By Pete Carey
San Jose High School alumni revived a long-dormant tradition Saturday when they staged the school's first "Color Day" since the 1950s.
The event raised money for a weekend sports league for elementary school students sponsored by the San Jose High School Alumni Association, filling a void left by city programs that shut down years ago.
It goes beyond sports, organizers say. Once, city parks and recreation sports programs helped build friendships between students at different elementary schools, defusing rivalries before they got started.
"It literally tied the community together," recalled Bill Kleidon, the alumni association's president. "There's no more parks and rec, so we're putting together a league for every kid to play in free, and we're funding it ourselves. It's about building a community."
There was so much good food, music, cool cars, dancing and sports packed into one Saturday that the revived tradition now appears to be firmly back in place.
There were five live bands, a soccer tournament, a kids' play zone, a tamale festival, traditional dancing and a car show packed into six hours.
Proceeds from food sales were shared with the San Jose High School Bulldog Foundation, which is raising money for the school's 150th anniversary next year.
"It's pretty cool to see all the alumni out here," said junior Dustin Nguyen.
Nguyen, a lineman on the football team, moved through the
Musicians who graduated decades ago jammed for hours.
"We're out to offer our support and donate our time," said blues artist J.C. Smith, a San Jose High graduate. "We're not the richest school, but what we got a lot of is spirit."
Spearheaded by the San Jose High Alumni Association, the Northside Elementary Youth Sports League kicks off next week, according to Kleidon's son George, an Olinder Elementary School teacher who used to teach at San Jose High.
George Kleidon said six elementary schools and 150 students are already signed up for flag football, basketball, soccer and baseball.
"It's to prepare them for middle and high school," he said.
The elder Kleidon, who organized the event Saturday, seconded that. "When I grew up in the '70s," he said, "we had parks and rec, and we would go play each other at the elementary school level, move on to middle school and we knew each other and became friends."
By the time he entered high school, he said, he had friends from other elementary schools that he played against. Some of them became lifelong friends.
"Nowadays that doesn't happen. A kid from the other side of town, sees another kid walking down Santa Clara Street and thinks he's on the wrong side of the street, so they go at each other. There's no more camaraderie."
Taking everything in was retired physical education teacher Gene Dawson, class of 1961, who was the elder Kleidon's baseball coach.
"We're trying to start it at the grammar school level," Dawson said. "None of this is going to cost the kids anything, if we can get away with it."
Contact Pete Carey at 408-920-5419
Interested in volunteering for, or donating to, the Northside Elementary Youth Sports League? Visit www.sjhaa.com
The San Jose High School Bulldog Foundation has more events planned for the upcoming 150th anniversary. See www.sanjosehighfoundation.org for more information.