Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eighth Annual ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’ by History San José Honors Pioneer Agricultural Families

San José, California – March 19, 2012 — History San José’s (HSJ) eighth annual ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’ event will honor pioneer families who truly contributed to the thriving agricultural roots of the Santa Clara Valley. Long-time community leaders, the Lester families and the Cilker families, will be honored on Saturday, June 30, at an evening event at History Park from 5 to 9 PM.

The families of Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester will receive recognition on behalf of the generations of their families who have been, and continue to be, dedicated to the well-being and vitality of the Valley.

“The dinner under the light tower fundraising event has become a History San José signature event,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO, HSJ. “The Cilker and Lester families forged the path of pioneer families who founded this valley on hard work and innovation, and are inspirational and encourage our community to thrive.”

In keeping with the Valley of Hearts Delight theme of abundant harvests, guests will enjoy a move-able feast, visiting food stations filled with sweet and savory creations expertly prepared by Parsley, Sage Rosemary & Thyme. Guests will also enjoy special tastings and demonstrations of locally-produced wine, beer and food products.

Live musical performances, including Fiddle Road and the Dewayne Oakley Blues Ensemble, will entertain the party throughout the night with music under the stars.

History Park will be bustling with activity during the event—attendees may hop on a wagon drawn by Clydesdales, or choose to ride on a historic trolley; design a fruit crate label and visit the fruit barn. Auction items will be offered exclusively in a silent format at a special “Farmers Market” with gift packages for all tastes.

This “open-one-night-only” event has become a tradition. Previous dinners have been held at the now-closed Manny’s Cellar, and the former Mirassou Winery. Previous honorees of the Valley of Heart’s Delight are Pat Loomis, former Mercury News writer, historian Jack Douglas and pioneer Jerry Rosenthal, Helen and Bill DelBiaggio, Jim Salata, Susan and Phil Hammer, and last year Sharron and Carl Cookson.

Tickets to Valley of Heart’s Delight event are $125 each, or blocks of ten at $1,250.

For more information about History San José’s Valley of Heart’s Delight event, call the event line at 408-918-1046 or visit

For information on sponsorship, please contact Linda Spencer at 408-521-5019 or

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

History Park is Composting

History Park's new composting bin
Composting: the natural process in which organic materials are broken down into a rich, fertile soil known as compost

Vermicomposting: the process of composting food scraps and garden waste with Red Worms

Why did Kelly choose composting and History San Jose? In her own words: Kelly Rafey, senior at Notre Dame High School, has completed her Senior Service Learning Project with History San Jose as her community partner. Her mission was to promote sustainability and spread awareness of the benefits of composting. The result? A new composting initiative at History Park and some fat, healthy worms ready for your food scraps. The new vermicomposting bin is located next to Umbarger House with instructions on what can and cannot be composted.

“Roughly one quarter of the waste dumped in American landfills is compostable food waste. If those food scraps were composted, then not only would these landfills be dramatically reduced in size and environmental repercussions, but it would enhance our progress towards sustainability. As the location of eight different field trips and as many as 72 elementary school students a day, San Jose History Park is perfectly suited to its new composting program.”

Kelly constructed the wooden composting bin that is now located in front of the Umbarger House at History Park. The worms have been growing and multiplying in this bin since early November of 2011, and last month the compost bin was opened to the public, available for anyone to dispose of food scraps (fruits and vegetables) or carbon waste (paper and garden scraps).

Everyone is welcome to participate in this project of sustainability, which will over time grow to decompose more food scraps and produce more compost for the gardens of History Park. This project is a first step in reducing the amount of waste thrown away at History Park, and will hopefully only become more and more sustainable in the months and years to come.

For more information about Kelly Rafey’s composting project, as well as information on composting itself, see

Be sure to take advantage of Kelly’s hard work and dedication by composting and reducing waste at History Park.

2012 Honorees Luncheon

Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester
Submitted by Linda Spencer

Following annual tradition, History San José kicked off the celebration of the upcoming Valley of Heart’s Delight event at a lunch gathering of past honorees to meet this year’s honorees.

Bill Cilker, Sr. and Lee Lester were introduced as the 2012 Valley of Heart’s Delight honorees, representing their families’ historic agricultural roots (no pun intended, really!) in the Valley.

