*** California Apricots by Robin Chapman


Before Silicon Valley produced the iPhone, Google Maps, and Facebook, before semiconductor manufacturers set up shop there, before there was a Silicon Valley, there were orchards and in particular apricot orchards, memorialized today in symbolic patches around the Los Altos city hall and the Saratoga library. That’s the story told in California Apricots: The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley, delightfully so, starting in the author’s backyard, where his father built his own house while working at Ames (as an engineer, of course!) I had always thought that high tech built buildings where there were orchards but it’s not quite true: Turkish dried apricots became much cheaper than the California kind — and economics dictated that orchards be sold for subdivisions and factories.

The book is probably best enjoyed by residents of Silicon Valley, who will relate the stories to streets we use everyday, many of them named after orchard owners, and who will delight  in the many pictures of orchards that once occupied familiar landmarks, from the Apple headquarters to the Vallco shopping center. A sweet book for all of us who wonder what life was like in the valley up until the 1950s.

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