Ralph Pearce

Ralph Pearce's picture
Reading Interests: 
Biographies, Mysteries, Science Fiction, Philosophy, History
What I'm Reading Now: 
Specimen Days & Collect by Walt Whitman

Blogs by this Author

Troy Laundry Company
Photo courtesy of Edith C. Smith Collection/Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History, San Jose State University As a teenager in the 1970s, I remember going with my dad one time to pick up his cleaning. That sounds pretty boring, but when we pulled up to the cleaners, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was an incredible old building that looked as though it had stood untouched for fifty years, and that was in fact pretty much the situation. The signage, the windows, the doors, the paint; everything appeared to have been untouched since the day the building was...Read more...
Historic El Camino Real sign
Photo: El Camino Real marker along The Alameda in San Jose Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I was curious about the green bell poles that you occasionally see alongside our roadways. I got to thinking about them recently, and decided to research them a little. It turns out that they mark roadways that are generally considered to be a part of the original El Camino Real, or "Royal Road" ( California Historical Landmark #784 ). The El Camino Real began as a footpath to connect a series of twenty-one Spanish missions (from San Diego to Solano), two pueblos...Read more...
Schurra's Candy store in the 1930s
Schurra's in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Schurra's Fine Confections Back in the 1980s (not so long ago), I had a girlfriend who lived on Sunol Street. One end of the street meets The Alameda, and right on the southeast corner was Schurra’s Candy Factory. Walking passed the store at night, we’d put our noses near the narrow crack between the double doors near the back of the building where they made the candy. Pure heaven. We felt like Charlie Bucket standing outside the gates of Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Before moving next door to the present location, you could...Read more...
Graham Avenue
Photo courtesy of San Jose Evening News A foreman of the San Jose Mercury Herald Press Room for forty-one years (1893 – 1934), John (Jack) Martin Graham was one of the valley’s best known baseball writers. Writing columns in the Mercury Herald, he promoted amateur baseball, even arranging games and settling disputes. In the early 1920s, he encouraged readers to visit Japantown to watch the Japanese community’s team at a time when anti-Asian sentiment was strong. Jack also enjoyed composing, and he published two songs, My Mariposa Lily (1930) and We’ll Fight for Yankee Doodle (1917). The sheet music for...Read more...
SJPL circulation desk, 1950s
The San Jose Public Library has been at the forefront of library automation systems. Before the time of search boxes and digitized catalogue records, the library depended on a card catalogue, checkout slips, and banks of file cabinets. However, even long before the internet age, SJPL sought to streamline their operations with emerging automated technologies. The first big jump in automation occurred in 1958, when the library got rid of the old Gaylord charge out system and switched to the Addressograph based circulation system. This system used embossed plastic cards, multi-part forms, and a hand operated imprinting machine to dramatically...Read more...
Ng Shing Gung Temple, 1940
Did you know that San Jose’s Japantown is one of only three remaining Japantown’s in the United States? And San Jose’s Japantown is generally recognized as the most authentic in that it wasn’t largely torn down and rebuilt. Many of the earliest buildings remain, with the oldest building on the northwest corner of North Sixth and Jackson Streets being part of the last Chinatown. Our Japantown actually grew out of the last Chinatown. Nicknamed by its Chinese residents, Heinlenville was located primarily on what is now a vacant area between North Sixth and North Seventh Streets, and Jackson and Taylor...Read more...
Photograph taken from the Plaza of the southern face of the main library building off Market Street and West San Fernando Street showing the side entrance into the west annex or Music Room
This month we are Looking Back at the San Jose Public Library's leadership throughout the years. Since the first library was founded in San Jose, numerous individuals have carried the responsibility of offering this crucial public service to the City of San Jose. Listed below are the names and tenure of those who led the library from its years as the San Jose Library Association to the end of the 20th century which laid the groundwork for the award winning library we love today. Of particular mention are: Edith Daley (Librarian, 1923-1943), Geraldine Nurney (Librarian, 1943-1970) and Homer Fletcher (Librarian,...Read more...
San Jose Library Association Trustees
This month, in light of our newest digital collection , the " San Jose Public Library Collection ," the California Room is Looking Back at the history of the San Jose Public Library system. The public library has grown in fits and starts. Although more recently, the library system has dramatically expanded, catering to a diverse community. The one-room "Free" San Jose Library opened on Post and Market Streets in 1880 with a book collection from the members-only San Jose Library Association. The Library Association had been a private lending library since 1872 where a patron could check out one...Read more...
podium in St. James Park
This year marks the forty-fifth anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. Kennedy had announced his candidacy on March 16, 1968, and he spoke in San Jose’s St. James Park about a week later on March 23. According to the book, The Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke , Kennedy’s stop in San Jose, California was part of a ten-day, thirteen-state, cross-country trip that began in Alabama and Tennessee on March 21. The tour included stops in New York, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Indiana, and New Mexico. Kennedy's efforts in California culminated in his being shot in Los Angeles shortly...Read more...
Damage to the Dougherty and Louise buildings on Second and San Fernando after the 1906 earthquake
This month we are looking back at the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake in the City of San José. While the greatest casualties in the county were at Agnews State Hospital, the City of San José saw a great deal of destruction and loss of life that has largely been overshadowed by San Francisco's destruction. Overall, the city suffered $3,000,000 in property damage and lost 16 lives on that April 18th morning. How the city came through the disaster however, is this story's true significance. Like San Francisco’s experience in the 1906 earthquake, San José’s suffering was heightened by fires...Read more...