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What San Jose looked like in the 1950s Through Vintage Photos

The San Jose population increased rapidly after World War II as a result of diversification efforts and aggressive annexation. City Hall moved from downtown in 1958 due to the burgeoning population. The opening of Valley Fair, the area’s first shopping center, signaled the decline of downtown. The downtown was revitalized during the last quarter of the 20th century.

Over the years, efforts were made to bring the capital back to San Jose. Still, for the most part, the town settled into being a farming community that supported the agriculture industry that was booming in the Santa Clara Valley. When World War II ended, the valley was the last vast undeveloped land surrounding San Francisco Bay; San Jose had a population of less than 100,000 in 1950.

Here are some stunning vintage photos that show San Jose, California in the 1950s.

#1 Sears Roebuck, First Street, San Jose, California, 1950

Sears Roebuck, First Street, San Jose, California, 1950

The Sears store in downtown San Jose at 350 South 1st Street, San Jose, California. Sears was located almost directly across from the Fox Theatre.

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#2 Hales Dept store, San Jose, California, 1955

Hales Dept store, San Jose, California, 1955

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#3 View of Post Street, San Jose, California, 1951

View of Post Street, San Jose, California, 1951

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#4 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952

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#5 San Jose City Exhibit, 1951 Santa Clara County Fair, 1951

San Jose City Exhibit, 1951 Santa Clara County Fair, 1951

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#6 The corner of Santa Clara and River Streets, San Jose, California during the 1958 flood.

The corner of Santa Clara and River Streets, San Jose, California during the 1958 flood.

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#7 Hospital in San Jose, 1959

Hospital in San Jose, 1959

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#8 Typical Apartment Development, Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, 1959

Typical Apartment Development, Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, 1959

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#9 San Jose City Hall and Police Department on Hedding St, 1950s

San Jose City Hall and Police Department on Hedding St, 1950s

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#10 Corner view of San Jose City Hall 1953, with two automobiles parked in front.

Corner view of San Jose City Hall 1953, with two automobiles parked in front.

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#11 San Jose State College campus, 1955

San Jose State College campus, 1955

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#12 San Jose State College campus scene, 1955

San Jose State College campus scene, 1955

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#13 San Fernando Street at First Street, 1959

San Fernando Street at First Street, 1959

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#14 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

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#15 Chase Lumber Company, San Jose, 1955

Chase Lumber Company, San Jose, 1955

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#16 Downtown San Jose Empty Lot, 1950

Downtown San Jose Empty Lot, 1950

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#17 Fire Station, Engine Company No. 5. 1959

Fire Station, Engine Company No. 5. 1959

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#18 Chase Candy Company, San Jose, 1952

Chase Candy Company, San Jose, 1952

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#19 Administration Building, San Jose State College, 1959

Administration Building, San Jose State College, 1959

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#20 Kirk Elementary School, 1959

Kirk Elementary School, 1959

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#21 Parade float along Saint James Park, with lettering on the side, San Jose, 1950s

Parade float along Saint James Park, with lettering on the side, San Jose, 1950s

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#22 First and Santa Clara Streets, 1955

First and Santa Clara Streets, 1955

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#23 Typical Apartment Developmentt, San Jose, 1959

Typical Apartment Developmentt, San Jose, 1959

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#24 Parade with Marching Band, San Jose, 1950

Parade with Marching Band, San Jose, 1950

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#25 San Jose City Hall, 1958

San Jose City Hall, 1958

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#26 First Street, San Jose, 1955

First Street, San Jose, 1955

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#27 Rose Garden Fountain, San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, 1950s

Rose Garden Fountain, San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, 1950s

The fountain in San Jose's Municipal Rose Garden was created and paid for by the Rotary Club of San Jose in the 1930's.

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#28 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

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#29 Agricultural Park bicycle track, in disrepair, with the San Jose & Santa Clara Railroad Company buildings and Fredericksburg Brewery in the background, 1951

Agricultural Park bicycle track, in disrepair, with the San Jose & Santa Clara Railroad Company buildings and Fredericksburg Brewery in the background, 1951

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#30 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

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#31 San Jose City Exhibit, 1951

San Jose City Exhibit, 1951

Display of San Jose Police Department equipment, car, motorcycle and various instruments.

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#32 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

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#33 San Jose City Exhibit, 1951

San Jose City Exhibit, 1951

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#34 Stanley Smock at Airport Village, San Jose, 1959

Stanley Smock at Airport Village, San Jose, 1959

Stanley Smock, city emergency housing director, stands in deserted street at Airport Village which once teemed with playing youngsters and was crowded with cars. The wartime development at one time was home to 360 families.

