Thursday, December 28, 2006


BLAGGA FANS: You must forgive me for sending the below message to Corrado Poletti via the Blog. I have tried on several occasions to reply via e-mail and have received returns of "undeliverable" mail. I know that he is a BLAGGA FAN. My hope is that he reads the below message. Also you will have to forgive my imperfect Italian, however, I think Corrado will be able to make it out.

In his message Corrado asks for the e-mail address of Alverda Orlando.
He Is still seeking information on Davenport and Louis Poletti. I have replied that he should send his letter to me and I will forward to Alverda.

Corrado: Spero che questo e-mail arriva a tu porta. . Alverda Orlando sa la historia di Davenport molto bene. Su marito era Elio Orlando del Friuli. Pero lei no legge il Italiano e Elio ha traversato "Il Ultimo Ponte" anni fa. (Manda mi la lettera e io faccio un 'giro' a lei.) La presentazione del libro in il Capitola Book Cafe e Jan 17; 2007 , 730 PM. Buona Fortuna in su ricirca: Sempre Avanti per il Anno Nuovo. Auguri a tutti. Ivano

----- Original Message ----- > Sent: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 10:40 PM> Subject: Corrado from Italy> > >

Hi Ivano, How are you ? come è andata con la presentazione del libro in quel caffè/bar ??? Spero bene...

senti...le mie ricerche mi hanno portato al nominativo della Signora Alverda Orlando....sembra che sia una memoria vivente della storia di Davenport. Mi potresti dire come posso contattarla via e-Mail ? Sai.. sono sempre alla ricerca di conoscere la storia di Louis Poletti e qualche
info mi ha portato anche a San Francisco tra il 1910 e il 1914... ma non sò se si tratta della persona che stò cercando io. Intanto ti saluto e ti mando gli auguri per un "Happy New Year"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


IN “LA NOSTRA COSTA”, I WRITE ABOUT TWO HOUSES THAT STOOD SIDE BY SIDE ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE COAST ROAD about three miles north of Santa Cruz. One house belonged to the Gemignani Family and the other to the Comelli Family (my family). The two houses are no longer there having been moved off the Coast by the Tony Landino Moving Company, C. 1953. Today they stand side by side (much like they did ‘su per la costa’) at 1505 Bulb Ave in Capitola, not too far from the Capitola Mall.

The house my family lived in was originally built by ‘‘Baffi” Campioni and Constantino Gemignani. The Campionis were the first family to live in the house and eventually sold it to my parents in 1937. Gino Campioni relates some early memories of living in that house and what he thinks might have been his first Christmas.

Last Tuesday, while waiting for my friend I amused myself by studying a map of Santa Cruz. (and made myself more homesick) I discovered two things:
1. Mission Street in front of Mission Hill School does not run exactly East and West as I had always thought. 2. Bulb Avenue, where your old house and mine is now located, is less that a mile from where Baffi is buried (Holy Cross Cemetery).

(H)ere are my earliest memories of the house: My mother told me I began talking at 6 months of age. My first words were, "Mamma", "Pappà" and "Che è?" ("What is it?" This became my most frequently repeated phrase.)

When I was just toddling around, Baffi gave me a taste of his Royal Anne cherries he had preserved in bourbon. He said, "you have a cherry and I'll have the juice" I remember the good taste, followed by the startling zing! Happy baby!

I remember standing at a window and watching a Caterpillar tractor pulling out stumps. The driver was Tony Checchi. (pronounced, "cake key") I would call out, "Tira, uomo del trette!" Isn't that what you call a tractor? After all it would be another 4 years before I ever heard about English. At that same window were several shiny things that got my attention. They were iridescent and looked tasty. I tried one. This horrified my mother, who got that horse fly out of my mouth. Non fare mai piu così! Is that phrase familiar, Ivano?

Tony had some harrowing experiences. Once while driving that Caterpillar by the cliffs, he got too close to the edge, and the thing gave a lurch and flung him off. He tumbled down to a ledge, and was seriously hurt. Then he watched in horror as the tractor was still moving slowly and also tumbled over, headed right for him. Somehow it took a bounce, and landed SMASH beyond him. I don't remember who rescued him, or how, but he got out of the situation. Later on, he went back to Italy to find a bride, as Baffi had done, and instead received a beating for his trouble, presumably from a relative of his intended. I don't know what became of him after that.

Perhaps it was at the first Christmas in that house that someone brought me some gifts. One was a ping pong set, which nobody knew what to do with. I thought the little white balls were nice, but what was the rest of the stuff for? Another was a beautiful shiny silver toy Caterpillar with black rubber cleated treads. I was able to get them off the wheels, but putting them back on only served to severely pinch my fingers. I was not strong enough to wind the spring motor, so my dad would do it. I was fascinated to watch that toy move so slowly and realistically and with power. Baffi put an overturned apple box on the floor and a plank on each side so the tractor could climb up to the box and down the other side. To show how much power it had, he hooked a little red wagon to the tractor, and loaded it with a 25 pound bag of sugar and a kitchen chair. The thing marched right up and over with no effort. I don't know what became of that toy. I don't remember seeing it in our next house on Laurent Street in Santa Cruz.

I probably already told you of my mother shooting doves through an open window, and my trying to see where "our dinner " was standing, or how it fell when she fired. (looking through the gap in the wall) I still had that single shot 22 in the house on Bay Street, but never dared to try it. It looked so rusty that I thought it might fly apart if fired. You had to pull back the hammer, lower the firing pin holder and insert a cartridge. After firing, you did the same procedure and had to use pliers to remove the spent shell. After Baffi died, I sold his fine Browning automatic shotgun. I really should have kept it, but as I knew I would never use it, I felt somebody would take better care of it. I sold it for $75. Had I any brains, I should have gotten ten times that much. I live and learn, but learn too late.

Best wishes to you and yours, especially at this holiday season.

Saluti, Gino

Thanks Gino. Here is wishing one and all a Merry Christmas and Happy New year. Ivan0

Reminder: The "Old Rancere" will be at the 'La Nostra Costa' Book Signing at the Capitola Cafe Bookstore, 1475 41st Ave, Capitola, on Wednsday, Jan 17, 2007, starting at 7:30PM. [-831-462-4415- ]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


IN 1955, MY FRIEND KEN OLSEN AND I were watching a movie at the Rio Movie Theater in Santa Cruz. It was during our Christmas break from College. All of sudden we hear heavy rains hitting the roof of the theater. The noise was so great that it almost drowned out the sound of the movie. The name of the movie; "Rains of Ranchipur". Later that night Ken and I found ourselves helping the Red Cross, warning people living along the San Lorenzo River to evacuate. Many older residents refused to leave their homes, only to be rescued later as the River flooded over its banks.

The aricle below is submitted by Robert Lemmon Jr. .He is requesting information regarding the major disasters occuring this Century in Santa Cruz County:

Of the three major natural disasters to occur in the 20th Century in Santa Cruz, those of us who graduated from SCHS in the 1950s likely remember the last two, the 1955 Flood and the Loma Prieta Quake in 1989. But for many of those who left the area permanently after graduation and didn't return, they best remember the 1955 Flood -- unless they didn't return to Santa Cruz for Christmas that year. My 1957 SCHS Faculty & Staff web site, which currently covers the genealogy of the families of those who taught and worked at SCHS from 1952-57, contains a section on the 1955 Flood. You'll find links there to some articles on the flood as well as the 50th Anniversary piece done by the Sentinel last December. Here's a link..... But of main interest may be the recollections of former SCHS students of the flood. Since most of the comments are from the classes of '54 and '57, I'd like to solicit other recollections from those in your class -- or any other class, for that matter. Also, someone might describe what happened "up the coast," for the Big Flood, as the California Dept of Water Power termed it in a book still in the SC Library, affected almost all coastal streams, not just the San Lorenzo.-- If, after reading the recollections on the web site, you would like to describe what you remember, you can send me e-mail to me at the address on the web site. Or, send it to Ivan, who'll likely forward it on. Will consider most for inclusion in future updates of the web site. (Am hoping to post the next update by the end of Jan 07.)

La Nostra Costa Book Signing Event (hopefully not a disaster ), at the Capitola Cafe Books Store on 41st Avenue on January 17, 2oo7. Telephone 831-462-4415, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Saturday, December 09, 2006


the Editor of the '54/'04 Cardinal, The 50th ReUnion Memory Book of the Santa Cruz High School Class of 1954. A copy is available for viewing in the Santa Cruz Alumni Association Office and in the Genealogy Section of the main Santa Cruz Public Library

Alien Italians
(Margaret Ghio-Hartmann, a retired San Francisco policewoman, divides her time between her homes in Santa Cruz and in San Francisco.)
By Margaret (Ghio) Hartmann

World War II caused difficult changes in the lives of Italian American families in Santa Cruz. My father, Tom, a commercial fisherman who was born in Riva Trigosa, Genoa, Italy, and had come to the United States as a babe in arms, was declared an alien even though he was married to a U.S. citizen.
Most of the Italian fishing families lived in an area of the city bounded by Bay Street, California Street and Monterey Bay. For the men, the wharf was not only their source of livelihood but also was the center of their social life.

On Dec. 7, 1941, I had scarlet fever, and my mother, my sister and I were quarantined. There was an alert that the Japanese were going to invade Santa Cruz, and everyone in our area was evacuated, except for a paralyzed man and us.
My father, the so-called alien, wasn’t allowed to fish anymore but, ironically, was sent up to guard the Bay Street Reservoir . . . as if his little fishing boat could cause as much harm as someone poisoning the drinking water or signaling from the hills. He was armed with a stick — not even a baseball bat — to protect the reservoir.
My father appealed his alien status, but to no avail. He had to sell his fishing boat and move us from Mason Street to the other side of Mission Street, where we lived across from Bay View Elementary School. So we always had plenty of kids to play with.
My father found work at the cement plant, a vital industry, eventually passed the citizenship test and returned to fishing.
Our camera, radio and shotgun were confiscated, although later they were re-turned. My parents bought a multi-band radio but before it was delivered, the short wave band was removed.
There was a lot of misinformation spread during the war. At school we were told that the government was going to have all students collect milkweed seeds to be used as a substitute for kapok. Another time we were warned about balloons that would spew poisonous gases upon landing with a buzzing noise. It was really scary stuff for an 8-year-old.
There also were blackouts. I remember sitting in the dining room with all the windows covered with black paper. The air raid wardens would get upset if they could see any light. There were shortages, and food and gasoline were rationed. There were not many toys for kids.
I experienced minimal problems because my mother wasn’t Italian and I was fair-haired with blue eyes. But my cousin, Santa Cruzan Mary (Ghio) Stagnaro, wasn’t so lucky. Her mother, Emma, also was born in Riva Trigosa, and her family spoke Italian at home. I can remember Mary being teased about her grammar, for example, “foots” for “feet.”
Mary’s family also was forced to move, and they went to the East Side, as did our grandparents. Her father, my Uncle Tony who was my father’s younger brother, was able to continue fishing because he had been born in the United States.

