Over months of research and shooting photos around the Bay area, I came up with a 1,000 year-plus look at Silicon Valley. I have to tell you, what I found was quite a contrast from the white-washed version I read in my classrooms where I learned about California history. Since the publisher seems to have gone under, I will give you a quick history lesson about what I learned. You can still buy the book on the Internet, but from people who are selling it used. Sorry, I don't have any for sale.
The Ohlone Indians were here long before the Spaniards ever thought about how to exploit California's bounty. California's Native Americans had their societal protocols and territorial boundaries, but all that was thrown out the window when Spain funded pirates to see what they could reap by conquering foreign lands. Those were the first venture capitalists who leveraged their wealth to fund "entrepreneurial" freelancers to plant her flag upon California soil. It took quite a while and it nearly ended as a comedy of errors until the holy rollers of Spain came and took control in their pillaging and "training" of Indian peoples, in the name of god, from South America into California. Their diseases and traditions brought the Native Indian people to their knees. One of the things I found intriguing in my research was that the Ohlone women, who were forced to do heavy labor far into their pregnancies, practiced abortions and even smothered their children in their sleep to spare them a hard life. All this because Father Junipero Serra had, in the name of god, enslaved an entire people and made life not bearable enough to bring children into. How's that for a history lesson?
As time went on, California grew in its white/euro population and the flood of people crossing the Rockies increased. The Gold Rush brought even more people into coastal and inland Northern/Middle California cities. Things began to change. As California grew in wealth and people such as Leland Stanford forged ahead with their railroad dreams to bring the United States together, California was finally annexed into the US. One of the main reasons was because California had all of a sudden become extremely valuable. One of the main reasons everyone was so eager to annex us? We were rich and our gold fed the coffers of the North during the Civil War. Many have said that without California's generous riches, the Rebels would have won the war.
After our Gold Rush, the US Government put a program in place to keep revenue coming into the area. They did so by offering a bounty to out of work gold miners who could retrieve a cash reward in exchange for the scalps/.50 and heads/$1 of Native American men, women and children. No wonder Ishi stayed hidden for so long after seeing his family murdered in cold blood.
Well, California moved on from that blood bath and Stanford was drawing good quality people to the Peninsula, as was UC Berkeley (built before Stanford University) and the area built a reputation of the place to go to get a higher education. The beginnings of Silicon Valley started to take hold at the same time people from all over the world came here to stake claim to the fine soil that grew fruit more luscious than anywhere else on this earth. As a kid, I would wander the orchards waiting for the blossoms that smelled like heaven to burst into fruit at the first sign of continued heat. I miss those orchards, and I never even got to see them in their heyday when people would drive from all over the state in April and May to smell the Valley and blossoms would shed from trees and fall like snow. Ansel Adams spent a good deal of time photographing the orchards. Nearly all of Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, San Jose and Milpitas were thick with orchards and dirt roads.
The pioneers in technology flooded the universities and Federal Telegraph built a strong company here (that would move to the East Coast at the first sign of the Depression) and the Varian Brothers (Siegurd and Russell) built the cornerstone company of what would become Stanford Industrial Park. They also built the klystron, a piece of equipment that turned the WWII around. Many years later in 1968, Russell Varian received an option to purchase the 27 acres that would become Castle Rock State Park. Although he died before the purchase was complete, his friends rallied together and purchased the property in his honor. I knew little of this history as I climbed rocks and caves of Castle Rock as a teenager.
War had changed everything and we went into a deep depression. As the government teamed up with corporate America and research facilities to build weapons of War, the Depression was dealt with effectively as the US put money into programs to keep idle men off the streets and employed. Industry flourished and companies like Lockheed and IBM took a foothold in the Bay Area. Men soon wore crew cuts and suits and women became secretaries (home economics was actually a major in major universities!). You've come a long way, baby!
All that changed as the Beatniks from the East Coast landed in San Francisco and the City Lights Book Store became a Mecca for young adults packing up and hitting the road. It was an exciting time and it melded quite nicely into the '60s and finally into a revolution/evolution that would change mainframe - 1.5 ton mainframe computers - into a desktop tool, then a laptop and now computers that fit into the palm of your hand. Meanwhile, we were fighting our own civil war here in the states while trying to bring democracy to the world. It was a time of chaos and bloodshed in our own streets and universities that led to our own transformation and how the world would regard us in the future.
The journey that this Valley took throughout the last few thousand years has been incredible and tragic at the same time. We don't realize this as we drive down El Camino Real near Palo Alto's shore that we are so close to what used to be a watershed known as home for rich oyster beds filled with sea otters and birds, fish and elk we will never see here again. Ohlone Indians would paddle their way through the water in reed boats, fishing with spears. A peaceful life indeed compared to the current hectic pace that we now survive. There used to be herds of thousands of elk and deer passing through the Bay Area and tribes of hundreds of people coexisting (although at times not peaceably) here on land where companies such as Intel and Hewlett Packard now call home. It's been a long, strange trip and I had a great time tracking down the people who would tell me their stories. I never enjoyed breathing dust so much as when I was digging through the archives for the stories of those who are no longer with us.
The book includes quotes from people such as Nolan Bushnell, Dixie Garr, Carol Bartz, Harry Farrell, Kim Polese, Craig Newmark, James Gibbons, Stanley Hiller, Jr., Lawrence Hollings, Eugene Kleiner, Carol Sands, Jill Tarter, Christine Comaford, Bill Lohse, Michael Malone, Grace Kennerson, Yvonne Olsen Jaconson (who wrote an incredibly great book about the early farms of Silicon Valley called Passing Farms: Enduring Values that just went into reprint). I had a fabulous time writing this book and I hope you may one day get a chance to read it.