Santa Clara County - Willow Glen, San Jose
March 12, 2003
Juanita, Pine, Willow Glen Way
- a quiet slice of life
by Jacqueline Ramseyer
Comforts of Home:
Of all the residents of Juanita Avenue, Sal
and Rosalie Turturici have lived there the longest. They
purchased their home in 1941 and have been anchors in the community
for 62 years.
When Sal and Rosalie Turturici moved into their Juanita Avenue
home in 1941 their street looked very much as it does today—with
an eclectic mix of architectural styles and an abundance of
trees—but since those World War II days the surrounding
area and city have changed tremendously. In those early years
there were fewer homes on Pine Avenue and Willow Glen Way, and
Louise and Ellis avenues didn't yet exist. In their place were
beautiful apricot and cherry orchards, Rosalie says.
Although all the other original owners of Juanita Avenue homes
have passed away or moved, the Turturici’s have remained.
They moved in 12 years after their house was built and are now
the avenue's oldest residents. But the turnover in the area
hasn't affected the residents' desire to get to know their neighbors.
Every year Juanita Avenue holds a block party in the small "park"
in the middle of their street—a grassy area with a few
trees. The neighborhood also holds birthday parties and Christmas
"It was great raising kids on this street because I knew
Sal and Rosalie or other neighbors could watch them informally
while I ran to the grocery store," says Kathy Harwood,
58, who moved to the street in 1972.
Her neighbor Greg Yoder, 44, says the neighborhood is very secure.
But he mentions one negative aspect of living on Willow Glen
Way and Pine and Juanita avenues—the home remodeling.
Residents complain that the construction is noisy and that the
resulting "monster houses" are invading their privacy
and changing the feel of the area, with people in the larger
houses able to see into neighbors' yards more easily.
But construction in the neighborhood is being done not only
to make houses larger. The area's status as a wetland also requires
residents to fix their house foundations.
Because the Guadalupe River has flooded the area in the past
and water is just beneath the surface of the ground, house foundations
are sinking, says Dennis Connally, 50, who has lived on Willow
Glen Way for 27 years. Connally points out that the chimney
of his house, which was built in 1937, is crooked due to the
"We had our house [worked on] last year, but it's just
something we continuously accept," says Willow Glen Way
resident Debbie Malone, who has problem with house sinkage as
well. "The positives of the area outweigh that, like having
three redwoods in the backyard and sycamores in the front and
living near the park." Many of the homes on Willow Glen
Way sit on lots 50 feet wide and 160 feet long. The lots are
narrow but deep, Connally says.
The area's swampy wetland wasn't a problem for very early Willow
Glen residents because the first settlers in Willow Glen were
the California Indians of the Costanoan tribes. For them the
land held an abundance of fish, geese and wild berries in the
creeks and marshy area, according to The Willow Glen Neighborhood:
Then and Now, by April Hope Halberstadt.
The area's attraction
Residents say it was River Glen Park and the abundance of greenery
that drew them to the neighborhood. Located on Parkside and
Pine avenues, the park has a baseball diamond, basketball courts
and playground structures.
Bob Labeau moved into his house on Pine Avenue 22 years ago,
which was built in 1946, because he wanted to live near a park
to walk his dogs, he says. Labeau says Pine Avenue residents
don't have block parties but some attend the party that's held
in late fall on Juanita Avenue.
For his neighbor Steve Abney, the attraction was the variety
of architecture in the area. "I like the proximity to the
downtown area and that it feels like a town rather than a big
city," says Abney, who has young children. "The homes
aren't tract¬ type; they have personality." Like many
of his neighbors on Pine Avenue, he has added onto his house,
he says. "Everyone here really cares about their home and
keeps the yards nice," says Abney.
The demographic on Pine Avenue varies from young families like
the Abneys to longtime residents like Trinidad Valadez, 77,
who has lived on the street for more than 40 years. "I
raised my children here, and they loved going to the park,"
River Glen Park is a major reason families look for homes around
Willow Glen Way and Juanita and Pine avenues. The basketball
courts and the playing fields are enjoyed by residents and nearby
The sewer issue
Many homes in Willow Glen were built in the 1920s, when there
was a population increase. This is when most of the homes on
Juanita Avenue were built. Although the city of San Jose had
a public sewer system in place by 1880, some Willow Glen homes,
like the Turturicis', had a septic system.
