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Artifact of the Month: 10 Rules, Sister Mary Corita Kent’s Serigraphs

Posted by on 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.

Sister Mary Corita Kent serigraphs, left-right, Bringing Bars of Silver, c. 1965 and Untitled, c. 1965

Sister Mary Corita Kent serigraphs, left-right, Bringing Bars of Silver, c. 1965 and Untitled, c. 1965

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.

10 Rules worth following.

10 Rules worth following.

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CSUMB Student Films: Exploring Fort Ord, Ecology and History

Posted by on April 24, 2014

CSUMB students have been exploring Fort Ord through films. Join us tonight in film screenings that take a closer look at the ecology and history behind Fort Ord.

The films will feature work by:

Lorraine Cardoza and Neal Allen: Restoration: The Watershed Institute of CSU Monterey Bay

Danika Cauthen-Wright and Sydney Thomas: Light Pollution and sense of place

Trinh Dinh and Nolan Farrel – Sudden Oak Death in Central California

Anthony Ertola: Water consumption on the golf courses of the former Fort Ord

Brett Granados: Landfill contamination on Fort Ord

Amy Ochoa: Domesticated Coyotes of Fort Ord

Efren Lopez: Fort Ord: Then and Now

Anthony Rodriguez – The plight of homeless veterans in the Fort Ord Community and polluted landscape

Elizabeth Schurig: Invasive species impact on Fort Ord’s maritime chaparral

Lucas O. Seastrom: Life in Fort Ord’s microclimates

Kyle Stueve: Nature’s reclamation of Fort Ord’s buildings


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Artifact of the Month: Soldiers in Santa Cruz, The Camera Shop Collection

Posted by on 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.

Freddy Alnas, 1944

Freddy Alnas, c. 1944

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.

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Stairway to Heaven

Posted by on March 28, 2014

Written by Sangye Hawke

In 1861, the residents of Santa Cruz witnessed a strange sight: It began with ethereal exotic music, firecrackers, and an oxen cart replete with silk costumed, weeping, people.  A wonderful roasting smell of curious food wafted through the town, gathering even more bystanders. The Chinese workers were having a parade.

The bystanders’ curiosity grew, creating a line behind the parade to follow it to find out where it would go. Once the procession climbed the hill near the Mission, folk understood that it was a funeral of a beloved Chinese community member, but they continued to be part of the cortege along the carriage road to Evergreen Cemetery. Perhaps some even recognized a few of the parade participants from businesses they patronized. Some knew them intimately as servants within the wealthy households of prominent citizens.chinese

A wonderful book by Local Historian Sandy Lydon called Chinese Gold painted a true picture of the Chinese contribution to the founding and building of Santa Cruz County and the Monterey Bay. Evergreen Cemetery featured prominently as their resting place, being the oldest Chinese cemetery in our county.

Once the funeral completed its journey up a winding pathway called the Dragon Path into Evergreen Cemetery,  the deceased was placed in the ground. A long wooden board resembling today’s dog eared fence slats, delicately adorned with Chinese calligraphy,  told the story of the person’s life and how he came to be in Santa Cruz. This board was placed at the grave’s head.  (you can view one on display in our History Gallery) Nearby an oven was constructed to burn away the last remnants of the person’s life:  his clothing, his few precious mementos, money, and last of all a large meal. He would need all of those on his journey to the next life.

Parts of the meal would be left out, perhaps because the spirit would remain near his bones until later, when the bone pickers came to remove them. Only then could the soul complete its return journey home to China.  If no bones were returned to China, the person could become a hungry ghost, yearning or ‘hungry’ for what the living experienced, causing pain and bad luck to the community as a reminder that they were still in need of care and attendance. They would not be satisfied until an offering of food, money, incense, and the sweeping  of their grave was done.

For the rest of Santa Cruz this was a peculiar show and something to entertain them. When the main funeral cortege had left, those remaining  non-Chinese spectators would often partake in the remnants of the meal. In a way, this living action personified the idea of hungry ghosts. Thefts of funeral food offerings continued into the 1920s.  In the meantime, four Chinatowns had been built (and burned down) within Santa Cruz, and the Chinese population continued to grow despite the negative feelings and laws that prohibited much of their cultural practices.

EvergreenMemorial2Today, generous contributions by George Ow and Tom Ralston have made the Chinese Gate a true place of remembrance and a symbol to soothe the hungry ghosts of this city’s past sufferings, not only by the Chinese but of other immigrants to this place, both past and present (check out more pictures of the gate here).  It sits prominently up the side of hill in an area called The Old Section, where immigrants from Europe and Japan also have been laid to rest. A set of rail tie and packed dirt steps have replaced the old “Dragon Path”, creating a stairway directly up to the Gate. Art historians believe its arch shape may have meant to represent a resting perch for birds. It was believed that birds flew close to heaven, and could take prayers upward. The gate symbolized the Gate to Heaven, where mortal man could speak with the birds, and make his prayers heard in heaven.

On April 5th, on the Chinese Festival  Day of  QingMing,  Evergreen Cemetery will celebrate and recognize this significant history. You can still walk the old cortege path. We can show you how. Then come and walk up the Stairway to Heaven.

Interested in the history of Bone Picking? Please join us for a special free Lecture by Sandy Lydon on April 3rd called: Empty Graves

Walk the old path to Evergreen.  Follow our Hungry Ghost Commemoration Parade on April 5th .

©Sangye Hawke 2014


Artifact of the Month: Everything Shut Up Tight, 1918 Flu Mask

Posted by on March 5, 2014

Flu mask from the 1918-1919 Flu Pandemic

Flu mask from the 1918-1919 Flu Pandemic

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.


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