48 Viewmont Avenue

Sitting on my big brother’s car on Viewmont Avenue – circa 1971

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 2: 48 Viewmont Avenue

The first 27 years of my life were marked and influenced by events in and around my parents’ modest house on 48 Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose. The neighborhood was a classic working-class community of small houses on small lots with neatly mowed lawns and little flower gardens. The development of houses was on the edge of the east side of town that once thrived with orchards. Just a short walk a few blocks away was the Alum Rock Village, a row of mom and pop markets, a liquor store, bakery, hair salon, barbershop, and assorted small businesses that included a feed and fuel that served the remnants of a bygone agricultural community. 

Like our family, our neighbors were also in pursuit of the American Dream. Breadwinners provided for their families by working as electricians, landscapers, construction workers, and machine shop operators. The women worked mostly at the canneries and supplemented the family’s income by cleaning houses, providing child care, or caring for seniors. The neighborhood around Viewmont Avenue was like a small town on the fringes of a growing city. For me, it had everything I needed and wanted. I felt happy, safe, and comfortable there. It was home.

My oldest sister Barbara said later in life that “we had an idyllic upbringing on Viewmont Avenue. Mom and dad created a cocoon that protected us from all of the bad things in the world.” My parents made sure that school was a priority and provided me and my siblings with the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. The girls participated in swimming, cheerleading, color guard, and Girl Scouts. It was Little League, Boy Scouts, and Pop Warner football for the boys. That was the life of the 1950s and 1960s television genre that dad yearned for after listening to the stories about growing up American from his friends in the navy.

The protective shell my parents built kept the bad influences out by keeping us away from people or situations that could be harmful. When they hosted family parties, a long night of hard-drinking could lead to tense conditions that had the potential to end up in a fight. Mom quietly ushered us away from the party to our bedrooms to keep us sheltered from the unfolding drama. They also worked to protect us from the evils of the outside world. When I was in elementary school, I walked home past some older cool-looking kids hanging out under the trees at the back fence of campus. Sometimes they waved me over to join them. My parents warned that under no circumstance should I ever venture out to the fence. As I got older, I realized that the boys were sniffing glue and paint to get high. Many of those kids didn’t get through high school. A few of them joined gangs and either died violently or found a permanent home in prison.  

At 48 Viewmont Avenue, we had a clear code of conduct and value system from which we were expected to manage our lives. Dad was no nonsense and no frills. He taught us, through counsel and by way of example, to work hard, play by the rules, and have respect for ourselves and others. There was no variation from this formula. Any lack of respect and decorum, especially in public, would immediately lead to a non-verbal response. Dad stared at us with a stern look and furrowed brow followed by pursed lips, closed eyes, and a slow shake of the head in disapproval.

To be continued…

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