Thursday, November 10, 2011




Normandy Memorial

Guido Bianconi

Mike Demos

Guiliano Quilici



Attilio Dogliotti



Santa Cruz was surrounded (or at least it seemed to me) by military bases during the outbreak of WWII, Phelan Park on the cliffs, Camp McQuaide in Watsonville, Fort Ord and Monterey Naval Air Station in Monterey county, The Naval Air Station in Sunnyvale, The Presidio and Fort Mason in San Francisco, Treasure Island and Oakland - Alameda Naval Air Station across the bay. If you went to San Francisco, you were sure to see the bunkers all along the coast. They looked pretty scary to a little kid.

During the day we could hear the noise from the gunnery range at Fort Ord and the roar of planes taking off. I would look up and see the planes flying low overhead. How quickly I would run to find a place to hide --sometimes it was in the fields, other times it was in my parent’s garage. I still have those reoccurring nightmares of Japanese fighter planes flying right over our house on Western Drive (Cliff Way), the Japanese pilots staring out from their cockpits and seeing me through a window in the garage or just as I was making a break and running into the open to get to the house.

The sights and sounds of war can be terrifying to a little kid --the air-raid sirens, the blackouts, the rumbling of military vehicles on the road, etc. It so happened that my Dad was an Air-Raid Warden. When there was an air raid alert, he would quickly put on a hard hat and arm band; then grab a flash light and rush to the corner where he would stand until the all clear sound was given. Sometimes it seemed like an eternity.

During the day the troops and heavy tanks would go up and down the street on maneuvers --soldiers with guns over their shoulders, big guns being pulled by jeeps, etc.. Sometimes some of the solders would come to the house and get a drink of water from our garden hose. Being so young, it was all so confusing and I really did not know what was going on. I remember just taking off with my dog and running to my Grandparents house next door. Once there, I would go down to the cellar where they kept the wine barrels, cheese and Pilot Bread Crackers. At times I would even calm my nerves with a swig or two of the wine. It was especially scary, when all of this took place at night, and you'd peer out the window at all that darkness.

One day our neighbor, Mrs. Templeman, Ted Templeman’s (Harpers Bazzar) Grandmother, came running out of her house, screaming her lungs out. Her son, Ted, had been taken prisoner of war by the Japanese. Oh that poor woman, her other son Kenneth was serving in the Army and was stationed in Germany. (That was before they passed the law that only one son could serve in the military at the same time.) Ted was in the Navy in the Pacific when all this happened. This sweet woman was never the same after this and I can truly understand why. Her son came back, but there were others that unfortunately didn't. One of those, but from a different time, was Harvey Levine -- a happy go lucky young man, so full of life and fun. It l ended all to soon for him. I can still remember the funeral procession down Pacific Avenue --how sad, heart wrenching.

Getting back to WW II, I can recall gas rationing --you either had an ‘A’ sticker (normal driving –3 gallons per week) or a ‘B’ sticker (factory workers, traveling salesmen –8 gallons per week). And those OPA books of stamps that allowed you to buy 2 pair of shoes a year. Nylon was used for the war effort, so ladies wore silk stockings. If you got a run in them, you took them to the second floor of Leasks Department Store on Pacific Avenue to be mended. Or you just used leg make-up to draw a line down the back of your legs to look like seams, (Check it out girls. Make sure the line is straight.) Butter was rationed, so your Mom bought Oleomargarine with a little orange capsule that you mixed into the white gunk – phooey, I didn't like that. I was used to home made butter, but my Mom figured if everyone else had to do this we had to do it.

My sister learned to roll bandages at Laurel School. Then she would come home and teach me, so she could double her quota. I finally figured out that she was using me. All this for the war effort, of course.

There were good times and bad times, but the one thing that I remember most and learned from all this, was the camaraderie of the neighbors and people in general, All joined in, helping each other, sharing happiness, grief, sadness, food clothing or what ever was needed --what's mine is yours -- good feelings for bad times.

-Barbara Silva Wagner-

IVANO SAYS: Thanks Barbara. Many of your memories of WW II coincide with mine as recorded in my book “La Nostra Costa” (Our Coast), Chapter 3, “La Costa E La Guerra” (The Coast ant The War). It’s kind of ironic that your father was an Air Raid Warden. On pages 30-31, I write about my father, being almost arrested by an Air Raid Warden, during a Blackout. He was using a flashlight while feeding the rabbits in our backyard. That was a "no-no". Thanks again Barbara. As our parents did in WW II --Sempre Avanti.


Lynette Ray said...

Great story and im so glad you shared this, I remember my Mom telling my about this and as a little girl it scared me! just the thought of all that and my Grandfathers job, WOW!! i couldnt imagine how scary that was.One thing about the story that isnt my Mom's words and thats referring to the pilot as a Jap, my Mom has respect for Asian people and that word would hurt her.
Lynette Ray

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Thanks Lynette for your comment. And you are right in your mother's unedited version, she refers to the pilot as being Japenese. I have since changed the wording in the article back to the original, however, you must understand that after the Empire of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japenese became our enemy. After the bombing, as I recall from my own memories of WW II, the Japanese soldiers,sailors and Pilots were often referred to as "Japs". The German soldiers,etc. were often called "Krauts". It had more to do with the Japanese and Germans being are hated enemies rather than with race or nationality.

Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Received the following e-mail from Jerry Mungai SCHS Class of '55

Thanks for sending. I had completely forgotten about Al Tambellini. As I recall, he died relatively young.
Good pics of the picnic.

Thanks Jerry. I'm sure Barbara appreciates your comments. ivn(0)

Canadian Furlan said...

Hey Ivano Mio Caro Amico Furlan ! It's been a long while since I communicated with all of you in Northern California! I have been real busy since my return back to Teaching after my accident. All is well and I am almost back to my 110%. We celebrated vetrans day or as we call it in Canada Rememberance Day November 11th at the 11 hour. We had a one hour ceremony at school comemorating all those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was truly a sad day. I am glad you are keeping this memory alive of all those brave mena and women that served their country unconditionally. Sempre Avanti !!

DIANE said...

Thank you for remembering my Dad - Diane Bianconi