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09.12.07

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Letters to the Editor


Land of the Lost

Re "Lost San Jose" (Silicon Alleys, June 27): Gary, thanks for another interesting essay. Not quite the area I would have picked, but perhaps even more interesting for that reason.

I think you stumbled across the mastabas of Silicon Valley—mastabas being the tombs of the early Pharaohs before the invention of the pyramid. Those places where white-shirted crew-cut engineers slaved over mechanical calculators and "minicomputers" built with RTL logic, some even that could multiply and divide in their 2K core memory. It might even be worth doing a dig there (not so far away from where they found the mastodon last year) to see if you might find some vintage 2N222 transistors or 1N914 diodes.

I wonder, did you know that there was once a town (village, settlement) called Hyde Park? Clyde Arbuckle talks about it. Most of it was destroyed either in building the freeway or the big city office complex. In addition to the dive bar you found, there's a Hyde Park Grocery and a Hyde Park Liquors on North First Street, and a very pleasant little Willow Glen–like neighborhood starting behind the burnt-out Spice Hut (for a moment I thought we were going to get some cheap Indian food in S.J.!) and the pho place next door that I am told is one of the best in town. It runs over to Fourth Street where there is some interesting commercial architecture. I bet there was a lot more of it before the freeway and the city had their way.

Another ramble that might be interesting is the railroad spur that runs up from Brokaw. Up until some time in the '80s there was a slaughterhouse up around De La Cruz, and I believe the railroad was built to serve it. You may remember Arbuckle's story about how Dutch Hamann's plan to entice Swift to build a mega-slaughterhouse there was defeated by a little plot backed by the Mercury.

A campaign you could take up if you felt like it is the fate of S.J.'s disappearing railroad spurs. In the days of the canneries there were railroad lines running all over the place. These right-of-ways could be immensely valuable for building light rail lines to replace the 200 miles of former light rail lines that used to run around the valley. Look how valuable the old narrow-gauge line to Santa Cruz turned out to be in extending the light rail to Campbell. Look how Los Gatos screwed themselves by allowing buildings to be erected over the old railroad line so now they're not going to get the light rail running into downtown any time soon.

The other part of that line that now goes only to the quarry used to loop around along where Foothill Expressway now sits and joined on the main Southern Pacific line at California Street, enabling the inhabitants of Saratoga to get to San Francisco in less than an hour.

Imagine that happening today!

How much would it cost to build a freeway underpass? Millions of dollars, you would correctly answer. Yet the underpass under 280 where the old Western Pacific tracks pass through Willow Glen appears to have been given away to a private owner who is using it for storage. All over the old cannery areas, private owners seem to have been given a free hand to extend their property lines across the old railroad tracks. All this trackage would be invaluable in extending the light rail system, which will be invaluable either when our freeways hit permanent gridlock a few decades hence, or else the price of gasoline gets hiked to $20 a gallon as soon as the Democrats are able to abolish tax deductions for the costs of torturing indigenous people by the oil companies.

And the next time you hear people mocking the light rail system by calling it a "Toonerville Trolley," ask them if they know what a Toonerville Trolley actually was. It was a very popular comic strip back in the 1920s, depicting a comical rustic village that despite its rural isolation had a light rail connection running several times a day to the big city. Imagine that today!

You may also remember in the book Ragtime how the starving artist travels hundreds of miles across New England on rural light rail systems. That was before the GM-Firestone–Standard Oil conspiracy bought up all the streetcar lines and put them out of business (as documented in the PBS show History Detectives last season).

Well, lots to think about. Keep up the good work.

Michael Robinson San Jose

Not the Queen

I'm sorry, but I don't think that Alejandra Guzman is the queen of the rock ("Wild Child, MetroMusic, May 16). Perhaps she could be the queen of drugs. And I don't think Gloria Trevi is a wannabe. Gloria Trevi was, is and will be the best singer ever, so please next time you make an easy judgment about her career you should go deeper and make the correct judgment about Gloria Trevi, the real icon and not your stupid "queen of rock."

Aaron A. Santa Ana


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