A Trip to the Market
My family lived on the corner of Coe and Ramona in Willow Glen from 1963 through 1965. When I was about to begin kindergarten at Broadway Elementary down the street, my mom taught me how to "safely" cross the street. Not long after this lesson, my mom asked me to walk to Crisham's Market to buy her a quart of Pepsi. And so this confident five-year-old set out to cross four streets and railroad tracks (each way) in order to provide my mother with a cold drink. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that now, though I don't think it was so unusual in those days. I remember going there another time with a group of neighborhood kids who brought their toddling sister along.
I loved summertime on Coe and Ramona. The Del Monte cannery was nearby, and outside the afternoons smelled like tomato soup. In the evening, my dad would often sit on the porch steps playing his banjo, and Ramona Avenue would be alive with kids playing. Most of the houses had detached garages, which meant that the driveways went to the back of the property. As a kid, I'd ride my tricycle the length of the driveways, and sometimes chatted with neighbors who were relaxing in their backyards.
Trains, Automobiles and a Creek
Coe Avenue runs along the border between the original districts of Willow Glen and Palm Haven. The street connects Bird and Lincoln Avenues and always had a fair amount of traffic along with a train crossing. I remember a lady driving too fast and sailing off Coe Avenue into the Los Gatos Creek (at the bend where Coe approaches Lincoln). Everyone was amazed that she emerged unharmed. The Western Pacific Railroad used to cross Coe a block away from our house. My dad knew the train schedule and he'd sometimes pretend to signal for a train to come on an old telegraph key on our mantlepiece just before it came. The "big kids" used to leave pennies on the tracks then show off their flattened coins. Cars would occasionally try to beat the train and I remember two occasions when the cars didn't make it. Fortunately there were no fatalities. The Western Pacific operated on that track from 1922 to 1998.
I Wish I Was a Spaceman
I've always enjoyed science-fiction and movies about space exploration. One day when I was four years old, I decided to try and replicate a space helmet. I took a clear plastic bread bag out of our kitchen drawer and went out to the back patio. Sitting on a chaise-lounge, I pulled the bag over my head. It was hard to pull on, and as I realized that I wasn't going to be able to breathe, I began struggling to pull the bag off. Fortunately, my mother who'd just finished a call on the telephone, decided to peek outside and see how I was doing. She dashed out and ripped that bag right off my head. Thanks Mom!
Letters to My Father
For part of 1964 and 1965, my dad was overseas in Japan and the Philippines doing contract work through Sylvania Electronics. During that time, I'd regularly write letters to him. Whenever I had a letter to mail, I'd put the letter in my red wagon and walk down to the corner of Coe and Lincoln. There was a mailbox in front of the hardware store, and I'd put my wagon in front of the mailbox to stand on to deposit the letter. Invariably, I'd be followed on my route by an old man who lived across the street from us. Near the end of the journey back to my house , he would toss a pack of chewing gum into the wagon. Years later, my mom told me that one day there was a knock at our door. She answered and it was the old man. He apparently couldn't speak, but with gestures asked my mom where I was. She explained that I'd been sick or something and hadn't been mailing letters. He nodded and handed her a pack of gum for me.
A Streetcar Named Big Red
My grandfather once told me about a streetcar (also known as trollies) that ran down Lincoln to Minnesota Avenue. After doing a little research, it turns out that there were two trolley car lines that operated in Willow Glen. One, the San Jose Railroad Company, came down First Street to Willow, over to Lincoln, and then down to Minnesota Avenue. The other was the San Jose-Los Gatos Interurban Railway (later Peninsular Railway) which ran down Bird to Coe, over to Lincoln, and then down to Willow Street where it turned right and continued west to Los Gatos and Saratoga. The red Peninsular trolley cars, nicknamed "Big Red" by riders, ran down Coe Avenue from 1904-1934.