Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Local History Tidbit: Highway 17

Just by coincidence, I recently met Richard Beal, the author of Highway 17 (1991, The Pacific Group, Aptos, CA). When I got back to my office, I pulled the book off the shelf and began thumbing through it. What a gold mine of local history! I saw that the year I graduated high school (no hints) there were 36 fatalities on “17!” (I don’t think my parents knew that, otherwise, why would they allow a crazy teenager to regularly drive over the hill?). According to Beal, Harvey West was responsible for installing “gory billboards” up on 17 – complete with red day-glo images of skeletons & coffins, as a way to discourage unsafe drivers. It seems to have worked!

I get nostalgic every time I read about the towns of Alma and Lexington being flooded to create Lexington Reservoir (discussed in Beal’s book). I seriously wish history had unfolded differently. I miss those towns I never knew!

It’s also interesting to look at the old maps & pictures of the Santa Cruz Mountains & the various routes from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz & imagine how it once was from the days of Mountain Charlie to crazy Riker’s Holy City . . . debryman.com

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