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Looking Back: Mount Umunhum and the Almaden Air Force Station

Mt Umunhum

Living in the Santa Clara Valley in the 1960s and 1970s, a familiar sight was the radar tower with its spinning radar on top of Mount Umunhum.  Not only was it a familiar and comforting sight, but it provided a point of reference.  I remember that I could see the tower from my parents’ room, and I would occasionally just stand there watching the huge mounted radar screen spinning around and around.  One time on the way home from Santa Cruz we passed very close to the station and I was amazed at its size and the huge red and white checkerboard design on the radar screen.


The Cold War with the Soviet Union was still in full swing, with regular testing of neighborhood air raid sirens and radio and television tests of the Emergency Broadcasting System.  When I was younger I had no idea what the radar tower was all about, but by the time I was a teenager I became aware that the radar was an Air Force station (682nd Radar Squadron) that was keeping a watchful eye for threats from abroad.  I moved away from home in 1980, and when I returned to rent the house from my parents’ in 1992, the spinning radar was gone from the top of the tower.  No longer visible from my parents’ window due to the growth of trees, the tower is still easily visible when outside.


When my son was in high school, he became more curious about the tower and we decided to see how close we could get to it.   We got fairly close, but signage prevents hikers from getting as close as the main gate.  Currently, the tower’s future is in question and efforts are underway to save it.



Further reading:


Consumer Reports: Annual Auto Issue and More

Consumer Reports logoAre you in the market for a new car? Consumer Reports publishes an issue every April highlighting the best (and worst) cars. Or maybe you're looking for a TV (March 2014) or a smart phone (January 2014).  Even if you're buying something more mundane, like popcorn (March 2014) or toilet paper (May 2014), Consumer Reports has probably published a review.


You can access current and back issues of Consumer Reports online for free using your library card.

Question of the Week: Can I Obtain a Copy of the Practice Test for the Postion of Office Specialist?

Clerk exam book coverThe other day, a customer asked me, "Can I obtain a copy of the practice test for the postion of Office Specialist I - Santa Clara County? It was suggested that the library might have this document on file."


Actually, we don't have the practice test for the county.

However, we have a general clerk test book. And we have civil service exam books.

Finally, we also have Learning Express (online) for the civil service exam.


FIY, Learning Express has recently updated their interface; it was long overdue. It looks much more appealing and hopefully easier to navigate.


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Question of the Week: Affordable Housing Databases

SJPL a picture of a housecustomers often ask at the reference desk to search for affordable housing in San Jose area. One of the best databases to use in this case is Santa Clara County Housing Database. There is a link to it from the City of San Jose Home page. The path to it is Home>Government>Departments and Offices D-H>Housing>Renters and Landlords> Find an Affordable Apartment. Then, if you click on Look for Rentals icon, you will get to the page with the link to above mentioned database. You can search it by a ZIP code.


The other link on the same page provides information about Section 8 Housing Voucher Program. If a patron is eligible for this program, there is another good Federal Government resource - HUD.GOV Database that you can search by state, county, city and a ZIP code.



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2014 Tax Scams: How to Fight Them

Image of Tax DocumentsWe're in the midst of tax season, and unfortunately that means we're also in the middle of tax fraud and scam season. Each year, the IRS releases a list of the current "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams. According to the 2014 report, there has been a rise in phone scams across the country this year. The caller pretends to be an IRS or state tax representative and may say you either owe money or are entitled to a refund. Either way, it is a ploy to get access to your personal and financial information. The scammers may threaten arrest or driver's license revocation if you don't comply.

If you are contacted by tax scammers claiming to be from the IRS, you are encouraged to end the communication and report the incident at this IRS page: Tax Scams - How to Report Them. You can also report the incident by phone to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.


If you think you have been contacted by a tax scammer claiming to represent the state of California, you can report the incident to the California State Tax Franchise Board at 800-852-5711.


For more about the problem of identity theft in general and what you can do about it, check out The Wall Street Journal Complete Identity Theft Guidebook: How to Protect Yourself from the Most Pervasive Crime in America from SJPL.


Question of the Week: Did César Chávez Ever Live in San José?

Cover Image of Book: The Fight in the FieldsYes, it appears César Chávez lived in San José at various points in his life. One article states that the Chávez family (César, his parents, and siblings) moved to a San José barrio named Sal Si Puedes (Get Out If You Can). They rented a tiny, 10x12 room in a house where all 11 of them slept. Later, as newlyweds, César and Helen, lived in San José at 53 Scharff Avenue. The house has since been torn down but a plaque commemorates the site which  is now a San José Historic Landmark.

Learn more about César Chávez and his importance to the labor movement and farm worker rights.


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Question of the Week: What is a Sanborn Map?

sample Sanborn MapSanborn maps were originally published for use by fire insurance companies and have since become a resource documenting urban growth and development. Sanborn maps are often used by those interested in local history or by those researching the history of a specific property. In addition to the outline of buildings, Sanborn maps also show property usages, boundaries, streets, and construction materials. A key at the beginning of each volume explains the symbols needed to read the maps. Each volume begins with a comprehensive map of the area overlaid with page numbers so that the user can turn directly to the page needed. By looking at Sanborn maps published in multiple years, a researcher can follow the history of specific houses or businesses in the area. The California Room houses original hardcopy Sanborn Maps of San Jose for the years 1932, 1939, 1950, 1958, and 1962. In addition, the Digital Sanborn Maps Database is available online to those with a San Jose Public Library card and it covers a wider range of years. We encourage you to explore this database and see how your city has changed over time.


