I recently received this letter from RoseMarie Giannandrea. She is related to the Modolo family who lived and worked in the Swanton Valley, "su per la costa." (La Nostra Costa-pages 354-357.)
"What a wonderful surprise! I had no idea someone wrote a book about growing up on the coast road, where my mother, Mary Modolo was born and where my grandparents started their lives in America.
When I was a little girl my mom would tell me all about her childhood on the coast road, the ranch and all of the families. My Nonna and I would work in the vineyards or in the kitchen and she would tell me so many stories about the ranch where she would cook all the meals for thirty men everyday and how she got to the coast from Italy.
I lived with my grandparents from the time I was four years old and they had just moved to Dinuba, CA. Because of our long and many talks I feel like I know so many of the families mentioned in your book. I have to tell you of all the tears that came with reading it as well.
How it makes me miss my Nonna and my mom. (Mom passed away five years ago from cancer). Mom was visiting Nonno and Nonna for Christmas when mother went into labor with me and that's why I was born in Sant Cruz! I can still remember the long wooden tables on the ranch where Nonno would stand me on the table after the the dishes were cleared, but of course not the wine and I would sing along to all the Italian records.
I remember when I asked Nonna why they left Davenport, she told me it was because of Uncle John's death (Johnny Modolo-La Nostra Costa- page 356). Nonna showed me all the newspaper articles of his death. My grandparents never got over the death of my uncle. Both my grandparents and Uncle John are in the mausoleum in Santa Cruz and I still go and put the flowers there.
It's amazing how the death of my uncle did sadden a whole community. About ten years ago or so there was an article written about the ranches on the coast highway and a picture of my grand parent's house; the old torn and tattered curtains were blowing through the broken windows and there was mention about my Uncle John and "was his spirit still in the house?" My Nonna told me when my son was born, "If his name (isn't) John don't bring him home." I think she meant it!
The year before Nonna's death, I took her to her one and only Coast Highway Reunion in 1987. After 40 years every one knew exactly who she was when we entered the room and of coure they told me how much I looked just like my mother and everyone made mention of my uncle.
I remain very close to my Aunt Rita. It's kind of like still having my mom. She and my mom were very very close friends and had been since the age of four. They were more like sisters. When mom passed away, I wrote her obituary, listing her surviving family and also put "One life long friend, Rita (Franceschini) Giannandrea". Uncle Deno and my step-father were the best friends and that's how mom and dad met."
Thanks RoseMarie. What a wonderful letter. "La Nostra Costa" has 1001 stories. A few I was able to recount in the book. The story of Johnny Modolo and his untimely death, and the "Ghosts of the Coast" were included. ivno