SJU Blogs

Leonard’s Blogs

  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • The Faith Davies Story We lost a great benefactor to our community when Faith Davies died in 1996 at age 91. Not only was she one of the most generous people, she witnessed and was intimately connected with the growth of the largest and most important business in our pre-Silicon Valley, the Food Machinery Company, or FMC.
  • 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.
  • Christmas in San Jose Did you ever wonder how Christmas was celebrated in the past in San Jose? When our first foreign settlers, the Spaniards, were here, the birth of Christ was celebrated by going to mass at the Mission Santa Clara, the closest church. The male citizens rode their horses for the three-mile trip. The women and young ...
  • Sarah Winchester I want to tell you a different side of the story about one of San Jose’s most interesting characters, Sarah Winchester.
  • Dutch Hamann (Part 1) In more than two hundred years of San Jose’s history, who changed the city the most? Actually there were two politicians, each of whom had a profound effect and each of whom I have been privileged to call friend. One increased the population from a small town of 95,000 people and an area ...
  • 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 ...
  • Beer Making in San Jose (Part 1) Old Joe’s Steam Beer— “It’s pure that’s sure!” Have you ever heard of this beer or this slogan? Joe Hartman was a 49er who came to California in 1852 from Germany to make his fortune finding gold nuggets. That didn’t work out as only one in five of the gold seekers ever made expenses. ...
  • Beer Making in San Jose (Part 2) Prohibition brought chaos. There was no longer any control over alcohol quality or purity. Bootleggers flourished, sometimes killing their customers with bad hooch. If you knew the password, usually “Joe sent me,” and could afford it, then you could get a shot of “bathtub gin” at George’s on South First Street, out at ...
  • 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, ...
  • The Canning Industry in San Jose The canning industry got its start in 1871 when Dr. Dawson and his wife canned some fruit over an old cook stove in their backyard on The Alameda. From this humble start, a huge industry developed right here in San Jose for three basic reasons: the fruit was grown here, there was a ready ...
  • Mary Hayes Chynoweth Who was San Jose’s most famous lady? Could it have been a woman with magical powers to heal and locate rich iron mines, who believed that optimistic thinking and a sound diet were the keys to good health?
  • The Baronda Mayhem Trial I wish to tell the true story of a real incident from a century ago when a local fire captain suffered the same fate as John Wayne Bobbitt, and it happened right here in San Jose. As a matter of fact, it happened on what is now San Pedro Square.
  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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 1906 Earthquake (Part 3) I have told you a little about what happened in San Jose and San Francisco. Now let’s see what Ralph Rambo remembers about that fatal day and incident. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ralph Rambo, he was an eminent historian and cartoonist who wrote 14 pamphlets about life in Santa Clara ...
  • 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 control was excellent in comparison. ...
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 5) “Agnews Asylum had suffered the worst catastrophe in the Valley. Santa Clara College had nobly responded. With all the wires down, a horseman had taken word to Santa Clara and at least 100 students had run or ridden their wheels after the horseman to the great disaster. Wagons passed us transporting casualties ...
  • The 1906 Earthquake (Part 6) “Naturally we were curious about the effect of the quake upon Santa Clara. For us the little town of 4,000 people served as our ‘shopping center,’ with grocer, doctor, dentist, clothier etc. and later for the writer, ‘Santa Clara High School.’
  • 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 ...
  • Credo Quia Absurdum There has been considerable debate about the purpose of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. Is it a men’s historical and drinking society, or is it a drinking and historical society? What does the name stand for? I can’t answer these questions and the name doesn’t translate into anything meaningful in English. ...
  • 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 ...
  • Two Dogs Named Buck I’d like to tell you about two dogs named “Buck.” The first one is widely known because he was the lead character in the famous book, “The Call of the Wild,” by Jack London.
  • Dirt (Part I) For the next few weeks, I am going to write about “dirt.” Not political dirt, not Hollywood dirt, just plain dirt—the kind we have underneath us, some of the best dirt in the world.
  • 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, ...
  • Dirt (Part 3) The policy imposed by the Missions was that the Indians should work, tend the fields and care for the animals. This was a concept that they didn’t like or understand. (Locally, the Indians never had permanent settlements in the valley and their gods Eagle, Hummingbird and Coyote lived in the mountains—Eagle on Mt. Diablo and ...
  • Dirt (Part 4) I learned some valuable lessons working on the land in the local orchards. When I was about 13, I worked for Dr. Seikman, a woman chiropractor who owned ten acres of fruit trees near the San Jose Los Gatos Road. First we picked apricots and then, after a lull, prunes.
  • 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. ...
  • 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 ...
  • The Educated Fly Rod (Part 1) When I was rummaging around my garage recently, I found an interesting five-foot long box. The garage is packed as it houses two cars, cupboards, power saws, woodworking tools, workbenches, sanders, a sink and, of course, many treasures that I am going to use or may need some day. I was looking for a small ...
  • 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 ...
  • The Great Lion Murder Many years ago, an article appeared in the newspaper about the Great Lion Murder. It was confirmed by historian Larry Campbell (now nearly 100 years old), but neither of us could remember where we saw it. For nearly a decade, I have been searching for the original report. I contacted Paul Lion, descendant of the ...
  • 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 ...
  • Anatomy of a Street (Part 2) Down on the corner of Morse and Fremont lived Fred Reynolds. Fred was a railroad engineer for the South Pacific Coast Railroad that ran from the ferry slip at Alameda to San Jose, and continued on to Los Gatos, Wrights Station and Santa Cruz. Originally a narrow gauge railroad, it was later absorbed by the ...
  • Anatomy of a Street (Part 3) To get back to Paul and Faith Davies and the McKenzie sisters, I’ll relate a story as told by Faith to my wife Naomi. The Davies wanted to entertain the sisters and invited them over for cocktails. Faith warned Paul that these were elderly ladies and to make their drinks very weak. Paul mixed the ...
  • 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 ...
  • Mormons in California More than 35 years ago, our renowned historian, Clyde Arbuckle, stood at Emigration Canyon, overlooking the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and repeated the words that Mormon leader Brigham Young uttered 130 years before: “This is the place.” But then, Clyde added something that is not listed in Mormon ideology: “This is the place, I ...
  • Louis Pellier Who was the greatest motivator for education in “The Valley of Heart’s Delight?” For my money, it was a Frenchman who never spent a day in school here, never served on a school board and was not an instructor.
  • How Andrew P. Hill Saved the Redwoods Have you ever been to Big Basin Park and stood under a giant redwood, the tallest living trees on earth, and wondered how and why they are still here? This is the story of the man who saved them: artist and photographer Andrew Putnam Hill. Hill came to California in 1867 at the age of 14, ...
  • The Italian Hotel Most immigrants arriving in San Jose from Italy early in the last century were quite poor, so they stayed in boarding houses that offered furnished rooms. The building now known as the Fallon House was used for a much longer time as the Italian Hotel, where single Italian men or families would stay for a ...
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5 Responses
  1. ramon martinez says:

