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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

San Francisco Peninsula History Chronicled by Local Rock and Roll Singer Dave Crimmen

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By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Oct 31, 2010 in Lifestyle
Drive a few miles south of San Francisco and you will find adjacent San Mateo County. Once you pass over the county line at Daly City the particulars along El Camino Real or Mission Street can get blurred.
Anyone not acquainted with the area can be confused by the lines of distinction that form both official towns and unofficial sections of this meandering and densely populated peninsula. And, no one knows that more than natives to the SF Peninsula like Dave Crimmen.
Crimmen, age 55 has written a book about Broadmoor Village where he grew up. And where is that? One might ask. Well…nestled amid towns like Daly City, Colma, Pacifica and San Bruno, Broadmoor Village is a district, a community. Crimmen describes Broadmoor as this “little enigma of a place that is an unincorporated spot.”
Yet as Crimmen explained to the members of the Colma Historical Association who gathered for his book signing on Oct. 26, “for the record Broadmoor is officially referred to as an unincorporated part of San Mateo County.”
And, that has been both a rallying point of strength as well as a weakness for the community.
About 40 people gathered at the monthly historical association meeting that Tuesday evening to hear Crimmen speak about his new book “Images of America – Broadmoor Village” published by Arcadia. It contains over 120 photographs provided to him by the residents.
He immediately told the audience that he is not a writer. “I much rather write songs as I am a rock and roll singer,” said Crimmen.
Yet, while pleasantly surprised his wife Sharon considers Crimmen a historian just the same in his own right. “Dave knows a lot of history and while the history of rock and roll is his specialty, he often will take the time to find out the details of various things few people know.”
Crimmen and his band perform regularly at pubs and gathering spots around the SF Bay Area. He proudly mentions at any opportunity that he is local and that Broadmoor Village near Westlake is where he grew up. It is because of this pride in his community that urged him, even if reluctantly to write the book.
As an unincorporated area of homes built in the late 1940’s just after WWII, Broadmoor and surrounding areas of Westlake, Westborough, etc. blossomed into suburbs covering up what had once been farm land.
“When I first saw the series of books about local histories, I kept saying this is cool! Someone’s got to write about Broadmoor Village.” It was through neighbors like Edie Epps that Crimmen was encouraged to write.
“I based my focus for the book on evidence, Crimmen told the audience, because there were no set boundaries due to Broadmoor’s unincorporated status.”
Crimmen was very grateful for all the help he got to get the book completed, especially from the alumni of Westmoor High, Broadmoor residents Edie Epps, Bunny Gillespie and the various historical societies and libraries, like the Colma Historical Association.
Gillespie who wrote about the neighboring Westlake district for the Arcadia series spoke to the audience, as she said, “writing a history is a lot of fun."
"Especially, for those of us who are retired. “It takes about six months,” she said. In addition to getting your name in print as an author, there is a royalty check from the publisher, “which is pretty nice, said Gillespie.
From observing the reactions of the audience that evening and listening to recollections, perhaps most rewarding for locals is the fact that a little-known history of a given area is now chronicled.
It was those in the historical association, like, Epps, Gillespie and others who enlisted Crimmen and got him in contact with the publishers at Arcadia.
Arcadia Publishers is the leading local history publisher in the United States. For the past 15 years Arcadia has been encouraging everyday people like Crimmen to pull together a history, through photographs, documents and memorabilia. Each photo in the book has a caption or paragraph describing bits and pieces of history as recollected by the people who lived there.
Arcadia Publishers works to make it easy for an ordinary everyday person to chronicle his or her town or district. Covering all regions of the USA, each title in the Arcadia series records a town’s or city's unique story through more than two hundred historic images.
Arcadia claims at its web site that due to the popularity of this series, it has expanded over time to include worthy local and regional historical topics including the examination and celebration of transportation, industry, architecture, ethnic groups and more.
Pat Hatfield who serves as president of the Colma Historical Association finds the Acadia book series very helpful. Many titles of the series are for sale at the association’s meeting hall which also serves as a museum.
In it are all sorts of photos, artifacts and memorabilia that give witness to the area’s diverse history. From its earliest days as farmland in the 1890’s to its recent developments of homes, parks and shopping centers at present.
Hatfield noted how difficult it is trying to explain to visitors and residents alike the details of a place as Broadmoor or Westlake with such complex history in its relationship to the SF Peninsula.
“It is “wondrous and strange,” she said. The town of Colma, for example as Hatfield pointed out in this part of the peninsula is the grave yard for the City of San Francisco.”
