Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley. California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
AGRICULTURE AND FARM LIFE ON
FREMONT'S NORTHERN PLAIN. 1890s-1980s
Elvamae Rose Borghi
Til lie Logan Geold
Interviews Conducted by
in 1975 and 1986-1987
Copyright ^ 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing
leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the
development of northern California* the West, and the nation. Oral history
is a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an informed
interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is transcribed,
lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee.
The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, indexed, bound with
photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library
at the University of California, Berkeley and other research collections for
scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not intended
to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a
spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and
as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
This manuscript is made available for research purposes.
All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to
publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University
of California, Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the Director of
The Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library.
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated
use of the passages, and identification of the user.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as
To cite the volume: The Patterson Family and Ranch;
Southern Alameda County jji Transition, Volume I,
"Agriculture and Farm Life on Fremont's Northern Plain,
1890-19808," an oral history project of the Regional Oral
History Office conducted in 1975, 1986-1987, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1988.
To cite individual interview: Elvamae Rose Borghi,
Girlhood in a Patterson Ranch Farm Family, 1931-1948," an
oral history interview conducted 1987 by Ann Lage, in The
Patterson Family and Ranch; Southern Alameda County jin
Transition. Volume I, Regional Oral History Office, The
Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley, 1988.
DONORS TO THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Bancroft Library, on behalf of future researchers, wishes to thank the
following organizations and individuals whose contributions made possible
this oral history project.
Alameda County Water District
Brooks Family Foundation
City of Fremont
East Bay Regional Park District
Oliver De Silva Company
David and Joan Patterson
J. B. Patterson Trust
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
AGRICULTURE AND FARM LIFE ON FREMONT'S NORTHERN PLAIN. 1890-1980s
Dairying on the Patterson Ranch, 1924-1950
ELVAMAE ROSE BORGHI Girlhood in a Patterson Ranch Farm Family. 1931-1948
TILL IE LOGAN GOOLD
Observations of a Ranch Worker's Son, 1918-1950s
Working for Henry Patterson, 1930s-1950s
The Logan Family in Alvarado
A Neighboring Farmer Recalls the Early Days
The L. S. Williams Company: Farming in Southern
Alameda County, 1930s-1980
Farming on Fremont's Northern Plain in the 1980s:
Agriculture' s Last Stand
WATER. DEVELOPMENT, AND PRESERVATION IN SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY
MATHEW P. WHITFIELD General Manager of the Alameda County Water District.
WALLACE R. POND
ROBERT B. FISHER
The Pattersons and the Incorporation of Fremont
Consultant to the Patterson Family: Master Planner,
Developer, and Politician
History and Politics: The Creation of Ardenwood
LAURENCE W. MILNES Ardenwood Regional Preserve and the City of Fremont
WILLIAM D. PATTERSON The Alameda County Water District. 1914-1955
THE PATTERSON RANCH. PAST AND FUTURE: THE FAMILY 1 S PERSPECTIVE
PATTERSON Overland Journey. 1849
DONALD PATTERSON Family Lore: The Pattersons and Their Land Since
WILLIAM VOLMER Whipples. Beards. Ingalls, and Pattersons: Looking
at the Hawley Family Tree
and Hawley Family Memories
SALLY PATTERSON ADAMS Growing Up at Ardenwood
JOHN E. ADAMS A Son-in-Law Remembers Henry Patterson and Assesses
DAVID G. PATTERSON Overseeing the Transition from Ranching to Property
ROBERT BUCK Patterson Property Management. 1970s-1980s
LEON G. CAMPBELL Balancing Agriculture and Development. Family and
WILCOX PATTERSON Donald Patterson and Patterson Ranch Management.
GEORGE PATTERSON Recalling the Pattersons' Past: The Family. Land.
and Historic Homes
BRUCE PATTERSON Youth on the Patterson Ranch. 1950s-! 963
ABIGAIL ADAMS CAMPBELL Summers at Ardenwood with Grandparents Sarah and
TABLE OF CONTENTS Volume I: Agriculture and Farm Life on Fremont's
Northern Plain. 1890-1980s
INTRODUCTION by Leon G. Campbell v
MAPS. SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY. 1956 and 1987 xv
Family Farms, Tenants, and Patterson Ranch Workers, 1910s-1950s
FRANK BORGHI Dairying on the Patterson Ranch. 1924-1950 1
ELVAKAE ROSE BORGHI Girlhood in a Patterson Ranch Farm
Family. 1931-1948 24
RUEL BROWN Observations of a Ranch Worker's Son,
DONALD FURTADO Working for Henry Patterson. 1930s-1950s 63
TILL IE LOGAN GOOLD The Logan Family in Alvarado 93
WALLACE MCKEOWN A Neighboring Farmer Recalls the
Early Days 109
Larger-Scale Agricultural Operations on the Patterson Ranch, 1950s-19808
GENE WILLIAMS The L. S. Williams Company: Farming in
Southern Alameda County. 1930s-1980 141
MEL ALAMEDA Farming on Fremont's Northern Plain in the
1980s: Agriculture's Last Stand 207
The Patterson Ranch
The historic George Washington Patterson home and ranch in Fremont*
California, provides the focus for this oral history project which explores
changing patterns of land-use in southern Alameda County over the past 130
years. George Washington Patterson was a forty-niner from Lafayette.
Indiana, who left the gold fields to settle on the rich alluvial plain
created by Alameda Creek, on the southeastern shore of San Francisco Bay.
He accumulated properties to form a 4,000-acre ranch in this area known as
Washington Township and an additional 10,000 acres inland in the Livermore
Valley. In 1877. he married Clara Haw ley and added on to his home to create
the Queen Anne style mansion that now is the centerpiece of the Ardenwood
Regional Preserve, a historic farm operated by the East Bay Regional Park
District on former Patterson ranch lands.
Since George Patterson's death in 1895, three generations of his
descendants have continued to oversee the ranch operations, sharecropped in
the earlier years by tenants who grew vegetable crops on family farms and
later leased to larger-scale and more modernized agricultural operations.
Agriculture continued to flourish on Patterson ranch lands while surrounding
lands succumbed to the pressures of urbanization from the burgeoning Bay
Area metropolis in the post-World War II population explosion.
The rapid urbanizations of the area brought with it inevitable political
changes. The several small unincorporated towns of Washington Township
Alvarado and Decoto; Irvington. Mission San Jose. Niles. Centerville. and
Warm Springs; and Newark incorporated into the three cities of Union City.
Fremont, and Newark in the 1950s. The Alameda County Water District, formed
to conserve the ground water for the area's farmers, expanded its operation
and its water supplies to deliver water to suburban customers. The Alameda
County Flood Control District channelized Alameda Creek, putting an end to
rich alluvial deposits, but making year-round farming and, most
significantly, housing development possible on the northern flood plain.
By the 1970s the Patterson family succumbed to development pressures and
began selling off major portions of ranch lands for housing development.
Their sale to Singer Housing of the lands surrounding the historic mansion
and its landmark eucalyptus trees precipated the controversy that, after
several years of lawsuits and negotiations, resulted in the creation of
Ardenwood Regional Preserve. In the 1980s, the family has organized into a
corporation with professional management from family members and has managed
the development process in accordance with a master plan that emphasizes
planned development and preservation of open space. Three regional parks
are on former Patterson lands: in addition to Ardenwood, the Coyote Hills
and surrounding marshlands are preserved, and in Livermore. the Del Valle
Regional Park stands in the middle of Patterson cattle lands. Adjacent to
the industrial park and the suburban housing tracts, lands still held by the
Patterson family are leased to a modern truck farm growing cauliflower,
lettuce, and specialty vegetables for Bay Area gourmets.
The Oral History Project
With a series of twenty-six interviews, the oral history project
explores the transformation of the Patterson ranch as a case study of the
complex evolution from agricultural to urban land use. The idea for the
project came from the collaborative thinking of Knox Mellon and Leon
Campbell. Dr. Mellon, former director of the California State Department of
Historic Preservation and professor of history, was assisting the Patterson
family to place Ardenwood on the National Registry of Historic Places. He
saw the potential for an oral history project and found ready support among
the Patterson family, particularly his friend and fellow historian, Leon
Campbell, who was part of the management team for Patterson Properties.
David Patterson, who has a keen interest in tracing family history, also
took a supportive role.
Dr. Mellon came to the Regional Oral History Office with his idea, has
worked steadily with us to formulate and direct the project, and has
served as interviewer and consultant throughout the three years to the
project's completion. Leon Campbell was instrumental throughout in
arranging funding and serving as advisor. Because of his ability to look at
the story of the Patterson Ranch with a historian's eye. as well as his
first-hand knowledge as a family member, he was asked to write the
introduction to the project, which places the twenty-six interviews in
As the planning for the project evolved, three main themes emerged, and
these are reflected in the organization of the interviews into three
volumes. Volume I focuses on agriculture and rural life on the northern
plain of Washington Township in the prewar years and on the agricultural
operations of the L.S. Williams and Alameda and Sons companies, the two
outfits which farmed on the ranch during the transitional period from the
mid-fifties to the present.
Volume II tells the tales of water, development, planning, and historic
preservation in the area topics seemingly diverse which are seen to be
closely interrelated in these histories. Volume III focuses on the
Patterson family, past and present. Two generations of family members
combine nostalgic looks back to rural childhoods with insight into the
processes of present-day property management by a family corporation.
Each volume has been enhanced with interviews completed on previous
occasions for other purposes, but ones which added so centrally to our
project that we requested permission to include them here. These include,
in Volume II, the interviews with William D. Patterson, son of George
Washington Patterson, on his work with the Alameda County Water District;
and Larry Milnes. assistant manager of the city of Fremont, on the city's
role in the negotiations leading to the establishment of Ardenwood.
Volumes I and III have interviews which were recorded in 1975 and 1977
by family member Donald Patterson for the family archive at the Society of
California Pioneers. These include the interview with neighboring farmer
William McKeown in Volume I and cousin William Volmer in Volume III. Donald
Patterson also recorded his own recollections on tape and later was
interviewed for the Society of California Pioneers by Stanley Bry.
Transcriptions of these tapes are included in Volume III. The project was
further enriched by the volunteer assistance of Bill Helfman. a Fremont
resident who recorded two interviews for the project. His interview with
Donald Furtado is in Volume I.
To enhance the reader's understanding of the interviews, illustrative
materials have been included. Maps of the southern Alameda County area in
1956 and 1987 are in the introductory pages for each volume. Family trees
of the Patterson and Hawley families are included in Volume III (pages 2 and
31). The 1981 town development plan for the Patterson Ranch is in the
appendix to Volume II. In addition, interview histories preceding each
memoir give specifics on the conduct and content of the interviews.
All of the tapes for the project interviews are available in The
Bancroft Library. Society of California Pioneer tapes are in their archive
in San Francisco. In addition to the transcribed interviews included here,
three interviews recorded for background information are available on tape
only. These are interviews with Dorothy Wilcoz Patterson, wife of Donald,
and Eleanor Silva and Mary Dettling. former housekeepers for the Henry
Many resources exist for research on the subject matters of these
interviews. The Society of California Pioneers has papers and business
records and photographs of the Patterson family. A guide to these papers, a
useful bibliography, and other information exists in Faces in Time; An
Historic Report on the George Washington Patterson Family and the Ardenwood
Estate prepared for the East Bay Regional Park District by Susan A. Simpson.
1982. The local history collection and the Grace Williamson collection in
the Alameda County library in Fremont is another valuable source. Their
collection includes many un transcribed oral history interviews with
individuals prominent in Fremont's history. The library of California State
University at Hayward also includes works on the history of the region. A
CSUH master's thesis in geography gives specific information about the
history of land use on the Patterson Ranch; it is based in part on a 1971
interview with Donald Patterson (Jerome Pressler. Landscape Modification
through Time: the Coyote Hills, Alameda County, California. 1973).
The diversity and the universality of themes explored in this series of
oral history interviews insure that they will be consulted by a wide
variety of researchers. They are intended to be of use to the East Bay
Regional Park District in planning and interpretation. They provide
information on the history of agriculture, particularly the loss of
agricultural lands to urbanization and the problems of farming in an urban
setting. They discuss the process of land planning from the perspectives of
city officials, developers, and property owners. They give an indepth
history of the Alameda County Water District and illuminate the role of
water in development. Finally, they provide a candid look at a family
business over four generations and give insight to the dynamics of
personalities and intra-family. inter-generational conflicts in shaping
decisions in family businesses.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
INTRODUCTION by Leon G. Campbell
The three volumes of interviews prepared by the Regional Oral History
Office of the University of California, Berkeley, dealing with the Patterson
family and ranch between the years 1851-1988, constitute a case study of
changing land use in southern Alameda County from the days of the first
Califomios to the present. George Washington Patterson (1822-1895) came to
California with the Gold Rush but remained to found an extensive farming and
ranching enterprise in Alameda County. Originally known as Rancho Potrero
cle los Cerritos (Cattle Ranch of the Hills), the 4.000-acre Patterson Ranch
has remained in family hands as an agricultural and livestock enterprise to
the present day. Under the ownership of George Washington's sons, Henry
(1878-1955) and William (1880-1961), the Patterson Ranch became a dominant
economic institution in southern Alameda County and the family an integral
part of the emergence of Fremont as a major Bay Area community.
Situated between the eastern terminus of the Dumbarton Bridge, which
connects Alameda County with the West Bay, and Highway 880, the Patterson
Ranch is a prominent feature of the East Bay landscape. Today known as
"Ardenwood-New Town" in honor of the Shakespearean title sometimes used to
describe the ranch. Ardenwood serves as the western gateway to Fremont and
the entire South Bay. Despite the fact that the planned district of
Ardenwood is less than four years old, the size and scope of the changing
land-use patterns on the Patterson Ranch resemble those taking place on the
Irvine and Bixby Ranches in southern California, where uninterrupted family
ownership has retained influence over time and throughout change.
Several important themes emerge from the various interviews contained
within the three volumes. Volume I, Agriculture and Farm Life on Fremont's
Northern Plain, chronicles the transition of the Patterson Ranch from a
family farm in the nineteenth century to a large-scale agricultural
enterprise operated by the L. S. Williams Company during the 1950s. The
several interviews of tenant farmers and Patterson Ranch workers covering
the period from approximately 1900-1950 constitute an excellent social
history of farm life in Fremont's Northern Plain. Collectively, the memoirs
of farmers and ranch workers not only inform about the Pattersons as owners
but as well provide a third-party perspective upon changing public uses
including the development of the Nimitz Freeway (1953), Alameda County Flood
Control Project (1965-70), and the dedication of Coyote Hills Regional Park
The oral histories in Volume I hint at subjects which Volumes II and
III treat more centrally, namely the immense changes taking place in the
area during the lifetimes of the individual interviewees, particularly
during the period following World War II. During the fifties and sixties,
southern Alameda County shifted from a rural to an urban orientation,
resulting in the incorporation of cities and the initiation of water and
flood control projects, as these new municipalities began to debate the land
and water use issues which had prompted their incorporation.
Volume I; Agriculture on the Ranch
The initial interviews contained in Volume I represent a broad sample
of ranch workers and tenant farmers who were closely associated with the
Patterson family during the postwar. As a group, they reflect the value of
family and neighbors and of traditional virtues associated with farming and
farm life. Quite apparent is the fact that these attitudes ran as deep in
rural Alameda County as in more traditional agricultural areas outside
California. Indeed, the Pattersons considered many of these individuals as
their extended family, sharing with them an ethic of hard work and
perseverance in the face of drought, flooding, poor crop years, and economic
uncertainty. The interviews also cover the transition from cattle ranch to
farming and provide important data on the presence of Chinese laborers,
Mexican braceros, and migrants of all nationalities who came to comprise the
ranch work force. Also recollected are recreational activities from horse
racing to duck hunting, the introduction of the tractor to Ardenwood, and the
life of the mind in a farming environment, particularly within the context
of the development of Stanford University and the University of California
at Berkeley where many of the early Patterson family members matriculated.
The second section of Volume I covers the more recent history of the
larger-scale L. S. Williams and Alameda family farming operations on the
ranch. In addition to providing an excellent overview of the agricultural
basis of the Patterson Ranch, this section chronicles the decisions to grow
various crops and the reasons for so doing, particularly the ability of
various crops to withstand increasing salinity levels as a direct result of
the ranch's location on San Francisco Bay and saltwater intrusion into the
These interviews also reflect the rapidly changing agricultural
orientation of northern California as East Bay farmland was converted to
housing and industrial uses and agricultural operations relocated into the
Salinas Valley, which in turn reoriented transportation and marketing
networks. Increasingly isolated from the large growers and packers in the
Salinas Valley, agricultural operations in southern Alameda have been forced
to either transship their produce to the Midwest and other areas by means of
refrigerated trucks or to diversify and reorient their production towards
local markets. Since 1984, the Alameda Company has shifted from
agribusiness to more of a diversified local farm operation. The Alameda
family operates at Ardenwood for only half the year, relocating to Arizona
and northern Mexico to grow cauliflower and lettuce during the winter months
on a more convenient and large-scale basis. These growers' interviews
provide an important case study of the decisions required when farming in a
community which is making a rapid transition to urbanization in a precarious
Volume III The Context for Rapid Postwar Development
Volume II. Water, Development, and Preservation in Southern Alameda
County, provides a more in-depth study of the dynamic tension between
development, preservation efforts, and the water projects which have all
impacted Alameda County during the period after 1945. The first-hand
account of Mathew Whitf ield, general manager of the Alameda County Water
District during the years 1953-1977, provides a case study of this process
of change in the East Bay. Whitf ield's vivid recollections, the longest
interview in the history, offer a fascinating study of family, water and
South Bay politics during the postwar period. Whitf ield's oral history may
well be the most important single contribution to the project, for the
actions of the Alameda County Water District in the 1950s provided the
foundation for the subsequent growth of Fremont and the Northern Plain.
Whitfield was a close associate of W. D. Patterson, himself a director
of the Alameda County Water District from its inception in 1914. whose
recollections, based on a 1955 interview on the subject, are also included
in this volume. Whitf ield's perspective on the 1950s, the period in which
the water district took a central role in planning for controlled growth,
provides a context for assessing the subsequent changes which would alter
Fremont and the Patterson Ranch thereafter. His reflections also touch upon
an important aspect of Patterson family history not treated in this project,
namely the events leading up to and including the creation of the Del Valle
Regional Park in Livermore, which was created as the result of state
condemnation of Livermore ranch land for the Del Valle reservoir. At one
time the Patterson Livermore Ranch in Alameda County complemented the
Fremont Ranch in an integrated farming-livestock operation. The Livermore
operation is not treated herein in any detail, but is an important component
of the history of the East Bay Regional Park system.
In addition. Whitfield provides an important perspective on the State
Water Project South Bay Aqueduct, which linked both Patterson ranches to the
future of water transportation projects. These decisions to import water
for groundwater recharge and the subsequent Aquifer Reclamation Program of
1974 to counteract saltwater intrusion were determining factors in the
continued agricultural development of southern Alameda County in general and
the Patterson Ranch in particular. This interview thus provides an
important complement to the Regional Oral History Office's series of oral
history interviews on California water issues and relates changes on the
Patterson lands to statewide water issues.
Another pivotal interview contained within Volume II is that of John
(Jack) Brooks, an important developer in southern Alameda County from the
postwar to the present and the primary planner of Ardenwood. Brooks's
recollections, because of his long association with the Patterson family and
his central position as a political force in Fremont, offer an invaluable
look at the city as it has emerged to become the fourth largest municipality
in the Bay Area. As Brooks makes clear, with the five communities making up
Fremont, the Northern Plain was always anticipated to be a sixth or "New
Town, " its name today.
Whether this concept of an urban area on the North Plain was
acknowledged by Henry and William Patterson before their deaths as Brooks
contends, it was apparently supported by William's oldest son, Donald
Patterson (1905-1980). who. as the oldest surviving Patterson son. assumed
management responsibilities on the ranch after 1961 under an informal
primogeniture (Henry Patterson's children were both daughters). Brooks
holds that Henry and Will Patterson had virtually agreed to enter a
development plan just before Henry's death in 1955. Subsequently, he
recollects that the city of Fremont had begun to insist upon cancelling the
Williamson Act. which had protected the Patterson family from future tax
increases as an agricultural enterprise, so that the Pattersons would in the
future pay their fair share of taxes.
Although Brooks understates his role in the process, under his guidance
and with Fremont's cooperation, Ardenwood was brought out of Williamson in
1981 and substantial parts of the Patterson Ranch were sold, initially to
the Singer Company and later to Kaiser Development Company and to Brooks
himself. No less important are Brooks's recollections concerning the advent
of a planned district concept and the complicated series of negotiations
which led to the creation of Ardenwood Historic Park and the preservation of
the George Washington Patterson House at its present location adjacent to
Highways 84 and 880. Brooks's interview also describes in some detail why
particular land-use decisions were made as they were and how a series of
urban villages were created to establish a residential new town and a
commercial and high technology center amidst a traditional farming
The interview of Dr. Robert Fisher also provides valuable background on
the politics of preservation involving Ardenwood. Fisher, the leading light
in the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation, describes from his viewpoint how
various interested local historical associations including the Washington
Township Historical Society, Patterson House Advisory Board, and Ardenwood
Regional Park Advisory Committee were all drawn into the question of who was
to control and implement what had belatedly been recognized as an important
historic and civic asset, namely, the Ardenwood Historic Farm and attendant
Victorian mansion which formed its centerpiece.
The recollections of Fisher and of Larry Milnes, assistant city manager
of the city of Fremont, provide a balanced view of how municipalities become
involved in the process of acquiring valuable assets for future
preservation, how these assets are administered, in this case through the
aegis of the East Bay Regional Park District, which also operates Coyote
Hills Regional Park adjacent to the site* Besides corroborating Brooks's
reflections on the Ardenwood process. Milnes's interview describes how
decisions were reached over the often controversial questions of deciding
the focus and implementing the historical theme. Milnes also depicts, from
the city's perspective, the evolution of the Patterson Ranch from
agriculture to mixed use.
Following the gift of forty-six acres, including the family home, to
the city of Fremont by the Patterson family in 1981. the city consulted the
State Office of Historic Preservation in Sacramento to verify Ardenwood's
historic value. This in turn led to the city and the Patterson family
petitioning the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington,
D.C.. to have the ranch placed on the National Registry of Historic Places,
which was accomplished in 1985. Since then, the historic farm has become an
increasingly popular tourist attraction featuring demonstration farming and
the recreation of nineteenth century farm life.
In sum, this volume treats the interrelated themes of water projects,
municipal formation, planned district development and historic preservation
within the context of Fremont politics, 1950-1988. It would be naive to
contend that the issues delineated have all been resolved or to deny that
choices forced upon the various groups involved have not produced bitter
disputes. Nevertheless, these interviews, offered by the primary surviving
decision-makers in each area, provide basic data about the campaign which
transformed the Patterson Ranch from a sprawling agricultural enterprise
beset by regular flooding and other natural hazards into a Planned Urban
From the Patterson's perspective, however, a view no doubt shared by
Fremont and EBRPD, pride is taken in the fact that a large portion of the
Patterson Ranch has been converted to public use, first for the Nimitz
Freeway in 1952, then for the flood control uses proposed by Alameda County,
and later by the dedication of large tracts of permanent open space,
including both the Coyote Hills Regional Park and the Del Valle Reservoir
and Park in Livermore as well as the most recent dedication of the Ardenwood
Historic Farm now operated by the Park District. The Patterson family's
strong advocacy of open space preservation is reflected in the creation of
no fewer than three East Bay Regional Parks on Patterson family lands and a
substantial portion of the acreage within the planned district being
dedicated to public use* This distinguishing feature of Ardenwood, like the
better known Irvine and Bixby Ranches in southern California, for example,
is intended to provide for the needs of future generations and is a part of
the continuing stewardship of the Patterson family management group.
Volume III: The Family Recalls the Past and Confronts the Future
Volume III, The Patterson Ranch, Past and Future; The Family's
Perspective, is devoted to the reflections of the third and fourth
generation of Patterson family members. The variety of these interviews
reflect the quite different personalities and temperaments of George
Washington's two sons. Will and Henry, who apparently contemplated a
division of their undivided landholdings prior to their deaths, a decision
which was never consummated. It was traditional in most large landowning
families for the eldest son to assume management responsibilities following
his father's death. This was true in the case of George Washington's eldest
son, Henry, who succeeded him in 1895 at seventeen years of age and
subsequently with Will Patterson's oldest son. Donald, who assumed
responsibility for ranch management in the period after 1961. Donald
Patterson's interview, taped by the Society of California Pioneers prior to
his death in 1980, provides interesting observations on both his father and
grandfather and the nature of their lives at Ardenwood.
Perhaps the most insightful observation corroborated by many others in
these volumes was the respectful and cooperative relationship between Will
and Henry Patterson, who "never had a disagreement" and consulted one
another on every major decision to be made concerning the ranch. Although
the two sons differed in temperament and personality and were not what one
might call close, they accommodated these differences pragmatically, with
the quieter Henry running the ranch and his more outgoing brother Will
dealing with the public. Their mutual respect and deliberate way of
reaching consensus decisions in addition to their division of labors, both
running the ranch and defending the ranch's interests in the South Bay.
resulted in a profitable landhold. Ardenwood dominated the regional
agricultural economy through the production of row crops (lettuce,
cauliflower) and other high quality produce. Will and Henry were excellent
farmers, good businessmen, and outstanding citizens, who extended and
consolidated their father's agricultural presence in southern Alameda County.
The interview of David Patterson, Will's youngest son. who assumed
management responsibilities for the ranch following the death of his older
brothers, Donald and John (known as Jack), provides a frank assessment of
the difficulties which a family agricultural enterprise faces when it
suffers the loss of its patriarchs in a period of transition. During the
period in which Donald Patterson ran the ranch, Henry's daughters. Sally
Patterson Adams and Marjorie Patterson, were not actively involved in
decision-making, this role having been assumed largely by John Brooks, a
real estate developer who was close to Donald Patterson and both anticipated
and orchestrated the development process.
The interviews with Donald's sons, George and Wilcox, provide
considerable information concerning the ranch and their father. None of
these memoirs, however, sheds additional light on the process of decision-
making between the city, the Pattersons, and John Brooks, although it is
likely that the public records of the period (1980-1984) would be helpful to
historians interested in understanding the development process. The next
stage of land use clearly mandated turning over of substantial portions of
the ranch for residential development as rising land values and the shortage
of available land for homes resulted in a new Fremont and a transformed
Following Donald Patterson's death in 1980, David Patterson continued
to manage the family farm as the city entered into a development agreement
with Brooks. Despite serious rifts within the family, which included an
abortive attempt by two of William Patterson's grandchildren to bring suit
against their family to obtain the value of their undivided interest in the
ranch property, the family held firm against this challenge. When the two
young people hired the nefarious Melvin Belli to sue the Patterson family
and were defeated in court (1981). it prompted the Pattersons to move
rapidly to incorporate as Patterson Fremont Management* Inc.. (PFM) and to
set up a series of limited partnerships to manage the land in order that one
or more minority family members could not, through undivided ownership, lay
waste to the family's plan for future ownership and management of the
property. It was this incident which convinced the Pattersons that the days
of consensus decision-making as it had existed with Henry and Will had
ended, By 1982 the Patterson Ranch had converted to a true business
or ganiz a ti on.
Interviews of Sally Patterson Adams and her husband. Dr. John E. Adams,
shed light not only on the personages of Henry and Sarah Patterson but also
provide an alternative recollection on how decisions were reached during the
1960s and 1970s, as the transition was made from agriculture to development
by individuals and forces outside the family. Sally Adams provides an
intimate portrait of growing up at Ardenwood. John Adams, an ardent
preservationist, casts a skeptical eye on the chain of events which led to
the ultimate transformation of the ranch, contending that the demand for
change was orchestrated by a prevailing coterie at City Hall rather than by
population dynamics or other inexorable forces. Adams clearly believes that
the ranch could have continued in farming had the family been given the
opportunity to make this choice through timely dissemination of information
and discussion of alternatives to development.
Interviews by the fourth generation of Pattersons are informative for
their explanation of the transition from ranch management by individuals
towards a corporate form of business organization. Bruce Patterson provides
insights about his father. Jack, as well as the strongly independent natures
of the U. D. and H. H. Patterson families. In this regard, interviews by
the fourth generation of Pattersons make clear that the testamentary
dispositions of their grandfathers, William and Henry, as well as their
parents, has resulted in a current generation of Pattersons spread
throughout the state and country, of different economic means and lacking
common objectives for Ardenwood. This, in turn, has resulted in growing
differences of opinion stronger than those developing during the tenure of
the third generation. The implications of land being sold to outside
developers and the first cash distributions to family members both raised
expectations and produced further disputes, rather than silencing them.
Certain limited partners began to question the decisions of those family
members serving as general partners and to urge a liquidation of remaining
ranch assets. In general, these disputes follow family lines.
Interviews with other members of the PFM Board include those by former
president Robert Buck, a Patterson son-in-law and attorney who currently
serves as PFM's legal counsel. Buck provides yet another perspective on the
events leading to the Ardenwood development, particularly the Kaiser land
sales and the creation of the Patterson Properties business enterprise
during the 1980s.
Leon Campbell, another son-in-law serving as PFM's executive vice
president, recounts how he and Buck were called upon to assume management
and investment responsibilities for the Patterson family. As the vast,
undeveloped acreage appreciated in value, situated within one of the most
rapidly growing parts of the Bay Area, they completed tax deferred
exchanges, putting the family into income-producing properties which PFM
managed and operated. As they assumed their posts in 1985, Buck and
Campbell were increasingly called upon to mediate between decisions which
had been made prior to the Pattersons' complete awareness of a political
process which had developed apart from them and future policy issues which
loomed ahead, such as those of wetlands, the subsidization of agriculture,
and the Town Center development.
These business recollections are paralleled by those of Donald
Patterson's other son, George Patterson, who provides a sensitive internal
history on the family at Ardenwood, and Abigail Adams Campbell, daughter of
Sally Patterson Adams, on her grandparents, Sarah and Henry Patterson.
Taken together, the several interviews by the fourth generation of
Patterson family management underscores the dichotomy of events which have
transpired in Fremont's North Plain during the period since 1980 and
particularly since 1984, when the initial land sale to Kaiser Development
Corporation was instituted. Hardly conclusive in their entirety, these last
interviews restate the younger generation's perspective on their fathers and
grandfathers, as well as their own perceptions about the rapidly changing
nature of the real estate which they have been requested to monitor in the
future. These changes have rendered the personal managerial tradition of
the Patterson family largely unworkable, although considerable nostalgia for
the "old ways" still exists, which often precludes certain limited partners
from adhering to a general partnership organization. In many ways the
family runs each other rather than running a business, a not uncommon aspect
of organizations with strongly paternal origins. The challenge ahead will
be to forge a new consensus to accommodate an era promising even greater
alterations in the Patterson Ranch and the East Bay.
Conclusion and Acknowledgements
In conclusion, this oral history of the Patterson family and ranch.
1851-1988. has much to contribute to the general history of southern Alameda
County and is particularly informative on the transitional years between
1945 and the present, which are largely omitted in the historical
literature, by drawing on the reflections of those who were the primary
actors during those years.
The Regional Oral History Office of The Bancroft Library at the
University of California, Berkeley, has provided an ideal method for
understanding the linkages between the Patterson family, its agricultural and
ranching enterprise, and actions taken by city, county and state
organizations in response to the pressures of rapid urbanization occurring
in the East Bay during the postwar period. These interviews with the
surviving senior members of the Patterson family and key individuals
associated with the family agricultural and business operations over the
past fifty years not only underscore the enormous changes taking place in
the area during the lifetimes of those interviewed, but they also indicate
how and why these changes were implemented. Often it appears that matters
of great significance were reached by informal agreement rather than formal
debate both within the family and perhaps outside of it. These interviews
reflect a simpler time, prior to the advent of citizen-sponsored initiatives
and environmental impact reports* a period when many leader* shared common
assumptions concerning the value of growth and development to
municipalities. Few could have comprehended the scope of growth which was
to transform the Bay Area so dramatically during the postwar period and the
reactions which it would produce.
The Patterson family is proud to have its history included in The
Bancroft Library's treasury of interviews with major figures in the history
of California and the West. The three-volume oral history project
represents a substantial historiographical advancement towards the
'evelopment of a comprehensive history of the East Bay and its progenitory
1 should like to thank the staff of the Regional Oral History Office at
Berkeley, particularly Division Head Will a Baum and Project Director Ann
Lage, for the dedicated effort which they have made in bringing this project
to fruition through the recording, transcription and editing of these
interviews. The trained oral historians on the ROHO staff, whose careful
research and sensitive interview techniques are clearly manifest throughout
the project, have clearly set the tone for the entire project. My long-time
friend. Dr. Knox Mellon, former head of the State Office of Historic
Preservation in Sacramento, who skillfully directed the nomination of the
Ardenwood Regional Preserve to the National Register of Historic Places, has
also been pivotal in finalizing this project. Dr. Mellon 1 s liaison as a
consultant to the Regional Oral History Office and ROHO's strong ties to
state and local historical groups both assure that the project meets
specific needs as well as serving the larger scholarly community through the
questions it raises and the information it preserves.
This oral history project substantially advances earlier studies
carried out by the East Bay Regional Park District, which were designed to
analyze the property exclusively in terms of its archaeological
significance. By recording the reflections of two generations of Patterson
family members about life end work on the Patterson Ranch, the project also
relates centrally to the history of Fremont and to the entire East Bay which
otherwise might be lost forever.
Through the incorporation of interviews with members of the Patterson
Ranch labor force, water district officials and a broad spectrum of Fremont
city officials and politicians, as well as interviews with other key
individuals now deceased, recorded earlier by the Society of California
Pioneers, and interviews with individuals charged with the stewardship of
the remaining lands of Patterson, this oral history project anticipates a
full history of the Patterson Ranch and the South Bay. The subject should
be of future value to scholars interested in urban planning, land use
decision- making, agricultural history, the process of municipal formation
and water issues, matters related to conservation and historic preservation
as they pertain to the East Bay and, of course, the political matrix in
which these issues are situated. In this regard, this project, which deals
with life, land and politics on the Patterson Fremont Ranch, exceeds the sum
of its parts.
The personal and financial support of several individuals and groups
also made the project possible. Financial sponsorship of the project has
been provided by the East Bay Regional Park District, the Brooks Family
Foundation, the City of Fremont, the Oliver De Silva Company, the Alameda
County Water District, and various members of the Patterson family,
especially David and Joan Patterson. Dorothy Patterson, and the J. B.
Patterson Trust. David and Joan Patterson have been steadfast in their
determination to preserve the history of the Patterson family over time and
have supported this work at every juncture.
The present project goes well beyond the Pattersons to focus upon the
Patterson Ranch during the years in which it was transformed from a rural
agricultural enterprise to the Ardenwood planned community. A "Mew Town"
both in concept and in fact. Shakespeare's idyllic Ardenwood may be an
elusive metaphor masking the difficult choices that changes in land use
Leon 6. Campbell
Executive Vice President
Patterson Fremont Management. Inc.
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY, 1956
from the 1956 Alaireda County map
California State Automobile Association
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY, 1987
from the 1987 Alameda/Contra Costa map
California State Automobile Association
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
Dairying on the Patterson Ranch
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright fc) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
RLIFORNIR n ILK CD
Dairy on Patterson. Ranch, managed by Fran
Borghi's father and uncle in the 1920s,
SCENES FROM THE BORGHI DAIRY ON THE PATTERSON RANCH, 1948
Frank getting ready to round up the cows
Frank and employee feeding hay to co\
Frank and employee putting milk machine
on cow for 4 P.M. milking
Frank and friend
TABLE OF CONTENTS Frank Borghi
INTERVIEW HISTORY Ib
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION lc
I BORGHI FAMILY DAIRIES le
Family Roots in Italy le
Dairies on the Patterson Ranch 3
Family and Schooling 4
Dairy Workers from Switzerland and Portugal, 1930s-! 950s 6
Milk Buckets. Pipelines, and Increasing Costs 9
II THE PATTERSON RANCH AND FAMILY 11
Growing Up on the Patterson Ranch 11
Boyhood Memories of Cattle Herding 13
Henry Patterson A Considerate Landlord 14
Will Patterson, the Water District, and Water Problems
at Ardenwood 16
III COMMUNITY SERVICE 20
School Board Member 20
Service on the Alameda County Water District Board 21
Family and Later Career 22
TAPE GUIDE 41
INTERVIEW HISTORY Frank Borghi
This first volume of interviews in the Patterson Family and Ranch Oral
History Project focuses on agriculture and rural life on the ranch and in
surrounding areas for a period of more than ninety years. One of the uses
of the westernmost portion of Patterson Ranch lands was dairy farming; over
the years, several dairies leased land and buildings in this area. Frank
Borghi, the subject of the following interview, lived on dairies on the
Patterson Ranch for over twenty-five years* from his birth in 1924 to 1950.
when he moved his dairy to nearby Newark. He worked on his father's dairy
as a youngster and operated his own, in partnership with his uncle, from
1940 until 1964, when the increasing costs of operating in a suburban
setting forced him to give up the dairy business.
Mr. Borghi gives a picture of growing up on the rural North Plain and
describes the dairy farm operation in some detail the workers from
Switzerland and Portugal, the impact of the Depression, the changing
technology of milk production. He recalls Henry Patterson as a considerate
landlord concerned with the welfare of ranch tenants and Will Patterson as
less involved with the ranch operation but active in the Alameda County
In addition to his dairy farming, Mr. Borghi has an impressive record
of community service in southern Alameda County. Like William Patterson, he
has served for many years as director and president of the water district.
He has also been trustee for two local school districts and president of the
Union City Chamber of Commerce. In 1958 he received the Junior Chamber of
Commerce outstanding young farmer award.
Mr. Borghi was interviewed on April 6, 1987, at his home in Union City,
California. His wife, Elva Mae. was present during the interview and was
also a project interviewee because of her childhood connection with the
Patterson Ranch. Mr. Borghi reviewed the transcript, making no substantive
changes, and supplied a number of photographs which document the dairy
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
(Please print or write clearly)
Your full name
Date of birth c/ "" <JL ^ ~jP-y Place of birth X/4/
Father's full name /TrOs'/T J0$1 f <P/ EorQ/ /
Mother's full name j3<?S5/f
Birthplace X^AJP/- . C& .
Occupation Hotfff tt/i f&
Present community i/ f / 0d / < L/
Where did you grow up ? C C/V Tf^ 6 / // - /UftiJA >~/f
^ / < L/
Cr~d C/uA If O / Md Th/ JS</<i/J M/^Jl
Special interests or activities -d^f*
. AS feu
I BORGHI FAMILY DAIRIES
Family Roots in Italy
[Date of Interview: April 6. 1987] ##
Lage: Mr. Borghi, Tell me something about your family, where they're
from, how long they've been here in Washington Township.
F. Borghi: My grandmother came to California in 1890. In 1900. or shortly
before there, she was married, and they dairied in the
Calaveras area just above Sunol, California.
Lage: Where did your grandmother come from?
F. Borghi: She came from Asti. Italy. My grandfather came from Cant<
Italy; it's an area known for furniture making.
Lage: Were they in a farming community in Italy, do you know?
F. Borghi: My grandmother was. and I always remember her telling us about
these castles and how the people in the country surrounding the
castle would bring all their food to this castle. It was
interesting reading of the history of Europe and Italy, that
her stories coincided with the readings that I had at school.
Then my mother was born in 1897. and she passed away in
November of '86.
Lage: She had a long life.
F. Borghi: Very much so.
##This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 41.
Lage: Is this your mother's side of the family we're talking about
when you tell me about your grandparents?
F. Borghi: My mother's side.
Lage: What was your mother's maiden name?
F. Borghi: My mother's maiden name was Borghi also.
My dad came to California approximately around 1911. He
came from the same town that my mother's father came from.
Cant 4 Italy. He was a wood carver, his mother was a school
teacher, and his dad had spent a great deal of time in South
America. They bought quite a bit of property in Italy; they
have apartments, and so forth, that are still owned by the
Lage: So you have some ties. Do you keep in touch?
F. Borghi: Yes. I've been to Italy approximately seven times.
Lage: Your father came here as a woodworker?
F. Borghi: Yes. but after he was here two months he worked for a livery
stable, horse stable, where they rented horses out. and then he
bought the stable out himself, and he operated the stable. He
knew my grandfather so when the horses needed a vacation, when
they were tired, he would bring the horses out here to my
grandparents' dairy in the Decoto area. In 1902, I believe it
was, or 1903, the city of San Francisco had bought up all this
land in the Gal av eras area above Sunol and built the dam up
there. So my grandparents had to move their dairy, and they
moved out to the Decoto area approximately in 1903.
Lage: Your grandparents on your mother's side?
F. Borghi: Yes. Then they dairied out here off of W hippie Road.
Lage: Do you think your mother and father were related somewhere back
in Italy, since they both have the name Borghi? It might have
gene way back.
F. Borghi: No, they're not related. As much as I can find out, there were
two Borghi families, but they were not related. Could be maybe
way back, but it's a common name like the Portuguese names like
Rose, and Silva, Azevedo.
Dairies on the Patterson Ranch
Lage: Did your father go into business, then, with his in-laws? Or
did he stay in the stables?
F. Berghi: He stayed in the stables, and then the automobiles and trucks
came along. I believe he had rented his horses to the
telephone company, and when they started buying trucks,
eventually that forced him out. He went down to Fresno and
worked in a dairy down in Fresno. There was a creamery in San
Francisco called California Milk Company, and they bought this
dairy on the Patterson Ranch, and I forget who they bought it
from, and they asked my dad if he would manage this dairy.
This was about 1922. So my dad managed it for approximately
three years or so. and then he bought a dairy just on the south
side of Jarvis Road, which is just south of Ardenwoed. there,
and still on the Patterson property. We leased approximately
two hundred acres from the Pattersons. Then my uncle became
manager of the California Milk Company. That's located where
Mel Alameda and his sons have their operation yard
Lage: The cauliflower operation?
F. Borghi: Yes, the yard is down there. In fact, I have a picture that we
would like you to look at of the older dairy, showed all the
milkers, and so forth, and I believe that was taken in about
1924, and I may want to donate that to the Ardenwood Historical
Lage: So there was the California Dairy, and that was managed by your
F. Borghi: Yes, and that operated till approximately 1929, when the
California Milk Company sold out to the Golden State Milk
Company. My uncle got married that year, and went on a tour of
Europe, and returned in 1930. Then he went into a partnership
with Vierra brothers on a dairy on Marsh Road; that was still
on the Patterson Ranch. In approximately 1940 my uncle bought
out the Vierra brothers' part in the dairy, and we operated
that dairy till 1950.
Lage: Did you kind of operate it together, your father and uncle
F. Borghi: No, it was always separate. So my uncle operated that dairy
till 1950, and due to the fact that the cost of feed was
getting higher here, we moved that dairy over in the Newark
area where there were better facilities and so forth. It was a
larger facility because we were milking more cows. The
F. Berghi: Pattersons had been very fair with us, they never raised the
rent, or anything. In fact, when we moved off the property
they gave us the last six months rent free on the properties.
My dad operated his dairy from 1924 to approximately the
mid-fifties. My mother and my dad separated in 1940. But I
recall the depression years when the milkers were paid a dollar
a day, and the men that did the field work would be paid from
the first of March through the first of November, the other
four months they would just work for their board and room. I
remember those days vividly.
Lage: Where did you live? Did you live in that area?
F. Borghi: Yes, I lived on the dairy that's south of Jarvis Road. In
fact, the lane into our dairy is the same lane that now goes
into Ardenwood. Now the subdivision there is known as the
Family and Schooling
F. Borghi: I remember my brother and I, we both liked school very much.
We went to Washington High School. In fact, my mother had
brought us on a tour of Europe in 1938, and then we both
entered school in 1938. We were active in sports.
Lage: Let me just get a few dates and names. When were you born?
F. Borghi: I was born on February 22, 1924.
Lage: Okay. And at that time your father had the dairy on the
F. Borghi: Yes. we had the dairy at that time.
Lage: What was the name of the dairy?
F. Berghi: Berghi Dairy.
Lage: And how about your uncle's dairy?
F. Borghi: Well, he went under the name of Borghi and Vierra, and then
later it became the Franz o Borghi Dairy. The first dairy that
they were involved with was the California Milk Company.
Lage: Let's get your parents' names down.
F. Borghi: My dad was Frank Borghi, and my mother was Bessie Borghi. I
have a brother Henry Borghi. and I go by Frank Borghi. Junior.
Lage: Any sisters?
F. Borghi: No sisters, just the two of us.
Lage: Then you say you started school here in Washington Township?
F. Borghi: Yes. I went to the one-room school. Lincoln School, through the
sixth grade. Then I went to Centerville Elementary for the
seventh and eighth grade. Then I went to Washington High
School. I graduated in '42; my brother graduated in '42 also.
He went on to the University of California, where he became a
chemical engineer, and he was also an excellent football player
when he attended the University of California. He played in
the Rose Bowl.
Lage: It's been a long time since Gal's played in the Rose BowL,
F. Borghi: You can say that again. [Laughter] As far as myself, my
education terminated when I finished high school. Then I went
to work with my uncle and became associated with his dairy.
That was in approximately 1943. I worked with him. and I
managed his dairies until 1964. when we finally sold out.
There was one other dairy left in Washington Township.
Lage: Se you're going to have a lot to tell me about the dairy
F. Borghi: Very much so.
Lage: I hadn't realized you had been that involved with it yourself.
F. Borghi: Yes. In fact, I received an award what was the title,
E. Borghi: You were outstanding farmer of the Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Lage: When was that?
E. Borghi: That was about twenty-six, twenty-seven years ago.
F. Borghi: Approximately 1960.
Dairy Workers frem Switzerland and Portugal. 1930s-1950s
Lage : You started to tell me about some memories from the thirties,
and I think that would be a good place to begin. What do you
remember as a boy on the dairy?
F. Borghi: Some of these things I remember quite vividly, as I pointed
out the employees working for a dollar a day, and some of the
employees just working for their board and room. I always
looked forward to the summer months because my mother would
allow my brother and I to eat lunch with all our employees, and
of course, during those years, we would board-and-room our
employees. The majority of our employees then came from
Switzerland; they were Swiss-German, and we could never learn
their language. These men worked every day, they never had a
day off or vacations. Finally in the mid-thirties they
received a day off a month, and it gradually increased to two
days, and so forth.
Lage: Did most of them come directly over from Switzerland?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Specifically to work here?
F. Borghi: To work here on the dairies.
Lage: Did you have some tie to Switzerland?
F. Borghi: Well, net so much, the ties were with the employees that we had
employed, and they had their friends, and they would mention to
them that it was a good dairy where the employers fed their
employees real well, because sometimes you would work in those
days and the meals were very skimpy. Of course, we always had
plenty of food for all our men.
Lage: Most of them were single men, then?
F. Borghi: Yes, they were single.
Lage: Did they intend to go back to Switzerland?
F. Borghi: Yes, some did, some married, and some went into in the dairy
business themselves. Some of the men we helped get started.
I also remember the sugar beet fields out there, and the
tractor lifting the beets, and then mostly Filipinos that would
top the beets, and they would load them on these trucks, and
they would bring them to the sugar mill here in Alvarado. I
remember in 1932, the year of the Depression, that I wore a
F. Borghi: size seven hat* and some of the tomatoes were so large that
they wouldn't even fit in the hat. Not a tomato was picked out
Lage: They just had no market for them?
F. Borghi: There was just no market at all.
Lage: Did the Depression hurt the dairy business quite a bit?
F. Borghi: Yes, in fact, the creamery we were shipping our milk to. I
believe, hadn't paid us for about three months, and I'll always
remember they had a meeting. There were approximately thirty
or forty dairymen there, and they wanted their money for three
months. They held out there from ten o'clock in the morning
till about ten o'clock in the evening. The rest of the
dairymen were in a very difficult situation of losing their
cattle, and everything. My dad and another gentleman by the
name of Jack Stadler were very successful, and the rest of the
dairymen always asked for their guidance. Finally Mr. Stadler
and my dad relented, and they received a one-month milk check
rather than the three months. We never were paid for these
other two months.
Lage: Was it a local creamery?
F. Borghi: It was in Oakland, at that time it was Hagstrom's Creamery.
Lage: Did you sell mainly to local creameries?
F. Borghi: Basically we sold to Hagstrom's till approximately 1934. and
then my uncle and my dad and seme of the milk truck drivers
that were involved with the California Milk Company in San
Francisco started the Golden West Dairy, with distribution in
San Francisco. Then we began sending our milk to this plant.
That plant operated to approximately, oh, I would say about
1955, and then it merged with People's Dairy, and then after a
number of years they sold out to Borden. Then Borden began to
get their milk from the San Joaquin Valley, so then for the
last, I would say, four years we shipped our milk to the Piers
Creamery in Palo Alto.
Lage: About hew many laborers were employed by your dairy, or did
this fluctuate a great deal?
F. Borghi: When we had my dad's dairy, we had approximately eight men
working full time. Then we went to milking machines, and when
we were milking well, actually, we were milking on two
dairies, so we were milking approximately five hundred cows,
F. Borghi: and we had approximately twelve employees between both dairies
at that time. Towards the last eight years or so my uncle had
two dairies, after my dad sold out. we had two dairies.
Lage: Were they employed year-round, or was it seasonal?
F. Borghi: Yes. they were year-round, and after 1940 we had all married
employees; it was very difficult to keep single men at that
time. So it was much more economical for us to keep married
Lage: Did you have them living on the dairy?
F. Borghi: Yes, the majority all lived en our dairy; we had housing for
Lage: Why is it more economical to have married people? You don't
F. Borghi: Yes, if you don't feed them, you don't have to have someone to
cook for them, and so forth.
Lage: They had their own homes?
F. Borghi: Yes, but basically by having married people the men would stay
with us for a considerable length of time. In fact, when we
sold the dairy over in Newark, after we had moved from the
Patterson Ranch, we had some employees there for ten and twelve
years. It was interesting, after the forties we no longer .had
Swiss milkers. We had Portuguese milkers because it seemed
like Portuguese brought their family with them. Then I learned
how to speak Portuguese.
Lage: So even as late as the forties you were having new immigrants
F. Berghi: Oh, yes.
Lage: I thought the Portuguese in the area went way back.
F. Borghi: Definitely Portuguese came here at the turn of the century, and
the majority of the dairies here were Portuguese. But we had
employees, I remember, in the late fifties, that we were hiring
directly from Portugal. There's still quite a few immigrants
coming from Portugal. Now they go directly to these farms in
the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, they have these fiestas, or
holy ghost days, and when you go to one of those, you won't
hear a word of English. [Laughs]
Lage: How about the Italian community? Did it keep its language
F. Borghi: Basically out here the majority of the Italians were involved
in vegetable gardening. There wasn't that many Italian
families; in fact, it was until the sixties, I think, before we
had our own Italian club out here. That's when the residential
areas grew up out here.
Lage : So it wasn't a big Italian farming community?
F. Borghi: No, it was basically a Portuguese farming community, and
dairying, and so forth.
Milk Buckets, Pipelines, and Increasing Costs
Lage: What changes did you see over the years in dairy equipment?
When did the mechanized milking come in?
F. Borghi: Oh. it was in 1940 because it was difficult to keep milkers,
and so we started putting in milking machines then. We never
did go into the pipelining, although. I believe there was only
two dairies in this whole area that went into milking directly
Lage: You're going to have to explain that to me.
F. Borghi: For example, in a barn they had thirty cows to a string, so you
had this milk line that goes where your stanchions are, and
then you have your electrical hook-up there, and you hook up
this milking machine, and then it attaches to the udder of the
cow, and the milk would go directly into this pipeline, and
then into the milk house where they had a cold-wall tank where
you keep the milk at approximately thirty-eight to forty
Lage: I see. What's the alternative if you don't use the pipeline?
F. Borghi: If you don't, then in between every two cows you set an eight-
gallon milk bucket, and so you could easily milk both at the
same time, or you milk one, and then you switch over to the
ether, and it pumps the milk into this bucket. So basically it
was more advantageous to us to do it that way. There was some
disadvantages with the pipelines because of the fact that they
were still experimenting with them. The milk was pumped up to
about, oh. approximately four and a half feet, where now the
pipelines have been put about a foot above the floor so that
it's a lot better having the milk moved by just a good gravity
flow, rather than being pumped up. If I had to continue in
the dairy business, I would have gone to the pipeline system.
F. Borghi: But it was a question of us moving down to the valley, the San
Joaquin Valley. My family, Elvamae's mom and dad, they lived
in this area, My mom was getting along in years, and so I
stayed in the community. I had a lot of ties I was on the
school board, I was a member of the water board, I had been a
fire commissioner, I was involved in flood control, in the
formation of the junior college. There was a lot of good ties
that I had.
Lage: Tell me why you had to make that choice in the sixties. What
was it that kind of forced you out in 1963?
F. Borghi: Really what forced us out was the cost of producing milk here,
bringing all our feed supplies in from the San Joaquin
Lage: So yeu lest the support systems?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Before did you get your feed from local ?
F. Borghi: Yes. from the local area. And also, the cost, for example, of
leasing property became a problem. We were with the Heath
Estate at that time, and there was some discussion then of
developing their properties.
That was in Newark?
