A bet, a beating, and a basket: Mayor Liccardo’s San Jose-themed gifts to Pittsburgh’s mayor

By: Vaughn and Jordan

As many of you know, the Sharks didn’t bring home the Stanley Cup. (I know, I know–sorry to reopen the wound).  What you might not have known is that Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburg and our very own Mayor Sam Liccardo had a friendly bet riding on the series. First, the losing mayor had to take a picture in the opposing team’s jersey and post it to social media. (It’s too painful to repost here. We’re sorry. We just can’t do it). Second, the losing mayor would send a gift basket full of treats representing his city to the winning mayor.


If you missed Mayor Liccardo’s basket on social media, here it is:

Mayor Basket

Looks like a great assortment, but what IS all of that in there? And more importantly, WHY is it in there? And most importantly of all, what’s missing that should have been included?


Let’s take a closer look at the contents:


Schurra’s Fine Confections

Schurra’s has been in business on the Alameda for over 100 years providing fine confectionary treats to young and old alike.  A strong choice from the Mayor regardless of if he went with chocolates, brittle, or the delightful Beethoven Bon Bon’s (and why not, as readers know San Jose is home to the Beethoven Center).  See’s Candies might be the first shop people think of concerning Bay Area candies but do yourself a favor, skip the chaos and go to Schurra’s instead.


La Vic’s Orange Sauce

La Vic’s has become so synonymous with their oddly addicting and widely adored orange sauce that they proudly proclaim themselves as, “the home of the orange sauce” and after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto polishes off the bottle of J. Lohr and the sixer of Gordon Biersch he too will undoubtedly fall in love with the delightful concoction.  While Liccardo can share the La Vic’s orange sauce he’ll never be able to tell about its ingredients.  La Vic’s, who claim that the sauce originated in their first restaurant near the SJSU campus, continues to keep the recipe secret to this day.  


Greenlee’s Bakery Best Cinnamon Bread

Liccardo continued his stroll a bit further down the Alameda to visit Greenlee’s Bakery and pick up a loaf of their nationally renowned cinnamon bread.  Greenlee’s has been baking in San Jose for over 90 years and thanks to QVC, Amazon, and Costco the delightfully tempting and aromatic bread has become available beyond the South Bay.  It’s unclear how Greenlee’s cinnamon bread earned the honor of being the best but take one bite and I’m sure you’ll agree.  


Gordon Biersch beer

Arguably, the most popular brewery in San Jose is the beloved Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling facility, opened in 1997 and designed by Dan Gordon himself. It’s state-of-the-art, uses San Jose water so you get a taste of San Jose in every sip, and offers fact-filled tours of the brewery throughout the week. Not to mention a few other secrets we’ve uncovered as well. A perfect addition to the basket; we can see Mayor Peduto pairing it with one of those Pittsburgh pierogis now…


Fruit cocktail

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: the familiar go-to serving of canned fruit from our childhoods has its origins here in fine city of San Jose. The first reference to delicious, syrupy pear, peach, cherry, and…whatever other chunks are in there being referred to as “fruit cocktail” was right here in San Jose in 1930. Ignore that this can is Raley’s brand; the original San Jose fruit cocktail was produced by Herbert Gray of San Jose’s Barron-Gray Packing Company. (Though the jury is out on this. For a rundown of the great “Fruit Cocktail Mystery” check out the online History San Jose exhibit).

J. Lohr wine

First of all, if you’re not having a sip of J. Lohr wine as you read this, stop right now and go pick some up. I’ll give you a few minutes…

Back? Okay good. And cheers.


J. Lohr Winery, established in 1974, has become a local favorite in a city not known for its fine wines. In 2013, it was named Tasting Panel Magazine’s Winery of the Year. It’s become so popular, the mayor’s basket wouldn’t have been complete without it. You can find their wine in most grocery stores around the city, as well as at the winery itself. (Which you should definitely plan to hit up for your next date night; check their events calendar to see when they have live music and special pairings/tastings).


