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25 Things You Should Know About San Jose

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If you know the way to San Jose, as Dionne Warwick sang in her 1968 hit, you know Northern California’s South Bay city actually trumps San Francisco (48 miles to the north) in population (it ranks 10th in the nation with more than a million residents, while San Francisco is 13th) and size (it's more than 3.7 times the size of San Francisco with 180 incorporated square miles). Here are 25 things you should know about the Capital of Silicon Valley.

1. Spanish colonizers founded the city on November 29, 1777, and named it El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe after both Saint Joseph and the Guadalupe River.

2. A trio of California firsts: San Jose was the state’s first civilian settlement, the first capital from 1849 to 1852, and the first incorporated city on March 27, 1850.

3. The city’s Japantown celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2015. Before World War II, there were 43 Japantowns in California alone, but after the incarceration of Japanese during the war and the urban development that took place in the 1950s and 1960s, the only ones that still exist today are in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose.

4. San Jose also has had five Chinatowns. The first was established in 1866, but none survived past 1931. Three were destroyed in fires, one in a flood, and the last during the city’s redevelopment.

5. Nicknamed the Capital of Silicon Valley in the 1990s, San Jose’s largest high-tech employer is Cisco Systems with 13,600 employees as of 2013 [PDF]. Rounding out the top five are eBay with 4700, IBM with 4200, Hitachi with 2070, and Adobe Systems with 2000.

6. San Jose International Airport, which was renamed the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in 2001 after the former United States Secretary of Transportation, now serves 8.3 million passengers a year. One of its largest guests was the elephant Tai, who shut down the now-demolished Terminal C for three nights in 1995 while filming Larger Than Life with Bill Murray.

7. With a long history of a low crime rate (32.8 crimes per 1000 residents [PDF]), SmartAsset ranked San Jose the sixth safest city in the nation last year.

8. After losing both her infant daughter and her Winchester rifle manufacturer husband, Connecticut native Sarah Winchester was told by a medium that her loved ones’ untimely deaths were caused by spirits killed by Winchester rifles and she might be next. Her solution: Move west and keep up continuous construction on a home for the spirits. She started building in 1884 and went nonstop through her death in 1922. The mansion, which has 950 doors, 10,000 windows, 40 stairways, 47 fireplaces, six kitchens, and "miles of twisting hallways," opened to the public in 1932 and offers 55-minute flashlight tours every Friday the 13th.

9. Krazy George Henderson, who began cheerleading at San Jose State in 1968, is credited as the inventor of The Wave. He first used it in a routine on October 15, 1981, during an Oakland A’s vs. New York Yankees game.

10. Pet quota! Current San Jose laws limit owners to five licensed animals total—and no more than three dogs. Yes, two dogs and three cats is okay, five cats are fine, but don’t dare break the law with two dogs and four cats.

11. Also illegal in San Jose? Plastic bags. The environmentally-friendly Bring Your Own Bag ordinance enacted January 1, 2012, prohibits grocery stores, pharmacies, and retailers from providing plastic carryout bags. The alternative: Paper bags “made of 40 percent post-consumer recycled material” as long as stores “charge a minimum of 10 cents per bag.”

12. One of California’s first wineries was San Jose’s Old Almaden Vineyards on Blossom Hill Road, established in 1852. The business survived Prohibition by using the grapes for juice and medicinal and sacramental wines, but the land later became a library and condos (part of the property was destroyed in a 1989 fire). The winery still operates, but now out of Madera, California, 121 miles from its original site.

13. Rock band Smash Mouth—famous for 1997’s “Walkin’ on the Sun” and 1999’s “All Star”—also calls San Jose home. Now-defunct local station KOME first played their demo, "Nervous in the Alley,” before they were signed to Interscope Records.

14. It has eight siblings. San Jose was the third to join the national Sister Cities program when it connected with Okayama, Japan, on May 26, 1957. The other seven sisters cities are: San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1961, Veracruz, Mexico, in 1975, Tainan, Taiwan, in 1977, Dublin, Ireland, in 1986, Pune, India, in 1992, Ekaterinburg, Russia in 1992, and Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2015.

15. For eight years in a row beginning in 2007, San Jose resident Joey Chestnut won the Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York City’s Coney Island—until 2015, when downing 60 dogs in 10 minutes just didn’t cut the mustard. He was edged out by 23-year-old Matt Stonie who ate 62 … and also hails from San Jose.

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16.
Speaking of big eats, San Jose’s Iguanas taqueria is home to Burritozilla, a five-pound, three-foot long burrito, made of three tortillas. Chestnut once finished it in an impressive 3 minutes and 10 seconds, but Stonie later gulped it down in a minute and 50 seconds.

17. Every holiday season, Christmas in the Park takes over Downtown with nearly half a million visitors exploring 500 decorated trees and 40 animated displays on two acres of Plaza de Cesar Chavez. The San Jose tradition started in the 1950s at Willow Glen’s Lima Family Mortuary lawn and moved to its current location in the 1980s. More than 5000 candy canes are handed out at the park’s Santa’s House annually.

