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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Regional History Project Oral Histories

There are 211 publications in this collection, published between 1963 and 2021.
Agricultural History (21)

Helen Hosmer: A Radical Critic of California Agribusiness in the 1930s

Helen Hosmer was a writer, activist, and historian of California agribusiness. Her knowledge of California's agriculture dated back to the 1930s when, as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, she worked at the Poultry Division, College of Agriculture. Later she worked for the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which established camps for migrant workers in California. During this period Hosmer came to know FSA photographer Dorothea Lange, agricultural economist Paul S. Taylor, and many important figures in the labor movement in San Francisco. Because of her conviction that labor organizing was essential among agricultural workers, Hosmer resigned her government position at Farm Security in 1935 in order to have the freedom to work on behalf of her political beliefs. She co-founded the Simon J. Lubin Society, an organization that promoted unity between family farmers and migrant labor and exposed the anti-progressive political activities of California agribusiness. From 1935 to 1941 she published and edited the Lubin Society's "Rural Observer". The Society also issued special publications, such as Who Are the Associated Farmers? (reproduced in this volume) and John Steinbeck's Their Blood is Strong.

Hosmer's memoirs also discuss California intellectual, cultural, and political life in the 1920s, and 1930s, red-baiting, the San Francisco General Strike and the Criminal Syndicalism trial, and the La Follette Civil Liberties Committee. After World War II, Hosmer temporarily put aside her political activism and spent over 25 years living in Mill Valley as a housewife, mother, pianist, and gardener. In the early 1960s she resumed her research and writing. She again turned her attention to California agriculture, writing articles for American West magazine, and serving as director for the research committee for the California Farm Reporter.

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Strawberry Growing in the Pajaro Valley

Mr. Shikuma is a prominent Nisei strawberry grower in the Pajaro Valley. In this volume he describes family life in the Japanese-American community in the Pajaro Valley during the first decades of the twentieth century. He conveys the texture of everyday family life, recalling details of housing, food preparation, education, religion, and his childhood responsibilities in a farming family.

The second part of the volume describes the growth and development of strawberries as an important specialty crop in Pajaro Valley agriculture. Mr. Shikuma describes strawberry cultivation as it was carried out during the 1920s and 1930s. He traces his father's advancement from farm laborer to sharecropper to independent grower and his contributions to the founding of Naturipe Berry Growers, one of the leading marketing firms in the strawberry industry.

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Apolonia Dangzalan: Filipina Businesswoman, Watsonville, California

Apolonia Dangzalan, a Filipino resident of Watsonville, California, was interviewed on April 27, 1977 by Meri Knaster, an editor at the Regional History Project, as part of a series of oral histories documenting local agricultural and ethnic history. Dangzalan was born in February 1896 in San Nicolas, Ilocos Sur, northwest of Manila, on the largest of the Philippine islands. Her family owned some land on which rice and corn was cultivated by sharecroppers. Her uncle was the president of San Nicholas. Dangzalan attended school for five years but was unable to continue due to illness. Her father died when she was five years old and her mother died when she was seventeen. In 1923, at age 27, she married. A year later she and her husband immigrated to Oahu, Hawaii. Her husband worked in the sugar cane fields and Dangzalan began a small business in her house sewing clothes for the Filipino community. This was the first of many small businesses she would run throughout her long life. In 1925 she and her husband moved to San Francisco, and then to Stockton, California, where her husband worked as a laborer in the asparagus fields.

Dissatisfied with her marriage, in 1926 Dangzalan divorced her husband and moved to Marysville, California, where she bought and managed a pool hall and restaurant frequented by Filipinos, Mexicans and Anglo Americans. Although she enjoyed this work, business was not too good. She heard that Watsonville and Salinas were much better places to be in business because they attracted a large Filipino community that came to work in the fruit orchards. So after five months in Marysville, Dangzalan joined her nephew, Frank Barba, in Watsonville, California. (Frank Barba is also the subject of an oral history published by the Regional History Project.) Dangzalan opened a boarding house for Filipino agricultural workers on Bridge Street in Watsonville, California, where she became known as "Mama" Dangzalan. After a few years, her nephew, Frank Barba, took over the Watsonville boarding house and Dangzalan opened another boarding house on Salinas Road in 1930. Most of the workers she housed were working for the Gary Company, and Dangzalan also served as a labor contractor, hiring men to work in the company's fields. Dangzalan was one of very few women engaged in labor contracting.

Dangzalan engaged in diverse business activities besides labor contracting. She also opened a liquor store, dancing 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. She hired an American woman to manage it for her.

In 1950 Dangzalan stopped working as a labor contractor and went into business for herself as a farmer, primarily growing strawberries. After four years of this she was tired. In 1952 Dangzalan was operated on for kidney cancer. She withdrew from all of her businesses except for the International Groceries and Liquors store on lower Main Street, which she was still running at the time of this oral history interview in 1977. At age 81 Dangzalan was still working in the liquor store until 2:30 in the morning. In her field notes, interviewer Meri Knaster described Dangzalan as "a very spry and active eighty-one year old". Dangzalan continued to operate the liquor store until 1982. She died in 1992, at the age of 96.

