As I talked to owner Don Cose about the restoration of the hotel, we stood on the sidewalk shaded by towering London plane trees.
Don told me the trees were planted in sidewalk cutouts in the mid-1970s. He had asked the city of Tracy about planting trees there, and he was told the city didn’t have any trees, but he was free to plant his own.
And Don did. The result is welcome shade to the businesses on the north side of Sixth Street east of Central Avenue in an area that otherwise would be blasted by the summer sun.
Yesterday, I went down to Sixth Street to get a closer look at the trees. Having coffee in the shade of the trees in front of Vita Dolce were Tim and Nona Lopez, Barbara Cole and Dorothy Garcia. They all said they wouldn’t be sitting there except for the trees’ ample shade.
The city doesn’t offer carte blanche to plant your own trees anymore, and a couple of years ago it completed a major tree-planting program as part of the streetscape project. The new trees, which flower in the spring and turn golden in the fall, are in planters that extend into the street. The trees are growing, and so is the shade they provide.
But my point is this: What about those areas in the downtown where there are no tree wells in the streets, and where shade is lacking?
I’ve mentioned this before, but I maintain again that it seems entirely feasible to plant trees in sidewalk planters in areas without tree wells in the street and without shade.
The city could lead the way. A couple of strategically placed trees (so as not to obscure the marquee) in front of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts on Central Avenue would be a welcome addition to the greening of the downtown.
By planting trees on the Central Avenue and Ninth Street sides of the Roxy Hudson Fire Administration Building, the city would also eliminate a major tree-bare area of the downtown. And more trees could be planted across Ninth Street, starting at the city parking lot and heading toward B Street.
At 10th and B streets — a major commercial intersection —Ten-Bee Village is without trees in front of its parking lot facing west to B Street. And at the corner of 10th and Central — another key corner — there are no trees to provide shade and green to the Firestone tire and automotive shop.
A Swift half-century
My cap is tipped this week in the direction of a fellow ink-stained wretch on the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley.
My congratulations are headed in the direction of Ron Swift, who became publisher of the Patterson Irrigator 50 years ago last week.
Ron has been retired for a decade, but he still produces a weekly column, “Fast Talk,” for the Irrigator, which I’m proud to say is affiliated with the Press.
Last week, he wrote: “It was 50 years ago today (Aug. 23) that two young Midwesterners burst upon the Patterson scene, ready and willing
to tackle the world and yet without a clue of what they were doing.”
Ron and Ed Sternberg, who had met while attending college in Iowa, were partners for 5½ years before Ed moved to Monterey and Ron became sole publisher, editor, ad salesman and circulation director, “and other duties as assigned.”
He wrote: “Ah, the joys of being your own boss, a position that allows one to work many evenings and not a small number of weekends. That was needed not only to make a go of a small-town newspaper (population 3,012 during its peak season), but also to learn the ins and outs of the publishing game.”
Ron put out a solid weekly newspaper for those 40 years he was publisher, and his column in the Irrigator continues to be an important part of what gives Patterson its unique character.
And that’s especially important as the town grows. Its population, which has ballooned in recent years with an influx of commuters, now stands at more than 20,000. What originally was Patterson Frozen Foods has been closed in the past year, but Amazon.com is building its new Northern California distribution center there, and new jobs and more people are on their way.
Patterson, like Tracy, continues to grow and morph into a town of a different size, shape and mix of residents. For a half-century, one important constant in the town 24 miles southeast of ours has been Ron Swift. Happy 50th anniversary, Ron.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.