Friday, Jan. 18:

Tarmo Hannula: I walked into the Yamashita Market on Union Street Thursday after work because Sarah, my wife, wanted me to pick up something called Filipino palm vinegar. The kind people there told me they didn’t carry it — that I’d have to head over to the Filipino market on Sudden Street. That’s when I bumped into my long-time friends Mas and Marcia Hashimoto who were also shopping. As usual, we had a friendly chat and it was refreshing to catch up with them. That’s when Robb Mayeda swung open the door and started shopping as well. Mayeda is the former HR director for PVUSD and maintains work in keeping Watsonville’s Sister City (Kawakami, Japan) on track.

In the latest Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL newsletter I see an article by Marcia, “An honor to have served.” She goes on to mention that she was president for nine terms and has since moved on.

“It has been an honor to have served as president of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL for nine terms,” she wrote.  … “I am delighted to congratulate Kimiko Marr as our new, young president.”

Being 10 minutes before 5 p.m. I darted over to the Filipino store and was delighted to see the “OPEN” sign still dangling in the window. The business is called the Oriental Store & Food To Go. Unfortunately the door was locked. But I saw a woman standing just inside the door so I gave the glass a polite tap and she gladly let me in.

“I’m still open,” she said.

When I told her what I wanted, she walked right to a large bottle of Palm vinegar on the shelf — $1.59. Unbelievable, both in that they had it (we looked at several stores) and that it was so inexpensive: I was thinking it would be over $15. I was surprised by the extensive market they had and the hot food counter with freshly prepared Filipino food, including lumpia (eggrolls).

I stopped by the main branch of the Watsonville Public Library next to return a cookbook I had found on their new arrivals shelf: “The Filipino-American Kitchen” by Jennifer M. Aranas. The large, soft-cover book was loaded with interesting recipes and great color photos. Sarah poured through the book over a couple of weeks and gleaned scores of recipes, some of which will most likely appear in her weekly Mixing Bowl cooking column in the R-P.

This morning I swung by Watsonville High School and bumped into the long-standing drama instructor David Scott. He’d been there for years, then moved up to Oakland, then returned. He told me about the fourth stage production he and students are working on since his return to WHS. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” ’is a musical and will run in the spring, he said.

“There are four girls, four boys and me in the play,” Scott said. “We’re working on the vocals now.”

Scott said he’s getting help from retired Aptos High music instructor Meri Pezzoni with the production. He said he has boiled the cast down to the best of the best and was excited by the level of talent and devotion they offer.

At the Pajaro Valley Historical Association on East Beach Street archives building I found Lou Arbanas busy (when is he not busy?) with this project and that. Right away he showed me a 1900 Camera-Phone that was made in England. Someone had recently dropped it off at PVHA. It was a portable 78-RPM record player. In mint condition, the contraption unfolds from a beautiful oak box about the size of a lunch box. The amazing thing is this: It still works! No electricity or batteries are needed because it is hand crank.

On the next table Arbanas showed me a small wall-mount telephone from 1914 that was manufactured in Pennsylvania for Western Electric. Called an Inter-phone, the simple gadget was cased in an oak box. Arbanas said it was originally purchased from the Schmitt General Store, which once stood on Freedom Boulevard in what was then known as Whiskey Hill (Freedom). Schmitt also featured hardware, household goods, and sewing supplies, among other things. They eventually sold the business and that was that. Again, the unbelievable fact is that the Inter-Phone can still be hooked up the existing phone lines and put to use — it works perfectly. “Hello?”

Johanna Miller: Two separate activist marches have been planned for this coming week in Santa Cruz.

The third annual Women’s March, this year dubbed “Truth to Power,” will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. Originally part of the national Women’s March movement that began as a response to the presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the event is now a more local affair which aims to draw attention primarily to women’s rights, among other issues.

Recently, the national Women’s March movement has come under fire after a few of its higher-ups were accused of anti-semitism. These concerns, if true, are serious — and should be investigated fully.

But everyday people and local organizers seem determined to keep the movement going by making it their own. An activist friend of mine posted on Facebook that she hopes people will remember why the march movement began in the first place.

Watsonville will not be holding its own march this time around. However, said community organizer Jenny Sarmiento, a group of people in Watsonville are currently in the first stages of putting together an event to be held on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day.

On Monday at 10 a.m. is the Martin Luther King March for the Dream in downtown Santa Cruz, with this year’s theme being “Justice. Equality. Love.”

The march is hosted by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as well as the Santa Cruz Police Department. This is the second year that Santa Cruz has held the march.

This year marks what would have been MLK’s 90th birthday. Organizers of the march in Santa Cruz have stated that they hope the event will do justice to King’s vision of equality and justice.

At the MLK march’s staging site as well as the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, The Association of Faith Communities will be accepting donations of socks for SPIN (Socks for People In Need).