F. Borghi: Yes. so it was a good opportunity for us to sell out. Now. the
property where we were located is where they have that big
Mowry shopping center.
Lage: It would be nice if you had owned all that land.
F. Berghi: Yes. Well, the amazing thing of it is, that there was 365
acres, and in 1950 we had the opportunity to buy that property
for approximately $160.000.
Lage: You didn't take it?
F. Berghi: No, although my uncle and my dad owned properties in the
Almaden Valley in San Jose. It's amazing, we leased property
here, but we bought property in Santa dara County.
II THE PATTERSON RANCH AND FAMILY
Growing Up on the Patterson Ranch
Lage: Let's try to focus new on the Patterson Ranch area. When was
the end of the dairy work there?
F. Borghi: The end of the dairy there was 1950. Again, basically, as I
pointed out. we were just milking too many cows for the
facilities. We were in need of a storm shed, and Patterson had
leased the property very reasonable te us. We knew that it was
just a question of time because vegetable farming was far more
lucrative to the Pattersons than the dairy would be. We just
didn't want to confront them with the problem because they had
been very fair to us over the years.
Lage: How long did your uncle stay on at the Patterson Ranch?
F. Borghi: The same time. We were in business together from 1920 to 1950.
Lage: You grew up living on the Patterson Ranch then?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Although it's not part of the ranch that's preserved at
Ardenwoed, is it?
F. Borghi: It was where the Lake is now located, that would be south of
Jarvis Road. If you're going down Jarvis, the Lake is halfway
between the freeway and Newark Boulevard. It's a large
subdivision, just south of Ardenwood Park.
Lage: So you were fairly close to where the park is now?
F. Borghi: Yes. oh, right across the Dumbarton  freeway. I would say
within three quarters of a mile. The lane that comes from
F. Borghi: where we had our farm would go right into the Patterson
property, where the Ardenwood home's located now.
Lage: So that's the area where you grew up?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Now what was it like being a bey in what must have been wide
open space. No Nimitz freeway?
F. Borghi: No Nimitz, it was wide open. I remember my brother and I had
chores. We had to feed the calves when we were young. As we
grew up, we later started milking the cows, and in the
summertime some of the men would want some vacation time or
days off. so my brother and I would do some of the milking. We
cut hay, we would load hay, load sack feed.
In fact we always used to look forward, because down at
Arden Station, off of Marsh Road, they would bring in carloads
of grain, and we would hook our horses up to the wagons, and we
would go out there. We had a truck, and the horse and wagons,
and we would load twenty tons of sacks that weighed 100 pounds
each. We looked forward to doing that. As I pointed out. we
looked forward also to going to school. On Sundays we would
always have some sort of baseball game going with our men. Or
on a sunny afternoon we would go out and watch the Oakland Oaks
or the San Francisco Seals. That was our only entertainment.
But then we had to come back in the evening and milk these
Lage: You had a lot mere responsibility than kids de today.
F. Borghi: Yes. very much so.
Lage: Was achievement in school stressed by your family?
F. Borghi: Yes. They stressed it to a certain point, but we enjoyed going
te school. There was competition between my brother and I.
Lage: Which one was older?
F. Borghi: I was. I was nineteen months older than my brother.
Lage: But you had competition for grades?
F. Borghi: Yes, always. He was a little smarter than I was.
Lage: That's hard if you're older and he's smarter. [Laughs]
E. Borghi: May I interject? Did you miss a few football practices because
you had to come home and milk the cows?
F. Borghi: Yes. sometimes we had to.
Lage: Se your family put the chores at home as the number one
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: That's what I hear from others, toe. I interviewed Ruel Brown.
Were you a contemporary of his?
F. Borghi: Yes, I remember Ruel. Not so much him, but I remember his dad,
and another gentleman named Henry Martin. They were the ones
that would build the fences in the fall of the year.
Boyhood Memories of Cattle Herding
F. Borghi: That's another thing, when we were young, we would always look
forward to the fall of the year. The Pattersons had a large
herd of beef cattle, and in late September they woul^ bring
them down from the Livermore hills, down Niles Canyon, along
Mission Boulevard, and Decoto Read, into Jazvis Read, and then
down where we were. These cattle would feed on the beet tops,
and then later on the tomatoes, and then approximately at
Christmas time they would herd them back into the mountains.
Lage: So they had a group of cowboys?
F. Borghi: Yes. they did, they had an excellent herd of beef cattle.
Lage: Isn't it amazing, it wasn't really all that long ago?
F. Borghi: Ne, it wasn't. It seems like it was yesterday; a let ef times
I think about it.
Lage: And you never see something like that today, a herd of cattle
coming down the road. [Laughs]
F. Borghi: That's right. In fact, when we were en the Patterson Ranch, it
was amazing that we rented property from the Heath Estate, then
we get involved in the Heath Estate again, but between
Irvington and Warm Springs there was approximately a thousand
acres of pasture land down there. We would truck the cattle
down there, but then in the fall of the year, we would herd
them up Fremont Boulevard, and along Cook Road, then down
Blacow Road, and over to Marsh Road, and then on to our farm.
Se we used to look forward to doing that also.
Lage: Was that as a boy, or did you do that later?
F. Borghi: No. as a boy. Later it became a little toe populated. But we
did that up to the forties, and then we had better equipment.
so then we could do our transporting with our trucks.
Lage: You must have enjoyed it. or you wouldn't have gone into the
F. Borghi: Oh, very much so.
Lage: It was something that you liked?
F. Borghi: Yes. I don't know if it was brought to your attention, but
Zwissig Brothers, or the Zwissig family, in the early 1900s.
and I would assume up till about 1918. would bring their cattle
down to the Patterson Ranch and out towards Coyote Hills. They
would milk the cattle in that area out there. Then in the fall
of the year they would return here in the Deceto area. (The
Zwissig Dairy was located west of the Masonic home along
Lage: So they used the ranch as a pasture area?
F. Borghi: Well, they had a lot of green feed, so cattle did very well.
It was very economical pasture land, and so they operated the
dairy there. I don't know if it had been brought to your
Henry Patterson A Considerate Landlord
Lage: Did you know the Patterson family through these many years?
F. Berghi: Well, yes, I remember Henry Patterson quite well. Every day he
toured through the ranches, and sometimes he would stop and
talk to me. In the summer, when they had fruit, he would tell
me that I could go down and pick some fruit off of his trees.
In those days we would pay our rent every six months, and so
when we would go down and pay our rent I remember my dad would
always tell me, "You sit in the car because these are very rich
people, and they don't want a lot of noise around here, you
knew." So my brother and I would sit in the car, and he would
go in and pay his rent.
We really looked up to the Pattersons, very nice people,
considerate people. I know that some of the people that leased
properties from them during the Depression, they didn't have
any income off their crops, and the Pattersons would not
collect any rent from them. They were very considerate people.
Lage: You mentioned they kept the rents down.
F. Borghi: Our rent never changed, I think from 1924 to the fifties; I
don't recall our rent changing at all. That was one of the
reasons that we were sort of embarrassed to ask them to make
improvements and so forth, knowing fully well that dairying was
going out in our area, and it was far more economical for them
to lease their properties to the people that were growing
Lage: Was your arrangement that they put in the improvements; did
they build the buildings you needed?
F. Borghi: Oh. yes. they built all the buildings and everything.
Lage: They built for your workers and everything?
F. Borghi: Well, as far as I can remember, all the buildings were already
there. In fact, when I was baptized in 1925, we had a large
barn there for grain and hay. and it had a hardwood fleer. In
1925 my parents had something like four hundred people as their
guests. There was a big barbecue, and they had a dance band
and everything. They did the same thing for my brother in
1926. Then again in 1933 we had just a big party for friends
from San Francisco and Oakland, a big beautiful barn, beautiful
Lage: I never think of a barn with a hardwood floor.
F. Borghi: Hardwood floor, yes.
Lage: That was in the same area that we're talking about?
F. Borghi: Yes, in the Lake area of the Patterson Ranch.
Lage: Did you yourself, as you got into the managing the business,
have connection or dealings with the Pattersons?
F. Borghi: The only connections sometimes he would tell me or my uncle
that seme of the farmers would be using the water, and he would
appreciate it if we could work out seme arrangement, maybe
water at nighttime so we would net interfere with the farmers
that were growing vegetables. But we never had toe much
occasion to really sit dewn and discuss things. My uncle was
the one that would go over to his residence every six months.
I had my activities managing the dairies.
Lage: It sounds as if things just went along very smoothly. He
didn't interfere in your operations
F. Borghi: No, Mr. Patterson never interfered at all.
Lage: I've heard stories about his sort of making the rounds of the
ranch. Would he come around to the dairy?
F. Borghi: Yes. this is what I've mentioned earlier I'll always recall
that every day maybe around ten o'clock or so in the morning,
you could expect him going though all the properties. He
enjoyed looking at the properties, and sometimes he would stop
and talk to my dad, ask how things were going, and so forth.
The only thing that I can remember about his children I was
too small to remember, but my mom said that when they were
going to college, and the kids, I guess they had brought their
friends down, and they had a big party, and then they came down
to the dairy, and they wanted to know how they could milk a
cow, so they had them down there squirting milk around, and
they said I was small, and they were squirting milk in my face.
Will Patterson, the Water District, and Water Problems at
F. Borghi: New Will Patterson I remember Will as more of a shy person.
Will was more active with the [Alameda County] Water District
and community activities. He wasn't as active as Henry was.
In the later years after Henry passed away. I think at that
time we had moved over to the Newark
Lage: Henry died in '55.
F. Borghi: That's right, in '55. so we had left in the early fifties, so I
really don' t recall that area.
Lage: Then you didn't deal with the sons?
F. Borghi: No. we didn't deal with them. Will, as I said, he was more of
a shy person. From what I can gather in the water district he
served forty-five years, twenty-two years as chairman of the
beard. He was actually a general manager because he was the
first member of the board and knew a great deal about running
the district and so forth. It wasn't until approximately 1950
when Mr. Whitfield came along, who had the technical experience
[that Mr. Patterson could step back]. Before that Mr. Richmond
was a general manager, but Mr. Patterson handled the operation
as far as contracts and things of that nature. We were very
fortunate to have a person of that type.
It was ironic last Thursday at the Ardenwood regional
park, the Alameda County Water District commenced pumping the
well located near the Patterson house. They have been having
problems with the well there on the park property. I have been
F. Borghi: very much concerned with the quality of water, and the cost of
putting in a well there would be approximately $75.000. and the
well they have new can not be used to water the crops.
Lage: It's too salty?
F. Borghi: Yes. So what we did. we're cooperating with the East Bay
Regional Park, and we're pumping that well because our program
to improve our underground aquifers has been very successful
through this whole area. What's happening is we're forcing the
high chlorides out towards the bay. We feel very strongly that
after pumping this well, we can get these chlorides down.
Chlorides have been dropping in all our wells; we've been able
to clear up the underground strata. So I was very happy that I
was able to press the button here because Mr. Patterson served
so many years on the board, and now I'm able to carry out some
of his ideas.
As I look back again, in 1924. when my dad first leased
properties of Patterson, we could pump water at twenty-five
feet. By 1939 we were down over three hundred feet, about
three hundred and fifty. When the Pattersons dug these new
wells, the first hundred feet were cemented so there wouldn't
be saltwater intrusion. So now that has served two purposes.
One of them is that it hasn't allowed industrial contaminants
to enter the underground aquifer. For example, in Santa Clara
County, they've had this problem. So that our underground
aquifers are not contaminated, we have been sealing off the
wells as development comes in. In fact, we've sealed a number
of the wells on the Patterson property. Some of the wells that
were drilled before 1939 just had a well casing. When that
well casing rusts, and if it's in an upper strata and it has a
lot of chlorides, the water goes into your lower strata and
just contaminates everything.
Lage: Is that why the water is salty there?
F. Borghi: Yes. We overdrafted the basin from pumping, the water level
kept going down, down. We have about four or five aquifers
here, so the water from the upper aquifers, when the water
table went down, and if these well casings were broken, it
would just go right into your lower aquifers.
Lage: And contaminate the lower ones?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Mr. Whitfield told me about the various programs to get the
salt water out and pump the fresh water in, and then I couldn't
understand why, at the Patterson Ranch, they were still having
trouble, why those programs didn't work at the Patterson Ranch.
F. Borghi: Well, it has worked. It's amazing; there are wells all around
the Ardenwood where the Patterson home is, and in those wells,
the chlorides are low. As I pointed out, the salt intrusion
was up as far as the Alameda Creek; our percolation area is out
here in the Niles area. These aquifers are in layers, so as
the fresh water percolates down it gets into these aquifers,
and it forces the salt water out. So basically what we've
done, we've forced all the salt, or the high chlorides, below
the Nimitz Freeway, so in everything below the freeway, there
may be some pockets of water with high salt content. What
happens is this pocket is there at Ardenwood. In fact, we put
piezometers around Ardenwood Park to test the water. Within a
half a mile north Newark has a park, and they have a well there
with very excellent well water for their park. And the
Ardenwood Park well is the only well that has high chloride.
Lage: I see, so it's a very localized situation.
F. Borghi: That's right. I went down to the park about three weeks ago
with our staff. They thought there was only four wells in the
area, and there was five wells. One of these wells that they
had completely forgotten about was drilled in 1915. It's down
about 125 feet, and we know the casing is bad in it and so we
cemented that one, and there's another one that we cemented
also. We put these piezometers in so that we can test the
Lage: What is a piezometer?
F. Borghi: It's a small hole, about two inches, that's drilled down 300 to
500 feet. Actually, it's a test well, so we can test the
water. In the one that's down at five hundred feet, they found
thirty-five parts of chlorides, so that's just about like
pristine water. That's just excellent, you know. Then at 250
feet we're up at seven hundred parts, see. Now by pumping this
well here we have these three piezometers at different
locations, and we can tell if the chloride starts dropping at
some of these spots, then we know we're going to be successful.
If it doesn't drop, then we know that there's a problem there.
It could be the salt ponds they were about a mile and a half
from the park and there could be seme wells that were not
sealed, and water can constantly drop in there.
But. see, what's happened here is that here about five
years ago it was at about two hundred parts, and now we're at
seven hundred parts; it gradually went up. So it's the feeling
of our staff, and basically mine also, that what's happened is
that the water with these high chlorides gradually pushed its
way into this area here. We really don't know what's under
from The Daily Review. April 3, 1987
Carol Radovan . staff photo
Bruce McKinstry takes the carriage horses through a practice run'in preparation for the'season opening.
Water problem may be licked
By Carolyn Penn
FREMONT A plan to reopen
Ardenwood Regional Preserve's wells
by pushing salty underground water
back toward the bay was put into action
Two of three wells were sealed this
winter, when park officials conceded de
feat in their ongoing battle against salt
But the Alameda County Water Dis
trict refused to give up and has begun
pumping salt water from one well, al
lowing fresh water to return to the lay
ers of sand, rock and clay beneath the
Water district board president Frank
Bo- ghi Jr. grinned broadly as he pushed
the big green button to activate the
pump Thursday. The water district's as
sistant manager, James Beard, cau
tioned that it will take 90 days to
determine whether the reclamation well
can actually banish the salt water
' But water and park officials were
East Bay Regional Park District Di
rector Lynn Bowers watched the salty
water flow into the drainage ditch with
visions of 125 cultivated acres dancing in
"What this pump means for the park,"
Bowers said, "is that we can run a real
farm here now, not just a Disneyland
"With our own well, it will be econom
ically possible to cultivate our own pro
duce. We'll se'. up a roadside produce
stand. And we'll cultivate all this acre
age with the kind of row crops people
planted 100 years ago."
Well water had previously been too
salty for the crops. The park has been
paying residential rates for district wa
ter and limiting its annual cultivation to
The aquifer reclamation well is part
of the water district's 25-year war
against salt water intrusion of under
ground streams, a battle the district is
very close to winning, Borghi said.
Project director Curt Ireland estimat
ed the cost- of the reclamation well at
$10,000. But if the project is successful,
the park district will save the $75,000 it
costs to sink a new well.
"It's getting tougher and tougher to
find sites to sink reclamation or moni
toring wells," water district manager
Roy Coverdale said. "So we're very hap
py about this cooperative effort"
F. Berghi: there. But we're very hopeful that we're going to be
successful, and we have a pocket also in the Heath Estate area
off of Mowry Avenue in the Newark area.
Lage: Does the salt water affect the Alameda farming operation? Or
do they have a good well?
F. Borghi: Their wells are good, they have about five or siac. and they
sprinkle, using a sprinkling system. At Ardenwood, they flood-
irrigate. If you flood, you have mere of a tendency of
bringing up that salt, where if you're using the sprinkler
system, or drip irrigation, you're net using as much water, and
there isn't that tendency of bringing up your salt. Because
what's happened, also, is that our program is so successful
that we're bringing the chlorides up to the top, see. because
the higher your water table comes, it forces your salt out. So
the Alamedas are successful because they've been able to use a
Lage: Okay. I think we've pretty well covered things, unless you
have more recollections about the land, or any other
F. Berghi: Well, like I mentioned, some of the highlights were doing the
chores, going te school.
Lage: Did you get to ream around any? Did you go down te Coyote
F. Borghi: Yes, sometimes we would go out there because we had pasture
land out there for our dairy cattle, so I would go out there.
At that time there wasn't the willows; there was some willows,
but it would flood in the winter months, but then in the summer
it became grazing pasture, and so forth.
Lage: Did your land flood when you ran the dairy?
F. Borghi: It didn't flood until the year we moved out. In 1950 we moved
out, and that winter we had our dry stock there, and we had six
inches of water in the barns. But the other dairy out here
never flooded. But that was the only time that I've seen water
en that property. There was six inches of water in our cow
Lage: Pretty substantial. That was a big year, I gather.
F. Borghi: Yes, there was a lot of rain that year. That was in April; we
talk about April floods, and there was actually April floods.
III OOMMJNITY SERVICE
School Board Member
Lage: Tell me how you got so involved in community activities. Was
the water board your first?
F. Borghi: No. my first activity was a fire commissioner. I was in the
Chamber of Commerce, and then the fire chief asked me if I
would like to serve as fire commissioner, and so I did. Then
the high school I didn't think that they were doing a good
enough job of public speaking, that's why I'm not an excellent
speaker, and I thought that they could improve their college
prep courses and so forth.
Lage: Was this based on your own experience, then?
F. Borghi: Yes. my own experience. My wife was my campaign manager before
I got married, and I was elected to office, and it was a
challenge. We built four or five high schools while I was on
Lage: How long were you on the board?
F. Borghi: I was on the beard thirteen years.
Lage : During a period of real growth.
F. Borghi: Yes. Four high schools were built, and a fifth went out to
bid. We had a lot of interesting challenges, and we improved
the educational program. We were one of the first districts to
have nighttime counseling and night libraries, and actually
full-time counselors. We were one of the first districts in
the Bay Area that provided medical coverage for our teachers
and our classified employees. When I proposed this the first
year, the certificated employees wanted a three- hundred-del lar-
a-year raise instead of the medical benefits, and the
F. Borghi: classified, they followed my suggestion and they accepted the
medical benefits. The following year the teachers came and
asked me if this was possible.
Our educational programs were highly visible; we had
districts throughout the state that came and visited our
school. Also I was in the forefront in dropping the class
periods, teachers were teaching six periods a day, and we went
down to five periods.
Lage: Sounds like you were an advocate for the teachers.
F. Borghi: Yes, I was. Of course, my cousin was a teacher, and she became
a teacher in our district, my uncle's daughter, and then I
learned later that my grandmother had been a school teacher.
It was interesting also that some of the tests that I had taken
in school when I was a junior and senior, the direction was
that I should go into teaching. It's just fantastic.
Lage: Do you have any regrets that you didn't take that direction, or
maybe you had enough being on the school beard?
F. Borghi: Well, we can't look back, you know, we always look forward. I
have one boy who now, I think, is going to go into teaching,
and we have another nine teen- year- old boy that we've tried to
direct in that direction.
Service on the Alameda County Water District Board
Lage: You became a member of the Alameda County Water District Board
F. Borghi: In February of 1962.
Lage: And how did you happen to run for the water board?
F. Borghi: I didn't run for the water board. I was appointed. They wanted
representation from Union City, from the northern area of the
district. Tony Enos, who did all the pump work in the
Patterson properties, had a hardware store and did electrical
work and pump repair. He suggested that I should serve on the
board, and I assumed that he had talked with a number of board
members, and they knew my interest in water, and basically
also, I was involved in the Heath Estate Dairy there, and they
knew I had an interest in water conservation.
By serving on the water board I nearly lost a lot of my
farm friends because a pump tax was approved by the water
F. Berghi: district board, and I know that with Elvamae's father, they
would ask him. "What's wrong with Frank, we've put these wells
in. and now they want to charge me for the water." Basically
what was happening was that the water was going bad in all
these wells due to salt intrusion, and the only way we could
improve the wells and continue the farming, and also the
development of the area, was to bring water in. Because we
brought this water in, and the development, these farmers sold
their property for some large sums of money. I know that
there's times now they sort of look at me sheepishly because if
it wasn't for me. they wouldn't be millionaires today.
Lage: That's an interesting perspective. So you came on sort of as
a representative of fanners?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: But found yourself looking forward to the changing community?
F. Berghi: Yes. Of course I would like to see things remain as it was in
the forties and fifties, but time changes, and I would like to
still see some open space out here, and I'm very impressed with
what they're doing with Ardenweod. I sort of kidded one of the
directors. Lynn Bowers, at the Regional Park, that they should
have a small dairy on the farm there, because really, if these
youngsters were to see a cow being milked, they have to travel
for over an hour. They could grow up and never see a cow.
Lage: It seems to me they could do that there. It would fit in,
wouldn't you think?
F. Borghi: Yes, Lynn thought it was a good idea.
Lage: Well, we'll see if they carry through on that. Maybe this
interview will be a little help for recreating the dairy.
F. Berghi: Well, maybe when I retire maybe I could help them get a little
dairy started there.
Family and Later Career
Lage: Tell me what you did when you left the dairy business.
F. Borghi: When I left the dairy business I went into veterinary sales,
and that lasted about two years. I was still serving on the
Washington High School Board that covered the Union City area
when the unification committee, which I was part of, recommended
F. Borghi: that we form the Fremont-Newark unified area and Union City.
Se I came to work for the New Haven Unified School District,
and I'm in their transportation department, and now I'm a
driver trainer with their transportation department.
Lage : You train ?
F. Borghi: The school bus drivers.
Lage: I see. So that's a long way from running a dairy.
F. Borghi: Yes, and basically, also, my sons were growing up and I was
involved in Little League, and so forth, and I enjoyed being
around these young people. It was close to home, and my wife
and I were fortunate during our early marriage on the dairies
and so forth that we invested our money properly. If we had to
live on our salary off the school district, there's no way we
could send our youngsters to school.
Lage: You have two boys?
F. Borghi: Three boys. We have one that's thirty-three, and one that's
thirty, and the youngest is nineteen.
Transcribed by Alexandra Walter
Final Typed by Shannon Page
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
ELvamae Rose Berghi
Girlhood in a Patterson Ranch Farm Family
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright (c) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
FRANK AND ELVAMAE BORGHI
Photograph by On Site Photo/Graphics
TABLE OF CONTENTS Elvamae Rose Borghi
INTERVIEW HISTORY 26
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 27
A Homesite on Patterson Property for a Dollar a Year 28
Visiting the Patterson Home 29
Helping Out on the Rose Family Farm 30
Other Families Leasing Land on the Ranch 31
The Three- Room Family Home 32
Memories of Henry and Will Patterson 33
Meeting Frank Borghi 34
Mere Recollections of Tenant Farming 35
Schooling and Career A Domestic Engineer 38
Recalling the Floods and Open Spaces 38
TAPE GUIDE 41
INTERVIEW HISTORY Elva Mae Rose Borghi
Elva Mae Borghi was born in 1932 and raised in a three-room house on
the Patterson Ranch, Her father. Clarence Rose, farmed on land leased from
the Pattersons, who had allowed him to move his house onto a ranch site
near Alameda Creek in return for a payment of one dollar a year. Her
father left farming in 1948 but continued to live on the ranch until the
Mrs. Borghi vividly remembers visiting the Patterson home as a child
and recalls Henry Patterson as a kind and generous man who always had candy
for the children and who forgave his tenants' payments during the difficult
Depression years. She tells of other Patterson Ranch tenants and describes
the farm operations, the floods, and childhood experiences in the open
spaces of the Patterson Ranch during the 1930s and 1940s.
Mrs. Borghi was interviewed on April 6, 1987, at her home in Union
City. Her husband. Frank Borghi. had been interviewed previously that
evening; his interview precedes hers in this volume.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
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Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720
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A Homesite on Patterson Property for a Dollar a Year
[Date of Interview: April 6, 1987]
Lage: Mrs. Borghi. let's start out with some information about your
family. I ran across a reference to a Rose on the Patterson
Ranch in 1899. Was that part of your family?
E. Borghi: No. it isn't, That was probably very close to my husband's
dairy, the Rose that you're speaking of.
Lage: Bill Rose.
E. Borghi: Bill, and Frank. There was another brother that was an
attorney. I don't know his name.
Lage : So that 1 s another common name.
E. Borghi: Yes, they were very good friends. In fact, each summer we
would go and pick their fruit, and they had a lot of peach
trees, and plums, and figs, and they were very generous in that
area. But my grandparents came over from Portugal in the
1880s. My dad's mother was Mary Rose, and his father was Frank
P. Rose, and they were farmers, but they had their own
property. My dad [Clarence Robert Rose] grew up on a farm.
Lage: In this area?
E. Borghi: In the Alviso district, which is now north Fremont. He came
from a family of five. He had two brothers and two sisters,
and they had cows right en their little farm, and horses. He
met my mother well, they were married in 1931. My mother [Mae
Bertha Rose] was a city girl; she was from Hayward. She got on
a horse one day when they went on a family picnic, and she kicked
the horse wrong, and she took off and landed on a haystack. So
that's the kind of city gal she was. [laughs] Her parents also
came from Portugal, from San Miguel; my dad's parents were from
Fial. My grandfather on my mother's side was a shoemaker in Hay-
ard; that's how he took care of his family, he was the town shoe
maker. My grandmother, naturally, didn't work. She came from
E. Barghi: a family of eight. Beth my mother and dad came from large fami
lies, and I am an only child. My mom and dad got married in
1931. I was born on August 31. 1932. Then my dad began farming
at the Patterson Ranch; when he got married, he left his family.
Lage: Oh, I see, he had been farming on his family's farm.
E. Borghi: Yes. Then he had a stepdad, and there were a few family
problems, so when he got married his grandmother had left him a
three-room home on the family property. But there was a little
family friction, and again Mr. Henry Patterson was such a fine
man. and he took a liking to my dad. so he told my dad he could
move his three-room house onto a piece of property which is new
the corner of Lowry and Fremont Boulevards, by the creek.
Lage: Was that east of the 880 freeway?
E. Borghi: West of 880. It was kind of a triangle there. I would say
maybe it was an acre and a half or so, and it was by the creek.
In fact, my dad and my friends watched the levee every winter
because it would break, and we could get flooded out. So they
really couldn't grow any vegetables there.
Lage: Because of the problem of flooding?
E. Borghi: Of flooding, yes. Like I say. he took a liking to my dad, and
he said. "You move your little house on to that property, and
you pay me a dollar a year." And that's what my dad did
because he started with absolutely nothing. He had this three-
room home, and he was getting married, and he was going to
lease some property from the Patterson brothers. So he did. I
believe at that time they worked on commission so much that
they got for the crops, then the Patterson brothers took the
commission, accordingly. However, as I grew up I remember
there was some very, very bad years, and they didn't charge any
rent at all. They were very, very caring people.
Lage: Was the dollar-a-year for the property to live on? To put the
E. Borghi: Yes. it was just because the house was on their property, and I
think it might be some legality for paperwork, but he did pay a
dollar a year.
Visiting the Patterson Home
E. Borghi: An interesting thing I remember is I loved to go with my dad to
the Patterson home to pay the rent because it was like a
mansion. It was, you know, such a big. beautiful home, and I
E. Borghi: lived in a little three-room home. Se you can imagine my eyes,
you knew, it just really
Lage: Did you have to wait in the car tee?
E. Borghi: No. I didn't. Today's the first time I had heard that, because
being a little girl, my dad would take me with him. and I would
really look forward to that. But if he would talk too long, I
would ceme out in the front yard and swing en the swing they
Lage: On the porch or out on the grass?
E. Borghi: On the big tree, it was a rope and wooden seat swing. It was
en this huge tree, and I can remember that so vividly. When
Ardenwood had their dedication, that's the first thing my
husband and I noticed, they did not have the swing en the tree
that the Pattersons had all these years. So my husband and I
have been talking about the fact we would like te donate one,
because this was really outstanding, in eur minds, if it works
in with the plans.
Helping Out en the Rose Family Farm
E. Borghi: My dad grew sugar beets, corn, peas, tomatoes, and I remember
very vividly that the help was kind of scarce, and we really
couldn't afford to hire too many people.
Lage: You didn't have a big family of boys.
E. Borghi: That's right. So I can remember when I was about ten, I just
loved driving the truck while they would load the boxes of
tomatoes on the truck, and I would go with him te the cannery
and wait in line for hours and hours. I was the apple of my
dad's eye, and I was like a little boy at the time. I would go
out along with him, and do these things, and go te the sugar
mill in Alvarade.
Lage: Was that unusual at that time fer the girls te do the farm
E. Borghi: I don't recall seeing very many girls with their dads, no, but
I would see a let ef the young boys with their fathers. I
sacked potatoes with my family. We had the big barn in back of
the house, and my mom used to sack potatoes, pick peas; my mem
worked out in the farm too. My dad was not too successful as a
farmer. I mean he did a good job; it was just in bad times. I
believe about 1948 one ef the field representatives from Hunt's
Foods cannery, where he used to sell his tomatoes, came out and
E. Borshi: offered him a job as a field representative because he was s
knowledgeable in the farming business. So he did take it then,
He left the farming about 1948 and went to work for Hunt
Lage : So you were there from '31 to '48.
E. Berghi: Yes.
Other Families Leasing Land en the Ranch
Lage: Then the other Rose family that I heard about, who stayed on
later in the fifties, that was the family you're not related to?
E. Berghi: No. we're net related to them.
F. Berghi: Now I don't remember them staying to the fifties, that Rose
family, but I remember that we bought the dairy, or the cattle
from Rose in 1923 er so.
Lage: It could have all been different Roses. You say it's such a
E. Berghi: Could be.
F. Borghi: So I don't recall any Rose family in the fifties. The Lewis
family were farmers there. Tony Lewis farmed the Patterson
Ranch for years.
Lage: Who else do you recall during that time? Do you recall a
Chinese family that farmed ?
E. Berghi: Oh. yes. We used te visit yes, they were right off of the
Marsh Read. Weren't they in the little house?
F. Berghi: Yes. Cheng was, but Feng was right across by our dairy. I
always remember Henry Feng.
E. Berghi: Yes, I wouldn't know their names, but I do remember going in
F. Berghi: Yes, I remember that clearly.
Lage: I was contacted by a Dr. Feng, who heard about the project and
wanted me to interview his cousins, who he said lived on the
F. Berghi: I would like to have their addresses, because I haven't seen
I went te school with Henry Fong.
Lage: Now this would have been on the ranch. Henry Feng.
F. Borghi: Yes. right across the dairy on Marsh Road.
Lage: And then what was the other Chinese family?
F. Borghi: Cheng.
Lage: Were they also on the ranch?
F. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Well. I haven't been able to arrange an interview with them.
E. Berghi: Oh. that's too bad, You mean they're not cooperative?
Lage: I contacted one member, and then we've been working en it,
trying to get them all together, have a reunion. They seem
reluctant. I don't know if they have unhappy memories, or what.
F. Borghi: Possibly unhappy memories because the Feng's home was
E. Borghi: Yes, it was a little shack.
F. Borghi: It was a shack, that's what it was.
E. Berghi: One of the outstanding memories I have is my mom being a city
girl, all her friends would say. "Oh. being en a farm, this is
wonderful!" You know, they would just come down, and when it
was corn season, they would come down and pick corn in the
field, and husk it, and cook it, and that's all they would
want. They would just sit down and have a corn party, and when
it was time for the peas to be picked, they didn't want my mem
and dad to pick the peas, they wanted to come down and pick
them, and they would shell them, and they would cook them. I
mean, it was just a real party for them.
The Three-Room Family Home
Lage: How did your mother feel about being on the farm?
E. Borghi: As I recall the story, she wasn't toe happy about it at first,
and it wasn't very a prosperous farm, so she did go to work.
She worked for F. E. Booth at a cannery, and then she worked
for Leslie Salt, and then later, as I got older, she worked as
a cafeteria worker at Washington High School where I also
Lage: Se it was hard times in the farming business while you were
grew ing up?
E. Borghi: Yes, it was. Then when my dad did go to work for Hunt
Brothers, just to shew you what a very kind man Mr. Patterson
was, he told my dad that he could still keep his house there,
even though he wasn't working on the land. Then probably about
1956 or '57 my grandmother passed away, and my dad inherited
seme property. Se he moved his home over to his property. By
then he had expanded, and remodeled, and added en to it.
Lage: So he picked it up and moved it again?
E. Borghi: Just picked it* in two pieces, because he had added onto this
home, and you knew, the home is still at the same place right
now, and it's the same home. It's at the corner of Darwin and
Fremont Boulevard. My dad passed away in 1979, my mom sold our
house in 1981 or '82, and it's been sold a second time now. In
fact, I think the Fremont Ambulance is occupying it now. But
it was just a cute little home with a cyclone fence around it,
with roses in the front, tree roses, and it was a very well
kept little home. So my dad did very well at Hunt's, and he
was a buyer for tomatoes and cucumbers, and he knew the local
farmers, so it was good for him and he enjoyed it because he
still was working with the crops and all.
Memories of Henry and Will Patterson
Lage: That sounds like a nice move. Do you have any other memories
of Henry Patterson? Did you used to see him "surveying the
E. Borghi: Yes, I do remember him surveying the estate; of course, I was
probably about ten years old at the time. But I do remember
him. He liked children, he would always have candy for us when
we would go there. I don't remember his wife that much, I
don't know if she ever came to the scene when we would ge and
pay the rent, but he was a very, very generous man. I can
always remember when things were very bad that my dad would
comment about Mr. Patterson and his not taking rent, or the
dollar-a-year arrangement, and when he left to go to Hunt
Brothers, not charging him, you knew, a bigger fee for the
Lage: That's nice to have on the record. We have a few references to
the fact that the family took a liking to some of the young
people and sent one or two of the children to school. I heard
that. But I hadn't heard about these business arrangements.
E. Borghi: Yes. well, he took a liking to my dad. and evidently he knew
the situation with him and his stepdad. and he just kind of
took my dad under his wing. So as a child, this was really
outstanding in my mind.
Lage: How about Will Patterson? Did you see anything of him?
E. Berghi: No. I heard my dad talk of Will, but I don't recall seeing Will
Lage: He wasn't involved in the day-to-day operation as much?
E. Borghi: Not that I recall, no.
Meeting Frank Borghi
E. Borghi: Then I met my husband in 1949. which was ironic, because he
used to go right down past our house to his dairy for many
Lage: But you didn't know each other through that?
E. Borghi: No, I met him when I sold him a ticket to the Alameda County
Fair. I was running for queen for the fair. I sold him and
his mother some tickets, and he asked me to a football game.
We went to one football game, and then I asked him to be my
escort at the coronation because I did win as the Alameda
County Fair queen. I was the first queen of the Alameda County
Fair. It wasn't a beauty contest; I just sold the most
tickets. [Laughter] But my husband stood me up; he didn't show
up that night can you imagine I still married him? This is en
tape too. huh? [Laughter]
F. Borghi: Everyone knows about it. too. [Laughter]
Lage : What were you doing that night?
E. Borghi: He was probably milking the cows. [Laughs]
F. Borghi: Something came up at the ranch, and I just couldn't get away;
it was embarrassing.
E. Borghi: So when we were dating (he failed to say also) we used to go to
the dances at the Newark Pavilion that was the place to meet
all our friends and we would leave early because Frank would
have to come in and get the cows out of pasture so they would
be ready to milk at three-thirty or four in the morning.
Lage: When would this have been when you went to the Newark Pavilion?
E. Borghi: This was in 1951 and '52. We were married in '53. and then we
moved. I moved to Union City, in fact to this home here, which
his mother built for us. So I have lived, born and raised, in
a radius here of about five or six miles. I haven't moved from
Lage: You've seen a lot of changes?
E. Borghi: Yes, we certainly have, yes.
More Recollections of Tenant Farming
Lage: Anything else you recall about the farm operation, or other
tenant families whose names we might get down?
E. Borghi: I was trying to think of some of the tenants down there, and I
F. Borghi: What's the name of Vargas, his wife's maiden name?
E. Borghi: Ernie Vargas and Isabelle?
F. Borghi: Yes, what was it, Isabelle, I'm trying to think of her maiden
name. We'll find out what Isabella's maiden name. Then there
was Faria, there was a Faria that farmed out there for years.
E. Borghi: In fact, we had a little cultivator that was at my mom's place.
That was used at the Patterson Ranch. I wonder if it's still
there, I would like to have had that. My dad had his horses,
you know, of course, the horses pulled the little plows, and
the cultivators at the time.
Lage: So in the thirties you were still using horses?
E. Borghi: Yes.
Lage: Did they switch over to the tractors while you were there?
E. Borghi: Oh, yes, then my dad got a tractor, yes.
Lage: Do you remember when that would have been?
E. Borghi: Oh, well, I imagine he had his tractor in about the forties,
the early forties.
Lage: Were you aware enough to knew who he sold his crops to?
E. Borghi: Oh. he sold to F.E. Booth, and to Hunt Brothers. He sold his
sugar beets to the sugar mill.
Lage: Mainly local places?
E. Borghi: Oh, yes, local. He didn't have the equipment
Lage: I interviewed Gene Williams of L. S. Williams Co.
E. Borghi: Oh. yes, well he was a big farmer.
Lage: And he was shipping east.
E. Borghi: Yes. My dad was on a smaller basis. He had his own truck, and
he hauled his own crops to the cannery.
F. Borghi: When Gene came in and farmed, he was always very successful.
Tony Lewis's farm through the Depression was successful also,
and we were successful in the dairy operation; we were very
successful also. But some of the smaller farmers, they're in
the same situation as the family farm is today. The going is
just difficult for them because their operation is so small;
you really have to have a large operation.
Lage: Tell me more about Tony Lewis. He had a big operation on the
E. Borghi: Yes. then he had that beautiful home in Fremont.
F. Borghi: Yes. on Peralta. New his brother just passed away not too long
E. Borghi: And John passed away several years ago. too. yes.
F. Borghi: But there has to be some relatives of Tony. I'll have to look
E. Borghi: Well, Bob Dutra's wife. Elaine Lewis, is a niece. Bob Dutra
the realtor in Fremont, his wife is a Lewis, a niece.
Lage: But would she have been aware of the operation?
E. Borghi: Oh, I'm sure, yes.
F. Borghi: I would suggest if you talk to her about this
E. Borghi: She may know where the children of Tony are.
F. Borghi: Yes, about her uncle's farming. Then there was a King that
farmed, did you ever hear of King?
Lage: That name has come up. Gus King?
F. Berghi: Gus King. yes. Gus farmed for a good many years.
Lage: Was he another small operator?
E. Borghi: I don't recall Gus King.
F. Berghi: Hew about Louis Marchy?
Lage: His name's come up. Now that's another dairy, isn't it?
F. Borghi: Yes. His dad bought the California Milk Company from my uncle.
Lage: Back to the Chinese family. How was the relationship between
E. Berghi: I don't knew why my dad would go in. I think maybe he would
help my dad out with seme farm help. But I remember going
they lived right there by the tracks. I think I was a little
sympathetic to the family because the children were not dressed
well, and the home was net well kept up. But as I recall, he
was a good friend of my dad's, very helpful when he needed
Lage: Was he there for a number of years?
E. Borghi: I was just so young I really don't know.
Lage: Did your father hire laborers at all?
E. Borghi: Yes. he would hire seme Hispanic labor.
E. Berghi: Yes. just en seasonal. But he did most of it himself. When it
was time to pick the crops, naturally he had to have some help.
But my mem. like I say. she didn't get out there and do a lot
ef picking of the tomatoes, but she would sack potatoes and
drive the trucks and things ef that sort.
Lage: Everybody pitched in.
E. Berghi: Yes.
Schooling and Career A Domestic Engineer
Lage: How about school for you? Was that pushed by your family to
succeed in school?
E. Borghi: Oh, well they didn't have to push too hard, The Alviso School
was about a mile and a half away, and I would ride my bicycle
to school, and then I went to Washington High School, and then
I got an A. A. in secretarial training at San Jose State, and
then I worked at FMC in Newark until had our first child, and
then I just stayed home as a housewife and mother since then.
A domestic engineer is what I call myself. [Laughs]
F. Borghi: Elvamae has spent a lot of time with the older members of our
E. Borghi: Well, being an only child, and I have two aunts who didn't have
any children, so as they became elder, they depended en me a
lot. Frank's mother just passed away at eighty-nine, and she
didn't have any daughters, so I took care ef her also. My mom
lives around the corner from me now, and she has esteeperosis,
but she still does very well but depends on me. se that's my
life right now.
F. Borghi: Elvamae 1 s been involved with the foreign student exchange
program at Logan High School. She's taught catechism at
E. Borghi: I taught religion for ten years when the children were smaller,
and right new. for the last three or four years I've been
involved in the Union City Women's Club, which is a nonprofit
organization. We have fund raisers to give scholarships to the
Logan High School students.
Lage: Logan is an old-time family too. I interviewed Tillie Logan
Goold for this project.
E. Borghi: Pop Goeld was my principal in high school, and also Frank's
principal. Se living in this area, we know a lot of the old-
Recalling the Floods and Open Spaces
Lage: Did your area flood?
E. Borghi: Oh, yes, we flooded many- a- times. We would open up that back
door in the morning, and the water was right up to the steps.
Lage : You said you had to watch the levee. Would you go out and
sandbag the levee?
E. Borghi: Yes, all the neighbors would come over, and they would stay up
all night. My mem would make coffee, and they would have
doughnuts and cakes, and we were just very much on the alert
about the levee.
Lage: The flood control district didn't come in till long after
E. Berghi: No, there was no flood district control then.
Lage: I don't have any ether specific questions, but do you have any
ether memories of the farming operation, or the ranch, or the
family, the Patterson family you'd like to share?
E. Borghi: No, I think we've covered it all. Like I say, we lived there
at the corner of Lowry, and to the right of Lewry, which is all
homes new, was open spaces. We had the Italian vegetable
gardeners, which Frank mentioned, the Accinalis, and the
Taccahellas, and the Ceruttis.
Lage: Now that's all part of the ranch? Or it was just adjacent?
E. Borghi: No, that wasn't Patterson property, it was adjacent. In fact.
Dr. Ramo Cerutti who is practicing out in Fremont lived down
there, and the Emorys, Wes Emory had his ranch there. I would
ride my bicycle down to the Patterson Ranch to see my dad, and
all the ranches on the right are still so vivid in my mind.
McKeown's potato farm.
It was a nice way to grow up, a lot of open spaces, and
now you probably wouldn't let your children ride down there in
this day and age, the way the situation was, because there was
a creek there, and a couple of railroad tracks, and kind of
Lage: But you didn't worry about that?
E. Borghi: No. no one worried about it.
F. Borghi: Maybe before you close I should say this. Elvamae, due to the
fact that she's a housewife, she's an excellent cook, and many
of our friends are always asking me for special Italian dishes
and so forth, so we entertain a great deal. Not only can
Elvamae cook Italian dishes, she cooks other dishes also.
F. Borghi: Portuguese, Chinese. Mexican.
E. Borghi: I kind of lean to Italian; you knew hew your husband kind of
leads you this way?
F. Borghi: But she's a very excellent cook.
E. Borghi: This really doesn't have anything to do with the Patterson
Ranch, except for the vegetables that grew there, and I cook
Lage: There's the connection. [Laughter] I can see he appreciates
you, and I think that's the important thing.
E. Borghi: He just knows where his next meal's coming from.
Lage: And not only that, but you brought up the fact that he steed
you up on that important date, and he's trying to make amends.
[Laughter] Well, I really enjoyed talking with you.
Transcribed by Alexandra Walter
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE Frank and Elvamae Borghi
Date ef Interviews: April 6, 1987
tape 1. side A 1
tape 1, side B 11
tape 2. side A 21
tape 2, side B 39
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
Observations of a Ranch Worker 1 s Son
191 8-1 950s
An Interview Conducted by
1988 by the Regents of the University of California
LUCILLE AND RUEL BROWN
TABLE OF CONTENTS Ruel Brown
INTERVIEW HISTORY 44
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 45
Family Roots in Portugal 46
Father 1 s Work on the Patterson Ranch 47
Henry Patterson as an Employer 49
Sharecroppers on the Ranch 50
The Patterson Children 51
Brown's Work and Schooling. 1920s-1970s 52
Harvesting Sugar Beets. Feeding Cattle 54
Washington Township as a Farming Community 56
Portuguese and Swiss in Washington Township 57
The Patterson Railroad Station 58
William Patterson, the Mere Outgoing Brother 59
Wages on the Ranch 59
TAPE GUIDE 61
INTERVIEW HISTORY Ruel Brown
Ruel Brown's memories of the Patterson Ranch go back to the early
1920s. The perspective he brings to this volume on agriculture and rural
life is that of the son of a Patterson Ranch employee living with his
family of eight on the ranch in a house provided by the Patterson family.
Ruel was the son of Joseph Brown, who emigrated with his family from
Portugal in 1914. joining the large colony of Portuguese people in
Washington Township. He went to work for the Pattersons about 1918. The
family lived on the ranch until 1934. when they moved to an orchard they
had purchased several years earlier. Joseph Brown continued to work for the
Pattersons until a few years before his death in 1954.
Ruel Brown, born in 1916. lived on the ranch throughout his boyhood
years. His interview gives a view of farm and family life over fifty years
ago: "In those days everybody had to get in and help. . . . You worked as a
family." He sees this sort of upbringing as the best experience of his
life. He provides specifics about the Patterson farm operation, remembering
the sugar beet harvest and the cattle drives most vividly. He also is able
to describe his father's view of Henry Patterson as an employer and
something of the nature of his father's job and working conditions.
Mr. Brown was interviewed on April 28, 1986, the first interviewee for
the project. His wife. Lucille M. Brown, was present for the interview in
their home and a brief interchange with her is included in the transcript.
Mr. Brown reviewed the transcript for accuracy and clarity and responded to
additional questions in writing. His responses have been incorporated in
the text. The tape of the interview is available in The Bancroft Library.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, California 94720
Your full name
Date of birth
Father's full name
(Please print or write clearly)
Where did you grow up ?
Mother's full name
Special interests or activities
The Joseph Brown Family, 1917
John (age 9)
Joseph Sr. (37)
Ruel [twin](l) Vernon (4)
Mary (30) Inez (7)
Ralph [twin] (1)
Family Roots in Portugal
[Date of Interview: April 28, 1986] ##
Lage : Today is April 28, 1986, and I am talking with Ruel Brown, who
lived on the Patterson ranch, and his father worked for the
Pattersons. Let's start by talking about your father. You
mentioned that he was an immigrant.
Brown: Yes. my dad came from the Azores Islands, the island of Pico. He
came over here about 1890 and worked for a while and earned some
money. He also became an American citizen about 1894, and then he
went back to the old country, met my mother, and they got married
and had four children. Then they decided to come to America in
Lage: That's interesting that he got his citizenship and then returned.
Did he tell you hew that happened?
Brown: At the time he was working in Hanford, in Kings County, and that's
where he obtained his citizenship before he was married.
Therefore, when he married Mom in the old country. Mom
automatically became a citizen. So when they came ever here with
four children, they were all American citizens. A short time
after they arrived here, in what is now an area of Fremont, my twin
brother and I were born on February 14, 1916.
Lage: Did your father tell you how they happened to come to the Fremont
Brown: This area at one time was predominantly Portuguese. In fact, my
high school class, the class of 1934, had one hundred graduates.
Washington High School was composed of students from what is now
Union City, Newark, and the city of Fremont. Over fifty percent of
the kids that graduated in my class were of Portuguese ancestry.
So, as I say, there were a lot of Portuguese in this area, and that
is the reason apparently that Dad and Mom came to this area.
Lage: I never think of Brown as being a Portuguese name.
Brown: I believe the correct spelling is Brun, but of course. Mom and Dad
could not speak a word of English when they came here. In those
days when you went to the store, you just charged things and paid
at the end of the month. They would say, "What is your name?"
"Brun. " So they said, "Okay. Brown."
## This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has begun
or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 61.
Lage: Did yeur family continue Portuguese traditions or teach you the
Brown: Oh, yes. I knew the language quite well. Of course, that is all my
mom and dad and brothers and sisters could speak when they first
came here. They started school immediately. My oldest brother was
about eight; the other one was about six. and my sister was about
four. They didn't go to school with any bilingual teacher,
incidentally, but they learned the English language very well. In
fact, all four that were born in the eld country went to college.
Lage: Tell me the names of your brothers and sisters.
Brown: There was Joseph, John, Inez, and Vernon. My father was Joseph.
My mother was Mary. My twin brother was Ralph. I was especially
close to Ralph. At the time, monetarily we didn't have too much to
buy baseballs, or footballs, or basketballs, or to go to the park
and play. There was no such thing as that. We had each ether. We
lived out in the country. So we really were very close. We lest
Ralph when he was fifty-one years old. I'm seventy so it's been
Anyway, that's the story ef eur family.
Father' s Work on the Patterson Ranch
Lage: Did your father come to work for the Pattersons right away?
Brown: To the best ef my knowledge, he went to work for the Pattersons a
very short time after he came to this country with his family. As
I say, he worked there I'm guessing about thirty-five years,
until he had to retire.
Lage: When would that have been? You said that you left the Patterson
ranch when yeu were eighteen.
Brown: I left home and married at age twenty-three, but we moved from the
Patterson ranch te eur own ranch when I was eighteen, in 1934. Mom
and Dad bought an orchard on Mowry Avenue. Our ranch is now one
square block en the corner of Paseo Padre Parkway, Mowry Avenue.
Hastings Street, and Capitol Ave. Of course, the orchard is gone
now. It's all built up. The property today is worth a fortune.
Lage: Let's try to get the dates of when your father worked for the
Pattersons, if you can, approximately.
Brown: A short time after I was born, he went to work for the Pattersons,
Lage: And you said he worked there thirty-five years.
Brown: Yes. at least. He must have retired in the early fifties. He
bought the orchard when I was about twelve years eld. in about
1928. They kept that property until after he passed away, and Mom
still kept it for a few years after that. When she sold it. she
bought a nice home in the Glenmoor area of Fremont, and that's
where she lived until she passed away.
Lage: Let's talk a little bit about what your father did on the ranch.
Brown: Dad was primarily a good laboring farmer. He knew farming.
Lage: Had he farmed in Portugal?
Brown: No. when he was in the Azores, he was a whaler. He got into farm
work here in California. Anyway, he did all kinds of farming work
for Henry and William Patterson. He took his orders from Henry
Patterson most of the time. He would take care of the gardens
around what is now called the mansion at Ardeiwood. Also he
harvested the walnuts. I know. I believe they used to plant some
potatoes also near the Coyote Hills area. That used to be all
Patterson property. That used to get flooded in the wintertime,
and of course, the silt from the floods made it a very rich soil, a
soft soil too, which made it very good, apparently, for growing
Lage: So he would plant and harvest the potatoes?
Brown: Yes. That's one thing I can remember his doing. Of course, he
worked there for so many years and did so many different things.
Mr. Patterson also had horses and wagons that Dad used to drive to
and from the ranch out to where they were farming.
Lage: You mentioned that you can recall only one ether direct employee.
Brown: Direct employee, paid monthly by the Patterson brothers, yes. His
last name was Martin, but I can't think of his first name new.
Lage: And he also had a home on the ranch?
Brown: Yes. the Martins had a home approximately three hundred yards from
what is now called the mansion, and we lived in a big two-story
home en the corner of Marsh Road and Jarvis Road. Today Marsh Road
is called Newark Boulevard.
Lage: So part of the employment agreement was a home and a monthly
sal a ry .
Brown: Yes. In fact, we used to get water from the ranch. At one time, we
used to bring water in there in a tank. We used to have a well
just a hundred feet from our house on the county road. Finally,
that went dry. Then we started bringing water from the Patterson
ranch over to our home so we could bathe and cook and drink until
we finally laid down a pipeline, my dad and brothers and I.
We had to pay for that. We piped water from the Patterson home
area it was about a half a mile through the eucalyptus groves to
our home. Then we had running water.
Lage: The days of carrying it in must have been arduous.
Brown: It actually was a big wagon that we would pull with the horses.
Henry Patterson as a Boss
Lage: You talked earlier about Henry Patterson as a boss.
Brown: Dad respected Henry and William very much. Henry was a little more
on the stern side, although he was never unfair te my dad or anyone
that I ever saw. I talked to him a few times when I was just a
boy. He was polite, but he wouldn't joke too much about things.
Brown: Reserved is a very good word. Very reserved and quiet. He never
said anything unless he really had something that was important to
say. He was a fine boss to my dad, and I know my dad always
respected him very much.
