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August 2, 2011 > History: 1917

History: 1917

Niles was enjoying a small building boom. The Oliver Brothers erected a garage on the site occupied by the Niles Garage. Thomas Elliott built a cottage next to his blacksmith shop and a permit was granted for the Pickering house on the present Mission Boulevard. Ed Rose became sole owner of the Rose Garage and completed an addition for Ford car accessories. The west subway near the Essanay plant was completed and the California Brick Company erected more kilns.

Other towns also had important building projects. O.N. Hirsch erected a new garage in Irvington by the I.O.O.F. hall. The biggest project was the construction of the F. E. Booth Cannery at Centerville. Ground was broken on the five-acre site in April. F.T. Hawes and W.W. Walton canvassed the area to secure 200 acres of tomatoes to meet cannery needs. The company was shipping 25,000 cases of canned goods daily by fall. The Newark Realty and Development Company made land improvements in Newark.

Business activities related to the war effort were rigorous. The Victory Motor Company that had occupied the Ames Pump Works property the past year was very busy. A night shift was added to meet the demand for Victory engines. Production was sometimes held up by the scarcity of skilled workmen and a shortage of materials.

Other business activity included the opening of the Niles Tavern by George Rose. The tavern was an ice cream parlor that served lunches and advertised an adjacent dancing parlor and tea garden. The new Exel Shoe Store was also opened in the Lynch building in Niles. The Gregory Hotel in Centerville was purchased by J. F. Serpa. The Pacific Telephone Co. located a central telephone office in Niles because of the increased business. Local Chambers of Commerce were actively supporting plans to build the Dumbarton Bridge.

The weather was especially severe in the spring of 1917. Floods washed out the main bridges at Niles creating harsh travel problems. Rainy weather and epidemics of measles led to poor school attendance. Even the teacher at Ward School was absent because of illness. Other schools were closed in April because of measles.

Livermore sent a team of 30 to Niles to reorganize the Foresters (a fraternal order) of the area. Ten members of the organization were reinstated and 15 new members inducted into the organization.

The coming of Chautauqua, the popular adult education movement, to Niles created great interest. Local officials were appointed to supervise the preliminary work to get ready for this great educational and entertainment event coming to Niles in May. Season tickets were being sold for the morning, afternoon and evening meetings for the six day event which featured speakers, teachers, musicians and preachers.

The Washington Union High School class of 1917 was especially talented in track and set several school and league records. Alumni members were hoping to form an Association. The Irvington bowling team was competing with San Jose teams and winning its share of games.

Car sales were big news in 1917. Rose Brothers sold so many new Fords that they had to enlarge their building. The Ford department had become one of their most important branches of business. The Ford was described as "The Universal Car." Hayward salesmen were showing Dodge Brothers Motor cars in Washington Township. Other local cars purchased included Regal, Chandler, Jeffry and Kissel Kar.

A case in Justice J. G. Mattos' Centerville court was enlivened by a man who swore every time he coughed and was arrested for using profane language. Judge Mattos fined him $10 and told him to "try a ten dollar plaster."

The first new potatoes of the year from the Niles hillside were shipped in April and brought a record price of 10 cents per pound. Rhubarb shipments were also beginning from area farms. Apricots were damaged by heavy frosts.

Farm bureau meetings were interesting and well attended events. Topics discussed included control of the Dooryard sow bugs in tomato beds, blackleg in cows, scab in potatoes and aphis on fruit trees.

Water was a big concern for area residents. The Dumbarton Land Co. sued to try to stop formation of the Alameda County Water District. They lost but continued the fight to control the water from the Alameda Creek area.

Thieves were seen removing wire from the Ellsworth Packing House so night watchman, Ed Drennan, and Constable Rose were called. Rose caught one thief, but the other ran away up the canyon. Drennan turned his dog "Sausage" loose and he soon caught the thief.

The year was dominated by war news. Editorials generally supported President Woodrow Wilson and threats presented by the war in Europe. The United States entered the war in April and in May, the Selective Service Act passed requiring men over 21 to register for military service. Families were disrupted by the draft, but patriotic fervor ran so high many were volunteers.

Soon letters were received describing the horrors of war. The government was encouraging increased production of food crops, especially wheat, barley, potatoes, oats, vegetables and meat. Conservation of all waste material, including farm manure was encouraged. People were asked to join the American Red Cross.

At the end of the year local school pupils were sending Christmas letters and donations to orphans in France and Belgium at the request of Red Cross workers. Food donations came from every school in the township.

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