Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Remembering Clyde Arbuckle, Who Saved the History of San Jose

 Clyde Arbuckle, a Willow Glen resident, was the first City Historian for the City of San Jose'.

Born in 1903, Arbuckle experienced the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake with his half brothers and sisters, one of whom was silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arcbuckle.

His family were pioneers in the Valley, having settled here in 1846. Arbuckle was raised enjoying family history stories about early Valley life. He became an ardent collector of records and lore about our local history.

Arbuckle worked for the American Railway Express after leaving school at the age of 15. He was a professional Banjo player and along with his brother, an award-winning bike racer with the Garden City Wheelmen.

He married his wife Helen in 1932. They had a son in 1935 and a daughter in 1936. Arbuckle built a new family home on Franquette Avenue (near Curtner), which had no electricity on July 4,1939, the day the family moved into their new Willow Glen home.

As an avid and humorous public speaker and storyteller with a photographic memory, Arbuckle was popular with many local historic groups, where he was known for his iconic khaki shirts and pants, worn daily with what he called his "Denver" Stetson.

In 1945 the Historic Landmarks Commission was formed and nominated Arbuckle to become the first City Historian for the City of San Jose'. In 1950 Arbuckle was named the first director and curator for History San Jose', a new organization dedicated to preserving the Valley's history and artifacts. Arbuckle and Theron Fox are credited with saving San Jose's history.

From the History San Jose' Web site:
"In 1970, under the urging of friend and fellow preservationist Theron Fox, Clyde was commissioned to write the definitive history of San Jose. The history was published in 1985, printed by friend and history buff Leonard McKay (Smith & McKay Printing), who has been said to have contributed greatly to the book’s completion.  
Clyde also wrote Historic Names of Persons and Places in Santa Clara County (with Roscoe D. Wyatt in 1948), and Santa Clara County Ranchos in 1968. 
He was an active member of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitas, the California Pioneers of Santa Clara Valley, and the Argonauts Historical Society, as well as being a Mason. In 1998, Clyde passed away at the age of 94. 
Further reading from the San Jose Public Library, California RoomClyde Arbuckle's history of San Jose, by Clyde Arbuckle; Santa Clara County Ranchos, by Clyde Arbuckle; King Library, Special Collection's Digital Collections; California Room's Clipping Files
---Submitted by Ralph Pearce on Saturday, March 15, 2014 - 5:01 PM."

First Street San Jose
(Note: Links to Clyde Arbuckle books on WorldCat and at local organizations, mentioned in the Ralph Pearce article above, were added by the author of this post, Catherine Bright.) 

A number of Clyde Arbuckle's articles and books exist in educational institutions, archives and library collections. They are listed here in the Online Archive of California and OCLC's WorldCat database.

Arbuckle amassed a large collection of photographs of Santa Clara Valley. The Clyde Arbuckle California History Research Collection is housed in the California Room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch of San Jose Public Library.

The California Pioneers of Santa Clara County have a life-size model of Clyde Arbuckle, seated in a reproduction of his complete office, complete with artifacts, at The Paulson House, located in San Jose History Park, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose, California. Paulson House has a wonderful collection of San Jose history documents and displays.

---Catherine Alexander Bright,

Saturday, February 27, 2021

John Burrell Leonard, West Side Fruit Growers' Association and the Glendenning Barn at Apple Park

One of the most iconic historic structures on the West side of Santa Clara Valley barely remains visible about 50 yards Southeast from the corner of Homestead and Wolfe Roads in Cupertino, although it is no longer in its original location. That site is the Glendenning Barn, built and later owned by the Leonard family, founders of Vallco Park.

Robert Glendinning was a Scotsman who sailed to the United States in 1850, via Australia, where he met and married Margaret Howie. The Glendenning's sailed for San Francisco with a hope to make their fortune in the Gold Rush. They settled in a tent on the West side of the Valley, planted crops and built a home on property they would later learn was still owned by the heirs of  Rancho Quito. The Glendenning's owed $30 per acre to the owners of that land grant for their 200 acre parcel. 

The Glendenning's have a very complete family history etched on the Robert Glendenning (1824-1868) grave marker at Mission City Memorial Park in Santa Clara. Find-A-Grave unravels some of the mysteries of the Glendenning-Leonard Family history in their genealogy references online.

