Herculean Days

On April 21, 2013, in Newsletters, by Dean Brightman

Dean Brightman takes a look back at Hercules’ industrial and suburban past.

Reprinted with permission from The Hercules Express.

A copy of the "City Newsletter" dated 1978.

A copy of the “City Newsletter” dated 1978.

Hercules in the late 1970’s was a city in transition.  Its company town days were over.  The former Powder Works plant, which had long since converted to producing fertilizer, shut down for good in late 1977. Housing developments in the Refugio Valley were already springing up, and the City was beginning its evolution into Suburbia.

In October 1978, the newly created “City Newsletter” chronicled many of the changes taking place in Hercules. The three-month-old Police Department was already having a positive influence in the community.

“Before July 1 when the Hercules Police force became active, there were 18 to 30 burglaries a month. Since July 1, there has been one burglary and three attempts. A great record.”

A new Cadet program was about to start, and the City’s first traffic officer (Tom Muehliesen, or “Tom Traffic”) was just hitting the streets.

A brand new bus service, WestCAT, was now serving the City, and included special routes for students to Pinole Valley High and Juan Crespi Junior High. Fares were 35 cents for adults, 25 cents for kids, and 10 cents for Seniors.

Cable TV had finally arrived. For only $7.95 per month, you could receive all 19 channels., and Home Box Office was only an extra $9.95. Oh, what a dizzying time that must have been.

Although the dynamite plant was gone, it was not forgotten. The City celebrated the opening of Woodfield Park, its first official park, with “Hercules Blast Off Day.” The festivities included a softball tournament, tennis clinics, numerous games including tug of war and sack races, a barbeque, and a movie screening.

The December City Newsletter brought news of several new neighborhoods:

“Country Run townhouses located on Refugio Valley Road will have a total of 264 units when it is completed in about two years. Between 75 and 100 units of the first track have been sold now… Centex Homes of California is the builder.

“Laderas Estates at the end of Redwood off Refugio Valley Road is also built by Centex. This development will have approximately 300 single family homes… Some of the homes will be on sale in December but the new model homes will not be opened until February.

“Sunstream Hones built by Suburban Realty offers five models priced from $68,000 to $85,000. Three, four and five bedroom homes can be purchased… When the project is completed in about three years, there will be 633 single family homes in this area west Refugio Valley Road.”

By this time the City had formed a Homeowner’s Mediation Service to arbitrate disputes between new homeowners and developers. With the new service, the homeowner and the developer would split the mediator’s fee and agree to whatever solution was proposed once an investigation was completed.

Lest the realities of the world outside Hercules escape notice, the Newsletter also included Mayor Ronald Ardissone’s statement regarding recent tragedies involving several local politicians:

“The tragic deaths of Congressman Leo Ryan, Mayor George Moscone, and Supervisor Harvey Milk seem to make reality an unreachable plateau. Let us not forget the recent deaths of hundreds of nameless, faceless victims in Jonestown, Guyana.

“All these lives were ended violently by the demonized, fully calculating acts of others. Let’s hope that society will not again condone such violent acts as we have witnessed these past weeks.”

Finally, there was the matter of the Newsletter’s rather stodgy name: “City Newsletter is simply not a very exciting name for this publication. In one of the first newsletters published over a year ago an appeal was made for a name for the newsletter… With the large number of new residents who have moved into Hercules recently, it was decided to ask once again for suggestions.”

The task would ultimately prove to be a Herculean one.

Dean Brightman is a member of the Hercules Historical Society.

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