Monday, October 31, 2022

New Edition of Sara Winchester Biography by Mary Joe Ignoffo

The house Sarah Winchester built before her death in 1922 is certainly a remarkable one. Most of her real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area sold quickly after she died. This house did not and within a very short time became a very successful tourist attraction. 

The stories that circulated about rifle heiress Sarah Winchester in Santa Clara county seem to have been the result of her reclusiveness. She lived in an age when newspaper reporters--given little real information--would just make up things in order to sell newspapers. Imagine that. 

Railroads Once Powered Work and Life in the West

Two commuters wait for the Southern Pacific railroad in Los Altos, California circa 1963. Service ended very soon after that with the construction of Foothill Expressway. The photograph was taken by Greg Gnesios. 

A friend of mine from Los Altos High School found me on the internet and sent me a photo he had taken one morning long ago of two men waiting for the railroad train--very near the end of the era when Los Altos commuters could easily get back and forth to work that way. 

His message made me ponder how important the rails were to our families, when I was young, and in the life and settlement of the West. And led to this column in my "Santa Clara Valley Lives" series for the local newspaper.  Click the link for the story: 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Famous Writer's Widow Owned Santa Clara Valley Retreat

Robert Louis Stevenson's wife Fanny was not conventionally beautiful, but the writer told friends when he met her in France in 1876 he fell in love at first sight. After RLS dies, Fanny built a home in the foothills above Gilroy, CA, above right. Originally a small cottage, it was extensively remodeled in the 1930s.

Here's a story that came to late too late to be included in my new book. I think you will enjoy it:    

The tools of the Industrial Revolution carried the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson all around the globe, which, along with his talent, helped to make the author of "Treasure Island" and "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" one of the 19th century's best-loved authors. When he died in Samoa in 1894, his widow, Californian Frances "Fanny" Van de Grift Stevenson, inherited his copyrights and became a very wealthy woman.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Look for "Valley of Heart's Delight" in SC Valley Media

You can go to the web site of the Palo Alto Daily Post for Saturday 7/30/22 and read a higher resolution version of this (which I converted from a PDF). l have links below and excerpts for other articles about the book. 

My new book about the San Francisco Bay Area came out on July 25, 2022, and one thing I can say for certain: it is easier to get coverage for a third book, than it is for the first one. As a writer, I now have a track record with two other books and reporters know the work is credible (and, I like to think, likable as well). This has helped my new book gain attention more quickly. 

Here's the first review I received, which arrived on the publication date, thanks to veteran journalist Craig MacDonald at See California: Valley of Heart's Delight Review

Here's a brief piece in the Los Altos Town Crier: Los Altos Town Crier Article

Here's what award-winning columnist Sal Pizarro had to say in the San Jose Mercury News on Friday 7/29/2022. (Since their web site charges for membership, I've just excerpted it):

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

"The Valley of Heart's Delight" Gets its First Review!

"The Valley of Heart's Delight: True Tales from Around the Bay" is my new book from The History Press. Isn't that a dandy cover?

For many years I worked in daily journalism and my experiences in newsrooms was that they were a cacophony of noise and activity. Newsrooms were full of interesting, intelligent and talkative people: phones rang constantly, police radios blasted, news crews dashed in and out and reporters gabbed at each others' desks. Our deadlines were hourly and daily. Then we went home and came back for more the next day. 

Writing a book isn't anything like that. The deadlines are years, not days. The room I work in is quiet and I often feel isolated by the work. Sometimes I do something exciting and go to the library or an archive. Not noisy places, those. When the book is written, there are several more months of copy editing and then page proofs and covers to approve. By the time the book is finally published the writer wonders: do you suppose people will like it?

Today, after working on my new book for a long time, I received my first review. I wanted to share it with you. Thanks to Craig MacDonald of the popular "See California" web site for taking the time to read my book, care about California's many heritage stories and share his thoughts with you. 

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The Duvenecks: Disseminating Kindness at Hidden Villa

This photograph of Josephine and Frank Duveneck, founders of Hidden Villa summer camp, was taken in 1978 on the couple's 65th wedding anniversary. Josephine died 11 days later, shortly after completing her autobiography. Frank died in 1985 at the age of 99. Image courtesy of the Palo Alto Historical Association.

I was very surprised to read Hidden Villa was caught in the middle of a controversy about some Asian tiles on the side of the old Duveneck house. The tiles represent an ancient symbol in Asia and bear some resemblance to a swastika but are not exactly like the ones we associate with Germany. The controversy shut down the Hidden Villa children's camp this summer for the very first time.

I thought perhaps it might be a time to revisit the history of this forward-thinking couple, who made so many lives better during their lifetimes and beyond.

Here's a piece I published recently about them in the Los Altos Town Crier.


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Lunch With the Queen: A Stanford Student Remembers

Stanford student Garin Veris look very shy as he shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. His fellow student Raga Elim is on his right and Stanford president Donald Kennedy is at far left. HRH looks truly delighted to be meeting Mr. Veris. 

Nearly 40 years ago, Queen Elizabeth II came to California on an extended tour. I was working in Washington DC then, but I read about the visit as I researched an upcoming book. I decided to write a short piece for the local newspaper about the visit and looking for a quote for my piece, I realized many who met her then were no longer with us. Reviewing the list of Stanford students who met her, I came up with a winner.  Click the link for the rest of the story: