A Biased Review of The Last of the Prune Pickers

Great book, but does the Los Gatos author have a blind spot for Campbell?

OK, we're book readers, not book reviewers, so don't look for a comprehensive, analytical, objective literary book review.

Since seeing the book The Last of the Prune Pickers: A Pre-Silcon Valley Story here on Patch and enjoying history of all kinds, especially local, we eagerly ordered it online.

A week later we ran into the author at in a booth selling and signing copies of his book. Nice guy! We got a little worried about his book project though, when in response to our question he said he wasn't familiar with Jeanette Watson's seminal, authoritative, awesome book Campbell: The Orchard City

The book finally arrived and we eagerly started reading. Good stuff, enjoyable read if you're interested in the history of the area.

But, the author omits any specific mention of Campbell except a nod to William Campbell's sawmill on Saratoga Creek.

What's up with that? He outlines the settlement of the area without mentioning Benjamin Campbell, he describes the development of the orchards and fruit processing and canning without mentioning canning pioneer J.C. Ainsley (he does mention San Jose's Sunsweet), he describes the railroad being built through the area without mentioning Benjamin Campbell's essential role in in 1886 bringing the railroad by providing the South Pacific Coast Railway right of way for their tracks and land for a depot, and so on.

And how would any local history book be complete without mentioning Campbell as the birthplace of fruit cocktail and strict alcohol policies?

In case you're new to town, our tongue in cheek reference to "strict alcohol policies" refers to the recent controversy on the subject of limiting drinking in Downtown, as well as the fact that Benjamin Campbell was a teetotaller who prohibited alcohol in his new town starting with the first subdivision in 1887.

Still, these are small quibbles. Nice guy (for a ), great book on the history of the area, and we forgive him for not being as Campbell-centric as we are.

That said, we highly recommend this book!

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