Mary and I were very young when the war broke out (we entered kindergarten in September 1941) and have only dim recollections of its beginnings. Other than the kids teasing Mary about her grammar, which probably would have happened whether or not there had been a war, we don’t remember any personal discrimination. But we lived in an area that was predominantly Italian and attended a school with a large Italian population.

We know of some men who were interred but, fortunately, not in our family.

When my father returned to fishing, he brought home a football, a basketball and a baseball that he found in the ocean. Supposedly they had been lost when they went overboard from military ships in the area.

LNC: As I was doing research for the "La Nostra Costa" book, I came across articles in the Monterey Herald regarding the sufferings of the Italian fishermen and their families because of the imposed WWII restrictions, in the Monterey Bay Area.
For more information on the history of these restrictions read :"Una Storia Segreta: The History of Italian Evacuation and Internment During World War II, published by Heyday Books 2001. Also Chapter 2, in my book,"La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast), 'La Costa E La Guerra' (The Coast and the War).


Monday, December 04, 2006


THIS THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, IS THE 65TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BOMBING OF PEARL HARBOR. Immediately after the bombing, America declared war on the Empire of Japan. As a consequence Adolph Hitler declared war on the United States and Italy’s Benito Mussolini followed suit. As a result of Italy’s involvement in World War II on the side of Japan and Germany, many Italians without proper citizenship papers ‘su per la costa’ and elsewhere in America were declared to be ‘enemy aliens’ . As described by Norma (Dinelli) Wilson in her story (Part I,) and also in Chapter 3 of my book, "La Costa E La Guerra", severe restrictions were imposed on the Italians, causing some to be relocated and some to lose their jobs. In October of 1942, the Attorney General of the United States lifted the restrictions on the Italians, although the United States was still at war with Italy. One of the main reason this was done, was because so many sons of Italian aliens were in uniform and fighting for the United States in Europe and the Pacific . Attilio Joseph Dogliotti of Santa Cruz was one of those boys and he made the supreme sacrifice for his (our) Country.

The following article was sent to me by Gino Campioni and was copied from the original appearing in the “Santa Cruz Riptide-Vol. 10- No. 20.

In a window of a cozy home at 498 Bay street there proudly hangs a service flag with one star for all that family could give to its Flag.

But today that star has turned to gold for that home has made the supreme sacrifice--it has given all it had for its Flag, and its walls never again will resound to a cheery "Hi, Mom,"from a happy, six-foot youth as he came bounding home from work.

Saturday afternoon, May 8, Second Lieutenant Attilio Joseph Dogliotti, 22, was at the controls of a four-motored Liberator bomber when it crashed in the northern part of Arizona. Lieutenant Dogliotti was killed. Three others in the plane were also killed.

The body of the young pilot was to be shipped to White's Mortuary some time this week where a military funeral will be held.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. B. Dogliotti of 498 Bay street, Joseph was born in Santa Cruz and was the only child. He graduated from Santa Cruz high school in 1939. In 1938 he was captain of the heavy weight champion football team and was an outstanding tackle. In 1939 Joseph was captain
of the champion baseball team. He was an honor student in agriculture in high school, and one of the most popular students in the school.

After his graduation, Joseph was employed at the Coast Drum and Box company on Mission street and later he was employed with the Santa Cruz Portland Cement company in Davenport.

It was in April of 1942 that Joseph enlisted as an aviation cadet and was sent to Santa Ana Air Base for pre-flight training. He progressed successfully through the various phases of training and finally, on January 4 of 1943, Joseph was awarded his wings and commission at
Stockton. He was a bomber pilot.

Lieutenant Dogliotti was en route to Pocatello, Idaho, from Gibbs Field, Texas, to get a new plane when the crash occurred. His was the second plane of the same type to have crashed in approximately the same area.

Slated for promotion to first lieutenant within a few weeks and then a captaincy following quickly, Lieutenant Dogliotti had written his proud parents that he would be home for a furlough the first of June.

But Joseph came home earlier on an eternal furlough granted by his Supreme Commander-in Chief. And the little star in that service flag has turned to gold.

Monday, November 27, 2006


THIS IS PART II ON NORMA'S STORY. In Part I she describes what life was like for her family and other Italiani "su per la costa" during WWII. In Part II she vividly describes what it was like for a little girl growing up on the Coast after the War.

I started school at Laurel School in l946 and did not know a word of English. I learned a little from Ida and Lea Grossi (Lea Lambert) and the Santos kids – Don, Alice and Betty but after I stared school. Serafina Beltrami took my mom and me to the first day to register, etc. Many women from the Coast did not drive and of course my mom did not know English either so Serafina helped out as so many people helped each other out in those days. I soon learned some English but it was hard at first. I remember wanting “American lunches” with American bread and lettuce which was white bread and iceberg lettuce. I had sandwiches made from thinly sliced French bread with cut up meatballs or fried zucchini or salami. I really yearned for bologna or peanut butter and jelly. The kids would say “what’s that?” Today they would probably like my lunch better. This was crossing of the cultures and learning about other ways of doing things.

My most memorable memories of course are with the Coast Road kids – the Rodonis,
And of course going to the beach with Ivano’s mother Valentina (she was one of the few women of the coast that drove). My Dad would drive us to her house or if it was Serafina she would drive to the beach after stopping at her house. She would also pick up my Aunt (Zia Elvira Neri ) and my cousin Laura and the old Carrettone would head for the Cowell or Main Beach area. What a treat – a day at the warm, no wind beach in town(protected because it is in the bay). The Coast beaches are out there all exposed to the Pacific Ocean and the winds – beautiful even though windy.

All ranches had cookhouses and a cook. We only ate at home on the weekends during Brussel Sprout picking season. Christmas we spent at Pietro & Ida Bargiacchi Ranch with Flora & Leo and at least 30 other people (family and friends) – all in the cookhouse. Easter was at the Tambellini Ranch in “montania” – just south and overlooking Davenport. Albert Tambellini was the cook and again over 30 or so people in the cookhouse. Occasionally we spent a holiday at the Giulio and Emma Bargiacchi Ranch (one of the last ranches on the Coast before entering city of Santa Cruz) with Don and Mary and an overflow in the cookhouse.

The Trovatore Hotel was a place where all Italian occasions took place: weddings, baptisms, confirmations, lst communions, etc etc. I can’t remember the year it burned – Beach Liquors is next to where the Hotel was located. My parents were married at Holy Cross and the dinner was at the Trovatore. Many happy and memorable occasions I remember there – just like the old BBQS at Laguna. After some wine there was always the singing and dancing.

I was baptized at the Santa Cruz Mission, received my lst Communion at St.Vincent de Paul in Davenport and confirmed at Holy Cross in Santa Cruz but every event was celebrated at the Trovatore. My baptism was with Julio Rinaldi and his sister Alma Rinaldi Rogers and my cousin Laura Neri Gularte were celebrating their lst communion.

There were always kids celebrating occasions together – very festive. The families were close and enjoyed doing things and celebrating as a group.

All the Coast kids took the schoolbus to school – I believe it was #9 and Mr. Bruce was the driver. It was the old, winding road and it took forever to get to school and back home. (so it seemed). We were all happy and adjusted well – so many of us did not speak English when we started but learned and did quite well.

The Red White and Blue Beach was the Scaroni Dairy (and everyone was clothed). Bill, Arnold, John and Katie – they are a story in itself. I helped Katie clean her big house in summer. She later taught me to drive. Ted Templeton and other kids from Santa Cruz came up in summer to help with the hay baling. The Scaroni’s also had to stop traffic on the highway twice a day at milking time to get the cows from the north field down to the milking barn. The Borges did the same in the next Dairy south of the Scaronis. When Mr. Borges was sick, his daughters Vera and Della and I would stop traffic and get the cows across the highway. It is hard to see that happening today on the “new Coast Road”.

As we graduated and some of the oldtimers left the Coast for different reasons and we went our separate ways there was always the keeping in touch and commradere. Change is gradual and before you know it – the past is a memory and wonderful adventure.

There are some neat things happening with the next generation(s) coming up: when my kids started high school they would come home and say I met so and so and his Mom or Dad or whatever is Italian and they know you!!! So even though Santa Cruz and the Coast and Davenport are changing – so much is the same.

Now my grandchild said he has a friend who is very close to him and they play sports, etc. and it turns out that it is Alice Santos Ponzas grandson!!!!! How cool is that??!!
And some of Patty Morelli’s graddaughters communicate with my granddaughters via the internet (we’ve come a long way!)

Also Lea Grossi Lambert and I have kept up our friendship and had our old Boss and friend in common – John Battistini. If I was to cover everything this biography would be the size of a thick book!!! John asked me to work for him right out of high school because I spoke Italian and his insurance business was 80% Italians.

Patty and I married a day apart and moved next door to each other in the Live Oak area in l962. Our boys were born a few months apart and it was a continuation of Newtown. Now we live very close in Scotts Valley and in 2002 we visited Italy and Germany together.

Some of us have never left and some of us have just gone a little ways away. And those that have gone far away now are in touch by internet – what a grand technology!!!!!

For me Ivano’s book has brought back so many memories – some I had forgotten and some were refreshed in my mind. Now as it gains popularity, more people are reading it and responding – everyone is coming out of the woodwork and it is gaining momentum. It is reliving so many things and hearing from so many people. WHAT A SPECIAL THING FOR ALL OF US TO BE ‘FIGLI DELLA COSTA’

-Norma (Dinelli) Wilson

Thursday, November 23, 2006


STHOSE OF US WHO WILL BE GATHERING AT THE MISSION HILL MIDDLE SCHOOL GYM (and for those who wish that they could be there) for Coach Milo Badger's Memorial Service (Sunday, November 26 at l PM), will find,I am certain, these memories as written by Gino Campioni to be very special. Also
Len Klempnauer adds some interesting interesting facts about Coach Badger and the Mission Hill Gym:

Memories.....................! I remember a lot about Mission Hill Jr. High. Sam P. Reed, of course, who put on a model aircraft building club after school. I was very keen on that. There was Ronny Arana, who became very expert on model planes, including designing his own digital proportional radio control system. Unfortunately, Ron was killed at a young age in a motorcycle accident. His brother Jerry was also a keen model plane builder.

I remember Mr. John Evans, and his math class. He put a prohibition on girls' wearing bracelets made of stolen Buick hood ornaments to class, as they made a loud bang when they put their arm down on the desk. I remember Mr. Evans saying, "Class dismissed. Everyone pass out quietly." (snickers from the class)

Mr. Ross and Mr. Knotts, who taught woodworking and metal shop. I did make a small bookcase and a little table, which now are with my stepsons, I presume. (unless they needed firewood) I was always termed a "wood butcher" for my ineptitude at wood working.

I remember that there was an aircraft engine in the metal shop. I think it was a Pratt & Whitney Wasp from a bomber. It sat undisturbed on a test stand for a long time, but one day they got it running. A roar and a plume of smoke, and the thing came to life. Its sound could be heard for half a mile. I think it was anchored down pretty well, or it would have gone right through the roof.

