Category Archives: Blog

In memory of Jeanine Stanek

It is with great sorrow that we announce the August 19, 2017 passing of Jeanine Stanek, the Sunnyvale Historical Society’s Chief Archivist. Her dedication to history, her positive attitude, and her endless energy was an inspiration to us all. She will be greatly missed.

The following is written by Laura Babcock, Museum Director, about her memories of Jeanine.

Laura Babcock on the left, with Jeanine Stanek

I do not recall the exact year I met Jeanine – perhaps 25 – 30 years ago: our lives crossed paths many times over those years, through our children’s school years, Leadership Sunnyvale, Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, and then we were both former members of the Heritage Preservation Commission, so we had a lot in common. Our deep friendship began about eleven years ago when she innocently offered to “help” with our archive database and historical library a year before this museum building was constructed.

I still remember that first day meeting in the old Murphy Park building to show her what we had to work with to exhibit at the museum when it was built.  In those days, we had a 380 sq. ft. museum room, a 1200 sq. ft. workroom, and another 1200 sq. ft. lean-to storage room.  In this room with no heat, no A/C, no windows,  our files had been kept in an assorted manner over the past 57 years. File boxes written in pencil with the graphite worn off in places, file cabinets holding various photos and history clippings, boxes and boxes of artifacts in the lean-to with a leaky roof, and water coming up through the floor when it rained were some of the issues facing Jeanine. She quietly listened as we explained it all and only uttered two words repeatedly. OH MY!

But bravely she dived right in! The next 18 months of her life were spent there, wearing many layers of clothing as she searched through boxes in those cold rooms, a flashlight in one hand and her notebook in the other. By the time we needed to transport artifacts to install exhibits here in the new museum building, she had a good grip on the contents of most of them. We’d call her at the end of the day while installing exhibits saying “Help, we have an empty shelf in the Libby’s display, what can you find in the boxes for us”? She recruited friends to help out and they became what we affectionately call our “Wednesday Nighters”.

Besides keeping our archive collections in order and on the database, she mentored numerous volunteers here, from teenagers who needed community service hours, to adults doing research, to people who just wanted to help.  Doing individual research for consultants, the City, authors, or anyone who wanted to know when their home was built, she helped them all!

As we got a bit older and couldn’t always remember every detail, I could come up with part of the answer and she did the other part. We always joked “between us we have a whole functioning brain with good memory”!  Certainly not by plan, but by “life happens”, we even shared the experience of cancer treatments. We could talk about chemo infusion centers and the pains of blood transfusions just as easily as the history of canneries or the Murphy Family.

As one of our volunteers mentioned this week, it is such a shame we could not bring in the historical Butcher Family house last year. If we did, we would have dedicated the new Jeanine Stanek Research Library in it last week.  We will keep on trying, Jeanine, and when we do get it, the Research Library Room will have your name on it!

We shall always miss you and most importantly we shall always appreciate you and what you accomplished here!  God Speed, Jeanine.

Your friend,

Laura Babcock

Where is this Hendy lamp post?

Very few lamp posts are still standing that were produced by Hendy Iron Works of Sunnyvale. Fewer than a dozen remain in places like Chinatown in San Francisco, Oak Court in Sunnyvale, Franklin Street in Santa Clara, and at History San José Village.

The Heritage Museum in Sunnyvale has two of them outside the entrance gate, which is where the one in this picture is located.

Looking for information on the Blue Cube

We are gearing up to install another part of Sunnyvale’s important history: the world-known but still secret Blue Cube. Now that many of the programs coming from the Blue Cube are declassified, we would like to gather as much information about them as we can and install a permanent exhibit in the museum exhibit hall dedicated to it. If you or someone you know ever worked there, and can now talk about your work, please email the museum and join a committee to help design the exhibit. We need your help in deciding what is important. We are also interested in obtaining any related artifacts you may have from those projects.  Please email or leave a comment on this post.

