Sunday, June 07, 2009




My memory of living where my family lived on the coast is one of remoteness. It was very hard to access the ranch.
The farmhouse was built next to the estuary and when the estuary flooded and the bridge washed out WE BECAME SURVIVALISTS IN THE TRUE SENSE!
I was definitely a scroungy kid because we had to live in the proximity of mud everywhere, the fear of rising water and only and abandoned barn to escape to which was on the third level of the ranch next to the dairy cow corral.
Our farmhouse had a large pantry which allowed for the storage of foodstuffs. We kept large cans of olive oil, large bins of pasta, canned tomatoes, large sacks of cornmeal, large round of cheese and dried herbs. In one corner we had a medicine chest. In the other we had a small keg of wine, sometimes we had dried salciccia, (sausage), a keg of olives, canned artichokes, dried garlic and sacks of flour, canned spinach, and some dried firewood.
We also had a victory garden which, in fact, was a survival garden in which we planted carrots, swiss chard, lettuce etc. We never had any fruit trees because it was simply too cold.
When we were stuck because the bridge was out and the there was a slide we had to hunt for game. Ducks, deer, birds such as quail, rabbits and chickens. We raised the chickens.
The true survivalist was probably my brother because he was jungle trained. But, in fact, we all had to be survialists in order to survive the weather, especially the cold and the perennial flooding.
We still had horses, two of them and if things got really bad, at least two of us could ride out on the horses if they could climb the hill to reach the level spot so that we could get to the highway. It was all dicey at best! And if you went the other way you had to battle the curvy Swanton Rd. On a stormy day or night that was a challenge! The weather on the coast was extremely dramatic, quick changing and extraordinarily beautiful all at the same time. The sunsets could be stunning with all the colors showing as the sun went down and if a storm approached, the dark blue grey of the clouds really set off the sunset. Those clouds could put us in a survival situation overnight.

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Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Great article Nancy. And beautiful photos Gino. It appears that Gino took these photos in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

In "La Nostra Costa" I write about the beach on the Gulch Ranch (LNC:pages 215 -217)regarding its use by young lovers and their even younger "watchers" who kept them in view by positioning themselves on top of the bluffs.

Also on pages 201 to 205 I write about the Rodoni Ranch. In the photo the Degli Esposti family house is on the left (your left), the cookhouse/bunkhouse is in the center and the Rodoni Family house is on the right.

In the book I also write about the "Damas" (Dams) holding water for the "bagnatori" (irrigators), being a frequent cause of irritation between the "bagnatore" who was trying to manage the water with his "shavola" and "Il Bosso" who was trying to get him to work faster by sending more and more water (via ditches and and canels) down to him from the "dama".

Thanks again Gino and Nancy. And Nancy, you are right, we were true survivalist. But we all accepted it as part of life. After all we lived "su per la costa,not in heaven". ivno

ivano said...

OPPS!!! After taking a closer look at the photo of the Rodoni Ranch, it appears the Rodoni Family house is just out of view on the extreme right. What is in view (just to the right of the cookhouse, is the sheds and the "Old Barn" which bordered the "Big Gravel Yard" (LNC: page 201). ivn0

ALVERDA said...

Ivano says: Received the following e-mail from Santa Cruz County Historian Alverda Orlando:

Hi Ivan
Correct me if I am wrong, but the photos are of the Gulch and Rodoni Ranches. Nancy lived on the Foothill Ranch near Swanton. From the juxtaposition of the article to the photos it seems the photos are illustratiing her article. You should get her to send you some of her photos of where she lived.

Alverda Orlando

Thanks Alverda. See Nancy's comment below. ivn0

NANCY said...

Beautiful pictures.
I also took photographs in the early 1950's of the ranch. My brother had given me a box camera and I loved it. I was always taking photographs, especially, when I could afford it. I still have some of the photographs. If I can remember I can have copies made and forward them to you.
P. S. It is a miracle that we survived the weather, the subtle discrimination and the assimilation into American society. At any point, a wrong decision could have been the end of us. In my case, I always thank God for leading me in the right direction and being so helpful. I thank him for every day.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Alverda and Nancy. When I receive the photos I will attempt to publish with the article.

The sentence in Nancy's article that inspired me to publish Gino's beautiful photos was: "The weather on the coast was extremely dramatic, quick changing and extraordinarily beautiful at the same time."
This is similar to what I write in "La Nostra Costa", page 15:
"At times la costa could be almost pardisiacal." And further down: "At this time, the golden rays of the late afternon sun will shine off the Pacific Ocean at just the right angle, making it sparkle with the brilliance of a bluish green diamond, in sharp contrast with the white and brown terrain of the neighboring bluffs."

I really believe that Gino's photos truely illustrate what Nancy and I tried to describe.

BTW:This is the 2nd article that Nancy has written for the "Blagga".
To read her first aticle on her family and the ranch (published 2-08-08)type the words The Family Quilici in the search space located at the top left hand corner of the main blog page. Then "clicca" search. The article should come up for you. Buona Fortuna. ivno

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what that long row of buildings on the photo of the cliffs was?

That surely was not part of the Gulch Ranch.


LaNORMA said...

Nancy and Gino:

Beautiful fotos and wonderful article. Nancy I remember coming up to your ranch at Swanton several times and it did seem so remote. You are quite a bit younger than me but I remember you and your parents. Was it the cookhouse where that beautiful photo of your parents when they were young was hanging? I remember that so vividly. Your older sister and brothers were probably on their own when we came to the ranch on the several occasions. Do you remember coming "into town" on Saturdays and the Dads waiting in the car while the Moms shopped at Younglove Market and Zoccoli's?

I remember our Dads talking while waiting to carry the groceries out to the car. It seems like this happened more in summer than winter. Some of the stores like Mortara's (before Zoccolis) would deliver up the coast. I think Nello from Younglove Market did also. On the ranches we would get
traveling salesmen like Watkins, Raleighs and our own local ones like Mr. Petroni and Mr. Panattoni.

I don't know if they came all the way to Swanton but I bet they did.

Anyway we were all so remote but your ranch was really remote as you described it. However, we survived it all and do have great memories and such awe for our parents that left their beloved Italy and adopted the U.S. for a better way of life but as Ivano says in his book and as we all know it was very hard work.

Thank you Nancy for the refreshment of the LaCosta times.

Gino: thank you for those wonderful photos - how many more do you have?

Nancy: Do you have photos of your ranch - if only we had taken more pictures. I guess we didn't even have a camera as some of our parents couldn't own one because of the war, etc. It is too bad as we could have had some very precious recordings on camera.

Gino: We are going to get Skype so maybe we can communicate and see more photos if you have them.

The Rodoni Ranch is special to me not only because I spent lots of time there with the Comelli boys, and the Rodoni boys and Jeanne but because it was established originally by Pete Rinaldi, Amerigo Presepi and my uncle Quinto Neri - they eventually made Dante Rodoni a partner. Also Joe Antonetti and Quinto Neri owned the property of the Gulch Ranch.

My what a history - we all have tidbits to contribute and put visionacn@hotmail.comtogether to complete the history picture.

Thanks again - hope to hear more from you both Gino and Nancy.

Carolina Cariola said...

Oh my what beautiful photos! Thank you so much Gino. You are so talented. I would love to meet you sometime.

You know, I think that is the beach my bello took me one time. He said it was a secrete place he knew. We had such a wonderful time. Now, I wonder if those silly boys were watching us all the time.
Take care. -Carrie