Saturday, February 22, 2014

Kalimac's Potlatch lessons

As our fearless chair observed at opening ceremonies yesterday, what really counts in running a convention like Potlatch is declaring a space and a time, and getting the word out. When people show up and start conversing, that's the convention.

But actually it takes a lot of hard work, and considering that the future of Potlatch was pretty much given up for dead at the last one, it's a considerable achievement.

My small part of that was the restaurant guide, now online in full. And thanks to those who edited it and performed the truly heroic job of converting and formatting it. A version somewhat abridged for space, but still 20 pages long, occupies much of the program book.

Previously we'd had just the descriptions of the most nearby restaurants and a list of the rest, but even that was an effort considering that there's over 150 of them and that, like mayflies, they just won't stand still. I've actually updated the online version from the printed one a little. The lesson of restaurant-guide compilation I've learned from this experience is: if you go by a restaurant that's under construction with an "opening soon" sign in front, and there's a bunch of guys sitting at a table inside, and you lean in the doorway and ask when they'll actually be opening, don't believe what they tell you.

Now, Kalimac's supplements to a panel on the history of San Jose:

1. The reason that San Jose, which lasted as California's first state capital for only a year because there was insufficient guest rooming for a legislature in 1850, became the capital in the first place is that, at the constitutional convention (held in Monterey, the old Mexican capital, which didn't have enough rooming either), the delegates from San Jose assured the convention that it did. So not trusting folks from San Jose about their city's amenities has a long history of advisability.

2. The reason old Sarah Winchester moved out of what's now known as the Winchester Mystery House after the 1906 earthquake is that the quake shifted the house's foundations and she was trapped in her bedroom, and couldn't get out until one of the construction workers broke the door open.

3. After the 1933 lynching (on trees in St. James Park downtown, a place I can never pass without a shudder) of two men arrested for an infamous kidnapping-murder in San Jose, the Governor pre-emptively announced he'd pardon anyone arrested for the lynching. Which promted this editorial cartoon from Edmund Duffy of the Baltimore Sun, with the caption "California Points With Pride." It also prompted a subsequent Pulitzer Prize to Duffy.

4. The silted-up port of Alviso, and the proudly independent neighborhood of Willow Glen, are not the only neighboring cities annexed by San Jose in its rush to expansion. There was also East San Jose, which was along Santa Clara Street between Coyote Creek and what's now 101, and which was gobbled up in the 1910s. The town had its own Carnegie library, which (recently expanded) still serves as a branch of the San Jose PL.

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