Past year’s honorees Sharron and Carl Cookson, Bill Del Biaggio, Jerry Rosenthal joined Linda Lester, HSJ Board Chair Tom Scott, President Alida Bray and other HSJ staff for lunch catered by Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Past honorees unable to attend include Jim Salata, Susan and Phil Hammer, and Jack Douglas as well as Helen Del Biaggio.

PSRT will cater the eighth annual event on June 30 at History Park, featuring food stations, along with wine, beer, tastings, demonstrations and activities around the plaza.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Welcome Key to San Jose

Submitted by Ken Middlebrook, Collections Manager at History San Jose

Key to San Jose presentation, 1943 (History San Jose)
As curator of History San José’s exhibit at Diridon Station, The Way to San Jose: Rotary Celebrates 100 Years of Transportation, I was challenged with how to present the breadth of material in the available space. We decided to have each individual display case cover a single theme such as water or air transport, trolleys, and land. Subsequently, a large image was selected for each case that would draw attention from passersby.

For the railroad case, I selected an image entitled “Key to San Jose Presentation,” taken at the Southern Pacific Railroad depot. This was a Chamber of Commerce ritual for recognizing newcomers or visiting dignitaries. On August 22, 1943, the Chamber welcomed employees and family members of an established New York firm that was opening their first West Coast manufacturing facility. Due to wartime labor shortages and wage competition from local agri-businesses, it was beneficial for the firm to transfer employees from across the country to start their punched card facility at 16th and St. John Streets. The firm was IBM.

It is doubtful that the pictured individuals could foresee the changes that would occur over next three decades after the war: local companies would expand exponentially; the population would double over each decade; and the bountiful farmland would give way to housing and new industrial parks, In this short time span, the Valley of the Heart’s Delight would be transformed into Silicon Valley.

As Collections Manager, I often peek into containers, much like a child during the holiday season expecting a new treasure. While walking through one of our warehouses this week, I opened a drawer to unexpectedly find…the ceremonial key pictured in the 1943 photo. Before being retired in 1967, the key was likely used in additional ceremonies. Some doubtlessly involved corporations such as IBM that were attracted by the economic benefits offered in San Jose.

At first glance, the key is simply paint on plywood; however just as with other items in our collection, it represents a story waiting to be retold.

History San Jose Collection

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dress Forms on Display at SFO

Quarter size dress forms, ca. 1955, History San Jose

These quarter-size dress forms were used by San Jose State students in the Home Economics Department, and are part of a new exhibit just opened at San Francisco International Airport, “Threading the Needle: Sewing in the Machine Age.” Donated with a collection of textile and fashion samples, these were originally part of the Estate of Barbara Gae Christensen Coffee, a professor at San Jose State University.

As the SFO’s exhibit display tells it, “Domestic science or domestic arts, later referred to as home economics, has its roots in eighteenth-century needlework and sewing classes. When families could afford it, they sent their daughters to young ladies’ academies, where needlework was an important part of the curriculum in the United States. Domestic science or arts courses were first introduced in public schools around the country in the 1880s and 1890s. Specialized schools in sewing were also established at this time. By the late 1930s, nearly 90 percent of schools in cities and towns with substantial populations offered home economics programs in schools at the junior high and high school levels. Teachers of home economics traditionally made home sewing a critical part of the curriculum, emphasizing self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. Junior high students typically became familiar with the sewing machine and simple hand stitching and mending, while more advanced garment construction was taught at the high school and college levels. Quarter-size dress forms allowed students to create miniature versions of their designs, before crafting the full-size versions.”

The Home Economics Department at SJSU has a long history, beginning with Maude Murchie in 1911 and a course on Dietetics. Helen Mignon was named Department Chair in 1925, and her collection of San Jose State College Homemaking Department programs and teaching materials (1917-1935) were donated to History San Jose in 1979. Home Economics is now the Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging Department at SJSU, but the San Jose State Textile Program was once under the Home Economics umbrella, instructing students in clothing and fabric design. This department dissolved in 1987, but instruction in weaving and textile arts can still be found on campus through the School of Art & Design.

The dress forms above were previously displayed at History San Jose in 2008, part of the “She Made It” exhibition of over 35 handmade items, some from SJSU, that explored the transition of women’s craft making from that of utilitarian production or social development tool to a form of art and individual expression.

