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November 20, 2012 > History: Washington Township, 1950

History: Washington Township, 1950

The writers of the History of Washington Township noted that their 1950 edition "represents the end of an era - the passing of Washington Township." They included a section entitled "The Township, 1950" that describes some of the features of the time and acknowledged that "today's civilization, education, welfare services, industries, and churches stand upon the foundation built by the pioneers."

Eight towns were still the divisions of Washington Township. They had survived several "haphazard attempts to incorporate" and were facing the ultimate incorporation of the whole township. Physically, the Township had changed very little, but Alameda Creek was now impounded by Calaveras Dam. The creek went dry each summer but sometimes flooded from winter rains. Stivers Lagoon was now under cultivation and Tule Pond diminished.

Population increases and changes had been constant since the gold rush days, growing from 2,000 in 1860 to about 20,000 in 1950. There were few minority people but they contributed their values to the Township. The Portuguese were the only nationality, "other than American" in any appreciable number. Many people had come from Oklahoma and Arkansas between 1930 and 1950 and were now an "appreciable percentage of the population."

Agriculture was still an enormous industry in the Township. Lee Williams was farming 600 acres, growing cauliflower, tomatoes, peas and lettuce. His brother, Burdette, was farming a large acreage and had a packing shed in Irvington. There were still about 40 dairies here, but some were leasing their lands for crops and bringing their dairy food in from other places. Poultry, rabbits, vineyards, and green tomatoes helped make the Township the food basket for the Bay Area.

Many of the historic industries were gone, but so many remained that they had to be presented in tabular form. California Pottery, Pacific States Steel and several others were still shipping products near and far. Industrial employment was high and the unions were "closed shop." Each town had its quota of markets, garages, theaters, restaurants, department stores, banks, dress shops, mortuaries, drug stores and even cocktail bars. Modern buildings included P.C. Hansen, Niles Super Market, the Centerville Theater, and the Ellsworth Building.

Water was still a problem. Residents were waiting for Governor Warren to sign a bill to finance a survey of the water situation. Army engineers were studying Alameda Creek for flood control.

Road districts were still very important to residents. Bridges had recently been built in Niles Canyon and on Marsh Creek Road, but Warm Springs had been cut off from the water by the closing of two bridges at Warm Springs. Completion of the six-lane Oakland - San Jose freeway was anticipated.

County welfare services had been expanded, supplemented by several local organizations. Roland Bendel was still foreman of the Mosquito Abatement District which battled the mosquitoes. Traffic, was always creating problems and kept officers challenged. Judges Allen G. Norris and E. A. Quaresma were serving as Justice of the Peace.

Housing was still a major problem in spite of the tracts being built. Each district had its own school buildings. Washington High School had 34 teachers, 742 day pupils and 600 in the evening adult school. Each town had its own public library.

The Township Register had moved into the P. C. Hansen Niles building in 1949. George Oakes was publishing the Washington News. The two papers competed for subscribers.

Residents had voted to create a Township hospital district in 1948 and were searching for ways to get a local hospital built. Town chambers had considered many questions of community progress and were again supporting a movement to organize a Township Chamber. Niles and Centerville residents were again discussing where southern Alameda County buildings should be located. The two towns were competing for a proposed structure.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Salvation Army, USO, Travelers Aid and youth centers were sharing a budget of $6,000. The Red Cross, March of Dimes and cancer drives were prominent fund raisers.

Active organizations included the Country Club of Washington Township, University of California Club, Men's Club, Washington Township Community Concert Association, Catholic Daughters of America, Knights of Columbus, and Toyon Branch, of the Children's Hospital. There were also some fraternal organizations that had withstood the passage of time and changing conditions. Several Portuguese societies were still very active.

Writers of the History of Washington Township concluded their 1950 summary by noting that the people of Washington Township have always been a cultural part of the county, with schools, art, churches and gracious homes. Its people have understood the importance of long-range planning. Many people have considered this a favored spot on earth and "so do we."

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