Hi Tow Tong 1915 1

Tue, Apr 30, 2013

Marla Novo

Marla Novo - Exhibitions Manager

Artifact of the Month: Groups, Gatherings, and Family Mantras, 1915

I depend heavily on the White Glove Crew, a group of volunteers who come every week to help me organize, catalog, and mystery-solve the items in the MAH’s collection.

These ladies: Sally Legakis, Nancie Martinez, Maria Smith, and Lani Hall are efficient, smart, and fun. We try our hardest to preserve Santa Cruz County history.

The White Glove Crew has become my archival warriors, my partners in collections, and more importantly, dear friends. I have learned so much from them. Lani is the resident historian of the group. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she seems to know everything about Santa Cruz.

I remember many years ago we were looking at some photos in the archives. Lani was examining a group of young men in a black and white composition dating from the early 2oth century. It was labeled “H.T.T. June 1915.”

Hi Tow Tong 1915 1

The teenagers were posed in orderly rows wearing somber suits and ties. Subtle smiles lingered on some of their faces, coaxing a viewer to smile back. Lani took one look at the photo, zeroed in on one figure and said, “Oh, that’s my dad.”

The photograph is of the Santa Cruz High School’s Boys’ Honor Society, known as “Hi Tow Tong,” a foreign name given to a fraternal “secret” group. Harold Ansley, Lani’s father, graduated from SCHS and was a classmate of local favorite actress, ZaSu Pitts. Lani says it’s pronounced “Zay-Soo” (not the commonly mispronounced “Zaw-Zoo”). In the photo, Harold is the second boy in the front row, left side.

"Lani took one look at the photo, zeroed in on one figure and said, “Oh, that’s my dad.”

Harold Ansley went on to study at California College of Arts and Crafts and became a painter. He returned to Santa Cruz, married and raised his daughters in our city, and they in turn raised their own.

Lani isn’t able to meet with us in the collection room as much as she used to but Sally, Nancie, and Maria still see her often. Last fall we gathered at Lani’s house for lunch where we got her up to speed on what we were cataloging: first hats, then shoes, and then purses (we’re on an accessories kick).

She showed us some of her dad’s paintings and photos of Santa Cruz—lots of beach scenes, like one of Castle Beach (“When it was our beach” Lani said). Also adorning her living room wall was a large needlepoint sampler made by Lani’s sister, with the words “Float Your Hardest” stitched on it.

It’s a memory that became a family mantra. An answer that Lani’s youngest told his dad when he asked him how swimming lessons went at the Harvey West pool one summer day. The little guy said, “Well, I floated my hardest.”

Float Your Hardest. Let’s all try.