Chiaramonte’s Sausage

We reached out to the Mayor’s office to find out Liccardo’s sausage of choice from Chiaramonte’s Deli & Sausages however aides declined to comment (ok, fine they didn’t even reply)*.  It doesn’t really matter if it was the Italian hot sausage or the Portuguese smoked sausage, we know regardless that Chiaramonte’s is San Jose’s go to for handmade sausages.  Contrasting the burgeoning La Vic’s, Chiaramonte’s has quietly remained a South Bay staple of sausage for over 100 years from its quaint deli just outside of Japantown.  Come for a taste of Sicily, stay for the cool collection of antiques and the beautiful vintage sign outside.  

*Mayor Liccardo responded to confirm that it was the spicy Italian sausage.  A fine choice indeed.

So what’s missing? While it poses shipping issues, Eggo waffles invented in San Jose in 1953 (and a LOVELY accompaniment to fruit cocktail, I might add) would be a critical addition to this basket. Also burnt almond cake from either Dick’s Bakery or Peters’ Bakery (don’t even get us started on THIS rivalry!) has become a food synonymous with the city. And, seeing that San Jose was the first commercial producer of broccoli, for good measure—and a pop of color—a nice heap of broccoli would top this whole basket off.

And perhaps a challenge to a rematch next year.

The Sarah Winchester Movie: A Former Winchester Tour Guide Weighs in on What Should be Included


Will the Sarah Winchester movie be a hit? Or will it go…nowhere?

As many of you San Jose enthusiasts already are well aware, Helen Mirren is slated to play our beloved Sarah Winchester in a movie sometime in the next year. We’re already dying of curiosity to see what type of angle this movie takes.

So what should the movie include? We thought that the best person to ask is someone deeply familiar with the Winchester story, and the mansion itself. Cue our resident Winchester expert Brian, former Winchester Mystery House tour guide. Here are his thoughts on some ways Hollywood can maximize the story.

The earthquake
“If there’s one scene that I would love to see put to screen, it would be the 1906 earthquake. The mansion used to be considerably larger than it is now, and the most spectacular piece was the large, 7 story tower. Following the earthquake it was so damaged that it had to come down (and an entire wing of the mansion was sealed off to boot), but it’d be very slick to Hollywood that up. Add in the shrieking of angry spirits and so forth as the gigantic 7 story tower goes toppling down to the path below. And it should also probably explode.

In seriousness, though, it seems like the earthquake had a pretty profound effect on Sarah. She was trapped in an unfinished room for several hours, and while I’m not sure that she blamed the spirits for the earthquake, she definitely blamed them for her being stuck in that part of the mansion. She boarded it off (basically the entire front part of the mansion, aka the only part of the mansion that actually looks a little bit nice) and focused more on cheap, rapid, eternal building. That’s one of the reasons for the varied designs you see when you walk through the house. You have her initial, crazy stage where she’s trying all sorts of fun, kooky stuff (the secret passages, traps, and so forth). Then she gets to the, “Oh… wait… I’m rich…” portion, where she tries to make things look like a rich person’s home. Then the earthquake hits and suddenly she goes into the “clearly I’m not building fast enough” phase, where she just builds as cheap and fast as humanly possible.”

The supernatural

Meet Brian!

Meet Brian!

“If they’re going to go with the ghost angle, it might be fun to have the workers (who are supposed to be the current ongoing residents of the mansion, not Sarah) start developing their unnatural connection to the place. Like you could have one of them quit and move away, but the work crew continues to see him around the site. They could even telegraph him to make sure he’s not still around, but he’s just sort of left this permanent imprint. Or you could have them develop their own superstitions and paranoias about various portions of the house.

There was one spot in there that always freaked me out at the end of the day. When we would shut the lights off and begin to close up, there was a long hallway that had an intersection with another long hallway. No matter which way you looked: in front of you, behind you, to the left or to the right, the hallways stretched straight away into dark eternity. I HATED that part of the mansion. I can’t help but imagine that the workers would develop their own aversions, maybe particularly to the sealed off front part of the house.”

The Winchester rifle victims
“Another supernatural angle: what if the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchesters forgot how to be human, and so they started imitating the workers whose routines were predictable and constant? So the ghosts at the mansion today are actually the same ones Sarah was afraid of, only they behave like the workers they observed for so long.”

