Friday, November 06, 2009
STORIES OF THE 'OLD COAST ROAD' BY LaNORMA
THE 'OLD CARRETTONE" - COAST RD. CHASE CAR
IVANO SAYS: It has been quite some time, but LaNorma has written another very special article for us to enjoy. Thanks Norma.
We on the Coast Road and the people in Davenport have so much history to share and we are all so interconnected in some way. My family lived in Newtown when I was born and lived there until I was about 3 years old.
The Coast Road was quite windy and had uphills, downhills and - - oh so many curves. If driving on one of those hills (especially Laguna and Gulch Ranch hills) you did not want to get behind one of those cement trucks. In those years,the cement was packed in bags and tied to the front and back trailers of the truck. When they went towards Santa Cruz they tried to get a run at some of the hills to make it up the other side, but even then they slowed way down and if you were behind them you just had to be very patient! And hope that none of those bags came undone!
When the “new highway” was finished around l955, it made it so much better. From where we lived, next to Beltrami’s (In Ivano’s book, he calls it Serafina’s.) which was just south of Laguna (where we had all those 'pickanickas'),it was a breeze to drive to Davenport. When I was l6, I felt so independent to be able to drive to Gregory’s (in Davenport) with relative ease and to get myself a quart of “hand packed" vanilla ice cream. Boy that was yummy and it was such fun being in town at good “ole Davenporto”.
Going back to the old road -- I so vividly remember having to get a ride on the Greyhound bus to go to Santa Cruz. There were three shifts at the Cement plant, thus three buses per shift ran up and down the Coast Road from Santa Cruz to get the workers to and from the plant. ( Note: Many of the workers who originally lived in Davenport now could afford to live in Santa Cruz, considered by many to be a more 'desirable' place to live.)
We would wait for the bus out in front of Beltrami’s either for the morning or afternoon shift changes. The first bus always honked twice meaning it was full and the second bus would pick us up. Sometimes the second bus would honk three times to tell us that it was full too and that the third bus would do the “honors” of picking us up. We could always hear the bus chugging up the hill on the Laguna curve and then start picking up speed on the downhill towards our house. Fortunately, the third bus always seemed to pick us up.
When I go up the old highway now, I am amazed at how narrow it is. To load and off-load passengers, the Greyhound and even the yellow school buses would have to stop right in middle of the roadway – no space to pull to the side. Other traffic on the road would simply have to wait until the loading and off-loading of passengers was completed. (Guess this was way before “road rage”.)
I also look at the highway and am marveled at all the history and things that happened on it. A vivid memory I have is of the 2 dairies that had to cross their cows from the west- side to the east-side (and vise versa) of the road. (As Ivano describes it in his book the Coast Road itself runs north and south to and from Santa Cruz, “Haffa Moom” Bay and - - “San Franceezco”.) One was at the Scaroni Dairy (now the RED, WHITE and BLUE Beach) The other was at the Annand and DalPorto ranch area (located a little north of where the Rodonis now sell their pumpkins). In the
1950’s, Frank Borges and his family had the dairy and sometimes Mr. Borges would get sick - - so his daughters Della, Vera and I would stop the cars and trucks to get the cows across the highway. Sometimes I wonder how that would go in today’s world?
Another interesting thing that happened in about the same area (not sure if it was late 40's or early 50’s.) A California Highway Patrolman named Danny O’Connell made a car stop. Apparently, seeing that Officer O’Connell was preoccupied with writing the ticket or examining the offending vehicle, the two male occupants of the car took advantage of the situation by running and jumping into the CHP patrol car. They actually “hijacked” it. Not to be 'out-done', Danny quickly commandeered a passing cement truck to be his “chase car”. Of course the cement trucks were much lighter and could go faster when they were going back up to Davenport to reload. Don’t know all the details, but it all ended well. I think the car was picked up on Bonny Doon Road. (This story reminds me of the “chase” as described by Ivano
in “La Nostra Costa”, with a “shotgun totting” Joe Gemignani, Dante Ramaciotti and Bronco Comelli giving chase in the “Old Carettone” up the Coast Road in an unsuccessful attempt to capture a couple of car thieves.)
I also remember my Dad and Mom talking with their friends (other “old timers”) about the times during WWII when you couldn't’t turn on your headlights because of the Blackout restrictions. Can you imagine being on the highway with no headlights (of course it wasn’t like today when we absolutely have to jump in a car and go somewhere, anytime.)
I do not remember as I was too young, but I do recall my Dad talking about how he would drive from the Grossi ranch where he was a partner, and go all the way to Newtown shinning a flashlight out the window of the car. (Remember how Ivano described his father almost being arrested for using a flashlight while feeding the rabbits. Although my father was a naturalized citizen, he wasn’t even supposed to have a flashlight when my Mom was in the car because she, like Ivano’s father, was an alien and not a citizen.) Can you imagine driving a stick shift car and holding a flashlight out the window to see where you were going. To make it that much more difficult the Grossi Ranch happened to be located just before Yellowbank. So there were several curves, ditches and hills before the road finally became a straight-a-way (near Bonny Doon Road) to Davenport. All I got to say is thank God for the white line in the middle of the road!