A Place Of Gratitude

November is the month of Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving holiday can be traced to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Mass. by the Pilgrims at their first harvest in the New World. This feast lasted three days, and was attended by approximately 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native-Americans, who had donated food to their new neighbors during their first winter here.

Our annual tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November began during the Civil War when President Lincoln declared a national day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

In San Pedro, many of the new immigrants from Croatia, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, Norway, and other seaside nations didn’t get off a boat and stay on land like the Pilgrims. They went back to sea on fishing boats and worked hard so that they could provide for their families. In the process they built a town. This is something that those of us who love San Pedro should always be thankful for.

Although the American tradition of Thanksgiving was brought to the New World by Pilgrims from England, ceremonies of prayer and thanksgiving are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times.

In Ancient Greece, Thanksgiving was Thesmophoria, a festival to honor the goddess that taught mankind to tend the soil. Southwest Native-Americans perform a corn dance to give thanks for their crop. The Jewish people celebrate Sukkot, which marks the end of the end of the agricultural year and celebrates the final harvest before winter. Many Asian cultures have festivals of gratitude for their rich rice harvest.

For many years, the San Pedro festival of thanks, which heaped gratitude toward the heavens for our harvest, was the Fishermen’s Fiesta. Our local crop was fish and in many ways, both literal and figurative, it fed our town. Because the great majority of the fishermen in our fleet were Catholics, the central piece of the Fishermen’s Fiesta ceremonies was the blessing of the fishing boats by the cardinal or bishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The men and women saying their prayers of thanksgiving on those days were in many ways San Pedro’s Pilgrims and just like the Pilgrims had their Plymouth Rock, we have our port.

Another set of San Pedro Pilgrims that helped build our town from its very first days, and have emerged as the economic engine that have driven our local economy after the fishing industry shrank, is our longshoremen. They also have an annual day of thanks that honors the deep struggle of their forefathers to ensure good compensation for the harvest of their labor. It’s called Bloody Thursday.

Every year on July 5, ILWU members gather at a picnic to remember the men that were killed in the Big Strike of 1934, a labor struggle that was won by the longshoremen and created the conditions for a waterfront that has greatly prospered our community.

As we embark on a new era in San Pedro, the coming waterfront development at Ports O’ Call and the construction of AltaSea, a world-class marine research center at City Dock 1, provide us the exciting opportunity to start dreaming of new Pilgrims that will join our fishermen and longshoremen in building the next chapter of what we will be thankful for in our community.

This Thanksgiving, while the rest of the nation carves turkey and looks back at Plymouth, I think it might be appropriate for us San Pedrans to include a side dish from the sea and to take a long and reflective look at our beautiful harbor that has given us so much to be thankful for. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

Sleeping In Dirt


What happens when 15 “Pedro Boy” dads decide to take 25 of their kids to Catalina Island for a two-night camping trip without maternal supervision? This is what I’ve been allowed to write (the rest has been redacted).

The whole idea started sometime during the Eastview baseball season when Mike Harper and Zlatko Josic approached me about a camping trip they were planning. My initial reaction? My father didn’t escape communist Yugoslavia as a young teen and live in Italian refugee camps for four years so that he could come to America and have his family sleep in the dirt while on vacation.

They scratched me off the list and kept planning without me. However, I later heard them mention Catalina and my interest piqued. They went on to say this was luxury camping, the tents were pre-made with cots inside, the nearby small town of Twin Harbor was only a quarter mile away with hot showers, great bathroom facilities, and a pretty good restaurant. I was sold (not that I had a choice after my son Kyle heard that his baseball buddies, Nathan Harper and Robby and Cooper Josic, were going camping and he was invited).

Fifteen dads, 22 boys and three girls (my daughter Katija was one of the brave girls) boarded Catalina Express on an early Sunday morning boat to the island. We docked at 9 a.m. in Twin Harbor and the first thing we all noticed was a band already rocking it pretty good in the outdoor bar next to the restaurant (this is the part of the story where Buffalo Milkshakes start to get redacted).

We were on the island five minutes, our stuff hadn’t even come off the boat yet, and my kids were already begging me to go down on the beach. Fifteen minutes later I relented. Five minutes after that, Katija came to ask me something and I noticed she was soaked head to toe in her clothing and shoes because she had to have a shell that must have been in ten-feet of water (the shoes, her only shoes on the trip, never did dry out until we got back home).

A truck came and got our stuff and we took the quarter-mile hike to camp – more like a mile, but who’s counting? Well, I was, because by now nature had called and the porta-potty facilities at the campsite were so sub-human that I truly considered the two-mile roundtrip walk back to town just to go to the bathroom. Instead, I pinched my nose and, well, you know the rest.

When I got out, I found my kids so caked in dirt that I considered filming them for a Sally Struthers PSA to feed the children. Because we had packed so lightly, I had to ration their clothing and there was really not much we could do because the campground was situated on a large patch of what could best be described as infield dirt.

What did I say about sleeping in dirt? I have to admit, we did have pre-made canvas tents over wooden frames with cots to sleep on. However, I’d be curious how much our group contributed to the local chiropractic economy after 15 middle-aged dudes slept on those things for two nights.

