Memories of being a Clayton Rd Clod Hopper

Growing up on Clayton Rd was good for me.  It allowed me to constantly get out my nervous energy( there was a lot of it.) Even on medication for Hyperactivity that I was on, ( it wasn’t called being ADD or ADHD back in the sixties and seventies.)  wasn’t enough to dissipate all the energy I had. Sure I was more focused in school but I was still very fidgety. Being able to Hike and explore and constantly having activities to do helped to keep me more focused. It wasn’t always the big things like hiking or working in the Apricot orchards that help to dissipate my nervous energy . Sometimes it was the every day mundane things like creating fire breaks around the property or mucking a stall. These type of task for what ever reason seem to help with the intense energy that my Hyper activeness created and still creates at times. For me it was and is having my muscles in my body in constant contraction at times. To this day If I am not consciously aware of what I am doing I will find myself nervously twisting a straw wrapper or napkin into oblivion. It is energy that needs to get out so I can stay better focused. It is just the way it has always been for me.

Memories of being a Clayton Rd Clod Hopper

By R.E. bertlow

I was just about to turn 7 years old when we moved to Clayton Rd. I was luckier then my brothers I already had one friend on Clayton Rd. That was why we were moving to Clayton Rd. They had found for us our future home just across the road from them

It was 1967 and my folks saw what our area of town was becoming. We were live in East San Jose at the time. Neighborhoods that had filled with new homes and war brides ready to start working on there 2.5 were ending now. The were changing fast. My parents want there kids to have a fair and honest start. When the chance to move to Clayton Rd presented itself my parents took it.

At the send of the school year after my first grade year in school we packed up all our belongings and moved from a three bedroom two bathroom house to a 3 room house with 1 bathroom and a walk in closet in the largest room of the house. The kitchen doubled as the living room or in our case a place to put the kitchen table my mother had gotten a year earlier an still has. A tall wood planter with fake plastic plants (it was never meant for real plants) divided the room between kitchen and dinning area. Beyond the kitchen dining area to the left were the walk in closet bathroom and two bedrooms. The smaller of the two was off the larger one. Off to the right was a partially built carport . There was a lot about this place that was partially built, but the coolest things about this place by far were the barn and mini barn.

We were soon settled in and my father had turned the partially built carport into a living room. As kids we loved our new surroundings. My best friend and classmate Brent was introducing me to the other kids on the road. It was great but it was different. In the old neighborhood we would get a group of kids together to play statue maker or Mother/Father may I lickety split, up here it took a bit more effort and the game of the day was usually kick the can.

We had settled in quite nicely on Clayton Road. We went from being part of Y Indian guides to being

4-H’ers before the new school year would start. My first project would be a cow. My job would be to take care of and raise the cow and bring it to exhibit at the county fair the next August.

I learned what mucking out stalls was and a variety of other things a city kids knows nothing of. I was quickly becoming a country boy. My dad was back were he wanted to be. Having grown up working in the family prune orchards he felt right at home living on a country road. It really was Idyllic in many ways.

The kids on our road were known as the “Clayton Road Clod Hoppers. We’d chosen the moniker because we usually had clods of dirt on the bottom of our shoes and boots. We participated in 4-H together, Road the school bus together and socialized together. When your 4 and a half miles from town your not apt to hang out at the corner quick stop. My parents liked that fact.

When we did get together for a game of kick the can it was usually on a weekend after chores were done and later in the day before dinner and in the summer just after. It was always fun to play kick the can on a summers evening. We would usually meet over between the Powell and Poindexter property Sharon, Becky, Randy, Mike, Michelle, Brent Kurt Mark My older brother and I would play kick the can until it was to dark to see.

In the summers we would work in the Apricot orchards. Some of us kids would pick and some of us would cut the apricots along with the adults. We usually worked in the same orchard every summer but there were times when we would work at other orchards on the road. We were always paid per box, bucket or tray (being paid by tray meant the orchard had an automated cutter so all you had to do was lay out the Apricots and you didn’t have to worry about cutting your fingers with your paring knife.(anybody who was anybody had their own paring knife. To use the ones the drying sheds provided meant you were a visitor or newbie.) Every summer I would work at the Duarte Orchard and as I got older when things had finished up for the season at the Duarte Orchard I would work at the Balcom orchard which was bigger and sometimes the Souza Orchard which my cousins ran.