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#35 Model of San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1951

Model of San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1951

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#36 Corner of Market at Park, 1955

Corner of Market at Park, 1955

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#37 South First Street, Looking North, 1959

South First Street, Looking North, 1959

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#38 C. Sepeda at 464 South Market Street, San Jose, 1957

C. Sepeda at 464 South Market Street, San Jose, 1957

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#39 Housing development under construction, 1959

Housing development under construction, 1959

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#40 American-La France pumper, 1955

American-La France pumper, 1955

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#41 Picnic tables at Alum Rock Park, 1959

Picnic tables at Alum Rock Park, 1959

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#42 The Alum Rock Sanitarium in east hills of San Jose catered to tuberculosis patients, 1958

The Alum Rock Sanitarium in east hills of San Jose catered to tuberculosis patients, 1958

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#43 Looking north on The Alameda from the intersection with Race Street, August 9, 1957

Looking north on The Alameda from the intersection with Race Street, August 9, 1957

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#44 Beautiful interior of the Fox California Theatre, San Jose, 1957

Beautiful interior of the Fox California Theatre, San Jose, 1957

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#45 Alum Rock Park, San Jose, 1950s

Alum Rock Park, San Jose, 1950s

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#46 Western States Professional Photographers Awards Banquet, 1954

Western States Professional Photographers Awards Banquet, 1954

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#47 Looking north on Second Street from San Carlos Street, 1959

Looking north on Second Street from San Carlos Street, 1959

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#48 Exterior view of San Jose City Hall with cars and a motorcycle parked alongside it, 1957

Exterior view of San Jose City Hall with cars and a motorcycle parked alongside it, 1957

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#49 Normal School San Jose, 1950s

Normal School San Jose, 1950s

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#50 The old San Jose City Hall, 1950s

The old San Jose City Hall, 1950s

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#51 Market Street North of Santa Clara Street, San Jose, California, 1957

Market Street North of Santa Clara Street, San Jose, California, 1957

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#52 San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

San Jose City Exhibit, 1952 Santa Clara County Fair, 1952

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#53 Girl Scouts Santa Clara Valley Day camping trailer, 1955

Girl Scouts Santa Clara Valley Day camping trailer, 1955

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#54 Sorting Prunes, U. S. Products Corp, 1951

Sorting Prunes, U. S. Products Corp, 1951

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#55 Walls, building construction, 1950

Walls, building construction, 1950

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#56 Fountain Alley businesses,1959

Fountain Alley businesses,1959

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#57 Corner of Santa Clara and Market Streets, 1959

Corner of Santa Clara and Market Streets, 1959

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#58 Looking northeast form the insection of Santa Clara and Market Streets, 1950s

Looking northeast form the insection of Santa Clara and Market Streets, 1950s

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#59 Mayfair Bus Line No. 53, 1953

Mayfair Bus Line No. 53, 1953

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#60 BIll Emerson posing with his jaguar sportscar on a country road, 1954

BIll Emerson posing with his jaguar sportscar on a country road, 1954

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#61 Market Street, north of Santa Clara Street, 1957

Market Street, north of Santa Clara Street, 1957

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#62 Moffet Field Planes, 1950s

Moffet Field Planes, 1950s

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#63 Beyda’s Import Discount Store, 1957

Beyda's Import Discount Store, 1957

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#64 Cement Mixer, 1951

Cement Mixer, 1951

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#65 Brake & Bearing, 540 South First Street, 1955

Brake & Bearing, 540 South First Street, 1955

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#66 Men on work site, 1951

Men on work site, 1951

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#67 Dole Pineapple Company, 1950s

Dole Pineapple Company, 1950s

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#68 Casa Grande, 1953

Casa Grande, 1953

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#69 Parade in front of American Trust Company Bank Building, 1959

Parade in front of American Trust Company Bank Building, 1959

Parade showing a marching band in front of the American Trust Company Bank Building, Blooms, Harris & Frank, Dundee, Master Cobbler.

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#70 Church of St John the Baptist, 1953

Church of St John the Baptist, 1953

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#71 Construction of interior with crew, 1951

Construction of interior with crew, 1951

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#72 State House from the Grandstand, 1950s

State House from the Grandstand, 1950s

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#73 Mayfair Department Store, 1955

Mayfair Department Store, 1955

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#74 San Jose City Hall, 1958.

San Jose City Hall, 1958.

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#75 Cheim Lumber Company Fire, 1955

Cheim Lumber Company Fire, 1955

Cheim Lumber Company was located at Lenzen Avenue and The Alameda, San Jose. The fire was started on the afternoon of April 14th by three children playing with matches. It quickly spread to the Pacific Hardware & Steel Company and the Prime Rib Dining Room, located at the back of the Cheim Lumber property.

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#76 Campbell Bros. Sunland service station, 1959

Campbell Bros. Sunland service station, 1959

Campbell Bros. Sunland service station at the corner of East Taylor Street and North Seventh Street, San Jose. Signs advertise Sunland Quality Ethyl Gasoline and HO Gasoline.