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Cultivating A Movement (57)

Betty Van Dyke: The Van Dyke Ranch

Born in 1932 to Croatian American farmers in the Santa Clara Valley town of Cupertino, Betty Van Dyke saw her fertile home ground transformed, in a few decades, from seemingly endless orchards to unrelenting urban sprawl. As the energetic matriarch of a popular family-run fruit-growing business, she has since participated in the region’s organic agricultural renaissance, overseeing one of the first California operations to grow and dry fruit organically (becoming certified in 1986), and playing an active role in the early days of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). And as a member of one of the region’s noted surfing families, she built this thriving business while sustaining her love affair with Pacific ocean waves.

Van Dyke Ranch sits at the base of the Gavilan Mountains in Gilroy, Santa Clara County, on a southern exposure perfectly suited for growing sweet, flavorful Blenheim apricots and Bing cherries. The ranch produces fresh fruit in season and dried apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, and persimmons throughout the year. (A rarer delicacy available to a few farmers’-market patrons are home-grown capers, the pickled flower buds of plants propagated from a thirty-year-old bush planted by Betty’s mother.) Betty Van Dyke and her three sons took over from her father in the mid-1970s. While son Peter and various grandchildren now carry most of the day-to-day responsibility for the ranch, Betty still holds down two weekly farmers’-market booths, and commutes frequently to Gilroy from her Santa Cruz home to help with ranch work during busy seasons.

Sarah Rabkin interviewed Betty Van Dyke at Rabkin’s Soquel home on April 16, 2008. A lively storyteller with an easy smile, Van Dyke shared memories of picking apricots on her grandfather’s farm as a small child, working and playing alongside migrant dust-bowl refugees from Oklahoma and Arkansas, discovering surfing as a college student in the 1950s, and running an evolving Van Dyke Ranch.

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Tim Galarneau: Activist and Researcher

In its March/April 2009 issue, Mother Jones magazine called Tim Galarneau “the Alice Waters of a burgeoning movement of campus foodies.” Galarneau is a co-founder of the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign promoting sustainable food sourcing in college dining halls. In his day job with UCSC’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), he coordinates the Center’s Farm to College project. Since his undergraduate days at UCSC, Galarneau has helped spearhead numerous initiatives to transform the way the nation’s schools, hospitals and other institutions navigate the high-volume acquisition and preparation of food.

Galarneau and others brought about one such transformation—now a model for other institutions—on their own home ground. Students at UC Santa Cruz look out from their hillside campus over rich agricultural lands, including the 25-acre CASFS farm in their own backyard; yet until 2005, they had little access to locally grown organic food. Now, thanks to several years of collaborative effort by students, staff, and farmers, all of the UCSC dining halls daily serve certified organic produce; they also provide coffee purchased directly from farming communities that have personal relationships with UCSC students and staff, thanks to the UCSC-based Community Agroecology Network (CAN). The campus contracts for organic produce with a consortium of local farmers; carefully developed purchasing guidelines not only prioritize the direct acquisition of local, organic food, but also emphasize equitable labor relationships, environmentally friendly farming practices, humane animal husbandry, and a university food service that is as much about education as about feeding a hungry campus population.

Sarah Rabkin interviewed Tim Galarneau on March 19, 2008, in his office at UCSC’s Oakes College. He described in detail the path that led him into farm-to-institution research and advocacy; he discussed the effort to transform food sourcing at UCSC and elsewhere, the new tools and techniques for social organizing that he and others have successfully employed in service of a food revolution, and his larger vision for the future of food.

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Amy Katzenstein-Escobar: Life Lab Teacher

Amy Katzenstein-Escobar was the first pilot teacher for the Life Lab Science Program. She was born in 1956 in New Jersey, and grew up in Southern California. She came to UC Santa Cruz in the mid-1970s and entered the community studies major. She received a Ford Foundation education project grant to teach migrant children from Watsonville, became a teacher, and then began teaching at Salsipuedes School, where she participated in a pilot project for Life Lab in 1980. She discusses her Life Lab work in this oral history, conducted by Ellen Farmer on July 27, 2007, in an office on the UC Santa Cruz campus.

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Cultural History (7)

The Cowell Press and Its Legacy: 1973-2004

his oral history, conducted and edited by book arts scholar and UCSC alumnus Gregory Graalfs, focuses on the history and impact of the Cowell Press at UCSC's Cowell College. It features interviews with fine printers Jack Stauffacher and George Kane, who taught at the Press, as well as with former students Aaron Johnson, Peggy Gotthold, Felicia Rice, and Tom Killion, who have gone on to have illustrious careers in the book arts. The Cowell Press shaped the careers and creative lives of many UCSC students in its thirty-year history.

Far more than a letterpress print shop where students could make pretty books, the Press was a laboratory to explore the history of tangible words — whether printed, cut in stone, or calligraphed — and to address the interrelationship of word and image. In addition, the influence of twentieth-century literature and visual art on typography was considered, as well as how typography was concerned with design principles that can be applied to film, architecture, and information design. The study of bookmaking — of how thoughts and knowledge are communicated through the vital medium of a book — fit well within the parameters of the unique and experimental quality of the UC Santa Cruz campus envisioned by founders Clark Kerr and Dean McHenry.