    I have a photo from 1949 at Smith Printing Company which was at 227 North First Street. The people in the photo look like staff of the company and include Steve O’Mara, Ethel Widner, Leonard McKay, Edgar Langheim, Bessie C. Smith and Humberto Garcia who began publishing El Escentrico Magazine that year.

    I this THE Leanard McKay?

  2. Annie says:

    The photo (most probably) would have been of Leonard’s father, Leonard McKay senior. In 1949 “the Leonard McKay” was in Hawaii or Japan working for Pan Am Airlines. Bessie Smith (Leonard Snr’s mother) would have been running the business and Leonard snr was a pressman. Leonard McKay Jnr joined the business in 1953 and Bessie retired. Leonard McKay Snr remained a pressman in the company until his death in 1954.

    We would love to have a copy of the photo is possible.

  3. Thanks for the feedback.

    Please give me an address where I can send the picture of Leonard Mc Kay at Smith Printing.

    El Excentrico was published twice a month by Humberto Garcia from 1949 until 1981. The first volumes 1949-1950 were printed at Smith Printing. I believe Humberto worked there at the time. by 1951, the magazine was printed at Hillis Printing and Humberto probably worked there as well.

    El Excentrico is probably the best historical record of the Mexican middle class community in San Jose. I am working on El Excentrico Magazine and Photograph Exhibit for Mothers Day, 2015.

  4. Annie says:

    Thanks Ramon, I’ve emailed you.

  5. ramon martinez says:

    Hello Annie. I sent the photos from El Excentrico Magazine. I hope you received them. Ramon Martinez

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