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Conaway Writes Los Gatos Family History
By Alastair Dallas   - 10/09/2007

Los Gatos Observer

More Info on This Book: Los Gatos Generations

Los Gatos Library Director Peggy Conaway has written a third book about our town's history. Los Gatos Generations chronicles the many fascinating characters who gave life to our town over its first 100 years. The 128-page book is filled with black-and-white photographs and will retail for $19.99 when it is released 10/15.

Conaway presented some of the historical material from the book at a recent gathering at the Presbyterian Church, hosted by Pat Jones. She will address the Daughters of the American Revolution on 11/5 and will speak at The Meadows on 11/6 in advance of the book's official launch, presented by the Friends of the Los Gatos Library at the Civic Center 11/9.

Over 50 people attended the book's preview, including some members of the families it describes. Local philanthropist Bill Cilker was there with his family, and Billy Jones' daughters, Betty and Geraldine. The story of Jones, the Southern Pacific engineer who built a backyard railroad that attracted Walt Disney's eye, was given more space in Conaway's last book, Railroads of Los Gatos (2006), written with Ed Kelley.

Conaway's first book for Arcadia Publishing, Images of America: Los Gatos (2004) told the story of the town with historical photographs that the library has been gathering, digitizing, and making available on the web at historylosgatos.org/. In four years, the library has some 4,000 photographs, about 1,200 of which are available online right now.

The new book's cover features the members of the Los Gatos History Club, including Emily Cohen and Ruth Comfort Mitchell, in 1925, two years after the club planted the tree that still serves as the town's Christmas tree.

Conaway described violent crimes and retribution and touched on stories of pioneer courage with family names from the history of Los Gatos such as Lyndon, Farwell, Cilker, Parr, and butcher Ed Yocco. Her research also included "Chief," the beloved dog who had the run of the town in the 1930s and 1940s.

"Write about your family," Bill Cilker told the audience--he has. Librarian Conaway agreed, offering to accept manuscripts and make them available to future generations.

Billy Jones' daughters spoke to the group, as well, with sparkling memories of their father's backyard railroad and vivid recollections of the fire in the square roundhouse, as well as the generosity of the community that erased the fire damage and ensured it wouldn't happen again.

"Lots of us got to ride on the train before it moved to the park," a woman in the audience exclaimed. The sisters described the "golden spike" ceremony in Fall, 1943, when the railroad was completed. Mayor Stanley Mills gave a speech, the Los Gatos High School Marching Band played, and there really was a golden spike.

Peggy Conaway's latest book is full of family stories like these, told in the captions of hundreds of photographs. She is well acquainted with the library's archives and the History Museum of Los Gatos', but Conaway says she also conducted interviews, studied tax records, read diaries, and used online resources such as ancestry.com and genealogybank.com. She traveled to the Huntington Library in Pasadena and the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley for information about Col. Erskine Scott Wood and Sara Bard Field, patrons of the town's signature cat statues.

"I am a librarian in a small town that loves its history," she explains. "My Arcadia Publishing books have provided a wonderful vehicle for making these images accessible to the community."

Peggy came to Los Gatos in 2000, after working for the San Jose Public Library for 17 years. She was an operational design project manager for the joint San Jose State University/San Jose Public Library project, and she holds a master's degree in English and in Library Science, both from San Jose State.

Buy It Now: Los Gatos Generations $19.99

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