Adapted from Sandy Lydon, Desiree Steber, Norman Poitevin, Rachel McKay, Marion Pokriots, Stanley D. Stevens, and Frank Perry, Santa Cruz County History Journal, Number 8.
Phil Reader (1940-2014) grew up in Live Oak. He lived most of his life in Santa Cruz County. He was a musician and charismatic storyteller. He worked for the rights of laborers like musicians and farm workers. He wrote scripts for television shows like “Laverne and Shirley” and “Happy Days”. As a local historian, he devoted his time to telling the stories of local people who were unfairly represented in historical accounts. Phil’s devotion to history and his extensive knowledge made him an invaluable resource, who could talk about Santa Cruz history as if he experienced it. Phil passed away in 2014. He is remembered as Big Phil, for his stature, yet he was described as quiet, soft spoken, and big-hearted. His legacies live on through his family and his research. The spirit of this exhibit is informed by his work, and it is dedicated to his memory.
“He was a champion of the working stiffs, those who were born, lived, and died out on the edges.” — Sandy Lydon
“Growing up with my grandfather, Phil Reader, was magical . . . My grandfather would captivate me with a single sentence. And, it was through his stories that I learned to appreciate the majesty of the universe. It was how I learned the history of my family and my community. It was how I learned that history could guide us through the present and into the future” — Desiree Steber
“Talking to Phil about local history was like talking to someone who had been there. He wasn’t THAT old, of course, but he had read so many of the 19th and 20th century papers that it was as though he had experienced history first-hand.” — Frank Perry