Jones, Staff Writer
January 24, 2006
Fremont, the great explorer and this city's
namesake, would have been proud.
about 700 people crammed inside a big white
tent in Central Park to listen to jazz,
learn a little history, look at artwork and
help this city kick off its nine-month 50th
Cutting the cake are (from left) Steve Cho,
Dominic Dutra, Sue Chan, Kathy Mathys and Irene
seen a party like this," hailed Bernard
Stewart, chairman of the event. "But if it's
just a party, then we've failed (in our
For Stewart, a
63-year-old dentist who has lived in Fremont
for 37 years, Monday night's event was not
only an opportunity to bring the city
together but also a chance for residents to
begin to think about what they want their
city to look and be like in the future.
"This is a
city of great diversity, with incredible
potential to form a community of people who
can unite on a vision of what they want
Fremont to be," Stewart said. "Tonight has
gone beyond my expectations. But this is
only the beginning. We have a year of events
planned to bring this community together."
As part of the
celebration Monday night, Stewart, along
with Kathi Inholtz Mathys, who celebrated
her own 50th birthday at the same time, cut
a birthday cake to mark the actual date of
Jan. 23, 1956, that five small towns —
Centerville, Irvington, Mission San Jose,
Niles and Warm Springs — merged to become
the city of Fremont, in part to prevent it
from becoming part of Hayward.
In an effort
to highlight the yearlong events, each of
the Celebrate Fremont committees setup
around the perimeter of the tent and stamped
handmade passports given to visitors to
enter a prize drawing.
Back in 1956,
Fremont was a community with open pastures
and orchards, a place where auto workers
came to work at the now-closed General
Motors plant, and most homes sold in the low
evolved into a diverse city of 203,144
people with sizable Indian, Pakistani and
East Asian populations, a place of high-tech
workers, rapid development and
who moved to Fremont 35 years ago, described
it as a rural area with a lot of cabbage
But she's glad
she moved here. She invested in her first
home for a mere $28,000. Today, she
estimates the house is worth more than
to have a lot of small farms growing
cauliflower, other crops and pigs," said Al
Minard. "You could tell when the tide was
coming in just by the smell."
Dressed in a
top hat and old-timers' clothes, Minard is
one of the organizers of Fremont Heritage
Tours, which will operate guided bus tours
once a month for $20 per person to travel
through each of Fremont's five districts,
highlighting historically significant sites.
In the past 20
years, Fremont went from what Minard
described as mostly "country folk" to one of
the most diverse communities in the country.
than 47 percent of the residents are white,
37 percent are Asian, 13.5 percent are
Hispanic and 3 percent are African American,
with other races making up the rest.
16-year-old Anum Habib handed out pins for
people to push into a map near places such
as Karachi, Tokyo, and Beijing to show where
they were born.
can boast of Olympic figure skater Kristi
Yamaguchi, who was born here; M.C. Hammer,
who lived here during his famed "U Can't
Touch This" era; and Hall of Fame pitcher
Dennis Eckersley, who grew up and developed
his early baseball skills here.
the city has been known for its large Afghan
population, as well as the setting for the
best-selling book "The Kite Runner" by
Khaled Hosseini, who grew up in Fremont
after leaving Afghanistan. Some folks still
remember Charlie Chaplin and Broncho Bill
Anderson making movies here and in Niles
Canyon, back when Niles was the silent film
capital of the world.
In order to
strengthen the sense of community,
57-year-old Bill Bain of the Future
Committee handed out surveys to ask
attendees what was most important for
Fremont in the next 50 years, with the
options ranging from maintaining a "small
town" feel to hooking up free wireless
Internet access downtown.
"I'd like to
see a business office and a cultural arts
center," said Bain, a father of four, when
asked what he'd wish. "I would also like to
see improvements in our school district and
our educational system."
To find out
more about Fremont's 50th anniversary
covers cultural issues for The Argus. He can
be reached at (510) 353-7005 or