Now his brother. Bill, or William, was a little more outgoing,
and he would laugh or joke when he was talking with you. Maybe
Henry had mere responsibility. I don't know.
Lage: From what you told me earlier, Henry did most of the directing of
your father's work.
Brown: Yes. He seemed to have more to say about how the ranch was run
than William. And, again. I underline the word seemed.
Lage: Any recollections at all of things your father might have told you
about his job?
Brown: No, because basically it was a very simple job, and I think I know
about as much as any son would know about his father's job. He
worked very hard from seven o'clock in the morning until six at
night. I think they had one hour off for lunch, and Dad used to
Brown: take his lunch with him. Mom would fix it for him in the morning,
and then he'd be back home at night and work some more around the
Sharecroppers on the Ranch
It seems like a large area of land and a variety of jobs, including
the gardening and all, for just two employees.
Yes, but, as I said, I am sure that the Patterson brothers leased
out a large area of their land to other people, more or less, I
think, on a sharecropping basis. I think that is the way it was
Did you get to know any of the tenant farmers?
Did they live
No. Well, there was one person, Anthony Lewis, commonly called
Tony Lewis, who farmed an awful let of Mr. Patterson's property. I
believe it was sharecropping; I'm not sure of that. Maybe he
leased the land directly, but I think it was sharecropping.
Did any of the tenant farmers live there that you know of?
Do you recall any Chinese families?
No. I do not. I think the Chinese were more predominant before my
time. I don't recall seeing Chinese people working on the
I heard from a Dr. Joshua Feng, who said that his cousins had lived
and farmed en the Patterson ranch. And then there are other
stories of stilt houses down by Ceyete Hills, where Chinese
I don't recall any stilt homes in the twenties. Of course, the
Chinese had a lot to do with California history, a lot more than
Between William's home and Henry's home on the ranch there was
a home called the Chinese house. It was built entirely with
Chinese woods, with no steel nails in it. I recall walking through
that. Nobody ever lived there that I knew of. It was very
attractive, but it wasn't taken care of. There was no furniture in
it, just this house. I don't know the story of that house. [Mr.
Brown is probably recalling the Japanese tea house. Ed.]
The Patterson Children
Did you knew the Patterson children as they grew up? They must
have been about your age.
Yes. Sally is a little older than I, and Marj orie is also. But
there was another girl that died in an accident. She was quite
young, too, and that must have been between 1925 and '30.
They had a home in Piedmont, and that's where they lived,
actually. They would commute; on weekends they would come back to
the house on the ranch. (We shall refer to that as the mansion.
That's the way you read about it in the papers new.) They would
come back from Piedmont every weekend and return to Piedmont en
Sunday afternoons, and spend the week in Piedmont.
Lage: And would Henry come down every day?
Brown: No. He may have come down during the week sometimes, but he didn't
come down every day, to the best of my knowledge. But, as I
started to say, they did lose their one daughter in an automobile
Lage: What about the William Patterson children? Did they live on the
Brown: William had two sons, two or three sons, I think, Donald and Jack.
Lage: And then a younger son, Dave. Dave is still living. Were they
around? Was there any play back and forth, or was this kind of two
Brown: William Patterson, as far as I knew, lived only on the ranch, with
his wife and sons. Ne, we weren't socially friendly. They lived
on a different plateau. At that time, of course, the Pattersons
had a lot of money, and in those days you didn't play with each
others' kids if they were on different financial levels. I'll put
it that way. But, of course, the Patterson family was not snobbish
in any way, shape, or form. You just took it for granted that you
didn't play with those kids. Of course, they didn't say, "Hey,
come ever and play" at any time, either. That was the thing to do
at that time. I'm net saying that critically.
Lage: I think Pop Goold put it nicely. He said, 'They just moved in
Brown: Yes, they did.
Brown's Work and Schooling, 1920s - 1970s
Lage : We talked a little bit about some of the things you did growing up.
You mentioned picking walnuts at times.
Brown: Yes, that's about the only thing I did en the Patterson ranch, but
after my folks bought their apricot orchard, I worked. In those
days everybody had to get in and help, and I think that was the
best experience of my life. I still look back on that as just
great because you worked as a family. We were a large family; we
had six children, and everybody worked together. Everybody had to
step in and do their share.
Lage: How did you feel about that at the time? I hear that often, and it
sounds like such a nice family feeling. Was there any resentment
on your part at that time?
Brown: Not at all. And I mean that very sincerely, because that's the way
we were brought up at that time. You were made to feel. "Hey, this
is what you have to do. This is part of your life." And it was.
That's the way everybody lived in these days, not just L All the
other families did the same thing. Everybody get in and helped
each other. You had to. So I never resented that one bit. not one
bit. for the simple reason that that was the only thing I knew. I
But today's children I think might resent that a little bit. In
fact, they resent it if they have to wipe the dishes, or something
like that, but they live in a different time, and I respect their
Lage: They probably don't feel as useful as you did.
Brown: I don't see how they could because most of the young people today
don't do very much. They don't have to. But when I was a youngster
everybody had to get in and work, and that was expected of you. and
you didn't mind because you knew that was it.
Lage: How about school?
Brown: I went to a one-room scheolhouse the first six grades. Lincoln
Grammar School. We had one teacher for six grades. These teachers
today are so mistreated because they have to teach twenty-two kids
all in the same grade, but that teacher had anywhere from twenty to
thirty kids to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, six grades. At one
time, that teacher taught eight grades, before I went there.
I think we all learned the English language fairly well. As I
say, four members of my family went through college. My twin
brother and I. after we went to Lincoln School, we went to Newark
grammar school, which was an eight-grade, eight-room school, for
the seventh and eighth grades. Then we went to Washington Union
High School, which was composed of students from what is now Union
City. Newark, and Fremont, which was referred to at that time as
We graduated from there in the middle of the Depression, 1934,
and Mem and Dad tried every which way to try to help us to go
through college, but we just could not go through college at that
time. It was just impossible. So we went out and got jobs. I was
fortunate, because I was a fairly good baseball player. In those
days, these big companies used to sponsor baseball teams. If you
were a fairly good athlete, you had a chance of getting a job,
which I think was unfair because there were so many people at that
time, heads of households, that did not have jobs. And yet I, just
an eighteen-year-old kid, was able to get a job because I had the
ability to play ball.
What company did you work for?
I worked for a packing firm. We shipped fruits and vegetables
throughout the East. I get a job as a shipping clerk, which in
these days was tremendous, walking into a j ob like that. It was an
office j ob.
From there, I studied on my own, and I quit that job and went
to Alameda County. I studied traffic engineering, and I did get a
fine job out of that. I worked there for thirty years.
I retired when I was sixty, and I've been enjoying my
retirement. My wife and I like to travel.
[the following question and answer were added during the editing
You mentioned to me that your mother was the mainstay of the
family. Will you elaborate on that? What was her influence?
were her goals for you?
At that time in history the mother's "job" in the household of a
large family was to assist the husband in providing food, clothing,
care, and especially guidance to the whole family. Dad worked at
least ten hours of each day for the Pattersons and anywhere from
three to five hours at home, milking four to five cows, feeding and
raising two hogs and approximately one hundred chickens. (We all
helped a little with those chores,) so that left very little time
for him to spend guiding his children. Therefore, Mother became
the leader and guiding light to all of the children. She was a
very well schooled and educated lady who believed very strongly
Brown: that education was a necessary and integral part of any person who
wished to succeed as an individual, in whatever goal in life he or
Harvesting Sugar Beets, Feeding Cattle
Lage: Let me ask you a little bit mere about the farm, since that is
really what we want to focus on. You mentioned that there were
tenant farmers. Can you recall different crops that were grown?
Brown: I can remember the sugar beets, of course, and tomatoes. I've read
that George Patterson used to farm cabbage, but I don't remember
ever seeing a cabbage there in my time.
Lage: Were you aware enough of the operation to see hew the crops were
shipped out? At one time they shipped them by barge to San
Brown: That was before my time.
Lage: Was it by train, primarily?
Brown: As far as shipping to San Francisco* during my time they could have
trucked it to Oakland and then by boat to San Francisco, but not by
barge from Newark. That would have been Mowxy Landing, and Jarvis
Landing, and Mayhew's Landing in Newark.
Lage: Tell the story which you told before we went en the tape about how
they cut the sugar beets.
Brown: I was telling you how the Pattersons had this cattle in the
Livermore area, and every year after the sugar beets had been
harvested, they would bring the cattle on to the sugar beet fields
to feed the cattle with the beet toppings.
The way they would harvest the beet crop was to plow the beets,
lee sen them up.
Lage: Would this have been by tractor-driven plow?
Brown: No, no. There were only horses then, no tractors then. Then the
farmhands would come along with a long knife with a blade about
fourteen or sixteen-inches long; it looked almost like a machete.
On the end of that blade there was a pick-like prong. The
harvester would stick this pick into the beet, bring it up, hold
the beet with his hand and chop off the green top with the knife.
That would be the top of the beet, which was, of course, not good
for anything to the sugar people.
Brown: But the tops made good feed for the cattle that Mr. Patterson
brought from his ranches in Livermere, and after they ate all the
beet tops, they would take them all back. It helped the cost of
feed. I'm sure. I'm sure Mr. Patterson saved an awful lot of money
on feed by bringing the cattle here to feed off of that waste from
the beet crop.
Lage: Do you remember people driving the cattle in?
Brown: Yes. I do remember some of the cowboys. That's what they were, but
I can't think of their names now. I can picture about two of them.
They were net hard looking, but had weather-beaten faces, like a
typical cowboy. But I did not know any of them. My dad did. of
Lage: Do you recall other similar types of stories that might help
somebody who is trying to recreate the farm at that time? Other
crops, or methods of harvesting?
Brown: No. I can't, not right now.
Lage: When you were living there, were only horses used, or was there a
change ever to tractors at that time?
Brown: No. Mr. Patterson had quite a few horses. In fact, I think the
horse barn is still there. I used to play in there when Dad would
be feeding the horses. That's about all I can remember about that
whole operation. I think.
Lage: Do you remember the flooding?
Brown: Oh, yes. Alvarado. particularly, used to get an awful lot of
flooding, all the way from the Coyote Hills easterly and northerly
to Alvarado. That used to be all flooded in there, almost every
year in the winter months.
Lage: Was it just a couple of inches, or was it flooded so that you could
take a boat in?
Brown: Oh, it would be mere than a couple of inches. I've seen water four
or five feet deep in that area. That was before the flood control
district took ever. Incidentally, my son is in charge of
maintenance of flood control and the road division of Alameda
County. Flood control has done a tremendous job as far as flooding
in Alameda County is concerned. Since then we have net had any
damage or even any danger of a flood, and we've had some pretty
Washington Township as a Farming Coam unity
Let me ask you. in general, de you have seme feeling about all the
development in this part of the county?
I could sit here and say. ^ee whiz, I wish it hadn't changed." And
I think I could say that too, and even mean it. But you can't step
progress. For goodness sakes. where would America or any other
country be if you try to step progress? But I did love the
country, yes. I miss it.
A tremendous difference now.
Oh, goodness. We were just a community of five little towns in
what is now the city of Fremont. Actually, you knew people in
every one of these towns, and you knew maybe half the people who
lived in Washington Township. Niles probably had fifteen hundred
people at that time. Centerville. which was another little
community, had maybe two thousand. Newark had maybe fifteen
hundred; Ixvington another fifteen hundred. No community had more
than two thousand people, and there were maybe eight or nine little
Was there a let of community spirit, serving on different beards
and belonging to clubs, that sort of thing?
Well, you didn't have too much time for that. I'm talking about
when I was a young man. You had to go out and get a job, and you
didn't have tee much time for socializing, compared to what we have
today. I've dene more socializing in the last two years than I did
in my first twenty years. And I think everybody was the same way,
not j ust I, but everybody.
But I de miss the country. I can remember when we lived on the
Patterson Ranch. The closest homes to us were a half a mile. I
guess, and we'd never lock our house. We'd leave that house out
there all by itself, never lock that house. Nobody ever bothered
us. But today, I have to lock my house if I go out in the
Mr. [J. Vernon] Geeld mentioned coming by and picking you up en the
way to school.
Mr. Goold was also the bus driver.
While he was a teacher?
He was a teacher, of course. Just teachers drove buses in these
days, after school. Instead of making five dollars for the day,
Brown: they prebably made five and one-half by driving the bus and picking
up the kids. And it was a real eld schoelbus. I'll never forget
Mr. Geeld did that. yes. and he finally became an administrator
and then superintendent of Fremont Unified School District, which
consisted of maybe three or four high schools when JV was in there.
Lage : I think we've covered pretty much everything, unless something else
has occurred to you.
Brown: No, as I say, I knew the Pattersons, but of course in those days
you did net become real friends as you would today. It's just the
way times were.
Portuguese and Swiss in Washington Township
Lage: The one ether thing I have read that I'd like to ask you about were
the Portuguese festivals and fairs; was that part of your life as a
Brown: As a young man I enjoyed going to the festivals, yes. They used to
have what was called the Holy Ghost festivals. At that time too
there were quite a few Portuguese lodges, of which I was not a
member. My mom and dad were members, like most Portuguese people
were. They had these Holy Ghost festivals in most every town.
Newark and Mission San Jose were the two big ones. And then
Alvarado had one, and Centerville, Milpitas, which is not in
Fremont but is nearby. Nearly all communities did have the
Portuguese festivals, because there were so many Portuguese in this
Lage: Portuguese really dominated, it seems.
Brown: Oh yes. No doubt about it.
Lage: Were there very many Italian families here?
Brown: A few, yes, but the Portuguese were the main strain in this whole
area. Of course, in Union City there were a lot of Hispanic people
Lage: From Latin America or Spain?
Brown: I believe most of them were from Mexico. We had a few here in the
Niles district. They were some of the most beautiful families, and
they still are today. The old Hispanic families were beautiful.
Lage: (To Mrs. Brown) Is your background Portuguese too?
L. B. : My father was Portuguese and my mother was Swiss- Italian.
Brown: There were a few Swiss families in the dairy business in the Newark
area. There were a couple of Italian dairies too. but primarily
Portuguese and a few Swiss.
Lage: Were most of the Swiss in this area from the Italian side?
L. B. : No. primarily German.
Brown: The dairy people were German* I believe.
[Interruption in tape]
The Patterson Railroad Station
Lage: While the tape was off, you mentioned the Ardenwood train station.
Brown: When I was a young bey, it was about a half mile to the railroad
tracks, which would be north from where I lived. There was this
little station, which was a nicely covered bench, or benches. I
would go down there and play and sit down there and just watch the
trains go by as a youngster. That was put up there just for the
The Pattersons did not want the railroad there at all. To
pacify them a little bit. the railroad decided to build a station
there for them. Not only that, the passenger trains would stop
there if anyone wanted to get on or off at Arden station.
Lage: You should go down there and look at Ardenwood. I'm sure you would
get a kick out of it. In fact, they have an old train there that
runs. I can't recall, I think it is horse-drawn.
Brown: To my knowledge, since 1925. there never has been a railroad in the
proximity of the Henry Patterson home.
Lage: There was never a spur that came up to the Patterson properties?
Brown: No, not to my knowledge.
William Patterson, the More Outgoing Brother
Brown: I didn't tell you that William Patterson, when I'd be playing
there, would even invite me into the house and give me a cracker or
cookie or something. That was the difference between William and
Lage: And would he chat with you for a while?
Brown: Yes. he was a friendlier person than Mr. Henry Patterson, although
Mr. Henry Patterson was a real fine man also, but maybe he didn't
have the time, or maybe the ability to take the time to talk to
young kids. But William was a little bit different in that
respect. It seemed to me like he never was as busy as Henry,
probably. I think they were completely different personalities.
Lage: What were you saying about going down and picking fruit?
Brown: On the ranch they had different kinds of trees apple, peaches.
plums, of all different kinds. When they would come in, we would
go in there and pick a few and just bring them home. That's where
sometimes the Pattersons would see me. They would invite us to go
there and pick up fruit when they had an abundance of it. They
were always very kind to us and to our whole family.
Wages en the Ranch
Lage: You said you picked walnuts as a child.
Brown: Yes, gathered walnuts off the ground, and hulled them and got our
hands so black. I used to hate that, especially when I started
high school. We get a dollar a bag. a big potato sackful. I think
it would held fifty or sixty pounds of walnuts, at least. It would
take a long time te fill a bag. In fact, my twin brother and I, if
we had a good day on a Saturday, when we worked from seven to six.
we might be able to fill up three bags, at a dollar a bag. Of
course, in these days, three dollars was a lot of money.
Lage: Do you have any sense of what your father was paid?
Brown: If I remember correctly, at that time he made pretty good money.
Of course, he had the home for his whole family, and water rights,
and I believe he was making about one hundred dollars a month.
Another thing which I forgot, which I think is very important
and is a credit to the Patterson family. After my father retired,
Mr. Henry Patterson continued to send him his check in full until
Brown: Dad died in 1954. That's one of the nicest things that I can say
about the Patterson family. They did always treat my dad real
well. He respected them very much, but he also liked them very
Transcribed by Ann Lage
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE Ruel Brown
Date of Interview: April 28. 1986
tape 1 . side A 46
tape 1. side B 53
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
Working for Henry Patterson
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright (cj 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS Donald Furtado
INTERVIEW HISTORY 65
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 66
Battle over Alameda Creek Water Rights 68
Problems with Saltwater Intrusion and Flooding 69
Furtado Family on the Ranch since 1914-1915 71
A Work Day: Rich Soil, Hand Labor, Draft Animals 72
Henry Patterson, a "Yes-and-No Man" 72
The Harvest and the Cattle Drive 73
Tenant Farmers on the Ranch 74
Henry Patterson, the Decision- Maker 76
August May, Successful Banker and Colleague of the
The Great Depression 79
Sugar Beet Harvest by Hand 79
The Henry Patterson Family 80
Game and Poachers 81
Henry Patterson and Tree Management: "Close to Nature 11 82
The Pattersons and Hobos 84
Furtado Family History 85
Characterizing Henry Patterson 86
Crop Management: Minimal Water, No "Poisons" 87
Farming with Draft Animals: Cheap Labor, Low Overhead 88
"People Were Happy" 90
On Pay and Working Conditions 91
TAPE GUIDE 92
INTERVIEW HISTORY Donald Furtado
Donald Furtado was interviewed for this volume on agriculture and rural
life on the Patterson Ranch because of his thirty years as a ranch employee.
The one hour interview took place on February 7, 1987, outdoors on a quiet
and sunny Saturday afternoon at the Ardenwood historic farm. Ardenwood is
closed to the public in February, and aside from a few staff members
scattered about, we had the farm to ourselves. We sat at a picnic bench
near the Patterson house. It was a perfect place to interview, for it was
here Mr. Furtado lived and worked from 1925 to 1955. Being at Ardenwood
helped create a mood which stirred his memory. At one point. Mr. Furtado
was almost moved to tears remembering the familiar sight of Henry Patterson
standing on the porch outside his office.
Mr. Furtado is a short, thin man in his early seventies (born 1915).
He dressed in Sears coveralls, a short-sleeved checkered shirt and cap
probably very much like when he worked on the ranch. Although physically
slowed by arthritis, with his joints visibly swelled at the elbows and
hands, his mind was vigorous.
Mr. Furtado provided useful information about the ranch and a colorful
portrait of Henry Patterson as an employer and ranch manager. He described
Mr. Patterson as a fair and down-to-earth man and painted a picture of a
well-managed and flourishing farm which yielded bumper crops of sugar beets
and tomatoes. He also talked about the importance of water rights and, in a
handwritten statement read at the start of the interview, described the
Patterson's fight over water with the Spring Valley Water Company.
Bill H elf man
[Bill Helfman, a Fremont resident with a degree in history, volunteered
his services to the Regional Oral History Office as an interviewer for this
project. He conducted this interview and an additional one with Mary
Dettling, a former housekeeper for the Henry Pattersons. (The Dettling
interview was not transcribed, but the tape is available in The Bancroft
Library.) We wish to thank Mr. Helfman for his careful reseach and
sensitive interviewing for the Patterson Project.
Following the formal interview with Donald Furtado. the two men walked
around the grounds of Ardenwood. Their conversation, including some further
reminiscences and Mr. Furtado 1 s thoughts on the management of the park
grounds, was recorded but not transcribed. The complete tapes are in The
Bancroft Library. Ed.]
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 66 Berkeley,' California 94720
(Please print or write clearly)
Your full name [)3r 3 y. \$
Date of birth <5 \ Z> ' I -^> Place of birth
^vJ ' j ti \
Mother's full name.
Where did you grow up ? \(^^.i"r ^ f* " f "' -'
Present community "- -y ? /^ -. ,
Father's full name
Birthplace H <L ^ M 4- ^ ' ^ A A ^ /- J- ^ I r .
ft "L J K.* -S j- C I ^ A ^ ^ j-
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Education ^ | - > > .. '
Special interests or activities
[Date ef Interview: February 7. 1987]
Helfman: This is side 1 of an interview of Donald Furtado. taking place on
the grounds of Ardenwood Historic Farm, in Fremont. California, on
February 7. 1987. The interview is conducted by Bill Helfman. for
the Regional Oral History Office ef the University of California's
Bancroft Library. The interview is part of the Bancroft Library's
Patterson Family and Ranch: Southern Alameda in Transition
Project. Mr. Furtado begins the interview reading a written
Furtado: Now I will do my best in creating a picture ef the farming
operation on the Patterson farm. But first I want to tell you
about the Pattersons. Mr. Henry Patterson and Mr. William
Pattersen were the sole proprietors ef this farm. New I admired
them immensely for the integrity. They were firm but you ceuld
trust their good judgment. I never once felt they acted eut of
self-interest or malice. The farm totaled 3.000 acres in Fremont;
the Livermore ranch. 10.000 acres ef grazing land. They raised
several hundred head of cattle on this ranch. Mr. Tern Holly was
the manager for years on this ranch. The Pattersons also operated
a cement pipe plant in San Jose for making cement pipe for
They also were stockholders and directors ef three Alameda
County banks: the Alvarade Bank, the Niles Bank and the Irvingten
Bank. Mr. August May was the president of the bank, and he was a
very conservative banker. Came the Great Depression and these
three banks were completely sound.
This farm had seme ef the finest soil and produced bumper
crops. Now the basic crops were sugar beets, tomatoes, potatoes,
cucumbers, corn and also grain. And the farm also had a large
walnut grove. All the land was worked with draft animals until
about 1930; then some farm machinery started to come in en the
farm. But it still teek several years more to mechanize the farm.
The reason that this farm was a success: it was under good
management. Mr. Henry Patterson managed the farm, and he was
always en the alert for any changes; such as land taxes, water,
electric rates for pumping water. He was always on the lookout
for things like that.
t$ This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 92.
Battle over Alameda Creek Water Rights
Furtade: Speaking of water rights, this is something that's history too.
The water table at one time was about fifty feet from the surface.
The wells were all shallow, most had pits and the pumps were down
in the pits. There were centrifugal pumps down in the pits. Had
to prime the pumps to start the water flow; it was a mess. We did
it... But after several years, the water table dropped down to
about 200 feet, then changes were made to install turbine pumps.
That's different from the centrifugals; the turbines go down...
Now the reason for the water table drop. The Mount Eden Water
Works was pumping millions of gallons of water to the city of San
Francisco. In order to reverse this, Mr. Patterson and other
landowners all signed a petition and brought it to a vote to step
pumping water at the Mount Eden Water Works. The water table was
dropping; they were pumping millions of gallons out in there.
Then in turn the city of San Francisco bought Spring Valley Water
Company, which became Hetch Hetchy. Then in turn tried to stop
the flow of water which came down the Alameda Creek. That would
bring the water table up, you know. Once they took away what they
dammed, that watershed out there they blocked all the water and
wouldn't let any water down that creek there and when they did
that, boy, that still lowered the water down more. This water
flow in the creek would enter the [underground aquifers], and here
again the city of San Francisco tried to stop this natural flow.
Mr. Patterson took them to court and he won the case. This
natural flow could not be shut off. They had to release a certain
amount of water down the Alameda Creek in order to bring the water
table up.* And that's things I know because I was here, you know.
And that's the reason why that like I tell you a success, they
never let nothing get by you. Now if you got certain questions,
you ask me and I can help you out. This is the basics of it.
[end of written statement]
Helfman: I do, but tell me mere about the fight over the water.
Furtade: All right. The fight ever the water was this: One time, see, the
Spring Valley Water Company owned that dam up there [Calaveras
Dam]. They built the dam, the Spring Valley Water Company, part
of it. Then, the city of San Francisco took that dam over, and
they were pumping water from the Mount Eden Waterworks. All their
water supply was coming out of there into the city of San
Francisco, and they had their pipelines going out on Mr.
Patterson's ranch down in the back over here [near the Dumbarton
*See interview of Mathew P. Whitf ield in this series for further
discussion of water in southern Alameda County.
Furtado: Bridge]. When they did that, they lowered the water table. It
was something terrible, the way the water went more than 200 feet
Well, in order to reverse that, then they got a petition
signed, and they came to a vote, to stop the pumping out there.
It took several months yet before they were able to put a stop to
it. And they did. So, then in turn, the city of San Francisco
bought out the Spring Valley Water Company, and built that dam and
harnessed all that water from that watershed out there. But, when
they did that, they stepped the natural flow of water coming off
of that watershed down into Alameda Creek, and that natural flow
of water coming down is what helped the water table in this
valley. Well. then, they decided to shut the water off. Mr.
Patterson, of course, told them that was a natural flow, and they
couldn't do it. So they had to take it to court [1912-1916]. and
when they did. boy. he wen the case. And I think at that time, if
I'm net mistaken, it cost him $50.000 in the court. But he beat
them. So right today, you go back and take a look over there, and
you'll see a certain amount ef water flowing off of that dam into
that channel. Of course, new I don't know what deal they had with
the Alameda County Water District. They had seme kind ef a deal
with them. What it is. I don't knew.
But what I'm going to tell you is the Alameda County district
was Mr. William Patterson. He was the founder and director ef
this water district. He always worked on the outside, Mr. William
Patterson. Mr. Henry Patterson managed the farm in here. And
that's the history of the water.
Problems with Salt Water Intrusion and Flooding
Helfman: So who did you work closer with?
Furtado: Mr. Henry Patterson. He made the decisions, and he was the
manager, of course, en the ranch.
Helfman: So that's the Patterson that you knew best, you worked most
Furtado: Mr. Henry Patterson. Mr. William was around also, but he always
worked more on the outside. He was always on the lookout for.
especially he was very much in water. That was the biggest
problem with the water, because if the water table begins to drop
here, then the salt water starts penetrating into the sweet water
here. Then, in order to reverse that again they had to get a
certain amount of water down into that channel there, mind you, to
bring the water table up again. The certain amount of wells that
Furtado : were dug here had to have double casing. If you went down two
hundred feet, at least the first hundred feet you had to have it
capped with cement. It was a double casing, one case on the
outside, another one on the inside, and then they had it capped
with the concrete, to keep the salt water out. Because it would
eat up the casing, and your salt water would come into the sweet
water. You had nothing. And that was quite expensive.
Helfman: How about flooding? Was that a big problem here?
Furtado: Years ago, yes. It started flooding not on this area here but
down through where the Coyote Hills are out there, you know, and
all that lowland in there. The main stream of the Alameda Creek
started at the Calaveras Reservoir, and it snaked all the way down
into Fremont here and down into Union City. Then the water would
drain out in Union City out to the marshlands out there. I'm not
sure of the year. It must have been about see, I was born 1915,
but my grandfather, he farmed on this land also, on this ranch,
and I picked up some of the information from him. I think let's
see, now to be honest with you, about 1918. probably
The water broke over the levy out there, down in that area
there where now let's see if I can give you an explanation about
the area. Well, anyway, do you know where this housing project
goes out here? What is the name of it now? Ardenweed Village in
there. Well, there was a creek that came out around through that
Ardenwood Village. There was a levy that went all the way out and
went through over the Fremont Boulevard. See where that bridge
goes over there? It went right straight down. As Alameda Creek,
the main creek, it broke in there one year. I think it was in
1918, it broke in there, and the water started flowing down into
Mr. Patterson's property here. And she'd flow all the way down,
and then it would flood all that area in there where the Coyote
Hills are out there. Then there was an outlet where the water
could drain into the bay out there. It was a regular flood plain,
the whole thing in there. The whole works was all the flood
plain. I don't knew how much it covered, well the flood plain all
together, I'd say, was about eight to nine hundred acres, all
filled with water out there.
In one way it was an advantage, and I'll tell you why. It
brought the water table up. That was the advantage of having that
water come down there. And that was the biggest problem after
about 1930. There was a water problem in here, due to the water
table dropping and salt water coming into the sweet water. But
they finally reversed it. It took a number of years. What they
had to do. the wells already drilled had to be capped, so there' d
be no salt water coming into the soil because it would ruin the
soil, the salt water. And then, with the natural flow of water
Furtade: coming dawn, after Mr. Patterson took them to court* then it
changed the picture. It brought the water table up again, not as
much as it should, but it done the job.
Helfman: Do you remember the year that when he went to court?
Furtado: No, I don't remember that. But I know he did take them to court
but the year I don't remember. I'm net sure of the year. [1912-
Furtado Family on the Ranch Since 1914
Helfman: Let me back up a second, and just find out a little background en
yourself as far as hew you arrived in the area, and hew you
Furtado: Oh, I first arrived in the area. I was born en Thorten Avenue,
and then I came to this farm in the year ef 1925. And I lived
just over across the railroad out there, and that's why I lived
over there. I was here en this farm for thirty years, until
around 1952 er 1955.
Helfman: You were from where?
Furtado: From Therton Avenue, and that was in the town ef Centerville. now
it' s Fremont.
Helfman: So you started working in 1925.
Furtado: No, it was later than that, because I was born in 1915. So 1925,
I'd only be ten years eld, right? Se I started working maybe
after about 1935.
Helfman: Did your father work for the Pattersons?
Furtade: Yes, we helped him here, and then we also farmed out here. Mr.
Patterson made a change en this farm here about in the year about
1920 or 1925. then tenants started coming in. Then he dropped out
ef the farming himself. He had no leases. He had all oral
agreements with all the tenants. Just all agreements. His word
was as good as gold. Row crop farming was 25 percent, and the
grain farming was one-third. There was several dairies on the
farm here. Let's see. there was one, they called it the
California Dairy. That was down near the Coyote Hills. And they
had another one down here by the railroad, and another one that
used to be across Jarvis Avenue. That was a large dairy in there,
a 600-acre section of land there.
Helfman: So when you started there were ne tenant farmers then.
Furtade: A few.
Helfman: Did you tenant farm yourself? Or you were
Furtado: Well, my dad and I. we farmed part time, and then I used to help
Mr. Patterson on the yards here, the orchards, and everything in
here too. It was a two-way deal: farmed on a share basis en his
land, plus what I used to do for him in here.
A Work Day; Rich Soil, Hard Labor. Draft Animals
Helfman: Can you just describe what a typical work day was like?
Furtade: A typical work day I'd say would be about starting in the morning
about 7, and then finish about 5:30 or 6. all with draft animals.
But them days, different from now. The soil was easier to
work. You didn't use no herbicides, no insecticides, no nothing,
ne fertilizer, nothing. Just work your land; not too deep, enough
to mix the soil up and get rid of the grass; plant your seed and
that was it. Today you can't do that anymore. It requires a,
well, you have to be mere scientific to farm now and I don't
know why. The crops just won't produce without going through all
that you have to doctor them up in order to get a crop. There
was a different environment. You had cleaner air. virgin soil,
and bumper crops: potatoes, you'd get as high as 400 sacks per
acre. No fertilizer, ne nothing, no irrigation you can't do that
today. It's all different. The soil is already worn out new. So
in order to get any production of any kind at all now on the soil
requires a lot of extra work. You couldn't do it with draft
animals no mere. Them days labor was cheap. You work all day
from 7 o'clock in the morning until about 5 or 5:30 at night $1 a
day. That's all you would get. But a dollar was a good dollar
and you weren't rushed to do the work. You just go along
gradually; you weren't working to kill yourself, just to get the
job done. And that's the way we did it.
Henry Patterson, a "Yes-and-No Man"
Helfman: Was Mr. Patterson a fair and good employer?
Furtade: Very good man. I gave it to you right here [taps his written
statement], in the beginning, on page number one. Yes. I admired
him very much because he was a very, very reasonable man, a very
Furtado : intelligent man. He was a man that you could sit with him and
talk seme problem over with him, no joking with him. He was a
"yes and no" man. He was all business.
Helfman: Do you remember any incidents that happened?
Furtado: No. Any incidents would be some outsider or stranger coming
loitering over the property, well then, he'd find out what they
were looking for. That's how particular he was. A very good man.
I have nothing to say about the man. I even miss him. Right now
I feel kind of funny sitting here and looking at the house over
there and don't see him. He was a very gentle man. Very gentle.
He always gave you the benefit of the doubt, in ether words. But
if you was right, fine. If you was wrong, he was going to let you
know about it. It wouldn't take him a day to tell you; he would
let you know right here, right new. That's why there was a
success on this farm. He never let nothing get by. He was always
en the alert to make sure that if something would come along that
was going to interfere with the farming operation he was there to
find out. I told you about this water business here, and things
like that. Now, this is all history. This is all fact that I'm
giving you here. Seme of the dates I don't remember; I don't want
to commit myself to a date and then be wrong. Actually this did
happen, what I'm telling you about the water and things like that.
And what else was I going to tell you? [pause]
The Harvest and the Cattle Drive
Furtado: After the crops were harvested sugar beets, tomatoes, corn, they
were the basic crops. After the sugar beets were harvested, we
left the beet tops in the fields. (This was all dene by hand,
remember now. All this farming was hand-labor. There were ne
machines to harvest none of this.) It was all harvested by hand:
tomatoes, sugar beets, corn. Then about the month of October they
started out with the cattle drive. From Livermore. they'd come
over through the Over acker Ranch, and down to the Kirchner Ranch,
and drove the cattle down in through Fremont Boulevard, into the
town of Centerville, came down on Thorton Avenue, and drove the
cattle down into the ranch here. Then in the month of December.
just before the rains, the cattle would all be driven back again
to the [Livermore] ranch.
Mr. Tom Halley was the manager of the cattle ranch in
Livermore. I can picture him with a big cowboy hat on, and cowboy
boots. He, too. was a very very reasonable man, and a top
cattleman. He was the top man from Mr. Patterson, on the cattle
end of it. They probably ran a herd of about, oh I'd say in the
Furtade: neighborhood of about seven to eight hundred head of cattle all
white face, beef cattle. Okay, now what else did you want to know
Tenant Fanners on the Ranch
Helfman: One thing is to know mere about the tenant farmers that are
working there. How many, what kind of families?
Furtado: Well, there were tenant farmers. They all worked with draft
animals, and they didn't live on the farm. They came from
different areas out here: seme from Centerville. Newark,
Alvarado. They didn't farm no big sections of land. I'd say each
one maybe had about thirty acres, forty acres, something like
that. I'd say all totaled he might have had maybe about forty.
fifty tenant farmers.
Helfman: All different nationalities?
Furtade: Right. The majority of them were Portuguese farmers. Came from
Europe, and came in here, and got started in here. All row crops
were worked on a 25 percent basis. Mr. Patterson received 25
percent. The grains: one- third. The dairies: the land was
rented to the dairymen at $25 an acre. And the tenants were
responsible for the pumping plants and the utilities. [But Mr.
Patterson would split repair costs for the pumping plants with the
farmers - D.F.] You took a motor at that time, about a twenty-
five horsepower motor, you could run it ten hours for about $3.
That's quite a bit. Today you couldn't do that. A twenty-five
horsepower motor would run you about $60 to $70 a day for about 10
hours. That's a difference.
Helfman: Mr. Furtado, how did you know what the dairies and other tenants
Furtade: I knew these people from working on the ranch. It was common
Crops were much cheaper. Labor was much cheaper, but then
you didn't have too much overhead. In other words, your margin of
profit was net toe big, but you got by. due to no big investments
in farm machinery very little. And then some farm machines
started to come in, but they took a number of years yet. A lot of
that machinery was obsolete. It was of poor engineering most of
Furtado: And from 1950 on. I noticed seme improvements on the machinery,
but net the best yet. Then when it got to about 1970. then I
noticed a big change on the engineering part of the equipment. It
was better equipment and better built.
Helfman: Sounds like the mechanization was slow.
Furtado: Very, very slow. And obsolete. Most of it didn't work the way it
was supposed to. There were a lot bugs in them yet. that they had
to work out. Sometimes the manufacturer would come out and check
on the equipment and try to gather up all the information they
could about the equipment hew it was operating and se on. They
got all the information and sent it back into the main factories,
se the engineers could make the changes. But it was a slow
process. Very slew. But. we dene the best we could with what we
had. That's the knowledge that they had in them days. Of course,
as the years went by, why then they kept getting to know better
the different things that they had to de. in erder to make the
improvements on the machines. I lived through all that, and I
seen what was going on.
Now all these tenant farmers did not live on the ranch. They
had their own homes on the outside, and they come down through the
Deceto road here, what they use to call Jarvis Avenue, with their
draft animals, with their wagon and bring a little hay on the
wagon, and water to give to the animals at neon, to water them
down and feed them. All dene that way. Like I tell you, we had
to walk behind the plow; we had to walk behind our harrow or
roller; we smashed the clods on the ground a little bit, not too
much plowing. We just got down, get rid of the grass, and then
cultivate a little bit, and then get the ground ready, and plant
the crop, and that was all. Didn't have to worry about anything
else bugs or anything else like that. No fertilizer. You know
when you get virgin soil, you can't miss.
Helfman: Besides Portuguese, what ether kinds of families were there?
Furtade: I'd say the majority were all Portuguese. Mr. Patterson liked the
way that they were people that were willing and willing to work.
He teek notice of that, and he liked them very much for that.
Helfman: De you remember Mr. Brown as a tenant?
Furtado: Mr. Brown was one of Mr. Patterson's employees here. His name was
Joe Brown. And then he had another. Joe Brown was dead and gone
already. And he lived down in what's the name of that street
that goes to Washington Hospital?
Furtado: He lived on Howry Avenue. He had a home out there. And he had
another man out here by the name of Manuel Martin. He also worked
in here for him. He lived on the farm right here. There was a
home on the ether side of these buildings. He had a home in here.
Before 1915, you see I was born 1915, but before that, Mr.
Patterson had living quarters for the farm workers out here,
behind these buildings here. According to what they told me Mr.
Brown they had thirty to thirty-five employees working here. And
they had a Chinese cook in the kitchen. The sleeping quarters
were separated from the main house. But of course, that's what I
picked up from them what they told me, which is true, because I
still remember the home was over there. The back of that was torn
down. The ether part of it was out on Jarvis Avenue, but they
tore that down also. But at one time it was all connected
H elf man: How many employees were here when you were
Furtado: There was quite a few. I'd say maybe half-a-dozen, because he
kept cutting back, and then the land would be given out for
farming on a share-basis.
Henry Patterson, the Decision-Maker
Helfman: What else could you tell me about how the day-to-day work on the
Furtado: The first thing that Mr. Patterson would do. he'd say there was a
certain section of land that has to be worked out. It was getting
quite weedy, we'd have to go ahead and disk it out. We disked
that out, probably take maybe couple of days to get that
completed, and after then he would say, now, we have to get this
ready for corn, or sugar beets and things like that, and then
prepare the land for the planting. But he always made the
Helfman: He was a real hands-on owner? He was out there working?
Furtado: Right. He never sat too much in the office. He was on the
outside to make sure that everything was running right.
Helfman: Do you remember how he dressed?
Furtado: Ah, Mr. Patterson was a plain dresser. Very seldom ever seen that
man in a suit. Just plain clothes, no necktie, always wore a hat.
He was a yes-and-no man. and very conservative. Yes, very seldom
ever seen him a suit.
Helfman: How about the brother?
Furtado : Same thing. No different. Then, when it come te seme serious
problem, then they both would come together and talk it over. One
would consult with the other about certain matters, you know what
I mean, that were quite serious like when they had that water
problem, why Mr. William Patterson, he was in it pretty thick.
Yes, they were very plain people. Very plain people. If you
walk up to him, you'd say, "Who's Mr. Patterson anyway?" Because
the way he was dressed, see? Naturally, a man in his capacity,
you'd think he would dress like an executive. No.
August May, Successful Banker and Colleague of the Pattersons
Furtado: Mr. Patterson was one of the owners and directors of the bank
also. Mr. May [president of the bank] used te come down here, and
talk things over. There was another man with the same thing. He
was quite a smoker. Mr. May never bought cigarettes. He always
relied his cigarettes. Very conservative banker also. Never did
believe loaning any more out that anybody could handle on a lean.
So in 1930. came the Great Depression. That's history; you
don't remember that. The dairy farms on Mr. Patterson's ranch
farm I'm speaking of the dairy farms, not the ranch were in
trouble financially. Prices dropped. No market for the milk.
They were in real trouble. So then Mr. May had leaned a lot of
money out to these dairymen. He came te them and teld them he
wanted them te held on te the business, because he said, "If I
foreclose on you now and take these cattle, I can't put them in my
bank." That's how smart he was. And he says, "And I'm going te
continue on helping you," Mind you, it was something terrible.
It was a crash. "And I want you te continue on," he says,
"because there's going to be a change on the administration." I
think it was Roosevelt come in 1933 or 1934. And he says,
"Things are going te take a turn for the better, and then when
things start picking up. you get a market for your products, I'll
be able te get my money back. If I de it different. I'm going to
be the leser." And. you know, he followed that through. He was
right en the money, what he said. They all came out of it.
But here's what I want te try to bring out to you, The time
of that crash we had thousands and thousands of bank failures in
the United States. You read it in the history. These three
banks: the Alvarado Bank, Niles Bank, and Irvingten Bank were
completely sound. Completely sound, mind you. There were people
that came from Washington, Oregon , and Idaho te try to borrow
money off Mr. May in his bank ever here, and you know what he told
Furtado: them? "This bank has no money for outside people." he says. "If
your banks in those states can't help you. I can't do you any
good," he says. That was him. He always said that any business
that paid mere than 7 percent interest for money would be a
failure. And he was right. And he says, "Never overburden
anybody with more than what they can handle, on loans with money,
because then they are in trouble." He was a kind of a man that,
one time there was a party that walked in there now. I am going
to tell you a story, and this is all history, this is true.
This man walked into his bank, and he's sitting in his
office. I can picture him too, he was a big fat man. and a very
plain man and was just in his office there in his bank in Alvarado
there. That was the main branch. So one day this man come in and
says, "Oh. Mr. May, we're kind of interested in buying an
automobile." So Mr. May asked him. he says, "Well, you get a car
new?" He says. "Yes, but it's net a very good car." "Well. I
tell you the truth. I'm going to tell you right now: this bank's
got no money for a new car for you," he says. "You just keep your
old car," he says, "and that'll make do."
OK, and I had a friend of mine who came in one day and asked
Mr. May if he could borrow some money from him. And so Mr. May
asked him. "I want to know the purpose of the loan." "I want to
make a new house," he says. "You got the plans?" "Yes." So he
looked over the plans. "Well, I'll tell you the truth, your plans
may sound good to you, but not good to me. This house is too
high-toned for you. You got an old one; you stay with that one."
OK, a third party come in. One day a farmer come in there.
I think he lived in Alvarado, but I can't remember his name now.
And he says. "Mr. May. I'm going to need some money." "What is
the purpose?" he says. "I need the money," he says, "for a team
of horses." "You've got the money." he says. You see, anything
that would produce something, you would have the money; but if it
was for like luxuries, that was out with that banker. That's why
the bank was a success. All his loans were all in the line of
cattle and agriculture.
This farm, the reason why it was a success, Mr. Patterson was
net only a good manager, but he didn't let nothing slip by to get
himself in any kind of a problem. This farm was free and clear
when his father died. Of course. I don't remember his father.
But my aunt remembered his father. And he, too, was a very
conservative man, Mr. George Patterson. He was a man with a big
white beard, a big tall man. But see, I don't remember that
because that's before my time.
The Great Depression
Helfman: What else do you remember about the Depression, and how it
affected things here?
Furtado: Well, here's what happened. Came the Great Depression, we were in
here. Mr. Patterson still kept thinking the dollar a day. But
most of the farms in here who did hire anybody, they were paying
ten cents an hour. That's all you could get. Maybe you worked
six hours a day, that makes sixty cents a day. They held on.
I'll tell you why the tenants held en on Mr. Patterson's ranch.
This ranch was on a sound basis. In ether words, they kept en
farming, they didn't get much out of it, but they kept going, kept
at it. Others had to drop out because there was mortgages on the
farm, you understand? Then they foreclosed on them.
But this farm was in a different position. That's the
difference. It took a number of years before the farmers get on
their feet. At that time there was all draft animals, and you
could buy a team of horses probably I call a "team" two. er
whatever it was fer about $125. $100, for using them for farming
purposes. Machinery, that was out of the picture. I don't quite
understand it, but quite a number of years before machines started
coming in on the farm. Like I tell you. it was farmed out the
slow way. but it produced crops.
Today you couldn't do that. There's a change in the
environment. The reason why they talk about water pollution is
due to all the different sprays they have to use in order to get
the crop to grow, like insecticides. That's poison in that, you
knew. Then herbicides, to control the grass. Things like that.
That is what's hurting the environment.
Sugar Beet Harvest by Hand
Helfman: What kind of crops did your family raise here?
Furtado: Sugar beets, tomatoes. That was the basic ones. And there was
corn, and cucumbers, but remember, all this was all harvested by
hand. Everything. If you had a part of large acreage of sugar
beets, we had a beet lifter. It was not a plow; it was something
like a sub-soil er [a tool with a "shoe" on it to lift the beet off
the ground] to lift the sugar beets up it's a root crop to raise
them up off of the ground. Then these people, they came from
Mexico. They came in here by the hundreds. They didn't live on
the ranch. They came from different areas. Then they'd go, and
they had a large beet knife with a hook on it. They'd put this
Furtade: heek into the sugar beet, and pick it up out of the ground, and
cut the top off. then put them in rows. Many rows would come into
the center area, and they left an avenue for the trucks to come
in. and then they'd pick them up by hand and throw them into the
truck. And this farm here, with the three thousand acres it had,
it produced sugar beets for the refinery at Holly Sugar in
Alvarado. They could grind out about, I'd say, at the factory,
maybe about twelve or fifteen hundred tons a day. So some years
this ranch here produced about, I'd say, maybe around the order of
about twenty thousand tens of sugar beets, twenty to twenty-five
thousand tons of sugar beets. Tomatoes, I'd say in the
neighborhood of about four or five thousand tons. That's the two
basic crops on the farm.
The Henry Patterson Family
Helfman: Are there other things you can tell me about the Pattersons'
personalities, the family, how things
Furtade: All I can tell you. they were a close-knit family. Very close.
Mrs. [Henry] Patterson was a school teacher. And I think, if I'm
net mistaken, I think she came from Fresno. I can picture her out
here in the yard also. He had three daughters. There was Sally,
Marjerie, and Georgia. And Mr. William Patterson had three sons.
They were Donald, Jack, and David. I think the only one left now
is David, en Mr. William Patterson's side. And there's Sally,
who's still living yet. I don't knew where she's at. I think
she's over in Atherton or in Piedmont. I'm net sure. She's in
the neighborhood, I'd say, of about seventy-five years eld already
new. And Marjerie Patterson, that was the second daughter, I
think she's down in Palm Springs, if she's still living. I'm not
sure. I don't want to make any commitment because I'm net sure.
And there was Georgia. This I don't know if I should bring
this out er net, but there* d be no harm in it.
I think she was around 16 years eld. Sixteen er seventeen er
something like that. It was quite a tragedy in the family. Mr.
Patterson had gone to pick them up at the University of
California. It was in the winter time. And coming back from his
trip from Berkeley, when he got inte town at Mount Eden, the road
was quite wet. And he slammed his brakes in the car and the
brakes locked on the car and the girls were sitting on the back
seat and when he slammed the brakes on, she broke her neck. She
died immediately. I guess it was no harm in it if I told you
that. And then for one year straight that man never drove a car.
He felt real bad about that. And she was a beautiful girl. Very
Furtado: pretty, they all were. And I tell you. I felt sorry for the man.
He walked around here* and sometime I just wonder what was going
through his mind. I just couldn't figure it...
So all he had left was the two daughters. Sally and Marj orie.
There's no harm in what I told you.
Yes, they were a family that were close, but Mr. Patterson
made the decisions. He's the man that made the decisions. But
she was a real wonderful lady, Mrs. Patterson. You couldn't find
a better person, a lady with a wonderful personality, a very
friendly lady. Very friendly. And so the other family out there,
the same way: very polite people, intelligent people, people with
a let of knowledge.
Helfman: I'd actually heard that there was ether accidents or another
accident someone hit by a train out here. Do you remember
anything like that?
Furtado: Of the Pattersons?
Helfman: I don't think it was family, but just that there was another
Furtado: Well, years ago there was an accident, yes. It was a Chinese
family that came later and farmed on Mr. Patterson's ranch here,
and they lived down next to that railroad out here, along the
railroad track. And that day. the lady, was his wife, the
Chinese lady, she had walked over the railroad track to go and buy
some meat. They used to have a delivery wagon, would sell meat on
the roads. I think that time that she went over out there and
bought the meat and came back, for some reason or other, I don't
know what happened, she came across over the railroad and the
train hit her and killed her. That was the accident that I know
of. Now anything after that I don't remember, but that was the
accident. But nothing connected with the Patterson family, no,
nothing at all.
Game and Poachers
Furtado: Now this ranch became a game sanctuary in about the year 1935. It
was stocked mostly with pheasants in here. It was a game reserve,
in other words. But Mr. Patterson had one problem. It bugged him
every year, the time of the pheasant season. He had people
running all over this farm. They just kept him busy, him and his
brother, and workers, we had to go out here and try to run them
off the ranch. He just couldn't stand having people in here; of
course, he was right! Always had that problem every year. Then
Furtade: later, he hired private detectives to help to keep them off of the
ranch. He did. And he also had a large duck pond down there at
the Coyote Hills, where they, every year about the month of
October or November, they start hunting ducks out there. Then he
and all his friends come over here. Early in the morning, they'd
go down and start hunting for ducks. Real early in the morning,
j ust about daybreak.
Helfman: Did they do a lot of entertaining, have a let of people over?
Furtade: Yes, they did. but that was their own clan of people, you know
what I mean, net just ordinary workers, no. Just the people,
their friends, of course, from different areas here.
Henry Patterson and Tree Management; "dose to Nature"
Helfman: Are there any other things you can remember about the ranch that
we haven't covered?
Furtado: Well, Mr. Patterson, like you know, had all this eucalyptus groves
in here, all the way around the area. He had a family that lived
out in the back and everything. But he was a man I believe that
never had taken out any more brush or anything off of the trees as
more than necessary. Like this grove in here. I did read in the
paper that they said there was a certain amount of acres that had
to be removed because the trees were all fallen down and decaying
and all that, Well, that I don't believe, because I'm looking
out right here new you see all these gum trees? There are quite
a lot of them. Those will be here for the next fifty years or
more yet. Only fallen trees he would allow to remove. Anything
New, this is history that I have to go back that I picked up
from my aunt. She was an old lady already. Her father farmed on
this ranch also.
So when Mr. Patterson's father died he was laid out on this
house here, you know. So when all the farmers came to view the
body, they had to come through the perch out on the back there,
but there was a fallen tree ever the door over the screen doer
so everyone that come in would have to bend down to go underneath
the tree. So one of them said. "Well, Mr. Patterson, you should
remove the tree." He said, "Never remove it; nature put it that
way, j ust leave it like that," he said. He was close to nature...
If a tree grew a certain way, like that tree right there,
that was fine. It did no danger. Nature put it that way, just
leave it like that. Very particular man. If you're going to do
Furtade: any pruning en the trees, only head high no higher than that as
long as you can get through. But you start to trim them all the
way down, no. he wouldn't allow that, no way.
Helfman: You said there were things that you noticed about what they're
doing now that are
Furtado: There was a large walnut grove in here. There was one out on the
other side here, but now it's gone, because they removed it. They
dug it out. What I'm observing here now, they've done a very,
very poor job on the management of the walnut orchards. Some of
the broken down limbs and trees that are decayed should be
removed. Then the soil should have been all worked down, just
down, to conserve the moisture in the land. Then we take, about
in the spring of the year in the month of June, we take it, and we
irrigate all the trees down. We have to work the soil down in the
trees to keep the moisture up, to keep the growth up in order to
get production off of the trees. Now. you go and walk out there,
and what have they got there? They've got all decayed trees out
there and a let of limbs hanging down onto the ground there. They
haven't removed anything. They haven't worked the soil down. So,
you can't call that good management. That's what I'm observing
right new. And if I had something to do with it, that would be
all different there.
Now Mr. Patterson would never allow that. In a certain time
of year we have to get in there and get all that down the grass
out, and all fallen limbs be removed, and that wood would be
burnt. He'd have it all chopped up and make kindling weed for the
wintertime for his fireplace. And now they're talking about
removing I don't know how many acres of the Eucalyptus trees
because due to a danger or hazard or something. Do you find a
hazard on that tree there? As long as that tree has green leaves
like that, that is no hazard there. When you see a tree that has
no mere foliage, then you know it's gone.