As the city of San Francisco grew, land to accommodate such rapid growth became more valuable. Long-established hallowed grounds for grave sites of the 19th Century like Laurel Hill, Golden Gate, Calvary and Odd Fellows Cemetery were abruptly moved as city planners wanted to expand San Francisco beyond the “outlands.”
According to local historian Woody LaBounty, from 1939 to 1940 for example, “Over 35,000 bodies were removed from Laurel Hill in a year and a half. World War II slowed down development plans, but in the years following, the commercial and residential districts moved in.”
Crimmen pointed out that, just after the 1906 Earthquake, people living in Daly City wanted to separate themselves from the growing urban landscape of San Francisco and sought to form San Mateo County, which at the turn of the century into the 1930’s was primarily an agricultural area.
Yet as San Francisco continued to grow it needed more space. So, SF moved the cemeteries for its departed to an area that was once referred to as Lawndale, which then was later officially incorporated and named as Colma.
“In a spot of just over two square miles, Colma contains 17 cemeteries with millions of underground residents” said Hatfield.
Yet within that two- square-miles perimeter, the boundaries and jurisdictions of neighboring Daly City, South San Francisco and San Bruno creates some confusion. Add in the communities of Broadmoor Village and Westlake and it gets even more confusing.
Crimmen agreed as he reiterated that defined communities like Broadmoor Village, Westlake, Westborough, etc. are on record as “unincorporated parts of San Mateo County.”
Broadmoor, Westlake and alike are not officially referred to as towns. “Growing up, I knew that Broadmoor was a distinct community, not a town,” he said.
“But in doing work on this book, I was surprised by all the complicated history and some of the resentment,” said Crimmen.
He explained that as towns such as Daly City, San Bruno, and so forth, grew these towns annexed various parts of unincorporated San Mateo County for themselves. Some of Broadmoor Village got incorporated into Daly City. Crimmen noted that among some merchants there is still a bit of resentment.
As the prosperity of the post WWII era continued into the 1960’s, The SF Peninsula from Daly City all the way south to San Jose expanded. Mills Field then became SF International Airport. Population was growing. More families sought to buy affordable homes along the peninsula.
Broadmoor got some help from San Mateo County Superior Court Judge, Quentin Kopp. He wrote the Forward for the book. At that time, early in his career as a young lawyer, Kopp advocated on behalf of the residents to put a stop to annexation without proper electoral process set before the voters.
This is why the boundaries and jurisdictions are so irregular and intertwined.
As a community, Broadmoor has its own police, fire stations and schools. In fact, Crimmen noted that Westmoor High was named as a combination of Westlake and Broadmoor the two distinct but unincorporated communities within Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco and San Bruno.
“Higher taxes were the reasons for not wanting to obtain official incorporated status,” said Crimmen. Or that is what he remembers being told by his parents. But incorporated or not Broadmoor Village is and will always be a distinct spot on the map to residents.
Crimmen describes Broadmoor Village as a working middle class area and, as a great place to grow up. He and his two siblings enjoyed the benefits of a “small town” like atmosphere.
Gillespie agreed as she said, living there was a great experience. With all the families moving in and settling down, she noted that residents often referred to it jokingly as “Breed-more” village.
Gillespie and her husband bought their Broadmoor home in 1950. She is amazed at how property values have sky-rocketed to 10 times what they originally paid for the house over 60 years ago.
Gillespie now lives in neighboring Westlake. But has many found memories of those years living in Broadmoor Village.
Crimmen said he enjoyed the experience of writing the book, getting the book done and submitted to Arcadia, a week ahead of deadline.
And, he made sure that “everyone was mentioned – everyone got some love,” he said.
Crimmen and Gillespie want to collaborate on another book for the Arcadia Publishing series called, “Then & Now.”
“So much has happened to this area in the past 60 years,” said Gillespie. Initially when Broadmoor Village was built by the Stoneson Brothers in 1946 most of the families were of European descent; Irish, Italian and Scandinavian.
As the San Francisco Bay Area continues to grow, attracting people from all over the world, the social demographics of Broadmoor Village have changed. People from the Middle East, Asia and the subcontinent of India have now settled to Broadmoor that ushers in a new era for the community.
Regardless of change, Crimmen pointed out, the little community of Broadmoor still embodies the American Dream, with its ethic of independence continuing to survive amid obstacles.
Crimmen’s book is on sale at the Colma Historical Association Museum in Colma, CA for $24.00, details call 650-757-1676. Or visit web site at: http://www.colmahistory.org/index.htm
For more information about “Images of America – Broadmoor Village” and the entire series collection visit the Arcadia Publishing web site at: http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/
For more information about Dave Crimmen, his music, CD release party and current performance schedule visit: http://www.davecrimmen.com/shows.html
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