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.