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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

  • Local historian’s dream of South Bay artists’ exhibition about to come true: Newspaper article from the Rose Garden Resident about Leonard McKay’s seemingly impossible dream coming true, the collection of 32 watercolors and oil paintings by 20th century Silicon Valley artists going on public display for the first time at History Park, San Jose.
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 1): April 18 will be the 100th anniversary of California’s worst earthquake in recorded history. More than 700 people died in that giant temblor when the Pacific and North American tectonic plates slipped past each other, leaving northern California in ruins. Most hard hit was the city of San Francisco, but right here in Santa Clara County, more than 130 met their maker.
  • San Jose’s Music Man: Does the sound of “76 Trombones” make your feet stir and, perhaps, you want to do a little tapping or a little marching? If so, you might be interested to know that we had the predecessor of the famous Henry Hill, the “Music Man,” right here in “River City,” San Jose. He lived here about 40 years before Meredith Wilson wrote the wonderful hit Broadway musical, “The Music Man.”
  • 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.
  • 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.