Saturday, December 29, 2007



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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


IVANO FRANCO COMELLI SAYS; Bryan Robinson sent me the above copy the 1859 Hatch Map which depicts 'La Nostra Costa' . ('CLICCA' ON PHOTO FOR ENLARGED IMAGE) Look closely and you will see the route of the 'Old' Coast Road What follows below is the e-mail correspondence between Bryan and 'LaNorma', who has recreated the route of the 'Old' Coast Road on a map of her own. Norma's map is in color and shows some of the old ranches along the coastal route. I have used Norma's map on several of my presentations. It is not, as 'LaNorma' suggests, "crude and amateurish".


Here is a copy of my email to Mrs. Wilson yesterday. Thought you might like to see the copy our correspondence and the attached 1889 Hatch map of the coast. I hope to keep in touch, and hopefully meet in person after the holidays.

I imagine you must know lots of the people--if not all of them!--interviewed in the video taped interviews by Alverda Orlando, "Davenport Oral History Series". I've seen almost all of them now, except those that haven't been available. You may also know my former neighbors in Santa Cruz, John and Marie (Stagnaro) Amin and John Sandes. My daughters used to go next door when they were little to "visit" John or Marie (while she was living--what a sweet lady!), and always got cookies!

Thanks again, Bryan

Dear Bryan:
How wonderful that a young person as yourself is so interested in the Coast (La Costa). Are you from this area?
Would love to know little bit about where you are from, etc. It does our hearts good – people like Ivano and myself
That were born and grew up on the Coast to know that a younger generation is interested in it also. Would love to
Talk to you and also share the map I put together. We could not find a map of the old road anywhere either – only
The internet journey of the new road and coastline. Therefore I did make a map myself although it is rather crude and
Amateurish as I am not a map drawer – however, Ivano and I know the road within our mind with our eyes closed. We
Were on it every day on the schoolbus,etc. I lived further up at 5420 Coast Rd. just before Laguna. So glad you know
The person that lives at Laguna – maybe in the future we can check it out. As you will read in the book – there is such
A history with Laguna and the old Italians and ranchers.

Also would love to see a copy of the map of l889 Hatch map from UCSC that you have a copy of – would you be willing
To share it with us? Anyway – would love to get together with you and Ivano and answer questions and work on the old
Road, etc. – maybe after the holidays in early January 2008?!

Yes I do know but not related to Esther (Frizza) Wilson. She is truly a wonderful, one-of-a-kind person. She and Ivano
Graduated in the same year from SCHS. It truly is a small world and again so happy that you are interested in LaCosta.
So be in touch by e-mail until we can further pursue this in the new year.

Thanks – Norma Dinelli Wilson

Hi Mrs. Wilson,

Thank you for your wonderful message!

I've attached a pieced-together copy of the 1889 Hatch map, which I found at the following link:
I've also seen the actual map in the map library at UCSC. It's huge, about 5 feet by 5 feet.

From your address on Coast Road, it appears that you lived in a house that was formerly "Sarafina's", according to Ivano's book! Wow, I've stopped to look at that house and compared it to the photo in the book!

I don't care how amatuerish your map drawing is, I'd love to see it, and possibly even drive along with you and Ivano to hear your descriptions of the old road's path as well as any other comments you would have!

To answer your question about where I am from, I was born in Palo Alto and "moved" to Mtn. View when I was one day old, the youngest of three boys. My mother grew up in Mtn. View also. Her parents came from N. Dakota and descended from families in Holland, Norway, Germany--some were Mennonites. My father came via San Francisco from Utah. His father came out in 1936 to work as a carpenter on the Golden Gate bridge. His people were primarily Austrian, German, French. I warmly remember working with my paternal grandfather and hearing him talk about working in the fields with the horses and what not. He when it was lunch time, he would say, "Time to put the nose bag on", referring back to when he would put a nose bag on his working horses.

I came to Santa Cruz out of college to work at County Bank. Left town later, then came to regret it. So felt lucky to come back in 1990, worked at S.C. Adult School, now working as a high school counselor in Salinas. And learning about and experiencing the north coast has become a great interest. I feel thoroughly enriched by my adopted connection to the area and its people. Maybe the heart connection I feel relates to my relationship with my grandfather who was living in an era when he worked in the fields, then later worked in plastering--probably used cement from the plant at Davenport! Yet my grandfather relationship must be only a part of what pulls me; there is something that is just very special about LaCosta...

I've enjoyed watching the video taped interviews by Alverda Orlando, "Davenport Oral History Series". I imaging you know most of the people who were interviewed. What a wonderful thing to listen to them talk about people and how things used to be.

I look forward to talking with you and Ivano!

Great to hear from you,


Friday, December 07, 2007


**Top photo: Part owners of the Hotel: Maria and 'Bepo' Ferlizza with Carabiniere (Francesco Bragazzi)the Gentle Giant. (C. 1935). This is a rare photo of a relatively young, and healthy Carabiniere. Source: Thelma (Micossi) Gill.

Next Photo: The Hotel D'Italia (c. late 1920s or early 1930s), in all its glory.
Notice the roadway winding down the hillside, passing the old Hotel to the front and then winding back up the hill on the other side. State Hwy 1 (Coast Road)now is straight and passes to the rear of where the Hotel used to be located. Photo sent to me by Len Klempnauer.

**Bottom photo: Thelma Micossi (Gill),photographed as a young girl (c.1938), standing at the right. Her mother (my Godmother),Pina Micossi is standing at the left next to Tony Micossi,Thelma's Uncle (my Godfather). Attilio Tomada,better known to us as 'Massimo'(my brother's Godfather), is the tall gentleman standing at the center. Carolina Micossi,my brother's Godmother,is standing behind Thelma. (Carolina was then married to Nardin Micossi [not in photo],Tony Micossi's brother.)At the front wearing a sailor hat,is my bother Giovanni Primo (John). Gervasio Comelli ('Bronco')is seated and hanging on to John. My mother,Valentina, has the cutiest child 'la costa' has ever seen on her lap. Ivano Franco appears a bit bored in this photo. Photo of my baptism,circa 1938, is from the 'La Nostra Costa' Photo Archives.



Davenport Hotel - Blaze Burns Hotel D’Italia To Ground ----that’s what the Santa Cruz Sentinel Headlines read the day after December 15, 1945.

The Hotel D’Italia was built in 1906, one of the old landmarks of Santa Cruz County. The hotel was completely destroyed by fire on Sunday, December 15, 1945 when defective wiring was believed to have started the blaze in an unoccupied room of the building.

The fire was first noticed about 8:30 p.m. by residents of the area who rushed into the building and traced the smoke coming from behind a locked room. The room was broken into to was found to be a mass of flames. Immediately afterward the lights went out throughout the building.

Three divisions of forestry trucks were called, two from Felton and one from Soquel as well as the Santa Cruz City Fire Dept were all rushed to the scene. The Davenport Voluntary Fire Dept. was on the scene as well as the Fire Chief, Leonard Domenichelli. All these fire departments were unable to stop the flames which tore through the wooden structure, completely burning it to the ground in approximately 45 minutes. The facilities to fight the fire were very inadequate and the water in the main was very low. There were no ramps and water in nearby creeks was unavailable as the streams were too far distant.

The fire was under control by 10:15 p.m. The Fire Departments that were there did prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby blacksmith shop and other stores including butane tanks in the area.

That Sunday night I remember getting ready for school when I heard a knock on the door a man informed me that the hotel was on fire. I immediately let the gentlemen inside and he pointed to where in the building the fire was a blaze. By the time I went out to see where the fire was located and the time I came back inside to inform my mother and all others, the flames were already coming through the hallways. Suddenly all the lights went out, leaving the building in total darkness.

Everyone present seemed to want to help to remove what they thought could be salvaged; however, as I recall it took about 45 minutes for the entire building to come down completely. I remember being near the room where all the liquor was stored and hearing the bottles explode.

As I watched the hotel burning there was so much chaos, but to my surprise there was also so much looting. There were a few residents of the hotel that were in their rooms and had to jump out of their windows to escape the blaze. We had slot machines in the hotel and of course those were salvaged only to find out that they were gone the next day. There was not much that could be salvaged because the intense heat just destroyed everything. The safe was the only thing that remained. It must have been approximately 8 inches of thick steel. After finding the key it was opened to find the silver had melted into a chunk of silver. The paper money was very charred and had to be sent to the mint to be replaced.

That Sunday, we had no where to go; we had to rely on friends to put us up for the night. The Caiocca family certainly was very good friends with my mother and offered whatever they could to her. She stayed with the Caiocca family. I was friends with Yoli Moro and they graciously housed me for over a week. The rest of the people who were residents at the hotel went to the Ocean View hotel to sleep.

My mother owned a house in Davenport but had renters in it and we had to wait for a couple of weeks before we could occupy the house.

The following days we kept visiting the rubbles. My mother now had to begin another life in settling all the problems ahead facing her. She subsequently entered into a partnership with the Caiocca’s at their place of business and opened up an inn where the liquor license could be used.

The Hotel D’Italia was built in 1906 shortly following the San Francisco earthquake, by the Coast Land and Diaries Company of Davenport. Around 1923 it was purchased by my father, Frank Micossi, Frank Bragazzi and Giuseppe Ferlizza from the land company. This era was during prohibition where there was a lot of bootlegging going on. About 1935 the premises were remodeled and were built to include a kitchen, bar, dining room, dance hall, and other accommodations as well as about 65 rooms.

In operation for many years, the large rambling building was partly being used for housing Mexican nationals and Filipinos who were being employed in the fields along the coast in the Davenport area. This was a time when Mexicans would come to work the seasonal crops, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli. Housing was a problem for these transients. Carabiniere (Frank Bragazzi) and my mother (Josephine Micossi) with the help of Louis Poletti who brought these workers to work in the crops entered into an agreement to rent out approximately 30 rooms, kitchen, common areas to house these workers. The fire started in the area where they were residing.

The insurance amounted to $4,000. This amount now had to be shared with the other two partners – the Frank Bragazzi estate and the Ferlizza estate. The liquor license and beer and wine license was in the name of Josephine Micossi.

But to conclude, these words were said before, “It was a night in infamy” for me. It’s difficult to express what a lifelong impact such a disaster could have on you.

Thelma Micossi Gill


Nel libro "La Nostra Costa" scrivo che il Hotel D'Italia in Davenport era un posto per gli ranceri italiani e loro famiglie di fare riunioni e divertimenti. I padroni del hotel erano Furlani Mia madrina "Pina" Micossi e suo marito Frank, Francesco Bragazzi (il Carabiniere) e Giuseppe "Beppo" Ferlizza. Il quindici Dicembre di quest'anno sarà l'anniversario sessanta duesimo di quel fuoco terribile che ha distrutto quell albergo. Thelma (Micossi) Gill (per cui mio padre fu il padrino), potrebbe essere l'ultima sorvivente che vide il fuoco in persona. Essa fu molto graziosa di scrivere suo conto di quella sera per i lettore di La Nostra Costa Blog. Grazie, Thelma. Ivano Davenport Hotel ..Fuoco brucia Hotel D'Italia al suolo. Queste parole apparveno alla capo pagina del giornale Santa Cruz Sentinel, il giorno dopo 15 Dicembre, 1945. Il Hotel D'Italia fu costruito nel 1906, un posto caratteristico della Contea Santa Cruz. Il hotel fu distrutto completamente dal fuoco di domenica, 15 Dicembre, quando credemo che fili elettrici difettosi hanno iniziato il fuoco in una stanza vuota del edificio. Vicini hanno veduto segni del fuoco verso le 8:30 di sera, ed entrando hanno trovato fumo che usciva da una stanza chiusa à chiave. Quando hanno potuto entrare, trovarono la stanza in fiamme. L'elettricità fallì subito nel intero edificio. Tre divisioni di pompieri di foresta furono chiamati, due da Felton ed una da Soquel, insieme dei pompieri da Santa Cruz. I pompieri volontari di Davenport erano subito presente con loro capo, Leonard Domenichelli. Fra tutti questi sulla scena del disastro, non trovarono mezzo di fermare le fiamme che saltarono fra tutta la struttura di legno, bruciandola completamente al suolo entro 45 minuti. Gli equipaggi per combattere il fuoco non bastarono per un fuoco così grosso, e la pressione di acqua era molto debole. I fiumi erano troppo distanti. I fuoco fu finalmente controllato alle 10:15. Almeno i pompieri hanno potuto fermare il fuoco che non incendiasse il negozio del fabbro ed altri posti vicini, incluso anche parecchi serbatoi di gaz fiammabile. Quella Domenica mi ricordo che mi preparavo per andare alla scuola, quando senti un uomo bussando alla porta. Era un uomo che mi ha informato che l'osteria era in fiamma. Subito lo ho fatto entrare e mi ha indicato dove era il fuoco. Dal tempo che lo vedevo e che sono tornata in casa per informare mia madre e gli altri, le fiamme gia entravano tutti i corridoi. Poi le luce erano spente, lasciando tutto l'edificio nello scuro. Tutti presente sembravano di volere levare tutte le cose che potrebbero essere salvate, ma mi ricordo che in 45 minuti tutto l'edificio era completamente distrutto. Mi ricordo essendo vicino la stanza dove erano i liquori e sentire l'esplosioni delle bottiglie. Mentre guardavo quando bruciava l'osteria, c'era tanta confusione, ma ero sorpresa che c'era anche tanto saccheggio. C'erano dei residenti del albergo che erano nelle loro camere ed ebbero da saltare dalle finestre per scappare il fuoco. Avevamo macchinette da gioco nel albergo, e naturalmente quelle furono salvate, poi scoprire che il giorno dopo erano scomparse. Non c'era tanto da salvare, perchè il calore aveva distrutto quasi tutto. La cassa forte era l'unica cose che rimaneva. Era composta di acciaio molto massiccio. Dopo trovare la chiave per aprirla si trovò che l'argento era diventato un solo pezzo. La moneta di carta era tutta nera e fu necessario di remandarla alla zecca per farla scambiare. Quella Domenica eravamo senza casa. Abbiamo dovuto dipendere con amici per darci posto per dormire la notte. La famiglia Caiocca erano certamente buoni amici ed hanno offerto qualunque aiuto per mia madre. Essa stette con la famigila Caiocca. Io avevo amicizia con Yoli Moro e loro mi hanno tenuto in loro casa per piu di una settimana. Il restante degli residenti al'osteria sono andati al Ocean View Hotel per dormire. Mia madre aveva una casa in Davenport, ma era occupata e abbiamo dovuto aspettera due settimane avanti che la potremmo occupare da noi. I giorni seguenti visitavamo spesso le rovine. Mia madre ora debbe cominciare unaltra vita, per risolvere tutti i problema che aveva di fronte. Poi entrò in compagnia con i Caiocca nel loro negozio, ed apri un osteria con sua licensa da vendere liquore. Il Hotel D'Italia fu costruito nel 1906, poco dopo il terremoto di San Francisco, dalla agenzia Coast land and Dairies Company di Davenport. Circa 1923 fu comprato da mio padre, Frank Micossi, Frank Bragazzi, e Giuseppe Ferlizza dalla agenzia. Questa era l'epoca di proebizione (di alcole) e c'era tanto traffico di contrabbando. Circa 1935 il sito fu ricostruito per includere cucina, bar, sala da cena, e da ballo, con circa 65 altre stanze. Operato per tanti anni, il grande edificio era usato in parte per Messicani e Flilppini cui erano impiegati dagli agricoltori nella zona di Davenport. In quei tempi i Messicani venivano per cogliere verdure della stagione, cavolini di Bruscelle, carcioffi, broccoli. Trovare case per questi lavoranti di passaggio era un problema. Carabiniere (Frank Bragazzi) e mia madre (Josephine Micossi) con l'aiuto di Louis Poletti, che fece venire questi lavoranti, fecero d'accordo di fornire circa 30 stanze con cucina e salotti per quei lavoranti. I fuoco cominciò nel posto che occupavano. L'assicurazione fu $4,000. Questa somma ora debbe essere condivisa con gli altri due compagni, le tenute di Frank Bragazzi e di Ferlizza. La licenza per liquore e birra era nel nome di Josephine Micossi. Ma per finire, queste parole furono dette prima, "Era una notte infama" per me. Lo trovo difficile esprimere che effetto lungo e brutto un disatro di questo genere puo fare. Thelma Micossi Gill Ivano dice, Non dimentircare di visitare La Nostra Costa sul Internet.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Today is Dec 2. It is my youngest daughter’s birthday. The photo above of the ‘hairy’ policeman and Suzanne was taken circa 1978. (I think long sideburns were in.) Suzanne is wearing my policeman’s hat, which was actually stolen from me when I was have my evening meal at Original Joe’s in San Jose, -but that’s another story.