  • 4 supplemental audio files

Alta and the History of Shameless Hussy Press, 1969-1989

Founded in 1969 during the counterculture of the late 1960s in Berkeley and the early second wave of feminism, Shameless Hussy Press was the first feminist press in the United States. One of the most important historical contributions of Shameless Hussy Press was the first publication of books by four women who later became prominent feminist writers: Pat Parker, Mitsuye Yamada, Ntozake Shange, and Susan Griffin. Alta's recollections discuss these writers, and other Shameless Hussy titles, as well as the cultural and political milieu in which she was working. In this oral history Alta also discusses her growth as a writer.

Shameless Hussy Press is one of three presses archived in the Special Collections department of UC Santa Cruz's University Library, as part of the UC/Stanford US History and Women's Studies Consortium California Feminist Presses Project. The other two are Papier-Mache Press and HerBooks Feminist Press. The project is designed to preserve the output as well as the history of feminist presses in California.

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Irene Reti and HerBooks Feminist Press

This volume, Irene Reti and HerBooks Feminist Press, is one of a trio of oral histories published by the Regional History Project documenting the history and archives of second-wave feminist presses on deposit in the University Library's Special Collections. They include Alta's history of Shameless Hussy Press and Sandra Kay Martz's, of Papier-Mache Press. The archives are part of the University of California/Stanford University History and Women's Studies Consortium California Feminist Presses Project whose mission is the preservation and documentation of feminist presses.

Prior to her appointment at the Regional History Project, interviewee Irene Reti founded HerBooks in 1984. So she wears two hats in this project: she conducted the interviews with Alta and Martz; and was then interviewed herself as the founder of HerBooks, whose archive she donated to the University Library. HerBooks is a small, all-volunteer press, running on low overhead and publishing pioneering radical feminist titles. HerBooks blossomed within the milieu of feminism and lesbian literary culture and has survived with the support network of feminist presses, independent bookstores, and alternative book distribution. This volume consists of two interviews: one, by former UCSC student Martha Vickers, conducted in 1991, and the second, by Jacquelyn Marie, UCSC Reference/Women's Studies Librarian Emerita, who interviewed Reti in April 2001. As director of the Project, I edited the volume. Marie wrote me the following, describing her involvement in this project:

As the Women's Studies librarian at UCSC, I initiated the California Feminist Presses Project with a colleague from UC Berkeley, as a special project within our UC/Stanford Consortium of History/Women's Studies librarians. Each campus collected the archives, including two copies of publications from all the California feminist presses. UCSC was committed to Shameless Hussy Press of Oakland, California, Papier-Mache Press from Watsonville, and HerBooks from Santa Cruz. All three publishers were interviewed. I have worked and consulted with Irene Reti through the years on writing and publishing, speaking on panels, producing bibliographies, designing posters and organizing exhibits. As a member of the feminist publishing/writing community since the 1970s, I have been particularly interested in a long-running, small press such as HerBooks. This press is especially important because of its lesbian/feminist stance. Irene has not hesitated to publish unknown lesbian writers who have highlighted a panoply of neglected and controversial issues. I was very excited to be able to interview her about her evolution as a publisher and writer.

Reti graduated from UCSC in 1982 and founded HerBooks in 1984. Her path to publishing evolved quite organically as she knitted together her deep commitment to literature, her coming out as a lesbian, and her identity as a Jewish feminist. After she graduated from UCSC she held a series of nondescript jobs, one of which led her to learning typography and the mechanics of book publishing. This gave her a strong technical base as she launched HerBooks. She then became involved in the Santa Cruz literary scene and participated in several local writing groups. As she says in her oral history: "[At the time] there were a couple of literary magazines . . . I watched this process and thought . . . wait a second, I can do this! . . . the process [of publishing a book] didn't seem entirely mysterious to me anymore." She then published her first lesbian anthology and began her venture in what she describes as 'break-even publishing."

In her narrative, Reti discusses the network of feminist publishers and writers with whom she has been involved, the genesis of the titles she has published over the years, her intuitive philosophy of why she publishes what she does, and her overview of the economics of small press publishing during the last two decades. She also gives an intimate overview of the singular literary community which has been thriving in Santa Cruz since the 1960s.

HerBooks publications have included an eclectic variety of subjects ranging from serious feminist, lesbian political and cultural volumes (Childless by Choice: A Feminist Anthology (1992), Remember the Fire: Lesbian Sadomasochism in a Post-Nazi Holocaust World (1986), Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties (1993), Carolyn Gage's The Second Coming of Joan of Arc and Other Plays (1994), A Transported Life: Memories of Kindertransport, the Oral History of Thea Feliks Eden (1995)) to more whimsical books such as Garden Variety Dykes: Lesbian Traditions in Gardening (1993) and Cats (and their Dykes) (1991).

