Friday, December 21, 2012

Rock and Roll Riot, San Jose, 1956

Riot Materials

John in Hayward, 510 *** ****: I was 14 at the time. I went with my brother, Lived in San Leandro, I was a junior high school. Loved rhythm and blues, I saw the Chords with Shh Boom. John Moreno. I really loved, never did dance inside. Just stood and watched. A fight first broke out, a couple of fights. I’d never seen a fight in a club like that before. Just a fight so left early. There were police coming outside. Drove with my brother back to San Leandro, he was ten years older than me. No news on the radio, didn’t read about it. We went back a couple of weeks later and saw him. No problem. No other problems all the other times.(pictures to this address: Alan Freed In Cleveland. One of the first rock and roll shows he had, they sold it out. Somebody counterfeited tickets and sold them, and they had a big riot, and they fired him and I don’t think. *** Newhall Street, Hayward, 94544).

Tommy Herrera, 1 415 *** ****: . You were 14 at that time. Lived in Mountain View, and we used to cruise on Santa Clara and 2nd and we’d cruise the Palomar Gardens. I got in once, and yesterday morning read about Guitar Watson and snuck in the back door. You have to 18 to get in. We snuck in through. We were outside and it was too crowded, we were cruising around and went by the gardens, and we parked near there, and parked across the street, there was a little side parking, and we were standing there, trying to figure out how we could get inside, the back door. We wanted to get into the back. Then all of a sudden we heard a bunch of commotion, and the first wave of people came out like tumbling. Then the second wave seemed liked a dozen guys, rolling around and throwing blows. And that’s who the people got out of the way from. Then a big circle formed, and other people just ran. And then I don’t know who it was, the guy who ran out or the people but the people across the street started flying. We back ed out of the line of fire. I saw one guy get hit in the forehead with a bottle, and he went down to one knee, and he was crossing from the Palomar Gardens, at the corner and I saw him go down. I had never seen anything like this before. Never figured out what it was about. People just started throwing blows. We stayed there till we heard the sirens coming, and they seemed to be coming from all directions. We took off cause we thought we would get popped for curfew. There was one in Mountain View, and I thought we’d get picked up. I think, if I remember, that is why we took off. We were gone when the police arrived, and we headed back to mountain view, which was a long drive at that time. And we read about it the next. I heard that Fats Domino was banned from California after that, that’s what he heard. I don’t know if it was from the riot. My kids are weened on music of the 1950s. He was weened on Fats Domino and Little Richard. I always went to the concerts on weekend. My son has a 1957 Ford Station wagon, black with flames on it. He’s got a black road jacket and is a member of the Road Zombies. I’ve got a 1956 Pontiac station wagon, lowered, with flames on it. Runs like a 1996. And we have a graffiti night on Tuesday nights, and we get together and dance. We get the 50s radio out in the parking lot, designed like a grill of a car, and we get maybe (corner of Winchester and Forest). Burger Barn. We belong to a club called the Outcasts, and everybody gets together and hangs out. I saw little Richard later, and James Brown at the Fairbrounds and at the Civic Johnny Otis, who wrote the original twist, I heard it the first night he sang it. I still live in Mountain View and work in Palo Alto. I went through my juvinile delinquent days and I work at a water company, I been with them 25 years. Grand daughter and daughter. Son and daughter, and been married 32 years. This coming Friday at 8:30 at Wendy’s on Highway 152 and 101, about 100 of us are going to a custom car show, its a MacDonalds now. Everybody gets out there and then we caravan and cruise on in and out of Paso Robles, Park in the park and then cruise.

