The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center

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Blog posts by Marla

Artifact of the Month: Bringing the Town Together, Catalyst Poster from 1966

Posted June 10, 2015

In MAH collection-land, the 1960s are big—huge, in fact. Recently I’ve accepted a few wonderful donations from this decade. It was a pivotal time in Santa Cruz County’s history. And locals are ready to open their closets, storage sheds, and trunks to share part of this history with us.

Santa Cruz became a cauldron of cultural experimentation, neighborhood activism, intellectual exploration and environmental protection in the 1960s and 1970s. This progressive shift was one part university students, one part community activists, one part hippies with alternative lifestyles.

Located in the old St. George Hotel, the original Catalyst Coffee House and Delicatessen was the downtown gathering place for artists, politicians, students, and professors. The hotspot opened in 1966. Patti DiLudovico, a folk singer, chose the name “the Catalyst” to foster a welcoming atmosphere where ideas flowed with the beer and wine. Patti and her husband, Al, ran the Catalyst. “[UCSC administrator] Byron Stockey came to us one day, saying ‘We need a place where we can bring the University and the town together, ‘” Patti said.

Catalyst Poster, 1966. Artist: Doni Tunheim

Catalyst Poster, 1966. Artist: Doni Tunheim

A few months ago, I met Holly Harman, author of Inside a Hippie Commune. Packed with photos and stories, this book describes the counterculture in Santa Cruz County. Holly told me that Patti reminisces about the Catalyst days. She wanted the MAH to have 3 original posters advertising the opening of the deli. These posters are amazing works of art, in a flowing art nouveau style. Local artist Doni Tunheim painted these beauties in 1966. My favorite is the one featuring a seated woman. Her red hair winds around the deli’s moniker and “coffee,” “pastries,” “art shows.” That sounds pretty great to me.

While thumbing through Inside a Hippie Commune, I noticed Stanley Stevens’ name. Stan is Librarian Emeritus at UC Santa Cruz and amazing local historian. He comes in every week to the MAH archives and works on indexing some of our collections. Stan was part of the co-op Catalyst. In fact, he was the treasurer. And you think you know a guy…

Stan says that he was also in charge of filling up the huge pickle container for the Catalyst. He got the pickles from somewhere in San Francisco. He used to drive there once a month to attend ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) meetings. I showed Stan another recent donation to the MAH. It’s an original menu from the Catalyst. Stan said, “Oh yes, Carli [his wife] made the chocolate crazy cake. She’d bake some in the morning, and by the afternoon, the Catalyst had sold out of it. Now I have to get that recipe.

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Artifact of the Month: Of Cheese and Dairymen: Scaroni Ranch Photograph

Posted February 4, 2015

My family has a soft spot for dairies. My husband was born and raised on a dairy ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. He loves telling boyhood stories about growing up among the bovine, milk, and the regular occurrence of calf birthing. We almost got married at the old barn.


A Barn at Scaroni Ranch

A Barn at Scaroni Ranch

Here’s a photo of another old barn closer to us. This barn was part of the Scaroni Ranch, a huge dairy operation situated along the North Coast of Santa Cruz. Pio Scaroni came to Santa Cruz from Gordola, Switzerland in 1868. He was a successful dairyman. The ranch prospered for many years. It’s now part of Wilder Ranch State Historic Park.


The North Coast of Santa Cruz County has a rich dairy history. “There was a time when the lowing of thousands of cows mingled with the lofty screams of the seagulls, starting in the early 1800s,” wrote Santa Cruz columnist Wally Trabing in 1966. Dairies dotted the coast—from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay.


When you think dairy ranch, you think milk. But this is a cheese story. The Scaroni Ranch took their turn at cheese in the early 20th Century, making the Fancy Flat cheese. These delectable cheddar rounds weighed 24 pounds. Cured for up to three weeks in warm cheese houses, the rounds shipped to Santa Cruz or San Francisco. At the height of production, the Scaroni Ranch produced 300 pounds of cheese a day.


Many dairies along the coast took up the cheese making business. But by 1933, it was all over. Changing laws forced the ranchers to quit the cheese and take up solely milk production. But that dried up too, due to the take-over of larger California dairies. For more information about our dairy history, check out We might not be able to snack on slices of Fancy Flat, but we can do our part to protect the land of milk and cheese.

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Don’t Forget to submit to History Journal #8

Posted January 8, 2015

History Journal No. 8 – Article Solicitation The Forgotten People of Santa Cruz County
The History Publications Committee of the Museum of Art & History is pleased to announce that History Journal No. 8 will be devoted to the history of the people of Santa Cruz County. But not just any people, not the famous, or wealthy but forgotten or under-represented people.

The journal will be dedicated to local historian Phil Reader (1940 – 2014). Phil was a champion of the under-represented and disenfranchised. He researched, documented, and shared their history.

In the words of the historian and UCSC librarian emeritus, Stanley D. Stevens:

Phil was one of the most generous historians, focusing on Santa Cruz County and the underrepresented people that other historians chose not to write about, or deferred to Phil, knowing that he was developing “the” definitive history on that subject. His writing and research included African Americans, Outlaws, and Prostitutes. His “To Know My Name — A Chronological History of African Americans in Santa Cruz County” is a classic that reflects Phil’s attention to detail and accuracy. . . His wit and gracious presence will be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him, or those who he has touched by his spirit. Many of his essays (327 items) may be read on the Research Forum website, hosted by the Museum of Art & History.

In the spirit of Phil Reader this journal will capture the previously untold stories of the people who have not yet been written into Santa Cruz County history.

Below is a partial and preliminary list of those whose stories might be included in the journal. Some of these may take the form of major articles, while others may be short sidebars or presented in an appendix.

Unsung Heroes
Minority Communities
Quiet Philanthropists
The Defenseless
Servants of the Community
Those who Served
The Enslaved
The Frail and Vulnerable
Those Taken Advantage of
People who made a Difference
Unrecognized Craftspeople
Planning for History Journal No. 8 has already begun, and the Committee is soliciting proposals for contributions. Authors of articles will be asked to submit their finished contributions in September 2015, with publication expected the following year.

Guidelines for authors are available on the MAH website under Learn— History Publications— Guidelines for authors.

Please submit your suggestion in the form of an article abstract, by March 1, 2015, to the Chair of the Publications Committee, Lisa Robinson at, (831) 338-4152, or to Marla, Santa Cruz MAH, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz, CA 95062.

The History Publications Committee

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You’ve still got time. Dolkas Awards submission deadline is September 1st

Posted August 14, 2014

If you’ve got a local history project, we’d love to help you! Apply for a Dolkas Award. You’ve still got time.  Submissions must be turned into the MAH by September 1st. Go for it!

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History Journal #7 looks to split the history of redwood logging and conservation

Posted June 17, 2014

History Journal #7 editor Lisa Robinson discusses the new MAH publication and why it’s a great read.

Mountains of Santa Cruz 1875-1880 by Jules Tavernier

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.



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