Saturday, October 13, 2018

White Redwoods

When snow falls in the Santa Cruz Mountains our beautiful redwoods turn a glimmering white. Although snowfall is not common, true white redwoods are very rare. These are albino redwoods, that is, they are unable to produce chlorophyll, and need a mother tree in order to survive. The albino tree and the mother tree share a root system and thus the albino obtains the nutrients it needs to grow. 

David Kuty, a docent at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park has classified them based upon the color of their foliage. There are six variations including white, bright yellow, green and white, and yellow-green. Most albino redwoods are white. Green and white specimens are much rarer.

Botanist Zane Moore, pictured here next to an albino redwood hedge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, has studied and written about albino redwoods. Two such articles written by Zane appear in the Santa Cruz MAH publication Redwood Logging and Conservation in the Santa Cruz Mountains which is available in the San Lorenzo Valley Museum bookstore.

The locations of these rare trees are not publicized in order to protect them; however an albino redwood can be seen on the Redwood Grove Loop Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Look out for it at stop number 14.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, white redwood sprigs were used in ornamental floral arrangements especially for weddings and at Christmas. Indeed, the casual way in which the sprigs were referenced implies they were not considered too unusual. One such arrangement was described in 1882: “… then there were baskets of tea roses, interspersed with spays of fern, smilax and rare foliage plants, veiled, but not hidden, with the little fairy gypsaphilla, and these were sitting on beds of soft, green wood moss, bordered with flowers and white redwood in Grecian bric-a-brac …” In 1890, a white redwood from Paul Sweet gulch decorated the stage at Signor Enrico de Tomaso's testimonial held at Santa Cruz Opera House.

A ranch at the headwaters of Bear Creek, White Redwood Ranch, was named for the white redwoods that grew “to a respectable size” from the stump of a felled tree. “The green and white trees grow side by side and even from the same stump, and the general appearance of the groves is very peculiar.”

When in 1911, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a white redwood found near in San Mateo County was the “only one that has been found in California,” the Santa Cruz Sentinel responded with an article entitled “White Redwood Not So Rare.”

In 1915, Andrew P. Hill photographed white redwood sprigs in Big Basin State Park, these photographs were published in the San Jose Mercury Herald. The article attests that “white redwood is rare and is only occasionally found where the second growth comes up after cut-over lands have been burned over.” While this may be a simplified statement, it does appear that stress may be a factor in the growth of white redwoods.

In 1917, a beautiful specimen of white redwood was found between Boulder Creek and Felton. It was presented to the San Jose Chamber of Commerce.

At Christmas 1928, Santa Cruzan Iva Davis and her relatives gathered white redwood at Skyland Ranch, just off Summit Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

References to white redwood being used in floral displays continue until the 1940s. In July 1936, “Plant Novelties and Fall Flowers” was the subject for the Santa Cruz Flower Lovers club. It was apparently the most interesting meeting of the season with a wealth of odd plants, shrubs, and “freak blossoms.” A large spray of white redwood was described as “lovely … This was grown where no sun ever reached it.”

You can find out more about these amazing mutations at

This is a reprint of an article printed in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin in the November/December 2015 issue.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Locatelli's Famous Cheese Spread

The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes
from Famous Eating Places
Newly donated to the Museum Collection is this great little book of Recipes from Famous Eating Places. The book was published in the 1950s by the Ford Motor Company and contains over 250 recipes from restaurants all over the United States.

On page 223, is a recipe for Cheese Spread from Locatelli's Inn in Boulder Creek, California - now Scopazzi's Restaurant and Lounge.

Giuseppe (Joe) Locatelli began construction of the inn in 1915, and it opened as the Italia Hotel. The dining room was added in 1924 and Joe Locatelli's wife Catherine managed the restaurant.  Her food was praised by KCBS radio broadcaster Jim Grady in his show This is San Francisco, especially her “famed salads with Roquefort cheese, her raviolis, and preparation of brook trout.”
From page 223 of the book, a painting of the
Dining Room at Locatelli's Inn by Amber Eustus.

Cheese Spread

1 pound Roquefort or blue cheese
5 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons A-1 sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon pepper
4 cakes Philadelphia cream cheese or 1 pound of cottage cheese

Cut the Roquefort cheese in small pieces. Place in electric mixer bowl. Add lemon juice, sauces, mustard, and pepper. Beat, using low speed, till light and smooth. Add cottage or cream cheese. Beat again to the consistency of heavy whipped cream. This spread can be kept for weeks in the refrigerator in a tightly covered jar.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tool or Toy

Artifact of the Week

 Santa Cruz TrainsThis week New Leaf Community Market in Boulder Creek held a Community Day for the Museum. The Museum stationed a table with literature about the Museum and a few examples of local history books from the Museum store, including Santa Cruz Trains by Derek Whaley.

A visitor to the table, a railroad enthusiast, gave the volunteers this yellow object, which they passed on to me. I must admit I first thought it was a child's toy. A plastic, replica tool with which a three year old might play.

But the markings gave it away - no not a toy, but a tool.

Locomotive  Reverser

This is a Millerfelpax locomotive reverser handle. It is made of Versylon, which is according to Miller Felpax an "Impact-Modified 6/6 nylon." It is strong, hard, and dense and so lends itself to tough environments such as railroad use.

The reverser is a tool that determines the locomotive's direction. It has three positions - forward, reverse, and neutral. If it is in the forward position and the throttle is opened the locomotive will move forward, if it is in the reverse position it will move backward.