But here they're just doing it the opposite. Of course, this
is my estimation of things, with the way they're doing it. I
haven't get no say en this here, but this is what I'm seeing here.
There was a wonderful family fruit orchard out in the back ever
here, family orchard. That's gene, I think, out here already. I
think I came here last year, and I walked back there. It wasn't
taken care of. That's gene there, and the one out here also. New
what they should do to bring it back te its original is take and
set a plant in te replace each dead one. They should go out and
plant a certain amount of dwarf trees in a different area out
here. Soon they could bear fruit, and most of them they could
sell te the public. There's enough space for it.
Furtade: Mr. Patterson was always a great believer in having a lot ef fruit
trees far the house. He had a lot of citrus trees they're all
gone already here new. Apple trees* he had a dozen of them.
Peaches, all different varieties, that's all gone. I'd say if
it's gone now. replace it new. bring it back to its original form
that it was before. That's my belief. Like I tell you, I'm net
the management. This farm here, or whatever it is anyway, I'm not
running it. But I know what I would do if I had my say about it.
Seme ef them trees are still in production yet the walnut trees.
But like I tell you. mere work has to be dene there in order to
get that back in shape.
Helfman: What ether kinds ef things have you noticed?
Furtade: Let's see. [leng pause] Well. I don't knew, but I can tell you
abeut it. what I notice is that it's just a different type of a
management. I don't want to say it's the best in the world it's
net the worst either, but it's not the best. And I think Mr.
Patterson wouldn't go for it. Everything with him had to be
right. And if it wasn't right, he wanted te get an honest answer
from you. You didn't ge around the bush and tell him "Oh. it's
this way, Mr. Patterson." He said. "No, I want te get the right
answer." And believe me, you tell him the truth. And you lie te
him, you were in trouble. He was a dependable man and an honest
man. but he expected an honest answer from you.
The Pattersons and the Hobos
Furtade: New, Mr. Patterson on his ranch here, had a large warehouse; where
you see that house out there now. That warehouse was capable ef
holding abeut. I'd say the neighborhood of 2-300 tons ef hay. So
them days there was a let ef tramps on the read. I'd say we could
call them hebes er tramps or whatever it was. And they dene all
their ceeking in the gums eut here, in the [eucalyptus] grove
here. There was a large water trough out here where you see that
truck parked eut there new. And they'd come with their cans, the
hebes, and get water eut here. There's one thing abeut Mr.
Patterson. New, this is history again. His father told him,
that's what my aunt told me. His father. "Remember," he says,
Never runs the hebes off the ranch; they have to live too." So
the evening would come, and they would have their roll and they'd
sleep inside the hay barn there. Net one time Mr. Patterson ever
run one off. So one day Mrs. Patterson brought that up to Mr.
Patterson about the hebes being on the ranch. And she asked him
that question. She says, "Hew come, Mr. Patterson, you leave
those hebes on the ranch here?" You know what he told her? "They
were here before you came here."
Furtado: Mr. Patterson's father, my aunt told me he was very, very liberal
that way. Never did run them off the ranch. I can just picture
them coming down they used te sometimes cook down there by the
railroad and then usually be coming down here to sleep. And this
warehouse is still standing, and you'll find it in the Coyote
Hills. Have you ever been out there?
Furtado: Did you see that big warehouse built out there that big large
storage building out there? As you go in, you don't go all the
way out straight ahead, you make a left turn and then go down.
It's on the back there. That used to be in here. This was
dismantled here. The man that dismantled is dead and gene new.
His name was Pete Freitas. He was the contractor. And he
dismantled this barn. Then they removed all this material from
here, hauled it down into the Coyote Hills, and they put it
together out there, and just before they had it all together. Mr.
Pete Freitas fell off of the scaffolding and he broke his neck.
And when they picked him up, he was dead already. I remember that
now. New, is there anything else you can think up?
Furtade Family History
Helfman: Not about the ranch. I'm kind of curious mere about you, brothers
and sisters, and your family
Furtade: In my family there was four beys and one girl. I'm the oldest,
then came my other brother. My first name, of course, you know my
name is Donald. And I have a brother by the name of Herbert, and
I have a brother by the name of Cyrus, and a brother by the name
of Leland. And my sister, her name was Zelda. About twenty years
ago my second brother, he was going en a trip, I think, into
Oregon, in a brand new car. But before he got to Eureka that's
in the state of California this guy comes along, I guess he was
travelling at about 100 miles an hour. He was intoxicated. He
hit my brother head-on, and my brother went down that cliff about
five hundred feet, and when he had got down te the bottom he had
broke his neck. I'd say he was about thirty years old. I have
another brother. He lives in San Leandro. He retired. My
sister, she died. She's dead and gone. But my mother's still
living yet. My father died. He was ninety- three years old.
My mother's still living. She's in a rest home in Mountain
View, and she's ninety-two years old. She lived on this farm when
she was a young girl, because my grandfather farmed on Mr.
Patterson's ranch here. And all the water had to be drawn out for
the house there was no plumbing with hand pumps. They'd bring a
Furtado: bucket eut and pump the water by hand, then they had containers
they would fill up with water and bring into the house. No
plumbing. The dishwater had to be taken out in buckets and thrown
Helfman: Your mother worked for
Furtado: The Pattersons, no. My mother, when she was a young lady, that
was before she was married, she worked en the farm with my
grandfather. That was toward the Coyote Hills area. My
grandfather was quite a large farmer in this area. He grew a lot
of potatoes. He had sugar beets and tomatoes. That was the basic
crops. And she's still living yet. She's having a hard time.
She's quite eld now. When you get eld like that, why. it's
different when you're younger.
Helfman: And did your father also farm on the Patterson Ranch?
Helfman: Let's go back to working on the ranch. I'm net sure you told me.
How many people did he have working full time on the ranch?
Furtado: Well, at my time, I'd say it was about not too many ef them.
Toward the end, he only had in about 1950 or before that he only
had about two workers left here. They did most ef the work on the
garden for him in here. But before that, we had, when he was
farming himself, I'd say about twenty- five to thirty people. As
he kept letting the land out en share-basis, and he kept reducing
it down, he had two one by the name ef Joe Brown and Manuel
Martin. They were the last ones left here.
Helfman: Do you know if they're still around? Are either ef them still
around, do you know?
Furtado: If they're living? Oh, no. They're dead and gone a long time
Characterizing Henry Patterson
Furtado: Mr. Patterson most ef the time didn't have any domestic workers in
here. He done the cooking himself and dene a lot of the work
himself in the house here. I can picture him with an apron en
going and coming out of the kitchen deer. When I lived en the
farm here I used to raise a lot of fryers chickens, you know. I
feathered them down and cleaned them out, and I'd bring them down
to him ever here.
Helfman: He actually did the cooking?
Furtado: He did the cooking. He was the main cook. I can picture him out
there in that kitchen en this side here. Yes.
The building itself, the house that you're looking at here
new, you could hardly see it from here. A let of foliage around
all over the house. I notice they made a lot of changes. They
took a lot of under bush out. He never did believe in taking out
toe much. That's a difference I see here now. See the main deor
around the front there? That was office there, right in there.
So sometimes I was quite dirty I had regular coveralls. I'd say.
"Mr. Patterson, I'm quite dirty." "Oh, no. you're a working man,"
he says. "Come right in." he says. That's the way he was.
Helfman: When you would go in to see him. what kind of problems would you
be talking about?
Furtado: Sometimes about starting a certain block of ground, about working
it. or about the irrigation. He says. "I think, well, yes it's
about time we start getting prepared to put water into the walnut
grove here." Things like that.
He was a very sincere man. you know what I mean. He was a
man that you couldn't go up to him and try to give him a hard luck
story or things would go out of line. He wanted the truth. He
wanted everything right. That's just the kind of a man he was. I
got along very well with him. No problems. As long as you told
him the truth, he'd meet you halfway. But if somebody was coming
here with some hard-luck story, or seme kind of a shenanigan of
some kind, you wouldn't get away with it. He was a college man
you knew. He was a surveyor. How much law he did know, I don't
know, but he had quite a bit of knowledge.
Crop Management; Minimal Water. No "Poisons"
Helfman: How did you lay out the crops? Was there a system to that as far
Furtado: We always laid out the crop the way we'd run our water. In ether
words, you can't run water uphill, so you had to be careful hew
you get your row crops in. The land had kind of a slope. So you
start from the highest point and plant dewn to the lowest point.
So when you get all your rows in, you get your water to run out.
You didn't use as much water then like they use' now. Very little
water. Your crop might be given one irrigation. That's always
necessary. Then you'd come in and start working the soil right
afterwards to held the moisture in the crop. I don't know why,
Furtado: them days the moisture held very good on the soil. It didn't dry
out. S the crop never withered, never did always had bumper
Today you can't do that anymore. You never had to worry
about worms coming in and eating the crop out en you. Never. No
fertilizer, the ground was real fine and fluffy, real strong. It
was virgin ground. Like I tell you, after a number of years, the
land is farmed, it loses its strength. The water had a lot to do
with it. If you've get real sweet water, and very little alkali
in it* it builds your soil up. But when your water becomes, well,
if you use water that has a let of salt in it. or alkali, and
things like that, you're in trouble. But them days you didn't
have to worry about that because the water was close to the
surface. You had real pure water. Where today, all your water
is they use it like in these large farms in San Joaquin Valley,
the reason why they having problems, they using too much
insecticides, herbicides, and all that. All that gets into the
soil, penetrates into the soil and poisons the soil up. Then when
they drain the water out, look what happens. You got all that
poisoned watez all over the place.
In my time we didn't have that problem. And that's the
difference. You could go out in the field, say you was hungry and
you wanted to pick up a tomato off of the vine, you didn't have to
worry about the tomato being poisoned. There were no insecticides
in it there was nothing in it. Today you couldn't do that. You
go out to a farm, they've got signs posted: Keep Out. Poison.
That's the difference. So we're living in a different environment
altogether in the year we're in now. And I'll be honest with you,
I don't think it's going to get any better. I say, if you can
live close to nature and just go along with nature, you're much
better off. That's the way I'm looking at it. But it's
impossible. You can't do that today. Sure, technology is a
wonderful thing. It's helped the people out to work much easier.
You're probably getting mere production on your crops. But you're
still in danger with all the poisons you use on the crops. You're
in danger. So then they have to be more cautious in the way they
work it out new. You can see it you read in the newspapers.
That's a difference between now and the time that I did it.
Farming with Draft Animals: Cheap Labor, Low Overhead
Helfman: I guess one last thing would be if there is anything else you
could add about the changeover to machinery from draft animals.
Furtado: Well, here's the difference. At that time when we farmed, say you
had fifty acres of land, it required probably about ten people to
do it. One team ef horses would be doing one job. which was draft
animals, and another man would be doing another job with another
team of horses with another piece of implement all horse-drawn
implements. Where today, you can take the same amount of land
with one man. and do double the work with the modern machinery we
have now. See the difference? It's faster, and more positive in
what you're doing, and much easier. You got a better handle on
preparing the soil. Ten to one that was the difference.
And ef course then, the bigger you get. you get bigger
machinery. It depends en how much land you farm. If you get
fifty acres, why. you buy a certain size machine. But then if you
get bigger, then you get a bigger machine. But then you're doing
double the work already. But then, let's put it this way. At
them days you'd buy a team of horses for $150 or $100. and you
took ten men away from there, and brought the machine to do the
same job $40.000 to $50.000. That's a difference.
So that means that you have to get mere income on your
product to take care of your overhead and your investment. If you
don't get it, you're out. That's why them days the farm was
successful because it was a low overhead. New Mr. Patterson's
father, when he came into this area here, all this land he
probably bought for maybe, now I'm just guessing, $50 to $100 an
acre, which was big money them days. But then, as he went along
he earned enough out ef it in order to accumulate all this
acreage. Where today you take the same acre of land, would cost
you at least about maybe $10.000 an acre or mere. So that means
how much more you'd have to earn on that acre in order to pay off
the lean and your machinery and so on. That's a difference. So
that's why you see a let of bankruptcies today, being overburdened
with the large loans, high-priced machinery.
Labor, no. That's one thing that I can't get through my head
is this: they blame the labor for everything. But I'm going to
tell you something: labor is the cheapest thing that there is on
the market. And I'll tell you the difference. The machine, you
can repair it. but the man you cannot repair. I don't knew if it
makes sense to you, but that's what I'm telling you. Can be net
only in farming, can be in a factory, can be anything. I think
you see my point there. So the laborers at that time just earned
just barely enough to get by. That's all. There was no extra.
But we got by. We had to sacrifice there was no anything handy
or fancy. We couldn't live that way. We just had to go according
to the times. That's the way it was.
"People Were Happy"
Furtado: But people in them days were happy, they were satisfied. Today
nobody's happy anymore about anything. It's all different. And
neighbors were always willing to help ethers. If you had a
little problem or something, needed help, somebody get sick, they
were right there to help you no charge. One neighbor would help
the ether. Farmers that way. If the ether farmers had a problem:
OK. I get extra time, I'll come down and help you. No charge.
That's the way it was. Today you can't do that anymore. If you
need help, you have to pay for it.
Helfman: I think that's about it for new.
Furtado: I think I gave you quite a bit ef information. I hope you'll be
happy with it. New this is not fiction. If anybody come up to
me, I'll back you up en it. You don't worry about that. Has this
all been picked up on tape?
Furtado: That* s wonderful.
Helfman: It's all very, very good information.
Furtado: Do you think I give you information right? I hope I did. I'm was
very happy to cooperate with you in it, and at any time in the
future, anything else I can help you en, I'll be glad to help you.
I'm sorry I had to delay all this time, you know I've been quite
ill with my joints, and I have te lay down in bed sometimes, and
my mind is net working right sometimes. I don't want te make a
commitment te anybody en something and net get it right. I said
today, for sure I've get te meet you and get this thing
straightened out once and f er all. Would they allow us te walk
around here a little bit, I wonder?
Helfman: I think it's fine.
[Tape 2. Side B, records casual conversation as Donald Furtado and
Bill Helfman walked around the grounds of Ardenwoed Park. The
tape is available in The Bancroft Library.
A short portion of the tape was accidentally erased during
transcription. It discussed Mr. Furtado's pay on the Patterson
Ranch and why he left the ranch in the mid-fifties. Bill Helfman
put these questions to Mr. Furtado again and reports:
On Pay and Working Conditions
Helfman: Furtade said he was paid forty cents an hour for eight hours work;
with no retirement, health or other benefits. This was the
prevailing wage. Patterson paid no better, no worse.
Furtado left the Patterson farm around 1955 (he can't
remember the exact year) to go into partnership on a farm in the
Fremont area. The farm was on leased land. Furtado did this for
about ten to twelve years. Then, arthritis disabled him, and he
Transcribed by Melanie Moorhead
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE Dnald Furtado
Date ef Interview: February 7, 1987
tape 1. side A 6 ?
tape 1. side B
tape 2. side A 8 *
tape 2. side B net transcribed
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
Til lie Logan Goold
The Logan Family Farm in Alvarado
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright fc) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS Tillie Logan Goold
INTERVIEW HISTORY 95
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 96
Parents' Immigration from Ireland 97
The Twelve Children Goals, Education. Chores 98
Working the Land Seasonal Crops and Laborers 100
School and Community 102
Rich Soil from Alameda Creek Flooding 103
The Patterson Family Social Circle 104
Working the Fields with Horses, Pre-1930s 105
High Taxes and the Sale of the Ranch 105
Remembering "Pa" 106
TAPE GUIDE 107
INTERVIEW HISTORY Tillie Logan Goold
Tillie Goold was born in 1903 and raised on a 100-acre farm about two
miles north of the Patterson Ranch. Her recollections of her family
immigrants from Ireland who raised twelve children on their farm provide a
picture of rural life in Washington Township in the first four decades of
Mrs. Goold was interviewed on May 14. 1986, at her home in Fremont,
California. Her husband, J. Vernon Goold (who is fondly remembered as "Pop"
Goold by several generations of graduates from the Washington Township
schools), was a teacher and administrator in the Washington Union High
School District. Mr. Goold was present at the interview and helped fill in
areas where Mrs. Goold's memory was hazy. A subsequent interview with Mr.
Goold was not transcribed because of poor sound quality and less direct
relevance to this project on the Patterson Ranch. He has been previously
interviewed for a Fremont community history project, and tapes from that
interview are available in the Fremont public library.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
urao. History wj.ij.te university or Lalliornla
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 96 Berkeley, California 94720
(Please print or write clearly)
Your full name M at ( I Ha IT ( 1 1^( O v
Date of birth 3 I/ & / 3
Father's full name
Mother's full name /) g Q *? C C t
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Birthplace \J ^ t ~Lf^d- vt-cri
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Occupation // (^i-^c^LJ- sLJ-*~ c Le. TX/ <-/// CI\\JL.
Where did you grow up ? (^$- ]/t Cc- 1 Ct.
Present community / Z(^n Ifttl
Education / ^tC-rricl ^f -frtu cZ^T*: ^ V L- yzec - "^^( rCr^U
Occupation(s) ,~J . < a^<-4' fo ^^V t t
Special interests or activities
Parents' Immigration From Ireland, 1890
[Date of Interview: May 14. 1986] ##
Lage: We want te start with your parents. Tell me where they came
T. Goold: Both of them came from Ireland. They did net know each other.
though, in Ireland. They met out here. My mother [Rebecca Kerr]
worked for her aunt, housework, in Alvarade on the ranch. My
father [James Logan] worked for the McKeowns when he came out.
Lage: Were the McKeowns relatives?
T. Goold: Yes, distant relatives.
Lage: When did your father come here?
T. Goold: It would have been about ninety years age, about 1890.
Lage: And your mother about the same time?
T. Goold: Yes.
Lage: Did they ever tell stories about why they came here?
T. Geold: My mother came out to work for her uncle. That was en the ranch
where I was born. And my father came out te work for the
McKeowns. which was just a couple ef miles away. And that's
where they met. And all ef us kids were raised there, en my aunt
and uncle's ranch. A.J. Kerr.
Lage: What area was it?
T. Goeld: Alvarade. It was really the Alviso school district, but we went
to Alvarado Grammar School, because my father would go inte town
to shop, and we would get a ride.
Lage: Do you recall the kinds of farming that were done?
T. Goold: Well, they raised sugar beets; they raised potatoes, tomatoes,
cauliflower. I don't think there was cauliflower at the very
beginning. It was something that came later.
##This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 107.
The Twelve Logan Children; Goals, Education. Chores
Lage: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
T. Goold: There were twelve in the family. Six beys and six girls.
Lage: That kept your mother pretty busy.
T. Goold: Yes. She had help in the house. Bey, eh bey, they were strict
about the schooling for everyone. Among the girls, there were
three teachers, two nurses, and a secretary.
Lage: And how about the boys, what did they become?
T. Goold: They went on to Ag [agriculture]. My oldest brother ended up
field superintendent for Holly Sugar in Alvarado.
V. Geeld: And Bill was at Thorton Canning. John was an auto mechanic. Jim
was a car salesman. And Ted was in weights and measures for
Alameda County. Ralph is a very successful rancher here and in
Lage: Now. you say your mother had seme help in the home? What kind of
help did she have?
T. Goeld: A woman to help with the housework. Later on she had this
Spanish bey. Well, the folks were really raising him. and he was
a kid with the rest of us, raising heck in the kitchen while my
mem was trying to cook. But he worked for the folks, too.
Lage: I wondered about your parents' goals for their children. Did
they talk about what they would like you to do? You mentioned
education was important. How did that come across to you?
T. Goold: My eldest sister was a teacher, very successful. Then the next
sister in line was a teacher, too. She was a supervisor in the
San Leandro schools. Then there was me. I was a teacher.
Lage: Do you remember your parents emphasizing studying?
T. Geeld: No. When we were in high school, we thought things over and
planned. We did what we thought we would like te do. I wanted
to be a nurse, but Pa said, "No. You're not going to do that,"
because I was tiny. So, okay, then, a teacher. And then the next
sister younger than me was a nurse.
Lage: What kind of training did you need to be a teacher?
T. Goold: Oh, San Jose State. It was called San Jese Normal then.
Lage : Was it a four-year program?
V. Goold: No. two, or three, or four years.
Lage: Was it difficult for your parents to put the children through
college, or did you work and pay for it yourself?
T. Goold: No. There was no place for us to go to work. They struggled.
Everyone of us had to go on to school except the last brother.
He was working en the ranch then, and he had started a ranch of
Lage: Did you have duties en the ranch as you were growing up, chores?
T. Goold: Well, the boys did. The girls helped Ma. My mother had help in
the house until we got eld enough that we could do it.
Lage: So you didn't do any farm work, and your mother didn't do any
T. Goold: No, no.
Lage: Did your father work on this ranch you were raised on, or
continue working for the McKeowns?
V. Goold: You see. when Tillie's mother's uncle and aunt passed away.
Tillie's mother inherited their ranch.
Lage: Do you know how large the ranch was?
T. Goold: Oh. yes. a hundred acres. All farming.
Lage: Did your father hire laborers to work on the farm?
T. Goold: Yes. he had to. in the season.
Lage: Were they of a particular ethnic background, do you remember?
T. Goold: No. he took what he could get because it was seasonal. He had
one man on the ranch who lived there. He came from Ireland. He
was my father's nephew. He lived on the ranch and did the little
Lage: Were there a lot of Irish people in the area?
V. Goold: A few, yes. McKeowns, and Barbara Smyrl's father, and your dad's
brother, and then there were the Haxveys and the Dinsmores.
T. Goold: I don't know about the Harvey s, because those darn kids would
make fun of us and call us the Irish.
Lage: Was there a rivalry between different ethnic groups?
T. Geeld: Ne. No. there weren't enough Irish around to be a group
Lage: Was religion an important part of your family growing up?
T. Goold: Very much so. My father was very strict. Every Sunday.
Lage: Roman Catholic?
T. Goold: Ne. Presbyterian.
Lage: From Northern Ireland?
T. Goold: Yes.
V. Goold: But her relatives in Ireland gave the Catholic Church over there
an acre of land to build their church on. So there was never any
competition between the Scotch- Irish and the Catholics.
T. Goeld: There was never any in our family. We were all made to get along
and be happy and thankful we were here.
Working the Land: Seasonal Crops and Laborers
Lage: I wanted to ask you what you could recall about the farm
operation because the East Bay Regional Park District wants to
recreate a farm situation at Ardenwood Preserve. Let me ask you
first about dates. Do you mind my asking you when you were born?
T. Goold: No, 1903.
Where were you in the birth order?
T. Geeld: I was sixth, I think. It was a boy, a girl, a boy, a girl, a
bey, and then I was the sixth.
Lage: De you recall much about the work on the farm? Could you
describe what harvest time was like, for instance?
T. Geeld: Yes. We had one man steady and then had to hire men during each
season, potato season, tomato season, and all that.
V. Goold: Those were the days when there were regular, professional crop
followers. They centered in Decoto. Many of them had homes
there, but they followed the crops around California. So when
beet season came, they would come to Mr. Logan with their knives
V. Goold: and everything to top beets and pick cauliflower and all that.
The kids I had in high school sometimes could only stay part of
the year because they were following crops. That was a regular
profession in these days.
Lage: Were they Mexican, basically?
V. Goold: Yes.
Lage: Even in these early years?
T. Goold: Yes. That is when they started, when I was tiny. Pa had a
couple working on the ranch. When we would be walking home from
school. I would be scared to death, because we would meet these
guys coming home. We were a couple of miles from town. I'll
never forget one of them started walking toward me, and I was
ready to scream and run. He just knew he was going to scare me.
Lage: Was that just your perception of them, or were there incidents?
T. Goold: No. It just scared me. I was walking alone, you knew. But he was
being smarty. toe. Se I guess Pa j umped him the next day because
I cried then en the way home. So he get told off.
Lage: How about planting time? Do you remember any of the specifics of
T. Goold: Well, there would be seasons, sugar beet season. We raised a let
of sugar beets and potatoes.
Lage: Do you remember where you sold the crops?
T. Geold: Yes. There were commission houses from Oakland and some locally.
Lage: You mentioned that you helped your mother. Was that a
considerable portion of the day?
T. Geold: Oh no, because she had help in the house. Just little jobs.
Lage: Did you help care for younger brothers and sisters?
T. Goold: Oh sure, sure, and it was always met [laughter]
Lage: Hew did the Depression affect farming families in this area? You
were away from home by then, but do you know if it was hard on
T. Goold: Well. I don* t think it was.
V. Geold: Well, it was hard en the two of us, because we were teaching
then. She was getting a good salary, and se was I, and they
suddenly announced, "You're going to take so much, and you can
get another job if you don't like it. or stay with us, and when
times get better we'll try to do better by you."
But the Logan ranch seemed to get by. By that time there
were only a few high school kids still there. Of course,
everybody had difficulty. But Pa Logan was a sharp little
Lage: Let's get your parents' names en the record.
T. Goald: James Logan, my father. Ma was Rebecca.
Lage: Do you recall, when you were on the farm, cycles of good and bad
T. Geold: Oh, yes, because I had to work for a time before I went te San
Jose State. I worked in Coney's store in Centerville. Then I
had to decide what I was going to do, or else.
School and Community
Lage: Let's talk about your schooling as you grew up. You said you
went to Alvarado grammar school. What was the school like?
T. Goold: There were two grades in the primary class, three in the interme
diate, and three in the upper class. First and second grade were
in one room, then third, fourth and fifth were in the next room,
and sixth, seventh and eighth in the ether room.
Lage: Did you have friends over a widespread area?
T. Geold: Yes, by high school. I had to ceme to Centerville for high
school, in the bus. That took in all the schools around.
Lage: Were the families that you knew newcomers in this area?
T. Goold: Oh. no.
Lage: Who were some of the people that you remember that your family
associated with and knew well?
T. Geold: It's hard to say.
Lage: We talked last time about hew this area has changed so
tremendously. Was the change gradual or can you pinpoint a
T. Goold: I guess it was gradual.
V. Goold: It was after the war, too. Some of the people shifted down from
Richmond shipbuilding. And then some of the service people who
came through here* on account of the climate and such they swore
up and down they were coming back and, boy, they did.
Lage: So after World War II you had an influx into the community?
V. Goeld: Oh, yes. It wasn't a tidal wave, but they began to come in and
still are coming.
Rich Soil from Alameda Creek Flooding
Lage: As I told you, this project is gathering information about the
Patterson family, as well as the Washington Township area. Were
you aware of the Patterson family as you were growing up?
T. Goold: Yes, they were over at the gum trees, [laughter]
Lage: How close was your ranch to the Patterson ranch?
V. Goold: I'd say two miles. There was Patterson. McKeown, and then the
Lage: And so it was all the same kind of land.
V. Goold: The thing I've always raved about the Logan ranch was that it was
a perfect ranch, as was the McKeown ranch, too. and the Patterson
ranch, because the Alameda Creek flooded every year and left at
least a quarter of an inch of sediment every year fresh land,
fresh soil. It would produce anything. That land out there
would produce anything in the world.
Lage: Did your land get that flooding too. then?
T. Goold: Yes. My father would have to take us to school in Alvarado in a
spring wagon. The whole ranch would be under water.
Lage: You realized that that was bringing you rich soil?
T. Goold: Oh, yes. After the flood went down, there was sediment all over
the yard. It was a job to get things cleaned up again, but it
was wonderful new soil.
Lage: How about water? Did you pump water from wells?
T. Goold: Yes. We had two wells, wasn't it?
V. Goold: Yes. there were two artesian wells at the back of the property,
and two pumps there at the house.
The Patterson Family Social Circle
Lage: Back to the Pattersons. You mentioned to me that they kind of
moved in a different circle.
T. Goold: Yes. They lived there all year round, because Ellen Dinsmore
used to work for them in the house.
V. Goold: They also had immense 1 an dhol dings in Livermore and may have
lived part time en the cattle ranch there.
Lage: And I understand that some of the family lived in Piedmont at
V. Goold: Oh, yes, very chi-chi.
Lage: You mentioned a few people to me who were in that same social
circle as the Pattersons. Do you remember that? I think you
mentioned the Fords.
V. Goold: That was the bunch that went around with the Pattersons. They
were the monied group.
Lage: Do you recall some of their names?
V. Goold: They were all socialites the Fords and the Hansens and the
Dusterberrys. Frank Dusterberry was the president of the bank
Lage: You had mentioned the Ellsworths and the Jones. Were these mere
business people in town?
V. Goold: Ellsworth was a big insurance man and a rancher.
Lage: So there were lines drawn by wealth?
V. Goold: Oh, yes, just the same as nowadays.
Working the Fields with Horses, Pre-1930
Lage: Have you been out to see Ardenwoed farm?
V. Goold: No. Neither Til lie nor I walk very well anymore. You see. for
the two of us. who have been in close contact with ranching, it
doesn't mean anything to us because we were there. Of course.
the thing that I adore are the four big horses that they have out
there, but en the ether hand we raise show horses now in Oregon.
Lage: Were there horses en your father's farm?
T. Goold: Oh, yes.
Lage: Do you recall when he switched over to mechanized farming? Was
it while you were still living there?
V. Goold: They had horses when I was courting her.
T. Geald: Annie had to drive to Centerville to high school, and the horse
she had was very frisky. It was a very clever horse, but not for
a girl going to school.
V. Geold: We married in '27. I think in '24 when I was chasing around
after you they had horse there. In fact, I know they had them
there in 1924.
T. Goold: Oh, yes, they always had work horses there, a black team.
V. Goold: You see they cultivated between the rows, and you can't put a
tractor doing that. So they still had horses there, even in 1927.
High Taxes and the Sale of the Ranch
When was the Logan farm sold?
V. Goold: Well, I'll tell you. That was the tragedy of a lifetime, and of
course, the incoming of Ganns proposition 13 is what saved us.
The youngest brother. Ralph, who is new a retired stockman in
Idaho, at the end there was working and making his living on the
ranch there. Just before he gave it up, the taxes got so high
that the girls, and everybody in the Logan family, had to
contribute to paying his taxes the last year.
V. Goold: You take a hundred acres of valuable land, and the taxes were so
high that no one could afford them. But you see, the politicians
don't see that. So the subdividers came in, and they got what
was then a fair price for the land, and they just sold the ranch.
[shows photographs of ranch house, Presbyterian church in
Centerville] So there are many fond memories that have
T. Goold: There were twelve raised in that house. I don't know how they
did it. Of course, my mother had help all the time, but even so.
Lage: Did your father take a role in disciplining the children?
T. Goold: Oh. he did, and he was just a little tiny guy, but when Pa spoke
V. Goold: He had two words. All he ever said was, "Boys."
T. Goold: Yes, and that meant the girls too.
Lage: So he had pretty good order. You have to, with twelve children.
V. Goold: When you take a family that size, you have to have organization
that would knock some of these businessmen cock-eyed. I don't
know how they did it.
T. Goold: But he was a good father.*
* James Logan was a long-time school board member of the
Washington Union High School District. The James Logan High
School in Union City is named after him.
Transcribed by Ann Lage
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE Tillie Logan Goeld
Date of Interview: May 14. 1986
tape 1 , side A 97
tape 1. side B 103
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
A Neighboring Farmer Recalls the Early Days
An Interview Conducted by
1988 by the Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS Wallace McKeown
INTERVIEW HISTORY 111
Early Families on the Northern Flood Plain 112
Fire at Patterson Landing 113
Farming in Wetlands Chinese Farmers 114
Recalling George Washington Patterson 115
Transition from Cattle Ranching to Farming 117
McKeown Family Roots 119
Ducks and Geese in the Marshes 121
Neighboring Families 122
Tales of Deer on the Patterson Ranch 125
Neighbors, Parties, Horseracing 127
Looking at Deeds from the 1870s and 1880s 130
Floods. Artesian Wells, and Reclaiming the Marshland 133
More Stories about G. W. Patterson 137
TAPE GUIDE 139
INTERVIEW HISTORY Wallace McKeown
Wally McKeown arrived in Washington Township as a young boy in 1890 and
lived for more than eighty-five years on his farm just north of the
Patterson Ranch. He was interviewed by Donald Patterson on October 21,
1975. and tapes of their conversation were placed in the Society of
California Pioneers. When this oral history project on the Patterson family
and ranch was initiated, the Society granted permission for us to transcribe
the McKeown interview, as well as Donald Patterson's interview of his
cousin, William Volmer, and a tape-recorded narrative and interview of
Donald Patterson. The latter two interviews are included in the third
volume focusing on the Patterson family.
McKeown was in his nineties when Donald Patterson interviewed him in
the McKeown home. He had some difficulty hearing, and some of his
recollections needed confirmation or prompting by his sister,
NancyCidentified as Ms. McK. in the transcript), who lived with him and was
present during the interview. But he had no trouble recalling boyhood
encounters with Donald's grandfather and the ranch's founder, George
Washington Patterson. And he created for us a sense of the landscape, the
wildlife, and the inhabitants of the North Plain at the turn of the century.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Early Families on the Northern Bleed Plain
[Date of Interview: October 21. 1975] ##
Patterson: Mr. Wally McKeown is with us, who knows probably more about the
northern part of the flood plain than anybody that's left new.
I think it's important that we record this information because I
think it was a part of Washington Township which was somewhat
isolated from the rest of the community in the early days.
Would you say that's true. Wally. that net too many people get
into this area early?
McKeown: In the early days, it wasn't [very populated]. But that was
Patterson: Well, what was it then?
McKeown: Well, when we came here, this was Washington Township, wasn't
it? [Directed to Ms. McKeown. sister of Wally McKeown]
Ms. McK. : Yes.
McKeown: We came here the spring of 1890.
Patterson: 1890, eh, yes. Well, you probably, then, remember the Ryan
family. Was the Ryan family still here on the Ryan mound when
you were here?
McKeown: What family? [Having a hard time hearing]
Ms. McK. : Ryan. Ryan ranch, down here. You know, you've talked about it.
The Ryan ranch, down below here. He doesn't remember.
McKeown: I can't hear.
Patterson: Hew about the Harms? Was the Hahn family here, or had they
McKeown: I don't remember them.
Ms. McK.: Well, you remember the Ryans. I don't think they were here.
then, But, you knew where they lived down here. You knew where
the Ryan ranch was.
MThis symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 139.
McKeewn: Oh. yes. the Ryans. There were two of these Ryans, and Simpson;
he lived in back. You know where the mounds is, Indian mounds,
ever there? Well, that's where the Ryans lived. There were two
homes there. And Simpson, he lived further over. A man by the
name of Parish lived out there, and if you drive down that lane,
and Simpson was right around the corner. They had an orchard in
Patterson: Were they en one of the mounds the Simpsons?
McKeewn: No. That's a flat. The Ryans was en the mound two Ryan
families. They lived further down.
Patterson: What did they do. did they farm?
McKeewn: Oh, yes. They owned land on this side, tee. I guess Mr.
Patterson bought it later.
McKeown: Do you remember where the two big warehouses used to be?
Patterson: Oh. yes.
McKeown: Well, the Andersen family lived there. On this side, they owned
about twenty acres or more. They had a pear orchard. Pretty
near all them farmers the whole country had orchards. Most of
them had pears and apples. Some had cherry trees, but, this was
wet country, you know, and the pears could stand the water.
Fire at Patterson Landing
McKeewn: Anderson landing, and then there's Patterson's landing further
down. You get three big warehouses in there. They used to
raise a let of cattle in them days, and used to store them
warehouses full ef hay. I remember one time, one Sunday
afternoon, we was coming from church and one of the buildings
was en fire.
McKeown: They were plumb-full ef hay. clear up into the tie beams, you
knew, they were big warehouses. And a Chinaman I guess there
was a space about ten feet in the end, and he had some onions
stored in there he either dropped a cigarette in it, or when
he was coming home. And it burned up. The thing was on fire
McKeswn: about four o'clock in the afternoon. There was nothing to it.
but except that it burned. I remember your grandfather coming
down with Pete McCaughlin. do you remember him?
Patterson: I don't believe so, no.
McKeovn: Ahead af your time. I guess.
Patterson: Yes. I think so.
McKeewn: He was a foreman. He came down with your grandfather Mr.
Patterson, anyhow that was your father, wasn* t he?
McKeewn: Oh. he was your grandpa. Oh. that's right. Bill Patterson was
your father. And he came down there, and looked at it the
fire turned around and went home. He said it was no use.
There was a big slough alongside . The beats used to come up
and lead the haul hay into South San Francisco. South San
Francisco was the big cattle market, and they used to raise all
the hay. Had his own hay press and threshing machine. And he
had men living on the ranch over there. And he had that big
Livermere ranch, toe. you knew. He had cattle. His line was
cattle; he wasn't much of a farmer.
Farming in Wetlands Chinese Farmers
McKeewn: Down along the lower end. water springs flowing all year round,
and a let of Chinese lived in there. They brought Chinese here
to work en the railroad in the early days. And then they
settled down. But, all they raised was onions and garlic. Seme
raised a few vegetables for themselves, but their main crop was
onions and garlic. A few raised maybe a few tomatoes, melons,
or squash, or something like that. And they finally faded away
when the water level in the ground began to drop down.
They hired somebody to come with a team of horses and plow
up three or four or five acres and harrow it down and work it,
and they would plant the onions. You didn't have to irrigate in
them days. Plenty of moisture. If you didn't clean the ditch,
the whole place would be a swamp. Even on our back place here,
too. the same way. Used to go down there, and clean all the
ditches. All summer long, running fresh water out. Never think
of irrigating. Of course, they only raised a single crop a year
or two. not like they do today.
Patterson: That's right. It was toe wet in the wintertime.
McKeown: Oh. yes. it was tee wet. [Everyone laughs] The water was all
around this house, once or twice. Do yeu know where Alder
Avenue is this side of Centerville?
McKeown: Well. I've seen that road covered with water, clean to the pump
station this side ef Mtu Eden. Net a foot of water. Net a feet
ef land under the water. Another fellow and I drove carts with
high wheels we drove all the way through it. There was hardly
any bridges, there was sloughs water running . Had a big
sleugh right back here. Yeu remember seeing the slough?
McKeown: There was a bridge over here.
Patterson: Yes, that's right. I never saw this ene that went through here.
I've seen this ene [indicates on a map er phete or similar type
of drawing], but net this eld ene.
I guess I can remember it. Yes, en this read here, there
was a bridge that went over.
McKeown: It was about a hundred feet long.
Patterson: Yes. Wally. was this read from Alvarado to Newark was that an
old read? Was that always there?
McKeown: That road was there when we came here.
Patterson: It was. Well, hew did you get through in wintertime? Wasn't
there so much water you couldn't go through it?
McKeown: Well, when the floods went down, yeu could drive through it.
There was a few bridges on it. Three er four bridges between
here and Alvarado. This ene dewn here was about three times
bigger than what it is now. And there's one further down two
further dewn around the corner. Then, of course, if yeu
couldn't drive through, yeu stayed home. [Everyone laughs]
Recalling George Washington Patterson
Patterson: Wally, can you tell us a little about my grandfather? You see,
I never knew him.
McKeown: Well. I used to come from Alviso school I was about six or
seven years eld and he used to drive around in his horse and
cart. And he'd always pick me up and give me a ride home if he
happened to be along that time of the afternoon. I can remember
one time, be coming across the railroad track, you know, up here
by the crossing. Well, a man lived en this side named John
Freitas and he had a big bunch of hogs. And they were all ever
on Mr. Patterson's side of the read, below the track. A
Scotsman had corn planted in there. You knew, field corn. And
the hog was in there, I guess, and he offered me five dollars if
I could drive one of them pigs ever to his house.
I told him if I could get a rope en his feet. I could drive
him. "Oh, no." he says, "you've got to drive them." [laughter]
They had about twenty- five, thirty hogs in there. And Mr.
Patterson never had a hog on the place where he lived. After he
passed away, then a fellow (I forget his name) brought two or
three of these red pigs in there. I can remember that's the
first pigs that he kept en the place. He didn't like hogs, for
Patterson: [laughs] What kind of a man was he?
McKeown: Well, he was a quiet guy. He didn't follow the saloons, I'll
tell you that much. Well, he was nice to talk to. He always
gave me a ride, if I happened to be coming home from school.
He'd pass me. pick me up, and give me a ride, but not every day.
of course. But he used to drive around. He used to have cattle
all down through in this area. He had his own threshing
machine, his own hay press, and he used to have this volunteer
rye grass. Sometimes, grass be about that high, and he had his
hay press. He'd cut it and bale it and store it down in these
big warehouses they had down there. Then, he was half-owner of
the boat seme ether guy with him was a captain on the boat.
They owned that sailboat together. They used to come in, load
that hay. and take it to South San Francisco.
Patterson: Do you remember the name of the beat?
McKeown: No. I don't remember the name. But. I don't knew if it even had
a name or not. In them days, them old boats they never named
them. I never seen the name on the side. Later on, when the
salt companies come in. then they had names on the beats. But
they were power-driven. But, later they put, on this boat, when
Mr. Patterson was still living the man, the partner, they put
side wheels on it they ran it with a gasoline engine for a few
Patterson: Oh. yes. This I didn't know. So, they went from the sail,
then, to power while they were still using the Patterson landing
McKeown: Yes. they used it. Well, the headquarters, I guess, were down
in South San Francisco (where they kept the boat), but see, they
could come in on one tide, on the one that was power-driven, and
load it up and get it out in the same tide. But. if they sailed
it in, he'd have to come in on the flood tide, and then load it
Transition from Cattle Ranching to Farming
Patterson: Right, right. When did they stop shipping by water, do you
McKeown: Oh, yes. They quit grazing the cattle, you knew. That's quite
a few years age when they quit the cattle business.
Patterson: I wonder why they quit the cattle business. Do you know?
McKeown: It was a losing business. I think Mr. Patterson that passed
away Henry Patterson was your uncle, wasn't he?
McKeown: Well, when they took over then they went to farming vegetables.
The cattle business, he couldn't make it pay in this area, for
seme reason. He used to ship the hay to South San Francisco.
But a bunch of Chinamen used to farm down along where the
willows used to grow down there. They used to farm there were
a whole lot of them there must at least twenty Chinese. They
built their own houses. There was one Chinaman [who] had a team
of horses. He lived down here in what they called Adderson
ranch. He went down this ether way to get in there [indicates
on a map], and he was the only Chinaman had any horses. He had
a team, and one day he hit one of the horses with a piece of his
stick, and the horse gave him a kick and that was the end of the
Patterson: Oh, really? Killed him?
McKeown: Caught him right in the breast. The cattle business began to
well. I guess the taxes got a little too high, and they couldn't
make it pay. so they must have farmed vegetables. Put in their
wells, and later on
Patterson: Yes. Was that when they started raising tomatoes?
McKeown: Yes, the tomato started in about that time. They used to raise
a lot of sugar beets, too.
Patterson: Yes. Well. Wally, in the early days, as far back as you can
remember, didn't they raise a lot of barley and a lot of wheat?
Do you remember that?
McKeown: Oh, yes. This is the grain country, yes. You know what they
used to call the Big Field? That used to be grain, year after
Patterson: New, that's where the wild geese used to come in, too, didn't
Yes. they'd land out in them Big Field. Well, pretty near every
farmer had to raise hay if he owned horses. You see, you didn't
have tractors in them days. I remember Mr. Patterson bringing
some cattle from Mexico. You talk about wild cattle with big
herns about that wide. They'd never seen a white man en feet.
You go in there, why, it would circle right around you. On
horseback they were used to that. But. a person walked across
a field, there . I seen them one time. I took a walk out a
little ways. They all come running in a big half-circle. I had
the fence behind me and I got out of there in a hurry.
Wally. this was all fenced, then, for the cattle.
run they were within fences, yes.
McKeown: They were wooden fences, tee.
Patterson: They were wooden fences, net barbed wire.
McKeown: Didn't have barbed wire. Might be a little bit later en because
these fences were all wood.
Patterson: Oh. yes. My. that must have taken a lot of lumber.
McKeown: Oh. well, there were redwood pests . Lumber didn't cost like
it is today. Go over to San Mateo County or Redwood City over
there, buy a redwood post could get them for pretty near
nothing. Used to cut them redwood trees down and they'd split
them by hand they weren't sawed. Split posts, and they'd last
a long time in the ground. And they used to bring the pine
boards in . The railroad used to haul them into the stations,
and then they'd go and get them out of the station.
There was a big difference in the farming in them days than
it is today. Could get a man for a dollar a day, and board him.
Try and get one today for that, [laughter]
Patterson: That's right. And those fellows worked hard, too.
McKeown: Well, when they lived on the place, they worked a let of places
they worked for a dollar a day and board. And there were other
times when they got their boarding and dene their chores no
Patterson: Oh, yes. When there was no work to do in the fields
McKeown: No field work, and they used to do the chores, and take care of
the horses. We used to have about ten or twelve horses here
when we first come here. It's all field work with horses.
McKeewn Family Roots
Patterson: Wally, where did you live before you came here?
McKeewn: In San Mateo County. You knew where Half Meen Bay is? Somebody
teld me the ether day that the eld house that we lived in is
Patterson: Really? When did your family ge to San Mateo County?
McKeown: We came here in the spring of 1890.
Patterson: But. how about San Mateo County?
McKeown: Oh. I den't remember. Come before my time, I know that. Uncle
Joe lived here, then, didn* t he. when he came over there?
Ms. McK. : Yes. our uncle lived here. He had the carriage shop in
Alvarado. We have a picture of that upstairs.
McKeown: He made wagons and carriages. Had a blacksmith shop. He owned
Ms. McK. : Oh, yes. he owned that corner, there. And then later, it was a
blacksmith shop. And then, ef course, he sold out. Well, he
passed away he died in 1890, er 1899. We lived over at Half
Meon Bay, and then, ef course, in these days, there wasn't any
automobiles. They had to ge in a horse and wagon. And my uncle
died very suddenly. He had pneumonia got cold and he died
rather sudden. And then, of course, my father was the only
relative out here that he had. And so. he had to come over here
and tend to the place.
Patterson: That's interesting. I didn't know this. That's why you came
over here, then.
McKeown: We came here in the spring of 1890.
Ms. McK. : Of course, he 1 d have to cone clear around by Alvise
McKeown: In the eld spring wagon.
Patterson: Yes. Well, now, who owned this place before you did? Do you
remember who you got it from?
Ms. McK.: Yes, there are old deeds upstairs that we have I forget
McKeown: Who lived here before we came here? [Patterson and Ms. McKeown
answer "Yes" in unison] Well, Uncle Joe owned it.
Ms. McK. : Yes, but who owned it before that?
McKeown: I den 1 1 knew.
Ms. McK.: The old deeds are upstairs.
McKeown: I would just take the old deeds and trace it back. Might have
known it one time, but I forget, anyhow.
Patterson: Oh, yes. Wr}l. now, did you build this house, ox ?
Ms. McK.: Oh, yes, we built this house. The other eld house was right
here, [indicates on a map or photo] just to this side of the
driveway, there, of the old house. And then, in 1898, we built
this house. And, of course, we lived in that ene until this was
McKeown: We built this in 1898, wasn't it?
Ms. McK.: Yes. 0. J. Emery built it.
Patterson: Yes, he built a lot of houses.
Ms. McK. : Yes. He was a carpenter then. He built this house. And, of
course, we lived in the eld house until this was finished.
Then, when this was finished, we moved that eld ene eut into the
middle of the yard, there, and, eh, it was there fer about
twenty years, I guess. And then, when they started to raise
potatoes and they needed the sheds to put potatoes in fer the
winter ('till they sorted them eut) then they took that ene
McKeown: That house was built, I guess, in around 1850 or 1849.
Ms. McK. : Something like that. Well, that old pear tree that's standing
there is over a hundred years old. It was here before we ever
Ducks and Geese in the Marshes
Patterson: There must have been wonderful hunting in those days.
McKeown: You could knock down ducks with a stick [and] wild geese.
Patterson: Really? All down through this marsh country, I suppose.
McKeown: I've seen the grain field down here. We used to plant a lot of
grain in them days. Used to harvest in the spring. Ducks used
to come in there by the thousands. Johnny Smerl, he worked
here. When the ducks would get up. they'd hit the power line and
Johnny would have three or four ducks to take home with him.
Patterson: When did they start the duck clubs here?
McKeown: Well, I was pretty young. On the Briggs ranch you knew where
the Briggs ranch was? there was a livery across there, and them
salt sloughs, and of course the spring was flowing all year
round. And the duck season opened I heard the shooting. I was
about six or seven years old. I guess, along about that time. I
heard the shooting. I went down there. A man by the name of
Wills lived on the Briggs ranch, and I knew his boy (about the
same age I was), and I went down there about three o'clock and
Mr. Wills was out there with his boy and leading the ducks on a
wagon. There were three guys shooting: one was attorney for
the Southern Pacific in San Francisco, and I don't remember who
the ether two was. And they had about over three hundred ducks.
Pretty near all mallard, and there's another breed in there I
can* t think of the name right now.
Patter son : Wid ge on ? Te al ?
McKeown: Widgeon, yes. There were widgeon by the thousands. There's not
many now left. Lot of teal, and there was plenty of mallards.
Mr. Wills took the ducks down to Newark the train stopped at
Newark and he went to San Francisco.
Patterson: Would this have been the Wills family, Dr. Wills?
Ms. McK. : No. It was another Wills. William Wills was ano, it wasn't
any relation to Dr. Wills.
Patterson: Oh, yes. Did you ever know Briggs?
McKeown: Yes, I know that Briggs had . I remember that there was one of
them his son's a minister, wasn't he? I met him one time (I
was out hunting). I come up along the Patterson owned this
side . And they had a levy across, between Mr. Patterson and
McKeown: Briggs 1 ranch. In ether words, the spring was down by the hills
and the water used to run out he was a minister. I went over
and was talking to him for a while. And he was sitting there
he wasn't hunting. The hunters had went home. This was in the
afternoon. It wasn't on Sunday it was a weekday. And he was
talking to me for a while. He told me that nobody could shoot
on his place, as long as them fellows had his right. And he
says, "Watch it." When he wasn't around there it was on a
weekday, I think it was a Saturday I took a walk down there,
and I was tired of hunting about that time. And he was sitting
in the levees, talking to me, and he didn't allow nobody to hunt
Patterson: Wally, did you know the Parish family? Were they here?
McKeown: [In unison with Ms. McKeown] Oh, yes.
Patterson: How many were there, and how many children?
Ms. McK. : There was three. There was Carrie Parish she was the oldest.
She was a teacher. She taught up here in Alviso. And then
there was Haddie, and then Ella. Those were the three girls,
that's all that was
Patterson: Now. when did they leave, do you know?
Ms. McK.: Oh, they left about [hesitates], it must be, about sixty years
ago fifty years ago. anyhow.
Patterson: That would be about 1910 or 1915, somewhere in there, yes.
Ms. McK. :
New, do yeu remember who lived across from the Parish house?
The Parishes lived on the righthand side, and then there was a
house en the left, right across from them.
Right. Now, you don't know who lived there before. It's a very
That's an old. old house. Bucardi, he started a dairy. He had
a dairy in there behind the back, and he lived there. And out
in the big field, further out, there was another big home. I
used to know the name of the person that lived in it.
Patterson: Was that Bra urn [erBrewn]? That wasn 1 1 Ernest
Ms. McK. : No. Are you talking about Zwissig?
McKeown: No. Long before the Zwissigs.
Ms. McK.: I don't know who lived there.
Patterson: I wonder who that would be.
McKeown: It was a two-story building. They tore it down later on. I
don't knew whether they owned the land or rented from Mr.
Patterson, or net.
Patterson: Where would this be. Wally?
McKeown: Well, if you go down you knew the Patterson landing it's just
a little ways out in that field there. You come in from the
county read into the house into a real big building, a two-story
Patterson: Isn't this interesting? This I didn't knew. I have no idea
McKeown: I knew their name, but I can 1 1
Patterson: That wasn't the old Simpson ?
McKeown: No. Simpson lived around the back, further down. You went down
the lane and turned off to the
Patterson: Yes, that's right. Where the foreman's house is now. Yes, I
know where that was. But this other one, I have no idea who
that could be, no. Isn't that interesting, I'd like to knew,
Ms. McK.: It wasn't Andy Ross's brother, was it?
McKeown: N. Andy Ress lived down, right across from the Parishes.
Patterson: Ah! Yes. It was the Ress family, then, who lived (I think) in
the eld house which is still there, and that I'm trying to
identify. I think that* s right, yes.
McKeown: Bucardi lived in there later en.
Patterson: Right, that's correct. I've been trying to establish that, and
that's the old Ress house, there. Was there ever a small school
in this area, in the early days? Do you remember anything
Ms. McK. : Lincoln School.
Patterson: Yes, but that was further up. beyond our place. No other school
in this area?
Ms. McK. : No, because when we came here. Alviso
Patterson: Now. you went to the Alviso school, which was up here.
Ms. McK.: It's still there.
Patterson: You never went to the Lincoln School.
Ms. McK. : You went to which school? Lincoln?
Patterson: Yes. I went to the Lincoln School.
McKeown: Alviso School [was] up there. Lincoln School was over here, if
you went to Newark, [indicates en a map]
Ms. McK.: Well, that' s where Donald went, didn't you?
Patterson: Yes. You spoke of the springs down here, and running water, in
the early days. There was. what, springs in the willows, or
were they ?
