Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where did the Garden City go?

Lee Quarnstrom clipping from The Axsom Shoebox of Momentoes, hand dated San Jose Mercury News, Mon. Sept 12 1988.
I found a couple of brochures the other day for a California city that sounds like a swell place to visit-or even to live.
Listen to some of the amenities for this burg as touted by its chamber of commerce:
"Situated in the beautiful "Valley of Heart's Delight"....its hospitality and healthful climate have enchanted visitors to "The Garden City" of the West.
"Distinctive homes from modest bungalows to pretentious estates-thriving midst ever-blooming gardens and green lawns-have established individuality on the city's tree-lined streets or among the sloping foothills...
Life is lived to its fullest here, for diversions of every type are available....In the eastern foothills of the city lies the 687-acre municipal playground...called 'Little Yosemite' because of it's curious rock formations....
Well, you've probably guessed that this garden spot is, indeed, San Jose. The thing is, the pamphlets I picked up were published in the late 1940s, as far as I can tell, and somehow they just don't seem to quite capture the wonders of San Jose as we know it today in 1988.
It is true, as touted in one pamphlet, that San Jose "is so conveniently located" that you can get quickly to "San Francisco-the gay city of hills and bridges." But what about the statement that "a concrete municipal baseball stadium" is "the home of the 'Red Sox', with a permanent chair-type seating capacity of 2,908,"
Frankly, I've been under the impression that the Red Sox were based back East somewhere. Or were those guys predecessors to the San Jose Giants and the Bad News Bees of more recent years?
And how about the $8 million value of the city's 15 elementary schools, 14 kindergartens, five junior highs, two high schools and single technical high school? That sounds a little low to me.
Back then, 40 years or ago or so, "hundreds of smart shops and stores are conveniently located for the shopper," the chamber of commerce boasted.
The economy looked rosy: "San Joeans enjoy over-all incomes far higher than the citizens of most cities of the United States....High among the 200 leading U.S. cities in per capita buying income. This is due largely to the fact that San Jose is the county seat of Santa Clara County, a leading county in the entire nation in farm wealth."
The chamber boasted of 44 canneries and 30 dried-fruit plants in the Garden City.
In 1943, the brochure says, local bigwigs "inaugurated a national campaign to attract new industries" and "the 1940 census showed that more than half of all workers in San Jose owned their own homes."
Southwest Airlines flew in and out of Municipal Airport and "a modern bus service, with a fleet of 46 buses" handled local transportation needs.
The chamber and the convention and tourist bureau were proud of the city's hotels and suggested that visitors indicate in advance whether they wanted doubles or singles with or without baths.
You could get a double at the De Anza Hotel for a fin, or pay as much as eight bucks if you wanted twin beds. Down the street at the Vendome you could get a double bed for as little as $3 and twins for $5.
If you were willing to pay top dollar you could get into the Sainte Claire, where rates went as high as a sawbuck. But think of the view!
The cheapest rooms-at $2 a night-could be had at the Aconda Hotel, near the Vendome, at the California Hotel on South First Street, at the Imperial, the Lenox or theWinton, at 108 South Second.
"For good eating" the chamber and convention and tourist bureau recommended such eateries as the Alpine Creamery, Hart's Lunch Counter, the Hi-Way Coffee Shop, the Italian Hotel, Rickey's Studio Club up in Palo Alto, the Starlite Drive-In and the Esquire Den, at 34 W. San Fernando.
Those were the days!
The city was proud that the first French prunes in the state were grown in San Jose, in 1856, that the first radio-telephone station in the country was built in San Jose in 1904 and that more than 10,000 roses of some 500 varieties covered the Municipal Rose Garden.
Sounds like a great little city, doesn't it? I wonder what happened to it?

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