Wednesday, October 25, 2017

California's Juana Briones and the Mystery of a Photograph

Descendants of Santa Clara Valley pioneer Juana Briones believe this photograph to be Juana.
Only available through the Point Reyes National Seashore Archive, it may not be used without their permission.

I am working on research for a new book about some exceptional people in California. There have been so many who have lived and worked in the region of the San Francisco Bay Area, long before Silicon Valley. While researching this group, I've uncovered lots of interesting stories.

One of them, Juana Briones, had family who came with the first Spanish-speaking civilians to settle in the San Francisco Bay Area. Juana's mother came to California as a four year old, with Juan Bautista de Anza, settling with her parents in the first pueblo of California, the pueblo of San Jose.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Memories of the Train Days in the Old Santa Clara Valley

A Los Altos resident uncovered several photographs like this one of the old train station at Loyola Corners in Los Altos, California. It wasn't much of a "station" but it protected travelers from the the rare California rainy day. Photo courtesy of the California State Railroad Museum.

California is so auto-centric, it may be difficult for people to believe that what is now Silicon Valley once had among the most extensive systems of steam and electric suburban rails in the country. Long before the advent of the automobile, you could catch an electric line that took you from Palo Alto--home to Stanford University--to San Jose, the largest city in the valley--with lots of stops in between.

The electric system was long gone before I was born. But I do remember the locomotives.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Even Your Garden Whispers California History

Of the California poppy, Mary Elizabeth Parsons wrote in 1897:
"Not until the morning is well advanced does it begin to unfurl its tightly rolled petals."

I've been writing a regional history column for the local paper, and my latest one is about how even the plants in our gardens can evoke a region's history. Go to the next paragraph for the beginning of the story:

Monday, July 17, 2017

A New Series on Local (Silicon Valley) History: Robin Chapman's First Columns on "Santa Clara Valley Lives"

The house Sarah Winchester built for her sister on the San Francisco Peninsula. Located between Palo Alto and Mountain View, the acreage eventually led to the founding of the city of Los Altos. And the house still stands.

I'm writing a new series of columns for the Los Altos Town Crier, a paper that reports from the heart of what we now call Silicon Valley. It was called the Santa Clara Valley when I was growing up here (that is still its official name) and the stories are about the region before it became the center of the tech revolution. We're calling the feature "Santa Clara Valley Lives" and I wanted to share my first columns with readers who do not subscribe to the Town Crier, but are inclined instead to look for my work on this blog. 

The photo of the house above, forms the basis for of my first column. The glimpse you can see of it through the trees gives us a whisper of a reminder of the Winchester Mystery House of San Jose, for which Sarah Winchester is so famous. Perhaps it is the interesting angle on those gables.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Beekeepers and Tech: The Latest From Edible Silicon Valley

Bees on the blackberry bushes in the author's backyard. Though bees are necessary to pollinate 52 different crops in California, most Silicon Valley beekeepers care for bees for fun and not for profit.

Did you know in California bees are classified as livestock? Did you know California's almond industry imports 85 percent of all the available commercial hives in the United States to pollinate its almond trees each spring? That is a whopping 1.7 million beehives traveling to and from California annually on trucks. 

Honey, that is a lot of bees on the freeway.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Vagaries of One Valley Village: Local Opinion Piece

The Daily Post of Palo Alto doesn't put its articles on line. So here's what Robin's article looks like in today's paper. Below is the full text for easier reading.  

There has been graffiti on the Hale Creek bridge at Rosita Avenue and Springer Road in my hometown of Los Altos, California, for four years. Last summer, a Los Altos crew closed Rosita for weeks, not to paint, but to install an ADA ramp. The ramp was built without a drain in the middle of the downhill side of the bridge’s sidewalk, the result of which is that now, when it rains, the new ramp fills with water and turns the street into a lake. A disabled person would have to use a flotation device if she ever came to need it during a storm.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Edible Silicon Valley: A Story on Silicon Valley's Orchardists

Andy Mariani still tends to his apricot, peach, cherry and plum orchards in Morgan Hill, California. But the transformation from rural to urban has changed the way all local growers do their work. This wonderful photo is by Los Altan Yvonne Cornell for Edible Silicon Valley Magazine.

I first got to know grower Andy Mariani, along with local orchard legends Deborah Olson and her father Charles, when I was working on my book California Apricots: the Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley for the History Press in 2012. Knowing them, and meeting the orchardist at the National Trust home Filoli in Woodside, California, came in handy when Edible Silicon Valley magazine came calling.

My friend Catherine Nunes is the publisher of Edible Silicon Valley and she asked for a story on how orchardists were re-imagining their businesses in the changing environment of our booming region.