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


Ivano said...

Norma: I think Part II is even better than Part I. All those Coastal Names. Too bad so many who would enjoy your article do not do the internet thing.

Indeed, Floyd Bruce was our Bus Driver. However, I think that it was Bus 2 that he drove. (Bus 9, I believe, took the Bonny Doon Kids to Santa Cruz City Schools.)

Floyd Bruce was a no nonsense driver. He would not tolerate any "hanky-panky" or loud talking from the kids. Thus, he was not well liked. However, one incident changed my mind about him.

In the the book, (Chapter 26, "La Costa Spaventousa"[The Scary Coast])I write about the fire at the Rodoni Ranch and how Elio Rodoni (then about 12 years old) suffered major burns to his body.

This caused Elio to stay out of School for many weeks. On his first day back Elio got on old Bus 2. Mr. Bruce turned off the engine and stood next to Elio. He then gave a short but very sincere speech. He described the suffering Elio had to go through and what courage Elio had demonstrated during his rehabilitation. He whole heartedly welcomed Elio back into the fold. At the end of his speech all the kids gave Elio a big hand. From then on I thought Floyd Bruce was not so bad. Ivn0

carol costella schwartz said...

I read Norma Dinelli article, which I thought was very good. She mentions the Garibaldi Hotel, which I think is where my grandparents went a lot. I heard stories when I was young that my grandfather, Egidio, got in a big fight there and supposedly bit a guy's nose off because he called him the derogatory "D" word. Wonder if anyone remembers that?

Hank Bradley said...

I agree with Ivano, this is great stuff. Of course we took it all for granted about 50 years ago, but now when I drop in on the site I'm hoping for more yarns like Norma Dinelli Wilson's. My best regards to her from Seattle.

Warning - here follows some extra detail about that Bus No. 2.

I too rode that school bus along with my sister Betsey, and we started each day up in the arctic north - the first ranch across the San Mateo County line. Mr. Bruce would fetch us from Waddell Creek, just south of La Slida, in his own car, a glorious big shiny Packard from somewhere in the 30s.

Bus 2 only went up to Davenport, and was parked overnight in a shed next the railroad tracks, between Newtown and Davenport proper. So each morning he'd drive to Waddell from his home in Santa Cruz, and pick up students going south - not on the new Coast highway, but along the old Swanton road where the population was. That car was so posh it even had jump seats behind the driver's and front passenger's, and sometimes depending on the kid load they'd be unfolded and sat in. Seatbelts? Excuse me? They weren't invented yet.

At Davenport, we'd swap the Packard for Bus 2 (a Gillig) and continue our thrilling ride to town at about 45 mph. Afternoons, the process was reversed.

We thought we spent an extra lifetime on that bus in our six years of Mission Hill and SCHS, but Mr. Bruce had it even worse, leaving home way first and returning way last.

Our best adventure with Mr. Bruce was on the Swanton road. One fall morning we were proceeding at his usual stately pace (he drove like the Admiral of the Fleet), and about half a mile south of Seaside school came around a very sharp curve to face a hunter just throwing down on a quail flying across the road. Blam! I can't remember the fate of the quail, but the Packard took a few birdshot from maybe a hundred yards distance and Mr. Bruce turned purple. To we who suffered many a lecture from Mr. Bruce for talking too much, his outright oration to that poor hunter was a delight - for once we weren't the audience.

alverda orlando said...

I,too, remember that bus. I walked from Newtown down to the train depot, where the bus was parked in the shed, right across from the cement plant.

ivano franco said...

Speaking of food and cookhouses, Reno Cantarutti sent me the following e-mail

"IVANO Cant help but tell you that my wife (Franca) made my favorite, Holiday cake:
VALENTINA'S apple cake. She gave the recipe to my mother manny years
ago. I never could believe her when she said the cake was fat free, RENO"

LNC: One of my favorit chapters in the book is Chapter 8 "La Cuoca" (The Cook). Wherein, I try to describe some of my mother's recipies and her way of cooking for the "ranceri"(Unfortunately the recipe for Apple Cake as described by Reno was not included) With the closing of the "cookahousas" in the 1950's, a certain way of life "su per la costa went with them. I feel very fortunate for having experience what it was like eating at the boarding room table with a bunch of rough and tough "ranceri". I don't think that experience can ever be duplicated. At least not in my life time. Ivn0

Jerry Mungai said...