So, I was right. Sleeping in dirt is a stupid idea that only people who have the luxury and the means to afford comfort would think is a good idea. But, you know what? I hope we all go back next year.

We saw a buffalo and dozens of sharks in a lagoon while on a hike. At night, the children (and the men) delighted in having our campsite visited by deer and foxes. We snorkeled in pristine water among the beautiful orange Garibaldi fish that Catalina is famous for. After BBQ dinner (thanks Z!), 15 of the best dads I know sipped on cold refreshments and watched 25 of the nicest kids you will ever want to meet sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories, roasting marshmallows, and having a blast. I love camping. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Party Like It’s 1988

Happy 125th Birthday, San Pedro! There’s no way to predict what the next 125 years will bring, but I strongly believe that in the next 25 years we will do much more than in the previous quarter century. And, contrary to some local critics, we’ve come a long way in that time.

Consider this: In 1988, when we celebrated San Pedro’s Centennial, anyone venturing into downtown at night would have found a virtual ghost town, which was considered too dangerous to visit after dark. The only place of note to eat and/or drink at night around this time was Papadakis Taverna.

Everything changed almost immediately after 1988 when Alan Johnson opened John T’s, which was later taken over and changed to the San Pedro Brewing Company by James Brown. Suddenly, young San Pedrans had a downtown place for drinks at night. The crowd soon invaded Tommy’s next door (now Crimsin) and the spark was lit for a downtown scene where one can now eat and drink at numerous locations.

The fact that downtown is a much better nighttime place to visit than it was 25 years ago flies into the face of the nostalgia you often hear from old-timers. True, retail isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the years prior to the opening of malls like Del Amo, but that’s the case in downtowns all across America. And the next 25 years will get better – much better.

Everything starts with the port. There are currently two major developments – AltaSea and Ports O’ Call – that will not only change the face of the waterfront, but all of San Pedro, especially downtown.

AltaSea will greatly expand the current Marine Research Institute by relocating at City Dock 1. The research center, which is a collaborative effort of eleven major universities, including USC and UCLA, will feature seawater labs, classrooms, lecture halls, an interpretive center, and an opportunity to develop the world’s largest seawater wave tank.

A world class research center will drive to San Pedro a large wave of academicians, vendors, businessmen, and professionals that will either work at AltaSea, service its operational requirements, or create business partnerships that leverage the research being done there. The most natural place for these newcomers to locate their offices will be in downtown. And more people in more offices will establish the environment for a better variety of places to eat and drink in downtown… and at Ports O’ Call.

Ports O’ Call will create a waterfront dining and shopping experience that will spark tourism, as has happened in other port towns such as Seattle, Sydney, and Barcelona. However, the key to making our area a regional attraction will be our ability to integrate for visitors a seamless experience where they can traverse between a great waterfront and a vibrant downtown scene.

The reason I was so inspired by the choice of the L.A. Waterfront Alliance as the Ports O’ Call developer is that the team includes Eric and Alan Johnson. The Johnsons own property throughout San Pedro and understand the importance of an integrated plan linking the waterfront and downtown. What other outside waterfront developer would have been such a strong advocate for downtown? Alan has a vision for downtown that includes one-way streets with better parking, enhanced public performance space, wider sidewalks that allow for sidewalk dining, and transforming alleys into pedestrian walkways – much like in Old Town Pasadena (I’d add bringing the Red Car up 6th Street to Centre).

In addition, Alan is on the board of Marymount University and is very active in helping the college establish a film school at the Klaus Center on 6th Street, which could assist in Mayor Garcetti’s idea for making San Pedro one of the city’s entertainment corridors.

It all adds up to a downtown on the upswing… it should be a great quarter century for our town!

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Councilman Joe Buscaino and LAHIFF’s Stephanie Mardesich at the festival’s 10th anniversary press launch

Stephanie Mardesichloves movies.

If not for her passion for the cinema, the ebullient director and founder of the Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival may not have been able to carry the event through to its 10th anniversary this year.

“A decade is a significant epoch and though I don’t feel older, clearly ten years has passed,” she says of the milestone.

As Mardesich describes it, the LAHIFF has always been a celebration of film. Unlike more relevant film festivals like Cannes, Sundance, South by Southwest or Toronto, which are geared towards new and independent films looking for distribution, the LAHIFF prides itself on celebrating films from both past generations and more contemporary times, with a strong focus on children’s education thrown in.

“The motivation to continue corresponds to the values instilled by my parents to persevere, to strive for excellence as its own reward, to be an individual of conviction, and to never give up on something or someone as long as there is some hope for a positive outcome,” says Mardesich. “It’s better to try and fail than succeed at nothing, as a friend once told me. In spite of challenges we have continued and now have a ten-year record.”

Back in 2003, the idea of establishing a film festival in San Pedro wasn’t a far-fetched one. The town already had an iconic theater to host it, perfectly set in the heart of downtown. Not to mention, San Pedro already had a rich history of being used as Hollywood’s backdrop. From classic films such as Chinatown, to popular current television series like Mad Men, San Pedro has become synonymous with film production.

