The Pruneyard Rule

I live in Campbell. My house faces North, on a typical suburban road, where the homes are so tightly packed, I have to squeeze myself out of the neighborhood from time to time, like oil from tuna, in order to breath. James Dunham, of Campbell, our infamous serial killer, must of felt squeezed, when he murdered six people, in the spring of 1896. The case remains officially open, because he went into hiding, and was never found. I know Campbell like the back of my hand, it must have been a warm clear day when James hacked his family to death with an axe, then jumped on a horse, and road off into oblivion. It is rumored that his bones lay abandoned deep in the Santa Cruz mountains. He left behind a three week old son, a horrific legacy, and we may never understand why.

I grew up in Campbell, a thriving part of the San Francisco Bay Area, and we have our own particular “claim to fame” known as The Pruneyard Rule. In 1980, The Pruneyard Shopping Center took issue with some local high school students, who were soliciting signatures for a petition. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled, “individuals may peacefully exercise their right to free speech in parts of private shopping centers regularly held open to the public.” The students won the case, but it is the Girl Scouts who should be grateful, owing much of their cookie sales to the privileges of this rule. The more things change the more things stay the same. The Pruneyard Rule has been challenged many times and subsequently altered when the court immunized strip malls and shopping centers, except for areas analogous to public gathering such as plazas, atriums, and food courts. Some thought it, “a great victory for retailers as far as putting another nail in the Pruneyard coffin.” Time to bury the hatchet, don’t you think? 

Campbell is my refuge, as water reflects the face, so ones life reflects the heart. (Psalm 27:19) I am tethered here by generations of family history, like Sinatra and San Francisco, my heart belongs in Campbell. Campbell was founded by Benjamin Campbell, who bought 160 acres, and established a saw mill where the downtown is now located. I remember driving through historic downtown, it must have been ten years ago, when my dad mentioned that he used to work at the cannery, during the summers, with his mother. My grandmother died when I was a baby, I have to piece her together like a complex puzzle, and I just found the cannery fragment. My dad claims she was a hard worker and overly protective of her children. This is my legacy. She was known to carry a hundred dollar bill in her wallet, a small fortune for the time, this was her guarantee that she could get to her children, whenever they needed her. I think I will revise this tradition in case I need to get to Australia some time soon.

The famous psychic, Sylvia Browne, used to keep an office across from Campbell Park. She would read your fortune for a hundred dollars if you made an appointment. I never went to see her so my future is still a mystery. I often wonder what she would have told me? Sarah Winchester relocated to this area, after the death of her husband, and young daughter. Following the advice of her psychic, Sarah spent thirty-eight years, and most of her fortune, in a frantic state of perpetual construction. She thought this would protect her from the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles. She is quite possibly the first ‘spirited’ gun control advocate. During the earthquake of 1906 she was trapped in one of the bedrooms for three hours. I know how she felt. I was trapped at the top of the business tower, on the campus of San Jose State University, when a major earthquake hit. They had to use a crowbar to get Sarah out, I took the stairs, two at a time. I was out in three minutes. Few people know that Mrs. Winchester also maintained a houseboat, named Sarah’s Ark, because she feared a great flood was coming, and she didn’t want to drown. Sarah died peacefully in her sleep, at the age of 83, so much for psychics, vengeful spirits, and El Nino weather patterns. When I think of all the good Sarah could of done with the Winchester fortune, I disparage, what a the waste, now we’re left with a haunted house, and creepy flashlight tours. 


I’m not sure you are aware, but back in 1903, president Theodore Roosevelt visited Campbell. That’s right San Jose, he came to Campbell. While he was here, he planted a redwood tree on the campus of Campbell Union High School, it’s still there, guarding the intersection of Winchester and Campbell, in December the city garnishes her with lights. I attended elementary, middle, high school, college, and graduate school in the Bay Area. Ida Price Junior High (now called Price Middle) is the only school that my children and I, both attended. As I was driving home yesterday, I took a short cut through the neighborhood, when I drove past Ida Price, I felt a sharp stab of pain, like Hattie Dunham must of felt when her husband James hit her with the axe, but minus all the blood. I was reaching around my brain trying to figure out what hurt. I mean no one wants to go back to junior high, right? I decided I miss my children when they were children, somewhere deep inside I have this misplaced desire to edit the past, maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention when they were small, and now I want a redo. It would be like going back to school as an adult, when you can appreciate the opportunity, and actually enjoy learning. But we can’t go back, all we can do is enjoy the present, and resist disparaging about the things that haunt us.

The Pruneyard Rule protects our right to speak freely, write, and publish our sentiments on all subjects, in public spaces, yet we are responsible for the abuses of this right. Campbell is tethered to this rule. I can’t help but wonder how this applies to the internet, our modern public space, where we gather on social media, and solicit our needs. The more things change the more things remain the same. We’ll always have the bullies, hackers, and narcissists who will hide from their responsibilities, but we also have the right to challenge the status quo, petition for the needs of others, and continue to build a better Tomorrowland. Walt Disney says, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

I almost forgot to mention, The Forgotten, a musical group formed right here in Campbell. They are playing at The Ritz this weekend in San Jose, don’t forget. Linked below is one of their songs, Streets of Despair, not my thing, but worthy of a listen.


Utilize The Pruneyard Rule and leave a comment or two.

You might also enjoy: The Family Tree or Look Both Ways Before Crossing

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