Friday, November 06, 2009




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!



Saratoga Sam said...

Great article Lanorma. The story about your Dad and the flashlight is great. Your article got me to re-read portions of Ivano's book.
What a great historical travel-log of la costa. ss

Anonymous said...

La Norma reminds us: 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.)

From Ivano's book, those car thieves came to a bad end just north of La Slida, and from living there I have a pretty good idea of the cause of that bad end.

Norma's narrow wiggly old Coast Road had an abrupt right angle turn in it just before crossing New Years Creek, and countless cars came to similar bad ends by failing to notice that turn in time. As kids we used to get all sorts of free hubcaps and car parts left over by the car-demolishments resulting from the laws of physics trumping driver complacency.

Thanks Norma!
Hank Bradley

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Hank. It is nice to hear from you. Actually, the "Old Carettone" was only in at the beginning of the "chase". After my 'Uncle to be' Joe Gemignani woke up my father in the middle of nite because he saw two thieves stealing his car (which was parked in his front yard with the keys in the ignition), the two (Bronco and Joe) hopped in the "Old Carrettone" (a 1934 Lafayette)
and headed north on the Coast Road.
The "fast thinking" Joe realized that the "Old Carrettone" was too slow to catch up with the thieves.
He promply made a right turn into
"Il Buco" (at the Gulch Ranch). He got Dante Ramaciotti, who owned a newer Buick model car, out of bed and convinced him to join the chase in his car. Ramaciotti also owned a 12 gage shotgun, which Joe grabbed and took along with him. "Su per la Costa" they went only to give it all up (against Joe's strenuous objections) at "La Slida" at the Santa Cruz-San Mateo County Line.
The next morning (much to Joe's chagrin) the CHP found car (completely wrecked) just north of there and probably at the location Hank describes. I believe that the thieves were eventually captured.

Thus ended one of the "greatest" Coast Road chases (only to be rivaled by the "Cement Truck" chase by the CHP) in Coast Road History. ivn0


Thanks LaNorma for your thrilling account of the Coast Road. Your stories about the Cement Trucks brought back some vivid memories.
On one occasion my girlfriend and
I were about to enter the Coast Road from the Red-White-Blue Beach. I remember we were in a blue Ford Convertible. A Cement truck was approaching the intersection going towards Santa Cruz. Being young and foolish, I stood up in the car
and gave the pull-down signal for 'honk-honk'. Well the driver 'honked-honked' all right.
I think he 'honked-honked' all the way to Santa Cruz. Carrie.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this article. One can visualize the various stages of roadbuilding from the early stage coach days to the highways of today.
The story reminds me of one my father recounted about the bootleggers in the early 20th century who used the Swanton road with all its twists and turns.
Apparently, one night one of the bootleggers was driving on the Swanton Road and was being chased by another car WHEN all of a sudden it went off the road. The car that was chasing it continued on its way and the the car that had gone over the cliff remained there for several days. When the police finally got to it they found a dead man and several cases of illegal alcohol.
My father assumed that this alcohol was going to be sold at some secret saloon location.
The details remain a mystery to this day. In one way this is good because one can imagine the details or visualize a Humphrey Bogart like character giving chase and running the car off the road etc.
If I wanted the truth I should have asked Gina Avedano when she was alive. She talked about the bootleggers at Davenport Landing and she had a treasure trove of wonderful pictures that are now lost.
My father also mentioned that A Russian person of Russian nobility lived in Swanton having escaped the Russian Revolution. How true this is I have no idea. But it did make me think about the hermit who lived in a shack on Swanton Road. I wondered about his past. My father thought that he was a Greek.
I should have written down all those stories and should have copied Gina Avedano's photographs. I very much think that she wanted someone to record her memories. My brother used to drive me to visit with her and I did listen but I should have done more.
Nancy Quilici Jacobs

sue said...

I grew up (in the 50's and 60's) visiting the Scaroni Ranch every Sunday from our home in Willow Glen, as my mom had done since she was a kid back in the 20's. My dad would fish off the rocks at the north end of the beach and we kids and Mom would play in the cold (!) water or in the sand. Mom taught us to build a fire from driftwood and cook mussels from the rocks at low tide, in a tin can of seawater.

I fondly remember the Scaroni Family: Arnold, Bill, Johnnie, and Katie. Our Sunday visits always culminated in a stop ("come and have a cuppa coffee. You kids, I think I've got some popsickles in the fridge") at the big farmhouse kitchen with the chiming clock and dogs sprawled under the big kitchen table. Katie let me feed the chickens, Bill let us choose pumpkins from the field next to the creek, and we followed the barn cats around while Johnnie milked in the dirt-floored barn. When I was young, Arnold was quite elderly, but still made cheese occasionally. He was almost totally blind by then, but was a master with woddworking tools and still made things. They were so friendly and always welcomed anyone to the beach, no charge as long as they signed the guest book.

What memories. So glad I found your blog, and just ordered your book. Did you by any chance know Aldo Balbiani or Umberto Abronzino of the Penninsula Soccer League? My dad Tommy Goodwin, was a friend and co-member, having a San Jose team in the late 50's. He later did volunteer coaching at San Jose State for Jule Jimendez.(sp?)

Keep up the nice work with the blog--I'll be back.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Hi Sue: Thanks Sue for your comment. I forward it to LaNorma.
I'm sure she will find it very interestina an heart-warming.
Of the people you mentiones I only remember Jule who was my Boxing Coach at San Jose State. He was quite the guy. Thank you for buying my book. Let me know how you like it. keep in touch. ivno

LaNORMA said...

Thanks for forwarding the comment about the Scaroni’s from Sue. I would really like to talk to her – seems I should remember her but couldn’t find her name on the blogga. I don’t always do well on the blogga – being Italian and all!!
She can contact me directly. I would like to know what she knew about Arnold ’s blindness, etc.
I remember many of the things she talks about too. I cleaned the house along with Katie in the

Summer. She would come and pick me up and take me to her house. I would help her clean and

Fix lunch for her brothers. After the dishes were done she would put on a straw hat (never went out

Without it!) and we would take a ride somewhere in Santa Cruz . Sometimes we went to Scotts Valley

And visit Mr. and Mrs. English on the dairy which is now Kings Village in Scotts Valley . The house

Where they lived is about where Walgreens is located now. We sometimes visited with the Don Santos’

Which is across from where the Scotts Valley High School is now located.
Then we sometimes went to the Frozen Food Lockers and get some frozen meat for Katie to cook in the next few days. That is where most people stored their frozen meat supplies. Guess many did not have home Freezers. This was located where Lenz Arts is on the corner of River St. and Pacific Avenue .
We would come back to her house and she would fix dinner for the “boys”. They were very hungry after milking the cows and getting them back across Highway l (the Coast Road – La Costa). Dinner was usually steak, fried potatoes and salad.

I could go on and on – miss those great old days and sure would like to chat about them and reminisce with Sue and whoever remembers and wants to share.