“Stephanie and I were at a San Pedro Chamber mixer at Ports O’ Call Restaurant and we were chatting with the late Gary Cox about how San Pedro should have a film festival,” recalls Jack Baric, an original co-founder of the festival who has since stepped away. “Stephanie really took the conversation to heart and immediately started working on getting a festival launched. She has been generous enough to include calling me a co-founder, but truthfully she put forth all the effort in launching the festival and has kept it going since then.”

Left: Russ Tamblyn and Academy Award winner George Chakiris, co-stars of West Side Story, at the 2009 festival. Right: Mardesich with actress Betty Garrett and host Tom Hatten at the inaugural festival in 2004

The inaugural festival launched on April 30, 2004, and included such films as The Perfect Storm, the 2000 drama starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, based on Sebastian Junger‘s best-selling book, the 1949 musical comedy Neptune’s Daughter, starring Esther Williams, Betty Garrett and Ricardo Montalban, and an afternoon screening of Disney’s The Little Mermaid for the kids.

Other films featured at the festival throughout the decade include The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), South Pacific (1958), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), and West Side Story (1961), among others.

In 2006, the LAHIFF hosted the world premiere of Baric’s San Pedro documentary, Port Town, which brought a near capacity crowd to the Warner Grand that year.

“When I think of what the festival has become, I just think of Stephanie and how she has persevered in keeping it going,” says Baric. “It is not an easy thing to keep a festival running year after year and yet she has done it, which is a compliment to her passion.”

Mardesich’s other passion is education. Her late mother, Lee, was a teacher at Bandini Street Elementary School and instilled in her family the importance of reading. Mardesich used that inspiration to establish the “Read the Book, See the Movie” (RBSM) program, which has become the cornerstone of the film festival.

“From the beginning, it was clear LAHIFF should have an education element for students,” remembers Mardesich. “It’s so simple. Pick a book that has a film attached. We’ve been focusing on classic literature, but the choices are infinite. Read the book and talk about the differences in the two genres. It’s a more thoughtful way to encourage literacy.”

Every year, one film adaptation of a classic novel is chosen for the RBSM program. Publishing sponsors Penguin and Puffin Classics donated 1,200 paperback copies of the book that are distributed to students from middle school to adult education classes. Participating schools include: John & Muriel Olguin Campus of San Pedro High School, Dana Middle School, Rolling Hills Renaissance School, Pacific Lutheran School, Port of Los Angeles Charter High School, Mary Star of the Sea High School, and the Harbor Service Center (formerly known as San Pedro Adult Learning Center).

For newly-elected L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, the RBSM program is what separates this film festival from the rest.

“‘Read the Book, See the Movie’ is my favorite element of the film festival,” he says. “My wife, who is a teacher at White Point Elementary, has participated in this program, and we understand the educational value that it delivers. LAHIFF’s commitment to San Pedro, its culture and its history, is important.”

Clockwise L to R: The LAHIFF’s 10th annual festival programing includes There’s No Business Like Show Business (1953) starring Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe, Chased by the Dogs (1962) and Disney’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1993)

This year, the four-day festival takes place May 2-5 at the Warner Grand Theatre in historic downtown San Pedro, the heart of the Port of Los Angeles, beginning with a free screening of the RBSM film, Disney’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1993), starring Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), on May 2 at 10:30 a.m.

“The story of Huckleberry Finn and his friend the runaway slave Jim, speaks to friendship, loyalty, and courage with an anti-slavery theme,” says Mardesich. “The timing of this classic choice with regard to the recent films Lincoln and Django Unchained is relevant considering issues of social responsibility and morality with historical reflection.”

The festival continues on Friday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. with the opening night screening of Chased By the Dogs (1962), the film adaptation of the Egyptian novel The Thief and the Dogs by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz.

Saturday, May 4, marks the annual Hollywood Nostalgia Tribute night featuring Irving Berlin’s 1953 classic, There’s No Business Like Show Business, starring Ethyl Merman, Dan Daley, Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe. The screening is preceded by the “Show Biz and Red Carpet Gala” at the Arcade Building, directly across the street from the Warner Grand. Tickets for the pre-show Gala are $75 ($65 if purchased before April 18), which includes admission to the film, an open bar, appetizers and buffet supper homage to 1950s cuisine. General admission to the film is only $10.

The festival concludes on Sunday, May 5 at 1 p.m., with its traditional “DocSunday” programming featuring the New Filmmakers LA (NFMLA) “On Location Program,” showcasing 22 short films made to promote the City of Los Angeles.

With its eclectic lineup, Mardesich is hoping to pull in audiences who appreciate various genres and who are open to viewing films they might never have seen before.

“Bringing out the audience is probably the greatest challenge of this festival,” admits Mardesich. “[My dream] would be to have a full house — that’s at least one third of the 1,500 seat capacity of the Warner Grand — at the programs. We’ve been fortunate to have several capacity crowds. That’s exciting, though not realistic in current times. When the movie palaces were built, there was an audience to fill the huge space. It’s rare for that to happen any longer, thus theatres like the Warner Grand have become multi-use venues.”