Ms. McK. : Everywhere. They were all down in the lower part of
McKeown: All of the low ground. You know where Mr. Patterson's home was?
McKeown: Well, there was springs pretty close to his home. And the ditch
come all the way down you know where the Browns lived? across
the road, there, and followed on out to the bay. The stream of
water out there, you could when they get down in this area you
could irrigate quite a few thousand acres.
Patterson: Really? What would you think, was it about what one of our
wells pumps now, or was it more than that?
McKeown: Springs flowing fresh water . All these Chinese, when they
farmed down there, they used to make ditches in the ground which
formed into the main ditches; without, otherwise, the ground
would be a swamp. They never had to irrigate. If a man wanted
to dig a. well, he didn't even, on our ranch way down here about
a half a mile down . Chinese would want to live here would dig
a hole in the ground, and do it out about ten feet, and that's
all the well they'd dig. That's all the well they needed.
Patterson: And it would just flow?
McKeown: Water used to fill right up. And it used to flew all the back
end of the ranch if we didn't clean the watercress off the
ditch in the summertime, the whale big place was a swamp.
Patterson: What did yeu raise down here. Wally? What crops did you raise?
McKeewn: Well, they used to raise sugar beets, and grain, potatoes
Tales of Deer en the Patterson Ranch
You say that my grandfather didn't believe in hunting. I wonder
why that was.
I den 1 1 knew. He didn* t allow no hunting.
Did he ever hunt, himself?
Net that I knew ef. He was pretty well along in years, when we
came here* too. I knew he told me I was a kid coming home from
school he teld me then that he didn't allow any hunting en the
place. Of course, he had the deer park, and he had pretty close
to a fifty-acre park in there.
As much as that?
Yes, I guess it was. I didn't realize it was
Oh, yes, and he had about twenty- five to thirty deer. And I
don't know if he shot any, or not. I know your dad shot one,
one time. Somebody gave him a little, young deer and tied him
behind the ranch house there. Had a Chinese cook there, and
the deer he kept pretty well along couple, three years he got
big horns en. and they had a vegetable garden. The Chinese had
his rice you remember where the ranch house was? well, there
was a garden in there, and they put the deer in there. The
Chinaman come out to get something under the tree the deer got
him down. Jumped en him and pulled him down. Do you remember
Andy Carr that used to work there?
I think so Andy. yes. yes, I do.
Well, he was kind of a choreman at that time, and he came eut.
and got ahold of the deer and pulled him off of Chinaman run
into the house and come eut with his pistol he was going to
shoot him. And he wouldn't let him. [Patterson laughs] And
then, later on, they turned him into the deer park. And some
fellow come in there one day old man getting some wood and
deer had him down. They come and get him in the front feet, and
they got him by the horns, until they could held him. The deer,
they cut you with their feet. That's what he was trying to da.
and he got him by the herns, and he was hollering for help. And
there was somebody working on the Patterson place, and he was a
big, husky guy. and he come out there. And he get the deer, the
fellow holding the deer, but I had to let him go. He was an old
man from Centerville. And the deer got the other fellow down,
[both laugh] And he was a big, husky guy. He was no shrimp.
And Andy Carr heard the the eld man. when he went out. he told
Andy Carr about it. Andy come out and get ahold of a stick
about four feet long, about two inches in diameter, and he come
out there and the deer went for him. And. of course, he cracked
him en the side of the ribs, and pretty near caved his ribs in.
The deer kept away from him. He wanted to go for him. and the
ether fellow get up and, later en, when you boys were able to
get around, your dad shot the deer afraid someday he'd get out,
and then hit somebody.
And there would be trouble.
It's funny. With all the deer in there, they wouldn't bother
anybody. But that one, somebody gave it to him, and I guess he
was a vicious little fellow when he gave him to him because the
Chinese cook he tackled him right out in the yard (had him in
the garden, there). Chinaman had the six-shooter and he wanted
to finish him one for Andy Carr. Then, they finally turned the
deer loose. They were running through the country for a little
while, but they all beat it up to the foothills.
Wally. there are quite a few deer down in the willows now.
Yes. There are about five or six of them,
deer dewn here?
Did there used to be
Well, yes, they used to come down there. First deer I ever saw
go dewn there there was three ef them they were out here on
the road, coming dewn the side of the read, and somebody
stopping automobiles looking at them. And then they run around
and went dewn that's the first ones I seen go down there, but
there was one year that, before they had a harvest they was
harvesting grain down there Tony Cabral, do you remember him?
Oh, very well, yes.
Well, he went to farm Tony's barley harvest it, rather and he
said that he counted thirteen deer go ahead of him as he went
through the trees as he was harvesting. Nobody ever seemed to
shoot them. There was one dead, there somebody shot it and
left it there. And, I know Tony Cabral was down there one time.
McKeown: and yaur Uncle Henry came along and saw this deer around he had
herns en. he said big. wide herns and teld Tony to go and get a
rifle and shoot him. And Tony, he didn't want to do it. He
says. well, he's afraid he might miss him. And nobody shot him.
That's about the last one I've heard that brought him down, but
now they coming back again.
Patterson: Coming back again that's because they don't allow any shooting
down there in the park, you see. and we don't allow any
shooting, so they're coming back new. yes.
[tape is turned off and then en again]
McKeewn: You can't blame the deer.
Patterson: No. And now that the country is grown up. this is the only part
down here that's open. yes.
McKeewn: Well. I know the Chinese over here (I think it's Chinese) raised
seme kind of plants, and he complain to the game warden about
the deer (or te whoever had charge of the place) coming in and
chomping these plants down, and the game warden come in and he
shot some of the deer. They'd come in and trample these plants
that he was growing there, and he had to get out. I think he
was growing flowers.
Neighbors. Parties. Her sera cing
Patterson: Wally, when you first came here, were there any houses north of
here, or did you have to go clear into Alvarado before there
were any houses? Were there any people living in the ?
McKeewn: Well, the next ranch ever Buchanan ranch John Buchanan family
lived there. And down here, this side of Alvarado, there was
two homes en the side ef the read, and none en that side. Above
the read, there was a few. Pretty near all open ranches, there.
Patterson: Oh. yes. Well, now when you were a boy, did they have parties
here? Did you visit back and forth, and have parties, and
things, or did everybody work so hard, there wasn* t time?
McKeown: They had parties. You visited one another. Families used to
visit neighbors come and visit back and forth. Of course, in
them days, you couldn't old horse and buggy days, it would take
you quite a while to get around but you used to visit one
another. We used to go to Alvarado we knew pretty near
everybody in Alvarado town and off and on, here and there, we
knew quite a few of them. Buchanans lived there* and then next
t them was Andrew Carr. And then James Logan did you ever
know James Logan?*
McKeown: You knew young Jimmy
Patterson: Young yes.
McKeown: Well, his father lived over there. This James Logan was living
on this ranch when we came here spring of 1890 that's Jimmy's
father. My uncle, I guess, sent back to Ireland for him bring
him out here. He worked on the ranch here. He left here and
get married to one of the Carter girls and moved out and lived
over there fox till the time he get killed in that automobile
accident. I think he had heart trouble and he fainted and Jack
Whipple was with him do you remember the time he get killed?
Patterson: I really don't, but I remember we know Jack Whipple, yes.
McKeown: Well. Jack get killed, and so did Mr. Logan.
Patterson: Oh, that's right, yes. I had forgotten that. yes.
McKeown: Met head-on in an automobile. Let's see it was Logan [who] was
driving, and I guess when he went forward en the wheel. Whipple
couldn't get ahold of it to turn it around, and they met head-
on. And, of course, they couldn't do nothing to him, but it's
one of them unavoidable accidents.
Patterson: Did you ever know Andrew Patterson?
McKeown: He lived over by Decoto, didn't he?
Patterson: Yes, that's right. Did you know him?
McKeown: I didn't know him personally, but I knew him by sight. I had
seen him when I was pretty young. He lived over there near
Patterson: Yes. He was my grandfather's brother. Well, new, he was
married, wasn't he? Do you knew, do you remember? Did he have
*See interview with James Logan's daughter. Tillie Logan Goold,
in this volume.
I don't remember that, no. I know I knew his name, and I seen
him, and of course I never was acquainted with him. But. I used
to meet him in town in Alvarade when he come to town. But, he
owned, what they called, quite a few acres in there, back above
the sugar mill en the road going from Alvarado to Decote.
That's right. And he used to raise racehorses,
track there, and raised racehorses.
Yes, he had a
Yes. I remember something about that, toe, but not too much. We
used to have horseraces around here at one time, up around the
other side of Centerville. Somebody, a couple of landowners,
bought a few racehorses but they were sulky, not saddle horses.
They used to just competition among themselves. There were a
few there in Irvington and some at Decote different ones. You
could . A lot of guys used to have a track. Made a little
grandstand between Centerville and Izvingten one side of the
road, there. And they had racing track there gets a good half
a mile long. It was kind of a double track. One was longer.
And they used to have them little two cart wheels, you know, and
them raced in there, and they used to bet. Guys stand up there,
and if you wanted to make a bet. go up there and make a bet with
them. [Patterson laughs] There's no law against that.
Patterson: Did you know the Browns, then?
McKeown: Over here?
McKeewn: Oh, yes, I knew Frank Brown and Bart. Some of the younger
ones I remember them. Gerdis Brown, he stuck around
Patterson: He's in Hay ward. new. Yes. I don't see him anymore. I used to
McKeewn: I haven't seen him for a long time. Well, he was in seme kind
of a mix-up in the land deals, somebody told me.
Patterson: Yes, I think so.
McKeown: I don't knew just hew it happened, but he still owns the place
ever here, or not?
Patterson: Yes, he dees. We bought part of it. just recently.
[tape turned off and then en again]
McKeown: that was his father, wasn 1 1 it?
Patterson: I don't think so. Bart Brown was his father's brother.
McKeown: There was Frank Brcwn, and Bart.
Patterson: Yes. Frank was the father of the boys here, yes. That's an old
ranch, there, that's been there you remember the little station
up there, Arden Station? It's gone now, but that was
McKeown: Bart Brown used to go to Alvarado, take a few drinks. He could
drive the automobile better when he was under the influence of
liquor than when he was sober.
McKeewn: He was careful, very careful when he drove. I remember going
down to Alvarado, he used to go to the old bar the special
bar Merel Lagers [?] had the bar, there. And he used to go in
and have a few drinks, and he went home, and never got in an
Patterson: Well, that's a good way to be.
McKeown: Most of the time guys get a few drinks they can't even see where
they're going. No, he was very careful never got in an
accident of any kind.
McKeown: Yes, you could go in, get a drink for a dime, but try to do it
today. Drinks were all of a dime at one time. In Alvarado, you
could buy a beer for a nickel and then, they'd give you, they
had a counter there, you could take a sandwich. It's always a
dime, no drinks less than a dime. Only soft drinks, you know,
not beer, or whiskey or wine they're all a dime.
Patterson: Did they charge you for the food, or did you just get the food?
McKeown: Oh, they had a little corner there with sandwiches on it. Some
fellows would take two or three sandwiches, but of course,
they'd spend quite a few dimes, though, to do it.
Looking at Records of Land Sales in the 1870s and 1880s
Patterson: What is this, Nancy?
Ms. McK. : I think, well, I'll show you that later. I think [to herself]
Is there one there Washman?
Patterson: Oh, these are the deeds.
Ms. McK. : Yes. New. Washman owned this place
Patterson: [reading] John Welch to William Kill day. in 1878. Now. who
were those people?
Ms. McK.: [laughing] I wouldn't knew. [with McKeown] Before our time.
Patterson: Well, now here's a James McKeown to Edward Sauls.
Ms. McK.: Well, that's a piece he bought from Ed Sauls.
Patterson: I see. The Sauls family were eld friends of ours. They were in
the grain business. This was in 1899. Now here's one. 1884.
John Campbell to Joseph and James McKeown.
Ms. McK.: Yes. That's the eld Campbell house. That's the one near Halls
McKeown: Still stands there yet.
Patterson: That was 1884. Well, new. this is interesting. Joseph McKeown
to George W. Patterson in 1877. Which piece was that? Would
you suppose that ?
McKeown: That's a little before our time.
Patterson: I don't knew what, the
Ms. McK.: What's the name? Was it Patterson. Andy Patterson?
Patterson: No. this is George. That's my grandfather. So. he apparently
bought a piece from your uncle.
Ms. McK. : Yes.
Patterson: New, let's see what this one is. Now. this is an early one:
Joseph McKeown to William S. Worsham?
Ms. McK. : Washam, yes. [mispronouncing the name]
Patterson: I wonder which piece that would be.
background: Do you want me to give you a description on the deed?
Patterson: Yes, it would, but it's awfully hard to read it you have to
really have a map out in front of you to
Ms. McK.: Well, Washman [probably means Worsham] owned this place, once.
Patterson: This was 1877.
Ms. McK. :
Ms. McK. :
Well, because I remember my mother talking about Washam
Washman. Washam hew do you spell it?
W-0-R-S-H-A-M. New. here is an even earlier ene: William
War sham to Michael Cashman. 1874. So that, apparently, was
involved. Now let's see here Stokes to John Welch eh. well.
this is something else. This is the release of a mortgage. And
here is. again. Cashman to Wersham. So. apparently, this was
1874. And here is. well, this is between the family.
apparently: John Welch to Katherine Welch, perhaps his wife.
and that's 1879. And. here we are, back to the 1877. when it
was Wersham to Joseph McKeewn. So this is where they got it.
yes. Very interesting.
And this is Assemblyman, and I think they sign their own name
after their and they say you're an Assemblyman of California.
or something. That's old. I know that.
Patterson: Let me take a look new. I'm going to turn this off.
[tape turned off]
All right. I'm starting the recording again. I was going
to ask you whether you have ether documents or letters or maps
or anything of the early days, here, or ? I wondered whether.
particularly your uncle, did he leave papers?
Ms. McK. : Well, if he did, he left papers, but when they moved. I guess
that, you know, they didn't think of keeping them in those days.
I don't think there's very many. I mean, I don't have any more
Patterson: than just these. Oh. yes. I'm always interested because
these things are so valuable, historically. They should be
taken care of we're talking about the eld records and letters
and papers people throw them away, you know, they don't keep
them. But it would be so valuable and interesting if they had
Ms. McK. : I know
McKeown: My uncle, he used to live in Alvarade most of the time. I don't
know if he lived out here at the old house Uncle Joe never
lived out here, did he?
Ms. McK. : No.
McKeown: He boarded in Richmond, didn't he?
Ms. McK. : Yes, he boarded in Richmond, then he boarded in Alvarado, there.
McKeown: Street back of the hall, wasn't it?
Ms. McK. : Yes.
McKeown: He used te beard there.
Ms. McK. : Listen Reuse. Mrs. Randy Grif fen's father was a Listen. She
lives in Irvingten, you know.
McKeewn: He bearded in different places.
Ms. McK.: Yes. he bearded in Alvarado lived in Alvarado. He wasn't
married, see. he never was married. So he just lived in hotels
there, and Listen House is where he lived most of the time.
And, this place, when he bought this, it was for the help here.
Jim Logan stayed here before he got married.
McKeown: Jimmy, there was Bob Conner, and somebody else there was three
old-timers living with him.
Ms. McK. : Yes. I don't remember hearing about who cooked for them.
Probably, they had a Chinese cook, I don't know.
McKeewn: Yes, he used te have a Chinese cook.
Ms. McK.: But this was a boarding house but my uncle never lived here; he
lived and stayed in Alvarado.
Patterson: Because he would have had some very interesting papers and
documents, if he was up at Sacramento, you see just lost. I
suppose, yes. Do you see any of the early family people, now,
Ms. McK. : Well, the only one is Mrs. Grif fen, in Irvingten. And most of
the elder ones are gone.
El oods. Artesian Wells, and Reclaiming the Marshlands
Patterson: Yes. I guess that's right. You know, I'm beginning to get to
the elder generation, too. [laughter] I can remember back new
to the big flood of 1911. Remember when this whole country went
Ms. McK. : Oh, yes.
Patterson: That big flood, [laughs] My father put me in one of these big
washtubs. and put his hip boots on, and pulled me from our old
Patterson: house to my grandfather's house. ther<
water. [mere laughter]
-remember, it was all
Ms. McK. : Oh. yes. People that usually go along the road up there would
look down here, and of course, it was all watex that's all it
was. Just wondering how you ever lived down here.
Patterson: Well, it was great, because that's what made this land such rich
farming. And we didn' t have to irrigate in the sunmertime.
Ms. McK. : And then your uncle bought that land clear up to the creek, and
made this ditch down here before this canal. And that brought
all the sediment and made that land down there.
Patterson: That's right.
It reclaimed a lot of this old marshland here.
When we came here, [the] artesian well in the yard I think it
was a hundred and eighty feet deep they dug that well. I'm not
too sure about that I think it was. The well fell off [?] at
night. Come back in the morning the whole country was a lake.
Broke through during the night.
There was an old guy that come along on the marsh road one
day. long years later, and he said he was coming down, going to
Newark on this lower read. When they get down here about a
little over a mile down, the whole country was a big lake from
out of that well.
What did you do with those wells?
or did you just let it run?
Did you cap them to held it.
They put a cap en it. They put another casing down and put a
swadge on it, and then they had this cap that stood about that
[indicates] high. The faucet's on the side, and you opened that
just like you would a valve, and a river of water used to come
out. Didn't need no water in them days plenty of water in the
ground. And that well rusted away, and then they dug a new one.
The one we dug en this side was a hundred and eighty feet deep
the one that was by the tank house. And it got salty three
hundred and eighty feet down, that was what the well is? [to
Ms. McK.: Three hundred, two hundred. I don't know, I forget.
Patterson: That's about it. yes. That would be about it in the three
hundred yes, our good wells are down around three hundred,
three hundred and fifty, now, yes. Hew far away from here was
the salt water tide water then? Did the tide water come up
pretty far then?
McKeewn: Well, Dan, if you were right at the earner, you knew the little
turn dawn there? It used ta ga aut in the field about a
Patter sen: Oh. it did? The high tide.
McKeown: Flood tide. Then they raised the road up, and there was this
ditch that used to run had to put a flood gate en that. And
the tide come up, the flood gate would close, and the water en
the ditch had big, high banks on the side of the ditch, and, of
course, between tides, then the water would go an out, and the
tide would drop down. Then it filled up with the floods. Some
of that ground down there by the lower corners filled up ever
McKeown: Yes, right around the corner. That's where the salt water used
to back up. You could dig down there, now, but you would hit
adobe when you go down about six feet. Filled in about six
Patterson: That's right. We forget that this area has been filled with
sediment from these floods that were diverted. My father told
me that there are places on our property where a fence was
covered completely, and we put another fence en top of it.
There was that much
McKeown: Well, it was the same way around this corner down there. Used
to raise the posts up. Well, you take your uncle Henry. Time
we had this bridge here, we wanted to level the slough off. And
I asked him permission one day if he'd object to us putting a
levee across this side to keep the water from running down a
little stream of water. He didn't object, but he wanted a main
ditch to fill the lower end of his marsh, down there fill that
with sediment. That's why they turned the water down there, to
wash the other side aut, around the corner. You couldn't drive
through that corner when the water was running down there. But
we gave him permission to put the levee there. He was afraid
there might be an objection, up above. Couldn't really object
they could complain about it down there at the corner, but you
couldn't drive through, They used to close the read often, if a
big flood was running.
Patterson: I can remember that, yes.
McKeown: And the flood was clean over to pretty near where you turn down
to the Brown place, back up in there, all through them fields.
Patterson: Yes, there aren't many people that realize that we're the ones
that brought Alameda Creek dawn through here. It was dene en
purpose, yes. and that took it away from Alvarado. and of
course, they were very happy that
McKeown: Used to flood the I remember going up to the near Alameda
Creek you owned some land up there.
Patterson: Yes. clear up, we had a strip clear up to the
McKeown: We went up there and used horses and scraped the tanks to bring
the water down.
Patterson: Do you remember? They used to plow every fall to loosen the
soil up. and then the flood would come through and it would wash
about six inches out. And pretty soon, there was a channel
there. That's very interesting. This was during my time. I
can remember that.
Well, the water used to run across on the Harvey. F.C. Harvey
[place]. And your uncle got permission to put a levee across.
The Harveys gave him permission to put it across water used to
run on Harvey's place and the slough all the time, and he wanted
to level it off, and he turned all the water down through hero-
Patterson: That's right.
McKeown: And I remember going up there and digging the ground out with a
team of horses just loosening it up to wash out. Scrape it
out, too. a little bit. Nobody objected to it. That made all
that marsh country down there filled that up. That used to be
salt, all salt weeds in there where you're farming. There was a
slough used to come in there. Of course, the Briggs ranch had a
big levy alongside there, so the salt water wouldn't go back on
his place. And after that, it filled up to Patterson's
property, and he used to hold the water back en the Briggs'
place. Of course, he had a ditch on the side that I knew that
they were going to have trouble over that, one time, from one of
Briggs 1 family. Not the old man Briggs, but one of his sens.
He had two beys, two or three sens, I guess. Of course, when
they filled up. the guy on this side of it used to and the rain
water would come down, but it couldn't drain out. But. then
they dug a ditch right close to the foothills. They put a
floodgate in so the salt water wouldn't back up into the Briggs
ranch. And when the tide would go down, it drained the water
out. And that was a good shooting ground in there, too.
Patterson: Yes, I remember that. Not the first floodgate, but the second
one they put in, I can remember. It was in the same place, yes.
More Stories About G.W. Patterson
Patterson: Say. did you ever know James Hawley?
Ms. McK. : Yes. They lived in I was in Alvise school up there. The
Hawleys, yes. John Beard married a Hswley.
McKeown: Beard owned was across the road, right?
Ms. McK. : Right.
Patterson: You see. and my grandmother was a Hawley.
McKeown: Yes. You know when the railroad first come through and
irrigate it was the railroad [?] your grandfather objected to
them going through his property. When they hit the Jarvis Road,
he put a man there in the daytime with a shotgun, and during the
night, another one, to keep the railroad men from coming
through. And your grandfather was off getting married. And
they get the watchman drunk when they came through, [laughter]
He married a Hawley. didn't he?
McKeown: While he was away on his honeymoon, and
Patterson: Oh, is that what happened? Well. I wondered how they, yes.
Well, they tell me that my grandfather was a pretty hard man.
that he was a pretty firm individual.
McKeown: Well, he had a mind of his own, I'll tell you.
Patterson: That's what I understand.
Ms. McK. : He knew how to express it. [laughter]
McKeown: I remember the time that Ed dark you remember Ed dark? He
used to be over here. Well, he was working for him. He went
over to get a job there, and Mr. Patterson had a foreman there.
And he went out. took Clark along, and told the foreman, the guy
that was working for him. to take the fork (or whatever it was)
and give it to this man. He was going to take ever. You
[referring to the foreman] come in and get your pay. And he was
Patterson: [laughs] Just like that?
McKeown: Yes, just like that. He had done something wrong that didn't
suit your grandfather. That's what dark told us. He had to
work for him quite a few years as foreman. Of course, he did a
lot of farming on his own. your grandfather did. Grand farm.
He was a cattle man. He owned that Livermore ranch too. Had
quite a few acres up there one time.
Patterson: We still have it.
McKeown: Still own it?
Patterson: Yes. Well, the cattle ranch up at Livermore. I've never been
able to find out exactly what happened. But. I think that
belonged to Andrew Patterson, and then he went broke. And I
think my grandfather bailed him out. and I think that's the way
he got [the property]
Transcribed by Kate Stephenson
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE William McKeown
Date ef Interview: October 21. 1975
tape 1. side A 112
tape 1. side B 125
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
The L. S. Williams Company:
Farming in Southern Alameda County, 1930s-1983
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright (7) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS Gene Williams
I THE WILLIAMS FAMILY GROWERS AND SHIPPERS
Family Farming in Iowa and Washington Township
Education, Military Service, and Entering the Family
Packing and Shipping Cauliflower in the Postwar Period
Sugar Beet Cultivation and Harvesting, a Back-Breaking
Farm Labor: Locals and the Braceros
Dealing with Sugar Beet and Tomato Pests
Specialized Equipment for Beets
II FARMING ON THE PATTERSON RANCH, 1956-1 960s
A Transition from Family Tenant-Farming
Don Patterson's Involvement
The Value of the Ranch as Agricultural Land
The Fudenna Brothers' Operation
III THE L. S. WILLIAMS COMPANY AGRICULTURAL OPERATION,
Crop Specialization: Cauliflower and Lettuce
Labor Arrangements after the Bracero Program
Marketing in the East and Midwest
Day Laborers and Labor Contractors
Advances in Farm Equipment
Cauliflower Leaves, a Disposal Problem
TV URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND AGRICULTURE 186
Sale of Patterson Lands for Housing Development, 1971 186
Pesticides. Homeowners, and the East Bay Regional Park
The Alameda Family and L. S. Williams Company 190
Effect of the Water District's Pump Tax 192
Farmers' Support for the Incorporation of Fremont 194
The Problem of Salt-Water Intrusion 195
Pilfering from the Fields 196
Farm Laborers, Labor Camps, and the Community 198
Coexisting with Suburban Neighbors: Dust, Noise, and Smog 202
Taxes on Agricultural Land 203
INTERVIEW HISTORY Gene Williams
Until the mid-fifties, most tenants of the Patterson Ranch farmed on
small-scale units depending primarily on family members for labor. In 1956,
shortly after Henry Patterson's death. Donald and William Patterson
negotiated a lease of seventy-five acres of ranch land to L.S. Williams
Company. The Williams Company not only farmed the land* but also packed the
crops and shipped them by rail and. later, by truck primarily to the East.
Over the next several years, most of the tenant- family farms on the
Patterson Ranch were converted to the larger scale operations carried out by
the L.S. Williams Company.
Gene Williams took over the L.S. Williams Company at the time of his
father's death in 1956 and managed it until he sold the company to the
Alameda family in 1983. His oral history is an account of the Williams
operation from the 1930s, when Gene began working as a boy with his father,
until the 1980s. Although a portion of the interview deals specifically
with the operation on the Patterson Ranch and the relationship with the
Patterson family, the scope is broader. Williams chronicles the changes in
crops, equipment, marketing, farm labor, and pest control over a fifty-year
period in southern Alameda County. His account is a significant
contribution to the agricultural history of this area.
Williams was interviewed on September 30 and October 6, 1986, in his
home in Pleasanton. California. Retired and living in a country club
community, he was relaxed and reflective as he recalled the problems and
challenges of his many years of farming. Following the interview, he
reviewed the transcript of the interviews with only minor changes. The
interview tapes are in The Bancroft Library.
The Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Boom 486 The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, California 94720
(Please print or write clearly)
Your full name
Date of birth
Father's full name
Mother's full n
Where did you grow
Special interests or activities
I THE WILLIAMS FAMILY GROWERS AND SHIPPERS
Family Farming in Iowa and Washington Township
[Interview 1: September 30. 1986]#tf
Lage: Let's begin. Mr. Williams, with your family background. Tell me
about where you were born and raised, and something about your
parents, and so forth.
Williams: Okay. I was born in Atlantic. Iowa, in 1925 and moved out here
with my family in 1928. My father was farming in Iowa, and he
was induced to come to California by his three brothers who were
farming in the Centerville area, now a part of Fremont.
Lage: I see. Had they been there for a while?
Williams: They had been there since the early twenties, I'd say maybe the
late teens. Right after the war. Only one of them was in World
War I, but he survived it and came to Fremont. So there were
three brothers in the Centerville area, and they talked my father
into leaving Iowa, where it was very hard, and coming to
California in February 1928. He got here on Groundhog Day, as I
was told. February second.
So the four brothers operated a farming business in that
area on leased land for a number of years until approximately
1938, let's say, when, as with many partnerships, there were
problems, frictions between the brothers. Some felt that they
were working harder than others, and so the four brothers split
up, going various ways. My father stayed in the Centerville
area, and one of his brothers stayed but had his own farming
business there. The other two left one went to Bakersfield, and
one went to Edison, which is near Bakersfield.
##This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 205.
Did they continue with farming?
Williams: Yes. The business was known up until 1938 as Williams Brothers.
Ltd., and from 1938 on my father formed the L.S. Williams
Company. His name was Leland Stanford Williams.
Leland Stanford? How did that happen?
Williams: That happened because he was born en or about the date of Leland
Stanford's death en June 13, 1893, and his mother named him
Leland Stanford. My first name is Stanford Eugene.
So my father farmed there until his death in February of
1956. As a boy I worked on the farm and in the packing house.
We packed cauliflower. We loaded railroad cars in these days.
It was all shipped to the East. And we packed green tomatoes in
the summer, which ripened on the trip east. I worked in the
packing house as a bey, started in 1936 that's when I started
getting paid, when I was eleven. I'd worked prior to that, but
it was just volunteer effort, you might say. I started getting
paid fifteen cents an hour; for an eight-hour day I'd make $1.20.
Lage: That was during the Depression.
Williams: In 1936. oh, yes. Times were very hard then, tough.
Lage: De you remember that farming particularly suffered in this area
during the Depression?
Williams : Was tougher?
Williams: You mean tougher than other agricultural areas?
No, tougher than it had been, or than it was later.
Williams: Ne, I don't really have any recollection of anything but the
Depression. The Depression really started about 1930, I guess.
er right after the stock market crash, so all I really knew was
Depression, and I didn't have anything to compare it with.
Lage: What about your mother's background?
Williams: Well, first of all I should say my father was born in California,
in Pasadena, in 1893. What schooling he had was there, and he
went to Iowa one summer with a boyhood friend whose aunt had a
farm in Iowa, and they went back to work on the aunt's farm. My
father liked it, apparently, and stayed. When this might have
been, I'm not sure, but probably about 1915 or so.
Lage : That was a real reversal from the pattern of all the Iowa people
that moved out this way.
Williams: Yes. So he went back there, he farmed, worked en this friend's
aunt's farm, met my mother, who was a registered nurse. She had
been educated in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and was working in Mercy
Hospital there as a nurse. They met somehow. Council Bluffs
being, I think, about fifty or seventy-five miles from this farm.
They got married in 1917 and rented a farm perhaps the same
farm, I'm not sure, that he'd been working en and were there
But it was very difficult there, and lots of hard work, and
no money, and my mother was just about burned out, I think* and
my father too, after eleven years of that. So when the brothers
were talking about California and coming back, they decided to do
it. There were five of us I have two sisters. One a year and a
half younger and one a year and a half older; I was three, and
one sister was four and a half, and the little sister was about a
year and a half. We came out on the train to Oakland.
Lage: Tour father's brothers all went into farming; was the grandfather
in farming in Pasadena?
Williams: No. he worked for the Post Office department for a time, and he
had just left kind of a mystery he just disappeared. Left the
family, apparently. So my grandmother really raised their
family.' It was a good-sized family. There were four boys and
Lage: It's interesting that so many went into farming.
Williams: It is strange. Only one went to agricultural college, the one
that went to Bakersfield in 1938. He'd gone through Davis. As
for the ethers, my father had no college training, and I don't
believe the ether brother did either, the one that was a soldier
in World War L, The other one. who's still alive, had perhaps
seme college education, but I don't think he had a degree. Why
they all ended up in agriculture. I'm not sure.
Lage: Did your mother continue with nursing?
Williams: No, I don't think she did any nursing after she was married,
actually. She got away from that.
She raised the family.
Williams: Yes, right, which was a full-time job. But she still had lots of
jobs on the farm, with the chickens. There's just no end to the
Lage : So she did enter into the farm life.
Williams: Oh. yes.
Lage: Was it always leased land that your father worked, or did he own
Williams: In Iowa it was all leased land. When he came out here, in 1928.
it was all leased land, even up until 1943. In 1943 he bought
his first land. Times had been so tough, up until World War II.
that there wasn't much money in agriculture, just subsistence,
really. So he had no opportunity to buy any land, but he did
start buying a little land in 1943. and then he bought a few
Education, Military Service, and Entering the Family Business
Lage: How about your education?
Williams: Well. I went to local schools. We lived in Irvington, actually,
which is also a part of Fremont. There were five towns, perhaps
you know this.
Williams: I went to grammar school there, and then I went to high school in
Centerville, the old Washington High School. I graduated in
1942. and I had been working summers and weekends on the farm, or
in the packing house, all this time, from 1936. When I got out
of high school I didn't know what I was going to do. The war had
just broken out in December, and I graduated in June of '42.
Lots of young men were enlisting, and I was kind of young I was
only seventeen and my mother convinced me I shouldn't be
foolhardy. I worked on the farm for a while. I then, I think in
early 1943. decided I'd go to Berkeley. My older sister was at
Gal. and I decided I would go to Berkeley.
Lage: Even with this Leland Stanford background? [laughs]
Williams: Yes. I really wasn't that interested in Stanford University and
didn't have the grades for it anyhow. I suppose. So I went to
Berkeley and was going to class, but as I had had to register for
the draft on my eighteenth birthday. I get a notice from my draft
board saying I was to be drafted. My parents convinced me that I
should come back and work on the farm, that I was needed there,
and they could get a deferment for me my father could because
agricultural workers were hard to come by. So I did that, with
some misgivings, and this was in 1943.
Williams: I worked en the farm until early 1944. when I decided I just
didn't want to do that anymore, and I was going to give up my
deferment and go through the draft "Volunteer for the draft." as
they said in those days. So I did. but it took a few months for
all this to pass. Finally, in June of 1944. I went to Niles, got
on a bus. and went to San Francisco, and I was shipped down to
San Diego. By "volunteering 11 for the draft I was able to pick my
branch of the service, instead of just going into the army. The
army was the only outfit that was drafting, the navy was all
volunteer. So I had some friends, and I decided to go into the
navy, as an enlisted man. Which I did. and I was in the navy for
two years. Then the war ended, and I was discharged.
Lage: Did you go overseas?
Williams: Never get out of California even. Ended up at Santa Cruz, of
Could have been staying on the farm.
Williams: I could have, although I didn't feel good about that at all.
I can see that.
So I've never regretted it. If I'd been shot, or something, I
probably would have regretted it, but it turned out okay for me.
I was discharged, and practically everybody then was going back
to school and had this GI bill. The government would give you
an allowance, buy your books, and everything it was quite an
opportunity. So I went back to Berkeley, started again, but I
really hadn't ever decided what I was going to do. I wasn't keen
on farming. I'd seen quite a bit of it, done a lot of it. and I
knew what it was.
You didn't have a romantic image of it.
No, not a bit. I hadn't seen that it was even very lucrative,
although during the war my father did very well, as all farmers
did. Prices suddenly were much better with war than in the
depression that we'd known in the thirties.
I really didn't know what to do. what I wanted to major in.
I was really confused about it. So I kind of messed around there
for a couple years and didn't like college that much. I just
didn't ever get really involved in it.
Did you commute?
No, I lived in Berkeley. I didn't join a fraternity. I was
invited to a couple, and I just didn't feel I wanted to do that.
I lived in a boarding house on Hearst Avenue for a while, a year
Williams: or so. and one en Haste Street, on the south side. In a couple
of years, in about 1949. I finally decided I was just going to go
back to the farm. I couldn't find anything I really wanted to
do. and I was just sick of school, so I left. I didn't get my
degree. I get a two-year degree finally, but I didn't graduate.
My oldest sister had gotten out in 1944, she went just around the
clock three years, and got out in three years, and my little
sister got out of high school in '44. I guess, and she graduated
in '48. but I was kind of a misfit. I didn't graduate.
So I came back to the farm in 1949 as a kind of foreman. I
guess you might say. and worked there until my father died in
Packing and Shipping Cauliflower in the Postwar Period
Lage: What was the operation like at that time, after the war? You say
you were foreman
Williams: Well, we were farming about a thousand or twelve hundred acres, I
guess, of partially owned land. Most of it was still leased. I
guess my father owned about a 150 acres of land then. The rest
was leased land, and we'd have a couple hundred employees, I
suppose, in peak season two or three hundred, maybe.
Lage: Did you have the packing operation?
Williams: Yes, we were still packing tomatoes in the summer, and by this
time business had changed somewhat, in that we started packing
cauliflower in the packing house. We would haul it in from the
field in trailers, and trim it, and wrap it. The cauliflower
business was changing.
Lage: Previously it had been packed
Williams: Packed in the field, and we brought the crates into the packing
house and leaded the cars and top-iced them put crushed ice in
en top of the lead. There was no ether refrigeration. They
didn't really have the mechanical units they later developed,
where you lead a commodity into a car. and it's in a cardboard
carton fiberboard. as they call it all dry, everything has to
be dry. And it's just like a refrigerator, the temperature's
maintained at the proper temperature.
Lage: But at this time you had to put ice on it.
Williams: Right, and it was all in wooden crates we made our own crates.
Just bought the loose box shook, as they called it, and hand-
nailed eur own crates. I did a lot of that in the thirties, just
hand-nailing them. Then they came out with machines, and we made
the crates with machines that drove the nails. So we were still
using wood, and icing all of our cars, and loading them right
there in Centerville on our siding at our packing house. We had
a salesman, and he was on the phone all the time making sales and
getting orders, and he would route the cars, and we'd send them
out. They'd go to Baltimore, or anywhere.
Lage: Primarily East Coast?
Williams: All east. yes. everything went east.
Lage: Who would your salesman be dealing with?
He'd be dealing with customers we had built up over the years in
New York and all the major markets, all the terminal markets. At
this time, around 1950. everything was pretty much carloads, even
then. We weren't getting into small shipments like we got into
later. A carload was five hundred crates of cauliflower.
A railroad car.
A rail car. yes. So we had developed these relationships with
various commission merchants in the terminal markets, and they'd
take our produce on consignment. They'd sell it, and take out a
commission of 10 percent, let's say. or something, and remit the
balance to us after paying the freight. So they weren't really
F.O.B. [Free on Board, meaning sold at shipping point] sales.
they were just consignments. Occasionally we would have sales.
but most of them were consignments in those days.
What would be the difference between the consignment and the
Well, you never knew really what you were getting for the
carload. We'd top-ice it, close the doors, and a railroad would
come in at night, the SP [Southern Pacific], and pick up the
string of the few cars that we loaded during the day. It would
take about ten days for that car to get to New York, about a week
to Chicago, I think, and ten days to New York or Boston. So ten
days later it would get there, and maybe the market would be
better or worse, you wouldn't know.
I see. so you would receive whatever it sold for there.
Williams: They sold it at the market (meaning, at the going price), and of
course there's always a range depending on the quality, but there
was no assurance. However, if we did sell a car. we'd sell it
generally F.O.B. Centerville for X dollars, and that was the
New, if there were complications for instance, if the car
arrived in bad order, if they ran out of ice. or something. We
would re- top- ice often, if it had to go through warm weather,
just to keep the commodity cool. But if something happened and
the quality was bad for seme reason, why. we would have to make
an adjustment, so nothing was for sure. Teu never knew for sure.
Lage: Tou were responsible for what might happen to the product on the
way back East, then?
Williams: Oh, yes. We were in charge of the routing of the rail lines and
the top-icing, if any, and the amount of ice we put in initially.
Tea, we were responsible for the consigned rail cars until they
arrived. In the case of a car sold on completion of loading at
Centerville (as it was then called) the buyer routed the car and
took all responsibility.
Lage: Was your father's operation a bigger operation than most of them
in the Fremont area?
Williams: Tea. Most of the farmers there might grow cauliflower, but
they'd sell it locally to Safeway, in those days or take it
into the market in Oakland or San Francisco and sell it at the
farmer's market. Some of them would come to us and say they had
some cauliflower, and they wanted us to put it on the rail car
with ours, and we'd have te keep track of it. We would do that
and charge the grower a commission.
Lage: Was that a very big part of your packing business?
Williams: Ne, most of our business I'd say about 99 percent of it was our
own produce. Just a very small percentage would be somebody
else's. There was one ether grower in the area who had a packing
house next to us. His name was Lloyd Bailey, and he was doing
the same thing we were doing. He was loading cars of cauliflower
and shipping them to the eastern markets, but most of the growers
had smaller acreages, and they didn't have a packing house, or
salesmen, or connections in the East.
Lage: Were most of them people who owned their own land, or were they
Williams: Most of them owned their own land, that's correct small acreages
that they farmed.
Lage: So yur father really get into a different type of operation.
Williams: Tea. he did.
Lage: And he was doing that in the thirties, even when times were
Sugar Beet Cultivation and Harvesting, a Back-Breaking Operation
Lag*: What ether crops did he grew? You've mentioned cauliflower, and
it sounds like
Williams: That was kind of our staple.
Lage: Was it a year-round crop?
Williams: Tear-round? No, net in those years. We were growing it 'for
about November through April, and then we would go into tomatoes
in the summer, and sugar beets, cucumbers.
Lage: Did they all get shipped east?
Williams: No. Cucumbers, for instance, were for processing locally, for
pickling. They were pickling cucumbers, not the market cucumber.
Lage: Were there pickling houses?
Williams: Yes. in San Jose most of them were, and there was one in Hay ward.
I think. Most of our business was with Del Monte in San Jose.
The sugar beets were local too. I guess we were trying to get
away from the gamble of leading cars of cauliflower and never
knowing really what you were going to get for them. With sugar
beets, if you had a certain tonnage and a certain amount of
sugar, you knew you were going to get some money for your crop.
Same with the cucumbers.
Lage: Who would you sell the sugar beets to?
Williams: There was a firm in Alvarado. the Holly Sugar Company, which
interestingly enough had the first sugar mill in the United
States there in Alvarado. and I guess we (the growers in the
Alvarado-Centerville area) grew the first sugar beets in the
United States, perhaps on the Patterson ranch because that was
very close to Alvarado.
Lage: I've heard stories about the sugar beets en the Patterson ranch.
There must have been other growers in that area toe.
Williams: Oh. they were all over. yes. Lots of people grew them. It was
back-breaking, physically. All manual work, starting with the
thinning. We'd plant them, and then the plants were too thick in
the row, and you had to thin them out or you wouldn't get a good-
sized beet. If they were all tangles, you'd just get a let of
little beets. So they had to be thinned with a short- handled
hoe, which was hard work.
It took about six months for the crop to mature, as I
remember; we'd plant them in the spring, and harvest them in the
fall. Then, when the crop finally matured, when the beets were a
certain size and before the rains, we had first of all to go
through the field with a plow. This was pulled by a tractor, and
it was a device that lifted the beet up. See. the beets are
growing in the ground, so you can't just pull them out of the
ground. They have a long tap root, and they're really hanging
on. and seme of them are eight inches, seven inches in diameter.
So we had to get a blade under them to lift them up. It didn't
actually pull them out of the ground, but this went under them
and lifted them up, and then you could come along and pull them
out of the ground easily. They had what they called a beet
knife, which you held in your hand, with about an eight-inch
blade, and it had a sharp point on the end.
You would stick this point into the beet and pull it up, and
it would come right up very easily, because it had all been
lifted. Then you'd hold the beet in one hand and chop the top
off with the blade, and then we would throw it in a windrow.
Then began another operation; and following along behind the beet
toppers was a truck driven through the field, and men were
throwing these beets into the trucks, and that was terrible work
too. All this sugar beet work was hard.
Harder than the cauliflower.
Williams: Yes, right. Very physical work, and the beets would be awfully
heavy and hard to handle, [laughs] Everything about them was
hard I can remember it well.
Lage: You did this yourself?
Williams: Oh. yes, I did it all.
Farm Labor: Locals and Braceres
What about ether laborers, at that time, during your father'
Williams: Before the war we had a group of local people, mostly from Decote
and Alvarade and Niles, I'd say. Mostly of Mexican descent.
But they did live there full time?
They lived there, and there wasn't much industry there.
farm work, that was their thing.
Were they able to keep busy year round?
Yes. because we were busy year round. We tried to have something
to harvest every day of the year. So they would work in the
field planting, thinning, topping beets, for instance, and loading
the beet trucks. And seme ef them were driving tractors and
trucks for us. the ones with better qualifications, let's say.
mere ability. The labor force was all local.
With the advent of World War II, and shipyards opening up.
most of these people left because the shipyards were paying much
better, or else they went in the service. These were all men; we
weren't employing any women then, I guess. There weren't any
women doing farm work, ranch work, that I can recall. Later on
we got to using a let of women in the packing house in the
winter. But with the war many of these men left. This was a
national problem, or at least a big problem in California, and
Congress saw fit to pass Public Law 78. which allowed Mexican
nationals to ceme up here under contract for specified periods of
Lage : Is that the bracero program?
Lage: So that passed during the war.
Williams: Yes. I think the first ones came and I may be wrong en my
dates about 1944. I don't remember that we had any before I
went in the service. When I came back we had them. But we had
to build a labor camp to house them and do certain things to care
for them, feed them, and board them.
Lage: Were the braceros there full time also?
Williams: Seems to me that there was a period of time when they weren't
there. It was a very touchy program, and we couldn't use them
when there were domestic workers available because that was a
Williams: very sere subject with the unions; it upset the local workers who
were being displaced by these imported workers. So as long as
there were sufficient numbers of locals, we could net import
workers from Mexico. I think there was a time, perhaps all
winter for a good bit of those years, when we did not have the
imported workers, and we relied on domestic people to do the
work. They were available in numbers enough to get it dene.
Lage : Was winter less labor-intensive?
Williams: Yes, it was. I guess. A let of workers, besides leaving for the
shipyards and the service, went to work in canneries. There were
many canneries operating at San Jese and Hayward. and lots of
these people would prefer to work in a cannery because they had
better facilities, and they're out ef the sun. and the pay was
better, probably. I'm sure it was better than the average farmer
was paying. But the canneries would close in the winter, so
there was a group ef people that were looking for work.
Lage : So yeu took up the slack then. Did the enset ef the bracere
program bring new kinds of problems?
Williams: It did. in that we were spoiled. We found that the braceres were
wonderful workers. They would come up here, and they were hard
workers, so they'd do perhaps twice as much as the domestic
workers would do. Farmers always wanted them; they were very
Lage: Hew did the pay compare with what you'd been paying domestic
Williams: It was regulated and very closely watched, and we were required
to pay a prevailing wage, which was established by the Farm Labor
Board. The Department ef Employment had these Farm Labor Beards
in various agricultural counties. They would take a poll of
domestic workers, a survey, and see what people were getting for
various jobs, and then I've forgotten all the ins and outs, but
we had to pay
Lage: It was comparable?
Williams: Yes. right.
Lage: Did yeu have to have some kind of certification to show that yeu
couldn't obtain local laborers?
Williams: Yes, you had to try. You had to advertise, and you had to put in
an order with this Farm Labor Board for workers, and they would
beat the bushes to find workers. They'd go to Oakland, and
they'd go to skid row, and they'd bring these people ut that
really weren't qualified farm workers, but they were breathing,
Williams: so we would have to take them. If they didn't work out. we
didn't have to keep them; we could discharge them, which we did.
We very seldom get anybody that was reliable or would do the job
properly. But it was a long process to get the braceros. and
Lage: It brought you into more government
Williams: Yes, government regulation, and you really felt that you weren't
running your own business.
Dealing with Sugar Beet and Tomato Pests
Lage: Did the bracere program extend into the time when you were
running the business?
Lage : When was it you took over?
Williams: My father died in February of 1956.
Lage: By that time were you fully committed to the business?
Williams: Oh, yes, and I had been for seven years, I guess, since '49. We
were using braceros, the Mexican nationals, in 1956, the year of
his death, and growing these crops. There are a few I didn't
mention. We were diversifying mere, about that time, into
cabbage, and corn, and broccoli, and lima beans, and things like
that, just because for instance, with the sugar beets, we had a
problem with the sugar beet nematede. If you grew sugar beets
and cauliflower, there was a build-up of this nematede.
Lage: And what is a nematode?
Williams: Well, it's a little microscopic critter that feeds en the roots
of the plants, and the populations get so heavy that in the case
of sugar beets, for instance, it would just destroy the crop.
Ihey would feed on the beets, and you wouldn't have anything to
harvest. So you had to get out of sugar beets, and going into
cauliflower wasn't a help because the nematode liked cauliflower
too not as much as sugar beets but it would affect the
cauliflower crop and keep the nematodes very healthy waiting for
the next planting of sugar beets.
So we had to get into other things, and we got into lettuce,
and cucumbers, and lima beans, and things that were of a
different nature altogether.
Lage: Haw did yau decide what crops to get into?
Williams: In the case of lima beans. I remember we grew lima beans for Del
Mente California Packing Corporation, it was called then and
they wanted to can lima beans. They had been doing it somewhere
else, and they wanted to try it in our area, and they came around
to the office to talk about maybe a hundred acres or so of lima
beans, maybe two hundred, I've forgotten, And they were trying
to get seme other growers in the area, so they would have enough
acreage to bring in their viners. They had the viners, and they
would do all the harvesting; all we had to do was plant and grow
We didn't know anything about lima beans. We would plant
and grew the crop, even though we didn't know. It's like most
plants: if you give it water and fertilizer it will grow. We
didn't have the equipment to harvest, so they would come in with
their viners and their tractors to do the harvesting, with their
people. Also it was a legume; it was good for the soil. They
would cut and feed the plants through this machine- like thing,
which kind of stripped the beans and left the vines. The vines
were very good as a form of fertilizer.
Lage: You just plowed them back under?
Williams: Yes. Well, we'd end up with them in a big pile, and, as I
remember, they would kind of ferment, and they get to smelling
terrible. We would then spread them out in the field and plow
them under to enrich the soil.
Lage: Like compost.
Williams: Yes, the same idea.
Lage: Did you draw on the university at all, the Agricultural Extension
Williams: Yes, we had a farm adviser in Hayward with the extension service,
and I knew the farm advisers very well. They were very inter
ested in what we were doing, and they would do replications.
When we were planting, they would want us to put in various seeds
or treat certain areas of the field differently, and they kept
track of the tonnage, and the cultural practices, the irrigation.
and all. It was very helpful, very scientific.
Lage: Did they advise you en how to deal with things like the
Williams: Oh, yes, right. Because we didn't have a trained agriculturist
on the payroll or anything, we relied very heavily on the farm
Lage : I read somewhere that the tomatoes developed a blight.
Williams: We got a broemrape, as they called it. It's a parasite that
attaches to the tomato, onto the root, and finally it was the end
of the tomato industry in our area.
Lage: There's noway of combatting that?
Williams: Well* a farm adviser at the University of California, in
conjunction with some of the Davis people, came down. We had a
test plot. I remember. It was on the Patterson ranch, where
there was a let of broemrape (I'll tell you hew that was spread,
and hew it ended up there). There was a ten-acre test plot, and
first of all we put a levee, or berm. around it. at the request
of the university. This was just to segregate it from the rest
of the farm land, and no farm equipment was allowed to go in or
out of there without fumigation.
We knew this was an area that had a lot of broom rape in it.
and then the university and the farm adviser fumigated the soil
and tarped it they had to put a plastic cover ever it. They
were using various things, methyl bromide was the one that was
found most effective. I believe, and it would apparently control
the broomrape. but it was a very expensive operation. In those
years, it seems to me. it was about three hundred dollars an
acre, and that was in the late fifties.
Lage: Seems prohibitive.
Williams: It was. It would even seem to be a huge expense now, I think.
It just wasn't worth it to do that to grow tomatoes. Especially
when you had no assurance that the land would not be reinf ected.
because broemrape is very hard to get rid of. You might
fumigate an area, but another field might have the seeds in it.
and it might blew in with the wind, er it might come in on the
tires of your tractor. It's a very small seed, hard to detect,
and very destructive to tomatoes.
Lage: It* s a seed?
Williams: It's a seed at first, and then that seed germinates when it gets
in the proximity of certain plants tomato, tobacco, and a few
ethers we even had it growing en lettuce. Not very much,
Lage: So it is a parasite?
Williams: Yes, it's net an animal; it's a plant. Like the mistletoe in
your oak trees. Mistletoe just attaches to the eak tree, and I
don't think it's good for it, but it is relatively small in size,
and it doesn't kill an eak very easily or very quickly. But the
broom rape seed would be in the soil, and when we planted the
tomatoes, and the roots of the tomato spread out, the broomrape
would attach to it as a parasite and grow off of it.
It comes up and it's yellow, like a straw. That's perhaps
where it got its name, "broom," and it rapes the plant. I mean,
it's just feeding en the plant. Finally, it'll get so many of
these things growing on it that the tomato plant just doesn't
ever grow. The tomatoes are as big around as marbles they
aren't marketable or anything and I suppose ultimately the plant
would die. So you just can't have the two*
I was very friendly with a fellow who worked for the Alameda
County Agriculture Department Fred Duffy his name was and he
told me that this broomrape came in to the California Nursery en
seme roses from France. I've forgotten just when, possibly in
the twenties. Seme roses came into the nursery, and they had the
broomrape, and they got it in the nursery the seeds. So
broomrape was around in the thirties, and I can remember that we
had some land out north of Centexville not down near the
Patterson ranch, but just north of Centerville. where the
American High School is new. There was a little plot there that
the county was looking at in the thirties I can vaguely recall
it and there was breomrape there. That was rather close to the
nursery, just across Alameda Creek from the old California
Nursery, just north of Niles.
So that broomrape spread from there; that was its point of
That's where it came into California, really. Then we had some
big floods in 1952. and another one in December of 1955. These
floods went through the nursery Alameda Creek broke its bank,
the one that gees down through the Niles Canyon and goes to the
bay. It overflowed its banks, went through the nursery, and
deposited the broomrape all down through that flood plain, and I
think that's how the Patterson ranch got it.