What do you think should be included in the movie?

San Jose – Where Beer and Baseball Met


It’s opening day and a great time to remember just how well baseball and beer go together.  In 1997 Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch were in dire need of space.  For nearly 2 decades Dan and Dean had been successfully brewing their Gordon Biersch beer out of a small restaurant facility in downtown Palo Alto but the pair was finally ready to hit the big leagues of bottling and distribution.  One problem, brewing and bottling mass quantities of beer takes a massive amount of space, something that was sorely lacking in Palo Alto.  Enter Mr October; Reggie Jackson.  By this point the hall of famer was enjoying retirement and his hobby of collecting classic cars, many of which were housed (along with 81a-MTfWWLL._SY355_an alleged mistress in a top floor penthouse as the tale goes) in a large warehouse facility on East Taylor and 9th just outside of Japantown in San Jose.  Fortunately for Dan and Dean, Reggie had found a new space for his vehicles in Monterey and was vacating the San Jose warehouse.  Gordon and Biersch snapped up the space (presumably without said mistress) and the South Bay’s largest brewery remains there to this day.

Fortunately for Mr October, if he’s missing his San Jose digs Gordon Biersch offers free tours of the brewery and bottling facility Monday through Thursday by appointment.  The tour is a fantastic way to learn more about the colorful history of Gordon Biersch (followers of 16th century German beer purity laws), the brewing process (Gordon Biersch uses San Jose water!), and the business of beer (Gordon Biersch restaurants are not actually owned by the brewery).  Check out the Gordon Biersch Brewery website to learn more and to schedule your group’s tour!

Juuuuust to the north of Hollywood: Films shot in San Jose

You find yourself looking around San Jose with it’s not terribly high skyline, corporate offices, and lack of landmarks, and think that it’s not exactly a highly sought-after location for filming a major motion picture. Well, this is why you and I aren’t location scouts. Turns out there are PLENTY of nooks and crannies here in our beloved San Jose that film directors deemed perfect for a few key scenes. Here’s just a smattering:

Beverly HIlls Cop 3 (1994)

California’s Great America

Eddie Murphy appears to hang from a giant ferris wheel ride in a nightmare-inducing scene from 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III, and it happened right in the heart of what’s now California’s Great America. At the time, the park was owned by Paramount, who also released the movie. The ride in real life was called The Triple Wheel (called “The Spider” in the film), but is no longer in the park. Fun fact: my family was at the park the day they were filming this scene. I never went on the ride again.

The Rookie (1990)

I-680 Freeway

The freeway chase scene in this 1990 classic was filmed on what appears to be I-680 (you can see street signs for Capitol Expressway and Alum Rock Avenue in one scene) and boasts actually really lovely aerial views of the city at night.


Marnie (1964)

Diridon Station

Alfred Hitchcock loved using Bay Area locations for his films, and Marnie is yet another example. This 1964 classic, crazy-female-pathological-liar thriller begins in Diridon Station in San Jose. It’s the very first scene of the movie, but was the last to be filmed.








And speaking of Alfred Hitchcock…

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Nha Trang Restaurant
Okay, yes. It’s not EXACTLY The Birds, BUT it sure wants to be! Birdemic was made on a $10,000 budget and is thought to be one of the worst movies of all time. The director, who went to school in San Jose, filmed a few scenes (potentially with birds? I mean, who actually has seen this?) at Nha Trang Restaurant located at 1820 Tully Road. And I hear their Nem Nuong Cha Ram Ninh Hoa is delicious.







Flubber (1997)

San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA
The late Robin Williams lived in San Francisco, which might explain why movies like Flubber and What Dreams May Come include so many Bay Area locations. In Flubber, you see a house in the Rose Garden district, a classroom at San Jose State U, and the Adobe building at 345 Park Avenue.

Edtv (1999)

SAP Center

At 1:48 in this trailer you’ll see the SAP Center and Ed riding on the zamboni machine. The scene was filmed during an actual game (Sharks v. Mighty Ducks), and the 17,483 game attendees got to be extras.

