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Derpich family with apples, 1920s, Pajaro Valley



Behind Packing House Doors:
The Voices of Watsonville's Croatian Community

A Day-long Adventure led by Donna Mekis, Kathy Mekis Miller and Sandy Lydon

Who are they? You've seen the names everywhere in the Pajaro Valley – on the tops of buildings, on apple boxes, a car dealership, warehouses, and on those magnificent crypts facing the highway near the fairgrounds. Lettunich, Scurich, Braycovich, Gizdich, Marinovich, Miljanich, Soldo, and Franich.

For over a century they've gone about their business, rarely talking about themselves. You might get a glimpse at a wedding, or a funeral, but it's usually only a glimpse.

In this first-ever Cabrillo College Extension class, three county historians will take you by the hand and introduce you to the history and culture of this remarkable community.

Croatian mausoleums at Valley Catholic Cemetery on Highway 152

Kathy Mekis Miller (left) and Donna Mekis

Date: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Time: 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Fee: $100 before February 25, $120 after February 25
(includes course-concluding Croatian dinner)
Age/Physical Restrictions: Must be over 21, due to subject matter.
How far will we walk? We will walk a total of approximately three miles during the day at a leisurely pace, with many stops and talk-stories.
Meeting Place: Cabrillo College Watsonville Center, 318 Union St., Room A 150
Click here to Register: www.cabrillo.edu

From packing warehouses to the lobbies of some of Watsonville's most famous buildings, you'll learn how this group from such a tiny place on the Adriatic came quietly into the Pajaro Valley and changed the way the Valley did business.

They revolutionized the agricultural industry in the Pajaro Valley! That's right. They forever changed the way that commodities were grown, harvested and distributed. All subsequent industries must bow in the direction of these incredibly hard-working and ingenious Croatians. We will explain how this happened.

Things you will learn

How this immigrant group become so associated with apples when there are no apple orchards in Croatia.
How does one refer to them? Slavs? Slavonians?
The symbiotic relationship between the community and Joe Cutler's famous Corralitos Market and Sausage Factory.

A Day-Long Immersion: An intimate look into the Watsonville Croatian community that only the History Dude and two native daughters can provide.

Course includes:
A slide-illustrated lecture overview of the Watsonville Croatian story
A walk in downtown Watsonville to see and understand the buildings the Croatians built
A first-ever guided walk through the Croatian apple packing warehouses.
A bus tour to the more distant locations during the day including the local cemeteries
A special visit to Gizdich Ranch
A traditional Croatian-style barbecue, prepared by local Croatian chef, Peter Kovacich held at Basor Terrace Winery on Whiting Road north of Watsonville.

Note: Participants will be responsible for their own lunch. We will have our lunch break at the Watsonville Plaza. You are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch (which you can leave in your car during the morning's walk – no need to carry it). Or you can forage through the many restaurants available around the Plaza.

We will provide directions and a map closer to adventure time.

Sandy Lydon, Cabrillo College historian emeritus inspired and wrote the introduction for Blossoms Into Gold: The Croatians in the Pajaro Valley.

To Buy a Copy of the Book - www.blossomsintogold.com

Donna Mekis, co-author of Blossoms Into Gold, holds degrees in Anthropology and Education from UC Santa Cruz. She has had a forty-year career in higher education, working both at UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College.

Kathy Mekis Miller, co-author of Blossoms Into Gold did her undergraduate and graduate work at UC Berkeley. She and her husband opened Sun Shops in Santa Cruz in 1971 and it was honored as 2009 Business of the Years by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

Register here: