The San Jose Rotary Club kicked off its 100th anniversary celebration this month with a luncheon Wednesday. The featured speaker was Tom McEnery, mayor of San Jose from 1982 to 1990, a period during which San Jose’s downtown was transformed with an arena, a convention center, the Fairmont Hotel, light rail transit, new museums and the San Jose Sharks. McEnery was selected as the 100-year speaker because of his seminal role in shaping the city and his knowledge of the city’s history. The following is an excerpt of his remarks.—Editor
Six Degrees of Separation from Steve Jobs or the Shoulders of San Pedro Square: How a single block in the city was the venue for a number of entrepreneurial efforts
We all stand on the shoulders of others in the building of a city or a nation. Nowhere is that more true of our valley than in one strip of San Jose called San Pedro Square.
A boy named Luis Peralta traveled north from Tubac, in Old Mexico, fully 1,000 miles, and he settled in this area; the DeAnza Party followed unnamed peoples who valued the hummingbird, the water-kisser, umunhum in their language.
When Captain Thomas Fallon raised the American flag down the street in 1846—what inexplicably became a controversial event in recent times—he and his wife, Carmel Castro, became neighbors and followed Luis Maria’s lead and became fast friends.
By the time Fallon died, Paul Masson and his in-laws, the LeFranc family were building a “liquid empire” right on this block—and had pioneered the commercial wine business of California, while one block north,
Louis Pellier, “the Prune Man,” introduced the petite d’agen to our state, part of the foundation of the vaunted Valley of Heart’s Delight.
On the corner of San Pedro and Santa Clara Streets, the amazing King’s highway, the Farmers Union Bank, Growers’ Cooperative and Mill financed much of it, and the rest is, as they say, history and contains more than a dash of vision.
Yet in all that first century the closest we can come to our six degrees of separation to those of us in Silicon Valley, to Steve Jobs and the vision of a new, new world of information and technology, is the man born right across the street on San Pedro, A.P. Giannini, the founder of the Bank of Italy, soon to be the Bank of America. He helped build and then re-build our state after the Great Quake of 1906—and later helped finance a man named Walt Disney who had a dream: a world of celluloid images and unimaginable dreams.
Disney gave a big contract to two men named Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, who sold him their first product, oscillators, for the movie Fantasia; later, as a business and cultural behemoth, Hewlett-Packard or HP in Valley parlance, Bill Hewlett gave some old parts and equipment to two young fellows named “Steve” from Cupertino who were working in a garage, and one of them, Steve Wozniak (the “Woz”) frequents this block still.
Above O’Flaherty’s Pub in the San Pedro Square Theatre, Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, had his club in the ’70s, with Jimmy Buffet and Ricky Nelson as a few of the headliners; he also had the sense to give Steve Jobs employment.
So we move from Peralta to Fallon, Masson, Giannini, Disney, Hewlett and Packard, and on to Jobs in a few short steps and some 200 years of San Jose history.
And it all happened on this block.
What do all these various fascinating visionaries, explorers, entrepreneurs and dreamers have in common?