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November 23, 2004 > Tree Lighting Highlights Mission San Jose Residents

Tree Lighting Highlights Mission San Jose Residents

Anna May Campagna and Irma Vargas have been friends since childhood. Now in their eighties, both remember the days when Mission Boulevard was a dirt street that needed to be watered regularly. These two residents of Mission San Jose spent their childhood here while attending Mission San Jose Grammar School as young girls. A tree was purchased by the PTA in 1927 and planted as a celebration of Arbor Day (usually the last Friday or April). During the ceremonies, Mission San Jose Grammar School students filed by the small tree to shovel a bit of dirt. Two of those children were Anna May and Irma.

Irma says that life "was very plain and everyone knew everyone else." One of her vivid memories of life in Mission San Jose is of Escobar Hill, a steep road that led to Sunol. "We lived at the foot of the hill and a lot of cars would turn over. Sometimes, trucks with watermelons and cantaloupes would spill their merchandise and the kids would harvest the windfall!" Anna May remembers her life, growing up in the same house that she lives in now on Ellesworth Street. "Every citizen would work ten days for the county on the water wagon. The wagon was drawn by horses and water tanks lined the old Sunol Road on Escobar Hill."

Irma's house was about a mile from the school so when her father who had a vineyard down the road was taking a wagon to work, the kids would all hop aboard. She chuckles when remembering those rides and says, "It was better than walking!" She adds, "The kids would all walk to school together. There were five of us and above us were my cousins. At the next house was my aunt." The younger children left around 2 p.m. and the older students at 3 p.m. Anna May remembers skating along Mission Boulevard after it was paved. The kids could skate without fear of traffic even though it was the main road to San Jose. Asked about the biggest change during all the intervening years, Irma and Anna May talk about population growth and the advent of indoor plumbing.

Join Irma, Anna May and the Mission San Jose Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, December 4th at 6 p.m. when the school tree is lighted to celebrate the holiday season. Although the tree has seen the many changes to the area throughout the years, when asked for an interview, it remained silent. You can, however, converse with Irma and Anna May about those years, and they will be happy to share their experiences. See you there!

Mission San Jose Tree Lighting
6 p.m. (Santa arrives at 6:15 p.m.)
Old School Business Center
(Mission Blvd. & Cedar Street)
(510) 873-7701

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