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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Albinos, A Meteor and 99 Acres

By Eric A. Carlson

"Of course now there are no funds to do anything anywhere--except to build a new City Hall."
Judy Thompson

A PECULIAR ITEM caught my eye on the home page of the New Neighborhood Voice, the vastly entertaining and informative newsletter of the San Jose Country Club Neighborhoods (www.nnvesj.org). A FAQ tucked alongside "What happened to the bagpipe music we used to hear in early evening?" and "What plants grow reliably on our hot, dry, windswept slopes?" queried, "Why is Alum Rock Park closed at night?" The answer sent an eldritch chill down my spine.

One might reasonably assume that San Jose politicians are the reason Alum Rock Park is closed at night, by dint of providing no funds for the repair of roads and entrances and generally ignoring the park for the last hundred years or so. The answer is more disturbing. There are clear indications, it turns out, that albinos living in the upper reaches of the park are descending in the evening hours in search of poodles or other prey for food. And the recent difficult pin placements at the San Jose Country Club are viewed as albino tampering by many. Just the other day, the hole on the par-4 eighth "Eucalyptus" was found to be off the green entirely, beneath a large Pride of Madeira--even Ernie Pieper couldn't get at it.

I wouldn't be surprised if the San Jose City Council was involved in some way. There is precedent. And that would be the rape of the old Alum Rock Meteor in 1917. Clyde Arbuckle described the beloved rock thusly: "The greatest noncommercial attraction was a huge black boulder, known as the Alum Rock Meteor, on the north bank of the Penitencia at the lower end of the park. It measured about 20 feet in height by 20 in width, with a nearby sign indicating an estimated weight of 2,000 tons." The "meteor" was a huge attraction that drew thousands to the park, but in 1917, with WW1 ongoing, the large pellet was determined to be manganese--an Earth-based element--that could be sold for the war effort. The San Jose City Council, using the argument that the meteor wasn't a meteor (actually, the proper terminology, after landing, would be meteorite) sold the not-a-meteor to a mining man for $22,000. The boulder turned out to weigh only 389 tons. The mining man went broke, and San Jose didn't get paid a cent. One dead golden goose, compliments of the San Jose City Council. But the story doesn't end there.

In 1959, the Alum Rock Meteor was unearthed in a warehouse in Oakland, stored by the city of San Jose for 42 years. The stone was purchased by Alponse Calderon in 1961, who fashioned the faux meteor into a vernacular tire that stands to this day at Calderon New & Used Tires at 1898 Alum Rock Ave. (see photo). Broad and lively Alum Rock Avenue is the yellow-brick road that leads, ruler-straight, to San Jose's Oz: the San Jose Country Club.

Ninety-nine acres. That is the size of the San Jose Country Club, and nary an acre out of place--despite being on a hot, dry, windswept slope. It is the golf home of Roger Maltbie, who has written a nice homage to the place in the club's centennial (1899-1999) book. Roger hit some pure high notes on the PGA tour and is a lively icon of the club. The centennial book relates a Maltbie moment of 1975, when Roger won a PGA event and a $40,000 check. Roger celebrated to excess and lost the check in a Massachusetts tavern. A new check was issued, and Roger clocked in for further adventures. That is legend I can relate to.

I dined at the club recently with Ed Allegretti, Darek Przgoda, Judy Thompson and Alan Thompson. Judy is the talented mistress of the New Neighborhood Voice site and, with the exception of a fondness for puns, has a keen sense of humor. The newsletter she oversees is one that other neighborhood web newsletters might emulate. A successful blend of entertainment and information.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the May 22-28, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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