The HerBooks listing reflects the zeitgeist of radical feminist cultural and political concerns when these issues came to the forefront. The latest HerBooks publication as of this writing is Reti's The Keeper of Memory: A Memoir, a contemporary American bildungsroman which weaves together personal recollection, family history, the assimilationist impulses of her Holocaust refugee parents, and the author's discovery and reclamation of her Jewish identity.

The HerBooks archive is at Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz library. A finding aid to the collection is available through the Online Archive of California.

  • 13 supplemental PDFs
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Institutional History of UCSC (75)

Leo F. Laporte: Professor of Earth Sciences, Recollections of UCSC, 1971-1996

Randall Jarrell conducted an oral history with Leo Laporte on August 15, 1994, as a part of the Project's interviews with retiring senior faculty. Laporte served as department chairman of Earth Sciences from 1972 to 1975, and dean as the Natural Sciences Division from 1975-1976. In 1980 he received the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award. In his narration, Laporte discusses the building of the earth sciences department at UC Santa Cruz, how and why certain specialties were emphasized, and how the faculty was recruited over the years. His commentary also includes this thoughts on achieving diversity in the faculty, his thoughts on diversity among the student body, and the increasing prominence of women in the geological sciences. Laporte's volume also includes his reflections on teaching, his approach to working with graduate students, and his assessment of UCSC as a "hybrid institution."

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From the Mysteries of the Universe to the Mysteries of the Univers-ity: An Oral History with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal

George R. Blumenthal arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 1972 as a young faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics. Thirty-five years later, on September 19, 2007, he became UCSC’s tenth chancellor, after serving as acting chancellor for fourteen months. Blumenthal dedicated thirteen years of his life to being chancellor of UC Santa Cruz. This oral history was transcribed from forty interviews recorded between June 2018 and July 2019 and encompasses Chancellor Blumenthal’s long and distinguished career at UC Santa Cruz and with the University of California system. Long before he became chancellor, Blumenthal served the campus in diverse capacities; he was the faculty representative to the UC Regents (2003-05); chaired the UC Santa Cruz division of the Academic Senate (2001-03); and served as chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department twice. But not only does this oral history cover almost fifty years of UCSC’s history—from the early years of Oakes College under Provost J. Herman Blake, to the impacts of the defunding of public higher education in more recent years—it is also infused with Blumenthal’s insider’s viewpoint on the University of California system that he gained as vice-chair of the UC Academic Senate (2003-2004); chair of UC Academic Senate (2004-05); and experience serving on many other UC-wide committees and endeavors. In 2010, Blumenthal received the Oliver Johnson Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Academic Senate, the top UC honor for service at both the systemwide and campus levels. This volume is thus both an oral history of UC Santa Cruz and of the University of California system as a whole and is an invaluable primary resource for those seeking to understand the history of both this unique campus in the redwoods and the intricate political history of the University of California system.

Robert L. Sinsheimer: The University of California, Santa Cruz During a Critical Decade, 1977-1987

Randall Jarrell, documentary historian and head of the Regional History Project, conducted seven hours of taped interviews with Sinsheimer, UCSCs fourth chancellor during 1990-91, as part of the Project's University History series.

Sinsheimer was appointed chancellor by UC President David Saxon in June, 1977. Formerly chairman of the division of biology at the California Institute of Technology where his work as a molecular biologist had earned him a distinguished international reputation. When approached with an invitation to consider heading UCSC he had come to the end of a long period of research and was receptive to a new challenge. His pre-eminent knowledge of the social implications and potential hazards of recombinant DNA technology and cloning methods in biology had deepened his concern about the necessity of promoting scientific literacy among non-scientists. Thus the UCSC chancellorship appealed to him since as a public institution it would give him a forum in which he could address these concerns.

Sinsheimer was UCSC's first chancellor from outside the UC system. His predecessors included founding Chancellor Dean E. McHenry who had presided over the planning and building of the innovative campus from 1961 until his retirement in June, 1974. McHenry was succeeded by Mark Christensen, a professor of geology from UC Berkeley, whose brief tenure was concluded by his resignation in January 1976, after only a year and a half as chancellor. Angus Taylor, a veteran UC administrator, was appointed Chancellor in February 1976, and during his tenure stabilized the fledgling campus while a permanent chancellor was selected.

Sinsheimer arrived to find a campus in need of direction with serious systemic problems. As an outsider he saw UCSC's organization and administration undermining its relationship with the larger UC system, of which it was a small and to some, rather insignificant member.

UCSC's promising academic reputation and innovative early identity had significantly deteriorated by the time Sinsheimer arrived. The outside world (as well as segments of the Santa Cruz community) had come, however wrongly, to view UCSC as a flakey, hippie school, with a questionable academic reputation. Vietnam War demonstrations, drugs, and the campus's counterculture increasingly strained town-gown relations and UCSC's reputation throughout the state. Enrollment figures were down and there were rumors (unfounded) that the campus would be closed for budgetary reasons.