Even with a handful of loyal volunteers, the LAHIFF is still Mardesich’s baby. It’s rare that you spot her around town not wearing one of her many multi-colored LAHIFF t-shirts. Come marketing season, that shirt is usually accompanied by a handful of postcards and posters that she single-handedly distributes across town and throughout Los Angeles.

With continued community support from Congresswoman Janice Hahn and Supervisor Don Knabe, plus local business sponsorships, the LAHIFF continues to stay alive, even through challenging times. With a decade of experience, Mardesich still expresses hope that the festival will become ever grander and more relevant during the next ten years.

“It would be wonderful if an entity or sponsor had the interest to give their name above the title and bring an infusion of funds so there could be a paid administrator and staff and the festival could perhaps go to another level,” she says. “I would still want to be involved and advise so the mission is not distorted, however, the effort it takes now is very consuming and one of these days I might like to take a voyage elsewhere than on the cinematic bridge.” spt

The Los Angeles Harbor International Film Festival takes place Thurs-Sun, May 2-5. Tickets for all programs and reception will be sold online through Brown Paper Tickets, Williams’ Book Store (443 W. 6th St., Downtown), and at the box office (cash only) during the festival one-hour before programs start. General admission is $10 per program; $8 with discounts from select affliliations: GVF, LAMM, IDA, CMA, BAFTA LA and ILWU, and seniors and students. Prices subject to change. For full details, visit www.laharborfilmfest.com.

A Victory For Waterfront Development

On a Tuesday evening in September of 2009, I had the honor of spending a long evening together with many hundreds of San Pedrans, all passionate about the future of a town we love. We all crowded into a meeting room at Liberty Hill Plaza and stayed well past midnight for a Harbor Commission meeting on adopting a proposed development plan for our waterfront.

The 400-acre project was designed to give the community better access to the water – and it included a promenade that ran alongside the water’s edge, water cuts and downtown-adjacent boating slips, various pocket parks, fountains and plazas, an extended Red Car line, and several other public features that would create a great waterfront experience for locals and visitors alike. The plan passed unanimously.

This was not just a plan to beautify the area, but to aid regional economic development through the introduction of various new shopping, dining and convention facilities that would give Los Angeles a waterfront that could compare to places such as Baltimore, Seattle, and San Francisco. At its core, the plan created a pathway for the Port of Los Angeles to redevelop Ports O’ Call Village with 300,000 square feet now zoned for shops, restaurants, a convention hall and other establishments that would make our waterfront a regional attraction.

It was great, except for one glaring problem. We were smack dab in the middle of a recession and there were very few development projects being launched anywhere. I recall a sobering dinner during this period with a friend on the real estate board at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management who told me that he saw no chance of Ports O’ Call being redeveloped.

However, as the economy slowly started to rebound, the Port finally felt optimistic enough to put out a request for real estate groups to submit their qualifications to be chosen to negotiate the right to redevelop Ports O’ Call. Although the Port was optimistic, it was a cautious optimism – as one Port source told me, they realistically hoped for two or three groups to submit. However, much to their delight, the Port received eight bids.

Among the seven bids they reviewed (one group dropped out); the Port chose a group dubbed the Los Angeles Waterfront Alliance to earn the right of negotiating a development deal with them. In my opinion, it was a great choice.

The lead member of the group is real estate developer Wayne Ratkovich. I first became familiar with Ratkovich when I noticed his name on the Wiltern Center in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood where I lived in the late ‘80s. I became interested because I automatically assumed that with his “ich” last name, he must share my Croatian heritage, but I later found out he was actually Serbian (can’t win them all).

Our ethnic differences aside, I experienced firsthand the positive effect of Ratkovich’s redevelopment of the Wiltern. It created a great place in my neighborhood to see a concert in a grand music venue, or eat dinner and have drinks in hip restaurant establishments. It became a must-visit destination for me and tons of my friends that lived and worked throughout Los Angeles and Hollywood.

I later learned that Ratkovich has a great reputation for redeveloping places that had seen better days, but doing so without losing the authenticity of what made those places special in the first place. I’m excited and can’t wait to see how he and his team will make Ports O’ Call new again while giving a nod to the heritage of our waterfront and community.

Ratkovich’s local partners on the project, the Johnson brothers, Eric and Alan, are also fantastic choices. Their company, Jerico Development owns several properties in downtown San Pedro that both retain historical authenticity and are well kept. Ask the business owners that occupy their buildings and you will learn that these are great guys that deeply care about our town and do their part to contribute to the shared success of the downtown community. For example, Alan’s wife, Liz, runs Grand Vision, the non-profit that played the lead role in the restoration and administration of the Warner Grand Theatre.

Congratulations to the Port and to the Los Angeles Waterfront Alliance. I, and all of San Pedro, can’t wait to see you make Ports O’ Call great again. spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

San Pedro’s Living Treasures

On March 1, the San Pedro Historic Downtown Waterfront District will host the Living Treasures Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown San Pedro, kicking off the year-long celebration of our port town’s 125th anniversary. While there are plenty of living treasures in San Pedro who could be on this list, the following select few are being honored for their contributions to our community.

