Presenting the Past: Ruby Podva, Danville's postmaster | December 5, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - December 5, 2008

Presenting the Past: Ruby Podva, Danville's postmaster

by Beverly Lane

Postmasters were important to growing villages throughout the West. Sometimes, as with Danville, a name was chosen for the community when citizens decided to get a post office. Many people still recall Ruby Podva, who was postmaster from 1933 to 1963.

Danville's first postmaster was Henry W. Harris, the proprietor of the first Danville Hotel. Michael Cohen, who built the Cohen-Vecki House at 169 Front St., owned a store and was postmaster from 1865 to 1886, with a one-year break.

Other store owners on Front Street held the post: John Conway, John Shuey and Teresa Conway. Albert E. Clark was postmaster from 1898 to 1913 and Emma Dodge served from 1913 to 1933. The Dodge House is still in place at 425 Hartz Ave. Emma's husband George, who was blind, would pick up the mail at the train depot each day.

In 1933, Ruby Oswill Podva became postmaster. Ruby Oswill grew up in San Ramon and married Roger Podva whose McPherson ancestors arrived in Tassajara Valley after the Gold Rush. His father, Adolphus Podva, moved from Canada to the Valley in the 1880s. Roger was a rancher, butcher and meat dealer (Walnut Creek Meats); he served for years on the Danville Fire Board.

The Podva house they lived in is still intact at 809 Podva Road where it was moved in 1980. It was built by the Rev. Joshua Chase Burgess, minister of the Danville Presbyterian Church, and called "Bonny Vista" for its pretty views. Roger and Ruby moved to the 19th-century house in 1911, and their children Roger and LaMay were born in 1912 and 1916.

Ruby was postmaster for 30 years. With no home delivery, patrons came to the post office regularly, and she knew everyone. Her office was initially in the Markey building, two doors down from the fire station next to the barber shop.

"My post office was in a small (brick) building location on Hartz," Ruby said. "There sure wasn't much room, but we really didn't need too much. We had 30 postal boxes and no routes. You know, I had no formal higher education and, with the government demanding an accounting for every penny, you couldn't be ahead or behind 1 cent. I hired a bookkeeper. But I caught on quickly."

Mrs. Podva is pictured in front of the new post office which was built after World War II by Dr. John W. Blemer, at 169 E. Prospect Ave. The April 11, 1946, Valley Pioneer stated: "The building which is to be of an ultra modern design and should be ready in about 60 days, is being designed by Denny of Lafayette and will be built by Graham and Yodder, local contractors."

This "ultra modern" building is still in place on Prospect and now houses the Bellies N' Babies retail store. In no time, the population increased in Danville and the post office was replaced by a cinder block building just west, at 51 E. Prospect Ave.; it was demolished recently. To keep up with growth, another building became the downtown post office on Railroad Avenue (1966-2007). Today's post office is in the same location at Danville Square.

Marilyn Podva Kristic recalled life in smalltown Danville when her grandmother was postmaster:

"Hartz Avenue was an intimate neighborhood in the 1940s and 1950s. Everyone knew each other, as Danville was a small town. We children always knew the adults were watching over us. Once, when I rode my bicycle out to Camp Parks with my girl friends, the word reached home before I did. My grandmother was the postmistress and the 'town watch committee' would either telephone or drop by the post office and inform her of my activities."

The new Danville history book, "Vintage Danville, 150 Years of Memories," includes a complete list of postmasters and is available for sale at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.

Sources: "Vintage Danville, 150 Years of Memories," museum archives, Virgie V. Jones' "Be It Ever So Humble"

Beverly Lane is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon" and "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories."


Like this comment
Posted by Montana James Podva
a resident of Danville
on Dec 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for the history lesson ! My Dad, James M. Podva, son of Robert and Irene Podva, was born at "Bonny Vista", aka, The Old Podva House, in 1917. I recall first meeting Roger and Ruby there at a family reunion in the early 1950's. My cousin Dolph showed me how to jump safely from the hay loft and his dad, Boo Podva, taught me how to ride a horse. Great memories of my early childhood days!

Like this comment
Posted by n
a resident of Danville
on Dec 8, 2011 at 7:27 am

Montana, I bet you have a wealth of information on Danville History. How wonderful. I hope you share it and photos so we can learn more about Danville.

Like this comment
Posted by collins
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Dec 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I look forward to purchasing and reading the new Danville history book!

Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Dec 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

It would be nice to see the Railroad Museum do an exhibit of black & white photos, sketches, and paintings of our town from it's early history. There seems to be a dearth of this material, but I have a hunch some of Danville's more senior residents might have material they could loan out.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School

on Jun 4, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?