In this volume, Sinsheimer describes why his tenure was a critical decade for the troubled campus. He discusses the many problems he encountered -- the campus's lack of a sense of direction, its ambiguous academic reputation, its complicated administrative structure -- and the changes and reforms he initiated to solve them and bring the campus more into line with the way other UC campuses operated. He also discusses his role as chancellor and the contributions he made to the campus's development, including the Keck Telescope and Human Genome Projects. He also talks frankly about controversies engendered by the Research and Development Park Initiative, college reorganization, the anti-apartheid and divestiture movement, and student activism. His narration includes a prescient analysis of why the UCSC of the 1970s needed to be more closely related to Silicon Valley and the region's proliferating high technology industries. His goal of establishing an engineering school was not realized during his tenure, but the work Sinsheimer accomplished in reorganizing and revitalizing the campus paved the way for one day having such schools at UCSC.

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Lick Observatory (5)

Kenneth Campbell: Life on Mount Hamilton, 1899-1913

Kenneth Campbell was a noted research engineer from Ridgewood, New Jersey. His father, William Wallace Campbell, was Director of the Lick Observatory from 1901 to 1930. This oral history includes descriptions of living conditions on Mount Hamilton at the turn of the century-- the Mt. Hamilton School, water supply, plumbing, food supplies, mail and banking, health care, nine-hole golf course, hunting and fishing, baseball, hiking, funerals and church attendance, and early automobiles. Campbell also discusses early Lick telescopes, eclipse expeditions around the world, and sketches of early Lick astronomers as Campbell remembered them from his youth.

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Mary Lea Shane: The Lick Observatory

Dr. Shane was an astronomer, historian, and wife of the former Director of the Lick Observatory. Her association with the Lick Observatory began in 1919, when she moved up to Mount Hamilton for a year's postgraduate work, work which eventually resulted in her Ph.D. thesis. The first section of her manuscript is concerned with the workings of the Observatory in the 1919 period-- the apparatus, the astronomers, the duties of the graduate assistants-- as well as the more mundane subjects such as food, lodging, water supply, and health care. Since Dr. Shane had for years been the Observatory's unofficial historian-in-residence, she and the interviewer took an all-day trip to Mount Hamilton. The resulting eighty pages of manuscript, which form the middle portion of the volume, focus on the history of the Mount Hamilton road and development of the various telescopes. Dr. Shane also comments on a number of astronomers and observatories throughout the world. In the final portion of the volume, Dr. Shane describes the administrative and technical problems her husband, Dr. Donald Shane, faced as Director of the Observatory from 1945-1958, as well as amusing anecdotes of everyday life on the mountain.

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Charles Donald Shane: The Lick Observatory

Dr. Shane was a noted astronomer and former Director of the Lick Observatory. This interview was designed as a supplement to one conducted by the American Institute of Physics in 1967, hence only a small portion of this volume deals directly with Dr. Shane's work or his administrative career. Instead it concentrates primarily on Dr. Shane's knowledge of the early years of the Lick Observatory.

At the time Dr. Shane first went to Lick Observatory as a student in 1914, many of the astronomers were men who had been with the Observatory since its very early years. Dr. Shane was asked to comment upon the various men who have been Directors of the Observatory and to discuss the progress of the Observatory under each man. The final portion of the manuscript deals with various items that Dr. Shane felt should have been included in the AIP interview, specifically comments on the establishment of the Statistics department at UC Berkeley, his experience working with the University's Academic Senate, and a discussion of some of the astronomy advisory committees on which he has served both in the United States and abroad.

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Out in the Redwoods (20)

Living History Circle (group interview): Out in the Redwoods, Documenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1965-2003

This group living history circle was conducted on April 20, 2002, as part of the Banana Slug Spring Fair annual event for UCSC alumni and prospective students. The session was organized by Irene Reti, together with Jacquelyn Marie, and UCSC staff person and alum Valerie Jean Chase. The discussion was approximately ninety minutes and included the following participants: Walter Brask, Melissa Barthelemy, Valerie Chase, Cristy Chung, Linda Rosewood Hooper, Rik Isensee, David Kirk, Stephen Klein, John Laird, Jacquelyn Marie, Robert Philipson, Irene Reti, and John Paul Zimmer. This was also the thirtieth reunion of the Class of 1972, which is why there is a disproportionate number of participants from that period of UCSC history. The interview was taped and transcribed. Where possible, speakers are identified.'Editor

Jean-Marie Scott: Out in the Redwoods, Documenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1965-2003

Jean-Marie Scott has been an administrator at UCSC since 1993. In 2000, Scott became the Associate Vice Chancellor for Housing, Dining and Child Care Services, making her the highest-ranking out lesbian administrator at UCSC. She was interviewed on August 30, 2002 in her office at UCSC

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Rahne Alexander: Out in the Redwoods, Documenting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1965-2003

Rahne Alexander was interviewed on February 11, 2002 and February 25, 2002 in Santa Cruz, California. Erin is a theorist and activist dedicated to transgender, feminist, anti-racist and anti-classist issues, and a personal friend of Rahne Alexander's. Rahne has been a student, activist, and workshop leader at UCSC and in Santa Cruz since the mid- to late-1990s. She is a tranny femme, MTF [Male to Female] activist.

