Featured Column
Week of 12.5.2005
Idyllic Willow Glen
          Mary is 92-years old.
          A few times each day she rises from the comfort of her recliner and peers out the window of the den to see if there is anything happening on the streets of Willow Glen, where she has lived in her spacious home since 1955.
          Her eldest son and daughter live a short, ten minute drive from her. A younger daughter lives in San Diego. Her youngest son lives with her and cares for his mother and a coterie of some 34 birds.
           As the attractive elder lady glances towards the tree lined street which has grown familiar to her over the past half-century, she feels comforted by observing the annual ritual of the leaves of the scores of Gingko trees falling and filling the streets and lawns of quiet Willow Glen. The bright, golden yellow Gingko leaves gently blow through the streets, lawns and sidewalks of much of Willow Glen. Visitors to Willow Glen get the impression that a thick, golden snow had fallen, covering the carefully manicured hamlet.
           Willow Glen used to be a small city unto itself, but, since 1936 it’s been part of the City of San Jose. Willow Glen isn’t just another small town annexed to a larger town for financial reasons. This place is gently frozen in time – from a better era.
          Most of the houses in Willow Glen are well set in carefully tended plots of land. The lawns, when not covered by the glorious Gingko leaves, are green and carefully mowed and edged. Many of the houses have been enlarged. A single family home bought in 1955 will now easily fetch 1.3 million. Generations are born, grow and produce more generations here. Many will live all their lives in Willow Glen and never have a thought of living elsewhere on the planet.
          A couple of blocks from Mary’s house, up on Foxworthy Avenue, there’s a small shopping area. There’s a sign at the entrance to the PW Market proclaiming, “Supermarket,” which it probably was when it opened 40-years ago. It will no longer be classified as a supermarket, but the sign remains as much does in Willow Glen – kept as a reminder of good days past.
           A short, middle-aged woman walked through the front door of the PW Market. She spotted an old friend waiting in line and hurried to her, saying, “Oh, Janet, I’m so glad to see you, how’ve you been. How’s your son. I’ve been thinking about both of you.” She took one more step and hugged Janet honestly and with great affection.
           “My, oh, my, I’m so glad to see you. Warren’s home now and feeling better every day. Thanks for asking. How you been feeling?”
           The line inched forward and when Janet reached the PW checker she heard him say, “Janet, Janet, how are you, how’s Warren?” The line moved slowly – there was no hurry. People talked with each other about the war in Iraq, the weather, the price of real estate. Everyone offered, “Have a nice Thanksgiving.”
          The Ginkgo trees are home to thousands of squirrels. These Willow Glen squirrels are a different breed. When they see a human approach they give the intruder a glance and then calmly and slowly head for the safety of the trunk of their home Gingko tree. These squirrels have lost their excitability gene, replaced with the calm pastoral bearing of a Willow Glen resident.
          Neighbors know each other here. They walk out to their mail boxes and meet. They discuss the price of avocados and “Did you see that Mariah girl on TV last night, she was almost naked.” 
          The main street in Willow Glen, Lincoln Avenue, is tree-lined and consists of sidewalk cafes, Italian delicatessens, clothing boutiques and specialty shops. Most of the restaurants and shops are owner-operated. A sign of Willow Glen’s health is the existence of two independent book stores. A rarity in these days of Border’s and Barnes and Noble.
          The people of Willow Glen are diverse. They’re Italian, Asian, Jewish, gay. A blending of Americans.
          Willow Glen is three miles southwest of downtown San Jose, but a thousand miles away from today. The residents must get in their cars and leave Willow Glen to find a Costco, Trader Joe’s, Sears or an In-N-Out Burger.
          Years ago the San Jose City government tried to enlarge some Willow Glen streets but the residents voted the plan down. The streets of Willow Glen remain as they were and probably as they will remain.
          The golden leaves of the Gingko trees continue to fall as winter cools the air of Willow Glen. The stunning yellow beauty of the leaves fills the streets and lawns as Mary peeks out the window of her comfortable den and sees the beauty of Willow Glen as she saw it the first time a half century ago.
The Wonderful neighborhood
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger