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Phil Reader: Historian and Writer

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

Picture of Phil Reader

MAH Collections
Phil Reader

“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

Lino: Page & Activist
Phil Reader: Historian & Writer
Martina Castro Lodge: Californio Land Grantee
Axel Erlandson: Arboreal Sculptor
Dora Anderson: Servicewoman & Teacher
London Nelson: School Benefactor
Cora E Drew: Poetess
Ariana Jones: Community Activist
Oscar Corcoles: Community Programmer
Rhonda Harper: Surfer & Founder
Mabel Lucien Davis Pinkney Ritchardson: Singer & Church Leader
Theodore Hammond Smith: Disabilities Care Innovator
Hiroshi Shikuma: Strawberry Farmer
José Galvan Amaro: Labor Activist & Ag Worker
Apolonia Dangzalan: Redwoods Lumberer
Mary Ann Borina Radovich: Businesswoman
Ekua Omosupe: Professor & Writer
Michael Bergazzi: Redwoods Lumberer
Alison Kim: Writer & Archivist
Carrie Lodge: Stenographer & Storyteller