18. The Del Monte Corporation (and its predecessors) processed fruits and vegetables in San Jose from 1893 to 1999 at Plant Number 3 located between San Carlos Street, Auzerais Avenue, and Los Gatos Creek. Seasonal employees made up a majority of the company's workforce, many of whom were working mothers.

19. The 55-year-old, 120-acre San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road, with more than 6000 weekly vendors, is where Amir meets his future wife in Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 New York Times bestselling novel, The Kite Runner [PDF].

20. Established at the corner of West Saint John Street and North Almaden Boulevard in 1908, the new Progress Hotel, renamed the Torino Hotel in 1914, was a boarding house for new Italian immigrant workers and also known for serving generous portions of Italian food. In 1960, Henry Puckett took over the abandoned hotel and opened Henry’s Hi-Life, famous for its baby back ribs and for being featured on season one of Man Vs. Food.


21.
On top of Mount Umunhum (meaning “resting place of the hummingbird”)—technically in the 95120 zip code of San Jose’s Almaden Valley—is a five-story concrete radar tower that was used during the Cold War. Often called The Cube or The Box, the structure, completed in 1962, was used to detect incoming hostile aircraft at the former Almaden Air Force Station. Sitting on the fourth highest peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains with views of the Monterey Bay, San Francisco Bay, and Downtown San Jose, the summit was closed in 1980. There is currently an effort to reopen the area with trails, viewing areas, and a habitat in Fall 2016.

22. Steve Wozniak, who founded Apple Computer with Steve Jobs in 1976, was born in San Jose. As one of the main benefactors to the purple triangle-shaped Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, the street outside of it is named after him—Woz Way.

23. The 930-square foot Monopoly game board opened in Discovery Meadow in 2002 is the only officially licensed life-sized board in the world, and San Jose’s only Guinness Book of World Records attraction. Families can rent out the board to play for a $300 fee, which includes a game referee “specially trained to run a giant-sized Monopoly game” and “make sure you have fun.” 


24.
Caitlyn Jenner launched her Olympic training in 1973 in San Jose, where she and first wife Chrystie Crownover lived in a Fruitdale Avenue apartment. Jenner drove a VW bug and trained at San Jose City College and San Jose State University’s tracks. For almost 20 years, San Jose hosted a track and field invitational in her honor.

25. San Jose, hometown of 1996 gold medal-winning Olympics women’s gymnastics team member Amy Chow (who is now a physician), is continuing its transformation into “Gymnastics City, USA.” The 2016 Olympics trials for the sport will be held at SAP Center on July 8 and 10.

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Neighborhoods
How 8 Phoenix Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Inhabited by native people for thousands of years and colonized by white settlers in the 1860s, Phoenix has developed a booming economy based around “the Five Cs”: cotton, citrus, cattle, climate, and copper. It's grown from a once-dusty desert town to the state capital, as well as the nation's fifth-largest city, with a population of 1.6 million and counting. Here’s the story of how eight of the city's neighborhoods ended up with their current names.

1. ALHAMBRA

Best known as the founder of Glendale, Arizona, William John Murphy was a pioneer, contractor, and the impresario of the Arizona Improvement Company, created in 1887 to sell land and water rights south of the Arizona Canal. Murphy also greatly contributed to the early development of Scottsdale and Phoenix, and he was responsible for splitting a large chunk of his land along the western border of Phoenix, next to Glendale, into smaller subdivisions [PDF]. He also came up with the subdivision's names; Alhambra stemmed from the 13th-century palace and fortress of the same name in Granada, Spain. Today, the neighborhood is known for large homes and its Murphy Bridle Path, named after its former landowner.

2. AHWATUKEE

The word Ahwatukee—an “urban village” in the East Valley region of Phoenix—has roots in the Crow language, but theories about its translation differ. Before it was a village, the name referred to a single estate built in 1920 that sat at the modern-day streets of Sequoia Trails and Appaloosa Drive. The original builder, William Ames, first named it Casa de Sueños ("house of dreams"), but he died three months after moving in. His widow, Virginia Ames, owned the house until her death in 1932, and it was eventually sold to a rich Midwesterner named Helen Brinton, who had an interest in the Crow tribe. Her attempt to translate “house of dreams” into Crow was Ahwatukee, but the tribe says there’s no such word in their language. The name caught on regardless, being used to refer to the house as well as the area that developed around it.

3. SUNNYSLOPE

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Southwest was a place where sick people would travel from all across the U.S. to recuperate from pulmonary illnesses—especially pulmonary tuberculosis. The hot, arid climate was thought to dry out one's lungs, while the year-round sunshine was believed to have healing properties in general. In the early 20th century, Sunnyslope—and Sunnyslope Mountain, marked by a 150-foot-tall white S near its peak—became known as an area where ill people could get well. California architect William Norton built a subdivision in the area in 1911, and it was his daughter who came up with the name Sunnyslope after admiring the sun glinting off the slope of the mountain.

