How Tracy stacks up against Europe’s cities
by Sam Matthews
Jun 28, 2014 | 2204 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Yes, as you no doubt surmised by reading last week’s column or seeing me ’round town, “I’m back!” My four-week sojourn with wife Joan to Europe has been judged by both of us as a major success, but we were also glad to be back in the old tank town in the valley.

Since then, several friends have asked me what impressed me most on the trip. I replied that it became obvious that the cities and towns with restored and improved historical centers, including centuries-old buildings, were the most popular stops on the trip.

Those places ranged all the way from Duernstein, a small village in Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region on the Danube, up to Wiesbaden, a German city of some 300,000 that has retained its spa heritage and restored its old town with numerous pedestrian streets.

I should note that Wiesbaden was for many years the location of the U.S. Air Force European headquarters. The Air Force has moved out, but the U.S. Army European headquarters is now moving in from Heidelberg. The U.S. military knows an attractive location for its top brass.

A couple of Tracy friends asked me how the hometown looked after visiting a number of cities in Europe.

I replied that, as in Europe, where cities with inviting historical centers were the most popular, Tracy, too, has more than its share of historical ambiance in our downtown.

I did mention, however, that vacant lots and empty building in Tracy’s downtown detract some from the hometown charm.

I suppose I had become accustomed to driving past the huge vacant lot at the corner of 11th Street and Holly Drive, but upon my return, it stuck out like a giant sore thumb. And the vacant lot is right across the street from the old Harry’s Chuck Wagon building, which has been unoccupied for decades.

If the city in any way can encourage the redevelopment of those key parcels, then Tracy’s downtown would take on a lot more luster.

A note from Rita

Last week, a number of Tracyites identified Rita Ng as the person in the Remember When mystery photo. It wasn’t a difficult exercise, since Rita was wearing her crown as 2000 Miss California, and people in our town have followed her academic careers at Stanford and UCSF Medical School.

Well, last week, Rita emailed me a note, reporting that her parents, Ron and Mamie Ng, had seen her photo in the Press and forwarded her a copy.

“I’m living in Montclair now in the East Bay and visiting Mom and Dad in our childhood home,” she said.

As reported last week, after completing a residency in cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, she is now a cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.

If that’s not enough to keep her busy, Rita said she still works with a number of charity groups, gives speeches, serves on boards and performs piano concerts.

And just to confirm what several Tracy friends have told me, Rita and her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Carson Lawall, a Navy neurologist, are expecting their first child in November.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at
Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 09, 2014
I too have just returned from a trip to England, Scotland and France...and while it's wonderful to be home and I love what America represents...I keep feeling saddened watching what's we're doing in so many arenas.

I love the preservation of history abroad...and the connectivity via the rail system...and the overall walkability of so many places.

oh and the actual REAL food instead of the processed stuff? wow. I'm amazed at the obscene amount of fast food we have here and at the exceedingly large number of overweight people (could be a connection yes?) over here...

I agree with the lots and buildings that are just sitting empty perpetually...while others want to just keep developing more and more...we can't even fill what we have!

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