This came as a surprise to the Turturicis. Shortly after moving
into their English Tudor¬style house in 1941, they called
a plumber to have a pipe fixed and discovered they had a septic
tank in their backyard.
The need to get hooked up to San Jose's sewer system was one
of the primary reasons Willow Glen chose to unincorporate as
a city and voted for annexation into San Jose in 1936. Willow
Glen became an incorporated city in 1927 but it only lasted
for nine years—largely because of the sewers. With the
population growing in the 1920s, a sewer system was needed,
according to Halberstadt's book on Willow Glen.
"Most people hooked up to the city of San Jose's main sewer
line after Willow Glen was annexed into San Jose, but someone
was renting our house at the time and didn't want to pay the
money for the sewer, which was about $1,000 at the time,"
says Sal Turturici, 82, who was born in Willow Glen.
Hooking the plumbing up to the city's sewer system was the couple's
first big expense on the house, Sal says. They haven't remodeled
anything on the outside of the house except to install a new
roof, which cost more than the price of the house in 1941.
The early years
In 1853 the city of San Jose was divided into four quarters,
with Willow Glen known as the Fourth Ward. Sal Turturici was
born in the "Goosetown area" around Willow Street,
where many Italian immigrants settled in the 1800s.
There weren't many high schools in San Jose when the Turturici’s
went to school in the 1930s. Willow Glen High School was built
in 1950. So Sal attended San Jose Technical High School, where
he learned automotive skills, and Rosalie went to San Jose High
School. The couple was married when they were 21 years old.
"When we married my high school principal lived in the
corner house on Juanita Avenue, and he was amazed one of his
students was buying a home because Willow Glen was a really
classy area," Sal says.
But Rosalie says at the time "they simple fell in love
with their house and were determined to make it work."
The couple took out two loans and committed to paying two mortgages
as they struggled to make ends meet because Sal was only bringing
in $30 a week. Neighborhood homes during that era sold for well
under $10,000, but in today's market many of the houses sell
for close to $1 million.
When they moved into their house, every house on Juanita Avenue
had a "beautiful" fish pond in the backyard with bridges.
But many people took them out in the 1940s when they started
to deteriorate and when the frogs jumping in the streets became
As the oldest residents in the neighborhood, the Turturicis
are godparents, adopted grandparents and babysitters for various
neighbors. They also hold parties for which they cook authentic
Italian food. "Everyone respects each other, and it's a
very close neighborhood," Rosalie says. "We attend
lots of neighbors' baptisms, baby showers and graduation parties."
Harwood recently put a sign on a neighbor's front lawn that
read, "It's a boy" as they welcomed a new grandson's
birth. "It's the kind of neighborhood where we all know
each other's schedule and can tell if someone is home without
even knocking on the front door," Harwood says.
While the Turturici daughters were
growing up in Willow Glen, Rosalie says, they shopped at Bergmann's
Department store and watched movies at the Garden Theatre. Both
closed more than a decade ago and are now occupied by other
businesses. They also shopped at other old stores on Lincoln
Avenue. Rosalie bought china from Robert Sawyer China and Gifts
and Sal shopped at George and Inman Clothiers—both opened
in the 1940s.
When the Catholic diocese was founded in 1981 in Santa Clara
Valley, it too was given his name: Diocese of San José.
see St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor with God because he
was the foster father of Jesus. St. Joseph’s Table originated
in Sicily because his intercession is believed to have ended
a famine there. St. Joseph’s Table is actually multiple
tables loaded with breads, cakes, and cookies in symbolic Christian
shapes, such as crosses and staffs. A statue of St. Joseph with
the Christ Child stands at the center. Flowers and fruits abound.
Gifts to the needy are also part of the tradition. Work to prepare
the table is performed as a way to give thanks for favors, make
reparation for sins, and ask for future help.
February 11, I talked about the custom with some second-generation
Italian-American grandmothers and great-grandmothers. We met
where the ladies gather for coffee after daily Mass, at Rollo’s
Doughnuts, across from Holy Cross Church in northside San Jose.
