Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Alfred Hitchcock and his Northern California Connection

Director Alfred Hitchcock displays his famous profile at his estate above Saratoga. The outline was easily identified as it graced the opening of his popular television mystery program "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Photo courtesy of UC Santa Cruz Special Collections & Archives and Tere Carrubba.

There is something absolutely fascinating about movie director Alfred Hitchcock, who was born in London in 1919 and died in California in 1980. His movies were unlike those of any other director. He became easily as famous as any of the stars he featured in his films. And he seemed to love the macabre. 

What most people in Northern California don't know is that he had a home in the mountains above the Santa Clara Valley that also looked down upon the California Coast and spent a lot of time there from 1940 through 1974 when Hitchcock grew frail and his wife Alma made arrangements to sell the home. 

Having a home in Northern California had a direct impact on "The Birds" one of his most famous films, due to an event on the California Coast Hitch learned about because he kept up on the local news. 

I've recently secured permission to use several interesting archival photos of him at the estate and though I have written about this before I felt the photos definitely added some fun to the tale. Click the link to read the column I filed about him in the Los Altos Town Crier for Halloween.

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Monday, August 9, 2021

The Peninsular Railway: Electric Tech Ahead of Its Time

This rail car, from the Peninsular Railroad is Number 102 and shows a sign in the window that it runs from Los Altos to San Jose. It also sports a sign that says "Flyer," which means it was likely used for direct commuting. Photo courtesy of the Palo Alto Historical Association Archives.
This lovely map cover for the Peninsular doesn't even show a train: It was likely used to advertise the line's Blossom Special to tourists in a valley which then had the largest number of commercial fruit orchards the world had ever seen. Image courtesy of History San Jose Archives.

During the years I have done research on the San Francisco Bay Area I have seen a number of images of what looked like a small rail system that ran around the Santa Clara Valley. I always thought the lines were some branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was the only rail I remembered from my childhood. 

Early in August, I attended a lecture by Ray Cosyn at the Saratoga Historical Foundation for the reopening of their museum, and the whole thing began to come into focus. And this led to a story of course. Click to learn more from my regular column in the Los Altos Town Crier: 


Thursday, January 21, 2021

A DC Reporter Looks Back After a Riot Shocked the World

Robin Chapman served as a reporter in Washington D.C. covering national and local news for WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate. She later worked as national correspondent for Group W TV.  In photo right, Robin prepares to go live from the "swamp site" on Capitol Hill.

I still have a hard time processing what happened on Capitol Hill, January 6, 2020. I was lucky to spend some of my career there covering the news in what I have long considered a post-graduate course in how United States government works. I never live up to my own expectations and, looking back, often think how I should have and could have done so much during my years in the capital. 

After the riot that shocked the world there, I had to sit down and write about it--just to help myself process what happened. Here's what I wrote for hometown paper in Silicon Valley. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Surviving Covid? You May Need the Little Free Library!


 At far left, the book which helped me discover a talented relative of Robert Louis Stevenson, a book I found in a Little Free Library. At right, one of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood.

We are all missing lots of things that were once regular features of our lives before the recent pandemic. I often miss going to the local YMCA, where I had a set of "workout" friends I never saw in any other place. They were my gym friends. I miss going to restaurants and socializing. And, for many months I missed my local library, which is now open for online ordering and pickup only. What to read? Well, you just begin to look everywhere for books, and this, as it turns out brought me a treat. Click the link for my recent column!       


Restoring a Bronze Tribute to a Local Leader in California

Walter Singer was able to view the bronze bust of himself commissioned by his friends in Los Altos, before his death in 1992. 

Holocaust survivor Walter Singer lived a remarkable life. Now a tribute to him lies gathering dust in a storage barn on the grounds of a California museum. What is his story. Click the link to learn more:

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Collings Foundation "Wings of Freedom" Tour on Hold Across America for 2020: Pandemic Not to Blame

At left is a photo of me with the "Witchcraft," a B-24 in which I won a ride last year.  Owned by the Collings Foundation is has been part of their "Wings of Freedom Tour" for many years.

Below, is a photo I took that same day of the "Nine-O-Nine" a B-17 that was also part of the tour. It was destroyed in a crash just a few months later.

In the spring on 2019, I won a ride in a B-24 from World War II. The iconic bomber was part of the Collings Foundation's "Wings of Freedom Tour." And though I admit I was apprehensive about flying in an aircraft that was older than I, as a reporter I felt I ought to do it.

There is more to the story, of course. I did not fly in the B-17 that day and I have no idea why, as I was told I could fly in any of the bombers and the B-17 "Flying Fortress" is arguably the most famous. Just a few months later, that same aircraft crashed in Connecticut, killing seven people and injuring seven others. The crash has left a lot of devastation in its wake. Click the link to read my column on the story:

Lost Photo of Bing Crosby Uncovered After Sixty Years

Oscar winner Big Crosby poses, circa 1961, with a plaque created for him by the 
City of Los Altos, California. The photo is signed by Bing and appears to have suffered damage (to his nose and hand) from being left on the floor of a tool closet at a local community center. 
Photo courtesy of Jim Shattock.

Los Altos, California, is a small town on the San Francisco Peninsula, between San Francisco and San Jose. Since I uncovered a connection between singer-actor Bing Crosby and Los Altos--my hometown--I've been reading a lot about this very talented man, who was one of the most famous men of the 20th century. 

My first article about him prompted a call from another Los Altos native, who had some new information. Being a historian is a lot like being a detective. Click the link, for my article in the Los Altos Town Crier for more on Bing, his philanthropy, and what the photo (above) has to do with all of this.