Mary Lou Lyon, in her Arcadia book on the history of Cupertino, mentions that John Leonard, the son-in-law of Margaret Glendenning Burrell, built a barn on the original Robert Glendenning property around 1916. At that time, Homestead Road was called Younger Road. 

John Leonard's son was named John Burrell Leonard, however, he was known as Burrell Leonard to most farmers in the Valley. 

The parents of John Burrell Leonard were John Leonard (1883-1975) and Grace Willett Burrell Leonard (1883-1961)

The Glendenning Barn as it appeared around 1916.

Those who farmed in the area knew John Burrell Leonard (1911-2000), or, "Burrell Leonard" through the West Side Fruit Growers' Association and the large dry yard for prunes and apricots which existed along the East side of Wolfe Road between Stevens Creek and Homestead roads. Leonard was instrumental in organizing a collective of growers and investors to incorporate as the Varian Group, then another property investor's group known as Vallco. His father, John Leonard, started the John Leonard Fruit Plant and Dry Yard in Cupertino.

(John) Burrell Leonard inspecting a 1927 prune 
shipment headed for the East Coast.
(Arcadia Publication online)

Hartnell College, which received a bequest on John Burrell Leonard's death, posted this lovely tribute online, which captures Leonard's life and interests:
Leonard, who died in 2000 at the age of 89, was a descendant of a pioneering farming family that settled in Santa Clara County in the mid-1800s. He was a fruit grower whose orchard later became Cupertino’s Vallco Park development, and he was a major force in the incorporation of that city and its post-agricultural growth.

Because of his longtime interest in agriculture, Leonard had visited Salinas as well as Hartnell College over the years, according to Bill Hyland, longtime friend and business associate.

The Leonard estate has made contributions to 24 charitable organizations, including Hartnell, Hyland said. All of the organizations reflect his longtime interests-California history, land conservation, agriculture and the arts.

At the time of his death, Leonard was president of the Leonard Company, a property development and management firm at the Vallco Financial Center.

A bachelor all of his life, Leonard was a major landowner in Santa Clara County. His favorite property was his facility on Llagas Road in San Martin (between Gilroy and Morgan Hill), where he stored and maintained his collection of farm machinery, tools, photographs and other memorabilia from the Santa Clara Valley’s agricultural past.

Born in San Jose, Leonard grew up on his family’s 200-acre farm. John, his father, pioneered diversified irrigation farming and packed fruit under the John Leonard label. 

Links to historic images:

History San Jose, Burrell Leonard Collection

(This site seems to show Younger/Homestead Road.)
History San Jose, Burrell Leonard Collection

The history of the West Side Fruit Grower's Association is best told by Philo Hersey himself, one of the directors of the WGA organization, as recounted in a May 7, 1892 Pacific Rural Press article (found on the Web site), where Hersey's anecdotes on the history of the collective farmers' group may be read from the original newspaper.

Robert Bowdidge's Vasona Branch Blog, one of my favorite sites for local history, has an excellent collection of articles and images about the Westside Fruit Growers Association with some lines about fruit packing houses in the Valley. (If you are into model railroads and old rails in the area, you will definitely enjoy his railroad blog posts on those topics as well. Bowdidge is a very thorough and detailed history researcher.)

On July 14, 2017, The San Jose Mercury News featured the barn in a story about the region's farming history and the fate of the barn on the Apple Park property:

The Glendenning Barn and it's new location at Apple Park was visible in a July 2017 drone video produced by Mathew Roberts:

---Catherine Alexander Bright,

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Jan Batiste Atkins: African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley

Professor Jan Batiste Adkins, Adjunct Instructor, San Jose City College, has published a series of Arcadia: Images of America series books on the local histories of African Americans, providing easily-accessible historic details and images for this important Bay Area cultural group. 

Atkins' books include:

African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County (Dr. Steven Millner, professor of African American studies at San Jose State University, provides the introduction.)

African Americans of San Francisco

African Americans of Monterey County

In her African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County Arcadia book, Adkins relates that African Americans settled in the Santa Clara Valley as early as 1777, with a community firmly established here by the 1800's. 

Between 1916 and 1970, a period termed "The Great Migration", nearly 6 million African Americans left the rural American South to resettle in Northern cities. This figure increased in 1963 when African Americans left the South in great numbers to escape Jim Crow laws, lynchings and voter repression. Some African Americans settled in San Jose, Santa Clara and Palo Alto, to seek new opportunities, particularly in the new technology industry, during the 1960's and 1970's.

