San Jose decades: The 1950s

We’re turning back time and peering into the great 408 during the 1950s.

A black and white photo of crowds walking the streets of downtown San Jose.

Downtown San Jose streets were bustling in the 1950s.

Photo via History San José

Let’s rock ‘n’ roll back in time to the days of sock hops, soda fountains, and poodle skirts.

We’re back with another decade of San Jose’s history, and this time, we’re traveling to the 1950s.

📈 Population: 95,280
🗳️ Mayors: Fred Watson (1948-1950), Clark L. Bradley (1950-1952), Parker Hathaway (1952-1954), George Starbird (1954-1956), Robert Doerr (1956-1958), Louis Solari (1958-1960).

1950 — James Lick High School opened its doors. Now-closed El Rancho Drive-In Theater opened on Almaden Road.

1951 — An F2 tornado ripped through the Bay Area, causing damage in SF, Sunnyvale, and San Jose. The Old Fire Station One opened on Market + St. James streets.

1952 — César Chávez became a part of the Community Service Organization, spearheaded in east San Jose. The Alviso flood displaced hundreds of families.

A black and white photo of downtown San Jose with the Bank of Italy + Hart's in the background.

Can you see some of the downtown landmarks that still stand today?

Photo via History San José

1953 — Crowds of ~70,000 came to DTSJ for the “Dollars From the Sky” event where 500 ping pong balls containing a combined $640 were dropped from a helicopter. Eggo frozen waffles, made by San Jose brothers Tony, Sam, and Frank Dorsa, were introduced in supermarkets across the US.

1954 — Milpitas was established as incorporated city.

1955 — Ford Motors moved its assembly plant from Richmond to Milpitas, where the Great Mall now sits. Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers enrolled at the then-San Jose State College.

A black and white photo of the first Valley Fair Mall sign.

Valley Fair sure looks a lot different now.

Photo via History San José

1956 — Valley Fair Mall was built. Luis Molina became the first San Jose boxer to make the Olympic team. Original Joe’s opened.

1957 — San Jose Peace & Justice Center was founded. San Jose State College turned 100 years old. San Jose City Hall was relocated from Plaza Park to North First and Mission streets.

1958 — The then-Giorgio’s Pizza House opened on Foxworthy Avenue.

1959 — Former CA Governor Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown visited Lou’s Village while he was in office. Mildred Overfelt donated the site of Overfelt Gardens to San Jose.

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