California Authors



 By Deborah Muth, Arcadia Publishing with Fonthill Media, LLC

Book Review by Craig MacDonald

Santa Cruz, south over the mountains from its nearest big city—San Jose—has been a tourist destination for more than a century.

Located in a beautiful setting, featuring the Pacific Ocean, beaches, trees and mountains, the former Ohlone Indian home, also attracted the Spanish, Mexicans and many other cultures over time.

Historian Deborah Muth has helped preserve its diverse history by locating many historical photos as well as having Sian Burckett St. Laurent document through pictures, what's at many of the same locations today.

The area became known for its lumber mills, railroads, stagecoaches, gun powder manufacturers and tourism, especially after some new roads & freeways, like Highway 17, helped better connect the town with travelers from other cities. For many years, attractions like Santa's Village, Roaring Camp Railroad, The Mystery Spot and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park attracted nationwide publicity for Santa Cruz County.

In 1965, thousands more arrived as UC Santa Cruz was completed on the former Cowell Family Ranch. Today nearly 20,000 students call it "home" most of the year.

Through this book, you can see the growth of the city's downtown, beach boardwalk, surfing and splendor as well as learn little known tidbits, like how ZaSu Pitts starred in drama at Santa Cruz High School before becoming a top film idol in Hollywood and how Betty and Benny Fox performed a marathon dance and acrobatics on a 30-inch platform atop a 50-foot pole above Hotel Palomar in 1932. This photo is priceless as is the one of a US President visiting town.

President Teddy Roosevelt spoke in Santa Cruz to a gigantic crowd in 1903. He was visiting the nearby Big Trees of Felton and told the audience about the need "to keep these trees and wilderness as a heritage to our children."

For many, the Grand Jewel was, and always will be, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park, California's oldest such attraction, founded in 1907. It's internationally appreciated for the 1911 Loof Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper Rollercoaster. In the Summer, it is known for its free concerts, featuring some great bands performing on the beach.

(Editor's Note: The reviewer has visited Santa Cruz much of his life & his grandparents once lived in the Casa Del Rey Hotel, originally built in lavish Spanish Revival Style, across from the boardwalk in 1911 by city promoter Fred Swanton. It served as a Navy Hospital during World War II and later became a wonderful retirement hotel. His grandparents loved going across the street to the fun boardwalk, seeing the roller-coaster, concerts and fireworks. The Casa was destroyed by the 1989, 6.9 Earthquake, and demolished to form a parking lot. His son rode his first Merry-Go-Round at the boardwalk & his wife also loves fun Santa Cruz.)

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