According to Isabel Wilkerson, Smithsonian Magazine: September 2016

"At that moment in American history, the country had reached a turning point in a fight for racial justice that had been building for decades. This was the year of the killing of Medgar Evers in Mississippi, of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, of Gov. George Wallace blocking black students at the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama, the year of the March on Washington, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” By then, millions of African-Americans had already testified with their bodies to the repression they had endured in the Jim Crow South by defecting to the North and West in what came to be known as the Great Migration. They were fleeing a world where they were restricted to the most menial of jobs, underpaid if paid at all, and frequently barred from voting. Between 1880 and 1950, an African-American was lynched more than once a week for some perceived breach of the racial hierarchy... 

...Merely by leaving, African-Americans would get to participate in democracy and, by their presence, force the North to pay attention to the injustices in the South and the increasingly organized fight against those injustices. By leaving, they would change the course of their lives and those of their children. They would become Richard Wright the novelist instead of Richard Wright the sharecropper. They would become John Coltrane, jazz musician instead of tailor; Bill Russell, NBA pioneer instead of paper mill worker; Zora Neale Hurston, beloved folklorist instead of maidservant. The children of the Great Migration would reshape professions that, had their families not left, may never have been open to them, from sports and music to literature and art: Miles Davis, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, August Wilson, Jacob Lawrence, Diana Ross, Tupac Shakur, Prince, Michael Jackson, Shonda Rhimes, Venus and Serena Williams and countless others. The people who migrated would become the forebears of most African-Americans born in the North and West."

Adkins relates that many African Americans took jobs in the tech industry in Silicon Valley, as well as Ford Motor Company and public service agencies, "while Dr. Harry Edwards, John Carlos, and Tommy Smith took on civil rights challenges. The complicated history of the black community throughout Santa Clara County has mirrored the nation's slow progress towards social and economic success."

For those interested in African American Genealogy in Santa Clara Valley (and beyond), retired Local History and Genealogy Librarian, Mary Hanel has compiled a PDF list of resource books and tools for the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society, all of which may be found in the Santa Clara City Library Genealogy area at the Park Branch.

Likewise, the Sourisseau Academy has compiled an excellent history, Some Early African American Settlers in Santa Clara Valley, in PDF form. (Please see my Genealogy and Ethnicity page for more links and information.)

African Americans in Tech

To promote progress, African American women in tech have empowered themselves as tech entrepreneurs via the Tech Talk Association, which holds Black Women Talk Tech, an annual conference with over 500 female African American tech entrepreneurs, which is sponsored by Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, Oracle, Amazon, Nike and other major Silicon Valley companies.

The annual Black Women Talk Tech conference is designed to showcase and empower more African American women (and girls) to take on tech careers, to achieve tech leadership and to grow new businesses. The organization has chapters in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as other major cities across the U.S. (There is a Black Men Talk Tech group and conference as well, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, The Knight Foundation, Shea Moisture, and a few other businesses, however, the men could use more Silicon Valley tech sponsors.)

Where we stand now, in September 2020:

According to the ACLU, voter suppression for African Americans, Native Americans and other groups is still continuing in many states through the use of new voter ID and voter Photo ID  laws, through ongoing gerrymandering, through unwarranted purging of registered voter lists, through the elimination of voting sites near African American and Native American communities, through removing the option of voting-by-mail during COVID-19, plus other possibly unethical and unconstitutional efforts to control who may and may not vote in November 2020. 

For those reasons and many others, Jan Batiste Atkins' books are important reads here in Silicon Valley, where our political leaders, our media organizations, our tech giants and our major, regional philanthropic organizations, have the clout to study, fund and promote ethical norms across the country, via their Web platforms and news posts.

"I believe the only way to protect my own rights is to protect the rights of others."

--Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the United Negro College Fund luncheonMay 19, 1953

---Catherine Alexander Bright, 

Monday, February 24, 2020

WWII Women Airforce Service Pilots in Santa Clara Valley

They called those who served in WWII The Greatest Generation, hailed the return of soldiers with parades and The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, then built memorials and awarded medals, producing inspiring Hollywood movies about U.S. soldiers’ courage under fire.

Unfortunately, some who served and lost their lives during WWII were not recognized, assisted, awarded honors nor provided with GI benefits and military burials, for decades. Some disappeared to new hometowns after the war where little was known about their service. Among those unsung heroes were the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) and some of them lived here in our Valley.