A Guide to the Helen Mignon Collection is available at the Online Archive of California.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's March 14, pi day...what's the story behind this "pie?"

Imitation cherry pie used in the
"Speed City" exhibit (History San Jose)
In late 2006, History San Jose organized the exhibit "Speed City : From Civil Rights to Black Power," an in-depth examination of American sport in an era that spanned the aftermath of World War II through America’s tumultuous involvement in Vietnam. The exhibition focused on San Jose State College’s athletic program, from which many coaches and student athletes became globally recognized figures as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements reshaped American society. San Jose State College – now known as San Jose State University – was selected as the focus of the exhibit as several Spartans became principal figures during this period of dramatic social transformation. This imitation cherry pie, part of the exhibit, represented the pies baked by the wives of Coach Bud Winter and his assistant Bert Bonanno.

Lloyd "Bud" Winter arrived in San Jose to coach track and field in 1940, but left to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon his return after the war, he resumed his coaching position with assistant Bert Bonanno. Though Winter had coached some fairly successful teams through the 1940s and early 1950s, it was not until the mid ’50s that a young Black sprinter would bring Winter’s genius to the forefront.

Ray Norton, then a high school senior, tells the story of Winter watching him run on the track along with a couple of friends days before the national outdoor track and field championships at the University of California. Winter questioned the young sprinter, and told him that if he were to come to San Jose State, he would make him "the World’s Fastest Human."

Within two years of his arrival in San Jose, Norton, who competed in the 1956 Olympic trials as an Oakland City College freshman, literally became the World’s No. 1-ranked sprinter. Teaching the same relaxation methods he had taught fighter pilots during the Second World War, Winter trained Norton to relax while sprinting. Norton later would set or break world records in the 100 and 200 meters, and the 100 and 220 yards six times during the 1958, '59 and '60 outdoor seasons.

With the coming of Norton and California State Junior College champion sprinter Robert Poynter in 1956 and '58, respectively, San Jose would become somewhat of a magnet for athletes from as far afield as Brazil (Jose Azevado), Jamaica (Dennis Johnson), Nigeria (Jimmy Ogmabemi), and Venezuela (Lloyd Murad), earning the nickname "Speed City."

But not all was as glorious in San Jose as songstress Dionne Warwick sang in her hit "Do you know the way to San Jose? ("There'll be a place where I can stay . . .")

Although these world-class athletes were "on scholarship," they sometimes went hungry. "On weekends when we didn’t have anything to eat, we would just stay in the house," said Poynter, who notes how Coach Winter would divide six scholarships amongst forty athletes. "Sometimes we would eat walnuts off the tree in the backyard and drink sugar water, or if Chuck Alexander would hash (wait tables) at a fraternity or sorority house, he would bring home chicken for us."

At one point, Norton, whom other athletes teased about being "Bud’s favorite," approached Winter to discuss his famished teammates. Soon, Winter had set up a "reward system" in which everyone, from Norton, the World’s Fastest Human, to the slowest person on the team would be fed. "It was interesting because he knew the athletes who were hungry," Norton said. "But Bud would do it so that he wouldn't embarrass anyone."

Winter's wife, Helen Winter, and his assistant's wife, Betty Bonanno, began to bake cakes and pies for the athletes. Winter also was able to get restaurants including Original Joe's – still located at 301 South First Street in downtown San Jose – to feed the athletes in the afternoon or in the evening. "If you did well in practice and Bud liked it," Norton said, "Bud would give you a little chip and you could go over there and get a milkshake and a hamburger."

Despite the fact that Norton and Poynter, amongst others, brought worldwide recognition to the City of San Jose, they still were forced to live in segregated housing along with a dozen or so other Black males who attended SJSC, and called themselves the Good Brothers. "We had to help each other in order to survive, so that's what we did,' Poynter said. "All of us were determined to succeed because we knew we couldn't just go back home."

(Excerpted from "Speed City: From Civil Rights to Black Power" by Urla Hill, 2005)

Monday, March 12, 2012

History San José Announces New Board Member and Chairperson

March 12, 2012 – San José, CA

The Board of Directors of History San José (HSJ) appointed one new board member and voted on its new executive committee at its recent board meeting.