Holy Cross started as a mission to Italians in 1906, and many
Italians still attend the church.
year old Mae Ferraro makes arrangements for the Mass that usually
is said before the feast. Mae told me that chairperson Rosalie
Turturici and volunteers were already at work to prepare and
freeze food for the event. The pastor, Fr. Firma Mantovani,
C.S., told Mae they cannot say a Mass this year, since the feast
falls on the Wednesday of Holy Week, but he will bless the table.
Even though the diocese has moved the celebration of the feast
to March 15, the group was permitted to host St. Joseph’s
Table on the traditional date.
Ciraulo, Mabel Maninna, and Rose Santanocito spoke about pasta
served with a traditional marinara sauce made with fennel (sweet
anise), anchovies, and bread crumbs sprinkled on the top. Some
say the breadcrumbs symbolize sawdust, because St. Joseph was
a carpenter. Because of Lent, no meat is served.
gets a sack with an orange, and a blessed bun and fava bean.
Mae pulled a blessed fava bean out of her purse for me. Pauline
told me a few years ago that if you keep one in your wallet,
they say you will never run out of money. Rose showed me a card
that says if one is in your pantry, you will always have food.
The Catholic Church frowns on “lucky charms,” but
fava beans can be used in a non-superstitious way, as a reminder
ladies remembered St. Joseph’s Tables in homes. Children,
called “the saints,” would dress up as the Holy
Family. Mae remembers her brother played Joseph. The three saints
would be given a place of honor and a taste of each dish. Pauline
recalled that the saints would knock on doors, and they would
be turned away until they reached the third home.
an interview this week, Chairperson Turturici, another 88 year
old, told me that three volunteers are from Santa Clara: Camela
Gullo, Bessie Nicocia, and Frances Magio are also in their 80s
(“one is 88, and the other is 89”). They worked
on “every [table] we have had since Day One.” Turturici
told me, “Every year I’m in a pinch. I decided I
could handle it again this year only because my daughter retired
and could help me.”
the volunteer pool is aging, the custom is in danger of dying
out. Four years ago, two groups were still hosting public St.
Joseph’s Tables, St. Clare’s Parish in Santa Clara
and the Italian American Heritage Foundation. Now only one group
is left. If you are interested, this year’s event might
be one of your last chances to take part.
Italian American Heritage Foundation
425 North Fourth Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: 408-293 -7122
Below: The Italian Church Ladies in 2005. Rollo’s owner
Paul Keonakhone pours coffee for
Dolores Spada (recently deceased), and
Younger blood needed to keep
free feast going [San Jose Mercury News,
20--Some traditions die hard, and I hope that's the case for
the Italian American Heritage Foundation's annual St. Joseph's
-- led by the family of Rosalie, Sal and June Turturici -- served
fish, pasta Milanese and countless Italian pastries and breads
to about 300 people Wednesday, which was St. Joseph's Day.
trying to keep this old tradition alive, but I don't see many
younger people here," said Rosalie Turturici, who's in
her 80s and has been volunteering at the event for years.
meal's free for anyone who comes through the door -- you don't
have to be Italian or Catholic. And any leftovers are donated
to shelters. But the IAHF's Ken Borelli says he's confident
the group can keep it going. "We're going to have it again
next year no matter what."
on - Posted 3/19/2008 www.northside-sj.org/pdf/NNA_Newsletter_Fall_2005.pdf.
26, 2001 Willow Glen, California
Street signs give family names lasting immortality
By Cookie Curci
The early settlers of our Santa Clara Valley have left their
mark on our area's cultural history and, in many cases, their
names as well. Whether it be inventions, commerce or agriculture,
these early contributors to our valley have been honored by
the city with streets baring their surnames.
Stevens Creek Boulevard was named for Captain Elisha Stephens,
the first man to lead a wagon train through the Sierra Nevada
in 1844. McKee Road was named for Henry Mckee, who along with
his son, Joseph, ferried Santa Clara Valley's first shipment
of fruit from the port of Alviso to the bustling little town
of San Francisco. Willow Glen's Coe Avenue bares the name of
the man who created the invaluable process of dehydrating fresh
fruit. Henry Willard Coe's innovative process brought a great
economic boom to our valley's fruit industry.
Some streets, such as Race Street, were named for an event rather
than a person. This original 76-acre plot of land was the scene
of highly competitive bicycle and horse races, ergo the name.
It is said the racetrack was a favorite racing spot for Leyland
Stanford's prize stead "Palo Alto."
Our valley street signs tell the story of our area's heritage.