If you dined at The Brave Bull in San Jose many years ago and were served by a straight-talking, tough as nails, almost 6-foot tall waitress named Marge, or took flying lessons from a by-the-book middle-aged woman of the same name at Reid Hill-View Airport (when Amelia Reid was in charge of the aviation school there), you most likely met former WASP, Marge Frenzel. 

According to Robin Reid, Amelia Reid's son, Frenzel was very tough on her student pilots, sitting behind them in the cockpit and telling them to “sit up straight” during lessons, believing their lives depended on comportment which proved they were really paying attention.

Frenzel, born in 1920 as “Anna Logan”, grew up in a small town in Kansas. She worked as an office assistant for a couple who owned a small airport in South Dakota, where she learned to fly during her first aviation job. 

Anna Logan, AKA: Marge Frenzel (above) was trained as a WASP in Sweetwater, Texas, WASP Class 44-1. After the war she moved to San Jose, California.

While in Sweetwater, Logan became friends with fellow WASP Marge Hurlburt, with whom she would later design the Hurlburt Hurricane NX 1223 along with another fellow WASP and co-designer, Duke Caldwell. Their aircraft was also known as the Camburn Special, a midget plane designed for air racing.

Logan/Frenzel was one of the first women to participate in the Cleveland Air Races of 1948, although women were only allowed to participate in a secondary race sponsored by Hale Department Store, since women were not permitted to fly in the actual 1948 Cleveland Race.  

I was told that Logan/Frenzel flew a North American T-6 (vintage aircraft racing was popular) and had to do a forced landing, telling others that her plane had been sabotaged. Competition was very fierce, so some women slept in the hangar with their planes to prevent tampering.

Crystal Eagle Award
Northern California Aero Club
Frenzel once stated (according to Robin Reid) that as a WASP ferrying planes, “You just figured it out; men (at the factories and bases) did not help us or tell us how to start the planes.” 

This seems to be consistent with what I have read online about the hostility which some WASP met at factories and bases among men who felt that women should not be in service as pilots, taking jobs from men. As you will read below, others felt that engaging women pilots to perform routine aircraft transport work, allowed men to serve in other more vital capacities during the war.

Logan/Frenzel ended both her Brave Bull waitress employment and her Reid Hill-View flight instructor career as she grew older, opting to become a San Jose school crossing guard later in life. 

She and Amelia Reid were never close according to Robin Reid; he states that they repeatedly argued about the layout and tidiness of the Reid Hill-View aviation school office. However, since both women were raised in small towns during the depression, they bonded as divorced women raising children alone. 
Amelia Reid-Image from
According to Robin Reid, Amelia Reid co-signed on a real estate contract to help Frenzel purchase a home in East San Jose, so Frenzel would have a safe place to raise her three sons; Cal, Glenn and Steve. As Robin Reid said about his mother, "You just did those kind of things to help people, in those days." 

The Chicago Tribune has a wonderful article about Amelia Reid (1924-2001) and her son, commercial pilot Robin Reid, including their history, backgrounds and flying achievements, at:

Frenzel was mentioned briefly in newsletters posted online by The Ninety-Nines’s, a women’s pilot association with chapters around the United States. Frenzel received a CrystalEagle award (see image above) from the Northern California Aero Club, during a program held at Hiller Aviation Museum. Frenzel passed away in 2005; her family still owns some of her planes.

It was very difficult to locate information about Frenzel in WASP source material, so I am indebted to those who knew her* for their contributions to this article. Many thanks to Robin Reid, who was kind enough to call me with information about his mother and Anna Logan/Marge Frenzel.

A wonderful memoir about Reid Hill-View Airport by Jim Meide, mentions Frenzel:

The Wings of History Aviation Museum in San Martin has undoubtedly the best display on the history of women in aviation, found anywhere. Congratulations to their docents and volunteers who spent many hours reproducing photos and adding factual text to the display at their site, for their efforts to remember and honor women pilots, many of whom broke records for speed, altitude and endurance.

Eleanor Thompson Wortz (below) also trained as a WASP in Sweetwater Texas, Class 43-4, just before Logan Frenzel. After the war she had an international career as a linguist and eventually moved to Los Altos with her husband. She worked for a brief time at Moffett Field in Mountain View, before becoming an educator.

