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Tracing Tracy Territory

Downtown, days gone by

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Last week’s Remember When mystery photo of Gerard Gonsalves preparing a hors d’oeuvre platter at Gerard’s Deli in 1989 made my mouth water. No, not for the slices of cheese and salami on the platter, but for one of Gerard’s corned-beef sandwiches. They were the best.

All I had to do when I got in line to order from the “hot” side of Gerard’s was to raise my index finger. Gerard knew exactly what I wanted and started at work slicing ample portions of hot, well-marbled corned beef.

Usually, I had a half sandwich (on rye), which was as much as a full sandwich in most other places. With a cup of coleslaw and a Martinelli’s sparkling apple juice, I was ready for my favorite lunch.

With the two Juniors getting ready to open their new restaurant in the same location once occupied for 32 years by Gerard’s, a luncheon special on the menu called “Gerard’s Corned-beef Sandwich” would be a welcome sight.

A number of former Gerard’s regulars — Fernandes and Delia Fagundes come quickly to mind — would no doubt agree that something from the “old Gerard’s days” would be appreciated.

And The Great Plate?

I still have mixed feelings about the impending destruction of what has become known as the Great Plate building farther south from Gerard’s — er, Juniors’ — on Central Avenue.

With its location across the street from the Grand Theatre and with ample space for a restaurant and bar, the building has a lot going for it. And there is a second floor accessed by an elevator.

It might not have the same architectural qualities as the nearby former Bank of Italy building at Seventh and Central, but it has historical value as a building from the early 20th century (completed in 1921) when Central Avenue was replacing Sixth Street as Tracy’s “main drag.”

Unfortunately, it also has a lot of problems that need to be corrected before it can be put back in use. And I wonder about the second story’s safety for large gatherings.

On the other hand, if demolished, in conjunction with the adjacent parking lot (which was originally the home of the Westlake Drugs and the Central Club on the ground floor and Hotel Francis on the second), it would leave ample room for a two-story building with businesses on the ground floor and apartments above — a mixed-use building that part of Central Avenue needs.

We’ll have to see what develops in the not-too-distant future. Unless there is a last-minute reprieve, it will be wrecking-ball city.

Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at

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