My grandmother, Antonietta, ran our cookhouse. My dad (Dino)
ate his lunch and dinner Mon-Fri. until we were about
7 or 8. Antonietta made good focaccia, both regular
and sweet (with raisins).


LNC: I remember that Jerry's Mom
Edith, was also a great cook. As I recall she was a Piemontesa. (Origins from the Piemonte Region of Italy). I was fortunate enough to be invited to her house several times to enjoy her cusine. Widowed at at a relatively young age, Edith continued to live on the Mungai Ranch 'su per la costa'
many years after Dino's passing. For years she could be readily identify on the Coast Road driving her mid 1950s Linclon. ivno


Reno Cantarutti said...

Regarding VALENTINAS cooking: I remember I always looked
forward going to vist the COMELLIS, for two reasons, One was to get to play our little games withJOHNNY and IVANO, but also to eat one of VALENTINA'S wonderfull meals. Most of the times we would arrive unexpectely at the COMELLIS. Here is where the VALENTINA magic would come in. She would be able to cook a complete mealin no time,for 8
people with no fuss, And when I say meal I dont mean HAMBURGERS either.
She use to get on me because I would drink more soda pop than eat.
What a well organized woman VALENTINA was. RENO

LNC: And if we were real lucky Valentina would pack up all the food items and we would all head for Bonny Doon to have a 'pickenica" under the Redwood Trees behind the Iacopetti Store (now the Bonny Doon Wine Tasting Room.) ivno

Hank Bradley said...


Thanks for passing on the comments from Norma Dinelli Wilson. I'll add a little info about her first few sentences.

For the first year of Mission Hill, I took my bike from the ranch past Li Slida to Waddell, and back against the usual headwinds (il vento as you say) in the afternoon. Then Betsey joined the party, and we got rides to Waddell from parents for a while, until the State of California graciously issued me a driver's license at the advanced age of 15 so I could drive us to Davenport and catch the school bus there. In fact the license had a 10-mile limit on it for just that purpose. That caper relieved Mr. Bruce from his extra mileage to Waddell, and saved him about an hour a day on the road in total.

La Slida was spectacular and full of surprises. Our greatest hope each morning was that a slide had come down in sufficient size to block the whole highway and prevent us (oh, dang!) from going to school. Lesser ones that only blocked half the road were pretty common. One afternoon going home I looked out the passenger window, and saw a major rockfall come loose directly above us. My dad stepped on the gas, and we got out from under in good time although that one did block the road pretty well when it was finished.

When my family first moved to the coast in 1917, traffic past La Slida was right on the beach and had to wait for low tide. I think WW II caused some further improvements, since Highway 1 then had military patrols on it. My first trips to Seaside School came while Eaton and Smith (long-gone construction company) did the major improvements on La Slida, I think in 1947. I remember waiting one morning in a long line of cars while the equipment worked (all those stacked-up Caterpillars on benches, shoving dirt from the top of the slide to the bottom). Everyone got out to watch while we waited, and one of those guys had a handful of pistol cartridges he was playing with. They certainly caught this 7-year-old's eye. Later someone else said that was one Sammy Manyana, aka Sam Miano. I never learned anything more, but maybe you've heard of him.

Sorry to run on so long, but history is fun.

LNC: Yes, history is fun and its stories like yours that make it fun. What we thought was yesterdays trivia is today's history. Thanks Hank. ivn0

Reno Cantarutti said...

Reading the story of NORMA WILSON, about going to Holy Cross School
brought back some bad memories. I went there in the 3rd grade . I
have to admit I was no angel(more like DENNIS the Menace).As a result my knuckles were always bleeding . What do I mean by that. In those days the nuns
carried rulers that had metal edges, and when you stepped out line ,they would have you put your fists together, and they would crack your knuckles ,with the ruler. My mother was always wanting to know why my knuckles
were always bleeding . At other times I would be spending my (time out)
in the coat room in the back .One day we were in the basement having
recess, when little Johnny and I got into a pushing and shoving match .
Little Johnny went and tattled to the nun ,what I did . She got both of us together shoulder to shoulder ,and said you for tattling on RENO and
you for shoving and then she banged our heads toghter.To this day some
60 years later,I can feel that banging of my head and the ringing in my ears. Also I must confess that I FLUNKED the 3 grade. Thats my fond memories of HOLY CROSS SCHOOL. RENO

LNC: Boy, I thought I had it rough at Laurel School. No banging of the knuckles but they loved to change the student's name. ivno

gino Campioni said...