Lots of other movies including Kiss Shot (featuring Whoopi Goldberg),  Larger Than Life (with Bill Murray), and Mad City (starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta traipsing ALL OVER San Jose) include scenes from San Jose as well, but I’ll let you schedule your own movie night to do those SJ sightings.

So Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up: Christmas Light Shows in San Jose

Even in the land of exorbitant rent and 24/7 work schedules, people are finding time and resources to spread Christmas joy that Buddy the Elf would be proud of.

If you’re looking for an evening of light gazing, you don’t have to drive far to do it. And in the “good will to men” department, several of these houses also give you the opportunity to donate to organizations like Make-a-Wish or collect food for Second Harvest Food Bank, among other charitable pursuits.

Grab your friends or kids, get out of the FRIGID 52-degree weather, and check out these displays in a neighborhood near you.

Obewan Christmas




694 Alamo Drive

San Jose, CA 95123


Opportunities to give: Make-a-Wish Foundation


The deets:

Shows run 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. nightly in this neighborhood extravaganza with a stunning 32,000 lights synchronized to music. And they’re looking out for your freezing limbs too: songs featured in the show are broadcast on 92.9 FM, so you don’t have to leave the warmth of your car.

Christmas in San Jose!





1473 Glacier Drive

San Jose, CA 95118



The deets:

This light show operator admits to putting up “more than the average amount of lights” for nearly a decade of Christmas fun, and even goes into a year-by-year breakdown of what’s been added and updated since 2008. This year, he’s updated his “Pixel Megatree”; it now stands 25′ high with 2,160 pixels Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. nightly.


Santa’s Carnival





1408 Kimberly Dr.

San Jose, CA 95118


Opportunities to give: Second Harvest Food Bank


The deets:

Watch for lights, inflatables, and a white picket fence—as if you could miss them— in this year’s Santa’s Carnival on Kimberly Drive.


The MegaTree





1683 Catalonia Way

San Jose, CA 95125




The deets:

It’s all about the tannenbaum in this display– a 25 foot tall tree with lights that bounce and dance and spiral to the music on 92.9 FM. The homeowners note, “Keep a close watch and you may even see Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, and other characters.”


Matto’s Orchard Lights




1545 Stone Creek Dr

San Jose, CA 95132



The deets:

This picturesque display spans over 1/3 acre of apricot trees and features over 72,000 LED lights. This one’s a walkthrough display with several “lands” to explore, including a candy shop, snowman land, and nativity scene. Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., and later closer to Christmas.


The Penultimate Frontier

DSC_9412    A long time ago, in a neighborhood actually very near, there existed a place where children’s imaginations could run wild like the mustangs and frolic in the memories of bygone eras.  No, I’m not talking about the Children’s Discovery Museum.  That’s still DSC_9472there.  You should maybe take the children in your life there sometime.  I’m also not talking about Happy Hollow.  That’s also still there.  In fact, not too long ago, it got a pretty great face lift.  Might want to put that on the to-do list also.  No, I’m talking about a little land of wonder called “Frontier Village”.  If you haven’t heard of it, and aren’t over the age of 35, don’t fret.  It left this Valley before you arrived.  And yet…something survived.

Frontier Village was first built in 1961, the brain child of Joe Zukin after he visited Disneyland, and decided San Jose also needed such an attraction.  It had gunfights and burro rides, and Congregation at Frontier villageeven a roller coaster.  What it didn’t seem to have, unfortunately, was enough visitors.  In 1980, after 19 years of operation, it sadly closed its gates to the children who had played there.  But as it happens, some of those children didn’t feel going along with that version of the story.  Shaughnessy McGehee was 16 when Frontier Village finally succumbed to the pace of life in the Valley, and missed the magic he felt there.  And so, DSC_9466when the park was parceled out and and sold at auction, he began what was to become a lifelong passion for collecting bits of it.  He managed to get miniature cars and toy horses and signs, and the things he couldn’t get, or couldn’t fit into his sizable backyard, he decided to recreate, on a more manageable scale.  And a very impressive collection it became.

