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.
Town of Altamont not much but history now
By Barry Schrader.................................August
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 Brenzels Union 76 at the corner of North
L and Chestnut. The deserted station still stands there today.
Now lets 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 schools 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 Altamonts 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. Shes even planning
a 2006 calendar featuring the project with photos from our Altamont and
some history. Ill 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 sayheres
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 thats 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 :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551