(photos by Joleen D'Rage)

Jean Wilder

Jean Acalin Wilder has lived her entire life in San Pedro. She was born in 1928 to Italian and Dalmatian parents. She lives in a beautiful 100-year old Craftsman house built in 1913 that has a spectacular view of the Cabrillo Beach breakwater. The home sits on two lots in the Point Fermin area that was given to her husband’s family by George H. Peck, one of San Pedro’s notable real estate developers. Jean and her husband, Charles Wilder Jr., had six children together – five boys and one girl, all of which were born at the old, brick, San Pedro Hospital.


Joe Marino

Joe Marino moved to San Pedro with his family from Rockford, Ill., at the age of 13. Marino, a Sicilian, has lived in town now for more than 72 years, and says he’s “in love with the town of San Pedro and the community at large, as the community has come together to make this a great place to work and live.” Marino spent 48 years as an educator and worked as a local elementary school teacher for 10 years –at Leland, White Point, and Crestwood – and as a school administrator for 25 years. After retiring from the LAUSD, Marino mentored college students studying to be schoolteachers at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1992, and did so for 13 years. Marino was honored as LAUSD’s Principal of the Year in 1987 and was Honorary Mayor of San Pedro from 1988-1989. Joe is married to his lovely wife, Marian. Together they have two children and three grandchildren.

Harry Hall

Harry Hall will celebrate his 100th birthday this June, which makes Harry and the Angel’s Gate Lighthouse the exact same age. Born and raised in San Pedro, Hall’s parents came from Swedish immigrant families that settled in Minnesota. Hall made it to San Pedro when his family moved there in 1905. At age 9, Harry fell in love with the violin after a salesman knocked on the family door selling violin lessons. This love would lead Hall to become a professional violinist and teacher, teaching lessons at Vine’s Music, Compton College and a private studio in Palos Verdes Estates, just to name a few. He even conducted a 2,000-violin orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948. Hall married two times, and is twice widowed, but says he feels blessed to have had two wives who both shared his passion for music and his love of San Pedro. Amazingly, Hall is still playing the violin around town. You can find him at such as the Harbor Terrace Retirement Community, First United Methodist Church and a downtown favorite, The Whale and Ale.


Anne Gusha

You can still find Anne Gusha behind the counter of Williams’ Book Store on 6th Street in downtown San Pedro. At 93-years-old (and still counting), the Seattle-born Gusha is best known as the current owner of the historic, and historically independent, bookstore. Soon after she was born, she moved to San Pedro from Washington with her Croatian family in 1920. Gusha first stepped foot in the bookstore when she was eight. In 1941, Gusha began working at the store for then-owner Ethel Williams. When Williams retired in 1980, Gusha and her son, Jerry, took over the store, calling it their own. Gusha has spent much of her time on philanthropic causes, such as Soroptomist International, Los Angeles Harbor, and has worked hard to promote literacy and women’s issues. Anne was married in 1945 and has three children.


Muriel Olguin

Muriel Olguin says that San Pedro “was the best place to raise kids and build careers while living in one of the most beautiful places.” Born in our port town in 1923, Olguin, 89, bounced around the Harbor Area before settling in San Pedro, where she’s lived for the past 65 years. Her life with her late husband, John Olguin, was the stuff of legend and romance novels, and was chronicled in San Pedro Today columnist Jack Baric‘s San Pedro documentary, Port Town, where the couple’s love of sleeping outside under the stars and rowing their 15-foot rowboat to the Isthmus at the West End of Catalina Island was featured. An artist and philanthropist, Olguin completed a Master of Arts degree in 1958, at a time when “mothers didn’t go to college with children and a husband at home,” she says. She was a founding member of the Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, the Rembrandt Crew that started the Palos Verdes Art Center, and with other artists, The Loft in downtown San Pedro. Both Muriel and John Olguin, for the majority of their lives, have immensely and unselfishly contributed to San Pedro and the surrounding communities. Together they had three children and a very active home life in San Pedro.


Matty Domancich

Kuzma Domancich, best known around town as “Matty,” is as true a San Pedran as they come. Born of Croatian parents and raised in San Pedro for the past 90 years, Matty remains one of San Pedro’s greatest, active, goodwill ambassadors. Domancich founded and became the first President of San Pedro High School’s Pirate Booster Club in 1958, an all-volunteer, fundraising organization originally established to provide moral and monetary support to some of the high school’s athletes and their needs. Today, it has expanded its support to include all SPHS sports, academic clubs, theater arts and many other campus-sponsored activities. It is also believed to be the LAUSD’s oldest booster club. Domancich also served as a past Honorary Mayor of San Pedro from 1989-1991 and is a past “Exalted Ruler” of the San Pedro Elks Lodge. If you’re old enough, you may remember Domancich’s two Shell Gas Stations – one on Gaffey St. and the other on Pacific Ave. After Shell told him to stop providing full-service to his customers, Domancich became angry, immediately closed-up shop, and went on to open the Bike Palace. Today, you can find Domancich selling historic photos of San Pedro with the proceeds going to the San Pedro Elks Lodge, who in turn funds scholarships for local students. Domancich was married to his late wife Mary and they had one daughter.


