January 17, 2006 > Vote for Fremont
Vote for Fremont
December 1955 ended with the terrible flood called "the worst disaster in Washington Township history." Many residents spent their holiday helping friends and neighbors scoop mud out of their damaged homes. The News Register headline for the December 29 issue read "Thousands Flee Floods Here," and the issue featured a full page of flood photos as well as "Good Wishes For The New Year."
Niles residents took time off from "mopping out their flooded houses" to rail against Water District directors and others to fix the blame for the disaster, while some residents reminded voters that they had voted down flood bonds last year.
There was some good news. Steel workers hosted their annual Christmas party for some 200 children at the Niles Theater, even though they had been thrown out of work by their mill which was hip deep in flood waters. The Township Chamber set up a flood relief fund to operate through the Red Cross. The Irvington Kiwanis gave baskets of gifts and food to needy families. The March of Dimes opened their campaign for 1956 with the slogan "Polio Isn't Licked Yet." A labor pool to coordinate volunteers was set up in the Centerville Armory on Alder Avenue. Banks set up special loans for flood victims and the News Register announced the winners of the Christmas decoration contest.
The State of California let bids for the Eastshore Freeway from Mt. Eden to Alviso School and announced plans to build to Warm Springs by 1958. The county held hearings on a proposal to build an atomic research plant in the hilly pastures east of Sunol.
January sales continued as in past years with a few modifications due to the floods. Town & Country Home Furnishings offered to clean - free of charge - all carpets and rugs sold by them that were damaged by the floods.
Residents were reminded of some important January elections. Irvington voters balloted for school bonds and state money to rescue their "jam packed district." Directors of the Township Hospital District called an election for January 31 to approve expansion bonds because the plan for 50 beds was deemed inadequate.
However, the "really big news" was all about the January 10 election for the proposed city of Fremont. Absentee voters were reminded to get their ballots in by January 9. Residents were invited to meetings about cityhood including a forum on January 4 at the high school where the candidates were introduced. A flyer by the Fremont Citizens Committee pronounced the advantages of home rule and asked residents to "Vote Yes for Fremont Incorporation." Superior Court Judge Allen G. Norris and Judge E. A. Quaresma announced their support stating the time had come.
The proposed city covered some 99 square miles with a population of about 25,000 people. Centerville reported about 9,000 people, Irvington 7,500, Niles 6,000, Mission San Jose 3,000 and Warm Springs about 750. The five towns occupied less than one-fourth of the area. Over 17,000 acres were devoted to farming activities.
Voters in the five communities registered their votes and the ballots were carried to election headquarters at Centerville to be counted. Radio, newspaper and television representatives covered the historic event. The ballot count showed a high 74 percent turnout with 3,465 voters for incorporation and only 1,852 against. Voters also favored the city manager form of government and chose John L. Stevenson (Centerville) Bruce E. Michael (Warm Springs) Michael J. Overacker, Jr. (Mission San Jose) Winifred H. Bendel (Niles) and Wallace R. Pond (Irvington) as their council members.
The Oakland Tribune for January 11 carried the headline, "Overnight a City is Born" with photos of the five council members and people expressing their joy at victory demonstrations. Roy Mathiesen was pictured writing returns on an election headquarters blackboard.
The News Register headline for January 12 read "Fremont! City is Voted 2 to 1." The front page featured election news and pictures of the five elected council members. The paper noted that the election headquarters in the old Bank of America building at the corner of Main and Fremont in Centerville, rang with cheers when the victory was announced at 8:40 p.m. Final tallies at about 10 p.m. showed that "every precinct and every town had healthy yes votes for home rule."
The five top candidates who "were elected to guide this great city of Fremont" caucused and decided to meet informally the next day to map an action plan. Each council member had an encouraging comment. Wally Pond said, "Perfect. There's a candidate from every town." Winifred Bendel declared the city "a great challenge." Michael Overacker said he would continue to heed the plaints of farmers squeezed out by development. John Stevenson said, "What an opportunity for all of us," and Bruce Michael summed up by saying, "With good planning we can outdo any community around the Bay."
George Silliman, mayor of Newark, was one of the first to offer aid to the new city. Newark had incorporated September 13, 1955 and the council faced many of the problems of Fremont- though on a smaller scale. Mayor Silliman sent a letter of congratulations to the council members and pledged Newark's cooperation. He expressed "hope that many of our problems can be worked out together."