Miss Hunkin may have been the librarian, and may also have been the cool gal who played basketball with us.

Mr. Miguel who taught science and photography. A totally unflappable fellow, even when experiments with hydrogen would produce startling explosions.

Miss Van, of course, my favorite. Such a serene lady. Her hair went silver grey when she was 19.

Of course you will remember Miss Dablich. Music and rhythm. Her vocalise consisted of scales, not the usual do re mi, but lu lu lu lu. Miss Dablich in the long blue dress.

Miss Young, Miss Wells, Miss Wilkinson, and others. Those were the days, eh?


The last time I saw Coach Badger was at a Dad's Club Tournament a few years ago. We spent about 20 minutes discussing the old days, and the subject of the Mission Hill gym came up. He said that my Mission Hill Class of 1950-51* -- we were ninth graders -- were supposed to have been the first class to use the gym, but construction delays postponed the opening until the next year. So, I guess the Class of 1951-52 was indeed the first class to use it. I also recall that a major storm wreaked havoc on the floor because of poor construction sometime thereafter and it was closed a long while for repairs, but I can't recall the year.
Contrary to what someone implied at Sunday's services for Coach Badger, the Mission Hill gym was supposed to open the same year as the "new" Branciforte Jr. High School. B-40 opened in the spring of 1951. In 2001, the B-40 Class of 1951 re-enacted the march they made from the old Branciforte Jr. High to the new school. The Sentinel covered it, and their story is in the paper's on-line archives at:
Branciforte Jr. High's web site has a lot of photos of the event. It's at:
There were so many speakers at yesterday's services that I'm sure some of us who wanted to say just a few words bowed out because of the time the others has taken. I had considered mentioning this little anecdote about Coach Badger:
As you may remember, Coach batted left-handed and he used to power line drives from home plate at the far corner on King Street directly up against the east wing of Mission Hill. So I asked him, "Coach, were you intentionally trying to break some classroom windows?" He gave me his answer and made me promise never to reveal it. So I won't. But he did recall putting a ball through the window of Miss Wells' classroom on the second floor, momentarily scaring her.
Three members of the '51 class, later Santa Cruz High Class of '54, attended the services (Nov. 26, 2006): Jun Lee, Al Mitchell and myself. You were there representing Mission Hill '52 (SCHS '55) and Dave Herman representing '50 (SCHS '53). Were there others from either of those two classes? Both Al and Dave became Mission Hill teachers.
I can remember also some 35 to 40 years ago that there was a citizens' effort to have the gym named Badger Gym, just like the "new" SCHS gym is named Fehliman Gym in honor of C.E. "Doc" Fehliman, the long-time teacher and founder of the SCHS Alumni Association. But the school board rejected the Badger proposal. What a shame!
I wonder how many people at Sunday's services knew, until someone mentioned it, that junior high then consisted of the seventh, eighth and ninth grades . . . and that Mission Hill at one time also included an elementary school, one K-6 classroom each, as did B-40 Jr. High when it was in the "old" building at Branciforte Avenue and Water Street.
Finally, I wouldn't exactly call what we had in the main building a "gym." It contained a locker room, showers and Coach Badger's office as I recall. I think the first shower I ever had was at Mission Hill because most of the old homes then had only bath tubs. Can you remember the anti-fungus mat we had to step on before entering and upon leaving the showers?
Len Klempnauer, Capitola

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


IN LA NOSTRA COSTA I WRITE ABOUT a little girl who grew up "su per la costa". Norma Dinelli lived with her parents Dante and Diana Dinelli, on the east side of the Coast Road, next to Serafina's (LNC: Page 249). This is Part I of her very special story.

There are many of us with wonderful memories – we are of all ages – we have lived through turbulent times and good times but always with many great friends and family and in an era of simplicity and innocence and tremendous memories of a time gone by that will not be relived – only in memory………….and shared with figli della costa………..

My story starts in Italy – my parents were from the same town – Lucca (Tuscany) but did not know each other until they met in Santa Cruz, California in l939.

My father came over from Italy in l923 and went through Ellis Island – he was sponsored by his Uncle Luigi Dinelli. Ellis Island closed in l924. He came to California by train and worked in Tunitas Creek in the ranches. Later he located to Davenport and the Coast and became a partner with Settimo Grossi and Italo Bertolli on the Grossi Ranch located just south of Yellow Bank. He was also associated with the Marina Ranch which was located across the roadway from the Grossi Ranch and on the mountain.

I have to admit a great sin here – I did not pay attention to many things and the stories and history the oldtimers talked about because we thought things would never change and there would always be time for questions and answers when we were older – then time gets away from us………

My mother came to the United States in l939 (March). She met my Dad through her
Uncle and Aunt who had sponsored her – Quinto and Elvira Neri. They were married in October of l939 and settled in Davenport. (Newtown – just north of the cement plant).The house is the last one at the end of First Street.

I was born in August l940 – at the Hadley Hospital which is now the parking lot of Dream Inn (West Coast Hotel). The Dominican Sisters bought the hospital in l94l.

Davenport (Newtown) was a cozy and immaculate little community – gardens and flowers and backyard clotheslines and everyone very close. Most of the residents were of Italian descent. I remember my parents talking about the wonderful memories and life
there. We were close to the Fistolera Family and that is where I experienced seeing my first fireplace. I couldn’t believe a big roaring fire inside the house. We did have wood burning stoves but the fireplace was quite an experience.

We lived two houses up from the Morelli’s (Mac and Evelyn) – when I was one year old their oldest daughter Patty was born. One day she was in her buggy (remember those?)
on the front porch – Evelyn had gone in the house for a minute and Patty started crying – she was probably 2 or 3 months old. I was walking by (my mother not far behind) and
was concerned about the crying baby so I ran up there and stuck the banana I was eating in her mouth (I guess I thought she was hungry) – 2 mothers quickly jumped to rescue Patty.

There were some hard times after December 7, l94l (Pearl Harbor). My father had become an American citizen in l939 but my mother couldn’t until she had lived here for 5 years so she was an alien – Italy was an enemy. My Dad had a hard time commuting from the Grossi Ranch back home at night as they couldn’t turn their headlights on – he drove with a small flashlight out the window. They then reluctantly moved down to the Grossi Ranch to make it easier. However they were on the west side of the road and my Mom had to be on the eastside of the highway. They also could not have cameras, (the big box Brownie cameras in those days), guns, radios, flashlights, etc. I remember them talking about several times having to evacuate their homes (while still in Newtown) and having to go behind the big water tower until further notice. (Myrtle Garaventa talks about this in her interview). My Mom said that she and Evelyn didn’t want to leave the warm house with two babies but they had to do as told. Something about Japanese submarines in the area.

So going back to being on the wrong side of the road – my folks found a house by the Majors Ranch just past Laguna across from the Lorenzi Ranch. Later my Dad sold his part in the Grossi Ranch and bought Petrini’s share in the Lorenzi Ranch. There was a bridge going over the railroad from the highway to the ranch….(does anyone remember that?). My mother had to be in the house by 8pm and she could not go to downtown Santa Cruz to shop for anything. The Italo-Americans were inconvenienced and times were hard for them but they made the best of it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Jerry Kerrick wearing White Sports Coat and Pink Carnation and his date Pat Costella
(Photo Courtesy J.Kerrick Family Photo Archive - C. 1954-55)

Jerry Kerrick with Pat Costella and Mike Kuffel with his date Barbara Ceragioli
(Photo Courtesy J. Kerrick Family Photo Archives - C. 1954-55)
IN ‘LA NOSRA COSTA’ I WRITE ABOUT THE KERRICK FAMILY OF SANTA CRUZ and the Kerrick Laundry. Specifically, I write about the renowned Jerrill Kerrick of “Auntie Dear” fame. According to Carol (Costella) Swartz the future Professor Kerrick, of the University of Puget Sound, had a certain misadventure circa 1955. (This one is in addition to the ones I write about in the book.) Not even his White Sport Coat and Pink Carnation could save him.

Seriously, now that I have your attention, Carol makes certain interesting comments about that time period. And she also raises some unanswered questions. Perhaps you BLAGGA FANS could help her out. ivn0


I just finished your book. It was wonderful -- even though I wasn't from 'up the Coast', so much of the book brought back memories.

I wrote earlier asking if you were a friend of Jerry Kerrick's (which you were). I'm still wondering why there is a connection in my mind to you and my sister (Pat). I remember when Jerry asked my sister to the 1955 Senior Ball (or was it the Snow Follies and she asked him?) but I'm sure it was a double date and wondering if you went to either of those dances. I remember him picking my sister up with a white sport coat and a pink carnation!!! Maybe you went with her friend, Anna Cox? Anyway, my sister never forgave my mother that night as my sister was supposed to be home by midnight and was so mad that my mother called Jerry's mother to find out why they were so late. Guess it caused a lot of embarrassment or whatever because they never dated again -- broke my sister's heart (for a moment, anyway).

And, when I read the name Hodgie (Wetzel), I knew it had to be the "Hodgie" that dated Mary Lane. Her family and ours were old time friends and I remember her mother being upset about her dating Hodgie. I guess he did have some sort of 'reputation'. Mary was married a short time to someone named Erwin? or Swenson? She later married Al Negri who owned Bubble Bakery. She lives in Pacific Grove now. Is "Hodgie" still around?

One reason I was interested in your book was because my aunt, Gina (Jean) was a Bardoni before she married my uncle, Henry (Ric) Costella. And I thought the Bardoni's were growers up the coast, but maybe Pescadero? There was Silvio, Gina, and some other siblings. I know my uncle and aunt were best friends of the Fambrini's and I remember Margaret and my aunt being very close for years. Did you ever hear of the Bardoni's? I heard through my father that my grandfather was upset at first when he heard my aunt was a "Toscani" and not a northern Italian like he was. Similar to what some Italians thought in your book. My Italian side came from the Parma region.

So, again, thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful book. I know many people will love reading about the 'old' days of Santa Cruz and so much of it will always be a part of us.

My husband, Don Schwartz, has similar memories of growing up in Live Oak -- tales of the poultry business and trouble they got into as kids --- definitely the good old days. He retired from Santa Clara City as a Capt. in the fire department so maybe somewhere your paths crossed? He worked from the 70s until 1997 -- first in Santa Cruz and then, luckily, transferred to Santa Clara City. We also live in Scotts Valley (off of Whispering Pines). We built our house in '71 and maybe we bumped into each other at Ponza's wonderful Camp Evers store or at Gordon's Chuck House.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book and good luck in the future. Carol Costella Schwartz

Monday, November 13, 2006


NOSTRA COSTA PEOPLE: I received the below posted message via the BLOG. Gino "Figlio D'Baffi" Campioni translated the message into English. The original Italian text appears below the translation. It appears that Corrado Poletti of Italia may be related to the famous Louis Poletti of Davenport.

