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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

  • 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 Educated Fly Rod (Part 2): May Day of each year was an undeclared school holiday for high school boys as May 1st was the opening day of trout season, and nearly every boy skipped school that day whether they went fishing or not. I always eagerly awaited the opening of fishing season and every school day afternoon, while seated in class, I was afflicted with a tremendous itch to be out in our local trout streams. I was not the only one afflicted as many of my fishing buddies would be equally tormented. There was no football practice, basketball was over and we felt that we could best train for the track team by hurdling over rocks and doing the broad jump across the creek. One of my closest friends was Barney “Max” Barnett, who equally loved fishing. We would squirm until the 2:25 bell rang and by 2:30, we were out the door, heading for the creek. School was officially over at 3:30 but we were long gone by then.
  • Lou’s Donuts: Did you ever buy a lopsided donut, one with a handle on it, and discover that it was the best donut you ever ate in your life? If you bought your sinker at Lou’s Living Donut Museum, you are in for a real treat. Lou’s is one of those hidden gems of old San Jose—not the kind you find in every shopping center, but a place where quality, friendliness and patriotism prevail. How many donut shops can you name where the employees raise the American flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner every morning? How many donut emporiums have their own little theatre where touring school children can see a video on donut making? How many donut shops have displays of World War II aircraft, pictures and displays of American Independence, such as a copy of the Declaration of Independence, pictures of George Washington and memorabilia of the area?
  • Dirt (Part 2): The Spaniards—a mixture of Spanish, Basque and Indians—were the first Europeans to settle here in the Santa Clara Valley. Captain Juan de Anza, a Basque, led what I believe is the greatest migration in local history. He left the garrison town of Tabac, in what is now southern Arizona, in the dead of winter 1775-76, with 241 men, women and children. They were to arrive in California with 242; one woman died during childbirth and two were born on the harrowing, three month, overland journey. Because water was so scarce in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts that the party had to cross, de Anza split the party into two divisions so that the limited waterholes would have a chance to recharge.
  • Eliza (Bessie) Catherine Layton McKay Smith: Co-founder of Smith & McKay Printing, 1919: Article that featured in The Trailblazer (Quarterly Bulletin of the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County) all about Leonard McKay’s grandmother, Bessie Smith, and her involvement in the Smith & McKay Printing Company.