One morning I set off on my bike ( I was never real stable back then for various reasons.) I was almost to the Balcom orchard when a car came around a corner and I lost my balance and took a header into a telephone pole. As I carried my bike with it’s bent in half front tire down the Balcom”s drive way Joan looked at me with great concern and in her sweet motherly voice she asked what happened and then handed me the Phone they had in the cutting shed and said you better call your Mother and let her know. I did as told and Joan checked me to make sure nothing was broken then we got on with the business of the day drying Apricots. My mom came and got me when we were done for the day My scraped knee covered with a bandage. No worse for the wear.

My classmates love to come up and visit. It was different to them, foreign, unique. Some of these kids had now Idea what a cow truly looked like or sounded like. They were fascinated by the sounds sites and smells of our little farmett. It may have only been five acres but to my classmates it was huge.

My classmates would come to visit and get to do things they would not get to do in town. I had one particular friend Troy would come up on a more regular bases and we always had a blast together. Whether it was sliding down our side hill on refrigerator box or riding bikes on the road. He was also a friend of my neighbor and best friend Brent. We had all been in the first and second grade together so it was nice to be able to hang out together as well.

Troy had come to spend the weekend with my family and we decided that it would be fun to take our bikes up to the Grand View restaurant on Mt Hamilton the road above us that eventually lead further and further back into the hills where my Dad’s brother ran the Three Springs Cattle ranch that we would sometimes help out on during round up and branding.

On this day we thought it would be a great ride down and not so bad up since we both had 5 speed with banana seats and sissy bars. (There were no BMX bikes back then.) We headed down to the end of Clayton road where it Mt Mt Hamilton and then started the climb. Our five speeds were not doing us any more good then our 11 year old legs and the energy we put behind them were. Steep was steep but we managed to make it to the Grand View and the Old Grand View Across the road from it. Our front forks and tires wavering side to side in unsteadiness as we used every last bit of strength we had to make the last few yard to the top. My cousin Mickey ( my dad’s cousin actually.) who live in the house next door to the Old Grand View. was in his front yard and waves at us and said hello. We waved back saying hi as we rested for a moment before getting ready to go back down. Cousin Mickey went back to what he was doing and we positioned our bikes for the ride down.

As we positioned our bikes for our ride down the windy portion of road. We acted as if we were in some big race to the finish. We got on our 5 speeds and my friend Troy said On your Mark, Get Set, Go, and we were off racing down the steep and winding grade that was Mt Hamilton road. Flying around corners. Zooming at speeds of a roller coaster run a muck, or at least it seemed that way to us at 11. We were both going at a fast clip taking each turn and curve. I was proud of myself, I had never been real stable on a bike but now I was flying down this hill not thinking about what would happen if we met up with oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic should have been the least of my worries. As we made our way down Mt Hamilton we could see that we were getting near to Clayton Rd. We were still traveling at a fast clip but it would soon be time to start applying the breaks so we could make the turn onto Clayton rd. I was thrilled I had pulled out a head of my friend Troy who was still behind me a few lengths. We had rounded the last corner and curve and I was heading into the last straight away when I hit a pot hole with my front tire and sailed over my handle bars kissing the pavement and what ever speed I was going at and then tumbled partially into Tony Duartes Apricot orchard Thank God for fresh tilled dirt. That day my face did the clod hoping. My Friend sailed right past me as I got back up on my bike scrapped cut and bruised but nothing broken. We road home walking our bikes up the driveway and heading into the house asking when dinner would be ready.

My mother looked at me as if I were an alien. What happen to you she said? Troy jumping in giving my mom the full color commentary of how I had flown over my handle bars hit the pavement and tumbled into Duartes orchard. My mom sat there shaking her head as Troy finished his color commentary with it was cool she looked at me and then at Troy and Then at me again just shaking her head, She asked if I was okay. When I answered yes . She told me to get cleaned up and dinner wouldn’t be for a while so go out and play. By now my mother had stopped being phased by our accidents they were usually miner and we seem to heal fine. The only one that ever broke anything as a child in our home was our older brother how cracked his skull three times and broke an arm once

Growing up on Clayton rd was not boring, quit the contrary there was always something to do. Whether it was 4-H projects, kick the can, climbing hills or riding refrigerator cardboard down a hill we always managed to keep busy when we weren’t mucking out stalls hoeing fire breaks or slopping pigs.