Hey is years that I search to know how to reconnect with descendants of the rest of my family who emigrated to America at the beginning of the 1900s. Help me!!!

I shall indicate to you their story briefly:

In 1903 approximately, and in the years since then, the brothers (4) POLETTI of Condino (TN) Italy (but at that time it was Austria) departed for the United States in search of fortune. We speak of peasants and from what I know, the three took on the management of a ranch in the interior of California. One of them, however, went to work as a servant, perhaps in a hotel...maybe he was in charge of the wine cellar. Because of the stock market failure in New York in 1929 the three brothers on the ranch had no other choice than to sell all to recover enough funds to return to Italy. One of them (Achille), my great grandfather, became Kaiserjager (imperial rifleman) for the emperor Franz Josef of Austria...another moved to Switzerland (Maggia). Of the one who remained in the States I have little seems that at a certain point he opened a market of fruits and vegetables in the areas of Davenport perhaps..and that in the second world war he became a supplier of fruit and vegetables to the 5th army which liberated Europe from Nazi-Fascism. When my parents were wed circa 1966 someone of the family was still in contact with them,,, but from there we have no further contact.
The only data the remains to me is the name of a certain Sofia Poletti Costello (or Costella) of Davenport - Santa Cruz County and an address: Hollings Drive...many years have passed and I would like to restore the connections with the descendents of that brother of my great grandfather "ACHILLE POLETTI"

If someone can help me, he may write an E-mail, (better if it is in Italian) to the following address:

hei....gente.....sono anni che cerco di capire come posso fare a rintracciare i discendenti del resto della mia famiglia che è emigrata in America agli inizi del '900. Aiutatemi !!!Vi accenno brevemente la loro storia:Nel 1903 circa e negli anni di lì a poco i fratelli (4) POLETTI di Condino (TN) Italia (ma all'epoca Austria) sono partiti per gli Stati Uniti in cerca di fortuna. Si trattava di contadini e da quello che sò in tre hanno preso in gestione un Ranch nell'interno della California. Uno di loro invece è andato a lavorare come dipendente...forse in un albergo...e forse faceva il cantiniere (vino). A causa del crollo della borsa di New York del 1929 poi i tre fratelli del ranch non ebbero altro che da vendere tutto ricavare solo i soldi per tornare in Italia. Uno di loro (Achille), mio bis-nonno, diventa Kaiserjäger dell'Imperatore Franz Josef d'Austria...un'altro si trasferisce in Svizzera (Maggia).Di quello che rimase negli States ho poche notizie...sembra che ad un certo punto aprì un negozio di frutta e verdura dalle parti di Davenport forse..e che nella seconda guerra mondiale divenne fornitore di frutta e verdura della 5. Armata che liberò l'Europa dal nazi-fascismo. Quando i miei genitori si sposarono nel 1966 ca. qualcuno della famiglia era ancora in contatto con da lì non abbaimo più contatti.L'unico dato che mi è rimasto è il nome di una certa Sofia Poletti Costello (o Costella) di Davenport - santa Cruz County e un indirizzo: Hollings drive... sono passati tanti anni e mi piacerebbe riallacciare i contatti con i discendenti di quel fratello del mio Bis-nonno "ACHILLE POLETTI"Se qualcuno può aiutarmi mi può scrivere una mail...(meglio se in italiano) al seguente indirizzo: --Posted by Anonymous to lnostra-costa at 11/13/2006 02:21:14 AM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


In Chapter 21;( Serafina's ) in "La Nostra Costa" I talk about Pete Pianavilla who in his "booming" voice would love to denigrate the Game Warden Forrest McDermott. Pete an avid cacciatore (hunter) would enjoy telling anyone within "cannon shot" how he outwitted that "S.O.B"
McDermott. What follows below is a couple of e-mails from Hank
Bradly,Bob Lemmon Jr and Thelma Micossi-Gill, and my responses. I had originally posted them as side comments to the "Book Signing" article however, they are of such interest that I thought I would publish them at the top of the BLOG;


I'll pass on a yarn I heard from my dad about Pete Pianavilla, back in the 60s. I believe Pete at the time was farming west of the highway and north of Davenport, pretty close to where your Swanton Berry Farms book signing took place. At any rate, one morning he found some urban adventurers camped out in one of his fields, and read them the riot act about respecting private property. One of them argued back something like private ownership was wrong and he had a right to sleep anywhere he wanted, and maybe some other remarks offensive to Pete. But he made this argument without leaving his sleeping bag. Big mistake. Pete grabbed the head end of the bag and jerked it upright, and now the argumentative fellow was trapped by gravity in the foot end. All Pete had to do was thump the bag up and down against the ground until sufficient apologies were heard from inside the bag.I didn't know Pete well myself, but always enjoyed talking with him, usually a very warm and humorous fellow.Cheers, Hank

LNC: Great Story Hank. I speak of Pete and his 'booming' voice in the Book (Chapter 21 "Serafina's" page 223). I will always associate him with that 'booming' voice and his stories of Forrest McDermott, the Game Warden. I am sure that you remember him. ivno

Ivano:As a participant in the various modes of hunting up the coast (mostly legal, for the record) I shared with my fellow hunters that dislike of Mr. McDermott. Probably he was just a guy trying to do his job, like any law enforcement - you would certainly know this. But he certainly had a bum rap with almost all the locals. I knew him only by reputation, never met him or heard any details of his evil deeds. Maybe we all just had bad consciences.Cheers, Hank

LNC: Thanks again Hank. BTW: I heard through the LNC Grapevine that Pete Pianavilla and Forrest McDermott became great friends after McDermott retired as Game Warden. ivno
1:51 PM

robertlemmon jr. said...

Ivan, Enjoyed the two stories posted by Henry/Hank Bradley, one of my SCHS '57 classmates.--Only met Forrest McDermott, who died here in SC in Mar 1979 at age 81, one time -- and that was on Pacific Ave in front of the old Santa Cruz Bowling Alley. I used to practice there since "lines" were cheap even though I bowled in league at the Surf Bowl.Ed Varozza, our longtime next-door neighbor who worked the front counter at the United Cigar Store for many years, often went with me when I bowled, for it gave him a chance to smoke a few more of the 500,000 cigars someone estimated he had smoked during his 92 years.As we left the bowling lanes we met Forrest McDermott, who had the ever-present cigar stub in the left side of his mouth, on Pacific Ave. He clapped Ed on the back and told me, "Best damn quail shot in the state!"Though I only went hunting with Ed once and he missed the one pass shot he made at a band-tail pigeon, I hunted many times with my late father and mother's father. It was clear that Forrest was right: Ed Varozza knew how to handle a shotgun.Bob L Jr.

LNC: Thanks Bob. I am sure, as Hank said in his message, Forrest McDermott probably was just doing his job. As a Police Officer, I often thought that I got a "bum rap" for just doing my job. This was expecially true when I became a supervisor and had to discipline my own kind. Not too popular, but that was the nature of the Job. ivn0


Buon giorno.

I've been enjoying all the postings on the blog and I'm sure that you are too. Everyone I talk to has such favorable comments about your book. In fact, my boys have enjoyed it so much.

Peter Pianavilla was a big part of the "Rancieri Culture." If I recall correctly his father era un ranciere in "Siberia". I remember his father and Margarita, his mother, very well. Peter, during the war, was a bosseto (a boss) at Poletti's Packing Shed in Davenport and gave me my first job at probably the age of 12. What fun that was. He hired all of us kids from Pacific School. From there I remember him being a bartender at the Ocean View Hotel.
Hope all is well with you. Keep up the good work, you are making a lot of people happy. Un bacin d'amor. Mandi,

Thelma (Micossi-Gill)

LNC: Thanks for the kind words Thelma. And thanks for the story on Pete. Also the insight on how life once was in Davenport. ivn0

Sunday, November 05, 2006


IN LA NOSTRA COSTA (Chapter 3 – ‘La Costa E La Guerra’), I describe some of the restrictions and hardships that the “Italiani della Costa” had to endure during World War II. The article below was sent to me by Kathy Kerrick and is posted here with the permission of the author Andy Griffin. What starts out as a dissertation on Chioggia beets and Chioggia radicchio ends with a very interesting story on Italian Prisoners of War who settled in the Santa Rosa Area.

From: "Two Small Farms" <>
This week your harvest share includes a bunch of pink skinned beets. If you slice these beets in half you'll see a distinctive target-like pattern of alternating pink and white rings marking the flesh. This curious coloration has prompted some retailers to call these beets "candy stripe" beets but the correct name is Chioggia beet. Chioggia, pronounced "key-oh-jah" is a city of Northern Italy near Venice. The surrounding region is known as the Veneto and it's famed for it's vegetable production. Besides the beet, Chioggia has lent its name a number of other vegetables. The round, red radicchio that has become a standard ingredient in the mesclun salads is Chioggia radicchio. There's also a warty blue hard squash called the Marina di Chioggia. We didn't grow these beets for the novelty of their internal appearance. They taste good, and many people think they're even sweeter than the typical red blooded American beet. Chioggia beets grow well here, too. People who travel have told me that there are a lot of similarities between the Veneto and the Monterey Bay area. Some day I'd like to visit Chioggia and see for myself since I think agriculture is as worthy of being appreciated as any other aspect of culture like painting or dance. In fact, given a choice between a perfect roasted beet salad and a still life painting of a beet, I'll eat the salad any day . I was standing behind my Chioggia beets one day at the farmers market when an older gentleman who was passing by announced that when he was in Chioggia he hadn't seen any beets. It turns out he'd entered Chioggia in a Sherman tank in the closing days of the Second World War. He was part of the American Fifth Army that flogged the Nazis all the way up the boot from Monte Casino and over the Alps. As important as liberation day was in Chioggia it probably wasn't the best moment for a tourist to appreciate the agricultural riches of the Veneto.After years of war economy and bombs the natives ofChioggia had been reduced to eating Chioggia rats. Chioggia beets remind me of an Italian-American fellow named Louie Bonhommie that I knew when I worked on a farm in Bolinas during the 1980's. Louie delivered used wooden crates to the farm every Sunday morning and I used to help him unload his truck. Since his route took him to all sorts of small farms in Marin and Sonoma counties he was better than a newspaper for the latest gossip. One day Louie took a break from the scandals of the day and told me about his experiences in the army during the Second World War. Louie never saw combat. Instead, because he could speak fluent Italian, Louie served as a guard over Italian prisoners of war. The prisoners were shipped around California by bus or train from farm to farm, and they harvested fruits and vegetables or pruned fruit trees while Louie stood around with a gun. A lot of Louie's wartime service was right around the Santa Rosa area where he'd grown up. I asked Louie if it was dangerous standing guard over trainloads of Italian prisoners of war and he laughed. These men had been captured by the Americans in North Africa on the outskirts of Tunis. Most of them had originally come from tiny farms in Italy that were poverty stricken even before the war. After being drafted into the fascist military they were stationed out in the middle of the Sahara in the Italian colony of Libya. With the outbreak of hostilities war was added to their ration of miseries. When they weren't being shot at by the Allies or being ordered around by the Germans they had armies of flies to contend with, and thirst and hunger and scorpions and disease. After years of stress and privation being captured was a blessing. As the Italian Prisoners of War picked plums in California they looked around from atop their ladders at the orchards, the vineyards, and the ordered rows of vegetables in the Santa Rosa Valley and they murmured and conspired amongst themselves.... Their devious plot? Certainly they didn't have sabotage in mind. No. They were concerned that the war might end and they'd be shipped back home to Italy. One by one the prisoners came to Louie and asked him how they might get introduced to some nice Italian -American farm girls so they could make love, not war. Louie did what he could, and some of those men ended up as successful farmers around Santa Rosa with big families and lush fields, and they became good friends and loyal customers for Louie and his wooden boxes. I still love this story. It reminds me that, while they made a mistake with Fascism, from art and women's shoes and wine and race cars all the way to bunched beets, when it comes to cultural values the Italians are right on target. Copyright 2006 Andy Griffin

