Leonard McKay

Leonard McKay

Posts by Leonard McKay

Beer Making in San Jose

Part Two

Prohibition brought chaos. There was no longer any control over alcohol quality or purity.  Bootleggers flourished, sometimes killing their customers with bad hooch.  If you knew the password, usually “Joe sent me,” and could afford it, then you could get a shot of “bathtub gin” at George’s on South First Street, out at the Hoo-Hoo House on Stevens Creek Road, or at many other local “blind pigs.” 

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Beer Making in San Jose - Part One

Old Joe’s Steam Beer— “It’s pure that’s sure!”  Have you ever heard of this beer or this slogan?

Joe Hartman was a 49er who came to California in 1852 from Germany to make his fortune finding gold nuggets. That didn’t work out as only one in five of the gold seekers ever made expenses.  So Joe came to San Jose and, in 1853, started the Eagle Brewery in a shack on South Market Street.  Joe made steam beer—a brewing process that takes only a month rather than the four months that lager beer requires.  Joe had a good delivery system; if a saloon needed a keg of beer, Joe put the keg in his wheelbarrow and delivered it himself.  But his personal delivery service didn’t last long as there was tremendous demand for his product and the brewery expanded rapidly. 


Dutch Hamann - Part Two

Let’s get back to the man in charge of change—A.P. “Dutch” Hamann.  He graduated from the University of Santa Clara during the early stages of the great depression.  Although his name was Anthony P. Hamann, everyone I’ve ever known called him “Dutch,” a nickname derived from his German heritage.  Dutch was the alumni director of the University when I first knew him prior to World War II.  When the war broke out, Santa Clara became practically deserted as the priests, students, faculty and administrators were called to military duty.  Dutch joined the Navy where he rose to the rank of Lt. Commander.  After the war he returned to Santa Clara as business manager, but after a few years he left to join General Motors as division manager in Oakland. 

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Dutch Hamann - Part One

In more than two hundred years of San Jose’s history, who changed the city the most?  Actually there were two politicians, each of whom had a profound effect and each of whom I have been privileged to call friend.  One increased the population from a small town of 95,000 people and an area of 17 square miles to a metropolis of over 500,000 people and a city sprawled over 137 square miles.


Christmas in San Jose

Did you ever wonder how Christmas was celebrated in the past in San Jose? When our first foreign settlers, the Spaniards, were here, the birth of Christ was celebrated by going to mass at the Mission Santa Clara, the closest church. The male citizens rode their horses for the three-mile trip. The women and young children went on the rough ride to the mission on a wooden-wheeled, no-springs caretta. After the Americans arrived, most of the celebrations moved to the family home or local churches.

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The Big Fight

It was the biggest fight ever seen in San Jose. The adversaries were “Frank Heney,” at 450 pounds, versus the team of “Reuf” and “Schmitz,” each weighing in at 250 pounds.  The victor was “Frank Heney,” who nearly killed his opponents and then kicked them out of the arena.

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The Faith Davies Story

We lost a great benefactor to our community when Faith Davies died in 1996 at age 91.  Not only was she one of the most generous people, she witnessed and was intimately connected with the growth of the largest and most important business in our pre-Silicon Valley, the Food Machinery Company, or FMC.

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Lou’s Donuts

Did you ever buy a lopsided donut, one with a handle on it, and discover that it was the best donut you ever ate in your life?  If you bought your sinker at Lou’s Living Donut Museum, you are in for a real treat.  Lou’s is one of those hidden gems of old San Jose—not the kind you find in every shopping center, but a place where quality, friendliness and patriotism prevail.  How many donut shops can you name where the employees raise the American flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner every morning?  How many donut emporiums have their own little theatre where touring school children can see a video on donut making?  How many donut shops have displays of World War II aircraft, pictures and displays of American Independence, such as a copy of the Declaration of Independence, pictures of George Washington and memorabilia of the area?


Presbyterians and Prostitutes

When Chinese men from Canton arrived during the gold rush as contract laborers, they never intended to stay here.  If a man could manage to save $100, he could return to his village and live out the rest of his days, never having to work again.  But very few accomplished this goal, as gambling and opium took their toll.  In order to enter Chinese heaven their bones had to be buried in China, and shipping the remains of men whom died in California back to their home became big business. 


Artist Andrew P. Hill

Over the years some great artists have lived and painted here. Of particular interest to me are A.D.M. Cooper (1856-1924), Charles Harmon (1859-1936) and Andrew P. Hill (1853-1922).  Cooper was certainly the most prolific and he commanded the highest prices for his paintings. When he was still alive, one of his paintings sold for $60,000, the equivalent of more than $1 million today.  In my opinion Charles Harmon was perhaps the most gifted, but my favorite is Andrew P. Hill and, while not well known today, he painted some wonderful local pieces.  Of course his real fame is that of the “man who saved the redwoods.”  His painting “California Redwood Park” was exhibited during the second year of the San Francisco Panama Pacific Exposition in 1916. 

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Old Time San Jose Creameries

If you want to make an old time San Josean’s eyes glisten, just ask them about the wonderful creameries that existed during the 1920s, 30s and 40s.  Perhaps it was the competition of so many excellent soda fountains, but San Jose was blessed with the best.