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Regional History Project Oral Histories (15)

Student Interviews: 1969, Volume II

A series of interviews with twelve members of the first four-year graduating class at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Among the twelve were two students who had been interviewed in 1967 and four who had transferred into the class at the junior level. As in the 1967 series, the students were asked to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the University, administration, faculty, classes, and general campus life. This they did very candidly. By happenstance, the interviews were scheduled over a two-week period that included the campus's first serious student strike and first building takeover. Thus the interviews tend to give the anatomy of the student strike as it developed. The philosophy of the students interviewed ranged from conservative to radical and their participation in the strike ranged from inactivity to leadership roles in the strike organization.

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UC Santa Cruz in the Mid-1970s: A Time of Transition, Volume I: John Marcum, Sigfried Puknat, Robert Adams, John Ellis, and Paul Niebanck

On January 23, 1976, UC Santa Cruz’s second chancellor, Mark N. Christensen, resigned from office. He had served the campus from July 1974 to January 1976. These two oral history volumes, comprised of interviews conducted between 1976 and 1980, set Christensen’s resignation within the broader context of a tumultuous and transitional moment in the campus’s history. Founding Chancellor Dean McHenry had brought to fruition his singular vision for UC Santa Cruz as an innovative institution of higher education that emphasized undergraduate teaching centered in residential colleges, each with a specific intellectual theme and architectural design, within the framework of what he envisioned as a major public research university. McHenry oversaw the planning and building of UCSC from 1961 until his retirement in June 1974. In the early years, UCSC drew high caliber students and gained considerable national visibility as an innovative university. But by the mid-1970s, applications were declining and enrollments were on the verge of falling. Internally, the campus was fracturing along fault lines created by debates over the colleges’ academic role and over the relative weight to be placed on research and teaching, while UCSC struggled to weather a variety of external political and economic pressures and to hold its own as a distinctive campus within the traditional University of California.

Christensen’s tenure as chancellor rather tragically ended in controversy after only eighteen months. Although most of the faculty liked Christensen as a person, they lost confidence in his ability to govern the campus. The Regional History Project never conducted an oral history with Mark Christensen, who passed away in 2003. But former director Randall Jarrell completed a series of interviews with key faculty members and administrators who had been directly involved in the Christensen case. Jarrell decided to withhold publication of these oral histories due to their sensitive political nature at the time. Now, nearly four decades later, we are able to publish these volumes as part of the Project’s Institutional History of UCSC series.

This is a two-volume publication. The five oral histories in volume one not only illuminate the painful events leading up to the resignation of Chancellor Christensen, they capture and reflect on the “McHenry years” and on a complex and challenging period in the history of what was then a young, still experimental, and somewhat vulnerable campus of the University of California. The second volume contains a brief oral history with George Von Der Muhll conducted by Randall Jarrell in 1976 and then a much longer, follow-up oral history with George Von Der Muhll conducted by Irene Reti in 2014, in which Von der Muhll shares his thoughts not only on the Christensen administration, but also on the reaggregation and reorganization programs of the late 1970s, in which he played a central role. He also contemplates UC Santa Cruz as an experiment in public higher education, from the perspective of fifty years after the campus was founded. For reasons of chronology and length, we decided to dedicate a separate volume to Von Der Muhll’s interview. A third oral history volume, Daniel H. McFadden: The Chancellor Mark Christensen Era at UC Santa Cruz, 1974-1976, also originally part of this series was published in 2012 and is available on the Regional History website.

The Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989, A UCSC Student Oral History Documentary Projec

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. a 6.9 magnitude earthquake on the San Andreas Fault shook the Central Coast of California and lasted for fifteen seconds. The epicenter of the quake lay near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, about ten miles northeast of the city of Santa Cruz, deep in the redwoods of Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. The focus point was at a depth of ten miles. This earthquake killed sixty-three people and injured 3,757 others, and caused an estimated six billion dollars in property damage. It was the largest earthquake to occur on the San Andreas fault since the great San Francisco earthquake in April 1906.

While the national media covered the damage in the San Francisco Bay Area extensively, far less attention was paid to the effects of the earthquake in Santa Cruz County, where the earthquake was actually centered. In the city of Santa Cruz much of the downtown Pacific Garden Mall, composed of older brick structures located on unconsolidated river sediments, collapsed, killing three people and injuring others. Ten miles to the south in Watsonville, a largely Spanish-speaking city, buildings also crumbled and people were killed. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, landslides closed many roads including Highway 17, which traverses the rugged mountains between Santa Cruz and San Jose, and for several days traffic was allowed through only in escorted convoys.

In the spring quarter of 1990 the Regional History Project sponsored a student internship class entitled, "An Interdisciplinary Oral History of the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake". Randall Jarrell, who was the project's director for many years, was the instructor for the class, which was co-sponsored with UCSC faculty members John Dizikes in history and Conn Hallinan in journalism. Five students signed up for the course. They completed eleven oral history interviews.

