Some years ago, my dad mentioned that a cousin had seen John F. Kennedy speak at a presidential campaign rally here in San Jose. When I began working here in the California Room, I decided to check our clipping files for any articles on the event. I found an interesting San Jose Mercury article with several photos that showed Kennedy speaking from a platform somewhere in the west parking lot of the Civic Auditorium on November 2, 1960.
Image: "We're going to tell the truth," Kennedy said, "and I don't care what Mr. Nixon says, we're going to meet that responsibility." Senator Kennedy was introduced by Mayor Paul Moore, with platform guests including local Democratic candidates Russell Bryan, Jack Kennon, and Al Alquist; City Councilmen Emery Delmas and Robert C. Doerr, and County Democratic Chairman John Thorne. Photo by Josephine Curto.
More recently, I came across two color photos from the rally which had been posted on a local history page on Facebook. The color photos show Kennedy upon a platform with buildings and a gas station sign in the background. My curiosity aroused, I decided to try and pinpoint the specific location of Kennedy’s platform.
Image: This 1960 aerial photo shows the Civic Auditorium's west parking lot. The lot has now been built over and Almaden Avenue was moved further west to accommodate the expansion of the auditorium and the construction of the Holiday Inn (now Hyatt Place). Footage of Kennedy's motorcade into San Jose has been posted on Youtube by the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County.
Working with the color photos, the news article, Sanborn Maps, aerial photos, and city directories, I was able to come up with the general location of Kennedy's platform, but not as specific as I was hoping to determine. Then I began searching online, and came across a series of San Francisco Examiner archive photos of the event that had sold on eBay. The auction page was still up, so I was able to view some fairly clear images that showed Kennedy’s platform at the west end of the Civic Auditorium near the San Carlos Street sidewalk. Taking an enlargement of one of the photos with me, I headed down to the Auditorium to find the location.
Image: These wonderful color images of presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, were taken by Josephine Curto who was a member of a cannery workers union. Her daughter Karyl Vierra believes that it may have been her position in the union (which helped arrange for Kennedy to speak in San Jose) that afforded her the close proximity the candidate. Karyl even got to shake Kennedy's hand after the speech. Photo by Josephine Curto.
Using the roof lines and architectural features in the photo, I studied the entire west end of the civic auditorium. Though the structure in the photo appeared to be the Civic Auditorium as described in the Mercury article, the current roof lines and features didn't match up. Returning to the California Room, I compared a 1960 aerial photo with a current aerial view from Google Maps. Aha! What I discovered is that the Auditorium was later remodeled, and that the location of Kennedy’s platform is now the covered entrance to the old Tech Museum (when it was housed in the Civic Auditorium)! This is just one of the many mysteries that has been solved with the help of the California Room's resources.
Image: This aerial view from 1981 shows us that Kennedy's platform location is now a covered entry way into the Civic Auditorium (formerly the entrance to the Tech Museum).
Further Reading in the California Room
- Clipping Files
- Santa Clara County's Reaction to the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by Susan Ann Garcia
- Aerial photos 1960, 1968, 1981