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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

  • Man’s Best Friend: In my recent series on the 1906 earthquake, I related Ralph Rambo’s memories of the day. I especially liked the episode of how he adopted the Doyle School dog after discovering him shivering on the front stoop of the school. Calling the dog, he jumped into the buggy, driven by Ralph’s father, and the dog stayed with them until he died many years later.
  • The First State Legislature: The “Legislature of a Thousand Drinks” is the unmerited sobriquet remembering the first State Legislature of California held here in San Jose in late1849 and early 1850. The elected senators and assemblymen were all very young men—most of whom had been in California for less than two years—with little or no training in law, and yet they made some of the most important laws governing our state, most of which are still in effect today. The total budget for the first year of operation was $348,000.
  • 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.
  • Dutch Hamann (Part 2): Let’s get back to the man in charge of change—A.P. “Dutch” Hamann. He graduated from the University of Santa Clara during the early stages of the great depression. Although his name was Anthony P. Hamann, everyone I’ve ever known called him “Dutch,” a nickname derived from his German heritage. Dutch was the alumni director of the University when I first knew him prior to World War II. When the war broke out, Santa Clara became practically deserted as the priests, students, faculty and administrators were called to military duty. Dutch joined the Navy where he rose to the rank of Lt. Commander. After the war he returned to Santa Clara as business manager, but after a few years he left to join General Motors as division manager in Oakland.
  • Artist Andrew P. Hill: Over the years some great artists have lived and painted here. Of particular interest to me are A.D.M. Cooper (1856-1924), Charles Harmon (1859-1936) and Andrew P. Hill (1853-1922). Cooper was certainly the most prolific and he commanded the highest prices for his paintings. When he was still alive, one of his paintings sold for $60,000, the equivalent of more than $1 million today. In my opinion Charles Harmon was perhaps the most gifted, but my favorite is Andrew P. Hill and, while not well known today, he painted some wonderful local pieces. Of course his real fame is that of the “man who saved the redwoods.” His painting “California Redwood Park” was exhibited during the second year of the San Francisco Panama Pacific Exposition in 1916.