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Harry Ryan and the Call of the Wild Ranch by Jan Villemaire

Anyone traveling on Old Santa Cruz Highway in recent times has probably seen the sign Call of the Wild Road and wondered how the name came about. The story starts with the friendship of Harry Ryan and Jack London that began at the turn of the 20th century when they were in their 20’s. Around 1901-1903 they began as labor organizers in downtown San Jose working out of Harry’s office that later became the San Jose Labor Temple. Harry and Jack could often be found speaking at 1st and Santa Clara Streets about the labor movement, Socialism, Prohibition, Chinese Exclusion, and other radical topics of the time. Harry bragged they were arrested twenty two times, but they were never convicted. During this time Jack wrote the last portion of his classic The Call of the Wild and parts of The Sea Wolf in Harry’s office.

In 1906 Harry Ryan purchased a 140 acre ranch about six miles south of Los Gatos in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1908 Jack London granted to Harry, in memory of their old friendship, the right to use his copyright name “The Call of the Wild” for his mountain ranch and sawmill. In the years after he purchased the land, Harry developed a “summer resort” selling off lots for building cabins near a hot mineral springs on the lower part of the property. In 1912 a “Call of the Wild” flagstop shelter was built on the Southern Pacific Railroad about half a mile below, so people could walk up to the resort. Harry built a ranch house near the top of his property in 1926, and it is still there as a private residence.

Harry Ryan died in July 1958 at age 82. All religious pictures were turned to the wall at his request at the Los Gatos funeral home. True to his nature to the end, he delivered his own recorded funeral address with music including “Home on the Range”. 

 

Harry Ryan’s Call of the Wild Ranch was subdivided in 1960 into a number of parcels for homes on what is now Call of the Wild Road. A few cabins that survived were remodeled into houses. The residents in the area today enjoy the unique name and history of their road.

Sources:

1.San Jose Mercury News July 7,8,9, 1958-Harry Ryan’s death

2.San Jose Mercury News January 16, 1976-Colorful Characters in Area Mountains

3.The Historical Marker Database-HMdb.org-San Jose Labor Temple

4.Los Gatos Weekly November 11, 2009 story from Los Gatos Library and History Museum-historylosgatos.com-Photo/story of Call of the Wild flagstop

5.Mountain Network News May/June 1992-The Call of the Wild by Joan Barriga

6.Book M, Page 100, Santa Clara County records-Jack London granted Harry Ryan right to use copyright name Call of the Wild for his ranch.

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