I always enjoyed the 4-H Annual Stampede. It was the Annual gathering of our 4-H troops members and there families. We were the Glen mar troop. We would all gather at one home Mary Jo Horn and her husband Virgil usually hosted it as They had a riding arena for some of the days events. There would be egg tosses, sack races, the dollar bill ride ( last rider with there dollar bill under them, after going through a course designed to make them lose it, would win.) Later I believe there was a dance where we danced to the hit tune of the day Popcorn.

We learned a lot by being in the 4-H club. Heck I learned to cook and bake. More then our individual projects we were taught how to be better people. I carry the lessons I learned as a part of the 4-H to this day, I even have one of my project books and maybe even a ribbon or two from the county fair. I believe my mother still has our 4-H hats tucked away somewhere.

There were times that for me it felt like Clayton Rd was a world unto it’s own. Living on Clayton road was something to be proud of. We embarrassed our inner hickness with abandon.

There were times when we also came together as a community in sadness as well. It I guess had been a good day, the weather was nice enough. We played that day like any other day. I would Imagine some of us even had a 4-H meeting with Penny Kelly that day. I could say for sure. What would happen that day would touch us all to the core and bring us together in a new way.

The Kelly’s where know as Horse men and women but also as pilots. Penny Kelly and her family were a big part of our 4-H club. Almost everyone in the family had a pilots license. I don’t know if Penny had a pilots license.. Penny and one of her brothers stayed behind as the rest headed to Morgan Hill to go flying. Later that day the shocking news would make it up and down the road. There plane had gone down and no one had survived. Penny and her brother became instant orphan’s. We Clayton roaders came together as a family and did what we did best pitched in any way we could to help the Kelly’s out. That’s just what a clod hopper does so we did. We were all touched deeply by this tragedy. For me it was a bit surreal. I remember asking my parents if it really happened. It just didn’t seem real.

As kids we road the school bus every day to school. (We were to far out of town to walk.). We reveled in sharing stories on the school bus in the mornings.

There was always some story to tell on the school bus. One of us had either had some sort of adventure before school like the day Monica , my cousin had hit the tail end of a cat hoping over a fence with her pellet gun because it had been trying to get her dove. Just as she hit it Sharon arrived to see the cat tail end go limp from the sting. There was the day Lisa had just gotten on the bus and just before they pulled away a BB entered the school bus window and chipped her tooth. It is were we shared our mornings events and discussed this and that. Commiserated over blown test and celebrated of good news. One of the older kids Mike Powell had written a song about our bus driver Denise we would learn and sing on the bus. There were days when the bus would broke down and we had to walk the rest of the way home. We would walk in groups each kid trailing off as they reached their driveways. We spent a lot of time on the school bus. Some of us spent almost an hour or more everyday except for weekends on the school bus. It was no wonder that it was a place that drew us closer as neighbors.

One day we had just left the school and we were making our first few stops before heading up the Hill. I think we had dropped off the Maiwald Kids and were headed up a side street. I was a beautiful spring day. We came to the next stop and Denise the bus driver got out to walk the kids across the street as was the rule of those days. My Cousin Monica, Sharon Balcom and Rod Taylor decided it would be fun if I closed the door on the bus driver. They assured me they could get it back open ( the doors were push button) They knew exactly which button to push…To close it that is. The chorus of voice grew and in quick fashion the entire bus was egging me on. Push the button, Push it, We can get it back open, Go on push it. My finger depressed the button as the kids cheered at seeing the door close. Denise pounding on the drivers side window demanding we open the door now. All of us kids hooting and hollering. Cheering and yelling as Denise stood outside not pleased trying to tell me what button to push while my cousins and others also shouted out buttons to press. It was all to fast. My nervous little mind couldn’t process the information quick enough to be able to hit the right button. Pretty soon Denise the bus driver was trying to tell me which button to push. To many instructions at once were coming my way. I finally managed to get the door open but not before it started to rain a bit. By the time I got home mother knew all about it. It cost me two weeks restriction but it was worth it.

There was nothing else like growing up on Clayton road. I consider myself lucky to have done so. I think a great many of us did. Most of us that grew up on this road dreaded the thought of moving away. Some of us still live on Clayton road starting the next generation of clod hoppers. That’s a good thing the world could use more clod hoppers.

The Bus Driver Song

There was a bus driver name Denise and he was always so cruel!

He’d wake us up in the morning and then he would drive us to school. 

Then one day poor old Denise he just up and he died.

No one came to his funeral and no one came to his wake

And when they put him in the ground, we had a big earthquake 




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