Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The letter below was written by Hugo Bianchini. Hugo and his wife Maureen are the proud parents of "La Nostra Costa" editor Brian Bianchini. As the letter indicates Hugo's memories link him to "La Costa" in a different setting. Ironically, Hugo's father shared the same nickname as my father, "Bronco". The Bianchinis' presently live in Monterey:

"Dear Ivano:

I finished your family history.... your loving recollection, last week. I'm writing to congatulate and thank you for a very impressive accomplishment. It is a highly detailed and intimate look at the Italo-American farm families on the central coat, a history little known to Californians. It gives the reader insight into the hard but tranquil, and if I may add, the beautiful life, shared by those Italian immigrants and their children in the early 20th century, su per la costa, (and elsewhere in the state.) I was quite moved by parts of it, and seemed to recognize so much and so many in the story.

My family in Roseville lived in what I now fondly recall as an Italian "ghetto". It was so much more than the name implies. We had a closeness and concern and affection for each other, (and those on-going feuds), that was evident in your own story. WWII rationing of building materials put my father's home construction business into "limbo", so he rented 7-8 fertile acres along a lovely creek in the middle of town. He raised the finest tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, and melons in the area.

My father grew up on a farm in Italy and he continued here, in the Rio Vista Area, until he was 26 years old. He still had that "green magic" in his fingers when he took it up again 20 years later. Naturally, (but possibly not too happily), my mother, three sisters and I were the major part of his field crew: planting, thinning, picking, sorting and packing for market and of course irrigating. I remember how proud I was when my father would go and leave me all alone to do the "watering" (only after long training.) So in reading your story I remembered my frequent difficulty and anxiety facing several acres of delicate, dry plants with only a "sciavola" to direct that raging main water ditch. (I was only 10 or 11 at the time). We had the produce farm for about 6 years, until conditions permitted my father to return to construction. I shall always treasure those years. In retirement, my father returned to farming 20-30 acres, alone. By then, the earlier joys seemed to be gone. My family and the Italian community was all married off and scattered, "gone".

Ivano, I relished the parts of your book where you described when family and extended family and friends got together for a truly unique Italian "peet-ta-nee-ka". As more "americani" came into our lives later, they were always amazed how the women could put on these incredible feasts out in "the wilds", on a picnic table or sometimes just on an elegant tablecloth spread out over the fresh cut grass: antipasti, pasta asciutta, roasts, salads and green dishes and on & on. And everyone even in these rustic surroundings was dressed in Sunday best. It was crazy, it was beautiful, and never to be forgotten.

Before I start crying in my beer, let me just say that all that community and fellowship in our immediate families (siblings & cousins) and among "our" people seems mostly "evolved away" now. Growth? Progress? Maybe a natural process, as we were discussing recently, but I believe that it has been a substantial loss to me, to many of our background, and to our American society.

So again, thank you for sharing your book with me and sharing all those dear memories. You did a wonderful job on this book; I hope you do others. All those friend and relatives (and/or their children) should be thoroughly thrilled by your story.

I hope we meet again someday to share dear memories. Maybe we can even try a chores or two of Quell mazzolin di fiori.

Tante belle cose: Hugo


Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Hugo for a wonderful letter. You didn't have to live up the coast to have those wonderful memories. Also,I have copies of old pictures of the Italians "su per la costa" attending picnics. As Hugo's letter suggests, most of the men were dressed in suits and ties.(Louis Bettiol,who recently passed away recently at the age of 93, told me that you could tell that the pictures were taken on a Sunday. That was the custom then. You got all dressed up on Sunday.) There is one which dates back to about 1931. In it my father, then about 31 years old is wearing a bow-tie. I had never seen my father ever wear a bow-tie before. He also had his arm around the best looking girl in the crowd. Of course this was before he had met my mother. ivnO

Anonymous said...

Ivano,I think I remember Ada Campioni as a good looking lady.Gino made me laugh about"Being
washed away to the sea" Room for onother book!Hugo's letter was very interesting, and he really appreciated your book!"Those were the day my friend we thought they never end" Remember that song?
Add that to the"Mazzolin di Fiori!"
Ciao,per ora.Lina