Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Rossatti’s by Any Other Name…

The San Francisco Mariani family traveled to their ranch in Portola Valley via horse and buggy from the Menlo Park train station, often stopping at a pub for a refreshment on the way.[1]
This is of Stefano Mariani and his family at The Wunder.  This photo was captioned on the back in unknown hand, “Now ‘Alpine Inn’ on Alpine Road in Portola Valley. It’s about 2 ½ miles from Mr. Mariani’s former ranch. Picture was taken between April 1907 when it was bought and 1919 when Mr. Mariani took ill.”[2]

The Alpine Inn Beer Garden, as Rossatti’s is now called, opened in 1851. With the gold rush bringing more settlers to Santa Clara Valley to farm, the earlier settlers had to move on. These early settlers, Californios, went to the outer areas such as Portola Valley. The former mayor of San Jose, Felix Buelna, settled on 95 acres in 1852 and opened a “casa de tableta,” a gambling house at the corner of Alpine Road and Arastradero Road. This was right along the route from the Santa Clara Valley to the coast.[3]

The pub changed hands and names many times through the years. Stanton’s, Schenkel’s, The Wunder, Schenkel’s Picnic Park, Rossotti’s, Zotts (short for Rossotti’s), and Alpine Inn, to name a few.[4]

One of my favorite little-known facts about the Alpine Inn is that on August 27, 1976, researchers from SRI International in Menlo Park brought their mobile radio laboratory to the roadhouse, set up a computer terminal on a picnic table, and sent a long electronic report. The world’s first internet transmission. [5]   As an elementary school student, I remember having a field trip to SRI.  They had a machine that showed you questions on a television screen, such as your name and your favorite food.  You answered them by typing on a typewriter that was connected to the television.  It then printed out on paper a few sentences about you.  Debbie ate tacos for lunch.  We were amazed at the magic. And it started at Rossatti’s.

[1] Mariani family tradition, Deborah Conner Mascot, compiler, (handwritten notes, 2010; privately held by Deborah Conner Mascot, Livermore, CA); Vera Mariani memories, reported by Harry James Conner, 2010
[2] Stephen Mariani, photograph; ca 1909, digital image, privately held by Deborah Conner Mascot, Livermore, CA. Original photo held by Deborah Conner Mascot in Livermore, CA as gifted by the estate of Harry James Conner and scanned in Livermore, CA by Deborah Conner Mascot in June 2013. 
[3]Staiger, Steve, “Echoes of Alpine Inn’s Early Days,” Palo Alto Weekly (, 24 January 2001.
[4] Staiger, “Echoes of Alpine Inn's Early Days,” 24 January 2001. 
[5] Portola Valley Past and Present (, “ A New Claim to Fame for Zots,” 17 February 2013.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Post: by Signa Mascot

For school work, Signa (my 11-year-old daughter) did a report on the history of Tracy, California.  She decided to focus on the schools in Tracy, but also decided to use census records to learn about the founder of the Tracy schools.   Then we took a trip to the cemetery to photograph Rufus' grave. I think she did a great job!!!


The History of Tracy Schools
By Signa Mascot

The first school of Tracy was decided when a farmer named Rufus Saddlemire made a petition to make a school.

Rufus Saddlemire was born in 1832 in New York and then moved to Tracy. In that time he was a farmer and lived with his wife Helen Beverly who was born in 1838 and his son Jesse Saddlemire who was born in 1880.

Rufus knew that he wanted his children to have a good education, but there were no schools in Tracy.  In that time Tracy was still a coal mining city with not many children living there. Rufus made a school petition, and then in 1866, the Willow School District was made. 

Years went by, and Willow Schoolhouse wasn’t big enough to hold so many children and classes, so one class was held in an unused part of the Methodist church. Eventually, more schools were made, such as Tracy Grammar School built in 1912, West Park  and Southside Schools in 1920, West Side built in 1928, Central Grammar School built in 1938, and  Banta in 1950.  After 1938 Tracy Grammar School served different purposes like the Service Men’s Club and Town Hall, but in 1961, the building was torn down. There is another school, Early Day, which I cannot find the year it was built.  New Jerusalem School was built in Tracy in 1874, but it was outside of this school district.

In conclusion, one man who wanted his child to have a good education started a whole school district in Tracy and helped make Tracy a city.


Tracy Historical Society. Images of America Tracy.  Great Britain, Arcadia Publishing, 2004. 1900 United States Census for Rufus Saddlemire, 1900. New Jerusalem School’s History, 2013-2014. Tracy Public Cemetery, 2014
Tracy Public Cemetery Visit. March 19, 2014.  Tracy, California.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Am No Longer Going to Be A Writer

I've been really wanting to be a writer lately. I've been listening to writing podcasts, reading books about writing, studying the process of writing, setting up my home office with writing in mind. Doing everything I can to be a writer except... writing.

Why? Why does my passion not have me passionate about it? Why can I think of nothing I want to write about except my ancestors' stories? I want to write fiction. I want to have a great idea for a great story and write it. Greatly. But instead, I'm stuck with writing the truth. Not even my own truth, but the truth of the lives of people no one except me really cares about. They are fascinating to me and I'm passionate for their stories, but I really want to have passion for a fake story in a fake world where I can have fake things happen. But the fake never comes to me. I've got nothing.

Just now, sitting at the kitchen table with my iPad (not in my writing home office using the writing applications on my writing computer), I realized that I don't get to choose what I write. This isn't my job, where I would have to find a way to write what they told me to, whether it called to me or not. These people are calling to me-- the Mariani's, my Civil War grandfather, Grampa's ghost town, my dad-- and they are what I should listen to. I hear them; I just haven't been listening, as I've been too busy whining about not hearing the fake.

So I sit at my iPad typing this out and promising myself that I am no longer going to be a writer. I'm just going to write.

And I feel so much better.