Monday, August 12, 2013

"The Most Spectacular Wreck in Santa Clara Valley's History!"

"The most spectacular wreck in Santa Clara Valley's history"

One of the great problems of blogging is running out of things to talk about, for it cuts off subjects for future entries.

Yet today, I'll risk that by quoting the San Jose Evening News article on November 19, 1928, where they have pictures of the "most spectacular wreck in the Santa Clara Valley's history". Yep, after I post this, there's no point in talking about locomotives falling over in front of terrified passers-by on a major San Jose street, or frightening head-on collisions in the Campbell/Cambrian/Monte Sereno/Los Gatos metroplex, or crack passenger trains slamming into switch engines within walking distance of downtown, for I will have reported on "the most spectacular wreck in Santa Clara Valley's history."

And then I can start writing about the locations of In 'n Out burger locations in the Santa Clara Valley because I won't have anything to write about train wrecks, for you've read about the most spectacular train wreck in Santa Clara County's history already.


The November 19, 1928 San Jose Evening News filled half the front page with photos of most extreme of wrecks, where a bunch of railroad cars came off the tracks, tore up the track, then fell over. This happened out by Milpitas, and the photos show the urban setting and the great risk to nearby lives. The pictures also show the mess afterwards, and also show how one of the rails ended up getting embedded into the underframe of a car "furnishing a tough problem for the wrecking corps." There's not much else - nothing about the number of cars derailed (except that there must have been a lot, and the debris spectacular), nor about the amount of track destroyed (which was probably excessive and spectacular), or about the time needed to clear the wreck (which was probably excessive, costly, and spectacular.)

And... um... I guess that's it. Spectacular wreck, worst in history. Two photos, one at the top of this page, and one that you'll have to follow the link to see. If we had a professional historian handy, he may use his expert opinion to suggest that it was a "slow news day".

Also in the day's paper:

  • "2000 See Hoover Briefly as His Train Passes Through"
  • Real estate agent badly burned when his car rolls over in Willow Glen
  • Zita Johann "goes to the Electric Chair" every night on Broadway as part of a play about the Snyder-Gray murder case. "Her off-stage life has been wholly free of morbid reactions."
  • Campbell women burn mortgage on the Campbell Public Library in an old-fashioned mortgage-burning party (though strangely the paper shows them holding the burning note the day before the ceremony)
  • and "Absent-Minded Professor Falls to Death Down Elevator Shaft."
  • There's also a ton of radio ads just in case you're in the market for a six tube console unit for only $240.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Movie Night XIII: Lost San Jose

Hey, I'm building a model of that stairwell on the San Carlos Street viaduct!

The video is from a San Jose Mercury article on Josh Marcotte and his "Lost San Jose" photos - check out his photos (online or in the gallery) for some highlights of earlier days.

I'll admit I'm a little miffed he hasn't taken a picture of those stairs that thousands of cannery workers trod, for the stairwell visible behind him was the quick way to the Del Monte cannery back in the day. To the left is the Los Gatos branch (with a modern-day trolley crossing as the video rolls.) To the right are the Caltrain tracks, and then Los Gatos Creek.

The world's changed an awful lot on the Los Gatos Creek side. Josh is standing on what used to be San Carlos Street; that changed in 1934, when the new viaduct was created, and the old bridge across the creek was closed off and torn out to make room for the Southern Pacific's new tracks. This great John C. Gordon collection photo shows the old San Carlos Street bridge before it was torn out and replaced with Southern Pacific's bypass around downtown San Jose. And none too soon, for a sign on a telephone pole warns "BRIDGE UNSAFE FOR MORE THAN 6 TONS", "SPEED LIMIT 8 MILES". Considering the rather cold faces on the kids next to the sign, I suspect they've spent their afternoon pulling out supports so the bridge would be even more unsafe....

"Packing Houses of Santa Clara County": Encyclopedia of Prune-related Knowledge

Genealogists have it easy. When you're trying to track down a person, their name is your key; their government records, and brushes with fame in the newspaper all appear with their name attached, so searches are often easy.

When I've been trying to track down the businesses along the railroad tracks in San Jose, it hasn't been as easy. Companies might have leased buildings or land, leaving little trace in permanent records. No single source exists to tell when a business was operating at a given location. Heck, there's often little to tell what that business did, or when it ceased to operate, or when they sold out to the big corporation.

As I've been researching San Jose canneries and dried fruit packing houses, I've been keeping my own notes, either as articles in this blog (such as the article on the occupants of the warehouses around the Market Street depot), in a big online document thanks to Google Docs, or on scraps of paper. None are perfect for searching or sharing.

Luckily, there's other ways to share that data.

I've put my San Jose cannery and packing house notes together into a website called:

Packing Houses of Santa Clara County

It's also a Wiki, so you're also welcome to help out - adding information about new industries, correcting mistakes in the data, or just reading about all the businesses that have existed along Bassett Street next to the old Market Street depot, or businesses related to the Salsina Canning Company on Lincoln Ave, or the capsule biography of Edith Daley, the canner's favorite newspaper woman. There are entries for 160 local industries so far, with addresses, owners, and history for each. I suspect I'm still missing many memorable businesses and interesting stories.

Many of the canneries and dried fruit packers of the Santa Clara Valley were also active in other parts of the state, so there's also information on Hunt Brothers in Santa Rosa, or the list of packers in Fresno. Feel free to add information on canneries and packing houses in your favorite part of California as well.

I'm hoping this data will be useful to others, and that you all can help fill your particular canning- or San Jose-related knowledge. I'll continue to post interesting stories here; Packing Houses of Santa Clara County will be the place to find the stories I haven't written about, or find links to further information. Check it out, and let me know what you think!