Final touches are being completed on the new Borina Archive & Alzora Snyder and Jane Borg Research Center at the Pajaro Valley Historical Association. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — If visitors to the 143-year-old Bockius-Orr House squint their eyes and use their imaginations, they might just be able to see back to the 1920s, where ladies and gentlemen dressed in their finery discussed the growing musical movement that would come to be known as the Jazz Age.
As they danced the night away, these imaginary people may well have been sipping alcoholic drinks, in spite of the recently enacted Prohibition law that banned all forms of alcohol.
That era, which is famously depicted in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby,” was one of decadence and debauchery, of jazz clubs and bootleggers, and has in many ways come to signify an innocent America still fresh from World War I but not yet ravaged by the Great Depression.
The Pajaro Valley Historical Association will attempt to capture the spirit of the 1920s on Saturday during the second annual Gatsby Under the Oaks celebration, the organization’s main fundraiser for the year.
The historical displays are not confined to the 1920s — visitors will be able to see vintage clothing and other artifacts that in some cases are more than 130 years old.
In one room a black taffeta and tulle evening gown hangs on a dressmakers dummy, its origin dating back to 1890. Nearby is a forest green chiffon and velvet evening dress from the 1920s.
The several dresses and men’s formalwear are surrounded by vintage furniture, display cases full of fine china and other curios such as a circa 1920 rhinestone-studded tiara.
“This is an opportunity for us to have fun with the community, our members and our volunteers, and to support the PVHA,” the organization’s board president Rob Allen said.
While the historical association relies on private donations and funding from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the Gatsby celebration helps bring in approximately half of its annual $60,000 budget, Allen said.
The gala includes wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres, live jazz and gaming tables, a nod to the speakeasies that sold illicit booze.
In addition, a silent auction will allow guests to win such prizes as a gourmet dinner, two nights in a Palm Springs condo and a genealogy family study by PVHA historians.
Docents will be on hand to give tours of the Bockius-Orr House, and of the Carriage House, which contains several artifacts. Automobiles that plied the roads during the 1920s will be parked on the grounds, further adding to the historical ambience.
“It really takes you back to the days of the 20s,” said PVHA volunteer Judy Campbell. “And it’s such a picturesque setting.”
But the celebration will be more than a chance to see the historical structures, clothes and archives.
Guests will also have an opportunity to get a glimpse of the gleaming new Borina Archive & Alzora Snyder and Jane Borg Research Center, which is expected to be completed this month. The building is intended to house the association’s voluminous archives.
The current location is a doublewide trailer that has for years been grossly overburdened by towering piles of photos, books and other items.
The new building provides 2,000 square feet of space, giving researchers room to delve into history with microfiche, maps, yearbooks and volumes of information at their fingertips. Better still, the climate controlled room and special windows protected from ultraviolet light will keep the delicate archives from damage.
The building is named for 27-year PVHA volunteer Alzora Snyder, and for Jane Borg, who retired in 2011 after volunteering there for 29 years.
It is also named for the Borina Foundation, which launched the funding process with a $400,000 matching grant. Working with the community, the group raised $930,000. The building cost approximately $270,000, while the property was $600,000.
“It expands our opportunity to bring more life and vitality to Pajaro Valley Historical,” said Judy Doering-Nielsen, who served as the fundraising chair for the new research center.
The second annual Gatsby Under the Oaks is Saturday from 2:30-6:30 p.m. at the Pajaro Valley Historical Association at 332 East Beach St. Tickets are $60. For reservations, call 722-0305. Tickets are also available at the door on the day of the event. For information, visit www.pajarovalleyhistory.org.
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