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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.

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Excerpts from Leonard's Blog

  • 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.
  • 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 cocktails with a minimum of bourbon and served them. One sister barely touched her cocktail and Faith apologized, feeling that she had offended them by serving liquor. She offered to get the sisters a non-alcoholic drink to which one of the sisters replied, “Oh, please do—but this time put some whiskey in it.” Faith had not realized that the sisters were of Scottish heritage!
  • 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 Hummingbird on Mt. Umunhum.) The Missions also separated the unmarried Indian men and women at night, another concept they didn’t like.
  • 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. The society’s roots—as a benevolent fraternal society—go deep into the gold rush history of California, when there was a real need for such things.
  • 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.