That sounds very likely. That's something I hadn't heard about
the effects of the floods. I heard about the floods depositing
silt which enriched the land, but not about contributing to
spreading these seeds.
Yes, that's the one bad thing, the noxious weed that we have ever
there. That's the theory; at least that was Fred Duffy's theory.
It sounds quite logical. When these things occurred you
mentioned the sugar beet nematode and the tomatoes would that be
a whole season of no profit, or no income?
Williams: Well, fortunately, in the case of the sugar beet nematode. you'd
see it in a portion of the field. You might have maybe only a
tenth of the field, or a twentieth a small portion but you'd
see it there, and if you kept planting sugar beets, that area
would just keep growing. You could see it just driving by or
walking through it. because the tops of the healthy beet would
be, maybe, a couple of feet high anyway, and in these affected
areas they'd just be very close to the ground, six inches or so,
with spindly little leaves, a very unhealthy-looking plant.
Lage: So then you'd make your changes.
Williams: Well, we were committed. We had the crop, and we would keep it
to harvest the 90 percent that was good. Then we would have to
be careful net to plant another host crop. It would never go
away. It would knock the nematode back a little bit if you
planted barley, for instance, or lettuce, or some crops other
than cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, or sugar beets, which it
just seemed to thrive on.
Specialized Equipment for Beets
Lage: You mentioned the tractor that lifted the sugar beets, what did
you call it?
Williams: We called it a beet plow. It was net like a meldbeard plow.
which turns soil over. It's kind of hard to describe, but it was
pulled by a tractor, and it was a big. heavy thing, because it
had to go deep. It had to be strong because you didn't want to
just go down six or eight inches and cut the beets in half, we
had to go down under the beets down, oh, thirty inches possibly,
twenty- four at least. It had to go down, and there was a big
kind of blade that lifted these beets up as it was pulled through
the ground, just kind of lifted the soil up.
Lage: Was that something specialized for the area?
Williams: It was specialized for beets. It was the only thing that it was
ever used for. We'd put it away and pull it out next season.
Lage: You owned that equipment yourself.
Williams: Yes. we owned all our own equipment.
Lage: What about other, smaller farmers? What did they do about
equipment? Did they rent it?
Williams: I think the sugar mill had beet plows. For instance, when we
wuld contract with the Holly Sugar Company, we didn't have
planters for sugar beets. We did have this beet plow, but we
didn't have a planter, so they would bring their own, and we
would use it. But I think they probably had their own plows, if
the farmer wanted. Why we wanted one of our own. I don't knew.
Maybe we had mere acres.
II FARMING ON THE PATTERSON RANCH. 1956-19608
A Transition f ran Family Tenant-Farming
Lage: Let's talk a little bit about the Patterson family. You said it
was about 1956 that you first arranged with them to farm their
Williams: Yes. Just before his death, my father was talking to Donald
Patterson, and he told me that he was hopeful that we could farm
seme of that land because in 1956 we were seeing subdivisions
coming into our area, and we were going to be losing some leased
Lage: Was a large portion of your leased land on the northern plain?
Williams: No. I farmed only a hundred acres down there, which belonged to a
fellow named Ernest Brown, just right next to Pattersons. We
were leasing his farm. But everything else was north and south of
Lage: Do you know anything about your father's discussions with the
Pattersons? Henry Patterson had died just shortly before, in "55.
Williams: He never talked to Henry. He talked to Don. and talked to Don's
father. Will. W.D. Patterson. But Donald was kind of taking
charge then. I believe, because he was having most of his
discussions with Don. And after my father's death, when I got
acquainted with Den. I'd meet the two of them. Will and Don.
Often they were together, and I'd meet them down at the ranch.
But W. D. Patterson was not taking an active part then. Donald
was doing most of the talking.
Lage: What kind of things did you talk about?
Williams: Well, the crops we might grow, and the area see, the Patterson
ranch had a history of having a number of tenant farmers. Most
of them were paying on share rent rather then cash rent. They
Williams: wauld go out and plant various crops on the Patterson land, and
sell the crops, and give the Patterson family a percentage of the
proceeds of the crops. Often a fourth, or a fifth, sometimes a
sixth, in the case of certain crops like cucumbers, which were
very labor-intensive and had a lot of harvest costs.
Lage: Did they have several tenants?
Williams: They had a quite a number of them. They had the Rose family, two
brothers. Ed and another one I don't remember. Two brothers and
their father, actually. That was one family. And they had a
fellow named Gus King, and they had another family called Lebon.
and they had the Maciel family Tony Maciel. I think.
Do you know if any of these people are around?
Let's see. The Maciels are over in the San Joaquin Valley. They
left the Patterson ranch; they left the whole area. A number of
them are dead: Gus King is, I think. There is one of the Lebon
people that works for Gladaway growers, who grow the gladiolas in
Fremont. His name is Mickey Leben. and he is a very important
part of that organization.
Lage: Would you knew if he would have knowledge about the operation on
the Patterson ranch?
Williams: I think he was part of the organization that was farming on the
Patterson ranch, and when they left Pattersons the family kind of
broke up. He went to work for another grower, and now finally
he's with the gladiola people. He would have some knowledge of
this. I believe, of the family operation on the Patterson ranch.
I think when we first started there the Lebons were going
out. and we went in en their land. See, the Patterson family had
a large acreage, and the Lebons had a certain piece maybe it was
seventy- five acres, or something. We took that seventy- five
Lage: I see. So that wasn't the whole operation.
Williams: No, no. We started with about seventy-five acres, as I recall,
in 1956. And I felt that we were kind of en trial there because
they'd had these other families for years and years, so we were
all trying to do the best job we could.
Lage: How was your arrangement different from these of the tenants?
Williams: Well, it didn't differ at first. We were paying share rent too,
as I recall, for a few years. That's what the Patterson family
was used to.
Lage: It wasn't what you did en your ether land?
Williams: Ne. net generally. Well, we had paid shares en Ernest Brawn's,
f 9i instance. I think he had a minimum I guess that was it he
was guaranteed a minimum rent, but he was also entitled te a
share ef the crep. and if that exceeded the minimum, why he get
his share if that makes sense. Se we did pay shares en the
Patterson ranch, te start, and we had dene that en ether deals
occasionally, but most ef our rent was cash rent. We'd just pay
se much per acre, per year.
Lage: Se this would make the Pattersons mere interested in hew well the
operation went, if they were getting their share.
Williams: Exactly. There's nothing fer sure because if the crep didn't
come in at a good price, ef course, they den't get much rent.
That's true, they would be mere interested in the quality ef the
Lage: Hew active a role did Den take? Was it just friendly chitchat?
Williams: He said, you could take that Leben land. As I remember.
percentages were twenty-five percent te the family in the case
of canning tomatoes, which we were still growing then. We grew
tomatoes fer canning, fer local canneries, and we also grew
tomatoes for shipping. [In the interests ef accuracy, the
landlord's share ef a canning tomato crop was twenty percent
generally. Most crops were twenty-five percent except cucumbers,
which were sixteen- and-two- thirds percent. G.W.]
Lage: Were they two different kinds of tomatoes?
Williams: Yes, they were, in the early days. Eventually the canning tomato
went out. and there was really only one kind ef tomato. But in
the early days you had te decide when you planted what you were
going to do. The canning tomato is a big. misshapen thing, and
the canners cooked it and kind ef ground it up or something, se
it didn't matter. But you couldn't ship a big, misshapen tomato
like that fer the fresh market. Se you did have to decide when
you planted which way you were going.
It was a percentage that Den said that the family wanted,
and it was agreeable it was the customary thing, and we'd had
enough deals like that te know. Se we started in I can't
remember our first crops. I know cauliflower was ene and
probably lettuce, and we were still growing sugar beets then, so
we probably had seme sugar beets, and maybe seme tomatoes I'm
sure we had tomatoes. Canning tomatoes then because the shipping
tomato business was pretty sick. We were just about out of that.
Williams: Within a year or so he came to me. and he said that the Rose
brothers were going to quit. I think the Roses were the next to
g out; they might have had sixty or seventy-five acres, so he
said. "Could you take that?" So we took that.
Lage : Do you know why these families went out of business?
Williams: Well. I'm not sure. Don never told me. I don't know if they
were pushed or not. The Rose people were not good growers, in my
opinion, and they weren't producing much of a crop. I think the
Patterson family could see that we were going to do a let better,
and their share was going to be a lot bigger, that 25 percent was
going to be a let better from us. I don't knew if they pushed
the Roses. They were very loyal to their growers, and they
probably did net. But they must have had seme misgivings about
them, because they ran a pretty sloppy operation, the Rose
Lage: You could tell that, just by observing?
Williams: Oh. yes. just by the way they farmed. Weeds might take ever the
crop, or you knew the crop was beiu^ hurt, or they weren't using
enough fertilizer, or something. They didn't de a geed job of
Don Patterson's Involvement
Lage: Did Don seem to have knowledge of farming?
Williams: He had some. I'm not sure. He was from industry I've
forgotten. He wasn't trained in agriculture; he was an
engineer possibly. I'm net exactly sure.
I've forgotten just what he did before he came to the farm.
but he was a very knowledgeable person about it in that he read a
let, I'm sure of that, and he was very interested in everything,
all facets. He was always looking for new crops for us, and
talking to me about whether we couldn't find something new.
Because he was concerned about our future too, he knew that
tomatoes, for instance, were a problem with the broom rape and
some of these crops were going out. We were always looking for
more profitable crops. We were always talking about that.
I remember one time we were talking about saf flower, which
was grown for the oil. and which was a very popular crop in the
Sacramento Valley about that time. This was probably twenty
years ago. or twenty-five maybe. We did grow seme safflower down
on the Patterson Ranch, and it was fairly good, but it wasn't
Williams: really that interesting. It seems to me it depleted the soil
quite heavily and wasn't that profitable, so we just tried it a
year or two. But he was very, very progressive, and interested
in doing things the best and most efficient way.
Lage: What would the Pattersons furnish? Did they furnish water?
Williams: Yes, they had the wells, and we would pay the power, and we would
maintain the wells. Well, I should reword that. They would take
care of normal wear and tear. If the pump would break down
through some neglect of ours lack of oil, for instance, lack of
lubrication that was our responsibility, and we had to fix it.
If it was j ust normal wear and tear they would put in a new pump,
or repair the pump, and if a well went bad as they were doing
then with the salt water intrusion, and they had to drill new
wells, they would drill them.
Lage: Was that standard practice with ether people from whom you leased
Williams: Yes, it was. They would generally maintain the pump and the
well, if it took any maintenance, and we would have responsi
bility if it was proven that we had dene something or not dene
something. If the pump doesn't get any oil it soon breaks down.
Lage: So you were responsible for maintaining it.
Lage: What about labor camps? Did they supply that?
Williams: We had a labor camp en property that my father had bought. When
he get into the bracero business during the war he had to build a
labor camp, which he did. This was en our land, up between
Centerville and Irvington. And when we went to the Patterson
ranch there was a labor camp there that Gus King had operated and
built. I believe. Maybe the Pattersons had been involved in the
construction of it, I've forgotten, if I ever knew. But we did
take over that labor camp when Gus King left. After the Lebons
left, then the Rose brothers left, I think, then Gus King was
probably the next. And there were even a few mere, a fellow
named Zambetti- There were a number of growers down there.
So we used the Patterson camp later on because our camp was
getting into an area where there was a lot of development. It
wasn't a good place for a labor camp, and finally we shut it down
and just used that Patterson camp. That's still being used, I
Williams: I think s*. Net for braceros er imported labor ef that type, but
for people that do work en the farm, single men, for instance.
And there are a few units down there for families.
Lage: You said that you didn't get to know Will Patterson very well.
Williams: No. I didn't.
Lage: He was fairly elderly by then.
Williams: He was probably in his seventies, maybe upper seventies.
Lage: Were you living in the Fremont area then?
Williams: Yes. I lived there then. He had a home there, and I would go
down and meet Den sometimes at his home, and sometimes I'd see
Will and sometimes I wouldn't. I've forgotten what year he
died, but I remember that he requested that his home be burned.
The fire department went down and had a drill and burned the
Lage : I've heard about that.
Williams: Now, the Henry Patterson house was saved, of course.
The Value ef the Ranch as Agricultural Land
Lage: Yes. I asked you about the value of the Patterson ranch as
agricultural land. How did the soil ?
Williams: It was good soil; it was very nice loam, and from what I've read
a lot of it was alluvial, brought in from the floods over the
period ef a century or mere, and the Pattersons really hadn't
wanted the flood control. What finally solved our flooding
problems there was the flood control, the army engineers going in
and widening Alameda Creek, and deepening it. clearing it out.
Lage: And yet, William Patterson was president
Williams: He was president of the Alameda County Water District for years.
Lage: And ef the Alameda County Flood Control District.
Williams: Yes, you're right.
Lage: I wondered about that as I read that he was so active in it.
Williams: I think, at least in the early days, they didn't grew winter
crops there, and they kind of wanted that land to go under water,
with all the silt that would come in. kind of like the Nile
delta, or something.
Lage : In winter you wouldn't have crops.
Williams: Not before us. In the thirties and forties I don't think there
were many winter crops at the Patterson ranch. The Lebon people,
now. were cauliflower growers, so they were growing some
cauliflower in winter. But their seventy-five acres were net in
the lowest part of the ranch.
Lage: So do you think Will Patterson might have been interested in
putting year-round agriculture in? Would that have been one of
his reasons for working on flood control? Or do you net know?
Williams: I just don't know. I couldn't speculate on it.
Lage: Flood control did allow for the development of that area,
eventually, of the houses and industrial park.
Williams: That's correct.
Lage: Did the Pattersons ever speak with you about what they saw was
coming on their lands in the future?
Williams: No well. Den did. Yes, for years and years he said he knew the
development was coming, but he wasn't anxious for it. He wanted
it to stay in farming just as long as possible, and it did as
long as he was here.
Lage: So he seemed to have a real commitment to keeping it in farming.
You didn't get the sense that he was just biding time?
Williams: No. although he may have been. But his time frame was such that
he may have been thinking twenty-five years or something. It
wasn't anything immediate I never got that feeling at all. I
had the feeling that he wanted it to stay in agriculture just as
long as possible, knowing, though, that the land was just going
to continue to appreciate in value.
Lage: Did they use the Williamson Act?
Williams: Yes. they did.
Lage: How did your arrangement with them change over the years? You
mention you kept taking over other parts did you end up farming
the whole thing?
Williams: Finally ended up with all of it, I think.
Lage : Did you continue with the sharecrepping?
Williams: No, after just a few years I've forgotten just what prompted us
to do that but we weren't too happy with it. We had to make
these accountings, of course, and it would just be a lot simpler
for us to pay cash rent. So we changed over with their
Lage: Hew did you figure the rent?
Williams: Well, we had other leased land around, we knew what we were
paying, and it was all kind of competitive. It was based en what
we were paying ether landowners.
Lage: Hew did it compare with the arrangement of being sharecroppers?
Williams: I think they were better off with cash rent.
Lage: There was a study done in 1974, when the city of Fremont was
considering whether they should continue to zone the northern
plain area for agriculture.* They brought in a consulting firm,
which determined that the growers did quite well in the area, but
that the landowners really weren't making any money.
Williams: On shares?
Lage: On shares or leasing land. They were just about breaking even.
Williams: Is that right? Well, I don't know when the Williamson Act came
Lage: I think that was in the sixties.
Williams: Was it? Okay. So they were paying taxes based on agricultural
Williams: I guess I knew that. I'd just kind of forgotten it.
Lage: I guess the going rate wasn't terribly high for the landowners in
the whole area; they weren't just singling out the Pattersons.
* Evaluation of Agricultural Viability of Northern Plain Area
for the City of Fremont," April 15, 1974. by Maclay Burt
Williams: I'm sure that's true. I've kind of forgotten. I didn't have
much knowledge then of what people were paying in other areas.
Our big competition was Salinas they were a similar type of
agriculture I didn't know what they were paying then. But I did
know, later, that the rents they were paying in Salinas were much
higher. And I'm sure what you're saying is probably true, that
it was the competition for the land in Salinas that kept the
price of the rent up.
Lage: During this period, when you were replacing the tenant farmers,
was that a general pattern in the Fremont area? That the bigger
operations, like yourself, were taking ever from smaller tenant
Williams: Well, we were getting down, at that time, to not so many farmers.
There was one ether large farmer. The Baileys were pretty much
out of it; they'd gone into cattle. They were out of vegetables.
Lage: Were they in cattle in that area?
Williams: Well, they had seme cattle in part of Fremont, southern Fremont,
down near the General Motors plant, or somewhere in that area.
But they had seme hill land in Hayward they had cattle there. I
think, up in the hills.
The Fudenna Brothers* Operation
Williams: The one large grower was the Japanese family, the Fudenna
brothers, and it get to the point that there were only about two
of us left two or three: Fudenna, Williams, and another grower
or two, smaller growers. But there weren't that many.
Lage: So there wasn't that much land left.
Williams: No, the land was shrinking, that's right, and about all the land
that was left was in the north plain. Everything else was pretty
well cut up.
Lage: Did the Fudenna brothers also operate out on the north plain?
Williams: Yes, they came into the Patterson ranch, too, and had quite a bit
of land. I don't know how many acres, but they probably had
several hundred acres at least, or three or four hundred, maybe,
for a while.
I remember one particular part that they had, which had been
in Marchy Dairy, and it's down near where the Alameda's farm
headquarters now is; the Alamedas are the people that I sold to.
Williams: my old employees, that are now going en with the eld business.
The dairy was there. The Fudennas had that property, and they
decided that the pH was tee high, that there was tee much alkali
in the soil, and they were leaving. Don came to me and wanted to
know if we would be interested in it. It was a hundred or a
hundred and fifty acres, and I said, "Sure." So we went down
there. It turned out to be fine land.
Lage: Did you have to grew a different kind of crop?
Williams: No, we just grew the crops we were accustomed to growing. Why
they gave it up, I don't knew. They said it was the pH. but it
didn't seem that bad. We had a let worse.
Lage: That's not the salt; that's something else.
Williams: It's the balance between the alkali and the acid; a high pH means
it is too alkaline.
Lage: Had the Fudenna brothers been in Fremont for a long time?
Williams: Yes, it was an eld farming family, very small before the war.
just a very small operation, maybe strawberries. There were a
lot of Japanese growing strawberries in that area before the war.
Then they were relocated during the war. They came back after
it, and then I guess they went back to their strawberry business,
then got into vegetables, and then they bought a ranch next to my
father's, between Centerville and Irvington. They leased land,
as we did, in a number of places.
They had their home place there, and then they had a couple
of growers, as I recall, that grew for them. They would advise
them, and they would handle the crop, but the grower had his own
equipment, and did the planting, and maybe the Fudennas would do
the harvesting for them and the marketing. Then they get started
with the Patterson ranch soon after we did. If we went in there
in '56, why, by '57 or '58 I think the Fudennas were down there too.
Lage: Did they have a packing operation?
Williams: Yes. they did.
Lage: Were they well-respected farmers in the community?
Williams: Yes, they were excellent farmers. There were three brothers and
a brother-in-law. Really the four of them ran the business. One
brother was in charge of growing, and he was an excellent farmer.
They always grew good crops. Then there was a tragic accident,
and he was killed; he was hit by a truck a number of years ago.
The farming, then, never was the same. They never could quite
grow the crops they did before that.
Lage: He must have been the one with the know-hew.
Williams: Yes. as far as farming is concerned. And then the eldest son as
with the Japanese families, the eldest son calls the shots he
was the president of the company. James. He get cancer of the
bone marrow. I think, and fought that for a few years, but it
finally got the best of him. And then a brother-in-law died. I
think. That left one brother, and he finally just sold out.
Lage: Sad tale.
Williams: It was. But they had a great organization. They were very tough
competitors, and we weren't fond of them, but we had a lot of
respect for them.
Lage: So they were competitors for your
Williams: Oh. yes. We were competing for sales; we were trying to sell to
the same people. It was very competitive.
So you would compete en price. Would that make your prices go
Williams: Oh. yes, right.
III THE L. S. WILLIAMS COMPANY AGRICULTURAL OPERATION. 1956-1983
Crop Specialization; Cauliflower and Lettuce
Lage: We've talked about crops, but we didn't come up into more recent
times. When did you finally sell out?
Williams: I retired on July 1. 1983. yes.
Were there changes from '56 to '83
terms of crops?
that we should talk about, in
Well, yes, in that we gradually discarded crops. At one time we
were growing about eight different crops in a calendar year. As
our expenses went up and profits shrunk, we had to throw out
these less lucrative ones, like sugar beets, for instance. That
was one of the first to go. And lima beans, cabbage, carrots,
Yes. We found it was to our advantage to put all of our efforts
in cauliflower and lettuce. We'd grew cauliflower in the winter
and lettuce in the summer. While I did want another crop or
two it would have been good in the rotation of things, good for
the soil we just could not seem to find it. We still grew a few
cucumbers, but there weren't very many acres of those for
Was the problem in the sales, or the cost of equipment, or what?
Well, in sugar beets, you just didn't get enough gross, even with
a good crop. With the expenses we had here, we couldn't make
enough money to justify it. In the San Joaquin Valley, or
Salinas Valley, they could and still do grow sugar beets, and
it's still profitable I guess. But it wasn't for us, just
because of the cost of the thinning although we had got a
mechanical thinnex and I guess it was the cost of water, and our
Williams: pump tax. We haven't touched on that, but our expenses were
CAB ing up, and our labor. We were in more of an industrial area,
and we weren't getting braceros. That had fallen into
disrepute the whole law and had been rescinded.
Labor Arrangements After the Bracero Program
The bracere program ended in '65, I believe.
Well, after that, we had to rely on locals, of course, to do all
this steep labor.
And whom did you rely on?
Well, we worked through a bunch of what we called labor
contractors. That was one way to work. To get a huge crew of
men we had to get a labor contractor, and there were people who
did this. These were mostly Mexican workers, and the contractors
were often Mexican. They could talk to them, and they had some
rapport with them. They would come in en a bus every day from
some urban area, possibly.
They were Mexican Americans?
Yes. Some of them were illegal. I'm sure, though,
wetbacks in with them.
And you just dealt with the contractor.
I dealt with the contractor.
And paid him a fixed amount?
Well, the way we usually worked it was that we wanted to be sure
the men were getting paid, so we would keep the payrolls. We
would pay him I've forgotten how we'd base it. We had the names
of the workers, and we kept their hours, or he gave us their
hours, kept the hours for us. We actually wrote checks to pay
the workers, and he would get a percentage. I guess. Gee. that's
kind of foggy. I don't quite remember how he got paid. The
workers would pay him toe. For instance, he would charge them
transportation on the bus. to bring them, so he was getting
something that way. And he would feed them all and charge them
Did they use the labor camps that you had?
We had all kinds of deals. Some did; seme came in by bus for the
day; seme would bring their men. put them in our labor camp; the
contractor would perhaps furnish the cook. All kinds of
a r ran gem ent 8 .
Did the cost go up considerably from what you'd had to pay under
the bracero program?
Yes, they did because these workers weren't as productive, they
wouldn't harvest as much. Plus hourly wages were going up
steadily; every year er so they were creeping up.
I've heard people mention labor "specialists." that
groups of people would harvest certain crops.
Well. yes. in the case of lettuce, for instance. We grew lettuce
and would get a harvesting crew, and these people just harvested
lettuce. That is quite a specialized thing.
Were they of a particular ethnic background?
Most of them were Mexican.
In lettuce as well as other crops?
What is the specialty of harvesting lettuce?
Well, you have to select the head that has the proper solidity;
you can't have an immature head. Strangely enough, when you put
them in the box, your row alignment has to be as perfect as
possible just from a cosmetic point of view, so when the box is
opened up. all the rows there were twenty-four heads in a
carton; that's the standard package, twelve to a layer, three by
four, two layers of twelve and the row alignment had to be just
So this was packed right in the field.
Yes. packed right in the field. That's a specialty in which
people just followed the sun. We had the same season as Salinas,
and then they'd go to the Imperial Valley, and they'd go to New
Mexico and various places where there are growing areas.
Then you have another group come in for the cauliflower.
Well, for cauliflower we did our own thing. We had our own
workers and we paid by the hour. The lettuce work is all piece
rate; they were paid so much a box. The whole crew would pack a
box of lettuce for a dollar, let us say, and the person that cuts
Williams: it got a little bit of that, and the person that puts it in the
box got a little bit, and the person that closed the box and
stapled it, he get something, and then the person that threw it
up on the truck got something. It ends up that it costs us a
dollar, but each little segment of this harvesting crew got their
Lage: So did each person within this little crew have a specialty?
Williams: Yes, they had what they called a trio, which was two cutters and
one packer. This threesome would just go down the rows, two of
them were cutting, and putting them together, and this packer
would just come right along behind them, stuffing his lettuce in.
Lage: Hew did you keep track of how many boxes each group packed?
Williams: Well, let's see. [laughs] The specialist would do that. That
would be a specialty, wouldn't it? He would keep track of his
crew, and there might be forty er fifty in a crew. You might
have ten tries, let's say; that would be thirty. I don't know,
I've forgotten all the numbers, but there might be forty or fifty
people doing this, putting the finished product on the truck.
And it was our truck, and our driver.
Marketing in the East and Midwest
Williams: We'd haul it away to the cooler, where it was vacuum cooled, and
then it was put in a rail car or a refrigerator truck,
Lage: Did that go to the East also?
Williams: East or Midwest. We get away from the rails in oh, it was a
gradual thing. We started using mere trucks: pretty seen it was
half and half, pretty soon it was three-fourths trucks, pretty
soon it was about a hundred percent trucks, and we seldom loaded
a car when I retired. With the trucks we could go into littler
markets. We could go to Kansas City which isn't a little
market, especially but we could go inte the Midwest, into seme
of the smaller towns, with fifty cartons of lettuce, and the
trucker would just step there in seme store and drop it off. You
couldn't put a whole rail car of lettuce inte seme little town
because they couldn't handle it.
Lage: How did you sell?
Williams: Well, this fellow that worked for me and was our salesman would
deal direct. We liked to deal direct with these people. Some of
them would call us, or he would call them, in various cities.
Lage: Were you dealing with a particular retailer?
Williams: No, he's dealing generally with a wholesaler.
Lage: And the wholesaler would distribute it to markets.
Williams: Yes. So we would deal with the wholesalers in various markets.
Lage: On the phone?
Williams: On the phone, and we dealt a let with brokers from Salinas that
had built up a clientele of these same wholesalers, only they
would call the broker, instead of us. So we would deal with a
broker because we couldn't sell everything out. We'd always have
something for sale, and we knew we couldn't sell it ourselves,
but the broker get usually in those days it was ten cents a
Lage: Did you continue to ship produce for seme of the other small
farms? I guess there weren't many small farm operations left.
Williams: At this time there weren't any left, no. They were gene.
Lage: So it was just your operation.
Day Laborers and Labor Contractors
Lage: Did you feel that they dealt fairly with their laborers?
What was your general opinion of the labor contractors? I've
always heard very negative things about them. Is that fair?
Yes, well, generally they've got an angle somehow. They're net
the most reputable people, let's say.
Williams: Many did not. They would cheat them when they could, and often
they could. They would overcharge them, and they would sell them
stuff food, and drink, and candy, and cigarettes and things and
I know they would make exorbitant profits on that stuff. They
weren't the most honest people. There are exceptions certainly.
Lage: Was it standard for people like yourself to pay the workers
directly, or was that something you devised because of your
feeling about the contractors?
Williams; I'm tiying te think we had so many deals. For instance, with
picking tomatoes, we have used black, Negro, contractors at
times, picking canning tomatoes. The pickers would be paid by
the box. and they would have a card that would be punched.
They'd be picking a row of tomatoes, and they'd stack all their
boxes in a place, and a checker, so-called, would come along and
punch these cards for this fellow who had picked twenty boxes, or
forty boxes or so of tomatoes. At the end of the day they would
come in they'd load them in a bus and bring them into our
office, and we would have to pay them cash. Lets of them.
Lage: Based on their cards.
Lage: Was the checker someone you
Williams: Worked for me, right. We also picked cucumbers that way, they
were paid by the bucket of cucumbers. New. if they were our
workers, living in our camp, they'd still get paid by the bucket,
but they'd get paid every week or two; but if they were just
people who had come en a bus or something and were going back to
town, they wanted te get paid every day.
Lage : Se seme came each day en the bus.
Williams: Each day.
Lage: Were the black labor contractors hiring black people?
Williams: They had both. No, they weren't discriminating, they'd take
anybody they could get. Often they would be mostly black, but
sometimes they'd be Asian.
Lage: Were they people who had background in agriculture?
Williams: No, they just had a background in stoop labor, "background" mean
ing that that was the only kind of work they could de. probably
the only job they could get. Yes, so I guess the answer is yes.
Lage: Were the people who came in just for the day as effective
workers, from your point of view?
Williams: Well, when they were getting paid by the piece, by the box or by
the bucket, we weren't so concerned. However, life got more
complicated because eventually somebody said that they had to
make a minimum wage. And seme of them wouldn't do anything,
they'd spend the whole day out there, and they wouldn't
accomplish anything. So we had to be careful to discharge people
like that, because they couldn't pick enough to make a minimum
wage. They just weren't working at it.
Lage: Did you have problems with attempts at unionization?
Williams: Very few, I can just think ef a couple that never amounted to
anything. We never had any strikes.
Lage: There were a let of lettuce worker organization attempts.
Williams: Yes. They never bothered us. We did try to pay the prevailing
rate. For instance, if we were using a lettuce group, we'd pay
what they'd make in Salinas, so we weren't standing out as
somebody that was net paying enough. I think our deal wasn't big
enough to really get the interest of the organizers. They wanted
mere obviously, we were off the track up here and there just
wouldn't have been that much for them if they unionized us. It
wouldn't have been worth the effort, in my opinion. They never
bothered us that much. We did try to keep our wages always in
line with ether areas.
Advances in Farm Equipment
We talked seme about equipment anything else that you need to
say about hew equipment changed? One of the things that's
mentioned, that might tie the labor topic to the equipment, was,
did it become more difficult to get laborers? That's mentioned
in a couple ef newspaper articles I read, that the labor supply
was unpredictable after the end of the bracero program. Was that
something you recall?
At the end ef the bracero program, yes. That's about the time
the tomato harvester got started, I remember. We were harvesting
tomatoes by machine then.
Was there a conscious thought en your part we've got to get more
equipment because labor's getting toe expensive, or toe hard to
Well. I guess there was at that time. If we wanted to stay in
the tomato business, and we were losing our braceres, and we had
tried to pick tomatoes with locals, with no success really.
Everything was moving into the machine harvest of tomatoes.
The university had a role in that, didn't they?
Yes, they did, a very active role in the development of the
Did you purchase a harvester?
Yes. I bought one. We grew tomatoes for a few years after that*
but this was probably about 1965. and by 1970 or so. I think or
even before, possibly the whole county had been quarantined
because of the breemrape, and we couldn't grew tomatoes tee
easily. We could still grow tomatoes if they were processed in
Alameda County and had been washed, and the bins, and
everything they were put in bins for machine harvest, not
boxes didn't leave the county. This, of course, made a problem
for the canners. in that they had thousands of these bins going
all ever northern California, and they had to keep Alameda
County's bins segregated and make sure that they stayed in the
county. It just got to be too big a thing. Finally there were
no processors left. San Jose was in another county, and we
couldn't go there anymore, and. in fact, the canning companies
were leaving San Jose, and they were going to the San Joaquin
Valley anyway. So that was the end of the tomato business.
Any other special equipment?
Well, the times have changed considerably with the cauliflower.
As I've mentioned, when I was a young man of ten and eleven,
working in the cauliflower and making the crates by hand, all the
cauliflower were packed in wooden crates in the field and brought
into the packing house and then loaded in a rail car. The crate
was labeled in the packing house, and the crates were placed in
the refrigerator cars, and we iced the cars with crushed ice that
we blew in over the tops of the loads.
By 1950 maybe a little later than that. '55. possibly
cauliflower was starting to be packaged, trimmed and wrapped, and
put in a cardboard or f iber beard carton in the packing house.
One reason for this was that in a wooden crate, which was called
a pony crate, which we packed in the fields, there was an
established billing rate. The railroad said that crate weighed
forty-two pounds sometimes it would weigh forty, and sometimes
it would weigh forty-eight, or something.
No matter what was in it?
They weighed a let of them, and they said it's forty-two pounds
per crate, and if you have five hundred crates it weighs so much,
and you pay so much a hundred-weight for freight to various
cities, depending on where it's going. So there was an
established weight for cauliflower of forty-two pounds in a pony
crate. We found, as ethers did, that we could trim the leaves
off and put it in a lighter container, a fiberboard container,
and it would weigh maybe thirty pounds. In the fiberboard crate
the shipping charge was based on the actual weight. We could put
a dozen heads in. have a much lighter load, and pay less freight.
And als we had better quality because as long as we were
bringing it inte the packing house to trim it and wrap it. we
washed the heads. This was helpful because sometimes in the
winter there would be a little mud en the lettuce. Muddy water
would splash across the head, or sometimes there would be mud en
the leaves, and this could be trimmed off in the packing house,
and we got a better product. So there was a saving there.
Do you recall hew you made that change?
elsewhere, or did you think of it?
Did you see it happening
I'm sure we weren't the first, but I just can't remember. We
certainly weren't the last because others were still packing in
the field when we'd been wrapping for a long time in the packing
So each head was wrapped?
Right, individually wrapped.
The way you see it sometimes new.
Yes. exactly. In the eld days, when it was packed in the field.
we put twelve heads in one crate, sometimes ten if they were
large, and we left lets of leaves en.
So we get better quality, we got more uniformity of size packing
it in the packing house. Every head was examined.
I would think that would be important to the purchaser.
It was, sure.
But you still were shipping east.
Still geing east, same places.
Hasn't the packing of cauliflower changed again?
Well, most recently, yes. The cauliflower's gone back to the
field again; packing houses are closed. This is what happened in
the lettuce business. Lettuce used to be packed in the packing
house, then they shut all the packing houses in Salinas and moved
to the field, dry packing it in the field with these tries. New
they're wrapping lettuce en machines in the field. The business
Williams: But in the case ef cauliflower it has again gone back to the
field. When I sold we were building a harvester, and when I sold
07 business and equipment in 1983 I sold the harvester. It
hadn't ever really operated; it was still under construction.
But they have finished it the family I sold it to. the Alameda
people and they have three of them now, I believe. They don't
use the packing shed. They go right into the field with the
machine, and they scrutinize every head, and it's sized, and
trimmed, and wrapped in the field on this machine.
Is a lot ef it done by the machine?
Williams: No. the machine is mostly composed ef conveyer belts moving the
product past the workers and then transporting the wrapped heads
to someone to place in the box. It's still hand work, the
trimming and the wrapping. They haven't devised a machine that
will do that satisfactorily yet.
Lage: You say that you built the machine.
Williams: We were in the process of building it. It was an old tomato
harvester we started with that had four-wheel drive. It was a
big thing* and you could carry a lot of people on it* and it was
just kind ef a naked chassis, if you want to call it that. We
had hired an engineer, and he was working en devising this
machine, and I sold all that to the Alameda family.
Cauliflower Leaves, A Disposal Problem
Williams: A tremendous problem when we packed cauliflower in the packing
house was disposing of the leaves. We used to leave the leaves
in the field when we packed in the field. But when we started
packaging the cauliflower in the shed, we brought in leaves with
it I mean long leaves we needed to leave them on it to protect
the head. We couldn't just trim it all down te a naked head and
throw it in a big bin and haul it in there because it get all
broken up. So we had te bring all these leaves in. and then we
had te dispose ef them. So that was a problem. We were bringing
the leaves in. and then we had to haul them out again. And in
the winter you can't even haul them back in the field, you can't
get in the fields.
Lage: Because ef the flooding.
Williams: The wetness in the soil. The only way we got the crop out was
with huge tractors with four-wheel drives going through like big
tanks or something, pulling these trailers, and the men walking
in their boots, looking at every head, and if it was of a certain
Williams: size they'd cut it. and threw it in. They'd cut off the bottom,
they'd take some of the growth off sometimes cauliflower grows
three feet high. We'd take a big cut off the top, but we'd still
leave a lot of leaves for protection.
Lage : You're showing about a foot of leaf section.
Williams: Yes, that we would cut off.
Lage: How much would you leave on the plant?
Williams: Oh. we'd leave probably a feet, and cut off a feet, or cut off
eighteen inches maybe. But we had to leave quite a few leaves
on. and that was a problem getting rid of them.
Lage: So what did you do?
Williams: Well, for years we hauled them down te a place down near the
Dumbarton toll plaza. I had a fellow that had seme cattle, and
cattle like te eat that stuff. And he would haul. too. which was
advantageous te us. He'd come up, and he had seme trucks, and we
had a conveyer system that took these leaves out of the packing
house and up into a big bin where they could be held until he
came with his truck, and then he'd open this bin up. and they'd
all fall into his truck, and he'd close it up and go away with
it. and the bin would start filling again. He'd have te get back
before it was full*
That worked fine for a while, for a number of years, but
eventually there was objection te these leaves the cattle
couldn't eat all the leaves, and they would decay, and there was
a smell and there were flies, and even though this was way down
in the salt flats in those days, uninhabited, it get te be a
problem. Then we found a person frem the San Jeaquin Valley, and
he was willing te take it. The price ef hay had gone up, cattle
do like the stuff, and it has some nutrition, apparently. In
fact, they kind of blend it, I think, with ether feeds, kind ef
like Hamburger Helper, te stretch out the alfalfa.
This firm in the San Joaquin Valley had a bunch of trucks
it was a long haul, maybe te Tracy. They'd come all the way over
with the trucks, and maybe make ten loads a day, with a set ef
doubles. It would be twenty big units a truck and a trailer
perhaps twenty of these units a day, hauling this stuff. So it
teok quite a bit ef equipment, and I was thankful that we didn't
have to have the trucks and the drivers doing all this.
Lage: Sort of a recycling operation.
Williams: That's right.
Did you get very much pay for that?
We wsuld get a very little bit, and I always felt kind of
thankful te get anything because it would have been terrible if
we had te dispose of it ourselves. We did explore hauling it to
the dump, and they'd charge us a tremendous sum per load to take
it to a dump and landfill it. or something.
What did you do when it was left in the field?
Did it enrich the
It has a nominal value. I'm sure, as humus, but it had seme.
Are they leaving it in the field new?
Have they been plowing it
Yes. they are. It just sits there. Of course, it doesn't get
plowed under until the spring because you're harvesting in the
winter, and the soil's to wet te really do anything with. It's
damaging te the soil te work it when it's too wet.
So the leaves are now back in the field where they belong,
and maybe this is the way the business will be for a while.
There are constant changes; it's quite fascinating. Okay, I
think we should stop today, and we have a number of things to
take up next time.
17 URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND AGRICULTURE
Sale ef Patterson Lands for Housing Development, 1971
[Interview 2: October 6. 1986] If
Lage: Today we're continuing the interview with Gene Williams. I just
wanted to pick up a point from last week, when we talked about
the Pattersons and their views about development and your
understanding that they were interested in continuing
Lage: It occurred to me to ask what effect the sale in 1971 to Singer
Housing had on you, and your reaction to it.*
Williams: Well, it was pretty unsettling to us. to me, because Den hadn't
said anything about it. it was just kind ef a bombshell. We
ended up then negotiating with Singer. The Patterson land became
Singer's, and so I had to start talking to Singer about extending
leases, and their plans.
Lage: Se you continued some farming while they were
Williams: We continued farming the land, but we were not dealing with
Pattersons any mere. We were dealing with Singer. They didn't
call it Singer, they called it Citation, I think, or Citation
Homes, which was the development.
*In 1971, seme four hundred acres of the Patterson Ranch were sold
to the Singer Housing Division. Development of the land was
delayed by a Fremont zoning ordinance, subsequent lawsuits, and
extended negotiations. The final settlement made possible the
creation of Ardenwood Park on the Patterson Ranch and involved
land exchanges between Singer and the Pattersons. See interviews
with Jack Brooks, Robert Fisher, and Robert Buck in this series.
Lage: Did you deal with Jack Brooks? [President of Singer Housing and
a prominent developer in Fremont]
Williams: No. not on this project. Jack Brooks was a deer. I had dealt
with him a number of times before on other properties. His firm
was then called Besco. Then I dealt directly with Jack. On the
Patterson land (Citation Homes), I seldom talked to Jack. Jack
was always in the background, but he was more of a planner on
this project. I was talking with his associates.
It was much mere difficult because development was their
aim. and we were concerned about our pipelines. If they took a
piece of property out of agriculture we hoped it would be at the
end of our line, rather than between the pump and the end of the
line, which would cause an interruption in our water service.
They were, of course, starting to make reads. That was another
thing. This was good land they took, at the beginning, seme of
the best land, we felt. And they started to put their roads in.
and that means cutting the pipelines, and moving dirt, and it was
difficult and upsetting.
Lage: Hew was Citation Homes to deal with?
Williams: Oh. they were fine. They were as understanding as they could be;
they were fine. But their business was so completely different.
I don't think they ever really did understand what our problems
were. They just thought they could give us thirty days notice or
so. or tell us so we didn't plant another crop. But we had
planned ahead in our rotation of crops and things, so it was
Lage: Did you ever have any discussion about it with Don Patterson?
Williams: Oh, yes, I told him. He realized it was difficult for us. but
that was the way the family wanted to go.
Lage: It's surprising they didn't give you a little more advance
Williams: Well, as I recall, he didn't. He may have given us a little
inkling of what the family was thinking, but I'm just net sure.
It just seemed to me that it was a shock. I remember it as being
quite a shock.
Lage: Did the land trading that occurred during negotiations to settle
the lawsuit affect you?
Williams: Well, not adversely, I don't think. I guess we were conditioned
to the fact that changes were going to be made there, at least that
that part of the ranch was going to be developed. I don't recall
any special problems with the swap.
Pesticides, Homeowners, and the East Bay Regional Park District
Lage: Then you were really farming right in the midst of the
Williams: The regional park get into it toe, a little later, and I found
that it was a little bit difficult dealing with them. They are
environmentally inclined, and they had reservations about
pesticides, things we were using although we used them with
great discretion, we weren't reckless. We didn't apply our own.
It was applied by professional pesticide people, and it was a
very legitimate firm. I always felt it was being handled
properly, but the parks looked askance at that.
Lage: Were you farming park land?
Williams: The land that the park ended up on, in this involved business of
Singer, and the city, and then the East Bay Regional Park get
into it somehow I've just forgotten all the particulars. But it
was generally property around the mansion.
Lage: So you were involved with that.
Williams: Yes, we were farming that land. Then we had to start working
with the park people.
Lage: Life did get complicated.
Williams: Yes, it did.
Lage: In general, have you had problems with adverse reactions to
Williams: Not anything serious. But every now and then somebody would
complain. We were using pesticide dusts, rather than liquid
sprays in the early days. In the forties, fifties, and sixties
we were using dust that people could see, and naturally if a
cloud of dust blows over your house you're concerned about it
So we'd get calls once in a while, people would want to
knew, "what is that stuff you're putting out there?" But the
liquids were net so noticable, and also it was done often at
night. The professional people we were using did most of their
work at night. There wasn't wind for drift, and it just seemed
to work out a lot better. People weren't concerned about it if
they didn't see it.
Were these aerial applications?
Williams: No, generally ground application. We did use planes en occasion.
Lage: Did you get advice en this from the university?
Williams: No. I don't think so. On what to use, do you mean?
What to use. or how it worked within this urban setting.
No. we just kind of learned. I guess. Also, in the winter when
we would have a pest problem in cauliflower, which we were
growing in the winter, often the ground was too wet. and we
couldn't go en the ground with anything, and we'd have to use
aerial application, When we get a lot of homes around us, we
couldn't do that anymore. We weren't allowed to. They couldn't
fly anything on because it was just too hit and miss toe much of
this stuff blowing around where it shouldn't be. So that made it
complicated. Then we couldn't spray where we wanted to sometimes
because it was too wet.
Did that affect your productivity?
Somewhat. I'm sure, but it was never that much of a problem.
Usually it would dry out a little, or something would happen.
always got around it, but it was inconvenient.
Was the park district hoping you could go to more natural
Williams: Yes, they would like that very much, if we could just use
biological controls I mean, if they had their druthers. But
they were somewhat practical, too. in realizing that that wasn't
possible for us.
Did you try that? Was it possible on these crops?
Williams: I don't believe we ever did try it. no.
Lage: I know the university was doing some work with that, but that was
probably in the eighties. I don't know how effective it would
have been en cauliflower.
Williams: Yes. Well, by the eighties I'm net that up on what was
happening in the eighties, I just wasn't paying that much
attention, and I'd hired some good people to do that, to take
care of that, and arrange it. I'm not that aware of what we were
The Alaneda Family and L. S. Williams Company
Lage: Were the Alamedas the good people you hired?*
Williams: Yes, I'd hired the three sons.
Lage: Let's talk about that a little bit. How long did your
relationship with the Alamedas go on?
Williams: Oh, it gees way back because, you see. we have the third
generation now. Originally Tony was the patriarch, if you'd call
him that. He worked for my father and my father's brothers in
the thirties. Tony started working there, I think, about 1927 or
1928. My father came out, as I told you. in 1928. Se he was
working there from that time. He had a large family: four boys
and two girls. All the beys worked en the ranch as children, so
I've known them since they were kids, in fact. I was only a year
or two older than the eldest one. so we were all working
together, you might say. in the early days, in the thirties and
The kids grew up with this experience on the farm, and they
all went their various ways except Mel, who stayed. When I came
back in 1949, full time, Mel was working there and doing a very
good job. I convinced my father that we should put him en a
monthly salary about 1952. He went off to the Korean war about
1951, and he was gene for a couple ef years. When he came back I
was happy to see him come back because he was such a good man,
and I told my father I thought we ought to make him a foreman,
pay him by the month. Also he had gotten married during that
period, maybe just before he went to Korea, and then they had a
child, and they lest one. Anyway, Mel was not working, he was
spending seme time with his wife if you work by the hour, of
course, you don't get paid. Se I told my father I thought we
ought to put him en a monthly salary, which we did.
Se he became a foreman when he returned from the service.
Then with his marriage he had three boys and a girl. The three
boys, as they got eld enough, would come out with him, and pretty
soon they were driving a tractor when they were just youngsters.
They would work weekends, and they would work every summer, just
as I had. just as we all had. But this was a little different,
this was in the fifties well, let's say sixties, when they were
about twelve years old. Kids weren't doing that much anymore.
But it was just like we grew up. Here these kids were doing the
*See interview with Mel Alameda in this series.
Williams; same thing that their father did. that I did. and they were great
kids, good workers. Saved their money real sensible kids, never
got into any trouble.
So they all get through high school, and the eldest one.
Steve, went off to Cal Poly, in San Luis Obis pa. And two or
three years later Craig got out of high school, and he went down
there to Cal Poly. Then a couple years after that Tony got out
of high school, and he went down there. So when Tony's going in.
Steve's coming out, and Mel said, "What do you think about Steve?
Would you like to have him?" And I said. "Sure." so we hired
Lage : Then did you hire him en as a foreman tee?
Williams: Yes, and he worked about three years, or so. then Craig was out.
and I hired him, and then in a couple more years Tony was out,
and I hired him. Anyway, at least they were all trained in
various facets of agriculture. Steve was taking care of
pesticides, and I kind of lest track of just what we were doing.
I knew he was interested in "integrated pest management." as they
Lage: He came with seme new ideas.
Williams: Oh. yes. all kinds of them. There was a little conflict at times
between Mel and Steve, because Steve had the theory he also had
the practice because he'd had plenty ef practice in everything on
the ranch. But Mel had dene it the eld way and wanted te
continue doing it, so they'd have seme lively discussions at
Lage: Was the operation big enough to allow these four grown men to
Williams: Yes, right. Well, it was then, but when we started to lose land,
like the Pattersons announcing they were going to sell off a big
chunk, it was obvious to me that the operation would have te
shrink, or else move en somewhere, branch out somewhere, and I
just didn't feel like doing that. Se I felt it was time to get
Lage: And the Alamedas were the natural people te sell te?
Williams: Well, I talked to Mel about it about three or four years before.
I said I might not want te go on with this indefinitely, and
would he and his family be interested in buying the business?
And he said, sure, he certainly would. So about the time Tony
got out he was the youngest son and the time he came to work,
it seemed to me it was about time for me to get out, so I told
him I really was anxious to quit. Everything pointed that way,
with the reduced acreage, and it was obvious that it was going to
Williams: be a smaller business, and I really couldn't have all those
people. They were willing to do that, so we worked out an
arrangement with them.
Lage: Did they go on to get ether land? They must have.
Williams: They did. They came over here [to the Livermore Valley].
strangely enough. I lived in Fremont all this time, and we had
friends over here also. So my wife and I decided that the area
that we were living in was changing, and we decided we'd move
ever here to Pleasant on. I'd had farmer friends from Pleasant on.
and I'd always thought that cauliflower wouldn't do very well
here. I'd seen a few of them try it, and I thought it was too
cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. But Mel and his
sons found some land here between Pleasanton and Livermore and
have rented it now for several years, two or three years. And
they've grown these crops with pretty good success. I think. Not
in the dead of summer, or the dead of winter, but they've grown
cauliflower and lettuce.
Lage: Of course, new the same thing's happening here, a let of
Williams: Yes, that's right. But even with me out, the organization was
still tee big, apparently, and they felt they had to have mere
land to justify
Support four families
Williams: And. of course, we lost a lot of that Patterson land just at the
time that I was leaving. Hundreds of acres were sold for
Effect of the Water District's Pump Tax
Lage: Let's talk for a moment about the effect of the pump tax en your
Williams: For a couple of years there was a pump tax. as I recall, on
industry only. Agriculture was exempted for a few years. I
believe that's correct. Finally agriculture was included ,
and the meters were installed on all of our wells, much to our
dismay. But it was at $8 an acre foot, which was considerably
less than the industrial rate. So agriculture did get a good
break in price, although at that time that didn't seem all that
advantageous to us. We were just upset at having an additional
Lage: ?u didn't really have a charge before, did you. far the water
you pumped from your own wells?
Williams: No. we just payed for our electricity, and drilling the well, and
putting in the pump.
And then there was a property tax for the water district.
Williams: Yes. for things like flood control and water conservation, yes
which was a very nominal tax. But the pump tax was a flat user's
tax. based en acre-feet, gallons.
Did the pump tax add a lot to your costs?
Williams: Quite a bit. It was costing us. as I recall, about $30.000 or
$35,000 a year additional. It was quite a tax. yes.
Lage: Did it affect hew you used water?
Williams: Yes. we were much mere saving. We never purposely wasted water,
but sometimes water would get away and run out the lower end. It
was all furrow irrigation at that tiCe; we weren't using sprink
lers in those days. Yes. it did help push us into sprinkler
irrigation, with which you get a much mere even distribution and
you don't waste water, don't have a lot of run-off.
Lage: Was there a strong lobbying effort by farmers?
Williams: As strong as we could mount. The farmers, even then and I guess
this probably came into being in the sixties even then were
kind of a vanishing breed. Every decade we had fewer. So there
was quite a concerted effort, and we hired an attorney. A few of
us get together and hired an attorney, and we were trying to
protect ourselves and oppose it. In fact, it was our efforts,
and our attorney's efforts. I'm sure, that made our $8 rate
possible, or we might have been paying the same as industry.
Lage: Which would have been how much more?
Williams: Seems to me they were paying around $36. something like that.
Yes. And now it's up to $50. or something. I've kind of lest
touch, but I think agriculture's still at $8, and I think that we
had that written into the law. So you really have to change the
law to change that; it isn't something the water beard could just
say. well, next year we'll double it. I don't believe it's that
Lage: So the farmers did show a certain amount ef strength, for such a
Williams: Yes. we did. But we had a very sympathetic person in Matt
Whitfield, who was then running the water district.* He'd grown
up there [in the Washington Township area]. His father and my
father were friends, and I'd known Matt for a long time. His
roots were there, so he was as protective of agriculture as he
could be. but of course he had to run his business, and I could
always see his point. He argued, properly, that the district was
importing water and paying a fancy price for it. If we were
pumping it out. we should be paying a share of that, for the use
ef that water.
We argued that when you bought land you bought the water
under it, and you have the right to pump that water out. So.
anyway, they prevailed finally, but it took a little while.
Lage: Would it have caused enough ef a cost increase to force mere
farmers out. do you think?
Williams: I really don't think so. I don't think it pushed anybody out.
unless somebody was just on the edge.
Farmers* Support for the Incorporation of Fremont
Lage: Another thing relating to government would be the incorporation
of Fremont. What was the farmers' view of that?
Williams: Well. I guess it was mixed. That was in 1956. The election was
held in January. 1956. and incorporation passed. I don't
remember by what majority, but I really didn't get involved in
that. I did talk to my father about it. He actively supported
it. He thought that Hayward was going to annex us if we didn't
band together the five towns and form our own city. He
thought, as an unincorporated area, we were going to get gobbled
up by Hayward. and that it would be better to run our own show.
So he supported it. and I think he talked to other farmers, and I
suppose seme of them voted for it. But we were already so
outnumbered it probably didn't make much difference what the
Lage: Did anybody approach you about the incorporation in an effort to
* See interview with Matt Whitfield in this series.
