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Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Welcome to www.leonardmckay.com, the site dedicated to the life and learnings of Leonard McKay, historian, San Jose, California. My grandfather was an amazing man and a wealth of knowledge. As such, I have decided that it is a crime to let his knowledge go to waste, and will be developing this site in his honor.

Excerpts from Leonard's Blog

  • The Port of Alviso: The earliest use of Alviso Slough as a shipping port was recorded by John Henry Dana in his book “Two years before the Mast.” Mission Santa Clara shipped cowhides and wheat during the 1830’s from what was then known as the “Embarcadero” (“landing place”). In 1846, during the Mexican War, 30 armed American troops under the command of Lt. Robert Pinkney disembarked by the Embarcadero to get bread from Mission Santa Clara and to participate in the one engagement in Northern California against Mexican troops, “The Battle of Santa Clara.”
  • Anatomy of a Street (Part 1): What San Jose street is actually in two cites, has had a murder by hired assassins, has three churches and narrows at both ends? What street had a property with a live lion patrolling the grounds in the 1930s and has a house that was once a brothel before it was moved to its present location? What private eye living on this street was stabbed when answering his door late one night in 1974?
  • Dirt (Part 5): After World War II, I returned home to college and normal life in “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.” Agriculture was still king, but waste from the industry overwhelmed the sewage system, which was unable to carry it all to Alviso. So, truckloads of tomato and fruit waste were hauled there and dumped in huge piles. These piles fermented and developed hydrochloric acid fumes that were borne on the wind southwards. If you owned a building that was painted with white lead paint (very common in the 1950s), it could turn gray overnight.
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 4): “So Dad whipped up the horse and we made a harried tour of the disrupted city. Certain sights were implanted in the mind of this 12-year old. San Francisco suffered most from its great fire. In that respect San Jose was more fortunate. The [fire] control was excellent in comparison. We arrived to see only one fire in progress on Second Street. Remember this was before fire engines were motorized. So the team or rather three abreast horses were tied across the street from the Jose Theater. The fire was just one building, now under control. But the street was strangely deserted. Why was there no crowd? Where were the usual spectators?”
  • Presbyterians and Prostitutes: When Chinese men from Canton arrived during the gold rush as contract laborers, they never intended to stay here. If a man could manage to save $100, he could return to his village and live out the rest of his days, never having to work again. But very few accomplished this goal, as gambling and opium took their toll. In order to enter Chinese heaven their bones had to be buried in China, and shipping the remains of men whom died in California back to their home became big business.