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May 3, 2005 > 1916- progress and problems

1916- progress and problems

The year 1916 began as usual with floods. Will Jeffries described the January floods in the February 12 issue of The Township Register. The water reached a height of nine feet over the Sunol dam on January 3 and 4, overflowed both banks of Alameda Creek, flooded the county roads, and washed out the Southern Pacific track. Some residents of Alvarado had to use boats to reach their homes, and the town became an island inside a 12 square mile lake. Continuing floods kept Alvarado under water most of January. Many streams overflowed, making a series of lakes over a large area. In spite of all the floods, there was more irrigation this year than any year in history.

Frank "Fodder" Dolan sponsored a dance at Connor's Hall that brightened some spirits for a brief moment. Many other dances were held by various groups during the year. Fifty Niles citizens gathered in Judge Richmond's chambers and formed the "Niles Incorporation Club" to gather facts about possible incorporation. The Essanay Company "shook up" people at Niles as many company actors prepared to leave town.

The Alameda County Water District unsuccessfully sued to stop the Spring Valley Water Company from storing Alameda Creek waters in Calaveras Dam.

A large crowd witnessed the first bowling tournament between Irvington and Centerville at the new Centerville Bowling Alley. A follow-up match was held at Irvington. The Niles Chamber of Commerce worked to get "scattered rocks" off the streets.

Huge motor trucks, loaded high with local produce, were viewed as a sign that money was flowing and times were good in Washington Township. Vegetables dominated freight shipments with 12 to 15 cars of tomatoes going out daily during canning season and 25 cars of sugar beets produced annually from 8,000 acres. The Victor Incubator Company of Decoto was shipping chicks and brooders to all coastal states, including a hatch of 6,650 chicks for the Graham Poultry Farm in Newark. Heavy freight shipments included over 7,000 cars of sand and gravel annually.

It was a good year for baseball. Local teams included the Newark Idlewilds, the Centerville Sodality, Alvarado Merchants, and the Niles Essanay Indians. Several games were played against teams from outside the area.

The Prohibition Train stopped briefly at the Niles station allowing vice presidential candidate, Ira Landreth, to speak to those gathered to hear him. A meeting was held at Centerville to discuss why prohibition should not destroy the grape industry.

Successful gatherings included presentation of "The Toastmaster" by the Centerville Catholic Dramatic Society, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Washington High students, the Holy Ghost celebration at Mission San Jose and flag raising ceremonies at Belvoir Hotel that featured the flagstaff from the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Maple Hall was reopened as a skating rink and drew large crowds.

Warm Springs residents journeyed to Alum Rock Park to attend a daylong barbeque and dance. One of the biggest events of the year was the 4th of July celebration at Centerville that drew an estimated 6,000 people. Excitement prevailed when they turned a greased pig loose on Main Street.

Rose Brothers sold several Ford trucks and touring cars; increasing demand created a shortage of Fords. Local Dodge dealers were also far behind on deliveries. Judge Mattos regularly "harvested a crop of speeders," usually collecting over $200 per day in court.

Newspapers contained headlines and articles about the war in Europe. The war was brought close to home by events such as an explosion at a patriotic parade in San Francisco. Several local boys enlisted and a few reported their experiences to the local papers. The price of matches jumped because of the shortage of German potash.

There were other disasters besides the war. A fire destroyed the exhibits of the California Nursery at the State Fair. The highway between Mission San Jose and Warm Springs had to be closed during rainy weather and motorists were forced to detour by way of Irvington.

The most significant newspaper issue for the year was the Progress Edition of the Washington Press published at Niles, March 4, 1916. The first page featured an article by F. N. Harvey called "Washington Township, County's Best Section." This section of the paper extolled the wonders of the area and was directed at prospective investors. Many of the other articles were devoted to the restoration of Mission San Jose, including recognition for the committee and others who donated time and money. The second section presented attractions for each of the eight villages in Washington Township and summarized the economic and cultural advantages. Over 20 photos of businesses, homes, and schools were recognized, including the Essanay Film Company, the California Nursery, Anderson Academy, Ames Manufacturing Company, and the California Paving Brick Co.

Many accidents made the news. Charles Jorgensen cut his hand cutting wood. Joe Souza bruised his leg when a timber fell on it at the Niles Sand and Gravel plant. A. Duarte got kicked in the mouth while milking his cow. Walter Mortenstein broke a rib when thrown from the wagon when his team ran away. B. P. Collins, an electric engineer at the California Meat Co. was burned by an electric flash. Washington Township was a wonderful place to live, but also a place with dangerous occupations.

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