January 17, 2005
Library's Regional History Project completes
series on agricultural history of Santa Cruz
By Scott Rappaport
The UCSC Library's Regional History Project has just published
seven oral histories to complete a series focusing on the ethnic
and agricultural history of Santa Cruz County.
All of the interviews were conducted in 1977 by oral historians
Randall Jarrell and Meri Knaster, and were edited by Irene Reti,
the current director of the Regional History Project. Reti noted
that the entire series consists of 18 oral histories that have
been published intermittently since the mid-1980s. A brief synopsis
of each newly published volume is listed below:
José Galvan Amaro: Mexican American Laborer, Watsonville,
This interview with José Galvan Amaro, a Mexican American
fieldworker, was conducted in Spanish at his home in Watsonville.
It focuses on Amaro's extensive experience as a laborer in California
from the 1920s to the 1970s. It has been published both as a
verbatim transcript in Spanish and in English translation.
Frank Barba: Filipino Labor Contractor, Watsonville, California,
Frank Barba's narrative is a significant contribution to the
history of agriculture and to the history of Filipino immigration
in Santa Cruz County. Born in 1898 in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte,
on the largest of the Philippine islands, he came to Watsonville
in 1927 to take over the management of a Filipino labor camp
that had already been established by his aunt. He worked as
a labor contractor from 1927, at first independently, and then
for the Birbeck Company of Aromas, which grew lettuce, string
beans, broccoli, and sugar beets. At the time of this interview
in 1977, Barba was 78 years old and semiretired, supervising
schoolchildren in the fields for various growers in the area.
Porter Chaffee: Labor Organizer and Activist, 1900-1977
Porter Chaffee's oral history offers valuable primary source
documentation on the labor struggles of the 1930s, particularly
from the point of view of a Communist labor activist and WPA
writer. He wrote for the leftist New Masses magazine
and composed an unpublished memoir entitled "The Journal
of a Hungry Man," which is on deposit together with his
other papers at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Chaffee
founded a branch of the Communist Party in Santa Cruz in 1929.
He shares his recollections of some of the socialists in Santa
Cruz County, many of whom were of German heritage. He recalls
organizing a hunger march up Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz that
went past the Santa Cruz County Court House, and also describes
fascist reprisals against Santa Cruz socialists.
During the 1930s, Chaffee forged friendships with radical luminaries
such as the muckraking journalist and editor Lincoln Steffens
and the writer Kenneth Rexroth. He also became an organizer
for the Cannery and Agricultural Workers Industrial Union, which
organized several successful strikes. Chaffee's oral history
is a significant contribution to the historical record on this
tumultuous chapter of California labor history.
Apolonia Dangzalan: Filipina Businesswoman, Watsonville,
This oral history provides rare primary documentation of the
history of Filipino immigration in California from a female
perspective. Dangzalan was born in February 1896 on the largest
of the Philippine islands. In 1927, she joined her nephew in
Watsonville and opened a boarding house for Filipino agricultural
workers on Bridge Street, where she became known as "Mama"
Dangzalan. She also opened another boarding house on Salinas
Road in 1930. Dangzalan served as a labor contractor, hiring
men to work in the Gary Company's fields and was one of very
few women engaged in labor contracting. She also opened a liquor
store, dance club, and pool hall on Main Street in Watsonville
in 1936. During World War II, she owned a house of prostitution
on Union Street in Watsonville. In 1950, Dangzalan went into
business for herself as a farmer, primarily growing strawberries.
She died in 1992, at the age of 96.
John Melendy: Santa Cruz County Farm Advisor, 1947-1976
Melendy served as a Santa Cruz County farm advisor with the
Agricultural Extension Service for 30 years, including 10 as
county director of the Agricultural Extension Service. He discusses
changes in agriculture in Santa Cruz County from the 1940s through
the 1970s--how rising land prices affected the types of crops
grown, the effects of mechanization, farm size, pest control,
and controversies over pesticide use that were only beginning
to come to light at that time. A substantial portion of the
interview is devoted to a detailed discussion of the rise and
fall of the poultry industry in the Live Oak area.
In addition to providing a history of agriculture in Santa
Cruz County, Melendy's narrative contributes to the institutional
history of Agricultural Extension Service itself, particularly
the position of farm advisor. While Melendy's oral history is
useful for its detailed descriptions of the methods and practices
of farming in the mid-20th century on the Central Coast of California,
it also documents the tremendous changes that swept Santa Cruz
County from 1946 to 1976 as it transitioned from a largely rural
to the urban and suburban landscape that it is today.
Mary Ann Berina Radovich: Croatian Apple Farmer, Watsonville,
This oral history focuses on Radovich's extensive experience
as an apple farmer in Watsonville from the 1930s to the 1970s.
It is also a significant contribution to the ethnic history
of the Croatian community in the Pajaro Valley of California.
Radovich owned Berina Orchards from the 1940s through the time
of this interview in 1977. Radovich discusses her family's history
and emigration to the United States. She describes the early
apple industry in Watsonville, and the changes that took place
over the years in terms of labor, mechanization, irrigation,
crop varieties, pest control, harvesting, and land use. Her
detailed and reflective narration makes this oral history a
singular contribution to the agricultural history of central
Alvin Richardson: Family Farming, Watsonville, California,
Alvin C. Richardson was born on Beach Road in Watsonville in
1908. His grandfather had arrived in the Pajaro Valley in 1858,
where he began the family farm on Beach Road. Richardson grew
up in Watsonville and spent his entire life in the Pajaro Valley.
At the time of this interview in 1977, he had lived at his farm
on Buena Vista Drive since 1934. Except for a brief stint at
Permanente in Moss Landing during World War II, Richardson completely
devoted himself to farming and primarily raised bush berries.
Richardson discusses in detail the varieties of berries grown
throughout the years, the labor and capital requirements of
farming, and the challenges of marketing and distribution.
Photocopies of all 18 volumes can be ordered from the Regional
History Project at (831) 459-2847 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
They are also available for viewing at McHenry Librarys
Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz, and at Bancroft Library, UC
Berkeley, or can be checked out from McHenry Library. In addition,
the complete text of the oral histories can be viewed at the Regional
History Project web
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