Monday, October 30, 2006


POSTED BELOW IS THE OBITUARY FOR COACH MILO BADGER AS IT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL. Coach Badger was included in "La Nostra Costa" as an "Amico Della Costa". He had a great influence on me and many of the boys who grew up on the Coast. I mention his name in two of the Chapters. In Chapter 20 "Sesso E Altri
Divertimenti (Sex and Other Amusements), page 217, I speak of his Physical Education Program at Mission Hill School and on page 219 I included an endnote regarding Coach Badger and his family who lived directly across the street from 'Casa D'Valentina' on Seaside Street. In Chapter 28, "IL Ponte E La Policia" (The Bridge and the Police), page 323, I describe how I had to face Coach Badger and Sgt. Charles Derby after I was suspected (I was one of seveal suspects) of stealing a wallet from a locker in the Boys' Gym. As I stood there, Sgt. Derby asked Coach Badger, "Do you have any reason to suspect this young man"?
I will always remember what the Coach said in a firm an unequivocal manner, "No". Thanks Coach. I will never forget you. ivn0

October 29, 2006


Milo Frank Badger, known to many simply as "Coach," passed peacefully away on Sunday, October 15, 2006, at his Hydesville, CA, home after a short and difficult battle with cancer. He is survived by his five children: Alan, Wade, Pam, and Clay Badger, and Betsy Howard, and eight grandchildren. A natural outdoorsman, Milo Coach enjoyed nothing more than a long day of fishing or a tough day of doggin' through the brush in hopes of jumping a nice buck. He began leading summer camping trips for students to the Sierras, where many kids who had never had such an experience caught their first fish or, not so impossibly, got their first mosquito bite. Milo was able to touch the lives of so many kids from all walks of life and, for some, this influence changed the course of their futures to come.
Coach Badger should be remembered for all the things he was - son and husband, father and grandfather, teacher and coach, friend; and for the things he loved most - gardening and chopping wood, camping and hunting, fishing and storytelling, but most of all, family. He will be dearly and sincerely missed by many. We will carry his memory forever in our hearts, and use the things he has taught us to the best of our abilities in our own lives and gardens.
Memorial services with a reception to follow for Milo Badger will be held on Sunday, November 26, 2006, at the Mission Hill Middle School Gymnasium at 1pm.

Copyright © 1999-2006 Santa Cruz Sentinel.Ottaway Newspaper, Inc.All rights reserved.

Monday, October 23, 2006



Reading your bit about how the FBI showed up to check your radio during WWII, I am reminded of a story a cousin told me about my family. Although we were living in Kansas City during the war and my family was of German descent, the FBI showed up at my grandfather's home sometime during the war to question his loyalty. (My cousin, a year older than I, was raised by my grandparents.) My grandfather, born Heinrich Johann Klempnauer in West Prussia in 1878, had become a naturalized American citizen before the war and his name was now Henry John Klempnauer. According to my cousin, my grandfather, who was a fairly big man, was so outraged that he wanted to take on both FBI agents until cooler heads -- particularly my grandmother, also of German ancestry -- prevailed. He was so irate because three of his sons were in the Army, one an officer in the Pacific and the other two in the European campaign. Also, one of his younger brothers, who was born in the U.S., had fought in World War One. My grandfather was in his 60s at the time. My grandfather was 3 years old when his father, who fought in the Franco-Prussian War, and his mother came to the U.S. with him and his 5-year-old brother in 1881. After my parents moved to Santa Cruz in 1946, we lived one year on River Street, next to Petroff's Motel, and I attended Mission Hill Elementary for one year. Some of my classmates' names were Marlene Spezia, John Biondi, Nilda Bertolli and Jim Scoppettone, son of the muni court judge.
A couple of blocks down the street lived a fellow by the name of John Maranta, but he attended Holy Cross Elementary and High Schools and I never met him until we played on the Santa Cruz American Legion baseball team together in the summer of 1953. We became good friends and shared a duplex together at San Jose State with Scoppettone and five other guys from Santa Cruz. I was best man at John's wedding.
In the sixth grade (1947-48), we moved to the corner of Lighthouse Avenue and Gharkey Street, right in the midst of the Italian-American community of Santa Cruz and I attended Bay View Elementary. My classmates included Mary and Margaret Ghio, who were first cousins; Yvonne Herman, who was a granddaughter of Cottardo Stagnaro; Aldo Mazzei, and Rose Neri.
Later, at Mission Hill Jr. High, my first girlfriend was Esther Frizza, who lived a couple of blocks away and was in your class.
Santa Cruz was quite a different mix for me, for the surnames in my Kansas City neighborhood, were, for example, Rader and Schaffer and Keller. (Missouri had more residents of German ancestry than any other state then.)
After the war, when the Italian fishermen were allowed to have boats again and fish Monterey Bay, they all would eat at my parents' restaurant, the Cross Roads Drive-In at the foot of West Cliff Drive next to the SP Depot, after making their nightly catch. Their names included Bossano, Bregante, Canepa, Carniglia, Ghio, Oliveiri and Stagnaro. I remember especially the Canepa brothers -- Augie, Danny, Robby and Louie.
Of course, I attended the March 8, 2003, dedication of Via Riva Trigoso, the alleyway that extended between Lighthouse Avenue and Laguna Avenue from Bay Street to Gharkey Street. The street was named for the area in Italy that most of the Italian fishing families came from. There were three of us there from the SCHS Class of 1954: Mary (Ghio) Stagnaro, one of the main speakers; the late Jean (White) Giudici, a former Cross Roads carhop who married into a local Italian family and whom I dated a couple of times; and myself. [Photo Attached] My parents actually started their drive-in in an old building on the same site that probably went up in the 1920s or 1930s. They then moved across the street to the VFW 888 Hall (now a motel) about 1950 until the "new" Cross Roads, the one still standing, was built in 1951 and opened in January 1952. The Fifties were the heyday of the teen-aged drive-in restaurant, carhop and cruisin'-the-drag culture in the U.S. A lot of Santa Cruz High students worked at the Cross Roads -- especially girls as carhops -- and at Santa Cruz's other drive-in, the 5-Spot at the corner of Ocean and Water Streets. Virtually all teenagers hung out at the drive-ins after games, dances or the movies before heading out to West Cliff Drive to neck.
The old Cross Roads is now the retail sales outlet for the Homeless Garden Project in Depot Park. The City of Santa Cruz plans to raze the structure and replace it with a new Natural History Museum instead of incorporating the building as part of the museum complex. The building withstood the Christmas Flood of 1955 and the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. The 5-Spot was torn down years ago and replaced by a two-story bank building.
Incidentally, I have a web site devoted to my failed efforts to try to save the Cross Roads building from demolition. It's the only remaining drive-in restaurant building left in Santa Cruz County and one of the few in Northern California. It was built in 1951 and opened in January 1952. (The first 5-Spot -- in San Jose -- has been declared an historical landmark.)
The Cross Roads web site is at:
Finally, Ivan, may I add the following. I attended a rather conservative Protestant church in Kansas City, mainly because it was the only one in the neighborhood. After we moved to Santa Cruz, I attended that same Protestant denomination here. But I stopped going after the sixth grade. When my mother was in her late 70s, I happened to ask her why I stopped. Here's what she told me:
"You told me the church believed only Protestants would go to Heaven and everyone else would go to Hell. So you said that if all your Italian friends, who were Catholic, were going to Hell, then you wanted to go to Hell, too, so you could be with them."
-- Len Klempnauer

Tuesday, October 17, 2006



Hi Ivan:

What a great success! It warmed my heart to see so many wonderful people re-connecting with their history. Your work has borne great fruit and many warm feelings for the history of the Italian families of the coast. Thanks again, to you and all.
Jim (Cochran) Swanton Berry Farm

Note from Mr. Larry Arnerich - San Jose:
Dear Ivano,

The highlight of my 92nd birthday was receiving your excellent book Thanks.

It was most descriptive and reflected your sincerity and love towards your family, friends and the Santa Cruz community. I hope others will treasure this rare book and that it will receive a much deserved exposure.
You are to be highly commended for your time and work. Best wishes, love, Larry Arnerich

Gioavanni Biondi said...
Ivano: You did a great job on the book.(It) should be a must read for all Italians in Santa Cruz.

IVANO FRANCO COMELLI: Can't tell you how great everything was. To begin with the place you chose to have the signing ,(where your DAD had worked at one time) was a great choice. Thepeople who came were all very SPECIAL people in your life. It must have made it extra special . Again congratulations on a great event . RENO (Cantarutti)

LNC: Reno, Having you there with your wife Franca and son Gary made it very special. And then your sister Norma and her family show up. What a surprise to have you all there at one time. I hope Gary got to see the location of that wind-blown "shack" that "hung near the edge of that cliff", were it all began for the Cantarutti Family.

I appreciate very much you saying those emotional words about my mother Valentina. At times, with all the "hoopla" surrounding the 'Old Rancere' he forgets to mention her enough. You are correct, she was often at the forefront and often lead the way for my father and others 'su per la costa' . Ivano

Hello, Ivano....
I really enjoyed the get together at the "Big Ranch". It was wonderful! Also, your family is beautiful.......they clearly love their Papa.
Norma and I kick ourselves that we didn't say more when you called us up front. She loves to tell the story about our living next door to one another in New Town, and how she tried to shut me up as a crying infant by stuffing a banana in my mouth.......If she's told that story once, she's told it 40 times.....then we get up in front of a fresh crowd and she clams up! Mah! We're quite a pair.......both pretty tongue-tied, too.
Thanks again for a good time. I am sending the book off to my Auntie this week. Next week I go to Italy and Greece for 2 weeks. Lucky, huh?
Ciao for niao.
Patty (Morelli)

That was a nice picture, and thank you for putting Joe [Brovia] right up front with you and your grand son. Someone must have taken that with the wide view, as the second time I looked at it, I kept moving the screen over and saw the whole front of the cookhouse. very nice picture.... a nice action picture of you....