Outgoing Chairperson David Satterfield handed the gavel to incoming Chair Tom Scott, and new boardmember Corky Silva was appointed to the Board of Directors.

Corky Silva is a Project Manager with Barry Swenson Builder and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from San José State University. Recently he has completed the renovation of the Peralta Adobe Site, the construction of the San Pedro Square Market, and is involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers, the SJSU Civil Engineering Department Student Chapter, SJSU Civil and Environmental Department Advisory Council, and History San José. Silva lives with his wife and three children in the Hyde Park Neighborhood of San José.

“Corky has a passion for history that was apparent when we collaborated on the Peralta Adobe/San Pedro Square Market project,” said Alida Bray, President and CEO of HSJ. “His expertise will be an excellent asset to the Board.”

Tom Scott, also a graduate from San José State University with a B.S. in Business Administration, is the incoming Chair of the Board. Scott is president of Cambridge Management Company, a company he co-founded in 1985. Scott earned a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) in recognition of his expertise in property management. Tom was the 1989 President of the Local Chapter of IREM, is a past president of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce, and is also a board member and past president of the Tri-County Apartment Association. He is past president and current board member of the California Apartment Association.

David Satterfield, former Managing Editor of the San Jose Mercury News, is a founding principal of GFBunting, a strategic communications firm.

“David Satterfield’s leadership has been significant to the success and growth of History San José and his contribution has been invaluable,” said Bray. “We will appreciate his continued support and counsel.”

3D scanning begins at History Park

Ken Hanna and Brian Miller from NVentum
HSJ has developed a collaborative partnership with NVentum LLC to scan objects within our collection. NVentum is using state-of-the-art scanning equipment to create 3D computer imaging. With an overlay of standard images, the end product will enable users to go on a virtual tour, providing both zooming in/out and rotational capability.

This morning, Ken Hanna and Brian Miller of NVentum arrived at History Park to begin the process within the Pasetta House. Using a tripod, the scanning equipment rotated 360 degrees to capture the entire area. Surveyor targets are used to assist in collating different set-up locations. After the high resolution scanning is completed, the digital camera repeats the 360 degree capturing. A similar process was done two weeks ago in the Collection Center, where NVentum spent several hours working with our 1842 bicycle and selected items from The Perham Collection.

Both NVentum and HSJ are excited about the resulting possibilities and look forward to sharing this new technology when it's available. For more information, please visit NVentum’s blog about this collaborative project.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why do collections need a manager?

Submitted by Ken Middlebrook, Collections Manager at History San Jose

Although I have been part of the HSJ staff for only a few months, I have been part of the HSJ family for nearly two decades. I often receive puzzled looks when I mention my new position as HSJ’s Collections Manager. The initial responses are "How can one be a manager with no direct reports?" or "Do you repossess cars?" or perhaps, “Do you call people at dinner time about overdue debts?"  Although at one time I was a bar bouncer and played the tough guy role, a museum collections manager is entirely different.

Then, what is a museum collections manager?

As a visitor to our website, you may already know, or not, that the HSJ collection comprises over 500,000 items spread between paper items to entire historic structures. Jim Reed, our Curator of Library and Archives, is responsible for our research library and archival materials, including our extensive collection of photographs; whereas my responsibility covers museum objects: the pet rock: the 1842 bicycle; the Andrew Hill paintings; the buildings, the vehicles; the branding irons, the canning equipment, the salt and pepper shakers, the clothing, etc etc. What is on public view within both the history park and Peralta/Fallon sites is but a fraction of our overall collections portfolio.

HSJ is a custodian acting in the public trust; as a result, my primary task as collections manager is to provide oversight over our 3D items ensuring that they will be available for future generations. While it would be simple to just close the closet door to meet this primary objective, there also has to be a balance toward sharing the collection with our current generation.

Several weeks ago, I was alone working in one of our historic homes in the park. A group of visitors came and asked about the structure. I retold the history of the building and explained the work I was undertaking toward preparation of a new display. As the group left, one woman remarked, "Thank you for preserving OUR history."

While my role as collections manager at a museum may seem initially overwhelming, it is tremendously rewarding. These experiences will be shared in future entries.