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