John F. Parkinson
From Palo Alto Wiki
John F. Parkinson (1864-1956) was one of Palo Alto's most remarkable early civic leaders. Some called him "the father of Palo Alto" because he was a major force behind the establishment of many outstanding city services. Parkinson was a man of stature: both in size - he was 6 feet, 3 inches tall - and in business and community life in Palo Alto at the turn of the century.
Parkinson moved to Palo Alto from Iowa in 1892. He started a lumberyard upon his arrival (on the site of the former Hubbard and Johnson outlet). When the lumberyard went up in flames and everything was destroyed, Parkinson lost $60,000. Because he had no insurance, he was left with nothing. The disaster led him to begin anew in real estate, and he speculated in land in Ravenswood (now East Palo Alto).
 A Civic Leader
 As mayor
Parkinson also served on the Board of Trustees, and became the first active mayor in 1906 - or chairman of the trustees as the job was called at first - though two men preceded him nominally. He served in 1906.
As mayor, he was granted the first franchise for the streetcar line called the Toonerville Trolley, which ran down University Avenue. Injured in Palo Alto's first automobile accident in 1906, he got out of his sickbed to help organize the food drive for needy San Franciscans after the earthquake. He wasn't too ill to chastise local merchants for raising prices, and managed to keep a lid on price-gouging. Against great odds, he traveled east and persuaded the Carnegie Foundation to provide $10,000 for a city library.
 Other political pursuits
Parkinson served on the school board and was also the first postmaster, organizer of the Chamber of Commerce, master of ceremonies for the historical society and director of the first Bank of Palo Alto.
In 1909, he was the major opponent in a growing movement to change the city's form of government from the state general-law provisions it had operated under to its own charter. Supporters said charter status would give town government more power so it could be better managed and more responsive to citizen concerns. Parkinson argued it would lead to more bureaucracy and higher taxes.
Although he lost, Parkinson continued to be a political gadfly for many years. At one point, he ran for state senator, but lost by a few votes, according to his family. He nearly staged a remarkable City Council comeback at age 70.
 In the press
From 1904-1916, Parkison published a newspaper called The Citizen.
Parkinson was a highly opinionated individual whose strong political views were published in the Palo Alto Tribune, a weekly and sometimes daily paper which he published from 1905 to 1910 to promote his own interests.
Parkinson and his wife had five children and lived at 1101 University Ave. on a half-acre plot with plenty of room for animals.
His daughter, Sarah, and her youngest brother, Jack, used to ride their Shetland ponies to Castilleja School which accepted boy students then. She went through fifth grade, while Jack stayed on through eighth. Sarah attended Lytton Avenue School (where Lytton Gardens is today), then Channing Avenue School (where Channing House is now) and Palo Alto High School.
Sarah finished her education at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts, while brother Jack went on to Stanford. He later served a manager of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, carrying on his dad's tradition.
After being involved in a major car accident in 1906, Parkinson never got behind the wheel again, except once when sons Ben and Bob encouraged him to try once more, and at that point he had forgotten how to use the brakes. He did not try again.
J.F. Parkinson died in 1956.
In his autobiography, Parkinson admitted that he'd "made a fortune in Palo Alto and lost it in Palo Alto. I don't know a better place to do either."