But like the park itself, all good things must come to an end.  McGehee will be moving soon.  His collection may not be.  He can’t take it with him, and those to be the new owners of his house don’t share his love for this particular piece of history.  Thankfully, Great America and New Museum of Los Gatos have both agreed to take some pieces of his DSC_9427collection for their displays.  And Frontier Village will live on, at least a little longer.  Of course, if you would like to see it for yourself, there will also be an opportunity for that.  New Museum will be holding their first showing on Nov 7th 2015.  The exhibits taken by Great America will open some time later.  But the last viewing of these relics in their second home, the Final Frontier, as it were, will be an open house (really an open backyard) being held by the McGehees on DSC_9488Halloween, Oct. 31st 2015.  Come and experience this second-hand piece of San Jose history first-hand!



Great Scott! San Jose has a Back to the Future Connection!

Century DomeBack to the Future Day may have come and gone however its celebration allowed us here at SearchlightSJ to go back to the past and find an interesting San Jose connection to the film.  The bonus features include commentary from Bob Gale, the Co-Creator of the trilogy.  In the commentary Gale describes the first public screening of the film in which movie-goers entered the theater not knowing what to expect and left not wanting the fun to end.  Steven Spielberg remarks that other than E.T. the first screening of Back to the Future was the greatest preview he had ever seen.  Where would such an enthusiastic and fun audience come from?  From San Jose of course!  In May of 1985 Back to the Future received its first test screening at the Century Domes Theater Complex off of Winchester (the dome has since been granted historic building status by the City of San Jose saving the now defunct theater from the wrecking ball).  The screening went so well that the release date was moved up from mid-August to July 3rd in order to capture larger summer audiences.  It also resulted in the removal of over 6 minutes of footage which are now available as bonus scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy.

One question remains unanswered surrounding the screening; what prompted the creators of Back to the Future to hold their first screening in San Jose and not at Universal?  Spielberg, with his South Bay ties, may have had familiarity with the dome which was completed in 1964, a year prior to his graduation from Saratoga High School.   Perhaps more importantly, the creators of Back to the Future wanted an initial screening to occur without the presence of studio executives to maintain creative control over the film.  Following the screening several minor tweaks were made before a formal screening at Universal Studios which included studio executive who gave their immediate approval of the film.  Regardless the reason of how the sneak peek ended up at the Century Domes it just goes to show that whether back to the future or back to the past, we can always bring it back around to San Jose.

It’s my birthday, and I’ll have it in San Jose if I want to

TreatbotYou’ve done your birthday in SF, you don’t want to spend the money to do your birthday in Vegas, and in San Jose, well, it seems like your options are pretty dang limited.

Don’t resort to Denny’s! You can actually have a birthday that you WANT to talk about on social media right here in San Jo. Here are some of our picks for what to do:


HayesHayes Mansion: History and a Hefeweizen

The second best mansion in San Jose (it’s hard to beat Sarah W’s place), is Hayes Mansion. The former home of Mary Hayes Chynoweth (a spiritualist and close personal pal of–you guessed it–Sarah Winchester), Hayes Mansion is now a gem of a hotel in South San Jose. Built in 1905, this place is loaded with history, including a library full of Mary’s favorite books, framed pictures of turn of the century San Jose, and a secret speakeasy you can access via a secret elevator. (We’ll let you discover that one on your own). Palm Plaza Lounge, the bar on the property, has a gorgeous, large outdoor patio area with heat lamps, sofas, and live entertainment on weekends.


4thstreet4th Street Bowl: For something completely different

Do you enjoy bowling? Do you equally enjoy singing? How about dancing to generic ‘90’s beats? Then 4th Street is the place for your annual shindig. A combination bowling alley/karaoke bar/club, it is a truly memorable (and weird) experience that you have to try at least once…and possibly only once.