For example, Blossom Hill Road once represented an incredible
view of a fruitful valley covered in pristine white blossoms.
Today, the name of the street is the only reminder of the beauty
that once was its view. Cherry Avenue, like so many other streets,
was named for the plentiful fruit trees that once graced the
In addition to the more famous street names, there are others
not so readily recognized, but whose contributions were equally
as important. They were named for the early farmers and ranchers
who successfully worked their little plots of land. They produced
the labor, fruit and vegetables that contributed to our valley's
early success. This all took place around the turn of the century
when San Jose's population was a mere 29,300. There were seven
banking institutions, 40 church organizations, 627 acres of
public parks and numerous fruit canning companies, among them
The San Jose Fruit Packing Company--at that time the largest
cannery in the world.
Jose has the climate of Italy and the latitude of Washington
making it ideal for the growing of grapes, olives, and fruit
trees. The rich soil was exactly what the young immigrants needed
to shape their new lives. Of these early immigrants, many were
young Italians who came to this country during the great European
migration. Numerous streets bear their names--among them: Albanese
Creek, Azzorello Court, Battaglia Avenue, Bruno Drive, Brunetti
Court,Campisi Court, Cheichi Avenue, Di Napoli Drive, Di Solvo
Drive, Geovani Court, Cribari Lane, Ferrari Avenue, Rubino Way,
Spadafore Drive, Speciale Way and Teresi Court.
As I drive along the outer perimeters of Willow Glen proper,
I can see these names dotted on road signs along Almaden Expressway
and on the quiet side streets of town.
After the Gold Rush, San Jose became a place known for its remarkable
"sunshine, fruit, and flowers." It was this popular
description of our valley that reached the ears of a generation
of Europeans and enticed them to leave their homeland and make
the journey of a lifetime.
Longtime valley residents like myself recall with a certain
reverence those more simple days in our valley's history when
Almaden's backroads were lined with fruit orchards, fields and
livestock. It was a time when most of our families and friends
worked these thriving fruit and nut orchards, a time when a
"chip" was something the cow left behind, a "window"
was for looking through, a "menu" was something you
ordered from in a restaurant and a "mouse," well,
a mouse was something the cat dragged home.
The unique history of these early ranching families is preserved
today in the street signs bearing their surnames. Most of my
own family, including aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins
were among the people who owned and worked these valley fruit
ranches. However, few of them have had streets named for them
because they sold most of their property prior to urban sprawl.
When my great aunt Rose came to this country from Tricarico,
Italy, at the turn of the century, she brought with her the
same desires shared by all of her generation--to marry, raise
a family and to prosper in their new land. Like most of her
generation, her dreams were eventually realized. She married
Rocco Mazzone, they purchased a small Almaden prune ranch and
together raised five children. Her children--Jimmy, Louie, Ben,
Theresa and Nick--like most of their peers, dedicated their
lives to ranching in the Almaden area. Much of the original
Mazzone properties have been sold or parceled out now to accommodate
new multi-home projects.
But as their land becomes more scarce, their name will always
remain behind in the form of a street sign, "Mazzone Drive,"
a kind reminder of a bygone day and a family's contribution.
As young Italian immigrants, my uncle, Vincenci (Jim) Curci,
and his wife, Anne, began their life together on a cherry ranch
on Meridian Avenue. They planted and nurtured rows of bing cherry
trees, which, year after year produced the valley's richest,
reddest cherries (my mouth still waters for the taste of that
the Curci cherry orchard has long since been devoured by urban
growth. However, in recent years, when the city cut through
the land to create a new roadway. The street was judiciously
named for my great uncle Jim and his family, who, for so many
years, worked that bountiful ranch land. And, yes, I must admit
to feeling a sense of pride and family achievement each time
I drive past the street sign. "Curci Drive," like
many of our local street signs, bears the name of an early valley
settler and remains a reminder to us all of the young immigrants
who so generously dedicated their way of life to our valley's
days of "sunshine, fruit and flowers."
Names: The Curci family name has recently joined the ranks of
the many Italian-American settlers whose family names grace
local street signs. Curci Drive, on Meridian Avenue, marks the
area where Jim Curci once farmed a prolific cherry orchard in
the days when the area was known worldwide as the "valley
of the heart's delight."
Cookie Curci can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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