Anatomy of a Street (Part 3)

To get back to Paul and Faith Davies and the McKenzie sisters, I’ll relate a story as told by Faith to my wife Naomi. The Davies wanted to entertain the sisters and invited them over for cocktails. Faith warned Paul that these were elderly ladies and to make their drinks very weak. Paul mixed the cocktails with a minimum of bourbon and served them. One sister barely touched her cocktail and Faith apologized, feeling that she had offended them by serving liquor. She offered to get the sisters a non-alcoholic drink to which one of the sisters replied, “Oh, please do—but this time put some whiskey in it.” Faith had not realized that the sisters were of Scottish heritage!

612 Morse Street is where I have lived since 1972. In 1962, author Ken Kesey hid from the law here but, fortunately, his stay was short. The next home to the north, 616 Morse, was owned by prominent attorney Robert Morgan and is where bankruptcy judge Marilyn Morgan grew up. Later occupants included Lawrence Lockley, PhD and Naomi Lockley. Dr. Lockley started the business doctoral program at Santa Clara University. Next to them, at 618, was the home of the Naas family who ran the Naas Candy Factory in Santa Clara for many years.

617 Morse is where Mr. and Mrs. Mike Ruth lived. They were only there for a short time, however. Mike Ruth advertised himself as a private detective. Late one night, the gumshoe heard the doorbell ring and he answered it, but left the safety chain attached. An arm reached in around the chain and stabbed Ruth. Fortunately, it was superficial, and the Ruth’s soon left on a one-way trip to Honolulu. That was the last we heard of Mike Ruth, Private Eye.

Further north at 838 Morse, next door to where the lion once roamed, is the beautiful half-timbered home where architect Pierre Prodis and his wife Carol live. Their home is designated a City Historic Landmark and it was designed by Lewis Mulgart, the architect of the old De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (now demolished).

There are many stories about houses and places in the nearby area, and I will write about some of these in future columns. The Lion family was the subject of one of my recent columns about the slain paper lion outside their store. Others I will tell you about are the Hart family, Boss Charlie Bigley, the first chartered university in California (no, not Santa Clara), and Jacob Rich who started the first horse-car railway. I will also tell you why the Alameda was and still is an important street.


  1. When I was growing up in the neighborhood, Mrs. Stevens lived at 838 Morse and we would often pay her a visit to sit in her living room and eat caramels as she would tell stories of the 1906 earthquake.  She had nine cats at one point.  Some kind of cosmic spillover from the the house next door where the lion lived.

    Around the corner at 1220 University lived the Barretts.  Nestor Barrett was SJ Mercury columnits Dick Barrett’s brother.  He engineered this low slung late 40’s house that sat on a slab and had radiant heat, and something nobody else had:  an automatic garage door opener that seemed like pure magic to us kids.  The slab is supposedly anchored on utility poles that were driven into the ground below it and the house was designed to have a top floor added.  Mrs. Barrett raised prize winning persian cats.  We’d stop in and visit her too, because she had chocolates.

  2. Mark T

    My grandparents were Margaret and Nestor Barrett.  I grew up in that house.  Thanks for the street number. I am moving to San Jose in the next few months and will be delighted to drive by.  If you have any more stories of the Barrett’s, I would love to hear them.

    Thanks- Lynne Folks
    [email protected]

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