers to fight the San Jose City government. I was told that about ten years after he sold his land, his gas station was finally completed, while he and his family were living in an old rented farm house themselves. And what about the “Doctors, Lawyers and Indian Chiefs” from the county club who didn’t want a gas station in their exclusive neighborhood? After making huge profits on the sale of their fairway homes, they moved on to make bigger profits in greener pastures they would rape and then leave despoiled one more time, . . . at least.
And Dutch and his boys? All the while, they bulldozing a wide, inert moon scape through Almaden Valley that would some day become an extension of Camden Avenue, with a large Safeway shopping center and modern service station just down the road from that foul and fiendish gas station that nasty, old farmer had finally built. But, take heed, it took something like ten years to finally pave that huge, barren gash in the valley, a gash that once was very productive fields and orchards. The gash was a travesty, an open wound to anyone who would think, what truly was the value of the land that lay so fallow?

So, when I really figured out what the “Enough is Enough” boys were really talking about I fought them tooth and nail. The half-baked newcomers come and go in a community, for the quick buck, having no sense of continuity, history or worth. Those who have been around and settled for the long term are usually not so frenetic, disruptive and short sighted. To those who are settled and secure, money is not always the end all goal. Money is a means to the goal, quality of life, and only one of many means.

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If you encounter a talkative rumor monger, or a Johny come lately or a Dutch Hamann, it may be wise not listen to them so quick, and ask them to slow down and smell the roses (as in: learn a little about the place) before they jump to conclusions.

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As far as politics goes, I still don’t get it.

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3 Comments
  1. larry arzie permalink

    The “enough is enough” boys after 40 years still live here and without them a lot of our town would be gone. In retrospect you were wrong. They helped save the town. More so than the mountain artisans. It sometimes takes someone new to see what the locals can’t. Thank you” enough is enough boys”. We now have a new group of enough is enough boys, including some of the originals, they sued the Town of Los Gatos for breaking the law in attempting to pull a fast one on the citizens of Los Gatos for approving the Albright Way project
    without investigating the impacts it would cause on our quality of life. They just won their case and now the developer has to start over again, this time following the rules. As a side note one member of the Town Council ,that was party to breaking the law, was related to a council member in the 1960s that approved the demolishing of the Lydon Hotel, the Carnage Library and the Dutch Colonial Town Hall, all this to modernize our town to increase grown and revenue. What goes around comes around I guess. But thank god for enough is enough boys and girls.

  2. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays..

    • Nope, it is not paid, I wish it was. And, as much, I just stumbled onto your comment. Very gratifying,, thanks much. I know nothing about blogs except that everyone has told me to start one. I am lost in here. I could use some help.
      `Ed

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