MonopolyMonopoly in the Park: For a record-setting birthday

Joey Chestnut isn’t the only record-setter of note in San Jose. We are also home to the largest Monopoly board in the world, a 930- square foot Guinness World Record holder you can rent out for your birthday. Play the game with larger-than-life dice, giant token hats, black and white stripes for unfortunate “go directly to jail” cards, and more.


sanpedrosquaremarketlightingSan Pedro Market: Lots of food, plenty of alcohol, and a really, really old house

With more than 20 unique vendors selling food, beverage, and trinkets in the shadow of the oldest residence in San Jose (the 219-year-old Peralta Adobe), you’ll be able to make everyone on your b-day guest list happy here. Check the calendar of events for live music, and be sure to visit our friends at Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream for a perfect birthday dessert from a San Jose original.


campoCampo di Bocce: Bocce ball if you’re feeling old; Fireball if you’re still feeling young

Okay, okay, it’s TECHNICALLY Los Gatos, but we couldn’t leave this place off the list. Just when you thought bocce ball was just for bored people at parks, Campo’s got food, alcohol, and a super competitive environment: all the ingredients for a perfect birthday (assuming you’re on the winning team).

Hicks Road: Haunted or Hyped?

hicksAs a YA reader in the ‘90’s and In honor of the Goosebumps movie (coming to a theater near you in October!) I wanted to cover a topic that has been the fodder of many a San Jose sleepover story: Hicks Road.

Situated alongside Almaden Quicksilver County Park, Hicks Road has become legendary in San Jose for all the wrong reasons. If you even mention it in driving directions, you’ll get a “oh hayyyllllllll no” response and a request for a different route. Hearing the stories about what makes Hicks Road so dang creepy might turn you as ghostly white as the albinos rumored to inhabit the area. Which leads me to the first piece of Hicks Lore.

The Albinos

There’s said to be a community of albinos (in some versions of the story, Satanic albinos) on Hicks that are rather wary of visitors. They reside in what people have spun as either harmless “small trailer homes” or “creepy huts,” once you turn right at a fork in the road onto a no-through street. While hard evidence of their hostility towards “out-of-streeters” is a bit hard to come by, there are some favorite anecdotes, for instance, this gem:

“He was coming after us in his Jeep…my buddy got a good look and said he was hella’ white.”

…or one brilliant skeptic who simply asserts:

“I personally do not believe in albinos.”

Oh NorCal.

The Devil’s Door

…is a giant rock. With a door painted on it.

The Movie

San Jose, perhaps desperate for a solidly great urban legend, has seen stories of Hicks Road perpetuate through several decades. And its influence has even made it to the silver screen. Several college students produced a short Blair Witch-style movie called—appropriately— Hicks Road in 2009. Here’s the plot summary:

The urban legend of Hicks Road has captured the minds and thoughts of many residents in San Jose, California. And especially the imagination of four college students that grew up hearing the story again and again. These four curiosity seekers attempt to find out what is really going on in the shadows of Hicks Road. But little do they know that what lies ahead will haunt and change them for the rest of their lives…


It may not be The Hills Have Eyes, but it’s something.

The Threatening Motorists in Cars That Are, Like, WAY Faster Than Yours

One of our own Searchlighters had a late-night experience on Hicks that left him convinced that the hype is true. Here’s his version of the story:

It was a dark and stormy night, or at least, 15 years later in my mind it was.  As bored South San Jose teenagers we were sick of roaming the halls of Oakridge, sitting outside of Starbucks, or killing time at the Cardinal Lounge so we decided to go for some real adventure – a trip on Hicks Road.  About five minutes after turning onto the road an old busted up pickup truck raced up behind our car.  The driver flashed his high beams multiple times so we assumed he simply wanted to pass.  We pulled off into the first turn off and the truck slammed on its breaks behind us, high beams still shining bright and the driver opened his door and exited carrying a large object which in our retellings of the story has been everything from a shotgun to a fishing pole. The screams from our vehicle could be heard from Quicksilver park to Old Almaden and we hit the gas and raced off of Hicks as quickly as possible.  Was he albino?  Hard to tell.  Was he Satanic?  I suppose it’s possible.  Was he a poor local who lives off of Hicks and hates having teenagers who are terrible drivers and likely up to nefarious activities roaming around his neighborhood?  Probably yes but on that fateful night he was only one thing; our worst nightmares. 


The Road Itself

As the paved road gives way to dirt, abandoned cars, sketchy messages on cardboard, and people threatening you with shotguns make Hicks, well, potentially “less-than-friendly.” And maybe not where you want to teach your teenager to drive.

If you want to brave the road, just get on Camden from 85 and head for the hills. It might turn out to be no big deal. It might turn out to be the stuff nightmares are made of.

