California Authors



by Sheila O'Hare & Irene Berry, Arcadia Publishing

Book Review by Craig MacDonald

"Santa Cruz has never been dull, not for a moment," wrote two UC Santa Cruz librarians, who put together a neat book showing the popularity of the town and county, known for its amazing mountains and beaches.

They tell the history of the popular place through words and rare photos—covering the days of the Ohlone Indians to the establishment of Mission Santa Cruz to the Americans' arrival during the Gold Rush and the creation of UC Santa Cruz.

It has always been the site of unique businesses. In the 19th Century, Santa Cruz (which means Holy Cross), became known for its successful logging, tanneries, gunpowder manufacturing, agriculture, fishing and tourism enterprises.

In addition to its industries, "Santa Cruz values its natural beauty, accepts creativity, encourages citizen involvement and recognizes its unique history," wrote the authors.

From therapeutic resorts (some with hot saltwater bathhouses) in the 1860s to its fishing fleet & canneries to its fame as a top Surfing Mecca (Steamer Lane & Jack O'Neill's first wetsuit invention in 1952) to its Boardwalk and wide variety of tourist attractions, Santa Cruz has been a destination for people from all around the world.

Some of its unique offerings, include the former Professor Whitney's Electric Baths (hot tubs heated by batteries & generators in 1883, before Santa Cruz had electricity); Santa's Village in Scotts Valley (which featured 14 fun rides and employees dressed as elves from the 1950s-1977), and Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton (that have some steam engines dating from 1890 and remain immensely popular today).

The trains take excited passengers through beautiful Redwood Forests and sometimes to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, known for its National Historic Landmark Wooden Rollercoaster (the 1924 Giant Dipper) and a 1911 Merry-Go-Round—both still thriving today.

Over 100 years ago, Santa Cruz started its first Farmer's Market (with as many as 65 farm rigs featuring fresh fish, meat, produce and jelly). Residents and tourists continue to flock to a weekly Downtown Farmers' Market.

Some of the areas characters over the years, include: John Logan, a Superior Court Judge, who produced the "Loganberry" (a cross between a blackberry and raspberry); The Cowells, on whose ranch UC Santa Cruz was built and donors of land that became Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park; German-born Frederick Hihns, a Forty Niner who ended up owning 15,000 acres in Santa Cruz County and developed railroads, water systems, banks (and later helped create Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), and Fred Swanson, a Santa Cruz Mayor, who promoted the town as a Beach Resort across the state and created the Miss California Pageant.

Readers will delight learning about many of the folks, who called Santa Cruz "home." You'll also learn about different cultures, such as Native Americans, Chinese, African-Americans, Mexicans and others, who made this scenic, special place renown. This book will entice readers, who have never visited Santa Cruz, to visit this California gem, and former visitors to return.

(The reviewer, who first camped at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, had grandparents in Santa Cruz. His son rode his first Merry-Go-Round at the Boardwalk.)

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