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


thelma (micossi)gill said...


Aren't you absolutely amazed at all the history you are getting? I think it's wonderful. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful stories.



gino campioni said...

Ciao Ivano,

Thanks for the notice of your latest posting, which I read with great interest. The mention of the inspections (invasions of privacy) by FBI at the start of the war reminded me of the even worse things faced by others in this, the Land of the Free:

I realize that we who lived on the safer side of Mission St. during the war had an easy time of it. One quick visit to check my father's radio was the only scare we had. Yes my parents were restricted as to where they could be, but that was a minor obstacle.

When I first moved to Oregon in 1969, I got a job in Salem. After a few months I found that I could work in Portland for one dollar more per hour that I made in Salem, so off I went to work for Packard Bell Service. (later it became part of the Teledyne conglomerate) I still lived in Salem, so made the 75 minute drive each way, 6 days per week. My area for TV service calls was mainly in Southeast Portland, but at times was anywhere in the Portland to Salem areas.

Early on I found a pleasant fruit stand on 52nd Avenue, just South of Holgate Road, close to Reed College and the Portland Rhododendron Society Gardens. It belonged to a Japanese couple, Haru and Mary Okamoto. Haru was a native of Sapporo, Hokkaido, while Mary was born in Watsonville, thus she was an American citizen.

Each day Haru would drive to N.W. Portland, possibly to Corno Produce, and bring back the finest and best fruits and vegetables, which they would sell to their many faithful customers. They were known to all as "Otto San and Oka San", or Grandpa and Grandma.

Although Okamoto had lost a son in the U.S. Military, and had another in the service of this country, when the war started, they were rounded up with many others of Japanese birth or names. They were permitted to take with them only what they were wearing or could carry onto busses. Mary brought a tricycle for their younger children, and Haru brought an ironing board and iron. These "luxuries" they had to share with several families in the Arizona concentration where they were unceremoniously penned up.The entire time they declared their unwavering allegiance to the United States. They did not murmur about the rude treatment they received. When the hostilities ceased, they quietly returned to Portland and resumed their produce business.

There was a period of time in which the store was not in operation. Some drunken driver crashed into it, demolishing the entire structure. It took quite some time before Mary was able to get help to rebuild, but eventually it did get back into operation. The drunk driver had no insurance, and Mary could not get any help outside of her own family.

Haru San died several years ago, and Mary continued alone as long as she could. Later she hired a young American boy to run the store for her. I presume she has now rejoined her beloved Haru in heaven.

So we think we had it tough. If we look hard enough we can see that we had it very easy in comparison.

Saluti Gino

diane bianconi said...

This is about my mom Irene Terrini Bianconi:

Born and raised in Davenport and rode the train to Santa Cruz to attend Santa Cruz High. She worked on the family artichoke ranch and helped cook for the workers. When the family moved to Swanton, she helped her mother run the Italian Restaurant in the house, a popular stop for travelers to San Francisco.
In 1937 she married Guido Bianconi and together they operated Bianconi Produce. She later worked for Dave Ferrari at Ferrari Florist. Irene was known for her cooking, especially her artichoke pie! She also enjoyed playing cards, arranging flowers and watching sports on TV. She was a long time member of Holy Cross Church.
Hope you are doing well - Diane

robert lemmon jr. said...

Enjoyed hearing part of your family's story. Believe the harassment of your grandfather is yet another case where recent emigrants are blamed for many of society's woes, real or imagined.
While my gggg grandfather Hugh Lemmon escaped such treatment principally becuz he fought with our Revolutionary War forces against the British, whom he, as an immigrant from No Ireland, hated [some things never change], the Irish in such big cities as NYC & Boston were no doubt subject to much suspicion & abuse when they 1st arrived
But Sandy Lydon & his star pupil, Geoffrey Dunn, are likely correct in pointing out the two ethnic groups which have had the worst treatment: the Japanese & Chinese. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & her husband cover the treatment of the Japanese in their book Farewell to Manzanar while Sandy & Geoff have covered the shabby treatment of the Chinese in several of their books.
The Ponza Bros were similarly looked upon as immigrants who were taking lumbering jobs from locals when they began working in the Glenwood area in the early 1900s.
And, if you think the current immigrants from south of the border are reviled now, watch what happens during the next economic downturn. Bob L Jr

Anonymous said...

I hope that you were able to save the drive in.
I wanted to say that at one time in this country the German immigrants outnumbered all other immigrants. The second huge number of immigrants were the Italians and I think, although not sure followed by the Irish.
Mrs Embree always emphasized that the United States was a melting pot.
I suspect that during WW11 there were many American Germans fighting the Germans. I suspect that even General Eisenhower was of German descent.
Nancy Quilici Jacobs

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Gino Campioni.
ABSOLUTELY AGREE! He said it better than I ever could.
My point being that if you think you had it hard someone else had it harder!
Bravo Gino!
Nancy Quilici Jacobs