Back in the days with Silicon Valley was still The Valley of Heart’s Delight, a guy would often give a gal his letterman’s sweater and ask her to be his girl at a dance. It wouldn’t be just any dance though. It would be at a Wutzit Club dance – the place to be for everyone who was anyone.
Each year, Wutzit Club alumni members get together at the American Legion on Homestead for a dinner and dance to honor the memory of club founder Father Walter E. Schmidt, relive the Wutzit Club glory days, and raise funds to benefit the Walter E Schmidt Youth Activity Center on Cabrillo Avenue.
On November 17, the hall was packed with former Wutzit Club members who, for a modest $30, dined on a prime rib dinner before hitting the dance floor and doing the Hand Jive and Twist to the music of 50s and 60s rockers, The Sparkletones.
“All throughout the county, you can talk to anyone that’s our age, [the Wutzit] was the only place that a teenager could go to, to dance and have a good time,” said Wutzit Club Alumni member, keyboardist for The Sparkletons, and former Santa Clara Police Officer Craig Sala. “It was really restrictive in those days – they had chaperones…Father Schmidt is the one that set it all that up. He said, ‘we need young people to get together and a place they can go to get them off the streets.’ There would be 1,400 kids, and that was a lot back in those days, waiting in line.
“[One night] Father Schmidt pulled me right out of line and he said ‘you’ve got sideburns,’ and he gave me a razor and shaving cream. He said, ‘if you want to come in here, you need to shave the sideburns off.’ And he would watch the kids coming in line. I mean, Santa Clara University was an all boys school, a Jesuit school. They were very strict in those days. I mean, you got kicked out for nothing – reading a nasty book – and so there were always those restrictions but we loved it. We all went there – we loved it. This is how we got to socialize; this is how we got to meet each other and Father Schmidt was the main catalyst of all of that.”
“I remember being a 14-year-old, when I was first able to walk into the Wutzit,” said club secretary/treasurer Ray Gamma, who organized the event along with club president Rebecca Villarreal, William and Lois Gil, Rita Ivancovich, Jim Nevis and Mercedes Wells. “It was awesome. We would meet there on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights and then Sundays. It was the place to go to dance and we had entertainers…We had all these guys come in and treat us kids…These people here, you mention Father Schmidt, and everyone’s got something [good] to say [about him].”
The proceeds from the event will be presented at a City Council meeting and Gamma said that this year he will be able to hand over a check for $2,560. To date, the Wutzit Club Alumni have raised $24,980 for the YAC.
“These guys, I love them,” said Gamma. “I love them. They’re a fantastic group. This is amazing.”