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June 28, 2005 > 1964, a Year of Growth and Turmoil

1964, a Year of Growth and Turmoil

The News Register printed a special progress edition January 17, 1964. The headlines read, "Area Greets General Motors, Washington Township's Three Cities are Ready for Future, and Mission Pass Freeway Links Tri-Cities with Valley Towns." Page one photos were of the new General Motors Auto and Truck Assembly Plant, the Mission Pass Freeway, and the Fremont Hub sign that "marks the heart of central Fremont."

The paper noted, "The Giant has awakened." The towns of Washington Township, Fremont, Newark, and Union City were filled with the sounds of men building cities. The fertile farmland was sprouting streets and houses almost as fast as the crops had grown. Fremont had 73,000 people, Newark over 18,000, and Union City was being "transformed into an industrial municipality."

The headlines on page two read, "Union City is ready for Fantastic Growth."(The city had been preparing for the explosion since it incorporated in January 1959 but it was actually not quite ready yet. It had a new street plan, a new sewage treatment plant, the VII Hills subdivision, and a successful fire department.

The new city had the huge Pacific States Steel and Holly Sugar factories the industrial parks developed by both railroads, and the largest PG&E Company Corporation yard in the area. Officials were anticipating an improved water system, a freeway along Mission Boulevard, and an expressway from the Dumbarton Bridge. The tax rate was the lowest in the area, and the city was the only one in the county with no bonded indebtedness. It was predicted that the boom would make Union City "the hottest investment property in the state."

The headlines on page four read "Newark Leader in Area Progress." It was noted that Newark was known as "The Friendly City" with an old community and the first "new" city in Alameda County. Its record for firsts expanded when citizens objected to area plans and incorporated 5337 acres into the city on September 23, 1955. Progress continued as they developed city government and voted for a $495,000 bond issue for new city offices by a 7190 majority.

Since incorporation, three shopping centers and a commercial recreation center had been built. Industrial growth was termed amazing because 16 more firms had begun operation. New homes had been built in Blossom Park, Hillvista, Lido Faire, Las Ranchitas, Newark Manor, Olivera Park, Parkside Plaza, Parkwood, Brentwood Village, Rosemount, Mowry West, and Thornton Park. St. Edwards Catholic Church had a new building and a parochial school, and a 206-acre golf course and country club was in operation. The current population was estimated to be 18,850.

It was predicted that in1964 Newark would break all records for growth and development and reach holding capacity before 1980. City boundaries were expected to expand to include land between Mowry and Stevenson. People hoped that the new city office building would be built during the year. The greatest challenge was to provide park and recreation facilities.

Forty thousand people attended Fremont's first Pathfinder Day and a group of citizens formed the Fremont Arts Foundation. The Bank of Fremont opened temporary quarters on Post Street, Wells Fargo opened in Warm Springs, Crocker-Citizens in the Hub, and First Western in the Park Plaza building. The city improved the Irvington signal system, completed Fire Station No. 7 on Grimmer and expanded the CBD (Central Business District) to prepare for Capwells.

The Hub was called "Fremont's Focal Point, the Heart of the Downtown Area, and the fastest growing shopping center in Northern California." It had opened in 1961 with four merchants and now had 37 stores and services. The Central Business District was the selected core of all commercial activity for the city of Fremont, and Mervyn's, Capwells and Montgomery Ward decided to locate major stores there. The Hapsmith Organization decided to expand the Hub Shopping Center another 110,000 square feet. Fremont's Central Business District, "just a cauliflower patch three years ago, was well underway as the commercial center of Southern Alameda County."

Fremont had two outdoor auto movie theaters; the Nimitz at Durham Road and the Nimitz Freeway and the Fremont on Fremont Boulevard off the Nimitz. The Center Theater in Fremont and the Alvarado in Union City were also active.

More than 10,000 people watched the air show staged to celebrate the opening of the King Skylanes Airport. So many Sunday drivers stopped to watch the spectacular show that the Nitmitz Freeway was backed up for over three miles.

Sherri Lee Raap was crowned Miss California and the city of Fremont accepted a gift of the Olive Hyde Community Center. The second letter of the Niles hillside sign disappeared on a moonless autumn night, and tempers flared.

The year began with snow in the foothills, a fire that destroyed the Garden of Allah (a skating park and entertainment center on Mission Boulevard near Niles), violence on the picket lines at Pacific States Steel, and unification plans for the schools. The year ended with several familiar unanswered questions. Where will the Fremont Civic Center be? Where will the Foothill Freeway be? When will rapid transit come to Fremont? Some questions appeared to have no immediate answers, but time would provide some answers and even more questions.

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