Last year, both the Women’s March and the MLK event drew large crowds to downtown Santa Cruz. Hopefully they will bring strong groups of inclusive, positive people together once again.


Thursday, Jan. 17:

Tarmo Hannula: On Sunday there will be a total lunar eclipse, this time known as a Super Wolf blood moon because the event should turn the moon a reddish color. The eclipse begins at 6:36 p.m. and lasts until 11:48 p.m.

Though I’m always hoping for rain because we so badly need it, I hope things clear out long enough for us to get a glimpse of this exciting drama in the night sky. There are usually two or three lunar eclipses every year, and if it happens to be night on your side of the Earth during a lunar eclipse you’ll have a chance to see it. The moon is currently in a waxing Gibbous stage.

Experts say that you don’t need special equipment or protective glasses to view the eclipse (unlike with a total solar eclipse). However, binoculars or a spotting scope will give you a better, more detailed view of the moon as it darkens and turns red in the growing shadow.

One photo expert recommends this setting for your camera, if you have that option: aperture f/4, ISO 100, exposure 1/500 seconds. Smart phones might be a challenge unless you have a quality long lens attachment. Be prepared to start increasing your ISO and your exposure time as the moon gets darker as it moves further into the Earth’s shadow.

A bushy tree caved in to the heavy weather Wednesday night and brought power and communication lines down on Cutter Drive at Lower Cutter Drive. Watsonville firefighters responded and closed down the road altogether until officials could get there and mend the problem. Indeed, crews were out in force early Thursday including a group from Davey Tree who needed a lot of time to carefully saw and pick away at the limbs tangled up in the lines. One official said a crew from PG&E had been out there Wednesday night to de-energize the lines.

At least one car got stuck in a heavily flooded section of Paulsen Road Wednesday night. It happens almost every year at the peak of strong rains. Even though there were four “Road Closed” signs, this motorist thought that didn’t apply, and decided to chance it. Failure! CHP officer Fred Smith was out there Thursday morning when a tow truck hauled the SUV out of the deep muddy water. Smith said such an incident can often “total” a vehicle because the water crawls all through the engine compartment and gets into the passenger area, soaking the carpets and electronic components, meaning it’s usually not worth the fix-it price tag.

Also, Murphy Road is closed at the low water crossing, which is between San Juan Road and Highway 129 (Riverside Road).

On Wednesday evening I went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, an official welcome by the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and other businesses for the new airbase for the CALSTAR 14 rescue helicopter at the Watsonville Municipal Airport. The event, catered by the Culinary Academy & Kneaded Bakery of Gilroy, drew about 100 people, gave the public a chance to learn about the service that flies trauma patients to out of county trauma centers and American Medical Response, our county’s emergency ground ambulance service. Right at the moment they were about to cut the red ribbon, CALSTAR got a flight call and everyone had to move back to let the ship launch into the stormy sky.

A few things to put on your calendar, if you’re interested:

• Natural Bridges Migration Festival: Feb. 9. An event to celebrate migration of all sorts, including whales, butterflies, birds and other critters that travel. There’ll be live music, kids’ activities, crafts, skits and other activities. Info at

• 38th annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off: Feb. 23 is for amateur chefs and the 24th is for the pros. Info at

• Pajaro Valley Quilt Association Show: Feb. 23, 24 at the fairgrounds. Info at

Johanna Miller: Watsonville has become quite infamous for car vs. pedestrian accidents recently. These incidents are sometimes fatal, and as we’ve found out, many of them could have been avoided if both drivers and pedestrians followed traffic rules more closely.

But there is another factor that we should all take into account: bicycles.

Recently I was turning from Main Street onto Freedom Boulevard at the major intersection in front of St. Patrick’s Church. Suddenly the line of cars slowed down and then abruptly stopped.

A man on a bicycle was crossing the street against a red light. He was towing a yellow two-wheel trailer, the kind you usually transport small children in. I couldn’t tell if a child was inside this one. Following the man was a young boy, probably still in elementary school, on his own bike.

Once they were up onto the sidewalk near Super Taqueria, us drivers began inching onto Freedom Boulevard cautiously. But I had an inkling that the excitement wasn’t over.

I was proven right as I turned onto Brennan Street. The man rode across the road towards Palm Avenue. He made it safely to a sidewalk.

The boy behind him barely did.

A car turning onto Brennan from Palm came within inches of hitting the boy. His bike skidded across the pavement to avoid it, and the car’s driver had to slam on her brakes hard.

Meanwhile, the man who the child was following had continued on without even a look back.

Everyone who had witnessed the near-accident froze. I couldn’t breathe for a moment myself.

Now, I’m not sure what the deal was with this man and the boy. I don’t like to judge people’s parenting/guardianship skills. Maybe they were in a hurry for some reason.

But what I witnessed really drove home the importance of basic bike safety. This child had no idea of the danger he was being led into. The man had displayed a complete lack of knowledge of how to safely navigate on a bike through a city.

I’ve been thinking about this incident for the past week, wondering if I should’ve immediately pulled over and reported it to the police the same way one would report a reckless driver.

Probably next time I will. I can’t imagine the Watsonville community going through yet another fatal traffic accident. Enough is enough.

Let’s do our part in preventing another accident by teaching each other and our children the safe and legal way to drive, walk and bike through town.


Wednesday, Jan. 16:

Tarmo Hannula: I cruised through the Aptos Village Project this morning and took in the bounty of new spaces for businesses (there’re a lot of them), new homes and new streets. It was my first time driving on the new Aptos Village Way, which runs between Aptos Creek Road and Trout Gulch Road. Construction crews were out there in force.

I took the Buena Vista exit from Highway 1 and saw the CHP dealing with a crash at the onramp from Buena Vista Drive to northbound Highway 1. On the 100 block of Buena Vista emergency crews were dispatched to a report of “power lines down with a life safety alert.” An engine from Pajaro Valley Fire, one from Watsonville Fire and a battalion chief headed out there to learn it was simply a utility line from Charter Communications. Since it ended up in the homeowner’s driveway the ball was sent back into his court to call Charter himself. I guess if the lines were in the street, impairing traffic, it would go another way.

I was surprised to see regular gas was going for $3.11 a gallon at the Quikstop on Freedom Boulevard. Closer to Watsonville, the 76 station (formerly Valero), was asking  $3.15.

The weather folks are warning of an “atmospheric river” due this afternoon with flash flood warnings in some spots, like Big Sur. I saw on the news yesterday that Highway 1 is temporarily closed in Big Sur due to mud and rock slides at Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide. Since storm activity is being forecast through Thursday, Caltrans officials are maintaining the closure until further notice.

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is the alternate route to reach Highway 1 between Mud Creek and Paul’s Slide. However, there is a 40-foot length, 12-foot height, 60-ton weight, and 10 mph restriction at one of the bridges along this route.

A new marijuana dispensary has opened in Pajaro at 19 San Juan Road, Santa Cruz Naturals. Reporter Todd Guild and I got a tour of the place this morning. The modern clean lines and simple, no-frills woodwork set a relaxing tone the moment you step inside. They offer a wealth of cannabis products and have a friendly, educated staff on hand to help you learn about their lengthy display counter and shelves of goods. Their grand opening is Saturday from 4-7 p.m.

After launching their Long March-3B/G3Z rocket that carried the Chang’e-4 spacecraft on Dec. 7, China managed to land their lander and rover on the far side of the Moon Jan. 3, according to NASA Space Flight. It’s the fourth lunar exploration event by China, which marks the first time anyone has landed anything on the far side of the moon. Space exploration fascinates me and I soak up almost anything I see in the papers about it. I’ve already seen several photos Chang’e-4 has sent back and they’re just what you’d imagine, large fields of gray dirt with a few craters here and there and a distant mountain range, much like parts of Texas and Arizona. I’m anxious to see what comes of this. Congratulations to China.


Tuesday, Jan. 15:

Tarmo Hannula: About 30,000 teachers in Los Angeles, the second largest school district in the nation, are striking. Their district is mammoth, covering 720 square miles, compared to PVUSD that covers 150 square miles and is the largest district in Santa Cruz County, according to Discoverorg. Teachers are asking for more pay, smaller classrooms and more staff support. Daily, they deal with about 500,000 students in 900 schools. PVUSD has more than 19,000 students. According to the New York Times, 75 percent of the students are Latino. It’s the first such strike in more than 30 years in L.A., the NYT said.

Speaking of students and teachers, classes resumed today for PVUSD.

Rain finally came Monday night. I always sleep better to the sound and smell of the rain. As Paul Simon sings in “Kathy’s Song”:

I hear the drizzle of the rain
Like a memory it falls
Soft and warm continuing
Tapping on my roof and walls.”

Has anyone noticed the huge new mural on the Riverside Drive side of Don Rafa’s Super Mercado? It’s colorful. It’s different. And it will certainly get a lot of views, being how busy Riverside can get.

Somehow I’ve become fond of another take on TV news called Teen News on Channel 8 Saturday morning. Obviously these teens get adult coaching but it is largely run by teens. Of course, they cover teen-centric issues like health, sports, trends, music, fashion and some hard news. This past Saturday I watched a segment about the history of pizza and how to make it. Among other things, one of their reporters went to Pizza Rostica somewhere in Florida to talk to head chef Claude Luciani. He said pizza goes back thousands of years with the Greeks, Jews and Italians, to name a few. Of course, he zeroed in on the famous pizzas of Naples, Italy.