Goldeen Kaloper

Goldeen Kaloper turns 96 this month. Born in Zlarin, Croatia, Kaloper came to the United States with her family at the young age of 12, first settling in Seattle, Wash. In 1942, Kaloper met her second husband and they moved to San Pedro. Both were widows with small infants at the time, and built a long and happy marriage of 65 years. Together, they had five children. She was one of the “cannery girls” and worked there for 24 years. The Kaloper home was a center for hospitality, especially for fishermen whose families were still back in the “old country.” God and family are the two most important things in Kaloper’s life. She believes this is what makes San Pedro great – as long as people have a deep faith, and love for their families, problems can be solved. She says the secret to a long life is, “Eat healthy, wish good for everyone, and God bless my children who take care of me!”


Thelma Gatlin

Thelma Gatlin was born in Shreveport, La. on July 15, 1924. Born Thelma Johnson, she was one of 18 children. Gatlin moved to San Pedro in 1942 to work in the shipyards during World War II. She soon married John Gatlin in 1944 and had they had children. At 88 years of age, Thelma is still very active in the community and serves on several boards, including the Toberman executive board and First Neighborhood Council in San Pedro. In the past, Gatlin served on the first board for the Central Neighborhood Council, and was one of the first recipients of the YWCA’s “Racial Justice Award.” She has also served as the President of the San Pedro YWCA board, President of the Women Church United, Vice President of the Republican Club in San Pedro. Today, you can find Gatlin as an active member of Ocean View Baptist Church.


Helen DiMaggio

Helen DiMaggio is 94-years-old and the wife of the late Neno DiMaggio. Half Mexican and half Croatian, she is the daughter of Andrew & Mary Fistonich who founded Star Fisheries Inc. in 1921. After her father Andrew passed away, her husband Neno assumed leadership of the company. With her husband at the helm, DiMaggio worked behind the scenes for 39 years, along with her sister, Anita Mardesich, who continued in the family business with subsidiary, American Fisheries. DiMaggio has been active in many community groups including San Pedro Peninsula Cancer Guild, Little Sisters of the Poor Auxiliary, the Assistance League of San Pedro, Mary Star of the Sea Church and Holy Trinity Church. She is past president of the prestigious Rotary Ann’s and was an active member of the former Women’s Chamber of Commerce.


Nicoletta “Nikky” Troy

Born in San Pedro on January 12, 1924, 89-year old Nicoletta Troy grew up with four siblings, speaking both Greek and English. Nikki was born at one of the Papadakis family homes, by the help of a midwife, and is cousin to San Pedro community leader, John Papadakis, former owner of Papadakis Taverna. She began working at the age of 12 at her father’s restaurant on Beacon Street, known as the City Hall Café. At just 4′ 10″ tall, she fondly remembers standing on a box in the kitchen to cook hamburgers and hot dogs for their customers. She worked side-by-side with her father until she graduated high school and continued working as a waitress throughout her adult years, at restaurants such as The Fireside, a carhop located on the corner of 6th St. and Gaffey, Cigo’s Restaurant on 9th St. and Pacific, and the legendary Ante’s, from which she retired at age 75.

 

Florence Collins
(no picture available at press time)

Ninety-eight-years-old and still going strong, Florence Collins was born in San Pedro to Italian/Ischian parents on May 28, 1914. She attended Fifth Street School, San Pedro’s original elementary school, which was located where the San Pedro Courthouse sits today. Florence was also in the first graduating class of Dana Middle School. A young wife and mother during the Great Depression, she and her husband, Bill Collins, lived on 9th St., which at the time was referred to as “Dago Flats.” Her husband was a sailor stationed with the Pacific Fleet in San Pedro, which was eventually moved to Pearl Harbor before WWII. His ship, the USS West Virginia, was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For two weeks, Collins did not know whether or not her husband had survived. It turns out Bill was knocked unconscious below deck, but was carried up top by a fellow crew member and thrown overboard, which saved his life. Collins has been a lifelong member of Mary Star of the Sea Church, and has several dozen grandchildren, great grand-children and great, great grandchildren, almost all of whom still reside in San Pedro.

Never Give Up

Ernest Sickenberger

New Year’s is a time for resolutions. Although people come up with multitudes of ways that they’d like to improve themselves, the most often cited resolution is to exercise and lose weight.

By February 1, most of those resolutions have been broken. However, if Ernest Sickenberger gets his way, he will motivate people to not give up on their goals and to get on a path to fitness. It’s his dream to start a physical training company that inspires its clients to live well.

The roots of Sickenberger’s goal were planted on March 1, 1998, when he suffered a horrifying snowboarding accident that landed him in a coma for 45 days. Councilman Joe Buscaino, a classmate of Sickenberger’s from San Pedro High, recalls his feelings when he learned about the accident. “A number of our friends prayed for him. We thought he was going to die, but he shocked us all with his amazing recovery. He’s just a man of strength and determination.”

After coming out of the 45-day coma, Sickenberger was in the hospital for an additional two and a half months. “They thought I would be there for a year,” he says. Sickenberger attributes his good physical condition with keeping him from dying. “I always worked out and I was in good shape. That’s one of the only things that saved my life,” he claims.