Rediscovering the BD Murphy Plaque

“Who is that handsome fellow  in that relief?”, visitors ask when they enter the hallway across from the bedroom display. Our docents, meanwhile, have been wondering, “Why is this plaque displayed only now?”, since until recently, on that same spot on the wall, we showed a drawing of the museum building, in order to juxtapose it with the one of the original Murphy home hanging in the bedroom. – Well, our master sleuth, museum researcher Allen Rountree, has all the answers! Here they are:

The large bas-relief bronze plaque shows no other than Bernard D. (B.D.) Murphy, one of Mary Bolger Murphy and Martin Murphy Jr.’s sons.

B.D. was a child of three when the Murphy family crossed the Sierra Nevada into California. Later, he was a California State Senator and a popular mayor of San José for three two-year terms in 1873-1877 and 1880-1882.

In 1888, U.S. Senator James Phelan, the Hon. B.D. Murphy and other distinguished men of the valley organized the still-venerable Sainte Claire Club. Their 1893 clubhouse still stands in downtown San José.

It was that club that commissioned the memorial plaque, after B.D.’s death at age 70, in December of 1911. The esteemed local sculptor Haig Patigian created the bronze plaque in his studio in San Francisco in 1912.

Mr. Patigian in 1928

How our museum acquired this work of art weighing 60 pounds is a detective story of lost artwork and missing history. In the summer of 2015, Anne King Nehmens, the great-great granddaughter of Bernard D. Murphy donated a box of Murphy-Wright-King family photographs to the museum. The portraits and wedding photographs were a valuable record of Murphy descendants, but no one at the museum recognized the photo of a wall sculpture engraved “B.D. Murphy”.

Enlarging the photo, I could see “Haig Patigian 1912” engraved in the lower right corner and discovered that he was an Armenian-American sculptor with a studio in San Francisco from 1900 to 1950. Patigian has sculptures on display at the Oakland Museum and created more of San Francisco’s statues and bas-reliefs than any other artist of his time. Among his works is a 1940 bas-relief bronze of pioneer financier William C. Ralston that stands on the Marina Green in San Francisco. This monument is an example of how the Murphy plaque would have looked on a building or in a grand public lobby. Ironically, William Ralston also has a six-degrees-of-separation connection to Mary and Martin Murphy Jr.

Mary and Martin helped finance the founding of Notre Dame Academy for women in San José in 1851. In 1923, the College of Notre Dame campus moved from San José to the 40-acre family estate, Ralston Hall in Belmont, built by this same William C. Ralston in 1867.

In the search for the B.D. Murphy plaque, I emailed photos of the plaque to numerous local museums and historical societies. No one had ever seen or heard of the plaque, until the director of History San José, Cate Mills, replied that they had the plaque in storage. They had recently acquired it from the de Young Museum of San Francisco. At some point, the Sainte Claire Club had given the plaque to the de Young where it had been in storage for 100 years! The plaque did not look like it had ever been mounted or installed on a wall. Fortunately, History San José was willing to place the plaque on long-term loan with the Sunnyvale Historical Society in January 2016.

Included in the Anne King Nehmens photo collection was this fine portrait of B.D. Murphy with his trademark wide-brim planter hat that shows that the artist indeed captured the essence of the mayor and state senator. At long last, the B.D. Murphy monument resides in a grand public building, where it belongs and will be appreciated.

The Cannery Worker

by Linda Kubitz

I have had many delightful experiences with museum visitors during my nine years as a docent, but one encounter stands out.

A few years ago I guided a lady in her early nineties on a tour of the museum.  Because she had grown up in Sunnyvale, she was particularly fascinated by the items on display, some of which she remembered firsthand.  When we arrived at the cannery exhibit in the museum’s central hallway, with its photograph of the old Schuckl Cannery surrounded by cannery labels and tools of the trade, my visitor’s face lit up.  In a voice filled with excitement, she told me she had worked at Schuckl when she was young!  With great enthusiasm she began to describe her experiences at Schuckl . . . until she suddenly paused!  Then, using a much softer tone, she continued:

“But I did something very bad when I started working there”.  

As I was imagining what “bad thing” this charming lady could possibly have done, she leaned toward me and whispered:

“I lied about my age.  I told them I was fifteen years old, but I was really only thirteen!”

