Thursday, July 16, 2009


IVANO SAYS: Over the past year or so, I have been selling/signing books at the Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill. There I have met many people who do not have close family ties to the North Coast of Santa Cruz. To my pleasant surprise, I found that they are very much interested in the La Nostra Costa Story. Nannette Morgan is one such person.
Dear Signore Comelli!
I know you won't remember me but I met you at Guglielmo's Cork Equity on 8/8/08 (!) and bought your wonderful book. You were so kind to autograph it for my mom (who wasn't with me at the event) after we had talked about my Swiss family (from the Lago Maggiore region of Switzerland) who settled in Salinas and other parts of Monterey Co. My maternal great grandfather had a saloon and wine bottling co in Salinas on Main St. We talked about this. Buying your book was the best gift I've probably ever given my mom in the past recent years. She was thrilled with the autograph and I believe read it in 2 days! (She was a voracious reader). We would talk over the phone about events in the book each evening (over "un bicchiere di vino"). I just started reading the book myself, having only read a few pages, (Introduzione, etc.) before giving it to her..... I was so excited for her to have it. I can't tell you how many times she thanked me for the book (and believe me, I gave her many gifts treasured by her over the last 50 some years).
Anyway, I love your book. You are a very talented writer and even though I was a youngin' going to Salinas and Monterey to see our Swiss relatives (we are also Irish and Scottish), I feel like I'm reliving my youth reading your book.
(The photos of) Serafina's and your parents' house looks like our cousin's/godparent's house on Main St in Salinas (still standing). I know Davenport, San Gregorio etc. well because as an adult I used to do Dressage at a horse ranch in San Gregorio. Of course, being a native San Franciscan and my Irish-Scottish descended maternal grandmother being raise in North Beach ( MY favorite part of SF), I can relate to SO much in your book.
I'm so thankful that you wrote this. I hope to run into you again at Guglielmo's sometime. I enjoyed speaking with you and your wife too. Unfortunately my mom passed away peacefully and unexpectedly on 11/2/08. I only wish that I had read your book before then because I could have asked her some questions about the coast.
One question I have is about the old Swiss Hotel in Santa Cruz. Who owned it and were they from the Lago Maggiore area? My great grandpa came from Val Versasca in that area.
My mom and I made a trip there while in Italy and even though our Swiss -Salinas relatives warned us not to bother because folks there weren't the friendliest, we did so anyway, riding the Postal Bus. Well we not only got to one of the villages but we also met descendants of my great grandpa's saloon partner. Would you believe it? It happen to be a day when they weren't open. Guess what? They wouldn't even offer us a glass of water (we were hoping for a glass of vino..... a tradition in OUR family if visitors come). The lady even knew who we were talking about. As you would say, "Porca la miseria!!"

Anyway, thanks for listening to my thank you note. If you have information on the Swiss Hotel, I'd love to hear about it. Buona fortuna, Nannette


I requested that Nannette send me further info on her family. She added the following and also sent me the photo above of herself, Mom Phyllis Frolli Morgan and cousin Michael.

My great grandfather who owned the saloon in Salinas was named Domingo Frolli. And interestingly, our family personal vocabulary called anyone that was Swiss from that or nearby areas in Switzerland "versasca" -- roughly meaning "paisano". Also you'll delight in knowing that a staple (not every day of course) in my family was and is polenta. This was a staple of that area of Switzerland and also the Piemonte area of Italy (which borders the Lago Maggiore area).
My relatives in Salinas actually had a special polenta pot. One of the cousins, Enos Frolli, was an excellent cook but people would complain that dinner took too long to get to the table at family gatherings. Apparently, Enos embodied the saying "I like to cook with wine; sometimes I even put a little in the food!" (As an aside, I loved the story in the book about the cellar where the wine was kept. Growing up in Millbrae we had a dear Italian neighbor, Joe Turla. He used to make his own wine (much later he bought the wine). He always kept it in a little room in the garage which was under the house. When we went to visit, my grandpa and grandmother and later my mom and I, would sit in the cool garage and enjoy a glass of vino and chew the fat together.

My other family members who lived in Salinas were the Martella family. Their house on North Main is still there. In fact, at one point about 20 years ago, the lane behind them and the house, which runs parallel to Main, was renamed Martella Street (or Avenue). Elmer Martella owned the old drugstore on Gabilan Street in Salinas (he was the pharmacist). I remember as a very young girl going down to Salinas for the "Big Week"(The Rodeo). My maternal grandpa, Winfred Romeo Frolli (his dad was Domingo) would tell us all the stuff going on, while we sat on cousin Elmer's balcony (2nd floor of the drugstore), and watch the pre-rodeo parade.

I mention all the above as an interesting parallel of our families' histories in the Monterey area. I actually have all the old tin-type photos of the saloon, etc. as well as old year books from Salinas High School etc. where my grandpa went. Although a few years older, he knew John Steinbeck quite well. Family history has it that grandpa sold young John his paper route! I think that's why your book resonates so much with me. I feel as though I am following part of "my" family history!Some day I will be organizing all these photos and probably donate some to the Salinas historical society.
Again, Mille grazie,

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Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Nannette for you well written family story. And thanks for your very kind comments re: "La Nostra Costa". Regarding the Swiss Hotel, all I know about it is that my Godfather Tony Micossi and his wife Rosie, ran the Hotel in the 1920's. My father (Bronco) stayed there for about a year when first immigrating from Friuli. Perhaps some of my "Blaggatori" can fill us in on it's past history.
Sempre Avanti, Ivn0

NANNETTE said...

Thanks so much! I also recommended your book to another long time local Italian family in San Martin. Tom Rocca, owner of Rocca's Market on Monterey Rd in San Martin.

His grandfather came from the Piemonte area of Italy to work in the cleanup efforts after the SF Earthquake in the 1900s. Eventually founded the market which his son, Tom's dad took over and now Tom and his brother run it. Old time butcher etc. Kind of reminds me of the old San Gregorio store ;-)



claudia fontana said...

I've read with interest your "Nannette Morgan's Family Story" .I'd like to know whether the Elmer Martella who owned a drugstore in Salinas ,was the same one who had his wife and daughters killed in truck-rail collision in December 1957. If it's the same person I would like to know what happened to him and to the rest of his family.
It's possible that we are related, but we lost track of this branch of the family.
Thank you very much to answer me if you know something.
Claudia Fontana-Martella

Nannette Morgan said...

Hi Claudia,

I don't think it's the same Elmer Martella. Elmer had a sister named "Sis" (I forget her given name) and then later on in life, around 50 or so years of age, married Kathleen Breschini, a retired Salinas School teacher. The Martella family house was at (and is still there) 102 or 105, don't remember #, Main Street. The City actually renamed the parallel street behind the house to Martella St (or Avenue).


I hope that helps.