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

Louis Pellier, the 'Prune King'
Louis Pellier, "The Prune King" Photo courtesy of History San Jose One August day in 2011, a fellow named Tim Peddy came into the California Room to look at some aerial photos. I noticed that one of the aerials showed the San Juan Bautista Hills near my neighborhood. The San Juan Bautista Hills are an outcropping of hills on the southeast corner of Willow Glen that include “ The Church on the Hill ,” County Communications , Communications Hill (with the cell phone tower), and Oak Hill Cemetery . I pointed out to Tim that the small hill between the...Read more...
El Rancho Drive-in Matchbook Cover
Of the various San Jose landmarks of the 1960s and 1970s, one of the most impressive to me was the huge mural that stood on the corner of Almaden Avenue and Alma Avenue. How many times I looked out at it through the window of our 1964 Nova station wagon I’ll never know, but I was always in awe of it. And yet, it never would have occurred to me that I might one day wish I’d taken a picture of it. It would always be there, right? The mural was created by local muralist Don Clever, who painted it...Read more...
Fudetaro and Seijiro Horio in 1908
In 1895, two brothers immigrated to the United States from Japan and wound up working for the Von Dorsten family on Foxworthy Road in the Willow Glen area of San Jose (now known as Foxworthy Avenue ). After saving for many years, Seijiro and Fudetaro Horio began buying nearby properties until they had a swath of land that ran from Foxworthy Road to Koch Lane on the east side of Cherry Avenue. This was prior to the restrictive California Alien Land Law of 1913 which prohibited "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning agricultural land or possessing long-term leases. This law...Read more...
corner of Sixth and Jackson Streets
Built about the same time as Heinlenville Chinatown, the one-story brick building on the northwest corner of Sixth and Jackson Streets was first home to Chinese tenants. By 1901, the first Japanese businesses in the area that would become known as Japantown appeared in the building. In the early 1930s, the building would house some of the earliest Filipino businesses in the community. Facing Sixth Street, the (then) blank brick wall on the Jackson Street side of the building was used as a community bulletin board. At some point after WWII, a door and windows were added to the Jackson...Read more...
Image:  View of the old radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum. Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce
Image: View of the old radar tower atop Mt. Umunhum. Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce 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...Read more...
Clyde Arbuckle with man in cemetary
I 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,...Read more...
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...