If you attended the Los Altos United Methodist Church, took Business courses at the College of San Mateo, or had a swim at the Woodland Vista Swim and Racket Club in Los Altos, you most likely met Eleanor Thompson Wortz (left), who wrote an autobiography about her life and aviation experiences as a WASP, entitled: Fly Gals of World War II: Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). **

Like Logan/Frenzel, Eleanor Wortz is found in the Women Airforce Service Pilot Digital Archive, within the Woman’s Collection online at Texas Woman’s University, with selected biographies, photos and basic data about the WASP program:
Wortz's obituary is found at:
This article lists only a few of our local WASP and aviation heroines. If you search the archive of online magazines produced by the Ninety-Nines’s, a national club for women pilots, the local chapter reports may show the names of former local WASP and women pilots once active in air races and local chapter meetings:

Likewise, the Aero Club of Northern California has honored former WASP for their achievements:

A Northern California Wasp group at one time held annual reunions and posted that information online, yet, as the few remaining local WASP decrease in numbers, sometimes little is known or easily discovered about their lives and roles in the WASP program, if their biographical information has not been published or digitized by those archiving WASP history. TWU (Texas Woman's University) has digitized the publication, WASP NEWS.

History of the WASP

On September 10, 1942, Nancy Harkness Love, under the aegis of the U.S. Air Transport Command, gathered 25 rigidly screened women pilots to create the Women’s Air Ferrying Squadron (WAFS), operating out of New Castle Army Base in Delaware, Maryland. Only 40 women met the qualifications needed to serve. When they were accepted into the program, they had to purchase their own uniforms to ferry planes from aviation factories to military bases.

Similarly, Jackie Cochran, who learned to fly in 1932 while working as a cosmetics salesperson and later won international aviation races, also achieved the first blind instrument landing by a female pilot and set records for altitude and airspeed. She became the first woman to fly a bomber to England during WWII.

More about Jackie Cochran:

The British Air Transport Authority were already recruiting women pilots to move military planes during WWII.

By 1939 Cochran believed that U.S. women could serve in the same manner as women pilots in the UK. She proposed a similar program to Eleanor Roosevelt, however, General Henry “Hap” Arnold rejected her proposal. Not to be dissuaded, Cochran recruited 25 women pilots from the U.S. to train and serve in the war effort overseas by ferrying military aircraft for England, and in her words, to “free a man to fight”. 

It has been said that on her return from England in 1943, Cochran was irate to learn that Nancy Harkness Love had been given permission to train women pilots to serve in the WAFS. Cochran lobbied the military heavily to adopt her original proposal, which included military classes, training and duties for women pilots far beyond just ferrying new military planes to bases.

Eventually, due to Cochran’s perseverance, the WAFS were absorbed into a new service called the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) under her leadership.

Although women who flew sometimes died and were injured during their WASP service, the WASP did not gain full military status until 1977, thanks to Public Law 95-202, Section 401 (PDF), signed by President Jimmy Carter. The new law granted WASP retroactive veteran status. By 1984 WASP were finally awarded WWII Victory Medals. Those who had served one year received the American Theater Campaign Medal. In 2010, WASP were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (see image below).

An excellent slide show, timelines and interviews of then-living WASP may be found on the NPR Web site at:

The NPR WASP timeline features accounts by WASP Margaret Phelan Taylor (images at left) of Palo Alto, as well as the tragic story of Mabel Rawlinson (see images below) who died at age 26 in 1943, when she may have been  hit by friendly fire while towing a practice target for inexperienced aircraft anti-artillery gunner students. 

Some believe Rawlinson's aircraft fuel was sabotaged with sugar by “angry male pilots who resented the females taking over their stateside jobs”, and that the sabotage was covered up by the military. This prompted Jackie Cochran to fly to the site of Rawlinson's crash to conduct her own investigation, where she determined that sugar in the fuel line and a stuck hatch was the cause of the crash.

Rawlinson’s story is told by her niece (unnamed) at:

Read Margaret Phelan Taylor's story on Palo Alto Online. Images of Taylor (above) are from that publication. Here is the direct link to the article about Taylor and Rawlinson, plus Taylor's comments about conditions for WASP in service and lack of military funds for burials, etc., from that publication:

This article is dedicated to WASP and the memory of Mabel Rawlinson.
Images of her are below, taken from her obituary,
written by her niece Pam Pohly, at:

To WASP who served without recognition for so many years;
Thank you for your service.

