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March 27, 2007 > The Center City

The Center City

George H. Oakes, editor of The Washington News published a special sesquicentennial edition to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Mission San Jose. This special edition was printed to enhance the celebration, but it also provided a picture of the eight towns in Washington Township. Centerville was called "the center town" and "the town with the metropolitan atmosphere" because of its geographical location and the fact that many township services were located there.

Centerville was known as a "large vegetable growing center." In 1946 the Southern Pacific Company shipped 990 carloads of vegetables, mainly peas, cauliflower, tomatoes and favas, from Centerville. They were shipped from the warehouses of Lloyd Bailey and Lee Williams. The Bailey warehouse and packing shed had a capacity of 15 carloads daily; five cars could be loaded at once. Bailey was shipping about 500 carloads a season. The Williams packing shed could handle 12 carloads a day; they were shipping over 350 carloads of cauliflower, 50 carloads of peas and about 110 cars of tomatoes per season. Williams had just installed a new high speed refrigerating and icing machine that could ice a car in 10 minutes.

The Booth Canning Company was canning local produce, including apricots, peaches and tomatoes, providing employment for hundreds of workers. Their railroad track capacity had been extended to handle 10 more cars daily.

Most of the "big auto dealers" were located in Centerville, making it the center for automobile dealers and auto repairs. Dealers included Joe Adams, known as "the Friendly Ford Dealer," the Central Chevrolet Co., owned by Romeo Brunelli and John Calcagno, the Santos Bros. Plymouth and Chrysler agency and the Dodge agency of Paul Hockinson at Centerville Garage.

Service stations included the Associated Oil Service of Matt Whitfield, Dutra Bros Chevron Service, the Pierce Service Station, the Mohawk Oil Service, and Henry Gomes Shell Oil Service. L&V Trucking was operating a new business section across from the high school devoted to a truck depot, repair station, Union gas station, and a cafˇ next to George Silveira's feed and fuel store.

Centerville was proud of its new airport that housed many private planes and where people were taught to fly. John Stevenson was recognized for leasing the land for the field where Charles Osborn was manager and Don Hubbard was in charge of maintenance.

Joseph Jason was operating his Metal Products Co. that made well casings and his F&E Manufacturing Co. that featured gas burners. Other large operations included the Centerville Electric and Pump Co. of A.S. Enos and the P.C. Hansen Lumber Company. George Coit had the only hardware and plumbing store.

Grocery stores were the Excelsior Bakery and Grocery Store, Ralph Boliba's Victory Market, the Red and White, Bong Brothers Centerville Food Market and the Safeway in the Masonic Building. Eating places included the Cloverdale Creamery, the new Shanghai, Kleins, the California Inn, the Bear Cat Cafˇ, the Varsity Cafˇ, Magiors and the L&V Cafˇ. Bank of America provided for the financial needs of residents.

Dr. W. L. McWhirter, Dr. J. Merle Buehler and Dr. George S. Holeman and Dr. W. Wilber had offices in town. Drug stores were operated by Allan Walton and Sid's Pharmacy. Dr. Elmo Grimmer and Stanley MacMillan were the dentists. Judge Allen G. Norris and Leroy Brown had offices in the old bank building.

Other business houses included the Sunrise Bakery, Cliff's Pool Hall, Hellwig's Meat Market, Kirkish Store, Centerville Auto Parts, Sportsmen's Barbershop and Miller's Shoe Store.

Suburban Homes was building in the Hansen Tract on Thornton and Pine and K. P. Suhnel was developing Santos Road and would "build homes to suit." Louis Cardoza, E. B. Hodges and Charles Wauhab were local realtors.

Several township offices such as the Alameda County Water District, the Alameda County Health Department, the Washington Township Justice Court and the Country Club of Washington Township were located in this "Center City." Having the Washington Union High School located in Centerville drew many people for programs, meetings and sporting events and helped make the town the township's social and cultural center. Churches and fraternal groups were active. The Lion's Club and Chamber of Commerce were spreading information about the town. Centerville did, indeed, appear to be "the Center City."

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