I just loved that food, especially the brocolli salad....just wonder what kind of dressing the person used.... would sure love to have her receipe... All the food was excellant, and please pass along my thanks to those good cooks...

Thanks for inviting me to the book signing.... My son in Thailand, said to say he was sorry he could not make it...(I always forward stuff to him, he was wondering who the young boy was.) Cathy Brovia
[Cathy: The young boy was Kristian my grandson. He is quite a baseball player himself. ivn0]

Ivano,> Your day was superb. You have a wonderful ability to make people feel good. There was a feeling of joy throughout the room. I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for including me.> Donaldo (Binsacca)

Caro Ivano:

Che bella festa che era Sabato. Tutto molto bello!!
It truly was a beautiful gathering Saturday. Everyone
Had such a wonderful time. It was so good of you to
Acknowledge so many people.

The food was delicious and we ended up buying quite a
Few things as well. We will definitely go up there more

Thanks for signing the book for my cousin Laura – am
Sending it out today. Need to buy a few more of your
Books – have been giving them as gifts and everyone really
Enjoying them.

Again thanks for a beautiful day – so good to see you and your
Family and so many old dear friends.

Forwarding some fotos taken – also have the video – the fotos are
Untouched – just so you can see them – if you want touched up
Ones or more let us know.

Grazie per ora – tu amici Norma (Dinelli-Wilson) and Al

Ivan,We're so glad that you had a great turn out!! it was so nice for Bob to see many people that he'd not seen for many,many years. For me it was fun visiting with Patty Morelli and catching up on what Mac is doing and of course visit with dear Norma. Glad also to see your brother, even for just a few minutes that he was there.Hope that your happy in how things went on Saturday, the food looked great,but like Bob told you, we'd had a big lunch down on the wharf.Guess that's it for this time,again, Bob's happy that we did come down.Deanna & Roberto (Degli-Esposti)

It was most appropriate for you to have the book signing at "Il Rancho Grande". Your writings in the book described the ranches and cookhouses and cooks and so this was certainly appropriate. I thought you had a wonderful turnout and had the feeling everyone enjoyed themselves so much. To see some of the old timers was great. I can't help think how pleased you must be to have such an outpouring of appreciation and approval.

As it turned out, and I think I mentioned it to you, my husband went to school with Roger Princevalle's brother and had a wonderful visit with him. John had a close friendship with Bob Princevalle while at Cal Poly and after graduation he lost track of him.

Thank you again, Ivano, for such a great time on Saturday. Where is the next book signing going to be, maybe the Davenport Cash Store?

Did Theresa Darling tell you that the next Davenport Reunion is going to be Sept. 29, 2007.

Con un bacin d'Amor.
Thelma (Micossi-Gill)

Ivano,Felicitazioni! Congratulations again on your book and thank you for a great afternoon.Thank you for letting me tell my little story and doing the same for the others.I enjoyed seeing Jerry and Don and meeting many other now "famous" people from your book.I like the singing too. My grandmother used to sing "Quel mazzolin' di fiori" all the time.Un abbraccio, Florence (Bianco-Bell)

Norma: It was so nice to see you again. And your daughter and grand-daughter were the greatest. All a product of "La Costa" so long ago. I am so glad you and your family came. And Reno and Franca and Gary too. That was more than I expected, but oh so great to see them there. (Gary had certain facial expressions that reminded me of Guido, your father.) BTW: The presentation which you missed was video taped for Santa Cruz Community TV. It probably will be broadcast later this year or early next.
You can't miss Reno and I singing "Faccetta Nera" and "Cara Virginia" . (Unless they edit it out.)

As for the Cauliflower dish, I didn't get a chance to taste the food, however, I heard that it was delicious.
If you call the Farm at 831-425-8919, and talk to Lisa, I bet she can get it for you. They are very friendly and helpful people. Ivano

Original Message -----

I am wondering if by chance you would know how to get the recipe for the cauliflower dish served in the very large bowl.
My daughter would LOVE the recipe.

norma (Cantarutti) reiter

P.S. We so enjoyed the GATHERING!!!

Hi Ivan

Just want to tell you what a great time I had yesterday. It was truly the social event of the season. Again, thanks for such a great afternoon.
Alverda (Orlando)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Those of you seeking more information re: "La Nostra Costa Day", on Saturday Oct 14, between 1-4pm, at the Swanton Berry Farm, on Highway 1 at Swanton Road, (2 miles north of Davenport) the successive three articles posted below, will give you a pretty good idea what it is all about. The first article is a Santa Cruz Sentinel News article by Tom Ragan who vividly discribes what I am trying to accomplish, the second article gives you information on the Davenport Roadhouse at the Cash Store and the third article gives you a brief history of Davenport and a self-tour. So scroll down the BLOG and become informed. IVN0

October 9, 2006

Son of Italian immigrants farms background for bookBy TOM RAGANSENTINEL STAFF WRITER

With shovel in hand and old-country hat on head, Ivano Comelli re-enacted a scene of what it was like to be an Italian farmer in Santa Cruz County at the start of the Depression in the late 1920s.
His theatrical performance was delivered before Agri-Culture's Focus Ag class, which had gathered Friday at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds to listen to Comelli.
Comelli, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up on a farm three miles north of Santa Cruz. He's written a book based on his experiences.
The book is called "La Nostra Costa," or "Our Coast."
Of course, the title is a play on the phrase, "La Cosa Nostra," made famous by the Sicilian mafia and which means "Our Business" and don't meddle in it if you know what's good for you.
With about a dozen black and white photographs and nearly 400 pages, Comelli's up close and personal account of what it means to be Italian is refreshing in that it paints a different portrait of Santa Cruz's Italian community — one of farmers instead of more well-known fishermen.
"It's basically the story of my mother and father and our family — as told to me by them and as seen with my very own eyes," said the 69-year-old Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer who now lives in Morgan Hill but whose youth was spent among Italian immigrants near Davenport.
Comelli said he still remembers how his father, with nothing but a shovel and bare hands, would section off ditches as the water came in, making sure it flowed properly to the Brussels sprouts and artichokes.
"It was hard work," said Comelli. "But he'd sing a lot of Italian songs as he did it — usually World War I military songs."
Comelli, a graduate of San Jose State University, describes the hard times that all Italian immigrants faced living in Santa Cruz County shortly after World War I.
In one passage, Comelli writes of his father, "They called him Bronco. That, of course, wasn't his real name. It was the name given him by the Italian ranchers who worked on the rugged north coast of Santa Cruz County. The ranches were known as "rancios" and the ranchers were identified as "ranceri."
So what we've got in Comelli's book, which took him four years to write, is a vivid historical biography of the Italian community, both in Santa Cruz County and in Nimis, the town in the northeastern Italy, where many of the Italian farmers came from.
Comelli walks us through his family's journey to the United States and what it was like for family members who stayed in Italy to live under Nazi occupation during World War II.
Contact Tom Ragan at tragan@santacruzsentinel
book Signing
WHAT: Ivano Comelli's book, 'La Nostra Costa.'
WHEN: 1-4 p.m. Oct 14.
WHERE: Swanton Berry Ranch cook house, at the Highway 1 and Swanton Road, two miles north of Davenport.
Price: $18 for soft cover; $23 for hard cover.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MAY BE ARRIVING EARLY OR STAYING LATE FOR THE "LA NOSTRA COSTA DAY"BOOK SIGNING EVENT AT THE SWANTON BERRY FARM ON SATURDAY,OCTOBER 14 BETWEEN 1 AND 4 PM, please be informed that the "Davenport Roadhouse at the Cash Store", is open for business and does serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. And for this Event, it is serving a "La Nostra Costa" special. Please check the note below from Aria Marinelli:

La Nostra Costa Special:
Pork & Pumpkin Stew with Cannelloni Beans
Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesano Reggiano & Roasted Elephant Garlic Vinaigrette
Homemade Rosemary Foccacia

This will be offered to locals and your supporters on Saturday for the special price of $11.00 per person. The special will run from lunch into dinner. Even though our main dining room is closed from 3:00 – 5:00 this special will be available all day and during that time.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on Saturday.


Aria Marinelli
Aria Marinelli
Assistant Manager - Inn, Retail, Events
The Davenport Roadhouse

WHERE: 31 Davenport Ave. Menu: Breakfast, $5-$9; lunch, $6-$13; lounge menu, $4-$6; dinner, $12-$15. Full bar.Retail store:; 426-8801; (800) 870-1817;

Also: Please click on "comments"below for some heart-warming,
heart-wrenching comments by Silvia (Gianninni) Dunn re: the DeLucca Accident in Davenport (1947).


10:21 AM

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


SOME OF YOU COMING TO THE “LA NOSTRA COSTA DAY’ BOOK SIGNING AT THE SWANTON BERRY FARM ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14, may not be all that familiar with the Davenport area. Therefore, posted below is a historical mini-self tour of the local “Cement Capitol of the World”. This, of course, is not all inclusive of the sites, however; it will give you a start and you will not even have to leave Hwy 1. (LNC: Chapter 10 – “Davenport”, pgs. 105 - 115 has pictures and covers most of what is described below. Also, a member of “La Nostra Costa” gang is working on a map which will designate other places of interest su per la costa. It may be ready for the book signing date.)

Davenport is located approximately 10 miles north of Santa Cruz on Hwy 1. (Those of you coming from the San Jose Area, take Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz and then Hwy 1 to Half Moon Bay.Those who may be coming from the Bay Area, take Hwy 1 south towards Santa Cruz.) The little town was founded in the mid-1800s by John Pope Davenport, who sailed around the “Horn”, and built himself a 450 foot long pier at El Jarro Point, now known as Davenport Landing. The pier was used to export lumber, fuel and lime. The “Landing” also became one the most important whaling stations on the West Coast. In the 1900s, the Portland Cement Company started excavating limestone (the main ingredient for cement) from the hills just east of Davenport. About one mile south of the “Landing”, the Company built the Hotel D’Italia and later, the Ocean View Hotel to accommodate its workers. A “Cash Store” was also built next to the Ocean View Hotel to supply domestic goods and services.(This area was to become the little town of Davenport.) Just north of the newly established Cement Plant, the Company built a subdivision known as “New Town”, to house management personnel and other “upper-end” workers. In the 1920s and 1930s, “New Town” became the home of many Italian Immigrants who worked at the Cement Plant or on the coastal ranches.

Thus being duly informed of the local history, let us begin our tour.