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#77 South Second Street, 1959

South Second Street, 1959

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#78 Native Daughters of the Golden West Parlor No. 81., 1951

Native Daughters of the Golden West Parlor No. 81., 1951

Native Daughters of the Golden West in a parade down North First Street in San Jose, California. They are dressed in dark long skirts, white long-sleeved blouses and wearing broad brimmed hats with white decoration.

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#79 North Market Street parking lot, 1957

North Market Street parking lot, 1957

North Market Street in downtown San Jose, California near intersection of West St. John Street. View overlooking street and City of San Jose Public Parking Lot No. 1. Greyhound bus and cars driving past on street in foreground. North San Pedro Street businesses and residences are visible on the other side of the parking lot, as well as the intersection of San Pedro and St. John Street. Stores visible behind the parking lot are American Welding Supply (75 North San Pedro) and C & D Automotive Service (85 North San Pedro).

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#80 Julian Street and Thirteenth Street, 1955

Julian Street and Thirteenth Street, 1955

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#81 Public Works Street Cleaner at Santa Clara County Fair, 1951

Public Works Street Cleaner at Santa Clara County Fair, 1951

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#82 South First Street at Christmas, 1958

South First Street at Christmas, 1958

South First Street at Christmas taken from above at night, showing Christmas decorations strung above the street and cars parked below. National $ Stores (National Dollar Stores), Padre, Kress stores are visible.

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#83 First and Post Streets, looking west, 1955

First and Post Streets, looking west, 1955

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#84 Montgomery Hotel Wide Angle Exteriors, 1956

Montgomery Hotel Wide Angle Exteriors, 1956

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#85 Mission San Jose De Guadalupe, 1950

Mission San Jose De Guadalupe, 1950

Exterior view of the California Mission San Jose De Guadalupe in San Jose.

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#86 Sir Francis Drake Pharmacy, 1952

Sir Francis Drake Pharmacy, 1952

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#87 IBM Plant Dedication, Cottle Road/Monterey Highway, 1958

IBM Plant Dedication, Cottle Road/Monterey Highway, 1958

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#88 San Jose’s Old City Hall Before Demolition, 1955

San Jose's Old City Hall Before Demolition, 1955

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#89 Bona Sera Ford Edsel Dealership, 1957

Bona Sera Ford Edsel Dealership, 1957

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#90 Entertainment at the IBM Plant Dedication, 1958

Entertainment at the IBM Plant Dedication, 1958

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#91 Storefronts at 964-972 Main, Santa Clara, 1955

Storefronts at 964-972 Main, Santa Clara, 1955

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#92 IBM Dedication, 1d – 12d, 1958

IBM Dedication, 1d - 12d, 1958

Exterior shot of the new IBM facility at Monterey and Cottle Roads in San Jose, and speakers at the podium during the dedication. Several shots of the crowd in 1950s fashions, and visitors riding on movable transport around the facility.

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#93 Bill Eitel and Jack Mccullough in front of their new San Carlos plant, 1959

Bill Eitel and Jack Mccullough in front of their new San Carlos plant, 1959

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#94 Northwest View from City Hall, 1950

Northwest View from City Hall, 1950

Northwest view from City Hall, at Market Street and San Antonio Street. Some businesses along Market Street are visible: Gonzalez Bail Bonds and W. O. Standring Co. The Hotel de Anza is visible in the distance.

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#95 Palo Alto High School, 1950

Palo Alto High School, 1950

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#96 Agnews State Hospital, 1952

Agnews State Hospital, 1952

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#97 Native Sons of the Golden West Drum Corps, 1950

Native Sons of the Golden West Drum Corps, 1950

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#98 T & D Garage, 1950

T & D Garage, 1950

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#99 Group of men looking at large plans at construction site, 1959

Group of men looking at large plans at construction site, 1959

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#100 Car in front of Holy City buildings, 1950

Car in front of Holy City buildings, 1950

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#101 Henry Dyer Residence, 1950

Henry Dyer Residence, 1950

Exterior view of the home of Henry Dyer, which stood on Hostetter Road in the Berryessa area. Mr. Dyer had an orchard on the property. He was the son of Ephraim Dyer, who came west from Maine in 1850.

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#102 Elephants parading south on First Street at the corner of St. John, 1950

Elephants parading south on First Street at the corner of St. John, 1950

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#103 South First at San Fernando, 1955

South First at San Fernando, 1955

South First at San Fernando looking north. Most of the downtown stores were open late for shoppers on Thursday evenings.

