Friday, September 28, 2007


Giovanni (John) Primo Comelli at the Brovias in Newtown-Davenport, c.1937. (La Nostra Costa Photo Archive.)

Photo: 'Bronco' Comelli and Virginia Brovia, First Street, New Town in Davenport , c. 1937. (La Nostra Costa Photo Archives)

IVANO FRANCO COMELLI SAYS: Patty Morelli grew up in Davenport. In fact she and her family lived in New Town, in the very same house were my parents lived when I was first born. Maybe our urge to write about Davenport and "La Costa" can be traced back to that house on First Street. Thanks for the memories, Patty.

A Moment In Time In Davenport
By Patty Morelli

I have so many wonderful experiences to share about my childhood in Davenport. Both my Mom, Evelyn Collins, and my Dad, Mac Morelli, grew up in Davenport. Their parents (Gilda Bertacca and Tony Collins; Tootsie Morelli and Violet Dingwall) lived much of their lives in Davenport, as well. So, as a result, I grew up with quite a legacy of ‘stories’. And, of course, I have a bunch of my own.

I lived in Davenport until I was 13 years old, and then we moved to Santa Cruz. I remember very well the day we left. It was the day after Easter vacation started in 1953. We had stuffed the last of our boxed up belongings between my 2 sisters, Margo and Carole, in the back seat of our old Chevy. My brother Macie and I climbed halfheartedly into the front seat. My Mom was driving and I could see she was eager for this move. She’d been a Davenport girl since she was 3 years old and now she was starting a new life ‘in the big city’. As we pulled away from our house on First Street in Newtown, she chatted happily, creating wonderful scenarios of times to come. I remember feeling quiet and depressed.

I loved my little town and now that the car was moving, I suddenly felt the consequences of not living there. It dawned on me that I would no longer see Pacific School and my teachers, Mrs. Emery and Mrs. Thompson. Even more, I would miss becoming the long awaited upperclassman of the school and graduating from 8th grade with my classmates.

As we continued down the road past the Cement Plant, more thoughts came rushing. I realized I would never again climb up into the tree house my brother and I built in the dusty eucalyptus trees near the railroad tracks. We loved sitting in the safety of “our fort” while the huge, black train engine would slowly puff beneath us as it pulled filled boxcars from the Cement Plant.

I probably would never again see Lenny Domenicelli’s horses, Pal and Babe, who were corralled near our home. My brother, Macie, my sister, Margo, and I would pet them, feed them rich green weeds that we pulled from the fields, and then finally chase them and each other all over the hillside.

I would miss seeing Georgie Mungai, my very first crush. My Dad bartended at the Ocean View Hotel and we would often stop by with our Mom to visit. Once in awhile, Georgie would drop in and my heart would skip a beat…… my brother , Macie, would tease me and call out “Georgie….Patty loves you!” And I would hit him.

I thought about Catechism class at St. Vincent de Paul’s Church and wondered where I would go for Catechism in Santa Cruz. I thought of many other things.

While my head raced with anxious worries, there whorled in the background the sound of sirens. By this time we had moved onto Highway 1 and were approaching Gregory’s Gas Station. Suddenly, in the distance, I saw smoke on the left hand side of the Highway. My Mom slowed down, and just as we approached the Davenport Cash Store it became evident that it was on fire. I remember having this great feeling of panic and I begged my Mom to stop, to pull over. But we couldn’t stop, she explained, because we had to meet the landlord at our new house, and we were running late. “Don’t worry, honey” she said. “They’ll rebuild it. Davenport can’t be without a grocery store.”

Somehow that didn’t appease me. I knew it didn’t matter, even if they did build a new store. I knew it would never be the same…..not the old Cash Store with its oiled floors, its glass display cases, its hanging sticks of salami and white balls of cheese, and its gasoline pumps outside with the small windows that whirled gas as it was being pumped into waiting cars. As we continued on we kids turned around in our seats and watched through the car‘s rear window as smoke and flames billowed out of the roof of the building. My heart sank. We continued down the Highway towards Santa Cruz in silence and soon we no longer could see the smoke, the hills had gotten in the way. We turned in our seats then and focused on the road ahead. Still no one spoke.