More Resources:

The Ninety Nines history:

National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater Texas:

Wings Across American by Doreen Parrish:

WASPS remembered:

On Eleanor Wortz:

WWII Roster of Women Pilots:

Gilroy Dispatch Article on WASP:


Sources not listed above:

Image of Anna Logan/Marge Frenzel WASP class photo reproduced for educational purposes, from Texas Woman's University online:  

Image of Eleanor Thompson Wortz WASP class photo reproduced for educational purposes, from from Texas Woman's University online:
*Many thanks to Mary Hanel, Santa Clara City Library Genealogy and Local History Librarian (retired) for information about Eleanor Thompson Wortz, to Robin Reid, to Jen Watson of Aerodynamic Aviation and to all of the docents at the Wings of History Aviation Museum in San Martin, California, for their assistance and willingness to answer perhaps far too many questions about WASP in Santa Clara County.  ---C. Alexander.

**(Copyright: Eleanor Thompson Wortz, 2011. Robertson Publishing, Los Gatos, California. ISBN 13: 978-1-61170-034-3; ISBN 10: 1-61170-034-5; LOC Number: 2011929982)
Enter your location on WorldCat to find her book at your local library:

---Catherine Alexander Bright, 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Silicon Valley Historical Societies, Aging Pioneers and Locked Doors

I thought it might be time to comment on some of the historical groups and associations in our region, many of whom are doing amazing work to preserve our local history and keep their doors open. Sadly, some seem to be failing in their mission to inform newer residents about our past, or to display what they own in online collections, keeping some local city histories locked up in file cabinets behind closed doors, due to an aging volunteer base, poor leadership and other chronic issues.

I make that latter comment with a compassionate caveat, since it is our choice as residents to support historical institutions and associations with our personal and corporate volunteer time, money, skills and resources, and to insure that our neighborhood's pasts and histories are preserved and displayed for future generations, online and in person. 

(Pinterest - Unknown Source)
Yet, it is also our role as residents to ask historical societies and museums for more accessibility to their records and the artifacts in their collections, when repositories seem more often closed than open to residents and visitors, especially on evenings and weekends, or when their events seem more tied to local fiction authors than presentations by historians. 

(Yes, I can hear museum executives and boards exclaiming over funding and the lack of volunteers, yet many historic associations are supported by area Rotary, Chamber and City Council members, who could more effectively seek regional support for the museums in their cities, so museum curators may focus on managing and growing their volunteers and collections, rather than constant fundraising efforts.) 

Why maintain strong museums, from a local business point of view? Strong museums draw new and continuing tourism and trade to our cities.

Historically, preserved historic regions draw greater foot traffic to local restaurants and businesses, as residents have observed on North Santa Cruz Avenue and the west end of University Avenue in downtown Los Gatos, on Big Basin Way in downtown Saratoga, on Castro Street in Mountain View, on Old Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale, in the quaint neighborhoods around the Rose Garden and the University of Santa Clara, everywhere in historic downtown Los Altos and on the west end of Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen. Typically, historic associations and museums crop up in these historic districts, often in historic buildings.

Since strong museums in historically preserved areas are profitable for cities and the local businesses which surround them, they deserve more dynamic support from local corporations, Chambers of Commerce and City Council members.

CDC: Zombie Preparedness
Don't let me scare you off, this is not going to be a plea for your money or time, since many in SV are already overwhelmed with work, kids' schedules and lack of downtime, while battling some of the worst urban traffic north of LA. 

If you can stay with me for just a bit longer, I promise this won't be painful and you might learn something interesting about your region. Will you hang in there a bit longer? Great, thanks so much.

Why preserve our history? Because it is fascinating, unexpected and varied:

1. Did you know that our area was a home for East Coast and European sea captains who retired from hauling men and goods to the 1875 Gold Rush in San Francisco, then brought their vineyard and wine making knowledge to what is now Silicon Valley? Captain Elijah Stephens ("Stevens Creek Boulevard" has his name, although misspelled) was one such English captain known for his brandies in West Side (now Cupertino.) His vineyards became part of what is now Blackberry Farm.

2. We have the oldest commercial winery in Northern California (pre-dating the loudest claimant, Buena Vista Winery. )  Old Almaden Winery still sits in a small park in San Jose. Sadly, corporate donors have not yet been found to retrofit the old brick winery structure to make it and its underground wine cave safe as a future wine history museum.
Ollivia de Havilland Wikipedia Commons

3. Did you know that Saratoga was once the childhood home of Gone with the Wind actor Olivia de Havilland, her sister, Joan Fontaine (Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and Suspicion), and their mother, Lost Weekend actor, Lillian Fontaine? Both daughters won Academy Awards for their roles in the above movies and were active in local Saratoga school productions.