I might add here that I was in Naples once and, without exception, I must say their pizzas fell into the category of astonishingly delicious.

Liciani said that pizzas came to America in the 1800s and were largely consumed by immigrants in poorer neighborhood, in that they could sweep most anything off the kitchen counter onto the pizza dough, onions, peppers, various meats, tomatoes, zucchinis and on and on.

I hope teens plug into Teen News and relish their clean and direct delivery that, to me, comes across as bright and positive.

In a steady rain I drove out to the Agricultural History Project and John Kegebein greeted me as though he were expecting me. He dropped his current project and gave me a thumbnail tour of the latest projects there by a team of volunteers that show up each Tuesday morning.

At the center of it all was an 1800s manure spreader. The wood they were using to rebuild the bed was from a pine tree that toppled at the fairgrounds about five years ago. Thanks to the wood skills and shop of Nic Keiderling, the pine was milled into fine planks and such and now, put to use. The crew also recently rebuilt an oxen drawn cart.

Kegebein went on to tell me that the very model for the AHP came from the Monterey County Rural Agricultural Museum in King City. Kegebein said he and a crew visited the museum and spotted a display that showed early day Watsonville and scenes from Hudson Landing over by Las Lomas and Elkhorn Slough. He learned that grains such as oats, wheat and barley were hauled north from King City to Watsonville and thus came the seeds of the AHP. Kegebein said the original idea was to create a museum from the entire Pajaro Valley, but that proved to be overwhelming, so the vision was sharpened to agriculture of the PV.

Volunteers also include Tom Stickel, Bill Jankowski, Bob Erbe, Dallas Laatsch, Hassan Zamani, and Tim Lorenz.


Monday, Jan. 14:

Tarmo Hannula: ON THURSDAY I spoke with a meteorologist about the upcoming weather and she said, “Rain, rain and rain.” Well, it turned out to be more like sun, clouds and more sun and clouds. No rain. TV weather reports kept stating that the major rain would hit sometime Sunday. No. Then they said it’s moved up to Monday. No. A brief light sprinkle fell but quickly died off….

HAS ANYBODY NOTICED the dozens of bright orange signs posted at scores of Highway 1 off-ramps between Watsonville Aptos? It reads, “Intermittently closed between Dec. 12 and March 31. 9 p.m.-6 a.m.” I spoke with Colin Jones, Caltrans’ media person, and he said it involved a seven-mile repaving project that begins later this month….

I STOPPED BY the Watsonville Public Library the other day and had a brief chat with MariaElena Olmedo, Outreach Services. I told her about my recent journey to Mexico and she said she has learned the importance of taking her children to Mexico to make sure they understand the culture, language and customs. Olmedo is a great source at the library especially for those dealing with English/Spanish language issues.

“It’s one thing to tell them about it, but to be there living it is totally different,” she said.

I love going into the library because I always learn something new, something exciting and different each time to go there. I also relish seeing parents in the children’s section helping their kids get a grip on the importance of books. A few days before my wife Sarah and I headed out for our two-week trip in November to Mexico, I asked the library’s reference desk woman if she could recommend a novel for my travels. I told her a few of my favorite authors (Steinbeck, Hemingway, London, Flannery O’Conner) and she said, “I know just the book for you.” With that she darted off into the fiction section and pulled out “Daughter of Fortune” by Isabel Allende. The book floored me! It was fantastic and nearly impossible to put down. I have since returned to the library and checked out another book by Allende, whom I have learned is a prolific writer from Chile….

MONDAY STARTED OUT with big drama in Watsonville. It started out with a report of a fire on the second floor of an apartment on Terry Loop just off of Clifford Avenue. Watsonville firefighters arrived and found the second floor filled with smoke. Interim Duty Chief Rick Pettigrew said firefighters got a quick knock down on some smoldering papers. Then a report came over the radio of a possible attempted carjacking at the SOFTSPRA RV and car wash on Freedom Boulevard at Blanca Lane. Police began looking into whether the stabbing was the same arson suspect from Terry Loop. A short while later police charged off into the slough area behind the 500 block of Auto Center Drive based on the fact that they might have spotted the suspect.

Meanwhile police drew their guns and surrounded the Terry Loop home believing the suspect may have retuned home, the place where the fire started. No one was found. The commotion drew a crowd of curious onlookers. It ended peacefully without a suspect in custody.

POLICE ALSO TOLD me a man was shot twice in the leg in his car outside the Motel 6 at Silver Leaf Drive and South Green Valley Road. No suspects have been rounded up and no motive has been released by WPD.

WOW! WHAT A start for Monday. Now watch the big rains start up.


For last week’s About Town installment, visit

Previous articleGirls SCCAL basketball: Giuffre, Pardue shoot Aptos past Soquel
Next articleMan shot outside Motel 6
A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here