Children playing beneath the arch at the entrance to the Loma Alta Home around 1940.
At the end of Loma Alta Ave in the foothills sits the Los Gatos campus of Uplift Family Services, formerly Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) Family First. Tucked away among quiet residential streets, this unassuming establishment often goes unnoticed by locals, but it has deep roots in this Town and across the Bay Area, and especially within the Chinese community.
Origins: “Radiant Light”
Discriminatory laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) took their toll on US Chinatowns. Organized crime took hold in US Chinatowns and with it, human trafficking. Tong kidnaped Chinese women, smuggling them through the Golden Gate and into prostitution and slavery. In the late 19th century, Presbyterian missionaries in San Francisco began an effort to help the victims, women and children, escape to safety.
This undertaking expanded, providing safe houses and orphanages: Chung Mei (“China America”) Home for boys and Ming Quong (“radiant light”) Homes for girls.
Tucked away on the back page of the San Jose Daily Mercury from Monday September 5th, 1892 is an amusing and impudent little article titled “The Effect of the ‘Mercury’ on the Gem of the Foothills”.
San Jose, says the Los Gatos News, is making a lively bid for Los Gatos favors. The Mercury has arranged for a daily news budget and an agent (his name is Dennis) is canvassing the town for subscribers. Like the Novitiate College and Glenridge, the Garden City will soon be applying for annexation to Los Gatos. No doubt San Jose envies us our felicitous zephyrs and the picturesqueness of our mountain scenery and would like us to divide the honor which the Gem of the Foothills monopolizes on the Pacific Coast. We advise our Town Board to go slow on San Jose. It would be well to modestly suggest that our patronizing sister first purge herself of the discordant elements which have been blazoned from the electric tower and have been made so conspicuous in the councils of the body politic before we risk the chances of admitting her to our peaceful realm. We will take the Mercury on probation and if the evidences of peace and good will develop a tendency to reform in these important particulars, we may, at some future time, consider a proposition to admit San Jose as a suburb, providing she will allow us the privilege of attaching to her main sewer to the Bay, or offer some other equally persuasive inducement.
The author sets up the joke right at the start. The News and the Mercury are competing daily papers; the Mercury (based in San Jose) is hawking subscriptions in Los Gatos (home of the News) while condescending to the Town in it’s publications, at least in the author’s opinion. In response the author (presumably from our little Town and proud of it) turns right around and patronizes them back! This article references contemporary issues, from overtly bragging about annexations and reputations, to addressing the desired expansion of public utilities (sewage, in this case), and takes jabs at San Jose’s first attempt at electric street lighting and the “San Jose Electric-Light War”! What a cheeky piece of history!
An ad for the Oaks Sanitarium near Los Gatos placed in the California State Journal of Medicine’s 1918 edition.
A continuation from Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza Pandemic: Part 1.
Health Care Services
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.
“Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases,” states the graphic used in an informational article published across various newspapers in October 1918
Los Gatos Pandemic Then and Now
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!
While there are many neighborhoods with homes which qualify as historic, such as Glenridge, just five of these areas have the historic district designation: Almond Grove, University or Edelen, Fairview Plaza, the Broadway area, and Downtown.
The Town of Los Gatos has a wealth of information on the districts designated as historic and what qualifies them as such. For more information, have a look:
The 5 Official Town of Los Gatos Historic Districts