4) Did you know that Monte Sereno's Fred Hitt ran a fireworks factory there? (His pharmacist brother, Thomas Hitt, made fireworks in Washington State.) Both brothers were noted for producing the battle scenes, explosions and fires for All Quiet on the Western Front, the burning of Atlanta scenes in Gone with the Wind, and a re-enactment of the eruption of Mt. Lassen including lava pours, explosions and smoke, when that National Park was opened to the public in the 1930's.

Disneyand Railroad Wikipedia Commons
5) Did you know that Los Gatos was home to an orchardist and former railroad roustabout, Billy Jones, who built a railroad line around the perimeter of his Los Gatos ranch, then gave neighbors rides on that steam locomotive every Sunday, attracting Walt Disney when he heard about Jones' generosity to local children? When Disneyland opened in Anaheim on July 17, 1955, Jones was asked to be the first engineer on Disneyland Railroad, taking the first visitors on the Grand Circle Tour around the new theme park.

6) Did you know that Sunnyvale's Fremont High School, formerly known as West Side Union High School, and the old Cupertino Union Grammar School, reportedly produced many notables and millionaires from their former study body members? Notable names have included members of the Paul Mariani family and Apple's Greg Porter.

7) Guess how many of these stories I discovered at local museums and their online sites? (Answer: Only story #3, at the Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum, run by Foundation President, Annette Stransky.)

Kudos to the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County for placing many early recovered Santa Clara Valley home and commercial videos online in converted digital editions, and to Jim Reed, Curator Emeritus, and Cate Mills, Curator of Library and Archives at History San José, for making many images and documents in the extensive HSJ collection searchable online.

Kudos also to the continuing work of Mary Hanel of the Santa Clara Central Park Library Heritage Pavilion and SCCHGS, who continues to work with local historical groups in retirement. Applause to the California History Room: Local History Collection at the Martin Luther King Jr. Branch of the San Jose Public Library System, for their resources which may be accessed seven days a week.

Likewise, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the astonishingly comprehensive work of John Hollar and the team at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, who offer visitors an imaginative visual and hands-on experience with our digital history.

Yet, there are still so many historical groups in this region doing their best to preserve one small corner of early Valley life with dwindling resources and volunteers, let alone digital collection, preservation and presentation skills.

Some historic groups still resist using email to distribute their membership newsletters and event updates, and many do not respond to email requests nor update aging Web sites, despite prodding by newer board members (who sometimes quit in frustration, when their advice to modernize meets chronic resistance, month after month.)

Local residents may share their early videos, images and documents with the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County, with History San José, with SCCHGS, with SJPL and with the Online Archive of California, to preserve our local history.

If you have a moment, stop by your local museum or history association one weekend to see what they have to offer. If their doors are frequently closed, write to your local Chamber of Commerce, your local Rotary Club and your City Council members, to ask their support in making the rooms and resources of your local museum or history association more available to working residents, so families may explore regional holdings together.

If the doors of your local museum or history association are open frequently, both on weekends and perhaps even one weeknight, please drop a $1 (or as much as you can afford) in their donation box, then find out what their future plans are for expansion, both online or on site.

The collected information about our regional roots will amaze you, once you finally gain access to museums and history associations responsible for our collective pasts.

---Catherine Alexander Bright,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Drought, Aquifer Wars and Sonar Dowsing

Interestingly enough, California has been affected by many droughts in past years, with the worst period of recorded drought (since the inception of hydrology) occurring between 1928-34, 1976-77, 1987-92 and 2007-09.

How droughts occur:

California's water tables depend on a few Pacific coastal storms occurring between November and March each year. If a Pacific high pressure system lingers off the coast preventing those storms from depositing rain or snow in winter months, dry conditions in California and Silicon Valley, may last throughout the year, or a few years, if high pressure systems recur in consecutive years.

Uvas reservoir, Creative Commons 

Likewise, according to E. R. Cook at Earth Science Reviews (as illustrated by the Mercury news), the Western United States has experienced prior 200-year droughts during the European Middle Ages, so some feel our shorter periods of drought are of less concern in terms of climate change. Of course, that hypothesis is controversial, since access to water remains a political and economic source of dispute for many Californians engaged in agriculture or near large urban cities, where the bulk of city water may be imported from other counties yet used more for landscaping than for food production.