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#104 Businesses along South First Street. Blum’s was famous for its specialty ice creams, 1950

Businesses along South First Street. Blum's was famous for its specialty ice creams, 1950

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#105 Six-foot five-inch Mike Sharpe lifts lovely ladies Shirlie Montgomery, 1958

Six-foot five-inch Mike Sharpe lifts lovely ladies Shirlie Montgomery, 1958

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#106 Carried in style by Ben and Mike Sharpe, 1953

Carried in style by Ben and Mike Sharpe, 1953

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#107 Corner of Market at Park, 1955

Corner of Market at Park, 1955

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#108 Lou Thesz behind the bar at the Ringside, 1958

Lou Thesz behind the bar at the Ringside, 1958

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#109 Shirlie Montgomery with camera, 1950

Shirlie Montgomery with camera, 1950

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#110 Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

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#111 Cheim Lumber Company fire, Lenzen Avenue and The Alameda, San Jose, 1955

Cheim Lumber Company fire, Lenzen Avenue and The Alameda, San Jose, 1955

The fire began at 1400 The Alameda at Lenzen Avenue on the afternoon of April 14th when three children were playing with matches. It quickly spread to the Pacific Hardware & Steel Company and the Prime Rib Dining Room, located at the back of the Cheim Lumber property. The heat from the fire was so intense that it damaged several hoses and put one engine out of commission. Seventy-seven firemen worked to control the fire.

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#112 The Torres brothers with friends at the Ringside, 1953

The Torres brothers with friends at the Ringside, 1953

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#113 Flood at Santa Clara and River Streets, San Jose, 1958

Flood at Santa Clara and River Streets, San Jose, 1958

The corner of Santa Clara and River Streets, San Jose, during the 1958 Guadalupe River flood.

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#114 Wrestler weight training with local fans, 1953

Wrestler weight training with local fans, 1953

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#115 Mayor Robert Welsh at Community Bank Building ground-breaking, San Jose, 1950s

Mayor Robert Welsh at Community Bank Building ground-breaking, San Jose, 1950s

San Jose Mayor Robert Welsh at the ground-breaking for the Community Bank Building at San Pedro and San Augustine Streets, San Jose.

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#116 Tiny Mills versus Ray Eckert at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1953

Tiny Mills versus Ray Eckert at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1953

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#117 IBM Cottle Road plant dedication, San Jose, 1958

IBM Cottle Road plant dedication, San Jose, 1958

Crowd reflected at dedication of IBM plant at Cottle Road and Monterey Highway. The new plant incorporated four IBM sites previously located in downtown San Jose.

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#118 Nuns attending Mass at O’Connor Hospital Chapel, San Jose, 1957

Nuns attending Mass at O'Connor Hospital Chapel, San Jose, 1957

Daughters of Charity attending Mass at O'Connor Hospital Chapel, located at 2105 Forest Avenue, San Jose.

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#119 World Heavyweight Champion boxer Joe Louis keeps the peace, 1953

World Heavyweight Champion boxer Joe Louis keeps the peace, 1953

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#120 First and San Antonio Streets, San Jose, 1950

First and San Antonio Streets, San Jose, 1950

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#121 Sandwich board displaying Montgomery’s photographs, 1955

Sandwich board displaying Montgomery's photographs, 1955

Sandwich board advertising wrestling matches at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, featuring photographs by Shirlie Montgomery

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#122 Nurses in training at O’Connor Hospital, San Jose, 1957

Nurses in training at O'Connor Hospital, San Jose, 1957

Nurses were trained at O'Connor Hospital under the supervision of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur.

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#123 Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

Candid view of the crowd at the San Jose Civic Auditorium as they react to the wrestling match in progress.

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#124 Chinese New Year parade, Valley Fair Shopping Mall, Santa Clara, 1950s

Chinese New Year parade, Valley Fair Shopping Mall, Santa Clara, 1950s

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#125 South First Street, 1955

South First Street, 1955

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#126 Shirlie Montgomery, Enrique Torres and Angelo Cistoldi at the Ringside Bar, 1950s

Shirlie Montgomery, Enrique Torres and Angelo Cistoldi at the Ringside Bar, 1950s

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#127 St. Patrick’s Day at the Ringside Bar, 1953

St. Patrick's Day at the Ringside Bar, 1953

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#128 San Jose City Hall, 1955

San Jose City Hall, 1955

City Hall as it looked in the 1950s. Designed by the architect Theodore Lenzen, and constructed in 1887, it originally housed the jail on the ground floor, council chambers on the main floor, and public library on the third floor. This City Hall continued in use until it was demolished in 1958.

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#129 Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

Crowd watching a wrestling match at San Jose Civic Auditorium, 1955

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#130 South Market at the Plaza, 1955

South Market at the Plaza, 1955

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#131 Ben Sharpe poses with his brother Mike, seated, 1953

Ben Sharpe poses with his brother Mike, seated, 1953

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#132 Car Show in San Jose, 1957

Car Show in San Jose, 1957

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#133 Lyle Hunt, a police officer in San Jose, California, restrains a member of the public with a fellow officer, 1954.