Nearing Davenport from Santa Cruz (about 9 miles up), you will see that Hwy 1 takes a noticeable dip. As you are descending the grade, look to your right (east side of the Hwy) you will notice a rather large “clump” of trees mixed in with other green shrubbery. This was the location of the famous Hotel D’Italia, which burned down in 1945. “Carabiniere”, the gentle giant on the front cover of “La Nostra Costa” and my God-Mother Pina Micossi with her husband Frank Micossi, owned and managed the hotel. The Italians who worked on the rancios or at the Portland Cement Plant, used to gather her to socialize and play bocce ball.
As you approach the top of the grade at the intersection of Hwy 1 and Davenport Ave., you will see the “New Cash Store”. (It has just re-opened as "The Roadhouse at the Cash Store". Please see comment#6 for further info.) This was the location of the “Old Cash Store” which burned down in 1954. This is where my father, “Bronco” would drive my brother and me in the “Old Carrettone” (1934 Lafayette Auto) every Saturday afternoon to pick up our groceries.Right next to the “New Cash Store” (still on the east side of Hwy 1) you will see a parking lot. This was the site of the “Ocean View Hotel” which burned down circa 1962. (According to Davenport Historian Alverda Orlando, this hotel and the Hotel D’Italia were never re-built because of insufficient fire insurance coverage.) The Ocean View Hotel was own by Charlie and Carmelina Bella, and was famous for its “Wild Game Feasts” involving the local cacciatore (hunters.) The Poletti Packing and Shipping sheds (no longer there) used to be located directly across the street on the ocean side of the highway. Artichokes, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli , and other vegetable grown su per la costa were shipped to the East Coast from this location.
Continuing on to the intersection of Hwy.1 and Ocean Avenue, you will see the Whale City Bakery Bar and Grill on the south-east corner and the Arros Restaurant (now changing its name to “La Costa”) on the north-east corner. The Whale City Bakery used to be the Miramar Café and Gas Station (where my God-Mother, Pina Micossi used to work after the Hotel D’Italia burned down), and Arros (La Costa) used to be Gregory’s Market and Gas Station. (There is a small building directly behind the market, but it is unknown if this is the same building where my boyhood friend, Reno Cantarutti , then age 4, says he was offered an ice cream cone if he would only “give the Fascist Salute”.)
Proceeding north on Hwy 1, you can not miss the CEMEX Cement Plant, which is quite noticeable on the east side of the road. This used to be called the Portland Cement Plant and it was the point of origin of all those cement trucks that went up and down the Coast Road. In the old days this plant used to spew copious amounts of cement dust from its smoke stacks, painting the buildings (and also the lungs of the inhabitants) in Davenport ‘snow white’ and enabling coastal swallows to build their ‘custom cement harden’ mud nests. Almost directly across from the Plant, (Ocean side of Hwy 1) you will see a cement block building. This was the Cement Plant Hospital (not in use now) where many injured plant workers were taken (at least initially).
Up the road from the Cement Plant (on your right), you will see what appears to be a subdivision of older houses. This is “New Town” which can be accessed by taking the frontage road directly from the Cement Plant. Joe “Pino” Brovia, the future Pacific Coast League Baseball Hall of Famer (LNC: Chapter 11), used to perplex his father Pietro, by constantly playing baseball on First Street. It was also here on First Street where the “famous” author of the book “La Nostra Costa”, Ivano Franco Comelli , lived with his family during the first six months of his life.
Continuing north on Hwy 1, you will come to the intersection of Davenport Landing Road and Hwy 1 (Ocean side of the highway). Davenport Landing Road will take you to Davenport Landing, where it all began. John Davenport’s pier is no longer there, however, you may still view a very nice beach where (perhaps) rancher-whale hunters ran across the sands, harpoons in hand, yelling “Ecco la sofiatta va” (“Thars she blows”.)
The next intersection you will come to on Hwy 1 is the Swanton Road T-intersection (east-side of Hwy 1). This is probably the most infamous intersection in Davenport History. It is here (1947) that the DeLucca family vehicle (A 1941 black Buick) collided with a Department of Forestry Fire Truck. Five passengers in the DeLucca vehicle, including a 4 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, were killed.
Just north of that intersection on Hwy 1, (still on the east side) you will see the Swanton Berry Farm Sign. You have arrived at the “Bigga Ranch” where my father used to work in the 1920s. Drive to the “cookahousa” and partake in the festivities, --- “Soups On”. Ivn0

Ivano Franco Comelli, is the author of "La Nostra Costa" (Our Coast) published by Authorhouse. Order on line at: or by telephone 1-888-280-7715 .

Monday, September 04, 2006


Some of you have asked me how I came up with “A Rancere’s Lament” which appears at the front of the book. Nearing the end of the “La Nostra Costa” story, I realized that I needed a preface of some sort, something that would give a capsule description of what it was like to be a “rancere” during the depths of the Depression in the 1930’s. Of course, “The Rancere’s Lament” is fiction, however; it is based on fact. When I was writing the ‘Lament’ I was thinking of my father “Bronco” and my mother Valentina. The time period was 1936-1937. I was not born yet and my brother, John (about 2 years old) was very sick.

Rita (Franceschini) Giannandrea , who was born and raised ‘su per la costa’ during this time period, catches the true essence of the “Lament’ in her letter written to me last year.

Caro Ivano:

You capture the very essence of the moment ---- you are a very good writer. I certainly enjoyed reading “A Rancere’s Lament.”

I can picture Bronco, a tall stately, good looking man out in the field irrigating with his “shavola” against the elements of strong winds with dust blowing in his eyes and his heart heavy over the plight he was in. Bronco was a family man, who deeply loved his wife and children, but money was very scarce and he needed to provide for them, ---but how? If there ever was a feeling of desperation it was then.

I can picture Valentina, a strong good looking woman who dearly loved her husband trying to console him and not blaming him for the predicament they were in, “E, siamo en la costa, no paradiso!” I fully think those words lifted some of the blame that Bronco was feeling.

They say that behind every successful man is a righteous woman ----- and I believe that. I think that every woman on that ‘costa’ was a woman with nerves of steel. They never wavered in their love for their men and the men truly adored their wives ----though they never showed it. There was so much mutual respect ----- don’t you agree?

Sempre, Rita.

IFC: Yes Rita, I agree. In the “Lament”, the young rancere hears a woman’s voice coming “from out of the thick eerie mist”, advising him not to expect too much because he lives “su per la costa” and not in heaven. Although the voice is familiar to him he does not fully recognize it. It is only many years later when the rancere crosses “Il Ultimo Ponte” that he finally realizes that it was the voice of his young wife. And it is here at “Il Ultimo Ponte” that the rancere shows his full affection for his wife.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


In my book La Nostra Costa, I describe how, as kids ,we used to play 'rubber guns' on the Rodoni Ranch. I also talk about "Il Dumpo" (the City Dump) where we used to go to fetch discarded tire inner tubes to manufacture much needed "ammunition" for our rubber guns. (LNC: Pgs. 209-212.).

Gino Campioni has some interesting memories about "Il Dumpo" and "rubber guns." Notice his spelling for "Dumpo" . He spells it with an "o". Gino should know since he is in the process of constructing a phonetic dictionary for Italianized American words.Of course, he has a bias for the Tuscano pronunciation. Thanks for the memories, Gino.

Reading La Nostra Costa has awakened a lot of memories for me. I can remember a lot of the way "il dompo" appeared
in the early 1960s. The narrow, winding road was bumpy and dusty. On reaching the level of the main area of the
dump, the road curved first left, where one had to stop at an old wooden building where the size of the load was
checked, and the appropriate fee had to be paid. Then one proceeded to drive in a curve to the right, and then
back the vehicle to the edge of the pit, where all the trash was collected and subsequently burned or buried.

One had to be very careful not to back too close to the pit, as there was nothing to stop a vehicle from going over
the edge if one wasn't careful. I remember that I had to dispose of a Frigidaire washing machine that my mother had bought
from the TV and appliance store where I worked. It was the odd type of vertical pulsating agitator, and when it began leaking oil, it was not worth repairing. I pushed it off the truck tailgate, and it went "à ruzzoloni" end over end down that abyss. Another thing I discarded was a small banjo-type ukulele that had been given to me by my music teacher. After many problems with broken strings, parts coming loose, and finally a split in the white diaphragm of the thing, I flung it as far as I could. Clang! Bong! Splat!

I remember some of the people who lived close to the dump. My parents and I once had a fine meal of roast pheasant with all the "contorni" with Gianni Fambrini, his wife, and children Nadine and Raymond, with whom I later had 4 years of high school at Holy Cross. Those were the days, friends. I think that was the last time I ever had a pheasant dinner, but it was unforgettable.
Ivano, when making those rubber guns, did you ever make a rubber machine gun? I think Kenny Olsen and I used to make those. You would make a longer than normal stock, and cut saw-tooth notches in it, Then a strip of fabric, or some sort of strap was nailed to the front end of the notches. Rubber loops were stretched (in the proper sequence) from the front of the gun to the notches. When firing, the strap was lifted, and rubber loops were launched, either singly, or in a burst like a machine gun.

Didn't we have fun with simple stuff when we were kids? Nowadays most of the young kids I see don't know how to have fun unless daddy buys them a car or something. I have showed some of our boys my radios and let them make contacts. They were all "gung ho" until I told them they had to study a book to get a license. That was the end of their interest.

Regards, Gino

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The following article by Katie Niekerk of the Gilroy Dispatch also appears on Craig Kille's Bonny Doon Website: .

'La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)' offers glimpse into older Italian generationSaturday, May 20, 2006 … By Katie Niekerk, Lifestyles editor for the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance, and Morgan Hill Times
Comments or questions for Katie Niekerk can be directed to (408) 842-9404 or

With the recent debates surrounding immigration, it can be easy to forget that those who travel here from other countries have stories, families and beliefs that have molded them into who they are today. But Morgan Hill resident Ivano Franco Comelli has made it his goal to share the personal histories of Italian immigrants who sought their American dream on Santa Cruz's northern coast.

Comelli, a retired San Jose police officer, is the author of "La Nostra Costa (Our Coast): A Family's Journey to and from the North Coast of Santa Cruz, California (1923-1983)." The true story begins in Nimis, a small agricultural village in the northeast region of Italy. Benito Mussolini had just seized power, and Comelli's father, Gervasio, had to make a choice: re-enlist in the army or seek a new life in America. He chose the latter.
"La Nostra Costa (Our Coast)" narrates Gervasio's beginnings in a new place, from his early days as a ranch hand to his return to Italy, where he met his wife, Valentina Bressani. The book goes on to depict the true stories of other Italian immigrants who settled and worked up the coast. Comelli also describes what it was like to live in Italy under Nazi occupation forces and what it felt like to be declared enemy aliens during World War II.

Comelli's life as an adult has also been full of adventure and life-changing experiences while working with the San Jose Police Department.

Comelli, born in Santa Cruz, lived in Monterey County for the past 11 years before moving to Morgan Hill about a year ago to be closer to his seven grandsons, all who live in Morgan Hill. His daughter and son-in-law, Madeline and Chris Fritter, are longtime residents of Gilroy.
"I had a lot of memories about the coast, and the prime reason I wrote the book is I wanted to put them down so that future generations will know about the coast as it was, especially coastal farming," Comelli said.

