An evening devoted to “The Armenians of the Central San Joaquin Valley” drew more than 100 people to the Fresno County Library on Tuesday, October 17.
A full table of Armenian delicacies greeted those who entered the Sarah McCardle Room of the Library to listen to retired local Armenian farmer Berge Bulbulian, musician Peter Dorian, and Barlow Der Mugrdechian of the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State.
Bulbulian, author of the recently released The Fresno Armenians: History of a Diaspora Community, (The Press, California State University, Fresno: 2000) spoke about the early history of the Armenian community. He highlighted the important role that Armenians played in the development of Fresno and the Central San Joaquin Valley.
“The Fresno Armenians” is the first book on the history of Armenians in Fresno to draw together various sources, including the oral accounts of some of the descendants of the first settlers to Fresno in 1881.
Dorian has been playing the oud since he was 13 years old. He explained the history of the oud, the ancestor of the lute and modern guitar, and performed three traditional Armenian folk-songs. He emphasized the role that Armenian music played in traditional Armenian life, both at times of work and also at festive occasions, such as weddings. Dorian is an accomplished musician, who performs traditional Armenian folk songs at concerts, weddings, and ethnic dances.
Der Mugrdechian, presented interesting stories about the early Armenian community, based on his research in the pages of the Asbarez newspaper. Asbarez was the first Armenian language newspaper published in Fresno. His presentation included vignettes on the progress of the early raisin industry including how the price drop in raisins affected Armenian farmers in 1908.
Der Mugrdechian also related how Armenian organizations in this early period remained interested in the old country, often holding fund-raising events for the hungry and for orphans.
Humorous stories about the Armenian characters who lived in Fresno added a great deal to the presentation.
The evening was co-sponsored by The William Saroyan Society, the California State University, Fresno Armenian Studies Program, the Fresno County Genealogical Society, and the Friends of the Fresno County Public Library.