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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Town of Altamont not much but history now

By Barry Schrader.................................August 19, 2005

There once existed a local town called Altamont and if you follow the Old Altamont Road east of Livermore that runs parallel to Interstate 580 you will still see the Summit Garage and a house where the “mayors” of the town lived.

At one time it was a bustling community with a hotel, school, church, post office, several houses and even a railroad station. Originally on the Central Pacific (now Union Pacific) line the depot was built in 1869. The name Altamont in Spanish means “high mountain” and this was 741 feet above sea level, so sort of a high point in the old Livermore Pass, later renamed the Altamont Pass. No, it was not the location of the Altamont Rock Festival (that was at the Altamont speedway in 1969 which is in the Altamont hills south and east of there).

Once called the Stockton Road, this was an early stagecoach trail through the Pass and also the original route of the cross-country Lincoln Highway.

Talking with Betty Armstrong recently, whose father-in-law Bill Armstrong was once the postmaster and “mayor” of Altamont, I learned a lot about the history of the area. The old church, now gone, was later used as a community library and also a dance hall.

Her mother-in-law Irene was a teacher at the Summit School, built in 1870 and closed in 1954 when it fell below the allowable enrollment of five students for a country school. Irene taught there from 1919 to 1921 and then at the end from 1943 to 1954. Most of the ranching families’ children in the Altamont Hills were educated in that school until they were ready for high school in Livermore. It was burned by vandals in 1983, just four years after its sister May School was burned in 1979. May School was built in 1869 and its rise and demise paralleled Summit School to a great extent.

When the new Highway 50 through the Livermore Pass (aka Altamont) was opened in 1939 the little community was bypassed and it became almost a ghost town. But Bill Armstrong kept the post office open until 1955, the garage open much longer with the help of his son Bill (the late husband of Betty Armstrong). Before his death in 1977 I visited the senior Armstrong at his home and he presented me with a business card declaring him Mayor of that community. Since 1978 Frank Moglia has occupied the last residence there and has been dubbed the current “Mayor of Altamont.”

After the family moved to Livermore the younger Bill operated a filling station called Armstrong and Brenzel’s Union 76 at the corner of North L and Chestnut. The deserted station still stands there today.

Now let’s switch to the present and how I came to researching this. Back in the Spring I was contacted by a Mrs. Tina Williams of Altamont, NY, a village of some 1,700 people near Albany. She had organized a fundraiser to help replace a playground at the Altamont Elementary School that had been condemned due to arsenic poisoning. Her idea was to hold a walkathon with the 350 kids in the elementary (K-5) school each walking about 26.2 miles around the school’s interior and exterior or in the village. The students were supported with pledges by the community and they have raised $15,000 so far walking a total of 7,000 miles. Her goal was to have them walk the distance between their town and Altamont, CA. Even though she found out it is a “ghost town” she kept the plan intact and the kids had fun learning about our Altamont’s history as well as burgs with the same name in Utah, Kansas and Illinois. She even contacted Altamont Creek Elementary School in Livermore to get Livermore kids involved and said this week that she plans another walk to promote health and fitness, as well as raise thousands more for that playground. She’s even planning a 2006 calendar featuring the project with photos from our Altamont and some history. I’ll try to let readers know when and where it is available in case they want a souvenir, at the same time helping support her project.

Also this footnote: Dan Silveira is renting the old Summit Garage where he formed a non-profit youth group back in 1998 to accept donated old vehicles and restores them for resale.

* * *

As Paul Harvey, legendary radio newscaster, would say—here’s the rest of the story about two previous column topics.

---First, I just learned that there was a Komandorski Village Grade School back in the 1940s (part of the P-town school system) and one of its teachers starting out in her first job after college in 1947 was Betty Holdener, whom I see at Asbury Methodist Church every Sunday. She is part of the Holdener Dairy family and also has the distinction of being a teacher at May School in the early 1950s--but that’s another story.

---Secondly, the story of the Del Valle Reservoir has more to it. Janet Buckley wrote me that her father, the late Eldred Chance (whose name adorns the school district headquarters), took her to the dam dedication in 1970 and they got to see Gov. Pat Brown there, among other dignitaries. Eldred was on the Zone 7 Water Board at the time, but is better known for his longtime service on the school board.

Now for my correction on the dam statistics: It is really only 235 feet high, not 773 as I reported last week (That would compare to a 70 story building and no doubt violate the Livermore scenic corridor ordinance….). I got the elevation and vertical height figures mixed up and reader Ted Bruce set me straight.

* * *

History mystery for this week: What Cub pack formed a drum & bugle corps in 1945 to march in area parades and take part in rodeo ceremonies?

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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