Thursday, December 16, 2010



How many of you Italo-Americans remember your first time seeing Sani Closi (Santa Claus).
I remember so well: I was 6 years old and had just started First Grade at Laurel School. I did not speak English very well. I think I knew about 10 words. As the photo above shows I had just gotten glasses (for a crossed eye) when I first met Santa at Woolworth's on Pacific Avenue (next to JJ Newberrys.)

I sat on his lap and then he asked me what I wanted for Christmas – I was so excited.

I said, “Voglio un caretino rosso” (I want a little red wagon).

Santa said, “A what?”

According to my Mom, (Diana Dinelli), my face got as red as Santa's suit. I remember thinking, “Horrors – Santa Claus doesn’t speak Italian or understand it either!"

I did not know how to say "a red wagon" in English… I blurted out one of the few words I knew – “ dolly”. Of course that is not what I really wanted – I so wanted that wagon!

In reminiscing about Christmas years past with Ivano, we recalled how different it was years ago from today. At least we thought so. Still it was a magical time and I remember going to sleep after we had bought a Christmas tree. About 10 o’clock that night my parents woke me up and said, “Come see -Santa Claus was here and he helped us put up the tree”?

With a look of disbelief on my face I asked, "You could understand him?"

They said, "Oh yes. He was a nice Santa and he spoke Italian very well . In fact he told us to tell you to be a good little girl."

"Where is he now?" I asked.

"Oh", my mother answered, "he had to get going so he could help some other people put up their trees".

I was disappointed of course, but I could understand that. Besides the room was awesome with the lights on the tree in the dark and the Nativity scene under the tree.

"Well", I thought, "even if he didn't understand me when I saw him, it certainly was nice of him to come by and help my parents put up the tree. And he learned Italian so fast."

That was the magic of Christmas for a small child.

Still, I was disappointed that he didn't wake me up and I never did get the red wagon. But, I did get a "Dolly". All in all it was a good Christmas and I forgave Santa for not understanding my Italian.

Other memories of Christmas Past:

Christmas Eve was spent at the Neri’s on DuFour St (in Santa Cruz), with my Aunt and Uncle and Cousin.

Christmas Day was spent with a huge dinner in the cookhouse at the Pietro Bargiacchi’s. So many of us were there and we had turkey and so many wonderful things to eat including ( you guessed it) home made ravioli made by Ida Bargiacchi with some help from Zia Elvira and Emma Bargiacchi.

Everyone – BUON NATALE and Buon Anno Novo – many blessings for the New Yea 2011!

As Ivano always says "Sempre Avanti."
'La Norma'
Norma Dinelli Wilson


Hi, Ivan,
I just read Norma's Christmas story and thought you might be interested in reading about the day I learned that Santa Claus is not a real person.
It's a piece I wrote three years ago for a web site called The Columnists. The Columnists site, as I may have informed you previously, is made up mostly of retired newspaper people. Ron Miller, a 1956 Santa Cruz High grad and a Pulitzer Prize nominee when he worked for the San Jose Mercury, was one of the site's founders and administers it. Another columnist you probably know is Chuck McFadden, from your SCHS Class of 1955 and a former reporter for the Associated Press. All three of us were on the SCHS Trident student newspaper.
My 2007 piece, titled "Learning The Awful Truth About Santa Claus," is at:

Ron and Chuck also have numerous Christmas stories on the web site.

-- Len Klempnauer - SCHS Class of '54

P.S. The Columnists annual Christmas edition this year will be on the web on Dec. 20.


LaNorma and the "Old Rancere"



LaNorma: What a darling article.
I remember when I first went to see Santa. I didn't have my glasses yet, so I kept staring real close to his face to see him better. Like you, I told him that I wanted a "Dolly".
Santa answered in a rather gruff voice, "OK little girl. If you stop sticking your nose in my face, I will bring you a dolly".

Like you, my face went completely red. I quickly got off of Santa's knee and ran back to my mother and told her what had happened. My mother got real mad and went up to Santa and really told him off. After that, I was real sure that Santa wouldn't bring me my dolly.

Guess what? That year I got two 'dollies' a blond and a brunette. I guess that was
Santa's way of saying I'm sorry.

Merry Christmas. Carrie

GINO said...

"RICORDI LONTANI"(Faraway Memories"

Ciao Ivano,

Carrie is so right about the story of La Norma. It is very nice indeed.

This is not in the same category, except that her story reminded me of pre-historic times
when I was about 5 years old.

That first year in which we had moved into that house on Bay Street, I received for Christmas presents,
2 sidewalk pedal cars! One was a small green Nash roadster with a clear plastic windshield,
given to me by my father. The other was a white fire truck with red trim and a chrome bell on the hood,
which was sent by my uncle, Manuel Vlamos, the husband of Annunziata, my father’s sister.
I drove around on those until I could no longer fit in them. Dante Rodoni made a movie of Mario and me,
riding them on our front lawn.

This marvelous outpouring of gifts spoiled me rotten. I thought such things would be arriving every
December. I even suggested to my mother that she might buy me a toy whenever we went downtown.
Her usual answer to that was, “col binoccolo.” (roughly meaning, “if you look through the wrong end of
binoculars, you might see what you will get.”)

There was a time in which she and I were on Pacific Avenue, and I stopped to look at toys in a show
window. My mother walked onward slowly. Suddenly appeared reflected in the glass, two towering
personages in black clothing, with what seemed to me to be huge seagulls with flapping wings standing
on the heads of the persons. The faces of these apparitions were smiling, as if they were greatly amused.
I was terrified! I ran screaming to my mother, and she calmed me, saying that these people meant no harm.
They were the holy sisters. Later I learned that they were indeed members of the order of Daughters of Charity.
They wore the classic habit with the large white headgear, such as was seen in the old TV program, “The
Flying Nun”.

These days the holidays are much simpler for me. There is no one else here besides my faithful and
obedient cat. I may have 2 persons visit me each month, but otherwise I usually see nobody except
at church, where there are hundreds of good friends. I miss the great meals at the cookhouse, prepared
by Valentina. My meals are much simpler now. I am thankful that, although I have never been nor will ever be
rich, I have sufficient for my needs. I could not ask for more. I thank The Lord for all His blessings, and
in this time in which we remember the birth of the Savior, I wish you and yours, and all the friends of
La Nostra Costa a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Saluti, Gino

Anonymous said...

Norma tells a very touching story.

Buon Natale.
Jerry M. SCHS Class of '55



Haven't been in touch in awhile; however, I do keep up with the Blagga. Hope all is well with you and your family. Sounds like you're having a great time and rolling right along. Seems like you have a lot of folks involved with "Su per la costa". That's a good thing. Your gathering at Big Ranch, I think, was perfect. The ambiance was pretty close to your story, since the place was the original cookhouse. Norma's Xmas story was lovely - very reminiscent to the times.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas to all your family and a Happy New Year.

Sempre avanti