A man of Alamo
Roy Bloss remembers campaigns to preserve, promote and make history in the San Ramon Valley
Roy Bloss has always been fascinated by history. He has spent much of his life researching it, preserving it and writing about it. During his 90 years of living, 52 of them in Alamo, Bloss has made a little history, too.
"I admire him so much for his devotion to the valley and to its history," says Beverly Lane, curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley. "Roy is always articulate, passionate and willing to stand up for the community good. He has been an inspiration to many of us for decades."
Bloss's personal history began when he was born in Minneapolis on April 2, 1918. His family moved to Southern California in 1926, where he grew up and lived during his early adult life.
Bloss served in the Navy Reserves during World War II, stationed in various posts around the United States. He met his wife, Roberta Madie Brooks, while he was serving in Washington, D.C., and they had two children, a son, Wayne, and a daughter, Roberta Lenore. They were living in the suburbs of Los Angeles when Bloss' trucking company employer moved north; the family went along and settled in their house in Alamo in 1955.
It was the job at the trucking company that serendipitously spurred Bloss' involvement in local history.
"The sales manager at the time, used the term 'Pony Express' to describe the relay operations of the big truck line that ran west from Chicago," says Bloss. "That idea intrigued me, so I started writing my book."
By the time Bloss' book, "Pony Express - The Great Gamble," was finished several years later, he was working in sales for a commercial publishing and printing business, Howell-North Books. They published his book in 1959, the year before the centennial celebration of the Pony Express.
During his research, Bloss discovered that even though popular history recorded the Pony Express as ending its western route in Sacramento, that was not always the case.
"The riders who were coming across the country from St. Joseph, Mo., where it started, sometimes missed the river steamer that would take them to San Francisco, where the mail was destined," says Bloss. "When that happened they had to run the mail from Sacramento to Oakland to catch the ferry. So they would come down the north side of the river, cross over from Benicia into Martinez, then go into what is now Walnut Creek and Lafayette and over the hills into Oakland."
At the time, Bloss was serving on the Contra Costa County Historical Society and was chairman of the committee to sponsor a centennial celebration in the county.
"With a great deal of research, the committee discovered that the steamer was missed 19 times while the Pony Express ran," says Bloss. "So, 19 times the riders had to run overland through Contra Costa County, and because the route changed from time to time, 19 times was more than the Pony Express had been through many of the other sections of the route."
Bloss' work with the Contra Costa Historical Society inspired him to join with a group of local residents to form the San Ramon Valley Historical Society in 1970. Alamo historian Virgie Jones remembers the early days of the society.
"Roy was the first president and I was the first secretary," Jones says. "He has a nice sense of humor and a nice style of writing. He likes to use long words and interesting words that we all have to look up in the dictionary. It challenges us. People like that about him."
In all his years of preserving history, it's his work in changing the course of history of which Bloss is most proud.
In 1970 the county was proposing to make Danville Boulevard four lanes instead of two. Bloss formed and served as chairman of the Association to Preserve Danville Boulevard. Bloss is quoted in the May 13, 1970, Valley Pioneer newspaper giving an impassioned plea to protect "the beauty wrought by God, over the artificiality of man."
The efforts of Bloss and the association worked.
"We stopped the county," Bloss remembers. "I'm happiest about fighting the widening of Danville Boulevard because that would have changed the whole community. It would have put a major road smack through a very quiet community.
"It turned out to be a successful effort in stopping the county from continuing with their plans, and not everything else that I was involved with had that much success attached to it."
One memorable effort that ended with mixed success was Bloss' work as co-chairman of the 1973 Alamo cityhood campaign. Bloss and a group of civic leaders proposed incorporating the area from Walnut Creek to the Alameda County line into a city. When the election to decide whether or not to create the new city was held, it was narrowly defeated.
However, in the same election, voters chose five people to serve as city council members in case the proposition passed. Even though he lost his bid to make Alamo a city, Bloss won the prospective council seat.
"I was one of five elected city councilmen to the city that wasn't elected," Bloss jokes.
With the recent Alamo incorporation effort under way, Bloss is once again expressing his opinion.
"It's an emotional thing with me to have Alamo as its own community, providing it could pay the bills," he says. "If the numbers show that Alamo has the finances to support a city, I'm in favor of it. If it's a shaky question, I would be in favor of Danville's adoption of the city. To me, Danville is a very beautiful community and a successful community."
When Alamo residents launched the Boulevard of Trees project in 1987, Bloss purchased three oak trees for Danville Boulevard near his home. In his later years, he is still contributing to his community, volunteering at the museum and attending town meetings when he can. Last fall he wrote a guest opinion for the Danville Weekly about Alamo incorporation.
Bloss is an inspiration, especially to his daughter, Roberta, who has served as chairwoman of the planning commission in Redondo Beach, just as her father served as chairman on the local planning commission when she was a child.
"The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree," she says. "My dad has been very involved in the community for many, many years. He provides a great role model."
Roberta recently hosted a 90th birthday party for her dad at Piatti restaurant in Danville. At the celebration, she told the gathering of family and friends that her father has three traits that she admires and believes have contributed to his longevity:
"First, there's discipline. He walks every day. He is very disciplined about his diet, exercise and taking care of his health," she says.
Second, is his intellectual curiosity and self-education.
"I was the first in the family to go to college, but my dad is more educated that I am," she says. "He is self-taught, a devoted reader, and he reads intelligent pieces. He can speak on any subject with anybody."
Third, is his character.
"He is a man of character who made good decisions - that has given him a good life," she says. "He was married to my mom for 62 years. He is a good father and a strong role model."
Bloss' wife, Roberta Madie, passed away in July 2005.
"Our love for one another was probably the greatest thing in my life, and I'm sure it was in hers," Bloss says.
Although his daughter worries about him living alone and has invited him to come and live with her in Southern California, she knows he is comfortable where he is and she wants him to stay there as long as he's able.
Bloss has no plans to leave Alamo - his home for over half a century. He has someone come in to help with cleaning the house, but he still does his own gardening and drives himself around town.
"I've lived here for so long and I know where everything is and what the troubles are and what the advantages are," Bloss says. "It's a very hard attachment to even think about separating. I've found that this house and me are the same thing."