4. F. Q. STORY HISTORIC DISTRICT

The F.Q. Story district is named after Francis Quarles Story, who purchased the land it’s on back in 1887. Formerly a wool merchant, Story moved to Los Angeles County for health reasons and became a citrus farmer before investing in land in Arizona’s Salt River Valley and promoting agricultural development there. He never lived in Phoenix, but he did have a hand in the development of its major thoroughfare, Grand Avenue, as well as its subsequent streetcar line. The F.Q. Story neighborhood was built as a “streetcar suburb,” with newspaper ads in 1920 calling the grand opening "one of the big real estate events of the season." (Unfortunately, a flood at nearby Cave Creek caused a temporary halt in construction the following year, but the area rebounded after a dam was constructed in 1923.)

5. WILLO

Willo started out as a planned community, an idyllic suburb on the outskirts of Phoenix, although today it lies near downtown. A man named J. P. Holcomb acquired the southern part of the neighborhood in 1878 and then the northern part in 1886, using the land mostly for farming for the next 20 years. In the early 1900s, several homes were built on long, narrow lots, and 41 more were added in the '20s, but the area was still isolated from the city and it was difficult to attract buyers. Developers decided it needed a snappy name, and came up with Willonot from the willow tree, but from combining the two nearest voting districts: Wilshire and Los Olivos.

6. LAVEEN

As early as 1884, Mexican and Mormon settlers were living in what’s now called Laveen Village, in the Southwestern part of Phoenix. The school district was called the Harovitz District, but the community itself had no name for more than 30 years, until Roger Laveen was appointed as its first postmaster in 1913 [PDF]. The post office was located in the back of Laveen’s brother's new general store, which became a cornerstone of the town. Roger only worked in the post office for about two years, although both brothers continued living in the area that now bears their name for decades more.

7. MEDLOCK PLACE

Medlock Place was named after prominent residential developer Floyd W. Medlock, who created the community in 1926 with the idea of giving it a rural aesthetic despite being only a few miles from downtown Phoenix. The precocious Medlock—he was only in his early 20s—planned palm tree-lined roads in the new community and sold pre-built houses, a ground-breaking move in 1920s Phoenix. (In an ad, Medlock called his community "the Subdivision Extraordinary.") For his subsequent South Medlock Place addition, he began selling vacant lots instead, with buyers permitted to hire their own builders.

8. ARCADIA

Located at the foot of Camelback Mountain and one of the wealthiest areas of Phoenix, Arcadia started out like a lot of the city’s neighborhoods: as citrus orchards. The first grove was planted in 1899, and by 1920, the foothills were covered in citrus trees—thanks in large part to the Arcadia Water Company, which set up a widespread irrigation system starting in 1919. Soon, farmers and developers began investing in the region and building homes. The neighborhood took its name from the water company, which in turn got its name from Greek mythology: Arcadia was where Pan, the goat god, originated—a region supposedly named for its king, Arcas, the hunter. The association with nature is still apt, since fruit trees abound in the neighborhood even today.

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Big Questions
Why is New York City Called The Big Apple?
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New York City has been called many things—“The Great American Melting Pot,” “Gotham,” “The City that Never Sleeps”—but its most famous nickname is “The Big Apple.” So just where did this now-ubiquitous moniker originate?

MAKING A BIG APPLE

Over the years, there have been many theories about how New York City came to be called “The Big Apple.” Some say it comes from the former well-to-do families who sold apples on the city's streets to make ends meet during the Great Depression. Another account posits that the term comes from a famous 19th-century brothel madam named Eve, whose girls were cheekily referred to as her “Big Apples.” But the nickname actually springs from a catchphrase used in the 1920s by The Morning Telegraph sports writer John J. Fitz Gerald in his horse racing column, “Around the Big Apple.” Beginning on February 18, 1924, he began every column with the header, “The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple. That's New York.”

At the time, the jockeys and trainers of smaller horses were said to want to make a “Big Apple," which was their term for the big money prizes at larger races in and around New York City.

Fitz Gerald reportedly first heard "The Big Apple" used to describe New York's racetracks by two African American stable hands at the famed New Orleans Fair Grounds, as he explained in his inaugural "Around the Big Apple" column: “Two dusky stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbreds around the ‘cooling rings’ of adjoining stables at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation. ‘Where y'all goin' from here?’ queried one. ‘From here we're headin' for The Big Apple,’ proudly replied the other. ‘Well, you'd better fatten up them skinners or all you'll get from the apple will be the core,’ was the quick rejoinder.” Fitz Gerald nabbed the colloquialism for his column, where it quickly took off.

CATCHING ON

Once the term entered the vocabularies of society up north, its popularity slowly spread outside of the horseracing context, and everything from nightclubs in Harlem to hit songs and dances about the city were named after “The Big Apple.” Most notably, New York jazz musicians in the 1930s—who had a habit of using the nickname to reference their hometown in their songs—helped the nickname spread beyond the northeast.

Throughout the mid-20th century, it remained New York City's nickname until it was officially adopted by the city in the 1970s. The New York Convention & Visitors Bureau hoped that using the moniker would brighten the image of an economically downtrodden and crime-ridden city in decline and revive the tourist economy. In 1997, to give Fitz Gerald his (somewhat unjust) due, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani signed legislation naming the corner where Fitz Gerald and his family lived at West 54th Street and Broadway between 1934 and 1963 “Big Apple Corner.”

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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