Longtime Saratoga residents reflect on its modernization

November 16, 2017 — by Jayne Zhou and Ananya Vadlakonda

When Saratoga residents and siblings Jim Parden and Nancy Badgett were born in 1958, a great deal of Saratoga still had orchards and undeveloped lots. Nearly 60 years later, areas that had once been covered in vineyards and orchards have been converted into Highway 85, West Valley College and new houses.

With the influx of people Saratoga has experienced through the years, the drastic differences span from the community’s closeness and growth to the advancement of downtown and the education system in Saratoga.

Despite all the changes, lifelong residents like the Parden-Badgett family think Saratoga has stayed true to its small-town vibe.

 

Family history

In 1950, the population of the city was a mere 1,329. By 1970, it had mushroomed to 27,110. In the most recent census from 2010, the population was 29,926.

The growth of the population changed the tight-knit community dramatically.

“When I was a child, there were more children who played in the streets, rode their bikes to school and to play,” Badgett said. “The neighborhoods were filled with more activities and community involvement.”

Badgett recalls how when she was growing up, most mothers stayed at home and talked to neighbors on a regular basis, allowing for more interaction within the community. Because people rarely moved in and out of the area back then, most families knew each other well.

However, with a spike in population and increased focus on work, the lack of family-to-family relationships has become increasingly common.

Since the Parden-Badgett family has been in Saratoga for decades, their tightly-kit family has grown significantly, with branches of their respective families living here as well. For them, the thought of moving out of Saratoga has never crossed their minds.

“I have been in Saratoga my whole life,” Badgett said. “I married the guy down the street and we bought the house up the street from my family home.”

Due to the closeness of the family, they often meet for holidays and have very large events, sometimes with over 100 people attending family celebrations.

“I am fortunate that my extended family lives in Saratoga,” Nancy Badgett said. “Today, I have 10 family members who are raising their families in Saratoga like my brother and myself.”

 

Downtown

Over the years, the two siblings have watched Downtown Saratoga transform into a hub of Saratoga culture, boasting fine dining and small boutiques among a spread of locally owned establishments.

However, they said Saratoga hasn’t always been a restaurant row.

“Downtown is where we did all the shopping,” Parden said. “Downtown had everything we needed — Whitlow's clothing store, Saratoga Hardware, a hobby shop, Saratoga Buy and Save grocery store and banks.”

Downtown Saratoga was previously “more the center of town,” with a Post Office, banks and stores all compiled in one place, Badgett said.

But as the years have gone by, their family has watched downtown modernize from nurseries to shopping centers and orchards to business parks.

And many favorite stores have closed. Among Badgett’s favorites was Shaws Ice Cream, where “they they knew you and your favorite ice cream.”

Taking their place have been establishments like Starbucks and Yolatea.

Another small shop that closed recently was Gene’s Fine Foods, located in the El Quito Plaza on Cox Avenue. This store, whose illustrious lifetime spanned 47 years, was a huge part of the Saratoga community.

With the rents increasing and the preference for online shopping growing, traditionally strong businesses have a tough time surviving.

 

School System

Both Parden and Badgett attended Sacred Heart until sixth grade and then Congress Springs for a year, before transferring to the public school system — Redwood Middle School and Saratoga High School.

Both then attended Santa Clara University, and after creating a life for himself building custom houses in the Silicon Valley, Parden decided to send his children through the same school system.

Their children, current SHS sophomore Grant Badgett and senior James Parden, attended both Redwood Middle School and Saratoga High School.

“I think the schools are fantastic here and [it was] one of the reasons my wife Lisa and I wanted to raise our family here,” Parden said.

Throughout the family’s many years here, Parden has seen the improvement of its school systems, from the advancements in technology used in the classroom, to the structural renovations the schools have experienced.

Schools in the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area have also seen a large influx of Asian-American immigrants as tech companies have grown to be the dominant force in the economy and highly skilled workers have become in high demand by the tens of thousands.

In 1960, when Parden and Badgett were children, the population in Saratoga was 99.1 percent Caucasian and nearly 0 percent Asian. In the 2010 census, the population was 53.9 percent Caucasian and 41.5 percent Asian. When the next census occurs in 2020, that trend is sure to increase further.

In part because of the schools’ reputations, housing prices have also seen a huge increase in the last couple decades with housing prices currently at an average $2.56 million, according to statistics from Zillow.

Having been in Saratoga for more than half a century, the Badgett-Parden family has no plans leave.

“Saratoga still has a small town feel to me,” Badgett said. “I know all the back roads and can move around the triangle very easily. I can run into a friend at Safeway, Starbucks or downtown. I know I will have family here and ties to the community for years to come.”

 

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