Williams: Well, they didn't approach me. They probably approached him.
because he was kind ef an agriculture leader there then, and I
think they probably did, He was active in the chamber of
commerce, and I'm sure they did talk to him.
Lage: I'm just wondering if the sense was that by incorporating they
would try to protect an agricultural area, or that incorporation
would give the go-ahead to develop?
Williams: I never heard that really discussed, and. unfortunately, my
father died about a week or two after the election, after the
incorporation. The incorporation was January 20, or something,
and he died on February 9. so he didn't get to see any ef this.
I suppose there must have been some promises made to agriculture,
but I think he felt we didn't have much choice. This was the
lesser ef evils.
Lage: They felt that it would be incorporated one way or the ether.
Williams: One way or the other, and he really didn't think Hayward was
going to do a good job for us. They were showing signs ef
expansion, annexation, taking en little pieces, and finally
Deceto and Alvarade followed Fremont just by a year or two
[incorporating to form Union City]. They were even more
concerned about Hayward, I guess.
The Problem of Salt-Water Intrusion
Williams: On the subject of the pump tax, we didn't discuss it. but of
course all farmers were concerned with the salt water intrusion,
and this was the premise of the water district, to import water
to raise the table and stop the salt from coming in from the
bay.* Not to push anything out, but to stop more from coming in.
and they did that very successfully. So we were certainly in
favor of importing water, but I guess we just wanted somebody
else to pay for it. [laughs]
Lage: [laughs] Now that you're out ef the business, you can look at it
in a different way.
Lage: I guess they still have seme problem with the salt, up in the
* See Whitfield interview.
Williams: I think it's a problem ef salt water trapped there from when the
table was so lew.
Lage: Oh, I see. Not necessarily that more is coming in.
Williams: No, I don't think mere is coming in. I think they've stepped it.
They had the last I heard, a few years age. They raised the
water table way up. te sea level or above, and se more salt water
was not coming in. But there's a tremendous amount there because
all during the forties and fifties there was an overdraft, and we
kept lowering the table, and mere and more salt water was coming
Lage: Were you aware ef this at the time that it was happening?
Williams: Oh, yes. During the war there was a real problem with wells
going dry. actually. The water table dropped down below the
well. So people were deepening wells when they could, and
drilling new wells, or else, if you didn't run eut of water, the
water got so salty that the crep would die. So it was a real on
Lage: Something you were aware ef
Lage: Would that affect your choice of crops?
Williams: Yes, in certain areas we would try te grew creps that were mere
salt tolerant sugar beets and barley. We never grew much grain,
because even then it just wasn't enough of an income-producer.
We just couldn't justify growing a grain crop on vegetable land.
But we'd do it en occasion, just for humus, rotation, and a
change ef crop.
Lage: It was mere salt tolerant?
Lage: There are a lot ef considerations involved.
Pilfering From the Fields
Lage: Let's talk about trying to farm in the midst of this growing
sub urban /urban community. You mentioned the smells of the
Williams: People, mast ef them, complained of that good-naturedly. But
there was a problem with pilfering, stealing. When we had
tomatoes, for instance. I remember one Sunday when Tony Alameda
went out. and there was a whole crew out there. Just like one of
our crews picking tomatoes, only they were just people that had
driven by. Somebody went out there, and pretty soon somebody
else saw them and stepped, and pretty seen there was a group out
there picking tomatoes just to take home.
Lage: That's incredible.
Williams: Yes. it is. So there was always that problem.
Lage: Was that a serious, ongoing problem?
Williams: It was a problem always, not of that size, having groups out
there. But people were always stepping. In fact, a funny thing
happened to me one day. [laughs] We had an office in
Centerville, and our packing shed's still there [burned down on
January 1. 1987]. The Southern Pacific Railroad built the
packing house for us in 1928. when the four brothers started, en
the condition that we ship our produce on the Southern Pacific
lines. It was located right along the Southern Pacific railway,
and they put a spur in for us to lead cars. I was there at the
office one day. and Phyllis had asked me to bring home a head ef
I jumped in my car it was neon. I was going home for
lunch and drove north. We had rented land out there, about a
couple hundred acres, just north ef Centerville where American
High School is now. I drove out there, just a mile or less,
stopped the car. went out and cut a head ef lettuce, jumped back
in my car, made a U turn, and went back into Centerville. At
that time we had only one signal in Centerville. at Thornton
Avenue and Fremont Boulevard. I was sure the light was green
when I went through the signal, but I wasn't paying particular
attention. But I looked in my mirror, and there was a flashing
red light. *X)h. my gosh, I must have gone through a light er
something." I thought.
I pulled ever, and this officer came up, and he said it
wasn't going through the light at all. He had seen me going to
this field and cutting the head of lettuce. And he said, you
knew what you did back there? You went in and stole seme
farmer's lettuce. I thanked him profusely for being so alert,
and I said, I hate to tell you this, but I happen to own that
field ef lettuce, and I just stepped there to cut one ef these
heads. He was so astonished, and he felt so chagrined about
it I really almost didn't want to tell him, because I was so
pleased to have him doing this.
That's good support.
Oh. it was wonderful. I teld him very kindly how much I
appreciated it, but he went away shaking his head, and I doubt if
he ever stopped another person.
Did you ever get inte the retail produce business?
For a few years, we had a vegetable stand. And it was pretty
successful, although it was a lot of work keeping it supplied,
and handling the money, and
You had to bring ether kinds of crops in.
Yes. to really get inte it. We didn't make it that big a deal.
If we had corn, and lettuce, and cauliflower, we might sell three
things. And people would buy it, because they knew they were
fresh, but we didn't have pineapples, and guavas. and eggplant,
and all these things that markets do have.
Farm Laborers. Labor Camps, and the Community
Lage: There must have been other problems related to your suburban
surroundings. We talked about the pesticides a little bit; what
about people's reaction to the labor camps? Was that a problem?
Williams: Our labor camps were pretty isolated, so they really didn't
present a problem of any size. I'm just trying to think if there
was anything. There was always a resentment by some people about
us having Mexican people imported here. I know people would step
and bawl me out once in a while for taking American workers' jobs
away by bringing in these people from Mexico to do this cheap
stoop labor. There were alway hard-core people who didn't
approve of that at all. Lets of them. I think, were pro-union,
and they thought it was just a threat to the unions to have these
non-union people here. And they claimed they worked for
substandard wages, which they didn't really, although all
agricultural wages were pretty low.
Lage: Was this the bracero program?
Williams: Yes, that's what I was thinking of. There was really a lot of
resentment to that by seme people. They didn't exactly complain
about our labor camps as being unattractive or anything, but
they were not very attractive. They were just very functional.
Lage: I've always heard that there were very poor living conditions in
Williams: They are poor. It's hard to keep them nice. If you give them
something nice, these people that we were importing really didn't
know hew to take care of anything. They hadn't ever lived under
very good standards. Many of them would come barefooted they'd
come up from Mexico without any shoesl They didn't wear shoes
down there, apparently, and they looked pretty wild. They
weren't very clean; lots of them didn't know about cleanliness.
Were there showers in the camps?
Williams: Oh. yes. sure, we had to have that. Oh. no. this was all first
class I mean, as far as labor camps were concerned. And it was
regulated by the federal government.
Would they make inspections?
Williams: Yes. we had camp inspections, and they'd be made without
notification, on the spur of the moment, and always there would
be violations the showers dirty, or something. In the early
days the workers were charged $1.75 that came out of their pay
per day, for food. Well, that was a long time ago. of course,
but even then you couldn't feed them very vastly for $1.75. But
they were to have milk once a day. and a certain amount of meat,
and it was supposedly a balanced diet for them.
Lage: Did you provide the cook?
Williams: Yes. we hired and provided cooks, and maintained the kitchens,
and for a while we did all the shopping. I remember doing it, in
the late forties I guess. There were stores in Union City and
Alvarado that just had things that Mexican people liked.
Lage: So you tried to get Mexican style food.
Williams: Yes. right.
Lage: Sounds like quite a job.
Williams: It was. yes. Sometimes we'd have a hundred people there in the
camp, and it was a big job. Also, when they were sick we had to
take them to the doctor, and it was like sick-call in the service
or something. You'd fall out if you were sick. That was a job I
had. Somebody had to do it, and I didn't want to take somebody
that was doing some productive job, so I would haul them around
to the doctor. It was pretty frustrating because some of them
were just malingering, or
Lage: Did you then pay their medical
Williams: They had health insurance coverage through the association.
There was an association formed of the growers in Santa Clara and
Alameda counties, let's say, and maybe in Monterey County too.
possibly. And we all brought these people in through the
association, The association had some paid employees, who kept
the records of when the braceres were due to go back. We kept
their pay records, and stuff, but
Lage: They just had a certain amount of time that they could stay here
Williams: Yes, right. And you couldn't bring them up and net give them
work; you had to guarantee them work, so it was kind of a touchy
thing. You had to be careful to not get mere than you needed, or
they wouldn't be working enough hours.
You asked me something that I really didn't answer, about
insurance. The association had this insurance policy which
covered them all. They were covered for industrial accidents,
but for illness they also had a form of insurance which the
doctors didn't look en very kindly because it was low pay, and
often the insurance company would not pay 100 percent of what the
doctor was charging. It was always a hassle finding doctors who
would look at these people because some of them didn't want them
sitting around the waiting rooms. So I was always looking for
new doctors, and as new doctors would come into town looking for
business, they'd be happy to see anybody. But as they got
established, pretty soon I found it more difficult to have my
Lage: These are the kind of things you don't think of when you think
about labor problems.
Lage: Then later, when the bracere program ended, were there new kinds
of problems? You didn't have to look after their medical care.
Williams: Well, in a way, there were problems in that we sometimes didn't
have the quality of worker that we had with the braceros, but it
really was a blessing to get the federal and state people off of
our backs, inspecting the camp, and all this. It was a real
hassle. Sometimes there were complaints made by the Mexicans
they would complain to the Mexican consul. I had to go to San
Francisco at least once to talk to the consul about one of the
foreman who allegedly had abused one of the workers. He'd
complained to the consul, and I had to go up and talk about it.
Lage: So they didn't bring their own foremen. You used your foremen?
Williams: That's right, they were just the workers.
Lage: When you went to the non-braceres, the American workers, did the
labr contract er have anything to do with organizing the workers
in the field, er did he just bring them to you?
Williams: Well, let me think back. When the braceres first left, we got
affiliated with an individual who had a group of men. and I think
this person had his own camp somewhere, and he would just bring
them every day. He'd bring thirty, or forty, er fifty maybe,
whatever we were needing, and it varied because some days his
workers wouldn't want to go to work for some reason, so we never
knew for sure how many he was going to bring and it wasn't all
that important because if we were a little short we would just
work a little longer, or something. So he was housing them.
Eventually. I guess, he lest his labor camp, and we ended up
housing the men. But he was involved; they were really his
people, and he would go finding them, searching around wherever
they find these people and get them for work. I think we'd pay
him a percentage we've had so many deals over the years I've
just forgotten what we did with this one individual. I guess it
was a percentage of whatever the men were making he would get as
contractor, to give him an incentive to keep doing what he was
Lage: Would it be unrealistic to think that if they were paid a
considerably higher wage you would have gotten better, mere
productive workers? Or would that have been economically
Williams: Well, we never tried it. We did use piece work en some jobs, as
I told you, like cucumbers and tomatoes. And I think Mel and his
sons have tried to use it in cauliflower, which I always thought
was pretty difficult, but they've used it to some degree. I
think, just to give the worker an incentive to produce more, and
Lage: Was there a minimum, and then
Williams: Yes. we have to guarantee them a minimum wage, but I can't recall
ever even thinking you mean, like doubling their pay, just to
see if they would start producing more?
Lage: Not with the same work force, but by offering higher wages you
might attract better workers.
Williams: Oh, better caliber.
Lage: Better caliber people applying for the work.
Williams: I don't know. I guess, if the pay's high enough you might hire
them away from some other profession. I never explored that.
Coexisting with Suburban Neighbors ; Dust, Noise, and Smog
Lage: We were talking, before we got off en labor again, about
coexisting with the neighbors. You had mentioned, in passing,
tractor noise and dust and things like that.
Williams: Oh. yes. We used to work at night, sometimes, in the spring.
We'd work day and night and have people driving tractors at night
with lights, and sometimes we've had people complain that the
tractors were too noisy, even if they were a half a mile away.
The sounds carry at night. So there was that. There were only
certain areas you could work at night, and pretty soon there was
really no place you could work at night; there were too many
people around us.
Lage: Would the city get in the act?
Williams: No, I don't recall that the city ever got in the act. The city
did get in the act when we would put mud en the reads.
Harvesting cauliflower, in the winter, we would bring a lot of
mud aut of the field, and then it would fall off en the read as
we were transporting the cauliflower into our packing house in
Centerville. The police would get after us for that. So we
would have to get the mud off the trailers before we could put
them on the highway.
I remember, too, an experience with dust. I think one of
Mel's beys was driving a tractor, and this person came out to the
field one day and just bawled him out. gave him heck because he
was making all this dust and it was blowing over toward his
house. It was our municipal judge. Judge Purley. and he didn't
like it at all. I guess we stopped, or maybe the wind changed
direction the next day. or something. We had to do our work, and
the prevailing wind was from the west. He just happened to be en
the east side of this field, and that's where the dust was going
to go. There were always little problems like that.
Lage: Did the urban scene affect you at all? I'm thinking of things
like air pollution when the Nimitz freeway went through did that
affect your crop productivity?
Williams: No. Tears ago the farm adviser told me that we were having
bronzing on the broccoli. It wasn't the head; it was the leaves,
but the leaves affect the quality of the head too. He told me
that it was from smog. This was in the fifties, and we didn't
know what smog was. That was his assessment, that we were having
some problems with smog then. But varieties change, and maybe
they're more resistant to that new. I don't remember ever seeing
anything from polluted air that I recognized as hurting the crop.
Here's another thought that occurred to me the banking
relationships. As a farmer did you have to borrow money
frequently for your cash flow?
Williams: No. fortunately, we were established well enough we didn't have
to borrow money. We financed our own farming operation.
So you didn't have an on-going banking
Williams: No. And I think that's kind of unusual, but we didn't have to
borrow any money.
That was fortunate.
Williams: Oh. yes. because that interest rate you pay could well be your
Tares on Agricultural Land
Lage: Let's see what else we have to discuss here. Here's something
going way back. Do you recall Preposition A2 in 1953? This was
before the Williamson Act was even thought of. I guess; it was a
county effort to keep the assessed values of agriculture land
lower, and keep the taxes for agricultural lands under control.
I found in a newspaper article from 1953 a quote from your father
arguing for Proposition A2 before the county beard of supervi
sors. He was quoted as saying. "Farming will be pushed out ef
Washington Township ever my dead body." Do you recall this?
Williams: I have no recollection ef Preposition A2. The quote doesn't
sound like my father. But if A2 passed, it must have been
circumvented in some way because our taxes just went up
Lage: Did they go up mere after incorporation?
Williams: Oh, yes. I really wasn't even aware ef taxes before incorpor
ation. I never was involved in paying them or looking at the tax
bills, but before Prop 13, which rolled taxes back to 1978
levels. I think, our taxes on the land were just going through
the roof, and it was a tremendous savings to have Proposition 13.
Lage: That was a benefit to you?
Williams: Yes. We were just getting taxed out of existence.
Lage: Did you pay the taxes en leased land, or are you talking about
the land that you owned?
Williams: I'm talking about land that we owned.
Lage: Did the owners of the land that you farmed en pass the taxes on
Williams: Not directly. They were under the Williamson Act Pattersons,
let's say, specifically.
Lage: Tour land was not under the Williamson Act?
Williams: No. I didn't think I should do it I never did it. That's why
our taxes were going up. I felt that we'd lose our flexibility
because I knew that the land we owned was in a very key area. In
fact, we'd given the city ten acres of land to build their city
hall. So we were right in the middle. I knew we couldn't
Lage: You were right there where Fremont's central park is new?
Williams: Yes, our labor camp was right there, where there's a big Mexican
restaurant I forget the name of it. So I knew that land would
be sold. I was just trying to hold en as long as I could because
it was going up in value. I just thought the Williamson Act
wouldn't be the thing for us because we knew we weren't going to
keep it in agriculture indefinitely. So we never get into it,
but it was costly in taxes and really getting to be horrendous.
I thought I was going to have to sell it about 1978 or so. just
prior to Prep. 13. but that knocked it back.
Lage: Have you sold it new?
Williams: Yes. it's all sold.
Lage: I think we've covered really everything that we outlined here,
except I wanted to ask you a question about the involvement of
your family with farming. Did your wife get involved in the
business, or your children?
Williams: No. no. I have a daughter, and she hasn't been involved in it
never was and my wife wasn't either. Or my sisters. I have two
sisters. So there was really no reason to continue the business
when I got tired of it and ready to get out. No one in the
family was going to take it ever and try to go on with it.
Lage: Kind of nice having the Alamedas there to pick it up.
Williams: It is. almost like family. I've known them all so long. In
fact, I went down and had lunch with Mel last Friday and had a
very nice time with him.
Transcribed by Johanna Wolgast
Final Typed by Shannon Page
TAPE GUIDE Gene Williams
September 30. 1986
tape 2. side B
Interview 2: October 6. 1986
tape 3, side A
tape 3. side B
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California
THE PATTERSON FAMILY AND RANCH:
SOUTHERN ALAMEDA COUNTY IN TRANSITION
Farming on Fremont's Northern Plain in the 1980s
Agriculture's Last Stand
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright fc) 1988 by the Regents of the University of California
TABLE OF CONTENTS Mel Alameda
INTERVIEW HISTORY 209
BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY 210
I "PUSHED FROM ALL SIDES" IN AN AGRICULTURAL PARADISE 211
Starting Out on the Patterson Ranch in the Fifties 211
A God-Given Site for Fanning 214
Fifth Generation in Washington Township 216
New Equipment for Cauliflower Harvesting and Packing 217
Problems with Water Quality 218
Duck Ponds, Indian Mounds, and Farming in the Coyote
Hills Area 219
Conflicts with Park and Suburban Neighbors 221
The Labor Force 223
"Farming is Changed": From Horses to Laser Scrapers 224
Marshlands. Weeds, and Wildlife at Coyote Hills: "No
Good for Farming" 226
II ADAPTATIONS TO THE URBAN SETTING 229
Produce Stand and Pumpkin Patch: Plans for Direct
Cultivating Cauliflower 231
Three Alameda Generations Farming on the Patterson Ranch 232
Packing and Insecticide Regulations 235
Pressures for Development 237
Changes in Farm Labor 238
The Farm Operation at Ardenwood Park 239
Tony Alameda: Farmer and Civic Leader 241
III ALAMEDA AND SONS: COEXISTING WITH DEVELOPMENT AND A POOR
FARM ECONOMY 243
Cauliflower, Packing Sheds, and Labor Camps amid Housing
Working with the Patterson Family 245
Scrambling to Stay in Farming 248
Marketing Nationwide and at a Roadside Stand 250
Effect of Government Policies and the National Economy 253
Raising a Family on the Ranch 256
TAPE GUIDE 258
INTERVIEW HISTORY Mel Alameda
Mel Alameda has been farming since 1947, first as an employee of the
L.S. Williams Company and. since 1983, when Gene Williams sold the company
to Mel and his three sons, as owner of Alameda and Sons. His father, Tony
Alameda. worked for forty-eight years for the Williams Company and was a
civic leader in the Washington Township area. Since 1956, when L.S.
Williams first contracted with the Patterson family, the Alamedas have
been farming on the Patterson Ranch.
The interview with Mel Alameda took place in his pick-up truck, as he
drove me around the Patterson lands leased and farmed by the Alamedas. As
we drove, he pointed out the farming areas, the areas of housing
development, the newly developed farm machinery, and the water delivery
systems. Mel Alameda's lyric appreciation of the rich soil and ideal
climate on this "god-given site for farming", his quick reaction to
incursions on his water pipes from construction workers, and his
interchanges with the farm laborers all provided insight into the
complexities of farming in the midst of constant urban development.
During our tour of the Alameda operation, Mel Alameda discussed the
problems of adapting to a constantly shrinking piece of agricultural land,
the impacts of the Coyote Hills and Ardenwood parks, and the constraints
placed on farming by suburban neighbors concerned with pesticides, dirt, and
noise. His account also reveals the pressure placed on his operation by the
poor farm economy and his family's efforts to adapt their growing and
marketing to survive in southern Alameda County in the 1980s.
The interview took place on November 17, 1986. Mr. Alameda made very
few changes in his review of the transcript. The tapes of the interview
session are in The Bancroft Library.
Regional Oral History Office
The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Regional Oral History Oirice University 01 Caxiiornia
Boom 486 The Bancroft Library 2 io Berkeley, California 94720
(Please print or write clearly)
Your full name / ' [ fc.
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Date of birth &> //7/ 3 g ^ Place of birth /^/ ; //gX: 6 ; ///g
Father's full name M /V / f>/V .
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Occupation TW /g/^ ^ ^ /> ^ '
Mother's fun name fag hfl' ^ fe-& t> &> /
Where did you grow up ?
Present community ,///' / 5 6 / <>
Education I L' /9/s? J rt 0. /^ L/rf-'/fSz) //^//^ Sr./?
Occupation(s) T/g /77
Special interests or activities ^ /)
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I "PUSHED FROM ALL SIDES" IN AN AGRI OIL TURAL PARADISE
[Interview 1: 17 November 1986]**
Starting out en the Patterson Ranch in the Fifties
[This interview was recorded in Mel Alameda's truck as we drove
around the ranch and he pointed out the areas recently developed,
the farming operation. Coyote Hills park, the Alameda Creek Flood
Control channel, etc.]
Alameda: That's my son [on the intercom]. I have three boys. All were
raised en the ranch and all are expert tractor drivers and good
kids. tee. They still like me after [laughter] all the tough work
they went through.
Lage: So they all were raised on the ranch and then went off to school
and came back to it?
Alameda: They went to college.
I guess you talked to Gene Williams about when we moved on
Yes. but you tell me from the beginning.
Alameda: Well, we used to farm my dad worked for Mr. Williams for about
forty-eight years before he retired, and I came to work when I got
out of school.
When was that?
##This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 258.
Alameda: Nineteen forty-seven. Graduated from Washington High and came to
work for Williams. I used te do all the insecticide work,
spraying the things at nighttime. These were the days when you
ceuld use dust and DDT and dust all night long. It seemed to me
we didn't have as many mosquites and everything in these days
because it used te just drift all ever the place. New they've got
all these rules and you can't de any of these things any longer.
Lage: De you have any feelings about that? Do you think that's a
mistake? Has that interfered with your farming?
Alameda: Yes, it's made it harder to farm by regulating all the things that
we can and we can't de. I'm net so sure. I hope seme day that
they don't prove that everything we've dene is wrong. I'd feel
bad about that.
It's impossible te farm without using some kind of fertilizer
or some kind of chemical for control. If you did [use no chemical
controls], you just couldn't harvest your crop. There's aphid en
them, there's worms on them, and then they've got regulations that
say you can't ship your product if it's net clean, Consequently,
you have to keep it clean, and it costs a lot of money te keep it
clean. But without it* you have te threw everything away. You
can't exist that way; you have te de it the right way or don't de
it at all. Unfortunately, the right way is probably cheaper than
the wrong way because the wrong way you can't exist.
But we farmed this one ranch [the Patterson Ranch] and
started in 1956. We came in and started farming the ranch, and
there were a lot of little sharecroppers in here. The Patterson
family evidently liked dealing with just one instead of with all
these people; they chese that every time somebody gave up a piece
of ground and we took it ever.
De you remember any of these people that were here?
Yes. There were the Roses, the Rose brothers' farm; the Ma dels
they went te Tracy. Mr. Melle had a little piece of ground in the
back. There's another Italian, a fellow by the name ef Zambetti.
he was in there. Mr. Christ ensen, he raised some corn there. Gus
King, he gees quite a ways back, and Marchy's dairy.
Do you remember a Donald Furtade?* I've been given his name as
someone who worked not as a sharecropper, but worked for the
Pattersons on the ranch. Does that ring a bell at all?
*See interview in this series.
Alameda: He may if he's the one I think live right over on Jarvis Road.
He lives ever across the freeway?
Alameda: Yes, I see him walking down the road every so often. I didn't
know what his name was; I never worked with him.
Lage: Was he a sharecropper, do you know?
Alameda: No. He may have just been an employee for Margorie Patterson or
something. When we got here, Henry Patterson was no longer alive.
and the Patterson beys weren't en the ranch, and Will Patterson
I think it was Will, the one that lived in the house on the other
side of the ranch he was still around the ranch driving around in
his jeep and he had his dog that used to ride with him. Same kind
of dog that General Patten had. I got a kick out of the two of
them. Mr. Patterson was getting old at the time, but they were a
good pair. They looked both rough and sort of ornery. I guess
then I was just younger at the time, and they appeared that way.
But the dog and Mr. Patterson would sit in the jeep with no
top en it and they'd ride around the ranch occasionally. He still
lived in that house. When he passed away. why. I guess he stated
that if none of his sons wanted to live in the house, it was to be
burned. A lot of people thought that was a terrible thing. I
didn't. I've seen houses out here when you move out of them for a
couple of weeks. The next thing, they steal everything in it. the
windows, the doors, faucets. At one place, they took the bathtub
out of it and the water ran for three weeks before they even knew
that somebody had stole the tub.
So, anyway, they burned that house and I had to take the
tractor in there and push all the brickwork and everything it had
a big basement, and I had to push it into that hole and cover it
all up. It's over there in the park right new. Someday somebody
will think they have a big find when they dig it up.
Lage: Have a big archaeological research project. [laughs]
Alameda: That's right. But this was all part of the ranch [points out area
where homes are built or being built], and this has just been
developed. They took this away last year; this one this year;
that one in '85, and this one back in here was
Lage: Now, have we passed the freeway yet?
Alameda: No, this is all in the middle of the ranch.
Lage: Was this being farmed up until just a few years ago?
Alameda: Oh. yes. I farmed this one last year and this one ever here in
'85. This back over here was about '83 when we had seme ef it.
Lage: We're en Pasee Padre, heading east. I just want te make clear
where we're going.
Alameda: That's right. Pasee Padre. When we first took ever the ranch it
was about twelve hundred acres.
Lage: New, when yeu say when you first took over, are you talking about ?
Alameda: Nineteen fifty-six. That's thirty years age.
A God-Given Site for Farming
It was George Patterson, wasn't it. the first Mr. Patterson?
Yes, George Washington Patterson.
He had te be fairly smart to settle in this area. There's
probably a let of people who won't agree with me and it's net just
because I'm farming, but I think it's a disgrace what we're doing.
The way we're taking this land and doing this [points to new
residential construction] te it with these homes.
It's pretty good farming land?
Well. yes. It's something that's happened over millions of years,
where the water runs out of those hills and it washes all this top
soil down, and there's net toe many places like this. There's
water underground. It's just like rivers down there. There's not
that many places that I can say God made or whoever developed
them, but when they dig sewer lines out here and find tep soil
twenty feet deep that's taken many, many years to wash from the
higher country down here, and we're just putting asphalt over the
tep ef it. I realize there's a lot of people that like this
climate. That's the main thing that we've get going for us ever
here climate. We can raise a product twelve months out ef the
year, and you just can't do that in so many places.
So you've got the climate plus the soil
Plus the water. There are hills up there that you can't farm;
they have none of the top soil, nothing up there. But they
proceed to come down here on this flat ground because it's
cheaper. That's a mistake and someday it's going to be smart
enough. I think, that we'll probably destroy ourselves and it'll
probably revert to the farm land again. We won't do it. We won't
see it. Maybe it'll take another million years. I think.
But they dug a test hole ever there one time for water and
the driller said he hit some redwood at three hundred feet. I
don't knew hew he hit redwood down there at three hundred feet
unless it was somebody there a long, long time ago. But I think
it can happen again. If some catastrophe happens, I would imagine
this would all go down and fill up and somebody will come along
and do it all over again.
Lage: Start over because it's a perfect place.
Lage: Do you get involved in any political efforts?
Alameda: No, my father did. My father [Antene Edward Alameda] was a good
man. He was on the hospital board, the school beard, handed all
his kids their diplomas in high school. I saw the abuse that he
took and I never wanted any part of it.
This is Alameda Creek right here. Now this creek ran right
alongside the ranch for years and years. Every spring or every
winter, the creek would overrun. It would just spill ever its
sides and ge en into the ranch. That creek used to run a
different direction years and years age, and the Pattersons were
smart enough to knew that if they diverted that water and sent the
creek out a different direction, eventually that ground would fill
up a little bit with top soil and get better. Se they changed the
direction and the creek ran here.
Well, every spring I used to have to go out there with wagons
and pick up all the trees that came down from the canyons and from
the higher country, clean off the land, re-level it. and start
hoping that the next year it didn't all run ever and have to do it
all ever again. But almost every spring we had to do it. We had
to pick up the dead wood. They always said that they wouldn't
build up that area because it was in the flood plain, but when
they fixed the channel there the Army Corps of Engineers came in
and they widened the canal from Niles Canyon all the way to the
bay. They took it out ef the flood plain. Once it was out of the
flood plain, then they were able to build on it.
Lage: Did you have the feeling at the time that the reason they were
doing this was to allow this land to be developed?
Alameda: No, I would say that they almost had to do it because every year
they just knew it was going to go under water. You had no
control of anything, and that's not good. But as long as it went
under water, there was nothing you could do about building on it.
I think I would have my second thoughts en buying a house ever in
that area because I think if everything happens right some day, if
it's raining and the tides are right and everything. I can see
that, maybe even though these engineers have got it all figured
out I can see where some ef these places would be in some water.
The eld cliff dwellers and all these old timers, the Indians and
everybody else, went en high country. I think they knew what they
It definitely is a natural flood plain,
water completely at one time.
It probably was under
Oh. definitely, I think it was. On the back ef the ranch there
are mounds out there where there's Indian burial grounds. They
were pretty crafty. They could move about very fast if they had
to. You'd hate to pick up a house nowadays to try to get it out
ef the way ef anything.
Fifth Generation in Washington Township
Lage: [laughs] Tell me about your family now. When did yeur family
first come to this area? Was it yeur father or grandfather?
Alameda: They tell me we're five generations here in Washington Township.
so that would take us back about a hundred and twenty years, I
think. My dad passed away two years ago and he was eighty-nine at
the time. He was born in 1895 about four or five miles from here.
They tell me his mother was born en Decoto Read. I don't really
know about that, but I know my dad was born on Mowry Avenue and he
went to school in Genterville. He didn't complete high school.
Lage: Did his father farm?
Alameda: I don't know what grandpa did. Grandpa had a little bit. I saw
seme eld books ef seme records about chickens and selling chickens
and a few other things, but it wasn't on any big scale. In those
days nothing was on a big scale. We used to walk horses. My dad
would send us out to move the horses, and we'd just walk them from
one ranch to the other and that would be about, maybe, three or
four miles just walking down the roads. That's the way everything
was done. [laughs] You thought you were really doing good when
you get a horse trailer back in the forties.
But we farm better now. My dad did it during the thirties.
My mother drove a truck. By the way. my father's Portuguese but
my mother's Norwegian. Her mother and father came from Norway and
came to San Francisco. My dad was a pretty crafty guy. He
married my mother when he was, I think, twenty-nine and my mother
was fifteen, [laughter] So he had the better of two things: He
had a ysung wife, and then he had a younger woman to take care of
him in his older days.
New Equipment for Cauliflower Harvesting and Packaging
Alsmeda: We're cutting cauliflower right there. We used to haul it the old
way and pack it in the shed. In the forties and the thirties,
we'd cut and pack them in the field and then take them in. Then
everybody wanted you to change to shed packing. That's what
everybody wanted. So then all the equipment was designed to pick
it up, throw it. take it to the shed, pack it. ice it. New they
say. "Stay off the roads. We don't want mud. we don't want any of
this." So civilization has new caught up with us out here, and we
can't exist. So we're back packing in the field. All the leaves,
the mud, everything, we hope stays in the field, and the finished
product comes out the back of that machine.
Lage: Oh. I see. So the reason for going back to packing in the fields
is to make your neighbors happy?
Alameda: That's correct. It's been a necessity. We've had to spend a let
of money in order to try to get along with people. We have two
Lage: When did you develop this machine?
Alameda: My boys designed this machine, and it's been in the field for about
three years. We have a patent on both of them. There are just
certain things about them that nobody else has.
Lage: Describe for me what it does.
Alameda: It's a miniature ski lift, is what it is. The cutters are cutting
the flower, they trim it. and they put it on a little basket. It
travels along that machine; it gees up to the top, where the women
put each head individually in the plastic bag. Then another lady
will put it in a box, and when it comes out it's a finished
product ready to go to the market.
Lage: All packed. How many to a box?
Alameda: You want to get the boxes that have twelve. That's what you like
to get, the ideal size. Sometimes cutters make a mistake, and
they cut them too small, so then you put sixteen heads in there.
There's all kinds of regulations. If you say you've got twelve
heads in a box there has got to be twelve heads. If you've got
sixteen, you've got to state that, or nine, or whatever. We take
it down te the vacuum cooler, and it's cooled. The temperature
has to be kept right.
Where's the vacuum cooler? Is that something you own?
Alameda: No. it's a cooling operation about eight miles down the road.
Problems with Water Quality
[brief interruption te talk te one of his workers]
Lage: Sounds like another headache?
Alameda: Oh. just pumps and things that all go haywire. These wells there
go down in the ground about three hundred feet and being so close
to the bay, we have trouble with the water salt. It's harder and
harder to farm. We've been forced te use different techniques and
sprinkle instead of furrow irrigate. When you furrow irrigate.it
brings the salts up and when you sprinkle it drives it away from
the seed. So we do a let of sprinkling. It costs a let more
money but if you're going to farm this ground you can't do what's
done someplace else, you have to de what's good for this area.
Lage: When I talked te Matt Whitfield, he told me about various measures
they've taken to prevent salt water intrusion. Have they not
worked totally, or are you just too close to the bay here?
Alameda: Well, you listen to them talk and they're saying that the bad
water was being sucked in or running inland so they have te
purchase mere good water and force the bad water back out and
you've got to sort of use it up as it goes. I can't see where
it's getting any better; it just keeps getting worse. All these
theories of theirs that are supposed te work. I don't see them
working. But I know that if they didn't bring the water down
Niles Canyon to pour underground that we'd have many mere problems
with our pumps. We used te run out of water in the summertime and
Lage: Run out of water altogether?
Alameda: Yes. The water would drop down below. Your pump is at a hundred
and eighty feet or wherever it was; if the water goes below that,
then you just get nothing. So once they started importing water,
pouring it into that aquifer down there, we never had to lower our
pumps again, so it's definitely helping. It hasn't helped the
quality of the water in this area, but it has helped that we
haven't run out of water, and we've had two drought seasons,
it has helped.
Dees the quality of the water affect what you can plant?
Alameda: Oh. sure, definitely. The better the water, the better the crop.
With poor water, you have to farm in different ways. If the water
gets so bad that you can't use it, then you wouldn't be able to
farm. There's been some wells out here that you couldn't use.
Duck Ponds, Indian Mounds, and Farming in the Coyote Hills Area
Alameda: This is all part of the Patterson ranch. He had a nice area
when he came here. I don't know how many thousand acres he had
when he started.
Lage: I heard about three thousand.
Alameda: That's very possible, because he went across Jarvis Road all the
way up into the ether side almost ever to Thornton. That was all
farm. And all these hills [the Coyote Hills].
Lage: Was this farmed dewn here, do you think, or was it too marshy?
Alameda: No. this used to be farmed. He used to raise hay and all that
over there. In the wintertime this was where the water all
collected it went underwater but in the spring and summertime it
all drained off, and they put hay, and they farmed sugar beets and
tomatoes. Probably used to raise seme tomato plants on the
backside of this hill right next to the water.
But they sold it. You probably have these times and figures
when Don Patterson that was Will Patterson's sen was running
the ranch. He was the one that we dealt with, He was a very fine
fellow and a nice man. He was in charge of the farm operation,
and they sold 435 acres, something like that, to fleed control.
That's seme on the other side of the channel. They sold another
four hundred and something acres te the East Bay Regional Park.
So that was almost 900 acres.
Lage: For this Coyote Hills area.
Alameda: This Coyote Hills area and the flood control.
Lage: The way I understood it they didn't have a let of choice about
selling it. Coyote Hills was actually condemned by the park
Alameda: That could be. They never told me the particulars. All I knew
was the next day it was gene.
Lage: But you were farming this area for Williams?
Alameda: Yes. We came way down. Net down in this area [down near Coyote
Hills at the site of the Patterson duck pond]. We hadn't dene
anything with it, but years before us the other fellows Marchy's
dairy and Gus King had. We just farmed en the ground that we
probably could get seme lettuce and cauliflower and corn from. We
raised a lot of things at the time. This was the best duck pond
in the state right here because the Pattersons, all of them way
back, used to like to hunt. They had in this low ground a
wonderful duck pond right in this area, it was a natural.
All these hills and all they used to get red reck off of this
hill, much like that from the Niles quarry over there. This whole
section down through here is all very good reck.
I always look. All ever this ranch I've been looking for ever
thirty years. Every time a ditch goes in or a trench or something
I always figure I'm going to find a treasure of some sort because
I knew the eld timers always used to bury their garbage or
whatever they had. They didn't have dumps so they always found
seme place or other te dig a hole and bury things. Trenching all
ever, miles and miles of it. I've never found anything until I
came down here. They had a cement line down here that was broken
right in there. I took my back hoe and dug it up. Lo and beheld.
here I was pulling out nice old bottles, ale bottles. By that
time the park had had the place, and they wouldn't let anything be
taken away, [laughs] They never did dig it up. The only place
I've found anything is right there [at the site of the duck pond].
Lage: De you think that's from the duck hunters?
Alameda: Well, it's from the duck hunters. They probably had a dump in
there years age. I would imagine if you go down there and dig a
little bit, you'll find seme beauties but. I haven't been able to
Lage: Someday they'll have a university team out here investigating,
Alameda: Yes. I would imagine the Indians roamed here, but their burial
grounds were down there further. The ground is real fine. I
don't know why; it's like ash. The University of California.
Stanford, San Jose State, they all used to come out in the fifties
and their classes would research. They'd dig them up. They'd
have them map everything. Then they stopped doing it. They
fenced the areas off te preserve them. But I was told they had so
many remains already in boxes and everything else, and nobody's
ever been able te do anything with them. They felt that the best
place far them was right in their original state, so they haven't
disturbed them anymore. But there are lots of shells: sometimes
out here you can dig them up. The Indians were pretty smart.
They knew which areas were the best, and that's where they set up
camp. And now right on top of them they want te set a million
Conflicts with Park and Suburban Neighbors
Alameda: All this ground that you see that's nothing I mean weeds. [leeks
at boundary between Coyote Hills Regional Park and his farm land]
That's the park. Now this is what they say the people want: they
want open space; they want places te roam. Well, it's pretty hard
te farm right alongside of it. If I'd ge slew enough in through
here I'd probably find every breed of animal alive. Deer, lets of
deer in there, about sixty of them. They've been running them all
over and getting them down into here. Squirrels. It's awful hard
te farm right alongside of a mess like that.
Lage: New is that because the animals tend te be pests to the farmer?
Alameda: Oh, yes. They destroy a let of the crop. They have te eat.
But when you see that mess on that side of the fence, all these
weeds and seeds that just keep blowing ever the top, you have a
hard time keeping . See those deer out in the field?
Lage: Oh, yes. Out in your field.
Alameda: There's three of them right there. There's no cauliflower there
Lage: Would they eat the cauliflower if it were there?
Alameda: Oh, they're terrible. They don't eat the leaves. If they would
only eat the plant, but they ge and take one bite right out of the
Lage: Hew do you deal with it?
Alameda: It's awful hard, I'll tell you. if it's costing you thousands and
thousands of dollars damage.
Lage: Now have you ever tried to negotiate with the park to farm that
area? Or they don't want to?
Alameda: Oh, no, they don't want it farmed. They want it like that.
They'd like to have the rest of this the same way. But we're
farming it. and we do the best we can with it. But anything that
borders that area, you've got to figure that there's going to be
s0 much for you and s much for them. You hope that so much for
them isn't all that much that it's going to hurt you that bad, but
it does. They'll take acres and acres. You get a depredation
permit to shoot one or two or something, but there's sixty of them
out there. They keep a count on them. There may be more now that
they've had their young.
It's getting harder to farm because you're getting pushed in
from all sides. Before, we used to be down en the other side of
Genterville net this ranch but we used to farm that one ranch.
We had the cauliflower, and you get a real wet year and you can't
get out there to disk the cauliflower so the water sits in the
furrows, and it starts to smell. Bey, cauliflower, when you don't
work a field up. it's got a foul odor. So the people call the
health department and say, "Hey, we can't have this. We just
bought a house here. We don't want this smell. 11 So then they
call you and say. "Hey. you've get to get rid of that smell."
Well, we were there firstl "Okay, I'll get rid of the smell the
first chance I get. As seen as I can get in there. I'll disk it
and the smell will go away." It's the water. You've get to get
rid of that water.
Lage: I see. Seyou plough it?
Alameda: So you disk it and get rid of the water. That one case I
remember God, it was thirty-five years ago as seen as it was dry
enough I took my tractors out there, and sometimes we have to work
twenty-four hours a day. You can't help it. It just rains late,
and you can't get into the fields. So then I put the tractors out
there, and then the police call me at nighttime and tell me that I
have to shut those tractors off because the people can't sleep.
Alameda: We find the same thing is happening over here. We put pumps on at
nighttime, or big tractors. They're out in the fields as we've
been for thirty years, but people are now complaining that they
just moved there. They don't understand, but it doesn't matter:
they call the police and they understand that I have to shut them
off. so I have to do it.
Lage: How do they decide that the homeowner has priority?
Alameda: Just disturbing the peace, so do something about it. So it
doesn't matter. Once they come in and once you get a complaint
and a second complaint, you've got a problem.
Lage: What are the rules and regulations? I mean, you were here first
when they bought. They saw all this around them.
Alameda: That's right. They're trying to change some rules that out in the
country where you buy near a dairy or something, you just can't
make that dairyman move. But. in this case, there're just too
many people. You either conform or don't do it. So there's ways
of doing it; they just cost you more money. Instead of getting a
big diesel meter that pumps water, then you'll get yourself an
electric one that costs you more and change everything over. But
you j ust have to do it.
The Labor Force
Alameda: New that's our harvest machine there. See that? [looking at and
describing harvest machine] They cut the heads, place them in the
baskets. They go up to the top and the women take them off and
put a plastic bag around them, and they tape them. This crew's
getting paid piece work. Since they work faster, they naturally
do a little bit better.
Lage: Where dees your labor force come from; where do you get them?
Alameda: Well, a let ef these people are Mexican people, families that live
here. There's quite a few Orientals. Hopefully, when you hire
them, they're supposed to be all legal: you're supposed to check
and see that they have green cards or whatever. It's funny, as
long as they're white you den't ask them anything; if they're
Filipino, you don't ask them anything because you just figure that
they have to be legal. I can see why the Mexican people sometimes
den't like it when they come and leek for a job and then they say,
"Show me some papers that you're legal."
Lage: You're picking en them, it seems.
Alsmeda: You're picking en them, and that's what they say you're doing. By
rights, I'm not supposed to say, *Vell, shew me something that
says you're legal." But, then again, they're making up new rules
now that I can get fined pretty heavy if I hire them and they're
Lage: So that new immigration law puts the burden en the employer.
Alameda: That's right. They're really going at you new.
Lage: But most ef these people are local Fremont area people?
Alameda: Yes. Well, I have a labor camp over here, too.' There's about
twenty-five or thirty men that just stay in that camp. They will
go t Stockten or wherever there's work, that's where they'll move
ta. Yau have to have seme place for these fellows to stay.
It's the middle of November, and we' re still irrigating.
That's unusual, isn't it?
Alameda: Yes. You don't get this kind of weather, but that's the thing
about farming. People will say. "Well, you've been doing it for
so long, you ought to knew what you're doing." Yes. you know what
you're doing, but last year at this time the rain was killing
everything. So you're just afraid te put the water en. If I were
te irrigate that and it would rain heavy tonight, it would most
likely kill the cauliflower.
Lage: It's that tenuous, that chancy?
Alameda: Yes. It just doesn't like a whole lot of water.
I've got te get out here a minute and look at this car.
"Farming is Changed": From Horses te Laser Scrapers
Alameda: My eldest son is in Yum a. Arizona. A company down there hired us
as a consultant te help them grew cauliflower. We were
recommended. There were enough of us, and my eldest boy went, and
I'm leaving this afternoon. We're going te take our harvest
machines when we're dene here down there and harvest cauliflower.
Unfortunately, the cauliflower and everything is being grown in
Mexico. Then you bring the finished product ever and sell it in
the same markets that we're trying te get to. So I guess if you
can't beat them, yeu join them! And we can't seem te beat them.
They can de it. They've get so much labor; ne labor problems, a
let ef people te work for maybe ten times less than what we pay.
So it's tough, I can see why companies are moving.
New. with the trucks and the railroads and airplanes and
everything, yeu can move your products so fast. Forty, fifty
years age you couldn't de this. Yeu had to grew it right where
you're at. That was one ef the better parts, probably, ef
farming, but new everything is changed. Farming is changed. When
my father started out here we had horses and I'd come out. I
never cultivated with the horses, but I had to go water the horses
on weekends. Then we got tractors, and we got some big ones and
pretty soon my dad couldn't drive them. He knew the horses and he
knew the first tractors, but he didn't know the bigger ones that
came on. He couldn't start them. It wasn't his part of the
operation to take care of them, and I did it so I bought bigger
tractors. When he said that we didn't need them we get them. New
I find that I'm going through the same thing. When my dad was
having these problems he was fifty- seme thing years old. I assume,
and now I'm fifty- seme thing years old and I'm having the same kind
of problems with my kids.
Lage : The kids moving you on to new equipment?
Alameda: New equipment and big tractors, new levelers to level the ground.
We leveled all this ground with a laser scraper. In the eld days,
you'd have to survey it with your eye, and then you go out there
and hope that you've got everything pretty close. New you go out
and dial in this big transmitter, and you take off and that beam
tells your tractor and it tells the scraper on the back of the
tractor what to do. So it doesn't matter if it's dark, nighttime,
you can level ground to within an eighth of an inch if you want.
So those are the things that we never had twenty, thirty years
ago. We just got them, but it's made things better.
Lage: It sounds like you're very receptive to these new things.
Alameda: Well, when they go to school and you pay somebody to go to school,
and they come back and they start telling you hew to do these
certain things, either don't send them to school or you better
listen to them, one way or the other, [laughter]
Lage: Maybe the experience you had with your dad gives you perspective.
Alameda: Well, yes, I think so. I try to beat them to the punch, maybe
you can always tell somebody's age, I think, by telling them, "No,
you can't do that. That's too much money." So if they come to me
and say a tractor costs a hundred thousand dollars, I say, maybe
biting my lip a little bit, *K5ee, can you get it that cheap?"
[laughter] I don't really mean it. but I surprise them because I
think it's just a sign of the times when you can really agree with
them without having to go back like my dad did. I think of all
the places that I wanted to buy that he said. "No. don't." He
remembered when you could buy them for eight thousand, now they're
twelve. I try not to do that. If they say it's eighty thousand,
"Well, that's a good buy. You'd better get it right away." So
you throw it right back at them.
Lage: But with the squeeze on you for land in all directions, it must be
hard to put this kind of money into equipment.
Alameda: Yes, it is. When you're paying a man to sit on a tractor, and it
doesn't sound like very much, but you pay six, seven dollars an
hour. He can get up there and disk ten acres a day if you give
him a little tractor like we had. Or you can get him a rig that
can do a hundred acres a day.
Yes. it makes a difference.
Alameda: The equipment costs, but you'd better do it faster. We might be
able te work the ground even cheaper new than we used te do
because we just do it faster.
Lage: This operation you mentioned in Yuma. is that growing cauliflower
Alameda: In Mexico.
Lage: But their headquarters are in Yuma?
Alameda: In Yuma, and their cooling plant is in Yuma. So they grew this
cauliflower, and they bring it back and cool it. The funny part
about the cauliflower is that there's no money growing it. People
that seem te make the money are the ones that are packing it. and
the ones that are selling it for you. They get their commission.
The guy that's raising it. he doesn't make anything. That's the
way it's been. Consequently, we tried te raise it and pack it and
sell it ourselves so that if there is any phase ef it. you can get
in on it.
Marshlands, Weeds, and Wildlife at Coyote Hills;
"No Good for
Alameda: This was all part of the Patterson Ranch, [showing ponds on Coyote
Hills land] They put all these series of lakes in here just about
two years ago.
Lage: Is this something the park is doing, the lakes?
Alameda: Well, it's something else that these people were trying to do that
I think is bad for the ground. They're taking the water that's
supposed to run down this creek and run on out to the bay.
They're trying to take it through these series of ponds and tules
and clean the water. They've run it through this and it sort of
Lage: I see, through the marshy area.
Alameda: Yes, before they shoot it on out te the channel. With the
farming, you'd like te get that water in and out of there without
keeping it. So they're storing it, and that's sort of bad, bad
Lage: Is this park land that we're on?
Alaaeda: Yes, it's park land there, but it used to belong to the Pattersons.
Lage: But then it backs up into your land?
Alameda: Well, it comes underground and then that's the water table there.
Now this is that big channel that I was telling you they put in so
that we didn't have any mere floods.
Lage: This is a flood control channel.
Alameda: Yes. This cut right through the Patterson ranch. Since they've
put it in. it hasn't flooded. It'd take a tremendous amount of
water to fill this thing in. But last year I was a little bit
worried because we were going to have one of the highest tides we
ever had. When the tide comes in. the watershed's going back this
way. It'll go all the way up to that freeway. Well, if the tides
come up high enough and if you get a heavy, heavy amount of rain
at the same time and it can't get out. then I don't know what kind
of problem you're going to have but . Maybe it won't happen.
I'm planting differently new. We used to farm cauliflower
year around here. I'm doing it new so I'm going to be dene by the
middle of December. We won't have anything in the ground because
we've gotten whipped pretty bad the last three years with water
just settling and coming back at us. Just a couple of days with
water and the cauliflower's gene.
That's an Indian burial ground there, and the channel cut it
in half so they sort of preserved it there. There was a pump
right over there. The Patterson eld timers had a unique system.
They had trouble getting wells en this lower side so they put the
pumps in up above and brought the water down through concrete
pipes. At one time I used to think that we had about ten miles of
concrete water lines underground. When they put them in years age
they didn't have the big trenchers and all these things that can
take them down and put them down there forty inches deep like they
should be. It didn't matter when you had the little tractors and
the horses. You never get down mere than a feet anyway.
Then later on as we started getting bigger tractors we start
hitting all these lines, so a let of them have been replaced with
plastic. They're usually down there thirty-six inches deep. It's
just the way they put them in and they tied them all together: if
one pump went bad, why, you could just bring another one in.
There're pipelines underneath these highways out there. These
highways weren't there when those pipelines were put in. There
were just dirt and gravel roads. When you dig them up you see
they're all sort of crooked. I don't know, the pipe used to come
from San Jose.
Lage: I think Henry Patterson owned the company that made the pipe.
Alameda: That's very possible, yes.
Lage: You didn't knew Henry, though?
Alameda: No, I didn't knew Henry. What was Henry's wife's name?
Sarah. Did you knew Sarah? What was she like?
I met Sarah when I was asked to pick up a table which she had
donated to the Country CLub of Washington Township and she seemed
very keen and civic minded.
See. now. this water's what hurts.
Now ,this water doesn't get out of here,
over here in that field
Where you're trying to farm.
Right there, that pond.
Now if you dig a hole
If I dig a hole over there, tomorrow in the hole that I dug. the
water would be as high as it is right there. It's under that
ground. Now you don't want that. You want the water out of here.
They call this project the Marshland Project. That was my fear,
that they were going to make all this back into marshes. I don't
think the Patterson family wants that. Might be good for the
park, but it's certainly no good for farming or anything else.
No, net for any ether use.
Alameda: No. I don't know really what use that park is when it gets so
full of weeds like that, you can't do anything.
Lage: Hew about these seagulls, are they a pest en your crops?
Alameda: Seagulls are all right. They're protected; you can't shoot them.
Can't do anything with them. They do raise heck with tomatoes.
These black birds are bad; they're bad en corn. Nothing that we
can't handle if we're allowed to handle it. But when you're next
to a park they won't let you shoot the squirrels or the deer and
poison the squirrels and do all these things. I don't think we
need them. I don't think we need termites. I don't think we need
any of these things that they're afraid are going to become
extinct. I don't knew, though. [laughs]
Lage: I'd just as seen termites became extinct.
Alameda: That's right. I'm surprised that somebody hasn't worried about
those devils. [laughter] They worry about the little tiny mouse
and all these other things. By golly, they may be right.
II ADAPTATIONS TO THE URBAN SETTING
Produce Stand and Pumpkin Patch; Plans for Direct Marketing
Alameda: [noise from distance] This big tractor is ripping the ground
about fifteen to twenty inches deep.
Lage: It really gets down there.
