Blog posts by Marla
Posted June 17, 2014
History Journal #7 editor Lisa Robinson discusses the new MAH publication and why it’s a great read.
Redwood Logging and Conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains – A Split History
This month, the long awaited Santa Cruz County History Journal #7 was released. Three years ago this journal was initiated by historian Stanley D. Stevens, then chair of the MAH publications Committee, because there was no single, comprehensive, book on the history of the lumber industry in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As the contents for the journal evolved it was clear that there were many angles to this story, all intricately entwined, and all needing to be told. Three years later this journal, with 21 authors, 34 articles, and an amazing 128 illustrations, delivers to the reader:
- Local ethnographic history, cultural history, art history, and natural history. After all that is what we are about- right?
- Contested history, including all the citations so you can dive deeper in to the material and judge for yourself.
- Alternate lifestyles. This is Santa Cruz!
- The growth of the preservation movement, which began much earlier than you might imagine, and the untold important roles played by Santa Cruzians in the formation of California’s first Redwood State Park.
- The foresight and leadership of the lumber industry in Santa Cruz County and their pioneering methods.
- Cutting edge research. Pardon the pun.
- Oh and yes, a sprinkling of fun, tragedy, and romance.
I visited Big Basin Redwoods State Park this week and took this photograph. It depicts the loggers’ spring board holes that were cut into the truck using an auger to create a platform on which the choppers and fallers stood in order to fell the giant old-growth tree. This remnant stump isn’t in some remote part of the park, but adjacent to a picnic area not too far from the park headquarters. But what say you – “I thought Big Basin was saved from the loggers.” Ah! Another great reason to read the journal.
Posted June 10, 2014
A few weeks ago, Nina brought in to work a lovely box packed with donuts. She bought them at Ferrell’s on Mission Street and wondered who else went there for donuts. “Well, it used to be a local hangout,” I said. “In high school we would go there after prom.” Nina wondered if that was still a rite of passage, so I decided to do a little research.
My niece, Kat went to the prom last month. On the big day, I asked her if she was thinking of going to Ferrell’s afterwards. Was that still the thing to do? Kat said she thought maybe it was, but she was going somewhere else.
While shopping for her dress, Kat texted me images of her options. I don’t think we have any prom dresses in the MAH collection, but we have Eva Whinery’s dress when she graduated from Santa Cruz High in 1896. It is a lovely confection of cream satin and lace, with its wonderful long sash still intact.
The MAH also has a photograph of Eva posing in her dress, holding her diploma. It’s curious to note that in the photo Eva’s dress has larger, leg-o-mutton sleeves (yes, that’s a fashion term), a style quite popular in late Victorian fashion.
The dress we now have has been altered. Eva probably wanted to get some extra mileage out of the dress and had it updated to go with the times. I think my niece might make some changes to her prom dress too. Chop off a few inches, and its life could extend in the form of a snappy cocktail dress (or so her mom hopes).
Another thing about Eva Whinery: she and her parents are buried at Evergreen Cemetery near Harvey West Park. Evergreen was also a local high school hangout back in the day (but I’m not going to get into that now).
Back to the donuts: I think Farrell’s is still going strong even if it’s no longer a go-to post prom tradition. It seems fairly busy when I drive by and its Yelp reports are pretty favorable. There’s something about how they fry those donuts just right that keeps their customers coming back.
My niece graduates from Santa Cruz High this week, the same school Eva Whinery received her big, rolled up diploma so many years ago. Times have changed, hangouts shift, but every once in awhile it’s okay to take a picture in a fancy dress.
Posted May 5, 2014
While getting to know artist Nikki McClure better (her incredible work is featured in the MAH’s current exhibition), we discovered that Nikki has Sister Mary Corita Kent’s “Rules” posted in her studio for inspiration. The name rang a bell. Deep in the flat files of the MAH collection, we have two prints by Sister Mary Corita; never forgotten, but never shown before.
Mary Corita Kent (1918-1986) was an artist and educator committed to social justice and universal compassion. She was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Following her high school graduation, she joined the Roman Catholic order of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles.
Sister Mary Corita taught at the Immaculate Heart College in L.A. and was the chair of its art department. It was there that she created her 10 rules for the art department—and by which to live. Kent left the convent in 1968, and devoted the rest of her life to making art.
Most of Sister Mary Corita’s work is created using silkscreen and serigraphic techniques (like the works in the MAH’s collection). Her message of love and peace resonated with the social challenges of the 1960s-1970s, and continue to inspire artists like Nikki McClure today.
