A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


During the Gold Rush, Canyon had more residents than Oakland, but today few people know that this tiny village nestled in the East Bay hills even exists. The “Deep in Canyon” mini-series will explore the history of what author John van der Zee called “the last rustic community in metropolitan America.” This episode covers Canyon’s many transformations between the 1840s and the early 1960s – from its rise as a Wild West logging town to the dawn of the “hippie invasion,” with many colorful detours along the way. Featuring interviews with: Vicki Saputo, Esperanza Pratt Surls and Karen Pickett.

Hotel in Canyon, circa 1890s (Photo courtesy of Canyon Elementary School)
John McCosker Sr.’s parents, Patrick and Catherine, were Irish immigrants who began homesteading in what is now Canyon during the 1860s (Photo courtesy of Vicki Saputo)
John and Grace, the third generation of McCoskers in Canyon (Photo courtesy of Vicki Saputo)
“My dad used to joke and say ‘I was president, vice president and treasurer of my class’ because he was the only one in his class at Canyon School.” -Vicki Saputo
Part of the McCosker family’s property is now owned by East Bay Regional Park District. (Photo: Liam O’Donoghue)
The Canyon School celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. Alfred and John McCosker were among the school’s first students. Before it opened, McCosker children had to ride horses over the hills to attend school in Oakland. (Photo: Elizabeth Sy)
During the early 20th century, real estate developers planned to turn Canyon into a bedroom community, like the kind of suburban enclave that exist all over the Bay Area these days. You can still see evidence of this timeline in the residential ruins scattered amongst Canyon’s brushy hillsides. Ghosts of a future that never happened. (Photo: Liam O’Donoghue)
Longtime Canyon resident Karen Pickett: “When you look at the maps of what was planned, it’s absolutely horrifying.” (Maps courtesy of Janet McEwen)
Behind the scenes of the podcast: Here I am recording Esperanza Pratt Surls as she reads from her book “Canyon: Glimpses of a Place,” which she co-edited with Eric Peterson. The sub-title of this episode – “paradise with a dash of chaos” – is a quote from this book, which was created to raise money for Canyon School. (Photo: Elizabeth Sy)

If you enjoy the episode, please support East Bay Yesterday: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

Deep in Canyon, part 1

“Paradise with a dash of chaos”
Recent Episodes