Bob Custer, disk jockey at KLOK, in 1956, riot night, remember when story came over the news wire. Remembers the story and reported it. 268 3099. DJ at Klok, played a bit of everything in the 50s, big bands, Sinatra and Elvis had just come out, and some top ten, Saturday Night High School Hit Parade, polled schools and played the top ten local songs. Graduated from SJSU in 1952, started program at SJSU campus caravan on Klok. Radio was different then, we had local shows and remotes from Palomar Gardens. Featured a lot of the big bands, Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James and some of the current top ten stars, Joni James, Guy Mitchell and others. We did remotes from them. They advertised on KLOK at that time, along with the. Fats Domino had several top ten at the time, had crossed over from R&B, crossover at that time, known at that time on Billboard. Fats was one of the first to make the cross over. Charles Silvia advertised, jazz group Charles Parker, Chet Baker and Shelly Mann all came in. But the administration for what was considered avante gard jazz at that time. They played there. And Dave Brubeck. So we playing jazz on the radio at that time. Elvis Presley. On the radio. Crossed over from R&B also and country western and didn’t know what it was about. We’d done radio advertising for it, and played the hit. There were not a lot of people going to a cross over concert at the time, but Domino had a wider appeal than other black artists at the time, on all the local juke boxes. We were live on the air till midnight. The news came to us from Associated Press and they had a local office in San Francisco. The local reporter on the news wire and we got it about 11:50. Sounded really wild cause I was there many. On King Road, near corner. We had a fellow who Hugh Heller, did local news, he phoned in a report. As I recall more people wanted to see it than could get in. San Jose was quiet little town then, another story was a boiler blew up at the downtown Penneys in San Jose. There was the reaction and thought we shouldn’t be having these kind of concerts. I tried book a jazz concert at SJSU and they wanted no part of it, because of reaction of a crowd like that, but Dave Brubeck’s group didn’t create the crowd that Fats Domino. Put us on the front pages. Several music magazines, including Billboard and made a fuss over it. I saw Fats Domino in Tahoe about 10 years ago, and he was still great. Great juke box artist at that time. Started teaching in Cambrian School district, but did it party time, did weekly show called the High Fi club sponsored by Coca Cola. KLOK leaned more and more toward foreign language, did jazz in the evening. Much more relaxed format. Teacher and then principal, still working in real estate . Still listen to the musci and have nice library. Have a daughter. Now 35 and she liked Led Zeppelin. San Jose such an innocent laid back environment, it was quite ironic that the riot should happen here. I talked to the student council about it too, a DJ in Los Angeles called and wanted me bring up these jazz groups, from a concert in San Jose. At Morris Daley University.

Doreen Hamilton, at Gardens in 1956, *** 1314:I was married and pregnant. Graduated from high school in 1948. Not yet in maternity clothes. Had child in February. Went with my husband. We lived in San Jose off Hamilton. We were at a table right at ringside beside the dance floor. We were sitting there talking, and then all of a sudden it was quiet. A bottle went right over our table. A total surprise. Then another one. And by that time we realized there was a problem, and my husband said, lets get out of here, we had my 18 year old cousin with her. We started to go the back door, to the left of the stage, and it got too violent, and we knew we weren’t going to make it, from the table to the back, door. And so my husband pulled us under the table. It was a riot. It seemed to be there was an argument between two fellows. Fats Domino wasn’t that wild at that time. It calmed down after a whle and we ran out. We went out the back doors, which were torn off. We didn’t hang around and went in car and went home. We never went to the Palomar Gardens again. Still love Fats Domino. Had three children, three boys. My cousin and she has since been killed in an auto accident and my husband moved to Palm Springs. I’m retired, and worked in a bank. Lives in the Villas of Almaden. My grandfather developed that area, one of the few real estate offices in San Jose. He developed all the Notre Dame area, and I do have memories of that area. I told my boys, and they are sick of it. Every time Fats Domino came on I made sure they knew the story. They say, Wow, Mom was in a riot.”

Rachel Divine, was there also. in SJ: I was 17 at that time. Attended San Jose High School. Went to see Fats Domino. Group of just girls, three of them, we knew that he would draw a big crowd, all the big acts came here. First time he came here. I remember him saying that he would “Never ever come back to San Jose again.” Said that the following week, read it in the newspapers. We dressed up for it, full dresses. One of the girl friends drove us from St. Johns street, she picked me up. It was fun at first, they sell beer in glass bottles. Fight broke out. Then all of a sudden everybody was fighting. I don’t think it was the music. From what I understand somebody started pushing and there was drinking allowed. The drinking people started it all, and pretty soon a free for all, and bottles and tables and chairs were flying. This terrible thing. We got stuck in the back and couldn’t get out. There were so many women in the bathroom and we were stuck like sardines in there. Finally a policeman came to the door and escorted us out. When we got outside my dad was outside waiting for you. He was very irate. He was angry because I was stuck in there, and he thought. When we got out, still a lot of people, he was out front. We tried to get out, but still fighting in pockets of people outside. A lot of people from out of town. Everybody crowded into that little place. But probably if I went there now it isn’t that big. Everybody on top of each other. I loved Fats Domino and I don’t think he had anything. My mother in the car yelling and screaming, they were frustrated, and if my daughter was there I would have done the same. I have some of the old 45s. I liked Elvis. Graduated from San Jose high, then to San Jose beauty college, and worked. Got married a sailor and I went into the electronics business, and we traveled, him in the military. Was away from here for long time. He tired in Texas. Have a s=daughter and a son and three grand daughters. I drive by the old Palomar Gardens now and then, it looks different, and I think My God, how could I have gone to the place. I have never been back inside that place since 1956. I never had any desire to go. One day the Platters came and we didn’t go. There was something about that where I didn’t want to go.