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Do you like reptiles?  Would you like to learn more about them?  Libraries in San Jose have many books about reptiles that you can check out.  Here are a few that you many enjoy:


Eyewitness Reptile Book CoverEyewitness Reptile, written by Colin McCarthy is a great introduction to reptiles.  This book includes a CD rom with plenty of clip art.   There is information about reptile classification, reptile evolution, and an excellent glossary.

Slither and Crawl book cover imageSlither and Crawl: Eye to Eye with Reptiles, written and illustrated Jim Arnosky, is a beautifully illustrated book with life-size pictures of a variety of reptiles.  Some of the pages fold out to allow for larger pictures.


There are also a variety of databases with additional information about reptiles and other animals, including databases especially for students in grades K-8.  There is even a Science Reference Center that can connect you to more useful information.  All you need is your library card to access these useful databases


Happy Learning! 

Posted by Dawn Imada on Mar 17, 2014 | Comments: 0 |

Looking Back: Clyde Arbuckle, San Jose's First City Historian

Clyde Arbuckle and man in cemetaryI remember standing outside of La Villa Delicatessen on Lincoln Avenue about 1977 or so, when out walks a mustachioed fellow in a kind of khaki uniform with a broad-brimmed, circular hat like a park ranger would wear.  I watched him as he began to survey the scene with a kind of contemplative seriousness.  I wondered who on earth this guy was. 


In 1978, I began working at a used bookstore on the corner of Lincoln and Franquette Avenues, near Curtner.  One day this same fellow walks in, still wearing that distinctive outfit.  The owner of the bookstore, Myron Wahlstrand, introduced me to him as Clyde Arbuckle, San Jose’s City Historian.  It turned out that Clyde lived just down the street on Franquette, and I became a student of his (as so many of us did) during his visits to the store over the many years that I worked there.


Clyde Arbuckle was born William Clyde Arbuckle on April 11, 1903 in Santa Clara.  Because Clyde’s father was also named William, Clyde used his middle name and had a number of nicknames including Cy, Buckle, and Bucky.  One of Clyde’s earliest memories was of the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which occurred when he was three.  He had a number of half brothers and sisters, one of whom was silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle


In the accompanying photo from the California Room archives, Clyde (left) poses with Colonel Waddell F. Smith at the gravesite of Montgomery Maze in Oak Hill Memorial Park.


Clyde left school in 1918 at the age of fifteen, taking on many jobs including one with the American Railway Express which became a permanent position from 1922 through 1947.  Clyde became a successful bike racer, winning a number of titles from about 1920 through 1926.  From about the mid-1920s through 1934, Clyde also sidelined as a professional banjo player.  In 1926, Clyde met his future wife Helen, marrying her in 1932.  They had their first child Jim in 1935 and a daughter Susan in 1936.


In 1945, Clyde became San Jose’s first City Historian.  The Historic Landmarks Commission was formed that same year, and Clyde served as secretary until 1970.  In 1949, a replica of San Jose’s State House (meeting place of the first State Legislature) was built in City Hall Plaza (now Plaza de Cesar Chavez).  It contained a history exhibit curated by Clyde.  The exhibit was so popular, that the State House was moved to a permanent location at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in 1950, with Clyde as director and curator of the new San Jose Historical Museum (now History San Jose).  In 1962, a San Jose elementary school was named in his honor. 


In 1970, under the urging of friend and fellow preservationist Theron Fox, Clyde was commissioned to write the definitive history of San Jose.  The history was published in 1985, printed by friend and history buff Leonard McKay (Smith & McKay Printing), who has been said to have contributed greatly to the book’s completion.  Clyde also wrote Historic Names of Persons and Places in Santa Clara County (with Roscoe D. Wyatt in 1948), and Santa Clara County Ranchos in 1968.  He was an active member of  the Ancient and Honorable Order of E. Clampus Vitas, the California Pioneers of Santa Clara Valley, and the Argonauts Historical Society, as well as being a Mason.  In 1998, Clyde passed away at the age of 94.


Further reading from the San Jose Public Library, California Room:


Question of the Week: I Made Very Little Money Last Year. Do I Need to File Taxes?

EY Tax Guide 2014 coverTo find out if you need to file a tax return, there are some easy questions on the IRS filing page for you to answer in order to know if you need to file. Estimated time to complete the questions is 12 minutes. And Free File is provided on the IRS page.


For low to moderate income people, there is free tax return preparation by certified volunteers who are available in our communities. There is also Myfreetaxes software which is free for Individuals or families with a combined income of $58,000 or less in 2013. The software is easy to use, and helps qualified taxpayers to claim tax credits.


Some of the working people may qualify for the federal EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) which "puts money back into the pockets of qualifying low- and moderate-income working taxpayers when they file their tax returns" Consumer Action’s Get Credit for Your Hard Work provides EITC guidelines on "income limits, eligibility criteria and how to file," etc. This information is available free, online or as booklets, in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Certified Volunteers will help taxpayers to file with potential tax savings, such as the EITC.


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