The Valley Part 3

  • 1971

That year was a year of two births in Santa Clara Valley. One was in  the wee hours of August 31st at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. And the other was on January 11th. The former was my birthdate and the latter was the first time Santa Clara Valley was rechristened Silicon Valley in print. A columnist named Don Hoefler wrote a column in Electronic News titled “Silicon Valley USA”, in reference to the growing number of companies producing microprocessor chips. And since then, the moniker has stuck.

Five years earlier a family moved from Mountain View to a 1952 single story ranch house that was built on the site of a former orchard in Los Altos. The house is owned by the Jobs family and the address of the rather plain house is 2066 Crist Drive.

When I pulled up opposite to the house on Crist Drive there were already three tech tourists in front of the house. A 20 something from Arizona taking  pictures of his girlfriend in front of the driveway and a bespectacled long-hair that looked like he was visiting a sacred shrine in Japan.

And in a sense, this is a shrine to those who worship at the alter of Apple Computers and is beatified co-founder, Steve Jobs.

The house at 2066 Crist Avenue and more specifically, it’s garage, was the birthing place of Apple Computer. It was here that Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and family and friends assembled the first 50 Apple I personal computers. The garage was also the birthing location of the even more successful Apple II. (My elementary school in Cupertino had three Apple II computers which were housed in the library.)

While sketching the house I reflected how much it resembled the house where I grew up, just 3.6 miles away, which was a two story track house in Sunnyvale, also on the land of an apricot orchard. I attended the rival high school to Homestead High, where the two Steve’s graduated. In a 1995 interview Jobs commented on growing up in the area:

Silicon Valley for the most part at the time was still orchards-and it was really a paradise. I remember the air being crystal clear, where you could see from one end of the valley to the other- It was really the most wonderful place in the world to grow up.

Anyone visiting Silicon Valley today would not include the word “paradise” in their description, unless there where referring to the fecundity of Starbucks and convenient  but anonymous mini malls that speckle the valley like feed to the chickens. And as for the crystal clear air of Jobs’ youth, now you can barely see the peak of Mt. Hamilton thought the permeant haze of the valley.

I sometimes ask myself, what was lost and what was gained, in the transition from Heart’s Delight to Silicon? Has the standard of life corroded for those children growing up in the valley today? Now, can the youth of Silicon Valley share the same experiences that Jobs and myself had? And as Jobs noted, is Silicon Valley still,”the most wonderful place in the world to grow up”?

In my youth there were open fields, orchards,  and empty lots to play in. No play structures, just a blank canvas for your imagination to wander. Where do the youth of Silicon Valley go to experience nature? Or are they too preoccupied with videos games, iPhones and iPads to notice what has disappeared?


A 2011 sketch of the two story track house I grew up in, 3.6 miles from 2066 Crist Drive. My father moved out of this house shortly after I sketched this and it was sold to an Apple engineer for an unbelievable amount.



The Valley Part 2

When and where was the genesis of Silicon Valley? What started the charge from an agrarian valley to the world’s epicenter of innovation and technology? What was the Pandora’s box that set the change in motion?

Ironically, it was on the campus of a  university whose nickname is “The Farm”. To the rest of the world it is known as Stanford University.

It was on the Stanford campus that an engineering faculty member, Dr. Fredrick Terman, encouraged his students to start their own businesses and keep them in the Santa Clara Valley instead of joining established companies in the east coast. Herman has become known as the father of Silicon Valley. Two of his students heeded his advice and started their business in a humble garage in Palo Alto. Their names where William Hewlett and David Packard.

This garage is now known as “the Birthplace of Silicon Valley”. It was in this small detached garage, in 1939,  that Hewlitt and Packard built their first product, an audio oscillator.

Fredrick Terman also encourage the development of local businesses by convincing Stanford University to develop a 700 acre business park on Page Mill Road, just south of the campus. The park was built in 1951 and early tenants were Varian, Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed, and General Electric. The park was renamed Stanford Research Park and it is still the address of the main headquarters of the company that started in a Palo Alto Garage on Addison Avenue.

In the next post I will sketch another garage that birthed one of Silicon Valley’s most famous companies. This garage sits on land that was once an apricot orchard and the company that starting in this garage changed the face of the Santa Clara Valley perhaps more that the two Stanford grads that labored away in a small green shed in a Palo Alto neighborhood.