Those of you who have read ‘La Nostra Costa” are already familiar with the following episode. However, Suzanne has never forgiven me for inserting her into the book as a mere endnote. Never mind that it was a rather extensive endnote (LNC: p.157). So, my dear baby girl, we will republish it here at the “Top of the Blagga”.

The endnote in question actually referred back to a childhood incident that occurred on the Gulch Ranch ‘su per la costa’ (LNC. p.151). As I relate in the book, I and a boyhood friend played a prank on my older brother and my friend’s older brother. We placed chopped garlic in their drinking glasses and then filled the glass prior to their sitting down at the noon day meal. When the two boys finally ‘hit bottom” and tasted the garlic they ‘exploded’ in anger. Before they could get to us, we were saved by our mothers’ who ‘exploded’ in laughter. It was a great ‘gotcha’ prank and a lot of fun. The endnote as it pertains to Suzanne follows.

*Not so much fun some years later, when my daughter Suzanne, then about six years old, turned the table on me, so to speak. Apparently she had gotten this idea from watching cartoons on television. As I was working at my desk at home, she came in and served an orange liquid in a tall glass. Not paying much attention and thinking that it was fresh juice, I took a big swallow, only to realize, too late, that it was liquid soap. I didn’t blow bubbles as she had anticipated, but I think I did foam a bit at the mouth. Suzanne broke out laughing. On the other hand, I didn’t do much laughing as I chased her around the house. Now I knew how the two older boys must have felt. Come to think of it, I would have preferred that “garlic cocktail.”Happy Birthday Suzanne and remember , as I learned the hard way, “what goes around, eventually comes around” Love: Daddy Ivan

*Copyrighted by Ivano Franco Comelli, and appears in his book “La Nostra Costa” (Our Coast) published by Authorhouse;