FRESNO — “My gifted mother, Mary Elizabeth Bedrosian, was born in Fresno, California to Beatrice Onan Bedrosian and Hovsep (Harry Avedis) Bedrosian on May 7, 1920. She was the oldest of five siblings — Mary, Nevart, Peter, George, and Johnny. She grew up on the family farm in West Fresno located on Jensen and Fig Avenues. Their home was filled with laughter, lots of Armenian food, music, family, and good friends,” says Melene. “My mother’s family lived on that small farm with a mother, father, five children (all talented cooks), grandmother, grandfather, and two aunts living and working together. Their perpetual garden would produce a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the entire family for many years,” she adds.
“In the 1940s, Saturday nights were Kheyma and Lamb Chop Nights, and featured lots of music, dancing, talking, and singing,” she says. “Sunday afternoons were reserved for weekly gatherings of the neighbors and family members who enjoyed Grandpa Hovsep playing his zourna, with the family joining in ethnic music and dancing.” (See: “Hovsep Joseph Bedrosian: Master Zourna Player,” at: https://www.armenianmuseum.org/sound-archive.)
“My mother attended Fresno Colony Elementary School and Washington Union High School, and was involved in high school clubs and activities, including playing the piano, bass, and the tuba in the school’s marching band.” Mary graduated from Washington Union High School, and was later introduced to her future husband, Jivon John Perch, who was born in Turkey in 1912. They were married on August 24, 1940 at the Pilgrim Armenian Congregational Church in Fresno, and were blessed with two children, Basil and Melene.
“My father’s father, Harry Perch, immigrated to the United States in his twenties from Turkey, leaving his wife and three children in his homeland for seven years until he could bring them to America. Upon arrival, Harry founded California Sun Dry Company on Fulton Street in downtown Fresno, in the back of Illbeg’s Market. He later built a new plant under the same name on Cedar and Ventura Avenue, where his two brothers-in-law, Simon and Manuel Barsam, joined him. Eventually, Harry and his sons, George and Jivon, started what would become Sunnyland Bulghur Company in 1935 in a metal building on a large commercial lot located at 1435 Gearhart Avenue in Fresno.”
“Grandpa Harry was a creative artist, designing and fabricating cloth. He could pick up any piece of fabric and tell you exactly how it was made. His life began in America working as a farm hand on the Koligian Ranch. From there he ended up milling grain. He would process the product (bulghur wheat) by hand, sacked it, and carried two hundred pound sacks on his back and delivered them to his many customers. The old Hanoian’s Market, located on Railroad Avenue at the time, was one of his first customers.”
“World War II was a time of significant growth for the plant because of a defense contract that required the use of cracked wheat to feed American soldiers, and to sandblast aluminum airplane parts,” says Melene. “The family’s original bulghur process used the traditional Middle Eastern method. Almost immediately, Sunnyland Bulghur Company became known as the premium bulghur wheat manufacturer and, with a growing demand for their high quality product, the Perch family perfected a continuous method of processing that was unique in the industry. My father and uncle sold the company to the Orlando family in 1977, who continue to run the company today.”**