One of the interviews is with Barbara Garcia, who was director of Salud Para La Gente, a bilingual primary health care facility serving the greater Watsonville area. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, this community organization stepped in to address the enormous problems created by the lack of bilingual/bicultural volunteers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. Diane Chang-Wilson interviewed eleven members of a fifth grade class at Rio del Mar School in Aptos. Chang-Wilson's oral histories provide candid reflections from children on how they felt and experienced the earthquake. Other interviews include Quinton Skinner, who was a UCSC student and an employee at Universes Records on the Pacific Garden Mall at the time of the quake; seventy-two year old Mayme Metcalf, who managed a small apartment complex in the Beach Flats area of Santa Cruz; Ramona Noriega, a UCSC re-entry student and mother of four children; and several narrators who had committed to a program of recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs when the earthquake happened. These oral histories illuminate the diverse subjectivity of this historical event in ways that are not captured in news photos and articles, and geological or engineering reports on structural damage.

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Santa Cruz History (26)

Congressmember Sam Farr: Five Decades of Public Service

Congressmember Sam Farr (born July 4, 1941) represented California’s Central Coast in the United States House of Representatives for twenty-three years until his retirement from office in 2016.  Farr also served six years as a member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and twelve years in the California State Assembly. This oral history, a transcript of twenty-five hours of interviews conducted by Irene Reti, director of the UCSC Library’s Regional History Project, during the period immediately before and after Farr’s retirement from Congress, covers Farr’s political career and much of his personal history.


Sam Farr was born into a family that extends back five generations in California. His father’s grandfather was the brother of Senator William Sharon, who arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. On his mother’s (Janet Haskins) side, Farr also has deep California roots; his mother’s father, Sam Haskins, was a regent for the University of California and a prominent liberal lawyer in Los Angeles. Sam’s father, Fred Farr, was an attorney and served as a California state senator from Carmel from 1955 to 1966. He was the first Democrat in forty-three years elected to represent the Central Coast. Senator Fred Farr was a pioneer in both social justice and environmental protection and well-known on the national political scene.


While Farr was inspired by both of his parents, he had no early aspirations for a career in legislative politics like his father. He was mostly raised in Carmel, California (after the family spent some time on the East Coast and in Puerto Rico) before it became an expensive tourist town. The young Sam Farr discovered a love for the natural environment while roaming through the hills and along the beaches of the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Valley. His mother gave him a love for the outdoors and for gardening. At Carmel High School, he found a mentor in his biology teacher, Enid Larson. His life plan at that time was to study biology in college and return to Carmel to teach high school. Farr struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia during his youth and later became a passionate advocate for people with this then-unrecognized disability. He graduated from Carmel High School in 1959 and journeyed north to earn his BA in biology at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.


After graduation, Farr served in the Peace Corps in Medellín, Colombia in 1964, where he honed community development skills, in an experience that was to be one of the most formative of his life. But it was also while he was in the Peace Corps that Farr’s life was forever altered by two terrible tragedies that afflicted his family. The first was the unexpected death of his mother from cancer; the second was a horrendous horseback riding accident that killed his sister, Nancy, while the family was visiting Sam in Colombia. In this oral history, Farr speaks with candor and remarkable emotional courage about the effect these two events had on his trajectory. This was the point where he had an epiphany and decided to dedicate himself to fighting the war on poverty through a career in public service, a path that eventually led him to a career as a U.S. congressmember.


After a brief stint in law school at Santa Clara University, Farr worked as professional staff in the California Assembly for the next decade. He served under the longtime legislative analyst Alan Post, helping write cost-effectiveness studies of categorical education programs. Later he became staff to the Constitutional Revision Commission. While he was a staffer, in 1972 Farr helped organize a groundbreaking and now legendary coastal bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego, to raise awareness and support for Proposition 20, the Coastal Zone Conservation Act, which resulted in the California Coastal Commission.


Farr was developing valuable experience as a staffer in the California State Legislature, but he yearned to return to Carmel and serve in local politics. That opportunity presented itself in 1975, when there was a sudden vacancy on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors which needed to be filled by an appointment from then-governor Jerry Brown. With humor and love, Sam tells the story of how he ended up (successfully) vying with his father for that appointment. The next year (1976) he ran for official election to secure that office. Farr served as a Monterey County Supervisor, representing District 5 from 1975 to 1980. As a supervisor, he helped accomplished many things, including writing the Master Plan for Big Sur; developing the Carmel Highlands Master Plan; the Pebble Beach Master Plan; and the Master Plan for the Carmel Valley. Farr also chaired the Monterey Bay regional planning body, LAFCO [Local Agency Formation Commission] and spearheaded the creation of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, leading a historic breakthrough in the regionalization of water management in California. During this period, Farr formed a powerful organizational alliance across the bay with Santa Cruz activists, including Santa Cruz County Supervisor Gary Patton, to stop oil drilling on the Central Coast. This alliance later blossomed into the groundbreaking effort to create the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.


