THE RAGSAC FAMILY
Ben Reg Ragsac, the family patriarch, came to the United States from the Philippines in1925 from Santa Catalina, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. He settled in Watsonville circa 1936 after stays in Alaska, Washington State, Southern California, and the San Jose area. With the development of World War II, he swore allegiance to the United States by serving in the U.S. Navy from 1941-1943.
Initially, he worked in the canneries and the agricultural fields as did many of the early Manongs of his generation but realized he was not suited for a migrant career. So, he studied the laundry and dry-cleaning trade. A young Ben Reg Ragsac worked and learned the business at the Ideal Cleaners located in the Pinoytown/Japantown area of San Jose.
A business opportunity arose shortly thereafter in Watsonville which manifested into an off-shoot branch located at 126 Main Street. Through hard work and excellent service, this business endeavor blossomed into the Ideal Cleaners along with his partner, Benny Tabancay. This flourished into a community mainstay and iconic enterprise in the Filipino and mainstream community from 1936 to 1996.
Of Chamorro descent, Mary Fejaran Quenga, was born in Vallejo, California, in 1930. She met her husband to be in 1943 and they married in 1946 in Washington State. Not having any experience in the laundry and dry cleaning business, her seamstress and knitting skills certainly attributed to the success of Ideal Cleaners by expanding their scope and services to include custom tailoring, sewing and alterations. Her skills caught the eye of one Joseph Magnin, who commissioned her to design garments in his famous San Francisco store.
Together they raised five children, Ben (Raggy) born in 1947, John (Sibby) born in1948, Letecia (Tisha) born in 1951, Francisco (Frisco) born in 1960, and Dorina (Rena) born in 1961. The Ragsac family resided at the south end of Marchant Street which was directly adjacent to the Pajaro River and its levees. For all the neighborhood kids, the levee was their own playground; a place where youth could play childhood games in a safe environment with other ethnic minority groups. The same groups shared neighborhood activities like barbecues, picnics, and holiday gatherings inevitability developing into strong bonds.
Ben and Mary were considered community leaders and extremely involved in organizing Filipino community activities. They were involved with the church and Filipino fraternal organizations, as well as one of the few Filipino families with an established and successful business proprietorship in the community.
"Growing up in Watsonville was quite memorable and looking back it was filled with so much love and fun, not only from our immediate family, but from those Filipino families and Manongs that we learned to respect and admire," said Ben "Raggy" Ragsac, the oldest son of Ben and Mary. He continued, "It is very important to recognize the efforts of all of our parents to encourage the interaction of our families as evidenced by yearly gatherings at Bolado Park in Hollister, the annual float decorating gatherings each 4th of July, the Christmas parties at the Veterans Building, and the monthly neighborhood barbecues and picnics. Although those activities have diminished over the years, the annual Ragsac Reunion at Sunset State Beach is still celebrated every summer. "All these events have served to unite and celebrate our culture", he added.