Mercury News Illustration

Unrestricted groundwater drilling: An ongoing California problem:

Sadly, the creation of new California wells in agricultural regions has more than doubled in the last several years, with apparently no State records or monitoring taking place for privately-drilled wells (which now occur at much deeper depths than in past years) and which continue to deplete state aquifers, according to a July 2015 Water in the West Stanford University report. These privately-held wells reportedly are allowed to drain their California aquifer source dry, unlike wells in other states where extracted water is monitored so aquifers are not significantly depleted, according to an August 2014 National Geographic report on the boom in groundwater drilling in California's Central Valley.

New Legislation to protect aquifers: Too little too late?

New California legislation on groundwater pumping may be too little too late to save heavily-tapped aquifers, since many changes in new California laws will not take place until 2020, based on resistance from California agricultural lobbyists who have fought to allow Central Valley farmers access to new wells without extraction limits. Under the new laws drillers have 5 to 7 years to develop extraction plans, yet have until 2040 to implement them, time which may be used to repeal these new laws by agricultural lobbyists, as composition of the State legislature changes over time.

New sonar devices measure water source depth, aiding proportional usage limitations:

According to a Cal Alumni Association article, "The predominant techniques used to measure well water levels—measuring tapes or pressure sensors—are labor-intensive and costly. The U.S. Geological Survey monitors less than 10 percent of its 20,000 wells, California’s Department of Water Resources monitors a few hundred." The article continues to state that the development of new sonar devices which not only locate aquifers but monitor their depth, may aid local legislation efforts to monitor water extraction, so new agricultural wells are no longer draining water resources and aquifers completely dry in some regions of California.

Resurgence of Dowsers in agricultural and Wine Country regions:

"Water witches," or dowsers, those who use so-called divining rods (parallel hand-held metal rods) to locate underground sources of water, have been in high demand since the current drought has lingered and water restrictions have increased. Many practitioners are members of the American Society of Dowsers which has a San Jose chapter with both "spiritual" healing and water dowsers. The ASD also has a Water for Humanity Fund which seeks to use practical dowsing to improve global water sourcing and global water purification projects, among other goals. Their water dowsers have been particularly popular in the Wine Country.

"Pretty much all the farmers I know won't drill a well if they don't have a dowser," said Napa Valley vintner Marc Mondavi, of the famous wine-making family, who happens to be a dowser. Two years ago, Mondavi released a new label - a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay called the Divining Rod - a tribute to his dowsing. Pretty much all of my weekends are spent dowsing. I'm backlogged."

(SVL Note: We did a blind test of dowsing at a gathering in a rural wine country area, by loosely holding parallel metal rods near a hidden water source known to only one attendee, yet not revealed to those present. About 30% of those who tried dowsing experienced crossed rods over the water source, while the remaining attendees experienced no reaction. Again, we were not told where the hidden water source existed, we were told to walk around while loosely holding the rods parallel in our hands, "then see what happens." The metal rods in my hands crossed rapidly over the water source, much like a magnet attracts a metal object. It was completely unexpected.)

Marc Mondavi demo at Charles Krug

Dowsing practitioners like Mondavi claim a 95% success rate in locating water, yet without adequate regulations protecting California's aquifers from continued, non-monitored drilling and extraction, or a per unit reduction in the state's ABAG Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) mandate to provide low cost housing in proportion to new office development in Silicon Valley cities, California's water from all sources, may be in scarce supply by 2040.

Take the California Water Challenge Quiz online:

Next 10, a San Francisco-based ecological non-profit, hosts an online California Water Challenge Quiz and fact sheet which presents some interesting facts and water use alternatives for residents, along with the ability for residents to submit grass roots ideas on water conservation which might positively impact the availability of California's natural resources in future years.

The Next 10 Water FAQ's and Quiz may be found at:


Resources online and at your local library:

To find a recent book or article on California's water challenges at your local library, check this list of titles on OCLC.

To find a book on Dowsing at your local library, check this list of titles on OCLC.

To find a book on California drought history and hydrology at your local library, check this list of titles on OCLC.

To find a book on California legislation and well drilling technology at your local library, check this list of titles on OCLC.

To find current California State Water Code, see the California Water Code list at Leginfo.

To find recent or pending state legislation on California wells, safety, drilling and water extraction, see the current bill list at Leginfo.

---Catherine Alexander Bright,