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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 private eye living on this street was stabbed when answering his door late one night in 1974?

On what street were two neighboring families united when their children married?

On what street did author Ken Kesey (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”) hide out when running from the police who were looking for him to arrest him on drug charges?

What street was named after a “seed king?”

What street has had many prominent San Jose citizens living there including the head of a food machinery company, lawyers, architects, college professors, doctors and engineers, alongside just plain common folk like me?

If you answered Morse Street, you were correct. A quiet, Rosegarden-area street that runs northwest from the old Singletary Estate in San Jose, Morse Street terminates in Santa Clara. The width of the last block on both ends of the street narrows by ten feet on both sides.

The street wasn’t always quiet. On April 6, 1972, two hired assassins, Mims and Rodriguez, were hiding in the bushes behind 795 Morse. When James Edward Carr exited his home to go to work one morning, the bushes exploded with seven shots, killing Carr immediately. Carr was rumored to be connected with the famous Angela Davis case then in the courts. An alert neighbor, Warren Hansen, heard the gunshots and saw two men running south down Morse Street, opposite his house. Hansen’s wife, Frenchy, heard the shotgun blasts and, seeing the men flee in their getaway car, wrote the license plate number on a popsicle wrapper, the only paper she could lay her hands on, and they notified the police. The getaway car, a black over blue Ford Fairlane LTD, was spotted in Morgan Hill later by police officer Bob Carroll on his way to work and he intercepted the assassins. Imagine his surprise when they surrendered just as he remembered that he had left his gun in the locker at Morgan Hill police station. Checking the back seat of the Ford after the arrest, Carroll found more loaded guns and a bucket containing Molotov cocktails.

There are three churches located on the street: the Calvary Methodist Church and the Quaker Meeting House, both founded in 1889, and the Center of Spiritual Enlightenment. Neither of the churches founded in 1889 are on their original sites. Prior to its founding, the house that became the Center for Spritual Enlightenment was built and occupied in the 1920s. The Center faces on to University Avenue, but the side where a lion patrolled the grounds is on Morse Street. Old time San Jose residents and historians, Frances and Theron Fox and Lawrence Campbell, remember the story well.

Dorothy Martin was a nurse at the county hospital when she became involved with a wealthy San Francisco car dealer. It seems that “John,” who lived in Woodside, put up the money for the purchase of the new house on the corner of University and Morse. Dorothy became his mistress and he would visit her often. According to Campbell, the car dealer had a different fancy car for each day of the week for his visits to his fancy lady. (Dorothy also changed her name often. According to old records and directories, she was listed as Dorothy Martin, Mrs. Dorothy Martin, Dorothea Martyn and Mrs. Martin, and on title papers for the house she is listed as a single woman.) John became alarmed that someone else might be paying attention to Dorothy, so he had a wall built around the property and installed a lion as a watchdog, or more correctly, a watchcat. The real, live African lion patrolled the grounds for quite a few years. Can you imagine living next door to a lion? I say that’s a lot of cat to protect a little . . . well, you fill in the blank!