The Valley Part 1

Silicon Valley is probably a good, in many ways. The Valley of Heart’s Delight was a glory. We should have found ways of keeping the one from destroying the other. We did not. . .

-Wallace Stegner, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist

 The children’s book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was a popular birthday gift at many birthday parties when I was a child growing up in the 1970s. But in the Santa Clara Valley where the sidewalk literally ended, the apricot and cherry orchards began.

Sunnyvale in the 70s was in a state of transition. It was the struggle between the Valley of Heart’s Delight and Silicon Valley. When I was a kid, it seemed that the Valley of Heart’s Delight had the upper hand, but the lone apricot tree in our back yard, told that the ascendancy of Silicon Valley was clearly underway. The apricot orchard had made way to the track homes that housed the families that fueled the early industries of Silicon Valley, and this lone tree, which my brother and I posed in for family Christmas cards, was the last reminder. My family, on Cormorant Court, was one of those early Silicon Valley families.

After work, during the final warm days of summer and fall, my father would put me on the back of his bicycle and we would retrace his route to work along Fair Oaks Ave. We ascended the pedestrian walkway over the Southern Pacific train tracks. Here we would look down into the Schuckl Cannery on the side of the tracks. To this day I can recall the din of the conveyor belts, the frenetic energy of the forklifts bringing in the valley’s harvest, and the smell of the burning train brakes as a commuter train eased into Sunnyvale Station down below.


Blenheim Apricots at the Sunnyvale Heritage Orchard. This preserved orchard is on ten acres and contains about 800 trees. At it’s height Sunnyvale’s orchards included eight to nine million trees.

Then there was the oft-told story of the day my dad drove to work along Fair Oaks Ave  and he saw a cherry orchard  being uprooted, with fruit still on the trees. “What a waste” was the phrase that usually concluded the story. Those orchards are now rows and rows of condos with names like Cherry Orchard and Orchard Gardens Apartments.

Gone are the millions of apricot and cherry trees, the canneries, and the migrant workers that picked fruit each summer and fall. What is left are like islands of preserved orchards in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Los Altos, a mere shadow of the agricultural area that once attracted motorists each spring to view the millions of blossoming trees.


In 2001 the Sunnyvale Orchard Heritage Park Interpretive Exhibit was opened. It was built along side the Heritage Orchard with interpretive signs that told of the rise and fall of the Valley of Heart’s Delight. My father’s name is immortalized on one of the signs in the Hertitage Park. He helped to create the park so future generations would remember the valley’s past. 

On a recent returned to Sunnyvale on a May morning, that was already starting to feel like summer, I sketched a few apricot trees at the Orchard Heritage Park. On my way I drove down De Anza Boulevard, past the ghosts of my childhood, past unrecognizable buildings and storefronts, past the Apple Campus. So much was physically gone. An orchard, a favorite restaurant, a father. What does it mean when your past no longer physically exists?

Over the next few blogs I will explore the changing face of The Valley.


Redwood Deck

At my cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the redwood deck that faces northwest, over the San Lorenzo River and the hillside of trees beyond, has become a touchstone for my journaling. This view and this amphitheater has inspired many sketches.

I have sketched this scene over the years in many different seasons and in different light. This view has helping me focus on the natural details that surround the cabin. I have found that by looking at a single location, the possibilities are infinite.

Many different animals visit the deck and the area around it. Chickadees, juncos, jays, nuthatches, acorn woodpeckers, black-headed grosbeaks, wood ducks, Cooper’s hawk, red-shouldered hawk, band-tailed pigeons, squirrels, deer, raccoons and skunks. All these creatures have found their way into my journals.

Chickadee tree

The redwood tree, that towers over the cabin, off to the right has been the inspiration for a dozens of sketches. I built a chickadee nest box that hangs about 30 feet above the ground. The actives of the chickadees during the spring and summer months have always been fodder for my musings. The above spread was done on Mother’s Day.

Jay ladder

For some the “blue jay” of the redwoods is a noisy egg thief that is abhorred but to me the Steller’s jay provides hours of entertainment. The page above is from observing the jays as they bounce up the “Redwood Ladder” after getting seed at the feeder.


Swainson's thrush

On a resent May afternoon I was greeted by the ethereal call of the Swanson’s thrush coming from down the hill on the near shore of the San Lorenzo. This neo-tropic migrant had returned to it’s summer nesting grounds. I created a spread to celebrated it’s arrival with a portrait, a map, and a bust of William Swanson, the British ornithologist that the thrush is named after.