We have the 2 serigraphs by Sister Mary Corita on display. I see many MAH visitors stop and admire the works of bold colors. I saw a few people take a photo of Sister Mary’s 10 rules. One MAH collaborator, Peter McGettigan, came to me last month and said, “I haven’t thought about Sister Mary Corita in a long time. But this art brought back a lot of memories.”
Peter explained that his sister attended Immaculate Heart College. An all-girl school, a teen aged Peter occasionally “guest starred” in many of the college’s original theatrical productions. He knew Sister Mary pretty well. This was before Peter went on to work as an assistant and voice coach for the T.V. show “Gilligan’s Island.” He ran lines with Mrs. Howell (I was impressed by this, but that’s a whole different story).
My favorite rule of Sister Mary Corita’s is #9: “Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.” Amen.
Posted April 2, 2014
Every Thursday, two local historians join me in the MAH Archives to index a collection of photographic prints and negatives from the 1940s-1960s. Stanley D. Stevens and Barbara Keeney Clark are meticulous volunteers, carefully identifying and labeling each image. I love watching them work together as they decipher handwriting, research the spelling of a last name, and wonder about the people who sat for their portraits.
Some of these soldiers are from Santa Cruz County. Others might have been visitors to the area, stopping by the Camera Shop to sit for a portrait before shipping out to war. We do know that Freddy Alnas is the Filipino soldier wearing the U.S. Army uniform with the Sun Setters VII patch. Writer and historian Geoffrey Dunn wrote about Freddy in his book, Santa Cruz Is in The Heart. Geoffrey told me that Freddy kept a copy of this portrait at his bedside throughout his life.
The Camera Shop was located at 119 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz and owned by Violet “Vi” Park in the 1940s. Her son John took over the business in the 1950s and 1960s. The prints and negatives in the MAH’s Camera Shop Collection date from the mid 1940s-1960s.
Posted March 5, 2014
At the start of fall when everyone was getting their cold and flu shots I thought, “Wow, I’ve been lucky; I haven’t been sick in years. I guess I don’t have to worry.” Well of course, I’ve had a cold for most of the winter. It’s a tiny, irritating one that comes and goes, is bothersome enough to keep me up coughing at night, but not serious enough to turn into anything else (yet).
I recently looked through the MAH’s collection of medical artifacts (Dr. H.H. Clark’s wooden stethoscope, Dr. Benjamin Knight’s medical’s bag) and I zoomed in on an archival envelope labeled “mask from 1918 flu epidemic.” The small artifact–a thin scrap of gauze–is a heavy reminder of a time when the Spanish Influenza plagued this County.
The 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people worldwide and killed mostly young, healthy adults (ages 20-40 was the target group). Hundreds of residents in Santa Cruz County died from the flu. According to historian Sandy Lydon, Santa Cruz’s first victim was 31 year old Loula Jones, who died in her sister’s home on Pacheco Street on October 15, 1918.
Soon after the first Santa Cruz County death, flu masks were mandatory wear in the area; if you look at photographs taken at this time, you can see many citizens following the rules and wearing their mask. Did anyone decide to chance it and go without their masks? Well, apparently they did.
According to Lydon’s research, two Santa Cruz women wore their masks on their arms since the law didn’t explicitly say it had to be worn on the face (there’s always a loophole—and masks certainly are a fashion risk. But these were scary times). Alas the City Council changed the law, making it mandatory to wear the flu masks on your faces (sorry ladies).
Looking at this artifact today, I wonder how effective this light strip of fabric was as protection against the flu. In a world before the invention of hand sanitizers and flu shots, I suppose you had to do what you had to do.
The local epidemic peaked in October 1918 and lasted until February 1919. I recently searched the Lund Family diaries (a fabulous donation to the MAH from last year) for more clues about how wide-spread the flu was. Mary Ann True, who lived on Ocean View Drive, mentioned the flu scare in one of her daily posts. “There are 54 cases of flu in town,” she wrote on December 6, 1918. “Everything shut up tight.” This may allude to the stores, movie theatres, restaurants, and bars that were closed. Santa Cruz must have seemed like a ghost town as people hunkered down in their homes to tend to afflicted loved ones, hoping that they could escape this malady.
Mrs. True ends her entry with her requisite “All well,” but of course it really wasn’t the case for everyone. Stay healthy, Santa Cruz.