In 1980, another chapter began when Farr was elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 27th Assembly District. While in the assembly, Farr authored the 1990 California Organic Standards Act (COFA), which established standards for organic food production and sales in California. This groundbreaking legislation became one of the models for the National Organic Program’s federal organic standards and is one of the reasons why the international organic farming movement considers Sam Farr one of its heroes. While in the assembly, Farr also wrote one of the country’s strictest oil spill liability laws and the California Ocean Resources Management Act (CORMA).


Both the Humane Society and PETA have honored Farr for his lifelong work on behalf of animal rights; while in the assembly he worked on a bill banning certain types of steel-jawed animal traps; a bill increasing state regulations on the transportation of horses to slaughterhouses; and a bill banning the purchase of dogs in California from puppy mills. During Farr’s period in the California State Assembly he also worked on issues such as banning corporal punishment in public schools; requiring the labeling of all agricultural products sold in California by their country of origin; and authorizing the installation of ignition interlock (“Breathalyzer”) devices in automobiles operated by drivers with DUI convictions. In this section of the oral history, Farr also reflects on changes during that period of California electoral politics and shares his firsthand impressions of Governors Jerry Brown, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson, as well as Speaker of the House Willie Brown.


An unexpected opportunity arose in 1993 when Congressmember Leon Panetta, who was representing Farr’s district in the U.S. House of Representatives, was tapped by the incoming Clinton administration to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. After days of deliberation, Farr decided to run in the special election. As state assemblymember, Farr was already deeply involved in the Fort Ord Resuse Authority (FORA), which had been targeted for closure by the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission in 1991. Part of Farr’s motivation for running for Congress was that he believed that as a U.S. congressmember he would be better able to help secure a university on the site of Fort Ord. Farr would indeed be successful in this endeavor; in 1994 California State University, Monterey Bay opened on the site, an institution that is near and dear to him today.  He had other visions for Fort Ord as well, some of which were realized and some of which were not, and discusses Fort Ord extensively in this narrative.


This oral history provides a colorful, up-close, and sometimes painful view of the myriad of complex issues Congress engaged with during the twelve terms Farr served, including (but certainly not restricted to) the North American Free Trade Agreement, gay marriage, the terrorist acts of 9/11; the war in Iraq, the passage of Obamacare, immigration rights, organic farming standards, the U.S. relationship with Cuba, ongoing controversies over gun control, and ocean and land conservation.


One of Farr’s most lasting legacies will be his leadership in the area of ocean conservation. He authored many bills on behalf of ocean health, including the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act (“OCEANS 21”) which recommended having a national policy on the oceans similar to the national policies set forth in the Clean Air Act. He shares his fond recollections of the groundbreaking White House Conference on the Oceans which took place in Monterey, California on the steps of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Farr authored the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act, to establish a program of research and other activities to aid the recovery of the southern sea otter. Through his sponsorship of the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012, Farr created a NOAA program that uses innovative solutions to protect marine ecosystems and coastal communities from the hazards of marine debris. He introduced the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2015, to establish an Ocean Acidification Advisory Board of diverse experts to analyze and help guide policy on this important ocean issue. Farr was also a founding member and chair of the House Oceans Caucus. Both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center have honored Farr’s lifelong contributions to ocean conservation.


On shore, Farr leaves quite an extensive legacy of parks he helped establish on the Central Coast, including Pinnacles National Park, created from the former Pinnacles National Monument by legislation introduced by Farr into Congress in 2012, and signed into law by President Barack Obama in January of 2013. Someone once asked Farr what he wanted to be remembered for and he replied, “I guess, if you look at all the parks I created as a supervisor, parks I created as a state legislator, and parks I created, including a national park, as a congressman—I’m the parks guy. The John Muir of the Central Coast.”


  • 1 supplemental audio file

Ocean Odysseys: Jack O'Neill, Dan Haifley, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Each year schoolchildren experience a unique adventure with O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a free, hands-on oceanography and ecology program offered aboard a sixty-five foot catamaran sailing the Monterey Bay. How did a decades-long battle against offshore oil drilling in California lead to this living classroom in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary? This oral history volume tells an inspring story of environmental heroism and imagination through two interconnected oral histories conducted by the UC Santa Cruz Library’s Regional History Project. Iconic wetsuit innovator and surfer Jack O’Neill and his daughter Bridget discuss their thriving program. And Dan Haifley, now the executive director of O’Neill Sea Odyssey, tells the story of how he and a team of environmental activists won a victory against Big Oil and spearheaded the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, protecting one of the world’s most diverse marine ecoystems.

  • 1 supplemental audio file

Framing the Moment: An Oral History with Santa Cruz Photojournalist Shmuel Thaler

For over thirty years, Santa Cruz County residents have opened up their copy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel each morning and seen their lives reflected in Shmuel Thaler’s photographs. From triathlons to earthquakes, from clam chowder cook-offs to murder trials, from burning brush to breaching humpback whales—Thaler’s images record the dynamic nature of this unique Central California coastal community that we call home. His photographs fuse a recognizable artistic, graphical aesthetic with a driving documentary impulse. This oral history photobook based on interviews conducted by the Regional History Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz Library captures the trajectory and philosophy of Shmuel Thaler’s photographic career. See the supplemental material link here for the unedited transcript of this oral history.

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