According to my visitor, the minimum age for working at Schuckl Cannery was fifteen, but because her family was poor and would not be able to buy clothes or shoes for her for the upcoming school year, she pretended to be the minimum age for hiring.  And although that had happened nearly eighty years before, she still felt guilty about her “lie”!!

In the past century, when fruit ripened in the orchards every summer, Sunnyvale canneries offered employment to high school students, housewives and others who needed the extra work.  Throughout several decades of the 20th century, including the years of the Depression and World War II, many people eagerly snapped up those jobs.  During my years as a docent I have met other, older museum visitors who echoed the need to earn money for school clothes and other necessities when they were young.  The canneries in Sunnyvale and in the rest of the valley played an important role in helping people earn the extra money, so desperately needed during the tough economic times of decades past.  I’m certain my museum visitor was not the only young person to “change the facts” in order to be hired to work at the canneries.

Interested in volunteering?

Do you have a few hours a month you would like to donate to our museum? If so, come and be a docent, work in the Museum Store, or help behind the scenes at the museum. We are actively looking for new volunteers to join our team.

Everyone has a particular expertise, whether it’s working on computers, doing research, designing an exhibit, or creating flyers and placards. Young adults and teens are also needed to help set up for private and special events. Just let us know what you like to do and we will find a particular job suited to your talents.

We guarantee you will have fun and meet extraordinarily talented people who also donate their skills and expertise to our incredible museum. We are always looking to add to our museum team. Our museum organization is run completely by volunteers; we have no paid staff.

For our immediate needs, if you enjoy sewing, we have a number of tablecloths that need hemming. You can do this on your own time or if you have a portable machine, you could bring it to the museum at your convenience.

To find out more, give us a call at 408-749-0220, drop by the museum, or visit our website for more information.

Do you remember Sunnyvale Mountain Park?

Recently we posted this photo of the entrance to Sunnyvale’s Mountain Park, online on our Facebook page, asking people to tell us their memories.

The 250-acre city-owned park, located on Skyline Boulevard, 4.5 miles south of Highway 9, was purchased in 1958 for $50,000 and existed until 1977 when it was sold to Santa Clara County for $366,000. The money from the sale went toward the purchase of open space within the city that was then dedicated as park property. This includes the Sunnyvale Community Center off of E. Remington where Heritage Park and the museum are located.

Thanks to everyone for your responses.

Donations – Audio oscillator

At the Heritage Park Museum we are grateful for all of the donations we have received over the years. One such donation is this audio oscillator. The 200A model was the first product by Hewlett Packard and was manufactured in David Packard’s garage in Palo Alto in 1939.

An audio oscillator is an instrument that generates one pure tone or frequency at a time. Through the years, HP oscillators were used to design, produce and maintain telephones, stereos, radios and other audio equipment.

The 200A was the first commercial oscillator to use a simple light bulb as the temperature-dependent resistor in its feedback network.

Walt Disney bought eight of these oscillators for use in the production of Fantasia. (source: Wikipedia)

100 years ago

100 years ago, Sunnyvale had been an official town for five years and according to the US census, the population was less than 1,600. The local newspaper, the Sunnyvale Standard, was owned and operated by W.K. Roberts, and was published once a week on Fridays.

Reading several issues of the Sunnyvale Standard from March and April 1917, it’s possible to conceptualize some of the concerns and events shaping people’s lives. In national news, the country was gearing up for war. The US entered WWI on April 6, 1917. In his editorial called Produce Food and be Patriotic, Mr. Roberts says, “[W]e can justly feel that our individual efforts in the production of foodstuffs, even though they be eaten by ourselves, is as patriotic as the production of bullets or flags to be sent to the front.”

Locally, the worry was about the slow growth of the town. Though many workers came in the summers to work in the orchards and canneries, there was concern that businesses were not growing quickly enough, due to a combination of factors including “streets being in bad condition” causing local merchants to lose trade, and cheap transportation to San José, which encouraged people to shop in the neighboring town’s large stores.

The Sunnyvale library has copies of the Sunnyvale Standard available to anyone interested. Also, issues can be found online at the Sunnyvale history section at the library’s website:

Meanwhile, here are a few clippings and an ad taken from editions in the months of March and April 1917.