It was a time of transition for us as a family and a long period of ‘breaking away’ for me. I was becoming a teen-ager, yet I wanted so badly to hang onto my childhood. Who wouldn’t want to? I felt so protected in Davenport. I knew everyone and everyone knew me. I had the whole countryside as my playground, and the bright blue sky and the sparkling gray-blue ocean for my times of wonder. Never mind the cement dust that caked our sidewalks and coated our cars. Never mind the wind that fluffed my curly hair into a halo of fuzz around my face. Never mind that we didn’t have a movie house or television reception and that there were no Boys Scout or Brownie Troops. My best friends and favorite playmates were my brother and sisters and we pretty much covered it all. We caught frogs in the small ponds near the railroad tracks; we played pirates and fought bravely with our swords made of wild carrot stalks; we ate sprouts and artichokes fresh picked while we played in the fields….much to our Mother’s disapproval; we were delighted with 10 cents worth of penny candy as a reward for ‘just being good’.

I survived the move, but it took a long time, or what felt to be a long time. I slowly learned ’to be a lady’ and gave up my Tom Boy ways. I adapted to my classroom with as many kids in it as were in the whole of Pacific School in Davenport. I found new friends while my brother went on to play Little League and my sisters joined the Brownies. But, for me, I will never forget my childhood in Davenport. I will never forget who I was when we lived there. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to.


teresa said...

Hi Ivano,

Thanks so much for including all these stories and photos on your blog. I'm sure everyone seeing them has enjoyed them as much as I have!!!

See you domani, Teresa

Thanks Teresa. It's comments like yours that keep me going. Also thanks to people like Patty who contribute these wonderful articles to the "Blagga" . We got talent out there folks. Let's hear from you all. GB

Kathy said...

Hi Ivno!!!!

What a beautiful heart warming story that Patty wrote....Really brought tears to my eyes when I was reading it. I could visualize her as a child riding in that car and looking back..

Do you know if her mother (Mrs. Collins) was the lady Joe used to mention many times. He really admired a Mrs. Collins, as well as Pete and Maria. Kathy

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

To Hank: The only other Joe Brovia Day that I remember was in the Spring of 1953 of so. Joe was playing for the Sacramento Solons of the old Pacific Coast League and they were holding their spring training at Harvey West Stadium in Santa Cruz. I attended the game that day with my brother John. I remember the Sacramento Radio Announcer commenting that it was rather unusually to have a "Day" for a ball player during Spring Training. I know that Joe tried his hardest to hit a home run that day but just couldn't manage it. Harvey West Stadium had some deep fences. Ivno

gino said...

Ciao Ivano,

First I want to wish you and everyone a great reunion tomorrow. I wish I could be there.

Reading the notes on the "blagga" just now, I see comments from Cathy regarding a Mrs. Collins. Is that the same lady who lived on Toledo St. (between Bay and Olive Sts.) in the early 1950s?

We had a pigeon coop in the back yard, and I had made a one-way entrance for the birds. It was made of wire coat hangers. I showed the pigeons how to get in by gently pushing them against the wires, which would swing inward, but not outward.

I admired a large white pigeon and his blue mate which belonged to Mrs. Collins. One day when my birds had their exercise flight, they returned home, followed by the two birds belonging to Mrs. Collins.

I told her that they were in my pigeon coop, and how I admired them, and she told me to keep them.

Memories, memories.

Hank said...

Response to Ivano re: Joe Brovia Day

Good. My memory (re:The First Joe Brovia Day) isn't quite shot yet. The timing is about right.

PS - Best wishes to Davenport/Coast Days

gino said...

Subject: More memories

Ciao Ivan

I trust your great reunion went well. Was Baffi there?

This morning, as I thought about the reunion and Baffi, I had another memory of an event of which I had not thought since it took place.

It must have been about 1941 or so. I had been given a toy "Gene Autry" pistol and holster set. It probably was a gift from my parents. I was thrilled with it, and ran outside with it fastened on, and didn't take three steps when it fell off. The belt had torn in two. I was devastated.

I showed it to my parents, and Baffi said, "Give it here. I'll take care of it."

A few days later he presented me with the set, but this time it was darker in color. It was made of real top-grain cowhide! "How did you do this?", I asked. "I took it to Signor Cirrone il calzolaio (shoemaker) and he made a copy of the original. It was complete with all the brass stars and studs, just like the pasteboard one I had before.

You realize, Ivano, and I know just as well, that our parents had to be frugal in those days. They gave all they had so we would not have to struggle as hard as they did.
Even so, they occasionally allowed us a bit of indulgence. As I age, (now older that Baffi was at passing) I give thanks for parents such as our Italians were.

