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.


Dorothy Beardsley Alexander said...

Hi Ivano,

I have just finished reading your super audiobiographical/historical story, La /Nostra Costa. I have enjoyed it very much, and you have done a great job in preserving the Italian immigrant history along the coast. I did not know any of the people (except the SC friends) you wrote about, but you made each interesting. Although I knew that Jerry Mungai lived up there, I did not realize that you, nor Marvin Del Chiaro, Jimmy Ceragioli and Jeanette Benedetti lived there too. I think that when I met Jimmy at Mission Hill Jr. High, he was already living on Escalona, but maybe not. Florence Bianco said that she also lived up the coast, but I gather that you did not know her when she and you were young.

There are several things that were of particular interest to me and how your experience relates to the immigrant's second language learning problems of today. You say that you didn't speak English while entering Laurel school, as did many other children in the past. (My husband's mother only spoke German when she went to school). You had to be submerged in English only classes and certainly learned the language quickly enough to do well in school. I think we must be babying our immigrant non-English speaking children when much of their teaching is still in Spanish. Some North Tahoe classrooms are teaching them English for only a short amount of time each day. I thought that was illegal now.

Another thing that struck me is how frugal your parents must have been to save so much money by which they could pay cash for a lot and house in 1954. Their wages could not have been very much, but they must have carefully saved for the future and also to have allowed you to go to college.

It was also interesting to me that John DeBenedetti was a coastal land owner and grew brussel sprouts. Jay was my first boyfriend, in 5th grade no less. I started out early. I'm sure his family is also Italian and wonder when they immigrated to the US. I know that at his mother, a Podesta from San Francisco, came from a prominent family there. At least that is what I remember. It is interesting that your father and brother leased acreage from John DeBenedetti near Watsonville and that you and your brother finally purchased it. More accolades to you.

I have been writing my memoirs this summer and am having a lot of fun recalling the days of growing up in Santa Cruz. I don't have all the interesting stories that you have about so many families, but I am trying to paint a picture of what it was like growing up in Santa Cruz in the 1940' and 1950's. It's mainly trivia, but it brings back many memories for me. I hope that my grandchildren and maybe great grandchildren will sometime find it interesting. I do hope to continue the story up to this present day. I find the writing goes slow as I am up to my college days, so it will be a pretty long project for me too. I am also incorporating some history i.e. Santa Cruz, WWII, plus what happened in the world and US each decade. That research on the Internet takes time, but I'm learning a lot too. Oh, Jerry Kerrick and family lived just three doors up from me on Walnut Ave, so he has also been mentioned as a childhood playmate.

Thanks for writing a valuable and interesting book. You did a great job in it's presentation and with all those great pictures.

0h, I'm taking an autobiography class for seniors here in Truckee. Last Wednesday, I took your book and showed the class as what can happen when one starts writing. One lady who grew up in San Francisco was very interested in it and will probably try and buy it. I said I thought she could find it

Regards to you,
Dorothy Beardsley Alexander

IFC: Thanks Dorothy. I really appreciate the kind words. As the "Lament" suggest the "rancere" did not make all that much money during the Depression. However,after the War, things did get better. Because my mother, Valentina, was quite "frugal" (she was saving for that house in Santa Cruz), we were actually better off than many at the time, although I didn't know it. It was her secret.

I am glad that you are writing. I know it is slow and hard work. But it will be worth it. Remember, Dorothy what you may consider trivia today, is history tomorrow. Miss Ireland and Mrs. Pepper would be proud of you. ivn0

Jay DeBenedetti said...

Dear Ivan, I was under the impression that I mailed you when I finished reading your book. If I didn't, I apologize. The work was a labor of love and commitment to your family and childhood friends. Congratulations and well done. If there is a way to forward this to Dorothy, please do. Its a privilege to be remembered as her first boyfriend; I have never forgot that. Actually my mother Fredrica Hanson was born in Pasadena and grew up in Berkeley. She met my father while they both attended Cal. The John deBenedetti family has its USA roots in SF, circa 1855 when John migrated from San Vicenzo (near Genoa ). His son Joseph followed in about 1863 to SF and then to Half Moon Bay where he married, worked and raised a family of 8 children; one of which was my grandfather John L deBenedetti. We moved from San Mateo to Santa Cruz in 1942. Ivan, sorry about the book signing, I'll be out of town. All the best Jay

IFC: Thanks Jay. You father was held in high esteem by the ranceri up the coast. He is still well remembered. Hopefully, the book, in some small way, will help preserve his memory. ivn0