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A Few More Memories re: Terror On Massol Avenue!!!

by edhawk on July 26, 2013

 This is what I like to call “Rustling up the Leaves” or, more san-jose-old-city-hallliterally, stirring up some old, forgotten memories.  The Massol Dragstrip post got me these comments which I thought I might share:

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Submitted on 2013/07/24 at 7:40 pm by BobR

What a great Blog. Brought back many memories of the 50s. My friends and I would also drag up and down Massol, and wait until the two cops were busy at one end of town. Then we would either play ditch at the other end, or, as I did once, drive my car backwards the length of Santa Cruz Ave. Those were truly the good old days.

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Submitted on 2013/07/24 at 12:13 pm davidn 

Interesting story Mr. Bellezza. It brought back a memory of a “right of passage” pact that my buddies and I had in the middle 1950′s. (If you are familiar with the San Jose Police Station back in the 1950′s you can skip to the last paragraph.)

The San Jose Police Station was located in the middle of what is now Casar Chaviz Park on North Market St. The park is a large oval surrounded by southbound Market on one side and northbound Market on the other. The park is across the street from where th Fairmont Hotel is today.

The Police Station had a tunnel running underneath it that connected the two sides of Market St. The police would go down through this tunnel to unload prisoners. It was not open for the public to drive through.

There were stop lights at both of the intersections where the tunnel came out. They were regular traffic except the police could control them when they needed to make access or quick exits from the station.

At any rate (now that you know the geography of downtown San Jose) our “right of passage” was when anyone got their driver’s license they had to go run the red lights on both sides of the police station. I’d guess there were 35 to 40 kids that did this and believe it or not… not one single guy ever got caught.

Amazing I think… and pretty silly. Kids?!

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Submitted on 2013/07/24 at 1:09 am by garyh

This is a good buildup, but … what hppened?

I remember some of my brother’s friends being into drag racing down First and Second streets, downtown San Jose. I thought it was silly. Lots of games with the cops and lots of tickets. How about going out on the Interstate on those long, straight runs in the desert, where you can really let it out? Some of the guys had a dirt track where they could race legally.

I didn’t have a car of my own until after I got married and had a job. Before that, I could get everywhere I wanted to go on my bike.

My only experience dragging was on my bike. I had a stripped track bike. No brakes, no derailleur, no coaster. The pedals turned a large sprocket in front and the chain went around a small sprocket in back. It was direct drive. If I moved my feet, the rear wheel turned. If the rear wheel turned, my feet moved. To slow down and stop, I pedaled backwards. It was a very high ratio for high speed sprinting. It was very light, it had wood rims, and I could lift it with one finger. The aircraft steel frame went “ping” when you hit it with your finger nail, not “thuk” like most bikes. It had down bars so you rode tight and streamlined. At race speeds, drag of an upright body would slow you down.

I pulled up to the signal on Camden at Union and leaned on the pole. A station wagon pulled up in the fast lane. I recognized the driver as one of the dragsters, Bonasera. He was said to have one of the fastest cars on the strip. This was surprising, because a station wagon is pretty heavy, but he had something under the hood that more than made up for the weight. Then a little red sports car pulls up next to me in the slow lane. There is a cute blonde in the passenger seat. The driver looks over at Bonasera and revs his engine. Vroom, vroomumumum. Bonasera looks over and VROOMMUMOOMMMOOMMM. The race is on. I want to see the outcome. It will be decided somewhere between Union and the next signal at Bascom. Camden curves to the right, so I must move out if I am going to be able to see the outcome. I cock my legs and hunch down, ready to bolt at the green light. It’s GO and we are off. With a much higher power to weight ratio, I start in the lead. I hear the roar of engines behind me, but I am intent on keeping as far ahead as I can for as long as I can. I need to get to the bend in the road before they pass me. I’m coming up to the last ramp out of the Camden High School parking lot when I hear the sports car coming up on my tail. I look back and he is frantically working the stick. He is looking straight at me. He is racing me. Bonasera is no where in sight. He gets it into high gear and pulls past me just at the far end of the high school track. A while later, Bonasera pulls past me, not even trying.

I talked to Bonasera the next day at school. He said he had no intention of dragging Camden Avenue, too much risk of a speeding ticket. He had a middle age man challenge him to a drag and he revved his engine. The light changed and the old man raced off. Bonasera smiled as he went by where the cop had pulled him over.

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san-jose-old-city-hall

This is a picture of the San Jose City Hall from 1889 to 1958 which I found in the web site “Photo Bucket.”  On the right side, bottom,  you can see two short walls that adjoin the sidewalk.  Between them is the ramp leading down to the jail, as davidn describes in his comment above.

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During my search for the photo of the city hall, I stumbled into the following promotional short film on You Tube, commissioned by the San Jose Chamber of Commerce in 1951.  For us watching streaming movies on our cell phones today, this is so cute, quaint and provencial but just think, it was cutting edge technology in its own day.  To get a little perspective, when the commentator starts talking about the modern houses, pay attention to the sign behind the girls.  The pictures are of the building of Cambrian Park area houses.   The film was posted to the web by the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County in 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI253Joyp6I

Transferred & Edited by William Foley
A Part of the Pioneers Film Archive.
©2011 California Pioneers of Santa Clara County

 

 

 

 

 

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