Alameda: It gets so compacted with the big heavy equipment you have to rip
it every so often and just let it sit during the winter and when
you go back and plant later en. there's seme place for the roots
Lage: So a lot of this will net be planted at all in the winter, or do
you put in another crop?
Alameda: No. I'm net going to plant this one.
Lage: You give it a rest, or is it because of the problem of the water?
Alameda: Because of the problem of water, yes. And you can't put a little
plant out here right now. We just got in a harvest in cauliflower
here, so we did all right.
Lage: Now. is it mainly cauliflower that you deal in?
Alameda: That's what we're in. yes. And lettuce in the summertime.
Lage: Any corn?
Alameda: I have corn. I had a produce stand out here.
Lage: Yes, I saw that produce stand.
Alameda: That was the first year I tried it because they cut the road in.
Next year I hope I can make it bigger. I've got so many people
who are just so tickled with the corn that we raised. We raised
Alameda: corn that was net necessarily the big corn that looked good. Ours
looked good and tasted good.
Lage: Oh, 1*11 come down to get it myself. You raise any white corn?
Alameda: Yes. white corn, a couple of different varieties of that.
Lage: And where does that grow?
Alameda: Right here. yes. We put in seme broccoli and zucchini and
pickling cucumbers, and bell peppers were wonderful. Our tomatoes,
people just raved about them. We've raised all these things
before, but we've just been eliminated from the markets. And the
canneries, there are no canneries around here to take tomatoes.
They've got a weed out here called breemrape. Breemrape is a bad.
bad thing. It's a parasite that grows en the root of the tomato
plant or tobacco plant or any of that family. You can plant
tomatoes, and the seed is in the ground and it attaches itself to
the roots of the tomatoes and takes all the strength of the tomato
to keep itself going. So the tomatoes, consequently, will just
dry right up. They don't want this, so they prohibited growing
tomatoes in this whole area. They think that maybe at the turn of
the century this seed got into the Niles nursery from Europe.
Then when they had seme flooding it washed it down to this area,
and it settled. You can have it in the ground and maybe no host
plant for it for a hundred years. Then you come back and put in
the host plant, it'll still be there waiting.
Lage: Did that affect your tomatoes this year?
Alameda: No. you can do it, and it doesn't hit every plant. This year I
didn't see it in any of the plants. But the canneries won't let
you ship it, because they're afraid it'll go to another area. But
when you're doing it fresh and you pack it yourself, then they
don't say anything.
Lage: Leeks like you had a pumpkin patch here.
Alameda: We had a pumpkin patch here that was a thing of beauty. It was
the first time we had ever dene it. I put it in the wrong place;
I just hid it back here because I thought it would be nice for the
kids and we had a little ghost lane and all this; it was cute.
But I had toe many pumpkins. We fertilized them and did it all
very well and sold about a third of the pumpkins. So nert year. I
hope we can put them out by a read and maybe do it a little bit
Lage: Did people come in and pick them or did you pick them?
Alameda: We had seme classes that came out. Had about two thousand kids.
People always like te come out with their kids.
Lage: I think when people hear about that my kids went clear from
Oakland out almost to Half Moon Bay with their class. That's a
Alameda: Yes. We had a couple buses from Oakland come. In fact. I've got
some pictures in there of my daughters; they dressed up as
witches. Then when the buses came out they explained te them when
the pumpkins were planted and they gave them little brochures on
pumpkins and recipes. They sort of liked it. We had a picnic
area out here for them.
This is where I had my jalapenes and all these things for the
stand in this little area here. This is only about six acres.
Next year I'm going to put in maybe fifty acres of it because it's
direct marketing. You don't have to ge te the broker in San
Francisco, and he takes his ten percent and somebody else when he
gets back te you he says. "Hey, it's no good." Here, whatever you
sell, you try te give the people a fair price, cheaper maybe than
what they get in the store.
Lage: With better produce.
Alameda: It's fresh. The funny thing, some of the people that come out
here, a couple of them, talk French te each ether, not te me.
They say that at home back in France when yeu ge to these stands,
why. you expect to pay mere there than yeu do in a store because
there they know it's fresh, and they know that in order to be
fresh they have te threw a lot of it away. That's what I had te
do. People don't understand that I pick the corn and the next
day. if I didn't feel right about it, I'd throw it out and try net
te pick as much that day so I would have te threw it out.
Lage: How about direct sales to restaurants?
Alameda: Well, we have a few little ones and all these ether produce stands
[brief interruption while talking to some laborers]
Lage: Was he the labor crew leader, in the back of the truck?
Alameda: No, he's just an irri gator. I was wondering hew many hours they
worked Saturday. He told me they worked until two-thirty. The
fellow that was in charge of them is going back to Mexico.
I want to get you some cauliflower. I don't know if you want
a box of cauliflower or a head of cauliflower. What do you want?
Lage: How about a couple of heads? I don't know about a whole box. but
I'd sure love two or three heads.
New this cauliflower was planted about ninety days ago* maybe
eighty-five. We had a crop of lettuce in here before this that
was probably planted in maybe May. It came off. We worked the
ground and planted a crop of cauliflower. If we wanted. I could
work this thing and put another crop of cauliflower. That would
come off in probably April. It's possible ever here to get maybe
five crops in two years. A lot of people, if they want to do it,
can get three in one year if they get en it early with a dry
Lage : If you have good weather.
Lage: Is that hard on the soil, though, to work it that continuously?
Alameda: No, I don't think so. We have to fertilize. This head of
cauliflower out here will probably take maybe a hundred and fifty
units of nitrogen to grew it, So we put a hundred and fifty units
of nitrogen in the ground. We don't take the chance of not having
enough fertilizer. Once we plant it and we fertilize it see
those little rubber bands en those plants?
Lage: Oh, yes. What's that for?
Alameda: You have to tie the leaves up se the sun doesn't get on it or
it'll get yellew. It doesn't matter, it tastes the same when it's
yellow er white, but people want it white. If it's get yellew en
it. they don't want it. There's nothing wrong with it. When you
cook it, it'll probably turn a little yellow anyway. [gets out of
Three Alameda Generations Farming on the Patterson Ranch
You've got a lot of little details to attend to here.
Alameda: Yes. and luckily I've get a lot of good people that know what
they're doing, mainly my kids. They're good farmers. I wish they
weren't my kids so I could brag mere. They've never given me a
lick of trouble. They put themselves through college by working
out here on the ranch driving forklifts. It's unfortunate that
they're in an occupation that's not very good right new. I hope
it gets better.
Lage: How did they happen to cheese to go into farming?
Alameda: I guess maybe it was my fault. I always thought that they could
do good at it. Mr. Williams always had. But times have gotten
pretty bad, especially with these other countries coming in. The
Peace Corps, I think the Kennedy administration, when we sent
people all over the world shewing these peeple how to take care of
themselves and how to grew rice and hew to grow wheat is probably
a great thing. New they know hew to do it, and they're sending it
to all different parts of the world, and our markets aren't there
like they used to be.
Lage: What is this deal you have in Yuma is it just a one-time
consulting thing or will you have seme tie-in with them?
Alameda: No. we have no tie-in with them. It's a one-time thing, and we're
going to send our machine and show them what it can do.
Hopefully, they'll like what it'll do. It's something that these
are big agricultural people. Maybe not for me, but maybe for my
kids, they may be able to make it work. Between this operation
and something in the wintertime someplace else, it might fit, it
might work. What we've been doing the last three years is net
working. We've tried to make it work, but we've been pushed down
to this lower ground where you just can't take a chance anymore.
I've planted and had nice crops like this the last two years and
just had to sit there and watch them as it rained and wouldn't
stop. I'd see them just wilt right up.
Lage: So the land they're pushing you down to isn't as good for farming
as the land that these houses are going in en?
Alameda: No. that was up higher, and that was sandier ground up there. You
get the same amount of rain, but the water would run off. Here it
runs down and collects down there in that park area and then it
starts coming back this way. When you see where that water is
sitting in that pond over there, and you know it's right
underneath the roots of these plants, and once it starts coming
from the top down and the bottom up, boy, you better look out.
But they do very nicely as long as you can control it. They have
nice growth to them, it looks good. It looks good in the box.
But when you can't do anything about it, that's a pretty bad
Lage: Tell me seme more about your father. He worked for the Williams
Cempany. What did he do for them?
Alameda: Well, he was just a foreman like I was. I was in charge of
growing, and he was in charge of harvesting. They were pretty
smart. Years ago he used to pack in the fields. Before he worked
for Williams, he worked at Booth Cannery in Centerville. I used
to hear him talk about buying apricots when he was a younger guy
in his twenties. He'd buy apricots and send them to the cannery.
He did a little bit of everything. I guess during the thirties,
during the Depression, he went to work for the Williams brothers.
There were four brothers that farmed, and my dad went to work for
them. Then those Williams brothers separated: one went to
Nevada, one went to Bakersfield, the other two stayed here. The
one that my dad stayed and worked for was for Lei and Stanford
Williams. That's Gene Williams's father. He was a nice man. So
I worked for him, and he liked me.
Lage: Gene said you and he kind of grew up in the fields together
working on the ranch.
Alameda: Yes. We grew up out here together. He went en to college, and
then he stepped that. Well, I can't say I think I worked harder
than he did. [laughter] But he was good. His father had a heart
attack and passed away in 1956, the same year we moved in on this
ranch. I think. Then Gene just went right on into the office. It
was pretty unique that they had people like my father that had
been working for them for a long time. So when Mr. Williams
passed away, as much of a less as it was, it didn't seem to hurt
the operation because they had other people capable of getting
help and harvesting the crop and all that.
Lage: Se did Gene, himself, mainly do office work and management, then?
Alameda: Management. I just drove a tractor and dusted and all these sort
of things. The ether foreman get sick so I ended up taking his
job, and I was a foreman. So my wife gets mad at me because I
don't like to go anywhere; I like it here. I've heard once that
the Bay Area is one of the seven best climates in the world. Se
that means there's only six of them someplace else, and I don't
knew where they are.
Packing and Insecticide Regulations
[Mel Alameda gets out of the truck and is showing the interviewer
the packed cauliflower brings three boxes over with sixteen,
twelve, and nine to the box.]
Lage : All the packing is dene on that truck. That's an amazing piece of
machinery. Those are beautiful heads.
Alameda: Nice heads, and there's twelve heads in that box. That's what we
shoot for. Now if they cut them a little bit too small, you get
sixteen ta a box.
Lage: What happens if it's net twelve or sixteen?
Alameda: You mean if it's too small?
Alameda: No, you make it fit that box.
Lage: You can't do it. [laughter]
Alameda: This is what happens when they missed some the last cutting time,
and then they get big, so you put nine heads in the box. The box
has to state that it's a nine. The law says that.
The regulation on chemicals is something fierce. We have a
chemical company that sprays for us. They put all these
insecticides on for us. They're licensed for this. Well, they
come and do it at nighttime. Before they can spray this field the
county has to have been notified forty-eight hours ahead of time
what they're going to do. Then their people can come out and
check to see that you're doing it right if they want to. But you
have to tell them. This happens to be Block 47. So every field
has got a number; that's Block 61. Each field is numbered, and
you report that Block 61 is going to be sprayed en the 22nd with a
certain chemical. They can come out and check that tank and make
sure you're doing what you say you're doing, and they do it.
People think that we're just out throwing out a lot of stuff and
net being careful about it, but it's as careful as we can be.
Lage: Do you have to wait for weather conditions to be right?
Alameda: Oh, yes. The wind can't be blowing more than five miles an hour.
You certainly don't put it on when it's raining. It's very
possible that there was a man in there talking to me a minute ago
in a white pickup. He's the fellow that comes and checks our
fields. If he told me that field had to be sprayed, then I would
Alameda: tell him when we were going te harvest it. They've get chemicals
that would last one day. three days, a week, two weeks. So if
you've get time, you like to put en a material that would last a
little bit longer, but you do everything that's within the law.
If you're going to harvest it certainly I don't want to eat it if
it's got a chemical on it. Consequently, I don't want anybody
else to have to do it either. It's not right for people to be
trusting what you're doing and then try to pull some kind of
shenanigans. Well, we don't do that.
Lage: Do you get complaints from residents or inquiries from residents
about the pesticides?
Alameda: Oh. sure.
Lage: They have concerns?
Alameda: Sometimes you spray and seme of them have different odors than
others, and people call the fire department. They think there's a
gas leak someplace or something. Some of them Monitor's got a
pretty strong odor. It's good material, safe for the person
that's putting it en and lasts quite a while, but it does have a
bad odor so consequently we don't use it so much.
See all this sprinkler pipe here? We've got lots of pipe.
Those pipes were out in this field, and then we'd run the water
overhead. New you can see these see that little row coming up on
top of the bed?
Alameda: Those are peas. I planted some peas because last year I had a U-
pick out here, and the people sort of liked it.
Lage: Where people pick their own?
Lage: Will you have that this spring?
Alameda: I hepe so. We built this reservoir because we didn't have a well
down there. When we fill this up. this can held about ten million
gallons of water. We pump the water from about a mile away. It
runs in here, and those pumps will pump it out under pressure.
It's something that we did to develop all this section because
there was no water down there.
Pressures far Development
What dees the city have in mind for the area where you're farming?
Is it supportive of continuing it in farming, do you think?
I don't knew. I've been told that it's going to be open space,
but I would imagine that when the time is right it'll be
developed. If it was my property and the time was right to
develop it, I'd like to develop it. Everybody wants a lot of open
space, but I think we've got too many parks and I think we've got
tee many of everything that they don't even take care ef. It's a
shame. Parks are nice* but I think somebody ought to take care of
them, net j ust acquire mere and mere. Every time they take one
they take it off the tax role. Our problem I've been arguing
that for years is that we have toe many people. All these people
are back East looking out here at football games at the Rose Bowl
and everything else, and the sun is shining; they're going to keep
They've heard this is one of the seven best climates, too.
Sure, and they're here, they're coming. I don't knew what the
life span is for those people probably longer than ours, maybe,
[laughs] but I don't think it's much fun shoveling snow and
living in that cold weather. I don't blame them for moving out
here, except there's net enough work.
Hew about this industrial high-tech park?
for you? Any problems there?
Is that a good neighbor
Oh, there's no problems yet because there's nobody in them. It's
funny, everybody they all like farming. Everybody you talk to,
you know, even you can be a lawyer er a doctor or whatever but
for some reason when you go someplace and you tell somebody you're
a farmer it's something that they either do in their yard or
they've got shrubs
Or they eat.
Yes. So there's something that they'll talk to you about. So we
don't have that many problems with them except, I think, when they
do get in here. I don't know how they're going to like it when
the wind starts to blow and the dust starts blowing all across
everything; it's not our fault, but they'll complain about it.
I fanned all this. We had this all. [gestures]
This whole area that's now high tech park, or a potential high
Right. We had this whole piece and all the way back there near
the Eucalyptus tree. Oh. we had cauliflower and tomatoes at one
time or another. This area wasn't the best. That, way back there
where these houses are. was the best. That's what used to go
under water every year; this didn't.
Changes in Farm Labor
Lage: Now. hew has the labor force changed over the years? You must
have started out when the bra cere program was in operation.
Alameda: Yes, I used to go to San Jose and pick them up. That was in the
forties. You would order a hundred braceros. have a labor camp
for them. We had to pick them up. take them to the doctor.
Lage: That was part of your job, tee?
Alameda: Saturday night, go down with the bus and take them to Alvarade.
the theater down there, so they could go to the show. When their
time was up. you'd take them back to San Jose, and they'd ship
them back home when the season was over, which was about October.
They'd ceme for the summer.
We have summer vacations, you know, now for the kids. They
all get out of school for three months, and they can play. But I
guess when they ever started that years ago. I guess the vacations
were at harvest time. You got out, and you went to work. You cut
apricots, you did all these things that come in the summertime.
Here, if everything goes right, you start planting in April, you
start harvesting the first of July, whether it's corn, tomatoes,
anything. That's about as soon as anybody could work the ground.
So, consequently, the kids were out of school for three months,
back to school in September, and if harvest weren't over you never
even went back to school in September.
Lage: Did your kids work like that during the summer?
Alameda: Oh. yes.
Lage: And you yourself?
Alameda: Yes. They never played little league baseball. They worked.
When they got back to school, then they'd start playing. Now, if
you go to high school, you can't go out for football if you work
because you've got to go practice during the summer, two-a-day
practices and all this sort of stuff. I don't think that's right.
It may be good for the football program, but it's certainly not
good for the individual, I don't think. They ought to be working.
Lage: Were the braceros pretty good workers?
Alameda: Yes, and some of them came back. I had one fellow that came back
and worked for us for twenty years after that,
Lage: As a regular resident?
Alameda: Yes. lived here. He went back to Mexico about two years age. He
had six fingers. He had a little finger coming out in his finger.
so we used to call him Six Fingers. Nice man. These Orientals
right now. they are nice people.
Lage: What group are they? What Asian group?
Alameda: Well, there's quite a few Filipinos, a let of Filipinos that come
from the Philippines. You have to sign papers saying yes. I'll
give them work. They come ever here, and they seem to bunch up
and live in a house and maybe get ten or twelve in one house.
Do they live here in Fremont?
Alameda: Oh, yes.
Lage: Are they seasonal? Then do they move on somewhere else?
Alaneda: No. For me. the ones that I've had, I've had work twelve months
out of the year for them, because in the summertime there's
lettuce and cauliflower, and then we start planting and we'd raise
cauliflower all through the winter. This is the first year that
I'm going to run out of cauliflower in December, and I won't have
any work for these people in four months. They don't know it.
They don't know it yet. I don't know what they're going to do,
but I'll start planting as soon as it's right, the first of
January or something like that. If it doesn't rain. I'll start
seeding the ground.
The Farm Operation at Ardenwood Park
Alameda: We had all this land all around the house, [the George Washington
Patterson house at Ardenwood]
Lage: And here we go into another park. We're going into Ardenwood.
Alameda: Yes, this is the park. They've done some nice things here. It's
a good thing somebody's got millions of dollars. [laughter]
Lage: Aren't they going to plant in here? I thought that was part of
the program, to have a farming ?
Yes. it's a plan. I could have farmed it, but I didn't think I
could get along with them so I didn't bid en it. I think Joe
Perry, who had the pumpkins, he's going to do it. As long as he
can do what they want
What do you think the problems may be?
Well, they're going to tell you that you can't spray, and you
can't do all these different things. The people would be coming
in. and you've got to do certain things on certain days. I find
it hard to believe that that cauliflower plant's going to tell me
that I can't put water on it Friday because it's not Thursday,
[laughs] If it's hot, a hundred degrees, and I have to do
something, I've got to do it. I can't wait. You have a whole
bunch ef rules that say you can or you can't do it; that's what
you've got here [in the park]. I don't agree with it; I don't
agree with any of it. It's a good thing they've got plenty of
Well. I guess they're going to try to earn seme money on the
farming to help pay for the rest of the park operation.
That's what it's supposed to be, but you've get this farmer right
new who is net making any money, and I don't knew hew they* re
going te do it.
Is Joe Perry also doing the horse-driven farming?
No, I don't think they've dene any with the horses yet. He had
seme pumpkins in here; that's the only thing he's done so far.
That's another thing my kids wanted to do when the park wanted it:
they wanted seme farming with horses like it used to be done and
then some farming with the tractors. So my kids got the bright
idea that, well, we could do it, and I could take the horse part
ef it. Well, I mean. I'm eld but I didn't cultivate with horses.
I was just a little bit past that. [laughter] But they thought
it would be good for me to get out there and cultivate. They seem
te think I'm good for all the little things that they don't have
time for. But I could take care of the horse end of it. and then
the park, they said, 'Veil, we could go do it during the week
with big tractors. When the people are there, we'll just do it
with the horses, as if the horses did it all. 11 That's what
they're going to do.
Is that what they're going to do?
I would assume. They're not going to go out there they can't
get anybody to go out there and plow a field with a horse. I
don't think they're going to get anybody.
It takes a while, doesn't it?
Alameda : Unless they can get some Amish down here or something.
knew what they're going to get.
Lage: I had some corn that they grew at Ardenwoed it wasn't, I'm sure,
like your corn was at your stand it wasn't that great.
Alameda: No, it was terrible.
Lage: Why was that? Did they use a different variety?
Alameda: Sure. You plant the wrong variety, you're not going to get I
don't care what it is, if you get the wrong variety there's
nothing to it. It could be fresh as could be but it's still not
Lage: It was fresh because I picked it myself. I get home. I was really
excited about having corn for dinner [laughs]
Alameda: and it was full of worms, too, probably.
It was full of worms, but also it was tough,
the way fresh corn should be.
It just wasn't tasty
Well, people think that just because you get a fresh ear of corn
that's just picked that it's get to be good, but if it's already
old on the plant then it's no good. It's just like a head ef
lettuce. You ge out there and cut a head of lettuce, but if I had
left that head of lettuce and it's old it's already bitter and
it's net going to be good. Even if you cut it fresh, it's old.
they've only got so many days ef life that are good, and that's
it. That can happen with corn. Tomatoes are smart enough to
shrivel up and look bad; bell peppers, the same way. Corn just gets
dark yellow and just tough. But some varieties are just no good.
Tony Alameda: Farmer and Civic Leader
Alameda: My dad worked for Williams for forty-eight years. He stopped
working when he was seventy-eight years old, and he didn't want to
Lage: I didn't realize he kept on that long.
Alameda: Yes, until he was seventy-eight, he was still running the crew out
here. He was pretty tough, a tough guy.
Lage: You mentioned earlier that he took a lot of abuse in his public
role. He was on the hospital board, the water board, and the
Alameda: High school beard, water beard, yes.
Lage: What kind of abuse?
Alameda: Well, just politics, you know. Hopefully, more than half I guess
more than half have to like you or you wouldn't get elected. But
the hospital, they were on a strike at the time when he was a
director and they wanted more money. People that are friends of
yours for years are carrying picket signs. All of a sudden, you
have to make some kind of decision, either they get it or they
don't get it. My dad was a pretty tough guy. He wouldn't give in
too much to anything. I think he was concerned about taxpayers
and spending money, and being an old timer, why, what they were
making at the time seemed te be plenty what's the use of going
way overboard? Give them a little bit of something.
Lage: What about on the water board? Did you hear any tales of trying
to defend the farmers' point of view there?
Alameda: Well, he was a farmer. They had tried for years te put meters on
the wells to make you pay for every gallon of water that you
pumped. As long as he was on the board, they didn't do that; they
never got away with that. But once he was defeated, they did.
They put the meters in and that cost the farmers a good amount of
money. Maybe that was good. I don't think it was good; it cost
maybe extra thousands of dollars just to buy the water. We never
had those expenses before.
Lage: Yes, you just took it out of the ground.
Ill ALAMEDA AND SONS: COEXISTING WITH DEVELOPMENT AND A POOR
Cauliflower, Packing Sheds, and Labor Camps Amid Housing
Now, is this yours, toe?
Alameda: That's my cauliflower, but this development isn't. I've got a
concrete line that's coming down through here someplace. These
people just amaze me how they start digging holes without asking.
Lage: So side-by-side here are the tractor digging water lines or
something for the housing development, and your cauliflower
Alameda: Yes. In fact, I just had my labor camp on this side of the tracks
out here. They just bulldozed it all out of here, and they broke
the water line that was there.
Lage: What are these covered areas?
Alameda: Those are my hothouses.
Lage: For what kind of plants?
Alameda: We put our lettuce and cauliflower seedlings in there in the
wintertime when it's too cold. It's toe frosty outside to sprout,
and we put them in there. Then, once they're up about, oh, two or
three inches, we transplant them. We take them out of there and
put them in the field. Hopefully they're strong enough to
survive, if you don't get too much frost.
Lage: This is a packing shed here?
Alameda: I have a packing shed there, yes. I used to have two of them:
that one and one up in town that was there for fifty- something
years. The one in town is no longer being used, but this one is
Alaneda: still you can just hit the buttons and start it up if we have to.
I plan on starting it up. I think, because once we take one
machine away, why, we'll maybe need the packing shed.
The railroad crossing is right here. There was a labor camp
right over here that was there for fifty years. Then there was a
road that went down through here and over to that house. That's
the park [Ardenwoed] over there.
I'm told about the horse and buggy days when one of the
Pattersons or one of the fellows that worked for Patterson I
thought it was one of the Pattersons but I don't know which one
used to come out every morning at six-thirty or seven o'clock on
his horse and wagon and go somewhere. One morning he didn't wake
up. and he was a couple of hours late. He came out and without
even looking he got hit by a train and killed just because his
pattern was at a certain time and that train always came by at a
They must have told you about those Eucalyptus trees. Didn't
somebody tell you about those trees?
Lage: Well. I've heard about the Eucalyptus trees, but I don't know if
I've heard your story.
Alameda: How they grew these trees for harvesting them.
Lage: They first thought they'd be a commercial product.
Lage: It didn't work, though.
Lage: Now, apparently, they're suffering some from the salt water.
Alameda: That's debatable.
Lage: Are you going to check on your pipe here?
Alameda: I don't knew hew far this guy's cutting this line over there,
[gets out of truck to check with construction workers]
Lage: Well, there's a good example of what you run up against.
Alameda: Jeez, it's like cutting your arm off!
Lage: For the tape here, now tell us what .they were doing.
Alameda: Well, they're just putting in an underground electrical line or
something, and they're just about ready to dig near my water line.
This is what I've been running into all the time. They just
keep breaking lines. Then by the time they get them fixed the
cauliflower's sitting there with no water. I hope it's not broke.
If it is broke it takes a couple of days to put it in and get it
fixed and that's why I don't want them to break it.
Working with the Patterson Family
Lage: Are they building over on this side? Is this going to stay
Alameda: This is going to stay agriculture for a while. It's supposed to
be a shopping center there after a while. But right now. what
they're telling me is everything on this side of Pasee Padre will
stay in open space.
Lage: Over to the north of Paseo Padre.
Alameda: Yes. and if that happens we'll just try to do a good job at it.
If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but I think we've been good
for the ranch farming it, keeping it looking good, and the
Patterson family, in turn, they've been good to me.
Lage: Are they easy to work with?
Alameda: They're nice people, yes.
Lage: You're working with a new generation now.
Alameda: Yes. a new generation. I find that a little bit tougher.
Lage: How was Donald Patterson to work with?
Alameda: Donald Patterson was a nice man. That's Wil's father, right
Lage: No, Will's son.
Alameda: Yes, Will's son. [laughs] Don's got a son. Wil, also. [Wilcoac
Patterson], Will's son was a nice man. There was Jack, Dave, Don.
Dave's still alive. Jack died a young man. Don died.
Lage: In '80, I think.
Alameda: Yes. I think he was seventy- four.
Lage: Did he take much of an interest in all the farming operations?
Alameda: Oh, yes. That guy was good. He liked it; he took it seriously.
One year this was all under water. It was up around the tracks
even. We had a problem down there with the underpass, and I
wanted to show it to him. and he didn't even have any boots. He
just rolled up his pants and said, "Come on. let's go. I want you
to show it to me." We walked down through the water. He was a
tall fellow, and he was tough to keep up with when he walked. He
was wiry. He was a heck of a guy.
His kids, I don't know all of them. I knew George. Don's
boy, and Wil. Both of them were out here connected to the ranch
after Den wasn't around. Then when they had their, whatever they
did, their meetings and this and that, the two of them were out
here taking care of this. They were sympathetic. We had a teugh
two or three years when they were moving dirt, and dust was
flying. It was hard.
Lage: When they were moving dirt?
Alameda: Well, all that development where those houses are and the big
earthmovers are going through the fields and down through here,
widening the channel, busting these concrete lines and all this
sort of stuff. That's why I get a little bit mad now because I
know what happens when they break them. They don't get them fixed
Lage: So Wil and George ?
Alameda: Wil and George used to be out here. They were good.
Lage: They'd help troubleshoet?
Alameda: Yes, they were here quite often. They're nice fellows. Then all
of a sudden they changed things around, and Leon Campbell and Bob
Buck, both of them fine gentleman, are in charge. The whole
family they've been very good. And we're good for the ranch.
We've been farming it for thirty years, and it's sort of tough
knowing where all these lines are and just because you open that
thing right there to get water out of that, that's not where the
water is. See that little thing there? You open that up to get
water out of there but the water is over there. [points] See
that red pump?
Lage: Yes, way in the back there.
Alameda: That's where the pump is. It comes underground all the way over.
One those things there is what those fellows just covered up
over there. Hopefully they didn't break it.
Here we just ripped this ground like the ether one and got it
loosened up. You can see how the ground breaks up. It's better
ground here than it is even over there on the other side [further
west] that's more adobe and as you get further this way is where
this ground used to flood.
Lage: So there's more top soil on it.
Alameda: Yes, mere top soil en it.
Lage: It's beautiful soil.
Lage: Now. were the Pattersons, back at that time when Don was in charge
of things, looking towards development, did you feel? Did Don
talk to you about it?
Alameda: Yes, Den knew. He said that we had to start systematically taking
acreage off. The way things were going, there was no way they
could just keep net selling some of the pieces off; they had to
start to develop it in an orderly manner. So that's what they
started up there with a section I think it was three hundred
acres that he had earmarked for going first. In the meantime,
after he passed away, they switched around and developed the back
area and donated the front [to Ardenwoed Park]. But, yes, it was
his plan. I think, or some of the family's, to not just take off a
section here and there. Try to do it so that you didn't disrupt
all the water systems and all the pipes. You just don't go into
the middle and cut off the heart of everything. So they've done
Lage: Did they think at all about where the best lands were for farming,
or was that net a consideration?
Alameda: I don't think that was a consideration because the best grounds
Lage: They went first?
Alameda: Yes. They have asked about lines and how you can go ahead and
farm and how to put different lines in or put new wells in.
They've done that. That labor camp, they've moved three buildings
over there; we just got them moved. You have to have a place for
these people to stay. You just can't work for four and a half or
five dollars an hour and go out and buy a house.
Lage: So the people who live in labor camps live here year around?
Alameda: Some of them.
Lage: They're not just seasonal?
Alameda: No, they've been working for me, some of those people, for quite a
Lage: Oh. I see. I thought the labor camp was mere for a seasonal
Alameda: It is more seasonal. My tractor drivers and all my permanent help
have homes and I have to pay them a little bit more, but the other
ones, they can go seasonal. They may follow the lettuce and come
back in the summertime. Other ones, after the lettuce is over
someplace, they come and work in cauliflower.
Lage: Do they have families that live here?
Alameda: No. no. I don't have the families anymore.
I was just showing you the crossing there where somebody got
killed? They knocked the labor camp at that site down. That
year I had about six or seven permanent families, but we got rid
of that. It's sort of hard to furnish a house for one person, and
they've get four or five or six children. It's tough.
Lage: Probably not the best living condition for those kids.
Alameda: Well, the condition wasn't bad. I think they had a good time.
Their friends were there, the school bus would pick them up right
there. They had health insurance. I don't know. I'd see all
these little guys I'd take care of my family and my grandkids, I
see them all going to the doctor's offices and running noses and
everything else, and the kids who were out here in the labor camps
running around barefooted are healthy. I don't know. We overdo
everything, I think.
Scrambling to Stay in Farming
Lage: Did you have brothers and sisters?
Alameda: I've got three brothers and two sisters, and they all worked on
Lage: Did any of them go into farming?
No. they all got out, and I don't know why. I hear my mother say
that there was only room for one out here. One worked for FG&E,
and one worked for the phone company. One worked for the school
district. Sisters, both of them; one of them was a legal
secretary. They all went out. I'm the only one that stayed. I
don't know why. They're all retired and retiring now, and I'm
just getting started. I bought Mr. Williams's company three years
ago, and I can't see any end in sight. My dad worked until he was
seventy-eight years old, and I guess I'll work until I'm seventy-
eight years eld.
It doesn't sound like you want to retire.
No. I don't want to retire.
week; that's enough for me.
I play golf. I play that once a
I don't want to make a career of that
Hew do you like being an owner rather than a foreman for Williams?
It seems no different to me. Everybody thought it would be a big
difference, and it is. But I used to worry when I was responsible
for somebody else's operation. Now I do what I have to do and if
something happens I think that I've done the best I could, and I
don't have to sit around and explain to anybody because I've
already convinced myself. So it really hasn't been that much
different. I guess I've always been pretty conscientious and a
worrier. Rain, a lot of people like rain whenever it rains I
Now, you have some ether lands that you're farming, don't you.
over in the Livermore area?
Well, we had a couple hundred acres over there, but they're
starting to dig holes for gravel over there, too, so that one is
gone. That worked out pretty good. tee. That was real sandy,
sandy ground, and if it rained, within a couple days you could
start to plant. We leased that land right up until September, and
we thought we were going to get it next year, but they said that
they were going to start taking off the top soil and digging up
the reck. There's so much building going on that they're five
years ahead from what they thought they would be. digging that
reck over there.
Se we've got it all over here. That's why a couple of my
sons are going to Yuma, just to see if they can help this other
fellow and put our machines to work.
Yes. So you will take your machines down there part of the year?
One of them will go. and then if they like it they'll probably
take the second one in. That's one of my sons there, the youngest
Alaneda: boy. He majored in engineering so he's the one that works en this
machine. That little thing he's working on there is the carrier
that will transport it to Arizona. That big machine is going on
Lage: That's going to be quite a trip.
Lage: Is your machine patented?
Alameda: Just certain parts of it. That doesn't really mean anything. I
guess if somebody else built one like it you wouldn't do anything
about it. but evidently if we didn't patent it and somebody else
liked it they could patent it and prevent us from using it. So we
sort of felt we should do it for our own protection. So we did.
Without that machine I probably would not be farming right now.
Well, we used to pack in the packing shed and it would cost us
about $1.70 a box to pack cauliflower. Out here we can do it for
anywhere from $.90 to a dollar depending how heavy we're cutting.
So when you figure that you pack maybe three, four hundred
thousand cartons a season, that's quite a bit of money. You're
still not making money after saving that much. Then, I guess, you
have to assume that maybe we still wouldn't be in business without
the machine. I don't know.
Marketing Nationwide and at a Roadside Stand
Lage: How much do you sell those boxes for? The carton of twelve, say.
Alameda: Well, today they're probably selling for six, seven dollars a
box. Hopefully, if you're real lucky, I would say as high as
thirteen dollars a box. I haven't seen that since I've owned the
Lage : Where do you sell it?
Alameda: If somebody happens to call from Boston or New York, a broker, and
says. "I want a thousand cartons of cauliflower, twelve. What's
the market today?" My son will say. "It's eight dollars." So
they say. "Okay. I'll take it." Then it's arranged for a truck to
pick it up and haul it. and whoever buys it has to pay for the
hauling and that. So when we say eight dollars that's usually
what we get. Sometimes if the markets are bad you could put them
on a truck or a railroad car, and you could just roll them back
there. A lot of people do that and hope that the market changes
by the time it gets there.
Lage: Then you'll get more.
Alameda: Then you'll get mere.
Lage: So whatever the market is when it gets to the market is what you
Alameda: No, not unless we sell them on consignment that's consignment
but if we sell it here FOB [Freight on Board], that means that if
they say they want it for eight dollars, they get it for eight
Lage: Do you do mostly that?
Alameda: That's the way we like to sell it. yes.
But you sell mainly to the East?
Oh. we sell to Canada. Lettuce in the summertime, we had some
lettuce that went to China. That takes three weeks to get there
on barges, but it still holds up with refrigeration.
That's amazing. Now, who did you deal with for that?
We were selling through Mendel son-Zeller in San Francisco. They
were our broker. They were the ones that have the customers, and
then they'd call in and say, "All right, we want lettuce, we want
cauliflower, we want " Whatever they wanted, we would get it for
Do you sell at all in California, like to Safeway or Lucky?
We sell some to Safeway, sometimes, whoever wants it. They're
looking for a price all the time. They're looking to get the best
price they could get. Safeway, not necessarily, they'll buy the
best to make sure they have the best.
I've never seen any that look as beautiful as those in the back ef
the truck there.
No, and it's tough to get it to look like that. As soon as you
cut it, it's on its way downhill.
Well. I feel like I should go home and cook it right now.
Yes. But it's all right, it's fine and it'll be good today and
tomorrow and a week from now but it's still the sooner the better
whether it's corn or whatever, if it's sweet potatoes and
everything. Freshness is what counts, I think. Potatoes, I'm
Alameda: going to try to grow potatoes and everything. You've got to come
out next summer because I'm going to have the best produce stand
in the Bay Area.
Lage: Do you think that can be a money-making thing?
Alameda: Oh, certainly, sure.
Lage: I would think so. I think that's the way people are heading.
Alameda: All summer I sold cauliflower for eighty cents a head, and I don't
know if you can get it anyplace for eighty cents a head, but I'd
sell it for eighty cents a head all day long if I didn't have to
wrap I'd go cut it myself and take it over there. But eighty
cents a head is like nine dollars a box. I haven't got nine
dollars a box in three years.
Lage: I think people would pay, as you say. mere for the good stuff.
You don't have to compete pricewise.
Alameda: There's an awful lot of them that figure that as long as it's on a
little roadside stand they ought to buy it for half as much. I
went to a funeral service yesterday and a friend told me, "Hey,
when you get done picking those peas let me know. I want to come
out and get seme, 11 meaning they want them for nothing. I don't
know why it is that everybody thinks a farmer has got plenty of
everything out there, and he j ust wastes a lot of it and why not
just go out and get some.
Lage: Yes. Didn't you have problems with people just coming out and
Alameda: Oh, sure.
Lage: Is that still a problem?
Alameda: Oh. sure. They take things off. I shouldn't say steal, but
stealing is what it is. But they don't think it's stealing. It's
just "sharing." I think. But I've got a lot of friends. I've
given cauliflower and lettuce and cucumbers and corn, and they
just take it for granted, but I've never had one of my friends
say. "Hey, here's some steak." They don't say that. I don't know
Lage: What about, "Here's some free dental care or free lawyer's fees or
Alameda: Yes. [laughter] No, it's, ''Oh, I didn't know you really used
this. I thought you were finished with it." And it's the same
thing you know, people say, 'Vhy don't you give it to these old
homes, or why don't you give it to this?" Maybe you should.
Alaneda: Maybe yeu should be a good guy. but every time you give seme away
t someplace it's just someone else who is not going to buy some
at the market. It doesn't do any good; you can't exist. This is
what I tell the chemical man. I don't want him to gouge me. I
want him to make what he thinks is a fair profit. I'm sure he
doesn't want to see me go out of business, because I'm a good
customer. So you just don't try to get the best you can today,
you've get to leek at the overall picture. Hopefully. I'm the
same way; I don't want to go in and get a whole let for everything
everyday. I wish I could, but whatever is fair that you can keep
going, you feel happy with that.
Caul if low ex you think that you've get to get six dollars a
box to break even. If you can get over six dollars a box then you
start to make a little. Lettuce is almost five dollars a box that
yeu have to make to break even. Lettuce all summer; as long as I
had lettuce all summer long it was three and three and a half
dollars a box.
Lage: So yeu don't even break even.
Alaneda: No, I wouldn't be surprised if this summer we probably lest
$150.000 en lettuce.
Lage: Now. is that competition from Mexico and places like that?
Alaneda: No. in summertime it was just all over. It's Salinas. Castreville.
Watsonville. all the way up along the coast. Farming is so bad in
cotton and wheat and all those things, that people just are not
growing them; so they're switching to ether crops like broccoli*
cauliflower, and things that they have a chance to make something
on. If you plant grain and you know it's so much a bushel before
yeu planted it. you're either going to make it or you're not.
Effect of Government Policies and the National Ecenemy
Lage: So you're affected by all these nationwide trends in agriculture?
Alameda: Oh. sure. If farmers are suffering in seme parts of the country,
it's going to be bad all over. I think our whole economy is the
same way. If the farmers do bad it's going to catch up whether
it's buying trucks and tractors or whatever. I don't know what's
going to change. We do such a good job that I guess we're our own
worst enemy. But we used to grow lettuce and think that four
hundred cartons to the acre was a heck of a deal. Now you do it
and you get eight, nine hundred cartons.
Lage: Now, what makes the difference?
Alameda: Well. I don't knew. Maybe these laser scrapers and all these
ether things, and fertilizing and the right drainage, sprinklers.
In cauliflower, four or five hundred cartons to the acre used to
be good. New they get seven, eight, nine hundred cartons to the
Lage: That's amazing.
Alaneda: So we do a better j ob.
Lage: That pushes the prices down?
Alameda: Well, if you overproduce if you check the market news, and
there's fifty or sixty thousand cartons of cauliflower shipped a
day. the price will probably be about six dollars.
Lage: That's your breakeven point.
Alaneda: Then if you see that there's a hundred thousand or a hundred and
twenty thousand shipped a day. the price is going to be three
dollars. It's just that the buyer's got so many places to go get
it, so everybody's trying to unload. If it ever gets below fifty
thousand, then that's good good for us. net good for the
consumer. I think that the one thing that keeps the cest of
living down is the price of food.
Lage: Well, the price of oil dees something there, toe.
Alameda: Well, the lower price of oil has just happened in the last year
and a half. Last year I paid as high as 83 cents a gallon for
diesel for my tractors, and they were riding high then. Now, I
think this year it's been as low as 34 cents a gallon.
Lage: Overall, though, are your costs going steadily up, is that part of
Alameda: Sure, certainly. Labor goes up, all your parts go up, tractors go
up. A tractor in 1950, the D4-Cat cost $4,000. If you bought
that same tractor today if you could buy it it would probably be
Lage: That's a big investment.
Alameda: Yes, big investment, especially when you think that it cost maybe
fifteen times more than it did thirty years ago and yet the price
of tomatoes is the same.
Lage: So you have to increase your yield.
Alameda: You've got to do something, but there's got to be an end to it
someplace. That's why I say I think I don't know the figures
Alameda: but I think in this country something like 16 percent of our
income on the average goes to food, something to that effect. I
heard. You just go to seme of these ether countries, and it goes
anywhere from we're the lowest 16 on up to as much as 90
percent. So people in this country have gotten a good break as
far as food goes. I don't know, maybe they won't do anything
about it. but it's going to hit home one of these days when you
have to start importing it all. I think.
I guess we've got a lot of land, we've got a lot of know-how,
we've get these different varieties; I find that there's no end to
what they're doing.
Lage: Do you think there's need for mere government support?
Alaneda: We've never had any of it. I wish they wouldn't have any, period.
Lage: You don't think that helps?
Alameda: No. I don't think it helps. Never, never have I ever seen anybody
in what we're doing get a support of any kind. Right now they're
helping those guys in the valley, I understand, for net raising
cotton and not raising wheat they're getting seme kind of subsidy
for that but it seems to me they ought to be pulling that acreage
out of production if they're paying for it. So what are they
doing? They're not planting cotton, they're not planting wheat,
but they're planting broccoli and cauliflower to compete with
somebody else who's net getting anything! It seems to me they've
already got a head start.
Lage: Sounds like they do.
Alameda: Yes. If that's what they're doing it doesn't seem right to me,
but I guess I don't get involved enough. I stay out here, because
I have a tendency to get mad too fast. Out here, if it's warm you
decide you're going to put the water on and you put the water on.
if you're going to cut you're going to cut, and you're not allowed
the luxury of two or three weeks discussing it with somebody. If
somebody's going to hit your pipe you tell them to step. I find
it hard to sit and discuss with anybody some little thing which
seems to me that you're going to solve immediately if you want to.
But if you listen to two people talk about the same thing it's
going to take you twice as long to make up your mind and if you've
got ten people it's going to take you ten times longer. I'm not
very patient with that. Thank goodness there is somebody like my
dad was and other people that do those things.
Raising a Family on the Ranch
Hew about your sons?
Do they get involved in mere political
Well. yes. they're good. Steve is in the Farm Bureau and he was
vice-president. He was going to be the president of the Farm
Bureau ever in Livermore and Pleasanton and Fremont area this
year, and then he went to Tuma the ether day so he had to back
off. but he was going to be president this year. He would have
been a good one.
Craig's on the board of a couple different things. He's the
one in the office. He had the business management. He's a smart
They didn't all take agriculture in college,
engineering; one. business?
They took one.
Yes, and Steve took crop science that deals with the soils and
all that, the insects and the soil diseases. Craig took ag
business management, and Tony took ag engineering.
I see. That was a good planning.
Tea, You know, if I would have sat down forty years ago and said
this is what I want. I couldn't have planned it to have it work
out any better, because nothing ever works out: somebody gets
mad. somebody but we still get along. I guess maybe I'm the
worst one in the bunch. I fly off the handle. But if things
aren't right. I get mad.
Sure, there's a lot at stake. I can see why you get mad.
It's my philosophy that if you're just a nice guy, they just walk
all ever you. So you try to be a nice guy, and everybody thinks
I'm a real sweet, nice guy, never get mad [laughter], but then
ether people see the other side of you, and they can't stand you,
Well. I haven't run across anyone who has said that about you.
That's what I say, there's always two sides. I don't mind the bad
side, really. Out here over the years both my kids the one in
Yuma right now, he talks Mexican and does a good job of it. I
don't I still find it hard to say that word, Mexican. It's
always Spanish, and you speak Spanish. I happened to go one time
with a fertilizer company we went to Spain and I found out there
was a difference between Spain and Mexico. If you call somebody
from Mexico Spanish, they're not. So, as I said, you've got to
call them like it is. If they're from Mexico, they're Mexican.
A^Alameda But it always seemed to me a slang word. I knew it bothered my
father. He was Portuguese and if somebody called him a
"pertagee." he didn't like it. I laugh at it because if somebody
finds out it bothers you they do it more, and so it doesn't bother
me. I don't care.
Lage: Besides you're Norwegian.
Alameda: Yes. yes. I'm Norwegian. [laughter] My mother worked out at the
packing shed packing tomatoes and raising kids. I've raised my
four kids, even my daughter, out on the ranch, working for
somebody else. But it didn't matter: I had my pickup, and on
Sundays the only outing was out riding around the ranch. When
they got a little bit bigger, maybe I could think of some reason
for them to get en the tractor and move it for me down to the
other end of the field because I needed it over there which I
didn't really, but they all thought they were helping. I haven't
had a lick of trouble with them. Nowadays, with all these drugs
and everything, I wouldn't want to do it again.
Lage: Well, you did it the right way. Hew about their kids? Are they
old enough to be out here yet?
Alameda: My oldest grandchild is six years old. Maybe a little more active
than something that I'd care for. I'm not a very good
grandfather. I'm supposed to spoil him. but I find that I want to
also break their spirit like I did my kids. I guess. I probably
did wrong. I think you've got to be mere aggressive. My kids are
good kids, but they'll back off in a corner and sit there and
enjoy themselves; but they won't come forth, and I think you have
to do that.
Lage: So they don't have the aggressive ?
Alaneda: Yes, especially the one that's selling in there. You've get to
blow your own whistle because nobody else will do it for you.
Lage: What about your wife [Lorraine Alameda]? Has she had a role in
the farming operation?
Alameda: Yes, by maintaining our home, advising and teaching for thirty-six
years. She has been a "professional" mother.
Lage: We'd better close off because I think I'm cutting into your day.
Alameda: You'll find that I just keep talking en and on
Transcribed by Brenda Stine
Final Typed by Judy Smith
TAPE GUIDE Mel Alameda
Date of Interview: November 17. 1986
tape 1. side A 211
tape 1. side B 222
tape 2. side A 235
tape 2. side B 248
INDEX Volume I
agriculture, Patterson Ranch
coexisting with residential
neighbors. 188-189. 196-198.
202, 222-223, 243-245
costs. 203-204. 253-255.
See also Williamson Act
crops, 30. 54. 67. 87-88, 174-
175. 183-185, 229-232. 235
draft animals, 35. 67, 75, 88-89
equipment, 35, 67. 74-75. 88-89,
180-183, 217-218. 223, 224-226,
labor, 37, 89-91. 118-119. 167-
168, 175-177. 178-180, 198-201,
223-224, 231-232, 238-239, 247-
marketing. 36, 54, 177-178. 229-
pesticides, 188-189. 212, 235-236
sugar beet harvest, 54-55, 79-80
See also dairy farming, Patterson
Ranch; Patterson Ranch, tenants;
Williams, L. S.. Company
agriculture, southern Alameda
See also Logan Ranch; agriculture,
Patterson Ranch; Williams, L.
S. , Company; Alameda and Sons
Alameda and Sons farm operation, 19,
190-192, 211-258. 232-233, 249-
See also agriculture. Patterson
Alameda County Water District
board of directors, 21-22, 242
See also water quality
Alameda, Craig, 256
Alameda, Lorraine, 257
Alameda, Mel, 190-192, (Int.) 211-
Alameda, Steve, 256
Alameda. Tony [Antone Edward, father
of Mel], 215-217. 234. 241-242
Alameda, Tony. [Son of Mel], 256
Ardenwood Regional Preserve
farming operation, 239-241
G. W. Patterson house, 29-30
water quality problems, 16-18
Borghi, Elvamae Rose, (Int.) 28-40
Borghi family dairies, 1-9. See
also dairy farming
Borghi. Frank, (Int.) 1-23, 34-35
bracero program, 155-157, 198-200,
Brooks, Jack. 187
Brown, Joseph, 13. 46-50. 57, 59-
Brown, Mary, 47
Brown, Ruel, (Int.) 46-60
California Milk Company, 3, 4, 7,
Chinese farm families, 31-32, 114,
Citation Homes, 187
dark. Ed, 137-138
Coyote Hills Regional Park. 219,
dairy farming, Patterson Ranch, 14,
demise of, 10-11
operation, 7-9, 12
Depression, 1930s, 4, 6-7, 14, 36,
53, 77-79, 101-102. 146
East Bay Regional Park District. 17
See also Ardenwood Regional
education. See Washington Township,
farm laborers. See dairying.
laborers; agriculture, Patterson
Ranch, labor; Williams, L. S. ,
flood control, 168-169, 215
floods, northern plain, 19, 29, 38-
39, 55, 70, 103. 115. 133-136
Fremont, Ca. See agriculture,
Patterson Ranch; Patterson Ranch
Fremont, Ca. , incorporation, 194-
Fudenna Brothers, 171-173
Furtado, Donald, (Int.) 67-91
Goeld, Tillie Logan, (Int.) 97-106
Goold, Vernon, 97-106 passim
housing development. See Patterson
Ranch, development of
Kerr, Rebecca, 97-102
Logan farm, 99-106
Logan, James, 97-102, 106, 128
Martin, Henry [or Manual] , 13 , 48
May, August, 77-78
McKeown, Nancy, 112-138 passim
McKeown Ranch, 97
McKeown, Wallace, (Int.) 112-138
Northern Plain, Fremont. See
Washington Township; agriculture,
Patterson, Andrew, 128-129, 138
Patterson, Donald, (Interviewer,
112-138). 163. 165-168. 219. 245-
Patterson. George Washington, 113-
114. 115-116. 127. 131, 137-138
Patterson, Georgia, 80-81
as landlord/employer, 14-16, 29,
33, 48-49. 59-60. 71-73. 76-77.
home. See Ardenwood Regional
Preserve. G. W. Patterson house
Patterson Livermore Ranch, 54, 138
Patterson Ranch, southern Alameda
agricultural value of land, 214-
cattle. 13. 73-74, 114, 116-118
development of, 169, 186-187,
213-216, 237-238, 244-247
employees on. 47-50, 53, 75-76,
hunting on, 81-82, 125. 220
Indian relics on. 220-221
levees and creek diversion, 135,
tenants, 29-33, 35-37, 50. 71-72.
74-75. 163-167. 170-171. 212
tree management, 82-84
under G. W. Patterson. 113-117
water system. 227-228
wildlife on. 125-127
See also agriculture, Patterson
Ranch; dairy farming, Patterson
Patterson, Sarah, 81
Patterson, William D. . 16, 34, 49.
51. 59, 163. 213
as director, Alameda County Water
District, 16. 69
Rose, Clarence Robert, 28-30, 33-37
Rose. Elvamae. See Borghi, Elvamae
Rose, Mae Bertha, 28, 32, 38
Singer Reusing Company. 186-187
Stadler. Jack. 7
taxes. 105-106. 203-204
Vierra brothers dairy, 3
childhood in. 11-13. 30, 39. 47.
ethnic groups in, 1-2. 6-9. 28.
31-32. 46-47, 57-58. 75, 99-101,
living conditions, social life in,
56-57, 90, 98-100. 104. 127-130
Northern Plain early families,
112-113, 119-124. 127-133. See
also McKeown, Wallace; Logan
schooling in. 4-5. 20-21. 38. 52-
54. 98-99. 102, 106. 124
water availability, artesian wells,
49. 124-125, 134, 192-194
water quality, 17-19, 22, 69-70,
water rights, Alameda Creek, 68-69
Williams, Gene. (Int.) 145-204,
Williams, Lei and Stanford, 145-148,
Williams, L. S. , Company, 146
crops. 153-154. 157-161
farm labor, 155-157,198-201
packing and marketing operation,
plant pests and disease, 159-161,
sugar beet harvesting, 153-154,
See also agriculture,
Williamson Act, 204
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, with major
in history, 1963
M.A. , University of California, Berkeley, history, 1965
Post-graduate studies, University of California, Berkeley,
1965-66, American history and education; Junior
College teaching credential, State of California
Chairman, Sierra Club History Committee, 1978-1986; oral
history coordinator, 1974-presr^it
Interviewer/Editor, Regional Oral History Office, in the
fields of conservation and natural resources,
land use, university history, California political