book-cover-home-web

 

Published by Capitola Book Company with support from
Ow Family Properties and the Borina Foundation

Of all the immigrant groups who flocked to California in the last two hundred years, probably the least known are the Croatians of the Dalmatian Coast.

Often identified as Austrians, Slavonians or Dalmatians, they came from a glorious background of international traders, sailors, and political thinkers few people in America knew about, and brought with them knowledge that would change the way the United States did business. At the same time, they transported their customs and beliefs to their new home and established a way of life that was vibrant and rich in traditional folkways. Blossoms Into Gold tells their story for the first time, from their fabled past to their economic innovations in the Pajaro Valley. Enriched with over 170 rare photos and illustrations, the book records an important segment of American history.

About the Authors

Donna F. Mekis holds degrees in both Anthropology and Education from UC Santa Cruz. She has had a forty-year career in higher education, working at both UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. At Cabrillo, Donna developed and directed both the Transfer Center and the Honors Transfer Program. Most recently she has served as the President of UCSC’s Alumni Association.

Kathryn Mekis Miller did her undergraduate and graduate work at UC Berkeley. She and her husband Marshall Miller opened their first retail store in Santa Cruz in 1971. They have developed a number of successful businesses under the umbrella name Sun Shops, which has now become a second-generation Santa Cruz business. In 2009, Sun Shops was honored as the Business of the Year by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

authors-blossoms

Editorial Reviews

“In this detailed and warmly human history, Donna F. Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller chronicle and celebrate the story of an entrepreneurial immigrant group in a favored portion of the Golden State.”



Kevin Starr, University of Southern California

“Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller have done a remarkable job in showing how the Croatians, using the historical traditions and skills they carried from the old world to the new, became important commercial innovators whose methods revolutionized the way business was done in the world’s agricultural markets.”

Jane Borg, Director, Pajaro Valley Historical Association

“It took two of the [Croatian] community’s own daughters, Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller, to tell the story. And what a story it is. The book you are holding is the result of these two women first gaining the trust of the community of their birth and then weaving together a complicated history that bridges half the world and many languages.”

From the foreword by Sandy Lydon, Historian Emeritus, Cabrillo College, Aptos, California, and author of Chinese Gold: The Chinese in the Monterey Bay Region

“This book tells the story of the world I remember. Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller have given Watsonville’s Croatians the gift of their own history.”



Nita Gizdich, former president of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, State Delegate to the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture’s ‘Woman of the Year.’”

Invite Kathryn Miller and Donna Mekis
to speak at your next event

Inquire regarding dates, technology requirements, and honorarium

Book Events and Videos

2009 Book Launch at the Mello Center, Watsonville, California.

video-1-blossom

This hour-long video shows the book launch event, from the arrival of 400 people; the introduction by Sandy Lydon; and the slide presentation by Donna Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller.

2011 Book Event in Croatia.

video-2

This 30-minute video tells the story of the authors being invited to Croatia to present their research in Čilipi, Konavle, Croatia (near Dubrovnik). It takes you with them on their journey.

2014 Class on Croatians in the Pajaro Valley co-taught by Sandy Lydon, Donna Mekis, and Kathryn Mekis Miller. ​

video-3

This two-hour video includes the full class — lectures, walking tour of Croatian-built buildings on Watsonville’s Main Street, the interior of the Resetar Hotel, Sambrailo Packaging, Gizdich Ranch, and a tour of the Croatian mausoleums at Valley Catholic cemetery.

All three videos were filmed and edited by videographer, Peter McGettigan.

Book Reviews

Wallace Baine - Santa Cruz Sentinel
Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two native daughters tell the tale of the lasting influence of Croatians in the Pajaro Valley

Members of the Cabrillo College Foundation explored the history of Croatians in the Pajaro Valley during an informal tour, followed by lunch in an early-Watsonville apple packing shed. Sandy Lydon, Historian Emeritus, Cabrillo College, joined Donna Mekis and Kathy Mekis Miller, authors of “Blossoms Into Gold, the Croatians in the Pajaro Valley,” in leading the four-hour tour for about 95 people.

Tormo Hannula - Register-Pajaronian
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tour explores history of Croatians in the Pajaro Valley

Members of the Cabrillo College Foundation explored the history of Croatians in the Pajaro Valley during an informal tour, followed by lunch in an early-Watsonville apple packing shed. Sandy Lydon, Historian Emeritus, Cabrillo College, joined Donna Mekis and Kathy Mekis Miller, authors of “Blossoms Into Gold, the Croatians in the Pajaro Valley,” in leading the four-hour tour for about 95 people.

Jon Chown - Register Pajaronian
Saturday, April 4, 2011

Story Makes its Way Across the Ocean

“These people lost their families, their parents, grandparents to Watsonville. This is the story of what happened to their families,” Mekis said Tuesday while talking about the trip and showing photos at her home in Santa Cruz. “This is all very fresh and new to them. They are just oming out of being a part of the former Yugoslavia, so anything that they can say is theirs, ‘this is what we did,’ is important to

Claudia Sternbach- Santa Cruz Sentinel
Sunday, May 3, 2009

“Tales of the Apple People of P.V.”

“I have been captivated by Blossoms Into Gold by Donna F. Mekis and Kathryn Mekis Miller....The true story of the Croatians in the Pajaro Valley.”

Traci Hukill - METRO Santa Cruz
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“Blossoms Into Gold, the product of the sisters’ long research, tells…[many] stories…shedding light on a long-overlooked part of local history. But both authors say they hope it will go even further….” ‘One of the things we’ve said is we want this to be a bridge. The more every group understands about other people they are living with…the different waves of immigration…the better off we’ll be.’”

Christa Martin- Good Times Santa Cruz
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

“A compelling historical book…. The sisters have done a beautiful job turning this rich history into an equally rich text. While the book is historical in nature, it doesn’t read like a classroom textbook, rather it feels like a portrait through time.”



Jon Chown - Register Pajaronian
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

“It is an amazing story, and the two sisters have told it brilliantly.”



Contact Us

If you have questions or comments about Blossoms Into Gold, please email us.

Additionally, if you would like to send us your stories about Watsonville’s Croatians, we will collect them and give them to the Pajaro Valley Historical Association. Please include your name, and your family’s Croatian surname.

Or just email
info@blossomsintogold.com