Tracing Tracy Territory: The beginning of fall
by Sam Matthews / Tracy Press publisher emeritus
Sep 08, 2011 | 1772 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tuesday was what the day after Labor Day is supposed to be: a signal of the end of summer. And Tuesday’s crisp morning gave just a hint of fall weather that, although not quite upon us, is on its way.

With higher temperatures expected later in the day, it seemed like a good morning for me to get out of the office and take a walk around downtown. I’m glad the mood struck me, and I did just that.

Heading east from the Press office on West 10th Street, I first exchanged morning greetings, as I do most mornings, with Steve, the young, ever-watchful security guard posted in front of Bank of America.

Across the street at Barista’s, I could see that Marvin Rothschild, who arrived there early, was still talking over homeless issues with several others at an outside table.

Crossing B Street, I spied the midmorning coffee group at The Roasted Bean, some seated outside in the shade of umbrellas.

Inside, I spotted Korean War veterans Art Serpa and Al Nigg at a back table, and Bill “W.A.” Duckworth at the front table. Other “regulars,” including World War II vets Bill Miller (Army, Europe) and Don Ridolfi (Marines, Pacific), would be arriving soon, I surmised.

Turning south on Central Avenue, I spotted Louie Lara (the younger) getting tables and chairs aligned in front of Gerard’s Deli. He reported that his uncle Hank (retired barber Hank Granados) is getting along just fine, “and he still talks a lot.” No surprise there.

As I approached the firehouse — er, the Fire Administration Building — a question came to mind: Can’t the city plant some trees on the sidewalks on both sides of Ninth Street between Central and C Street? It’s pretty barren streetscape fronted mostly by city property.

Looking across Central Avenue, I noticed that Bobby Knight had again set up his shoeshine stand in the lot that once was home to Duane Garrison’s Garfree Sporting Goods store. Bobby knows his business, having shined shoes in a Salinas barber shop for a number of years before moving to Tracy two years ago. “Downtown Salinas isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “Too many drunks and druggies.” Tracy’s downtown looks a lot better to him. That’s encouraging.

Walking past the Grand Theatre, I couldn’t help but conclude that the one major flaw in the reconstruction of the Grand was facing the ticket window directly onto the street. Having an entrance in the covered entryway would have provided more protection from the sun or rain. One of these days, that change could be made.

At the corner of Seventh and Central, I ran across Gussie Owen, who also enjoys a downtown walk now and then. She’s a fan of the Remember When “mystery photos” in the Press, and we talked about a photo she had of her parents, Werl and Florence Owen, in their jewelry store on Central Avenue, now long closed. Gussie promised to bring the photo down to the Press.

After making a right turn onto Seventh Street, I stopped a minute to eye the vacant lot on the south side of the street where the Tracy Press was located from 1918 to 1949. I have good memories of my dad, brother Tom and me all working there to get out the paper in the late 1940s.

Another right turn took me onto C Street heading north. I stopped to look over the vacant building at the corner of Eighth and C that originally was the Tracy office of the San Joaquin Public Housing Authority and later home of the Concilio for the Spanish Speaking. The handsome structure, complete with a handicapped-access ramp and fenced-in rear parking area, has been unused for years. What a waste of a public building.

And finally, as I turned west on Ninth Street heading back to the Press, I spotted Mary Ann Rios going to work at Chateau Madrid on C Street. Mary Ann is my barber (I don’t believe men should have hairdressers). We talked about the Labor Day weekend — she reported going to San Jose and Santa Cruz to visit family— and then I made an appointment to have my hair cut next week. One chore completed.

The walk took only a half-hour or so, but I managed to soak up some morning sun, touch bases with a good number of people, and look over some familiar landmarks. It was a great early-fall morning to be walking in downtown Tracy.

n Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at

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