Sunday, August 13, 2006



I have arranged for a 'La Nostra Costa" book signing event with Jim Cochron (owner-manger) at the Swanton Berry Farm, at Swanton Rd and Hwy 1 (just north of Davenport). The date is Saturday, October 14 from 1pm to ???.

In the old days the Berry Farm used to be known as 'Il Rancho Grande' (the 'Bigga Ranch'). My father, "Bronco" worked there when he first came over from Italy. A picture of "Bronco "with a group of 'Amici della Costa" hangs on the wall of what used to be the 'Bigga Ranch' cookahousa.

Jim and I want this to me more than just a book signing event. We would like it to be more in the tradition of the old gatherings favored by the Ranceri and Amici della Costa. Jim and his staff plan to serve food. Maybe even some recipes favored by the rancere at the old 'cookahouse (LNC: Chapter 8, "La Cuoca" [The Cook]). However if you wish to bring a picnic basket, feel free to do so.

This should be a great day (maybe even 'paradisaical') filled with family fun and good old fashion nostalgia. With some encouragement the "Old Rancere" (he says he is going to be there)may even sing a chorus or two of "Quel Mazzolin di Fiori" . What a way to relive those memories of yesteryear ',-----walking the fields on a real rancio su per la costa.

Again, the date is Saturday, October 14, from 1 pm to ??. Please put this on your calendar. I will post a reminder as we get closer to the date. Website for the farm is: .

Added note: I have just learned that Cathy Brovia, the widow of Joe "Pino" Brovia, Pacific Coast Baseball League Hall of Famer (LNC: Chapter 11) and famous "figlio della costa" has had by-pass surgery. She is now at the Convalescence Hospital on Fredrick Street in Santa Cruz. Get well soon Cathy. I need you to be at "La Nostra Costa Day" on the
"Bigga Ranch"

'Con un Bacin d'mor', Ivano della Costa

Thursday, August 10, 2006


In "La Nostra Costa" I write about several interesting ranchers that I knew. One of most interesting and by far the most eccentric was a rancere, nicknamed Baffi (LCN- p.91-92) His real name was Guglielmo Roberto Campioni. After reading the book, Gino "Bobbie" Campioni, s0n of "Baffi" and Ada Campioni sent me the following information including some interesting history regarding "La Costa".

"Here are a few memories, mostly about Baffi, and in no particular order:

Baffi (Guglielmo) was born in May, 1887 in the village of Uzzano in Pistoia. As the townsfolk had some sort of grudge with the local schoolteacher, he and others his age were never allowed to attend school. Instead Guglielmo was sent to work at age 7. His first job was picking olives.

He may have also had some run-ins with other boys his age, as he told of a time that he was walking down the hill near his home, when he was hit on the head by a flat rock thrown by a boyhood enemy of his. It apparently removed a bit of scalp, and he had a bald spot there for life.

When John and Nancy Mitton took me to Italy in April, 1999, we visited Uzzano, and on starting the climb up the winding road to the village, I had the feeling that we were in the spot where that rock throwing incident happened. About half way up the hill, (Uzzano is built upon an extinct volcano) there is a flat area, In it are an abandoned Catholic church, an ancient castle, and the Villa Lavoratti, where Giacomo Puccini wrote the second act of his opera, "La Boheme". There is a restaurant there by the name of Bigiano, where we had the best meal of our entire European trip. It is operated by a fine gentleman by the name of Loris. I think he is Loris Lavoratti. John and Nancy had a fancy meal, but all I wanted was a panino ripieno di biroldo. I was in heaven then. As we ate, I remarked that I could feel the spirit of Guglielmo smiling down at us. Nancy said she felt the same thing.

On approaching maturity Guglielmo worked for a lake fisherman and other jobs. Then he moved to France, and worked at fishing at Marseilles. He learned to speak a bit of French there. I already told you of his trips to America and back.

He never drove a motor vehicle in all his life, since having been raised in the customs of the Old Country, he drank a half gallon of vino rosso daily, and thus had enough sense to trust the driving to someone else. He did, however, buy a car in partnership with Costantino Gemignani, who did all the driving, and Baffi paid for half the gasoline.

Augie taught me to drive that car when I was about 13. I don't think I ever went fast enough on the roads at the Golcio to advance to 2nd gear. The car was a Ford Victoria, probably built around 1930 or earlier. It was painted a rust brown color, or maybe the color of pattume, painted by hand with a brush. It was ugly but it ran. Later on Alfonso Oddone, who lived just East of us on Bay Street, just beyond the backyard fence, let me drive his pickup on West Cliff Drive. (with him in the co-pilot's seat, of course) I didn't even know that was illegal.

I had pestered Baffi to let me help him pick sprouts at the ranch. Finally one day he agreed to take me there. He showed me how to fasten the sack to my belt, and pick the sprouts by placing the heel of both hands against the tops of the sprouts, and pushing down to snap them off and drop them in the sack. I was there about 15 seconds, doing my best, when he roared, "Troppo adagio! Via di qui! Vai al cuccausse!" Thus ended my picking career. I amused myself the rest of the day looking at some fascinating things in the cookhouse. Dante Ramacciotti had some neat rifles there, and a German Luger, among other stuff.

Unfortunately, I probably imitated Baffi's attitude a bit when I had 3 stepchildren, and they were keen on watching me work on my car. It's not so much that they were bothering me, but that I was embarrassed at how little I actually could do with automotive work. Changing oil, plugs, and some minor parts replacement was all I knew about.

Upstairs in the cookhouse was where Baffi lived before returning to Italy to select a bride. He had attended some sort of Italian celebration in Bakersfield, and had won a raffle prize. It was a Victor Talking Machine with Victrola. This radio arrived to his place in 3 cartons. Having no knowledge of English, the assembly instructions were of no use to him. He assembled it anyway, and it worked on first try. It drew so much current, that when he operated it, the other radios in the cookhouse would not play. He was listening to the Dempsey Tunney fight, when the other ranch hands all came to his room to listen, as their radios had gone silent.
They made so much noise that Baffi stealthily kicked the power plug out of its socket, and his radio went dead too. When all the others were gone, he plugged it in again, and listened to the fight in peace.

When the war began, a pair of FBI agents visited the house on Bay Street. I was not there, but Baffi let them in. They had a warrant to search for spy radios. They thought we had a short wave set. Baffi told them that this Victor console was the only radio in the house, and to look for themselves. It had no short wave. Furthermore, if any one of them could lift it and carry it to the car, he could have it. End of search. I doubt the two of them could have lifted it.

As you know, during the war my parents could not legally cross Mission Street. Thus, I had to make any purchase in Youngman's Pharmacy or any of the stores on the far side of the street. I was even permitted to buy tobacco products for my dad. One winter day there was a heavy rain, and the street was awash from our front door sill to that across the street. I was ready to leave for school. Baffi said, “You can't go. You would be washed out to sea if you go outside." "But I HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL, PA!"
"OK, then I'll carry you." "You can only carry me to the center line!" "You watch". He carried me to the front of Bay View School, and set me down on the dry steps, and returned home. By the time school let out, the road was clear again. Nobody bothered us about his "breaking the law."

You mentioned a nice chap named "Jimmie" at the Gulch. Perhaps that was Jimmie Corno, who visited us on occasion. He was a tall and husky guy, and very pleasant, as I remember. Later when I was working in Portland, Oregon, I went past a wholesale produce place with a sign reading, "Corno Produce". I wondered if that were the same Jimmie Corno, but never had time to stop and ask.

Earlier, while working for Costella & Caiocca TV and Appliance, I had a service call to the cookhouse of the Pilipino workers on the Rodoni Ranch. There I met Mr. Ramon Trigo, the foreman. He was a very pleasant fellow to Gerhard and me, but I suspect he was tough with his ranch hands. The TV had been mounted right above the cookstove, and had become loaded with oil from the daily frying of fish. We had to replace the "flyback". (high voltage transformer) We told Mr. Trigo the TV had to be moved away from the stove, or it would need this expensive repair again. "He gone spoil again?" "Yes, Mr. Trigo. You must move it away from stove." I even remember the model number. Hoffman K1011. (black and white, of course. Color TVs were not yet developed then)

There was also a very nice Mexican fellow, who came to dinner one time. He was very homesick for Mexico, and asked if I could play La Comparsita, or Cielito Lindo on my accordion. I could not, but played something for him. Some Italian song. He wept a bit on hearing the music. I guess just about anything reminded him of his home. He gave me a ball point pen, and asked that I remember "the Messicanaccio" with it. I remember all but his name.

To this day I regret that I never fulfilled my dad's fondest wish that I could earn a good living with music. He had hoped that I could avoid the toil that he had gone through all his life. I had expressed a wish to play accordion because the neighbors next-door, Bartolomeo (Pete) Dogliotti and his wife Maria had a son by the name of Attilio. (popularly called, "Joe".) He could play the accordion like nobody else I ever heard. I wanted so much to be able to do that too. Baffi sided with me, saying that the accordion is quite portable, and not terribly heavy. Ada argued that if I learned the piano instead, I wouldn't have to carry a heavy instrument when I went to perform. Baffi and I carried the vote, and he got me accordion lessons with Joe Boggero. After a few weeks of that, he had Joe order me a full size accordion from Italy. Thinking back, I wonder how he paid for that expensive thing, but pay he did. I still have it, and whenever I play it, which is rarely, I weep a bit at how I disappointed my father.

Several events caused the loss of enthusiasm for accordion playing, besides my laziness:
1. Attilio joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, and after basic training, was assigned to bomber pilot school in Texas. Within a few months he was to have two weeks off, in which he planned to return to Santa Cruz, marry his high school sweetheart, Lina Braida and then return to active duty. His last assignment before the leave was to deliver a bomber to Mountain Home Air Base in Idaho. Crossing above the northwest corner of Arizona, the plane exploded. All aboard were killed. A funeral was held, and a sealed casket was all that was seen. Pete and Mary went into mourning for life. Out of respect, my mother never sang aloud again, though had she been able to have voice lessons, she could have been an opera singer. I also played accordion only when the Dogliotti were not at home, and even then, as quietly as I could.

Imagine the additional grief I cause Pete and Mary when I started to take flying lessons. Thinking back, I wish there could have been a way to keep it a secret from them. I had 8 hours of instruction, and soloed an Aeronca light plane. It was one of the most thrilling things I ever did. I gave it up though, as I knew I didn't want to spend much more on fun and games. Actually, the plane gave up on me, but that's another story.

2. One time I received a phone call. He said it was Joe. I thought it was Joe, my music teacher. He asked me to play for a dance with him at the Laurel Inn. I didn't want to do it. Baffi said, "It's Black Joe, the roofer. He's a good guy. Go with him and make a few bucks". That was the final blow. I only knew 2 songs. I played them over and over, while Joe played his "drums". (actually, suit cases, hat boxes, and other junk) Drunks would lean over me and say, "you play lousy, kid" "I know. I WANT TO GO HOME!" I was about 15 at the time, and probably looked to be 10. It was illegal for me even to be in that dive.

saluti da Gino"