October 21, 2009 > History: Early residents of Union City
History: Early residents of Union City
By Myrla Raymundo
Gertrude Corchero and husband Ray have lived in Union City almost all their lives. It is interesting to note that Gertrude was born on an historic farm in Union City, a farm owned by the Union City pioneering farmer, Ezra Decoto. The farm was where Gertrude's ancestors settled. Gertrude's birthplace was a ramshackle frame house surrounded by acres and acres of tomatoes and cucumbers. She and her family stayed in a camp and picked these vegetables. The acres and acres of tomatoes and cucumbers are now gone and in their place is the Pulte Heritage tract of homes.
Gertrude, of Portuguese descent, was born on July 30, 1928. She attended the old Decoto School up to 8th grade and then Washington High School. Ray, of Spanish descent, was born on February 28, 1919, and passed away a few years ago. They were married October 12, 1947, and had two daughters.
Gertrude's ambition was to serve her hometown. She did this as Union City's City Treasurer for 24 years following a frantic call from Mayor Tom Kitayama in the early 70's. He asked her to fill the position of City Treasurer. She complied and remained City Treasurer until 1997.
The family attended mass at St. Anne Church in Old Alvarado. Gertrude remembers the feast of the Holy Ghost, which they celebrated in Old Alvarado. She proudly reminisces that both daughters were queens during the festivities.
Heidi Kitayama is former Union City Mayor Tom Kitayama's wife. Tom Kitayama had the longest political career of anyone in Union City, spanning 32 years. Aside from being the mayor for so many years, the Kitayamas grew and sold fresh-cut flowers.
Tom and Heidi moved to California in 1947. With three Kitayama brothers, they bought land in Alvarado in 1950 and reared six children who had fourteen grandchildren. Their son Tom Kitayama Jr. died in 1983 in a hang gliding accident and a daughter, Susan, died in infancy in 1953 due to cirrhosis of the liver.
When Tom retired in 1991, he and Heidi traveled everywhere together, attended Lion's Club events, kept active in different City events, and stayed in touch with the people of Union City. Tom passed away in 2007.
Antoinette Rose Pinto was born in Union City and met her husband, Peter Pinto, in Alvarado. They were married at St. Anne's church. Peter worked at Leslie Salt, served as a volunteer fireman, and played the accordion in a band. In later years he played his accordion for senior citizens at the Holly Center when it first opened. Peter Pinto passed away in 1995.
Their five children all attended Alvarado School. The oldest attended Washington High School; the rest all went to Logan High School. All of them, Elaine Martin, Lee Pinto, Loren Pinto, Dave Pinto and Karen Pinto, live in Northern California. While growing up, all of the children worked at the Drive-In Theater in Union City.
Antoinette shared many memories of Alvarado. She remembers "Chinatown" on Smith Street, which burned down after it was abandoned and described some of the buildings in the Alvarado area. Mr. Harvey's store was on Smith Street (the present location of Bronco Billy's.) Mr. Dinsmore later bought the store. Mr. Harvey had a house built, which became known as the Holly House in later years when a Holly Sugar manager lived there.
The IOOF Hall was a huge two-story building that at one time was used as an armory. There was the meeting hall used for lodge meetings of several organizations, as a polling place and a theater. Upstairs was mainly office space. The building was later sold to the Eagles. At that time there were wooden sidewalks around the hall. The old Alvarado school was also a two-story building. Antoinette has always been active in St. Anne's Church.
Antoinette and her family have contributed much time and energy to the development of the Alvarado area in Union City.
Mattie Rousseau came to live in Union City 38 years ago. Her family has lived in the same house since moving here. Mattie and her husband Gentry, who passed away in 1993, have four children.
Mattie retired from BART in 1994 after working there for 14 years. She also worked for the Union City Police Department. Mattie was the longest serving Commissioner in Union City. She served in different commissions; as a Planning Commissioner, she helped approve new developments in the City. In June 2000, Mattie was part of the task force that returned the Union City Fire Department to Union City.
"It's in the blood," she says, and is still busy with community work. Mattie is a member of the Fireworks Task Force, a group of people helping to raise funds for the 28 groups who used sales of fireworks as a fundraising activity.