But ultimately, the way I see it, how scary can a road that scales a hill called “Mt. Umunhum” be?

Now and Then: The Ghosts of Roller Rinks, Restaurants, and Amusement Parks Past

A moose-themed arcade/restaurant.

An amusement park straight out of the Old West.

A roller rink where you probably had your birthday party at least once and wore an L.A. Gear shirt and a denim vest (yes, VEST), and hoped that the boy you liked would hold your hand even though he was surely playing pinball and eating greasy pizza instead.

Whether you love or hate change, it happens. And, as San Jose continues to morph and develop, some of the places you just assume will always be there suddenly become a distant memory (And maybe the denim vest should REMAIN a distant memory…)

Let’s look at some historic (and some NOT so historic…one just closed this past year) San Jose fixtures and what now stands where they once were.

THEN: Bullwinkles

Opened: 1981

Closed: 1996


I remember visiting Bullwinkles as a kid and even then feeling like it was Chuck E Cheese done more upscale. (I mean, what’s more appetizing anyway: a mouse or a moose?) Based on the beloved cartoon characters of the ‘60’s, Bullwinkles was designed to look like a woodsy edifice on the outside, and inside was a cornucopia of arcade games, climbing structures, and even a show with animatronics that would run a couple times per hour. Other Bullwinkles locations exist today, but sadly the NorCal birthday go-to couldn’t keep its doors open.

Now: DaVita Santa Clara Dialysis/D1 Training Center


In 1996, Bullwinkles closed and was replaced by a nightclub. And then another nightclub. And then I’m pretty sure one more nightclub before it finally landed in the hands of a completely different industry: healthcare. There isn’t a discernible trace of the old family entertainment center (or smarmy club scene) here anymore, but at least it’s moved on to a place where people can maintain health and happiness—even without the help of a cartoon moose.

THEN: Aloha/ Roxy’s/ Golden Skate/ San Jose Skate Roller Rink

Opened: 1977

Closed: December 2014


Even though everyone agrees that it was a “bit” run down, the place consistently smelled like a foot, and the employees seemed like they would rather be doing anything…ANYTHING… than refereeing an organized game of Shoot the Duck, everyone also agreed that this place also just reeked of memories. The ultimate personality crisis, this rink went through at least 4 name changes but people generally fondly remember the original Aloha Roller Palace days where you DEFINITELY weren’t in paradise, but you got a little slice of roller heaven for 2 hours. Then get off the rink dangit. It’s roller derby practice.

NOW: ACO Furniture

Sigh. From a place that stood for pure, sheer, unadulterated fun to a chain furniture store that will probably be claiming that it’s going out of business and everything must GO, GO, GO! in no time, makes this one of the most depressing then&now’s in San Jose history. But all is not lost. If you stand in the middle of the concrete show floor, close your eyes, and just take the littlest whiff, you maybe—just maybe— might still detect the faintest aroma of skate sanitizer in the air.

THEN: Frontier Village

Opened: 1961

Closed: 1980


Some recent articles and videos (like this AWESOME one from Lost Parks of Northern California) have perhaps introduced you to Frontier Village, the Disneyland of San Jose back in the day. And from what I’ve learned, it was completely and utterly charming. Stories about the park abound, from the variety of rides and gunslinger shows, to canoe marathons, and even a Lutheran church that used to meet in the upper room of the Saloon. And overwhelmingly people that either worked in the park or visited it agree: IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE CLOSED. But you know, there’s still Happy Hollow.

NOW: Edenvale Park


Nestled just adjacent to Hayes Mansion, this park is a favorite for South San Jose residents and features beautiful walking paths, mature trees, volleyball and tennis courts, and multiple play structures including a giant climbing rock (which used to also be a slide). Also, the park nods subtly to the ghost of its past with old maps of Frontier Village in display cases, and the occasional homage to former park decor (like this little frontier house and others atop light posts in the park).

Depressed that it’s no longer a theme park? Go get a drink at the bar in Hayes Mansion, or join the groups of people that reunite every year to reminisce about the former Frontier.

Stay tuned for more “Now and Thens” coming soon!