These tools are used on steam locomotives and diesel locomotives. Older tools were made of metal, such as bronze. It is a standard size as the tools are required to fit all locomotives regardless of the manufacturer. It is removable - a safety feature. Removed whenever the locomotive is not in operation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

From the Collection

Artifact of the Week

Hippie Era Baby Carrier
2011-018-0001 - Front
San Lorenzo Valley Museum Collection 
This is a hand-made, hand-tooled baby carrier from the 1970s hippie era.

Strollers and baby carriages of the time just didn't work well here in the Santa Cruz Mountains and so new mom Estelle E. Fein, who wanted to carry her newborn son, Ariel, around on walks and while doing chores at home, contacted a friend who knew how to tool leather.

Hippie Era Baby Carrier
2011-018-0001 - Back
San Lorenzo Valley Museum Collection

Together they created this baby carrier, with a leather seat backed by embroidered cotton, denim straps, and leather cord with beads and bells.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

October is American Archives Month

And also California Archives MonthEach year California produces an Archives Month poster. This year's poster celebrates 150 Years of  California’s State and National Parks. The photograph is from the Annie R. Mitchell History Room, Tulare County Library collection. 

But what do archivists do?  In the words of Lisa Lewis, archivist:

"Archivists bring the past to the present. They are records collectors and protectors, keepers of memory. They organize unique, historical materials, making them available for current and future research."

But what archival material does the San Lorenzo Valley Museum hold? Hundreds of photographs, letters, scrapbooks, oral histories, newspapers, maps, posters ... the list goes on. Each of these require careful storage to preserve them for future generations. Purchasing appropriate storage can be expensive. We usually purchase our archival material through Gaylord Archival. Our membership with the California Association of Museums gives us a discount, but on average a single archival box exceeds $10, depending on the shape and size. Just take a look at the cost of 20"x24" buffered acid-free tissue - over $44 for just 100 sheets. 

But what does it mean to be "buffered" and "acid-free"?  There is a good explanation here. Buffered tissue (usually with the buffering agent Calcium Carbonate) helps to neutralize acids and prevent acid migration to the objects that the tissue is used to protect. Buffered interleaving tissue extends the life of paper, photographs, some textiles, and artifacts.  We use buffered tissue to interleave the pages of photograph albums and scrapbooks. 

The letter is from the South Pacific Coast Railroad Company to lumberman, and founder of the town of Lorenzo, Joseph Peery.
Here is a letter from the collection dated November 1880. The letter is from the South Pacific Coast Railroad Company to lumberman, and founder of the town of Lorenzo, Joseph Peery. 

Dear Sir,

Replying to your favor of the 15th inst. You may cut out the live oak timber on the ranch of the S.L.F.&T.Co. [San Lorenzo Flume & Transportation Company] as desired, and at price named in yours at former date.

Yours truly,

R. M. Garrett

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jason Brown, Ben Lomond Mountain Resident, Flying Machine Experimentalist, and Son of John Brown

Jason Brown
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason Brown was not with his father John Brown or his two brothers at Harpers Ferry. Jason had been injured in a prior incident and was recovering from his wounds. But Jason was, and remained all his life, an avid abolitionist. 

He was a very private individual and lived a minimalist life denying himself "all but the necessities that he may aid a blind orphan." The orphan in question was his adopted daughter who resided in an institution in Ohio. 

Jason and his ill wife had moved from Ohio to Southern California for her health. She died just a year after the move. Jason and his brother Owen, lived in a cabin close to Pasadena. Owen passed away in 1889. More information on this period can be found here.

Jason's Cabin on Ben Lomond Mountain
San Francisco Call 1899
Jason moved to Ben Lomond Mountain in the 1890s. The cabin he built was constructed of roughly hewn boards, paneless windows, and no door covering the door frame. Boxes were used as chairs and his bed was a bunk of boards halfway between the floor and the ceiling.

The land he had acquired on Ben Lomond Mountain was owned by Wesley Fanning. He hadn't the money to buy the property outright so each day he worked constructing a wagon road from the Fanning property (now Fanning Grade). Jason was now in his 70s.

In the 1900 census he lists his occupation as a Day Laborer, however, Jason was an intellectual.  He had a significant library of scientific books and was building a machine for "aerial navigation" but rarely talked to anyone about it for being fearful of being called a crank. His interest in flying was not new. In the 1850s, his father had written a letter to an American scientist describing the work his son was doing, saying he was "experimenting with a ship that was to sail the air."

Ben Lomond resident and local historian Alice Wilder remembered Jason in an article written in the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 1965. She recalled him saying that: "Someday ... I'm going to fly down to Ben Lomond and surprise the whole town."

Jason died on a trip to New York in 1912. A neighbor who had agreed to look after his property contacted his family about his "mountains of old books" and other priceless records of the Civil War. Sadly, they were uninterested and for three days she burned them. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Have you taken down your Christmas tree yet?
Santa Cruz Sentinel January 1, 1889, Page 3

I hope not. Traditionally the Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve and lasts though the twelve days of Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas Trees were traditionally taken down on January 6th or 7th. 

For the full two weeks after Christmas the season was celebrated with fine food and in the company of family and friends. When I was growing up, New Year's Day dinner was a repeat of the Christmas dinner, and leftovers were eaten with pickles and preserves.

Today the Christmas shopping season seems to have taken over Advent, and even Advent calendars today have a door for the 25th - tut tut. As a youth my Advent calendar featured images behind the door - not chocolate - and I was still excited to open them. Whether Christian or not, Advent is a time for reflection, anticipation, and excitement - not shopping with angst! 

The full Christmas season should be enjoyed, so next year put your tree up a little later and enjoy your tree a little longer - your cat will thank you.

Merry twelve days of Christmas.