Yesterday the Town of Los Gatos provided an update on the status of Music in the Park during this coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, the Sunday afternoon music events must be skipped in 2020 due to health and safety reasons. Here’s the town’s statement about Music in the Park skipped in 2020:
UPDATE: Due to the unprecedented events of the COVID-19 pandemic, the anticipated continuation of restrictions on large gatherings, and to maintain the health and safety of our community, the Town of Los Gatos has made the decision to postpone the 2020 Music in the Park Summer Concert Series. We look forward to continuing this beloved family friendly tradition in 2021.
Today we think of Los Gatos as being a town with plenty of medical services and we’re very proud of the healing and life saving work that is done there, especially now. But at the start of the 1900s this was just a pretty, agricultural town.
Only after a 1905 British medical publication professed that Los Gatos, CA had one of the most healthful climates in the world did thing start to change, and eventually a hospital for tuberculosis, the Oaks Sanitarium, was built and advertised to meet growing needs.
There were very few doctors in town, so locals who fought severe cases of influenza during the pandemic likely went to the clinics in more populated areas like nearby San Jose. State documents show that additional nursing and medical services were supplied to San Jose and other Bay Area cities.
There were many brave individuals who generously gave their time and efforts to help those in need both during the war and the influenza pandemic which immediately followed. We have details on some of them because their stories had tragic endings and made the news.
The Santa Cruz Evening News on November 2, 1918 remembers Miss Helen C Houghton: “one of the best known and accomplished trained nurses around San Francisco bay, passed away in Berkeley yesterday, having given her life in the performance of her humanitarian duties at the bedside of an influenza sufferer. She contracted the disease and quickly died.” She was survived by multiple siblings including a brother in Los Gatos. Other stories have happier endings. San Jose State Normal School (now San Jose State University) closed twice during the pandemic but students and teachers didn’t get a moment’s rest as many went to work for the cause, whichever one it was at the moment.
“The demands of the past few years for money and time and effort have been so heavy that [in place of social activities] has been unusual activity along the line of war work,—Red Cross, Belgian and Armenian and Serbian relief, and other social service work of any description that beckoned. During the epidemic of influenza last fall, the women of the faculty took entire charge of the diet kitchen in connection with the emergency hospital, and practically the entire personnel of the club was engaged either in this part of the work or in the actual nursing. Later, individual members of the club worked to the verge of exhaustion in the hospital operated by the Normal faculty.” (1919 La Torre, 83).
The Normal Hospital
The Normal Hospital, as they christened it, was a furnished house on 12th Street in San Jose rented for the care and isolation of boarding house residents who contracted flu. It was used from December 10th to February 28th and “During this time twenty-one influenza patients were cared for, all making a rapid and complete recovery.” (1919 La Torre, 86). The author remarks that the emergency hospital stopped the spread of the disease through the school and helped to prevent more school closures. She insists there is a need for “a permanent instead of an emergency hospital.” (87). In March of 2015, San Jose State completed the construction of a new 3 story on-campus health center to serve the health and wellness needs of students, staff, and faculty.
Influenza Pandemic Revisited
The 1918-1920 influenza hasn’t been completely locked in the annals of history. Scientists have studied the virus and others over the last century to better understand and better prepare us for the current (and future) viral dangers. One intrepid pathologist, a Dr. Johan V Hultin, had a lifelong interest in tracking the 1918 virus, but it was late in his career and only after retiring from his practice at Los Gatos Community Hospital (now El Camino Hospital of Los Gatos) that he made strides against that virus. In 1997 at the age of 72, Dr. Hultin repeated an expedition he had made early in his career to Brevig Mission, Alaska. There he successfully excavated samples so well preserved in the cold tundra that they still contained 1918 virus genes. This groundbreaking discovery helped scientists piece together the full sequence of the hemagglutinin “HA” gene for the 1918 virus, and provided more insight as to how the virus originated and evolved.
Today, Los Gatos is a bustling town of approximately 30,000 people with booming industry including high tech and an ever-expanding medical industry. We face a crisis locally and nationally, and do our part to help halt the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic by sheltering in place, working (or studying) from home, and supporting our essential workers.
The current pandemic has often been compared to the influenza of 1918 – 1920, but a lot has changed over the last 100 years. In 1920, Los Gatos’ total population was 2,317 (less than 10% of the current population) and it had only grown in size by about 85 people over the decade since the prior census! However small, this town has its own tales to tell, so I’ve dug up some history to present to you a retrospective on Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza pandemic.
Rolling back the clock, historic documents point to issues with masks and non compliance during the Spanish flu pandemic. Looking through 100+ year old Bay Area newspapers, you can review official city and county documents with numerous paragraphs lamenting the lack of progress on the “Joint Highway District”. In particular, there are gripes regarding the completion of a state highway between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos which some locals were banking their hopes on during the “disappointing experiences which this country passed through at the time” (Santa Cruz Evening News V 24 #113 Sept 13, 1919). Apparently, getting to the beach was a mood lifter then, too!
In 1994 Los Gatos and Listowel, Ireland, became sister towns. (Listowel is in County Kerry on the very pretty southwestern side of Ireland.) On Monday May 4th 2020, the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce will be having a virtual visit with the mayor of Listowel starting at 11:30 am.n Also on the video chat will be Rob Rennie, who visited there not too long ago.
Normally in April and May I’m collecting all the information on the summer musical events in Los Gatos. This year, however, we are in the midst of a Shelter in Place order due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, it looks like none of the concerts will not be allowed anytime soon.
Due to the Shelter-in-Place restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, our Vasona Vibrations concerts are cancelled this summer. These are uncertain times, and we don’t know if large gatherings will continue to be banned, even as some restrictions may be lifted. Vasona Vibrations concerts require months of planning for a successful series and we strive to offer you a high-quality musical experience. We hope you’ll understand and we’ll post any future plans. We will miss it as much as all of you.
Today Governor Gavin Newsom laid out his four stage plan for reopening California. Only in Stage 4 will concerts, conferences, and very large gatherings of people be permitted. And that won’t be until there’s herd immunity, an effective vaccine, and / or treatments that make this virus less of a threat.
In the coming days we will get more questions answered. The one at the top of my mind is when can I see the relatives with whom I’m not living?
Virtual Great Race for 2020: The Great Social Distancing Race
Normally we’d be having the annual Great Race this time of year (and you can read about 2019 below), but due to the novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, this year it will be a virtual race and you can sign up and participate anytime between now and May 1st. From the website linked below:
Our virtual race allows you to run 4 miles in a venue and at a time of your choice prior to May 1. Time and distance verification is encouraged through Strava, Garmin, or Asics Runkeeper for which you were all sent an email for a free download when you registered for the Great Race. However, it is not required and the honor system will be respected.
The annual Great Race from downtown Saratoga to downtown Los Gatos takes place on Sunday April 19, 2020, commencing at 8:30 a.m.. While many participants do jog or run, others walk or stroll. It’s a family-friendly fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club of Los Gatos and is open to all.
The Great Race course is 4 miles long, but some who wish to go both ways can put in 8 miles, known as the Gr8er Race.
The Rotary club offers this fun event each year with the help of a number of sponsors. For many years in a row, Sereno Group, where I work, has been a major sponsor for years. Many other local business back this great fundraiser too. See the list of sponsors, a map of the route, and run information at the Rotory Club link below.