Community Matters archive builds trove of historical voicesby Jan Janes on Jul 12, 2019
Gavilan College is building a permanent, searchable, expanding archive of community voices reflecting the people and decades of Gavilan College’s history.
As the college approached the cusp of its first 100 years, history instructor Leah Halper invested a semester on sabbatical researching area repositories of information: old newspaper and school board records, historical society data and oral histories from community members.
Cliff Cardoza and Larry Rebecchi viewed archival material on display at the
Community Matters launch.
Remembering history, the year 1919 was one of hardship. The Great War ended and Hollister welcomed back 500 veterans. But this mobility of people ushered in the Great Influenza Epidemic, which spread because of the war and surpassed the war in deaths.
Halper noted of the era that there were, easily, 100 reasons in 1919 to not start a college.
But people of the area wanted better for their children. The closest schools and universities – San Jose Normal School, Stanford University, UC Berkeley – were too far away. What if, local educators reasoned, we started a junior college attached to the high school? Halper found a tiny newspaper article describing the new venture, growing from 18 students to 33.
“This was a bold experiment in a fiscally tight agricultural community,” said Halper. “Today it is hard to understand why the launch was so muted.” Attaching it to the high school provided cover if it failed.
Of the nine names in the first graduating class, eight were women.
At the recent kickoff event, eight voices read the stories of early Gavilan students. In the audience, Gavilan alumni from the past 60 years gathered, some meeting for the first time.
Margaret Morales-Rebecchi (left) talks with oral history readers at the event.
Community Matters is the portal to this living history site. It documents Gavilan College history, oral histories collected by students and contains links to the research produced by Halper. Moving forward, the site will contain student research projects that connect their work with the past history of the area. Podcasts of many of the oral histories will be posted to the site.
Muriel Winter Brem, Gavilan alumna, and her daughter Vicki Brem Ciraulo, review
archival material on display at the Community Matters launch.