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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

  • Fish and Snakehips’s Romantic Adventure: It is hard to realize today, when teenagers go to their proms in limousines and plan to spend a thousand dollars plus to attend, but in 1938, it was a whole lot different. It was in the ancient days, during the Great Depression and before World War II, when I was a young boy approaching manhood. The Junior Prom at Los Gatos High was approaching and my buddy, Bill “Fish” Hildebrand and I discussed attending. (When I was in high school, nearly everyone had a nickname. Bill was always called “Fish” and I was known as “Snakehips” because I was so skinny that if I turned sideways to the sun, I didn’t create a shadow.) Bill and I were both on the football team and had earned our block sweaters and felt it was time to impress the ladies. (Bill was a pretty good player and I kept the bench warm.)
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 2): Last week I told of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in San Jose. San Francisco was another story—one of the greatest tragedies of California history. Estimates of the dead numbered more than 700, but the true count will never be known.
  • The Big Fight: It was the biggest fight ever seen in San Jose. The adversaries were “Frank Heney,” at 450 pounds, versus the team of “Reuf” and “Schmitz,” each weighing in at 250 pounds. The victor was “Frank Heney,” who nearly killed his opponents and then kicked them out of the arena.
  • Early Land Grants: Many people have asked me about the land grants dating from the Pueblo de San Jose era. Most people refer to them as the “Spanish Land Grants.” In fact, the grants were nearly all Mexican grants as the Spanish king’s land was only given to retired soldiers for their military service. Of the 44 land grants in Santa Clara County, only three were Spanish while 41 were Mexican. To receive a Mexican Grant, an individual only had to petition the governor, file a crude map of the area, and submit a fee of about twelve dollars. The petition could be for a city house lot or a 50,000 acre rancho. In addition, one had to be a Mexican citizen and of the Catholic faith. To become a Mexican citizen, an individual merely had to pledge allegiance to Mexico.
  • Old Time San Jose Creameries: If you want to make an old time San Josean’s eyes glisten, just ask them about the wonderful creameries that existed during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Perhaps it was the competition of so many excellent soda fountains, but San Jose was blessed with the best.