The fact that Sickenberger is even capable of telling his own story is nothing short of a miracle. Doctors didn’t expect him to be able to walk and talk again. However, it was not an easy path. He explains, “I couldn’t do anything. I had to learn how to breathe, how to talk, how to walk, how to dress myself, how to live my life again. “

Although it took an amazing degree of strength to get moving again, Sickenberger acknowledges the depth of despair that he felt after his accident. “It was very frustrating. I was like a child in diapers again. In the first year I thought about killing myself. And then I had a realization, this is my new life. There are things you can’t do, but so what? Who cares? I’m alive.”

Sickenberger acknowledges his mistake that so severely injured his brain. He explains, “All of this would have been avoided if I had just worn a helmet. I thought snow is soft.” He raps a table for emphasis and adds, “But the trees are harder. I hit a tree and boom, forty-five days in a coma.”

Councilman Buscaino recently invited Sickenberger to share his story at City Hall. Buscaino was introducing a motion for stricter skateboarder safety laws, inspired by the deaths of two teens in San Pedro while skateboarding. “He came to testify on the seriousness of preventing accidents involving head trauma. Never have the chambers been as quiet as when he was providing his powerful testimony,” recalls Buscaino.

Sickenberger has also accompanied Buscaino to their San Pedro High alma mater to speak on the issue of helmet safety. Buscaino says, “I was with him when he shared his story with the teens. Ernie is an inspiration to our town and I’m just grateful to call him my friend.”

After graduating from San Pedro High in 1992, Sickenberger went to Harbor and El Camino College before transferring to the USC. He was only six weeks from graduating at USC when he had his accident. “I was in a coma when the rest of my classmates got their diplomas,” says Sickenberger.

Eight years after his accident, Sickenberger decided he wanted to go back to college and get his diploma. He states, “I figured, let’s go back to school, and not just any school, let’s go back to USC. My dad always told me, ‘Shoot for the highest. If you miss, so what, at least you tried.’”

Making the decision to go back to school was not an easy one because even eight years after his accident, Sickenberger had a daily routine of physical therapy, speech therapy, and adaptive exercise programs. “All that was like a full time job, we had to do repetition, repetition, repetition,” explains Sickenberger.

Because his schedule allowed him to only take one class a semester, it took Sickenberger three years to graduate from USC’s School of Business, but graduate he did.

Less than one percent of the people rehabilitate from the type of accident that Sickenberger suffered. He says, “I’m the one percent. It’s remarkable. I have a lot of knowledge that I can provide to people that are in a similar situation and are looking for lessons. That’s huge.”

Sickenberger’s goal is to start a personal training company. His own exercise routine includes spinning at the gym for cardio fitness and weightlifting for strength. He especially wants to specialize in helping people recover from the same types of disabilities that he’s had to deal with. “I want to help people to get back their functions because I could basically do nothing after my accident and I had to learn how to use my body again,” says Sickenberger.

So, as you might gather, Sickenberger won’t need a New Year’s resolution to get motivated. He explains his resolution/philosophy, “You only get one shot at life and I got two. This is my second chance, so I’m gonna have a big game.” spt

Jack Baric can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com.

Hahn’s Bi-Partisan Congressional Caucus

A rollercoaster of emotions might be the best way to describe Janice Hahn’s entry into the United States Congress.

When she first announced her intention to run, many political pundits framed Janice as the underdog in the primary with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen expected to get a majority of the Democrats’ votes and Republican Craig Huey getting GOP ballots. However, Janice took home the most votes in the primary election and was well on her way to a run-off victory over Huey when life intervened.

On the day before the election, Janice’s mother Ramona Hahn passed away. The next day Janice was elected to Congress. On election night, I recall being in a long line of people who first offered Janice their condolences and then their congratulations. With tears in her eyes she accepted both sentiments graciously and began her work representing our district in Congress.

However, Janice had barely arrived in Washington D.C. when it was announced that her district had been re-drawn and she would be forced to run against an incumbent, Congresswoman Laura Richardson in the 2012 election.

With only one in ten Americans approving the work of Congress, one might wonder, why go through all the trouble to get elected?

Much of the disgust with Washington stems from the belief that the politicians have put party before country and the dysfunctional gridlock that has been created prevents our nation from moving forward out of two wars and the Great Recession into a better future. Janice would not disagree. “When I got to Congress I found myself in the middle of a very partisan, toxic environment that did not lend itself in any way to facilitate efforts by Congress members to work across the aisle. It was more of a team sport, us against them,” she says. “People want us to find a way to put aside our partisan bickering for the good of the nation.”

One of the criticisms that I occasionally would hear people whisper against Janice when she was our councilwoman was that she wanted to please everyone and was too concerned with building complete consensus before making decisions. Janice acknowledges that she always strived to build consensus, in fact she takes pride in it. “I think I was known for being able to work with environmentalists, labor, business, and neighborhood councils to figure out what we have in common to get things done,” she says.

I believe that it is precisely Janice’s great quality: to be able to listen to opposing points of view that might allow her to provide the type of leadership that the American people know we require.

