September 21, 2017
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A young manís memories of old Cotati

By: Irene Hilsendager
November 11, 2016
Santa Rosa General Hospital was the birthplace of Gary Santero, the gentleman being featured for this article.
The Santero’s purchased a small residence on an acre of land in 1947 near the entrance of the northbound 101 freeway. Part of the Santero land actually went under the freeway as the 101 had not yet been built and the old highway went right in front of what is now True Value Hardware. The little house was a novelty; for many years Mrs. Santero had banners in the window that would say happy birthday or happy anniversary. In 1954 Caltrans bought up the extra Santero land and in the meantime plans were developed for the Highway 101 and a frontage road that would lead to Commerce Avenue.
Santero started in the first grade in the city hall building. The little first grade room used to be the Cotati Police Dept. and in the last several years has been home to the Cotati Historical Society. After reaching the sixth grade, Gary had to go to the brand new Kenilworth Junior High School near the Petaluma fairgrounds. He enrolled in Petaluma High School and to further his education he enrolled in the University of San Francisco. Gary never quite graduated but instead enlisted into the naval reserves. He was accepted to the California Highway Patrol Academy and served as a California Highway Patrolman for 34 years. 
Santero retired in 2001 but still keeps busy with properties, vacations and a tractor service he owns.
Years ago on the north side of Cotati, the Sonoma Mattress Company inhabited the area that is now Mike’s at the Crossroad. 
The mattress place had a frontal showroom with a factory in the rear of the building. Later on, an upholstery shop was installed and on the second floor the Winter family resided.
An additional store front, formerly the Windmill Nursery and which now houses the Second Wind Boutique, was a bar that was run by Glen Nylander and truth be told, when the Cotati Police Department was formed, it moved right next door to the bar. 
Previously, the empty lot on the corner of Old Redwood and the 116 Highway stood a full-service Shell gas station. Winter’s moved his upholstering shop to what is now Military to Go. Can you imagine Helman Lane used to intersect Old Redwood Highway?
On the east side of Old Redwood Highway, where Elite Hydro and the Redwood gas station were located, sat a company called the Diamond Match Company and not quite to the Walgreen lot, because no residences had been built nearby, a two-sided drive through lumber yard occupied the area. 
The section of land where Las Guitarras is located was two private residences. Frank Lund owned one house and was known for growing his beautiful gladiolas. 
The other was a two story house owned by a Mr. & Mrs. Aguirre. There was a private residence behind the Mexican restaurant where the Wolford’s lived and raised Southdown sheep.
The building long known as Las Guitarras was an old bar – if recalling it correctly – called the Black Oaks owned by Joe Serna. 
If rumors are correct, it had the reputation of being a fairly rowdy bar. As for the chickens roaming Walgreen’s parking lot, you may thank Mrs. McGordy for that. She had coops of chickens behind Walgreen’s, but this was before new houses were built in that section of Cotati. 
When the freeway was built, a frontage road had to be graded in order to reach True Value and the little house was stuck between True Value and the newer strip mall. We will roam more through Cotati in the next history column.