Like the city planning document in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” that was kept in a locked basement and guarded by a leopard, some monuments in San Jose are hard to get at—or find. Within a half-mile radius of Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez Park is a giant bronze rendition of Tony Ridder’s running shoes, a statue of William McKinley, a memorial forum honoring Robert F. Kennedy, the actual cornerstone of the 1887 San Jose City Hall, and a Brobdingnagian statue of Thomas Fallon and the horse he rode in on.
Several of these monuments are in St. James Park, which explains why few people have ever seen them. Last time I went to the park a hooker started screaming at me, thinking I was taking pictures of her. The natives do get restless at times, so be prepared to make a run for it into the cigar room of the nearby St. Claire Club. I have a friend who has a friend who is a member, so it’s okay. Really.
St. James Park is rife with monuments, including the William McKinley statue, which has a small cannon at the base. The cannon itself has a history. In 1918 a German by the name of George Koetzer, an employee of the Fredricksburg brewery, was tarred, feathered, and chained to the cannon. He was suspected of being “pro-German.”
Also in the park is a memorial forum in honor of Robert F. Kennedy that is now used by bums as a tabletop to make peanut butter sandwiches on. And close by is a monument celebrating Brigadier General Henry Morris Naglee, who made brandy (Naglia, and it’s all gone) and liked to do pushups using the sides of his bathtub simultaneous with taking a bath. (Read “Tales of Naglee Park,” by Jack Douglass.)
Near the Children’s Discovery Museum, along the banks of the azure Guadalupe River, is a disturbing bronze statue of a pair of running shoes. The accompanying text reads, “These shoes symbolize the long run that Tony Ridder made to support and improve San Jose. They are big shoes to fill.” The text runs on just a bit longer, but you get the idea.
The cornerstone of the 1887 San Jose City Hall resides in Plaza Park, about 50 yards from its original spot—that original spot being where the fountain now spouts.
For a real challenge, try finding the Fallon Statue in Pellier Park. Let’s make it easier. Try finding Pellier Park. You’ll have better luck locating the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.