Ciao Ivano,

In my 4 years at Holy Cross, I never heard of bleeding knuckles nor bonging heads. I guess they didn't do that to big kids.

We did have corporal punishment at Bay View Elementary. The principal, a Mr. John McComb wielded a leather strap about 3 inches wide which was cut into several ribbons at the end. I personally heard its effectiveness as he dealt a whipping to Donald "Buster" Jones. The screams could be heard all over the building.

Fortunately, this brought a sudden end to Mr. McComb's teaching career, at least at Bay View. He was replaced by Mr. Robert Vernon Brown, who was one of the greatest and kindest teachers I ever had. He also became our scoutmaster when the previous one showed up for a troop meeting drunker than a skunk.

I don't know If I already told you this one, Ivano, but you may remember that I was always a sort of a "wimp". One day while playing softball during recess, another boy kept annoying me when I was batting. After one too many pokes from him, I whirled around and thumped him one in the belly. Then I thought, "this guy is bigger than me. He may deck me now." To my surprise, he turned and ran to the teacher, (Miss McLaughlin of 5th grade) howling, "Gino slugged me! Gino slugged me!" Her response was, "I don't believe you." Sometimes the reputation of a wimp can be an advantage.

Saluti, Gino

LNC: I don't know about this "wimp" thing Gino. I remember you getting mad at me a couple of times on the Gulch Ranch. I wasn't about to take you on. ivn0

gino said...

Caro Ivano,

Your latest comment to me is about not wanting to "take me on". I can't remember that time you said I got mad at you. In fact, I can't remember much of any times we may have spent togethe, neither with you nor your brother, other than than year at kindergarten and the one at business school. I also can't remember much of times with the Rodoni, except for Dante's home movies.

If you can recall some specifics and have the time, I would appreciate any information you can give. Perhaps this might fill in some of my memory gaps.

Running into you via your book has meant so much to me, I can't express it in words. The main thing, I suppose, is that I realize that earliest friends prove to be best friends.

Thanks for all you do.

Saluti, Gino

LNC: Thanks, Gino. Actually , I can only remember one time. We were playing "swords". (It was in our back yard on the Gulch) We used those old dry reed like plant sticks that grew in abundance on the ranches. The object was to break the other "guys" stick. So it was very important that the proper "stick" be chosen (some dying plants were more sturdy than others.) I remember you using the saying: "I lunch" (in your phoney French accent) as you started your attack. So I gave you a "I lunch" right back and whacked you one----hitting you instead of your "sword". You became very angry and began chasing me with your "sword". I think I got away from you without sustaining any damage. After all I was "young and fast and you were old and slow". However, you woundn't play "I lunch" with me again. ivn0

Jim Ceragioli said...

Ivano, don't you remember Miss Andrews, the Bulldracca and her 18 inch heavy ruller? Or, am I the only one who would get a knuckle rapping often? Her favorite way was to have the naughty one put their hands on the edge of the desk with the fingers pointed up and then turn them down onto the surface and hit the knuckles which were on the edge of the desk. Ow I can still feel that happening often.

LNC: Yes, I do seem to remember you getting whacked. Our Third Grade Teacher Miss Andrew certainly would of been the one to do it. She was from the old,old School. ivn0

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

In regards to Gino "Bobbie" Campioni's remarks re BayView School:

Miss McLaughlin was my 5th grade teacher when my family moved to Santa Cruz, but Max Caldwell was the principal. I later worked for Vernon Brown when he was the director at the Easter Seal Society's Camp and I worked for the Caldwells at Kennolyn Camp.
Gino Campioni was my neighbor and he knocked one of my front teeth out of my mouth during a heated discussion about something. He is obviously a first strike weapon!


LNC: Ken: The loss of your front teeth certainly dispels the myth that "Bobbie" was a "wimp". He might have been a "diavolo rosso" in disguise. ivn0

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