She’s already begun that work in her very first year in Congress. Janice, a Democrat, and Ted Poe, a Republican from Houston, co-founded the bi-partisan PORTS Caucus to raise awareness among their Congressional colleagues about the importance of the nation’s seaports. “Surprisingly, in 112 congresses the subject of our nation’s seaports really had not been elevated to a level that I thought was appropriate considering the economics of our ports and the job creations of our ports,” says Janice. She adds, “I wanted to find something that I could do in a bi-partisan way when I reached across the aisle and asked Ted to consider forming the caucus. He said yes and we now have over 80 members of Congress that are part of the caucus.”

The PORTS Caucus has already given Janice a platform to promote the issues of our Harbor Area. Bi-partisan issues that the caucus advocates include strengthening port homeland security from terrorist attacks, pushing transportation bills that include necessary infrastructure improvements around the ports, creating grants to incubate small business start-ups that create green technology solutions for port pollution, and the creation of a national freight strategy.

The work has already begun to make its mark. President Obama recently created the first-ever White House task force on ports to create a future ports strategy and target infrastructure investments that increases the competitiveness of America’s ports. This task force can pay huge dividends for the continued economic strength of our community and is precisely the type of issue that our elected officials can work on in a bi-partisan manner to speed up our nation’s recovery from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.

Janice may have had a bumpy road into Congress, but it is my hope that she enjoys a long ride as our representative. On November 6, I urge you to vote for Janice Hahn as our Congresswoman. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com

Bruins & Trojans Unite for a Cure

Jack Baric and James Brown showing their respective college pride. (photo by John Mattera)

Although there are multitudes of great places in San Pedro to meet friends, it can be easily argued that the social center of our town is the San Pedro Brewing Company. The conversation at the bar leans pretty heavily toward sports and especially the debate between Bruin and Trojan fans over their teams – this is especially true because Brew Co. owner, James Brown is as proud a UCLA alum as you’ll ever want to meet. It’s why I took such great joy in getting him photographed in this magazine a few years ago wearing the shirt of my alma mater, USC. We made a bet over the annual rivalry football game – the alum whose team lost would have to be photographed in the rival’s shirt. I can’t recall what year JB had to do it, but let’s do some football math – the original version of the publication launched in 2002 and the Trojans won that year and in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 so we know it wasn’t in 2006 because that’s the only year UCLA has won since 1998.

This year the bet returns, but with a twist. First, I must give kudos to UCLA because it’s the first year in a long time that they’re playing exciting football and it’s shaping up to be one of the best rivalry games in ages. However, our bet will be a little different this year. We are competing to see who can raise the most money for cancer research, the San Pedro Bruins vs. the San Pedro Trojans. JB is generously supporting a film and philanthropic project that I’m a part of. I’m making a documentary film called A City Divided about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry and the film will serve as a catalyst for a campaign called Rivals United for a Kure with proceeds going to Kure It, a non-profit dedicated to cancer research. Kure It will equally donate all its profits from the project to the UCLA and USC cancer research centers.

The campaign’s co-chairmen are former USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald and former UCLA star quarterback Matt Stevens. Paul and Matt are the radio announcers for USC and UCLA football and have been speaking about the campaign on the air. The message is especially poignant from Matt because he survived a very tough battle with cancer and is an eloquent spokesman. The red carpet premiere for the film will be a Rivals United fundraiser on November 12 at Club Nokia at L.A. Live and JB has agreed to coordinate buses from Brew Co. for the premiere. Tickets for $60 will include a ride on the chartered bus, admission to the screening, and admittance to the after-party, featuring a number of former USC and UCLA players. I’m hoping that all our friends, Bruins and Trojans, are going to show the entire city of L.A. the Pedro spirit that we are so proud of by rocking the balcony that night with loud competing chants of “We are SC” and the UCLA eight clap – and, more importantly, leading the way in stepping up to fight a terrible disease that has touched us all.

Locals that attend the film will see a lot of faces they recognize. Being a born and raised Pedro Boy, I found a way to sneak a lot of locals into the film, including interviews with John Papadakis and JB (he took the role of UCLA pop-off!), cameos from the Bebich brothers, Fong sisters, Michael Varela, Ron Galosic, and a host of kids from some of the following families; Baric (that’s me), Setlich, Pirozzi, Desai, Lusic, Sestich, LaPine, Basich, and Danelo. I’d especially like to thank the Danelo family for allowing me to include the moving story of Mario Danelo, their son/brother – and San Pedro’s friend/star. The tribute to Mario in the film illustrates how we put aside the rivalry and united together as a community to honor a young man when his life tragically ended short. Mario’s brother, Joey (a very devoted Bruin!) is fantastic in the film talking about his brother.

I’ll leave you with our slogan…a city divided becomes a city united as Bruins and Trojans join together to fight cancer. We will unite, we will fight, and we will win. spt

For more info about the non-profit, please visit www.rivalsunitedforakure.org. For more info about the San Pedro Rivals United Challenge and tickets to the premiere, please visit www.sanpedrobrewing.com.

Jack Baric can be contacted at jackbaric@hotmail.com.