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January 30, 2007 > Newark Substation

Newark Substation

Demand for quantities of electricity in the Bay Area increased dramatically about the time of World War I. The Mission San Jose Substation soon became inadequate to handle the larger blocks of power and higher voltages required, so PG& E replaced the Mission Station with the new Newark Substation on Weber Road. Buildings and electrical structures were erected to handle the flow of electricity.

Harry Weber, Mission foreman, closed out the station with these words in the logbook, "Station cut out-the end of Mission, farewell-H. W. Weber." Harry moved to the Newark Substation as supervising foreman and established his family home in one of the houses built there by the company for its employees.

P.G. & E. built eight homes at first, added six as more operators were needed and years later built two on the back behind the first homes. The families living in these homes formed a community, a kind of large family. They cared for each other and helped one another, especially during periods of illness. Harry even took grocery lists from families to do their shopping if they wished.

The company provided a club-house with a kitchen, banquet room, stage and bathrooms. The men built an outdoor barbecue pit for summer dinners. Many events such as birthday parties and potluck socials were enjoyed. Community groups, Lions and Rotary clubs also held some of their meetings and socials here. The Newark Substation
Families were also involved in the activities of nearby communities.

Paul Hunt, Walter Steinmetz and Alfred Silva were in the Tangle and Twist Fishing Club's rifle team. They taught young boys the proper use and safety of fire arms in compliance with the National Rifle Association.

The children's lives were quite simple. They made up games, rode their bicycles, skated and visited friends' mothers for cookies and other snacks. The croquet set on the Weber's lawn was very popular. Parents transported carloads of students to Mowry Landing School. Older students walked to the corner of Boyce Road to meet the Washington Union High School bus.

Bernice (Weber) Voorhees, the only child of Harry & Mary Louise Weber, recalled that the following families lived in the houses at the Newark Substation:

Harry & Mary Louise Weber-Harry was very involved with local clubs and Chamber of Commerce.

Frank & Lucy Katzer-Lucy was a past matron of Eastern Star.

Charles & Esther Burtch-Esther was an active member of the Country Club of Washington Township, Toyon Branch of Children's Hospital, past matron of Eastern Star, and secretary of the draft board during the war.
Paul & Lyla Hunt-Lyla was a member of the Country Club of Washington Township, the Toyon Branch of Children's Hospital and Mission Peak Heritage Foundation.

Gerd & Edith Aubrey-Edith was a teacher at Mission San Jose Elementary School.

Other residents included Walter & Genevieve Steinmetz, Everett & Edith Noe, Harold & Eva Trafton, Doyle & Flossie Pennington, Chet & Sue DiGuilio, Mr & Mrs Espe, Mr & Mrs Roy Raymond, Al Hallstrom and his two sisters, Charles Brewer, and Verna and Alfred Silva.

The war years were especially difficult because of the fear of sabotage. The company installed a chain link fence around the entire substation area and kept a guard at the gate. All lights were blacked out at night, and people lived under tension.

The main station building housed the huge generators on the first floor with the operating room and switchboard upstairs. The walls were covered with volt meters that were monitored by the operators. The structures were enlarged several times over the years. Some lines were even rebuilt in 2001 so that additional power could be delivered to Newark.

The Station was described in 1947 as "the nerve center of the PG&E power system and one of the largest transmission stations in the world." It was the key power source for all operations from the Bay Area south to Salinas. Twenty-six transmission lines carrying up to 220,000 volts brought over half a million horsepower of electricity to Newark where it was stepped down, relayed and distributed.

All PG&E employees were members of the Pacific Services Employees Association that provided recreational opportunities for its members. They provided camping facilities with cabins at company dams and power plants throughout California. These soon became popular vacation spots for employees.

Modern transmission methods ended the need for employee houses there so they were dismantled or moved away. It was the end of an interesting era.

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