Marilyn Veitheimer, I was there also. Veitenheimer, Monday, 408 *** 6274

Janet 510 783 **** Bosetto, was there too. Lived in Oakland. Went to lot of rock and roll shows. First and last time to the Palomar Gardens. Ruined clothes. Not normal to begin so late, by time things got started, everybody in a bad mood. The adults were all drinking beer. I don’t remember them selling anything else. 16 and go in, no limits. Dance floors, this may have been place with dance floor, but no room to be dancing. People tried to dance, but standing room only. We were pressed in the back, pressed against the wall. Husband said he felt, that when the beer bottles started flying, like throwing them up in the air. Everybody was just angry, cause it started late, and rumors it wasn’t going to happen and he wasn’t coming. We were way in the back. People tried to get to the doors, and we couldn’t see what was happening. Then a table went up into the air, and my husband said, Its time to leave. We were crushed against the back. Hoped to get out without being trampled or injured. It was real scary. Got pushed out the front door. We got out, and we got out of there. Never came back to San Jose again for a concert. But I did see him in New Mexico in 1962 and at the Concord Pavilion. Castlemont High in Oakland both were students there. Married in 1961. Today have two grown children, both boys. Registered Nurse and he works on computers. Hayward. Told my kids about that night. Music today, Zeidaco, listen to all different kinds. Boys, dosages of rock. Most of what really new I don’t care for. Son was playing really old stuff like Led Zeppelin. Still has a big stack of 45s, and a phonograph that plays them. Just parked on the street two or three blocks away.

Mary Euribas, 234 ****: Was there with her husband.

, Sports Bar Owner/ It happened 40 years, graduated from Fremont HS in Sunnyvale in 1955, finished Freshman year in 1956. I was one of the original rock and rollers in the 1950s. It was so unusual, so phenomenal. He was late. I remember specifically, the girls screaming and trying to get out of the windows of the bathrooms. I had a table that was upright and I was hiding behind. Guys running on the roofs of cars outside when the cops were coming. In those days the big time for teens was going out in drinking beer in quart bottles. Quart bottles bought on the outside of Burgermeister, and regular ones inside. I had been there before, a couple of times. The original Coasters, a lot of people there this time, there were a lot people, more than ever seen before. Impossible to dance, bumper to bumper. Just started. Combination of the music, which was so new. The only station you could get rock and roll music on a station with guy named, a white disk jockey, and he sounded black, That kind of music was turning people on, and you had a couple of beers and you got pumped up and it was a new thing, a phenomenal thing. New music was happening. Something new was happening. It got of control. Fats was late and he didn’t get there till ten and people got pretty drunk and wound up. I remember trying to dance. There were no gangs in those days. We used to go to a place called the high spot in San Jose, and every now and then you got into a fight with someone from another school. I was with friends that night. Probably from old Fremont High School buddies. My wife had been with me to the Palomar. I remember seeing guys. Mixed ethnic groups, and it wasn’t a big deal. I told my son about it, but he didn’t believe it.
I live in Saratoga now. Finished college and finished SJSU, and went to work for some companies and went into business for myself. I retired and bought a Box Seat Sports Grill.
Rudy Venegas, have two kids, daughter 30 and son 32. I still listen to music all the time from the 1950s. All time. Chuck Berry and Fats Domino still playing. We went to a Chuck Berry concert at the Paul Masson Winery, a few years ago, and my daughter and I got up on the stage.

Margaret Myer.On July 1, 1956, my family moved to San Jose from the Chicago area. While my parents were looking for a new home, we stayed at the Hotel De Anza. That’s where we were on the night of July 7. We had dinner at Original Joe’s that night. When we returned to the hotel, the nearby streets were very congested. As we entered the lobby, I remember seeing a young man dripping blood. From our hotel room window, we looked down on the Palomar Gardens. We wanted to see what was going on so briefly we went down to Notre Dame street. However, we soon decided to return to our room where we continued to watch the scene around the Palomar Gardens from the window. That was our welcome to San Jose -- a riot.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Would anyone from this post be interested in talking to me about this incident for an upcoming exhibit on the history of South Bay Music at the New Museum in Los Gatos. We are a new museum in art , history and innovation with a regional demographic. If yes, please email me at

thank you!
Amy Long
History Curator