Now I'll get going to church. Have a great sabbath.



Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Gino: It was a great day. Many people were there and great weather. Yes "Baffi" was their (photo) and also your mother Ada, photgraped with Vanda Degli-Esposti. I think the two photo displays, Davenport and "La Nostra Costa" covered a great deal of 'Davenport/Coast Road History.

Again, the only thing we will have left after the people are gone is our recorded History: Photographs,Film and the written word. ivano

thelma said...

It was great seeing you on Saturday at the picnic. I'm so pleased that you're doing so well. Everyone has such wonderful remarks about your book and your hype on keeping up the history of "La Costa".

Unfortunately when you see the wonderful pictures that you had posted and the ones from Davenport proper you can't help fell a little "maudlin" or sad that our ancestors were not there to enjoy the festivities as they did in the past.

I was hoping to see Sophie (Poletti) there but I didn't see her. There were a few people that weren't there. Bagnasco family or Caiocca family.

Anyway it was great seeing you. Sempre avanti su per la costa.

con un bacin d'amor


GB: Thanks Thelma. The "Old Rancere" will be hitting the Road. His next appearance will be in Morgan Hill at the Guglielmo Winery. This is their "Bottle Your Own Red Wine" Annual Event. They expect some 400 people to be there. Date: Saturday, Novemeber 3 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. I will post announcement on the Blagga in a week or so. 'Con Un Bacin D'Mor

jpatty said...

Hello, Ivano....
In response to Kathy Brovia's mention of a Mrs. Collins she knew who lived in Santa Cruz. That wouldn't have been my mother, Evelyn Collins, because she grew up in Davenport from age 3 and later became Mrs. Mac Morelli when she married my Dad. And I don't think it was my mother's mother, Gilda Bertacca Collins, either. Though she lived in Santa Cruz it was nearer to Chestnut Avenue and she was Mrs. Collins for only about 10 years. She and my mother's father, Tony Collins, divorced after 8 years of marriage and Gilda moved to San Francisco.That's when my Mom moved to Davenport to live with her Nona, Mrs. Theresa Bertacca. Theresa lived across the street from Mr. Smith (June Smith's father.....June was later married to Jiggs Giovannoni and they continued to live there the rest of their lives.) Mah, we could go on and on, couldn't we?
I hope you enjoyed the Reunion. We had lots of positive comments about it. It was our trial run of having it at the Park, but I think everyone preferred this setting to having it at the Elks....Thankfully, it was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too chilly. Didn't get a chance to talk with you, but I spotted your 'shovela' in the distance and knew you must be nearby....ha, ha!!
Ciao for niao...
Patty Morelli
PS...if anyone has any information about my Grandfather, Tony Collins, I'd love to hear it. I know very little about him. He was also referred to as Tony the Greek....his Greek name was Tony Kollias (spelling?), but it was changed when he came to was often done. It seems he was quite prominent in the Greek community of Davenport and Santa Cruz.....


cathy Brovia said...

I just wanted to pass along the information I had, after calling Virginia (Brovia)Giovanoni..... the Mrs collins that they referred to was a Hawaiian Lady, married to an American... seemed they had the 4-H club.. she mentioned what they called them by name, but I forget..... She said they were wonderful people.

She also mentioned that she did not know Patty's family that well but remembered the name of Bertacca..... Think Joe was real close to Mac Morelli.... Think he also introduced himself to me at Roys funeral..

She also remembers Tony the Greek, but as a young girl, did not know much about him. Cathy

Nadine said...

Dear Ivano:

I want to thank you again for the nice picture of the 1938 Bonny Doon picnic. There are several members of my family in this picture and I will always treasure it.

Davenport Days was a great success. It was very nice to visit with old friends, enjoy good food, and the weather turned out in our favor also.

Thanks again for the lovely picture.


Your welcome Nadine. It was nice to meet your husband. May the spirit of 'La Costa' always be with you. Too bad your aunt Lina couldn't make it. ivn0

Norm and Al said...

Loved your display table - guess it worked out okay. If you would like Al To make copies of some of the photos such as Frank
and Rosina Modolos - Let us know and we can meet up with you. Well - guess it went pretty well as a BBQ - think I prefer the Elks because everyone Is more in contact with each other. It was hard to find people and talk to them.
Ciao per ora - Norma and Al